Sundas, 26th Frostfall, 4E 201
Just after 8:00 AM, I gathered the squad.
I recalled to the Mark I had set last night and summoned the others.
I then summoned Nafaalilargus. He appeared a few minutes later and hovered overhead.
Nafaalilargus said, “General, I flew over Miraak’s Temple. It is surrounded by twenty-one skeletons of our brethren, all devoid of their souls. I sense the Thu’um mixed with ancient magic trying to make me land and reach for the All Maker Stone. I do not think it is wise for me to remain in Solstheim.”
“I was going to ask you to fly over one of the All Maker Stones to see if the dweomer affected you. It seems you pre-empted my request, and now we know the answer. I did not detect the Thu’um in the dweomer, but you have thousands of years of experience over me.”
“The Dov died during or just before The Dragon War.”
“Yes, I think it is when they attacked Miraak’s Temple after he became a rogue Dragon Priest.”
“The Thu’um is being used to disperse the magic through the air.”
“The magic is beyond my comprehension. It is an invention with thousands of years of thought behind it.”
“Twenty-one Dov defeated in a single battle is an impressive tally, General. His Thu’um must be strong.”
“He had three other Dragon Priests fighting with him. I doubt his Thu’um is as strong as mine, but he has had thousands of years to hone it. He will be able to focus his power better than I. Return home, Nafaalilargus, and thank you for the information.”
Nafaalilargus flew a few hundred feet away and then vanished into the ether.
We left Fort Frostmoth as we started our trek to Miraak’s Temple.
In the middle of nowhere, we encountered an unarmed man in rags.
He stared at us as we approached, and before he said a word, I knew he was insane.
“Hello, my name is Wulf. Who are you?”
“I know things. Hidden things. Thing’s you aren’t supposed to know.”
“And how did you learn these things?”
“You don’t believe me. No one does. They don’t want to. I don’t want to, either. But I can’t help it. They’re in my head!”
“I do believe you. Now calm down and tell me, what is in your head?”
“Secret hidden things!”
“What kind of secrets?”
“The secret kind!”
“Of course. It was silly of me to ask. How did you learn these secrets?”
“The Black Book. It shoved them in there. With black, slick fingers.”
“You read one of Hermaeus Mora’s Black Books?”
“My fingers are too short. I can’t get them out!”
“His Black Books are too dangerous to leave lying around. Where did you find it?”
“Oh, no. I didn’t find it. It found me. In the basement of Old Attius Farm.”
“I know where that is.”
“Don’t go there. You don’t want these things in your head. You don’t!”
“I can’t leave it where it might harm people.”
“YOU DON’T WANT THESE THINGS IN YOUR HEAD!”
The madman attacked, and Meeko killed him.
- Rigmor: Ahh, my dear Guardian, please explain.
- Wulf: He read one of Hermaeus Mora’s Black Books. They are known to send some people insane.
- Rigmor: And what is a Black Book?
- Wulf: They are tomes of esoteric knowledge placed on Nirn by Hermaeus Mora as bait. When you read a Black Book, you are transported to a part of Mora’s realm in Oblivion called Apocrypha. If you successfully survive the traps and minions of the realm, you are rewarded with knowledge and returned to Nirn.
- Inigo: Hermaeus Mora is similar to a Skooma dealer who gives you the first vials for free. You become addicted and another source of income for the dealer.
- Wulf: Indeed, my furry friend, the Black Books are similar in concept. Once they have been given this hidden, secret knowledge, some people become addicted. Hermaeus Mora then recruits them as mortal agents to do his bidding.
- Lydia: But some people go insane instead?
- Wulf: Being insane does not stop them from being useful to Mora. Master Mage Septimus Signus was nuttier than a fruitcake yet favoured by Mora.
- Felix: Nuttier than a fruitcake?
- Rigmor: Wulf speaks many languages but is still trying to master Tamrielic.
- Wulf: I will ignore the peanut gallery and continue our discussion. This man must have had some skills to attract Hermaeus Mora’s attention and survive Apocrypha. He wasn’t always the unwashed wretch we just encountered.
- Felix: I guess we will retrieve the Black Book?
- Wulf: We can’t leave it where it can do more harm. So yes, we will retrieve it. But that is for later. We must focus on Miraak for now.
- Felix: How gobblygook are these Black Books?
- Wulf: Like Elder Scrolls, some Black Books were written in the distant past, some in the far future.
- Felix: Major gobblygook then?
- Rigmor: Yes, and Wulf would not be silly enough to read one.
- Wulf: Rigmor, I always consider many things before deciding a course of action.
- Celestine: If Wulf thinks it will help, he will read a Black Book.
- Rigmor: Yes, I know that. But one can only hope a particular course of action can be avoided.
- Wulf: I am sure Hermaeus Mora would have a good chuckle if his reluctant champion appeared in his realm.
- Celestine: I don’t think that Dark Lord would harm Wulf. Wulf might be the only way to ensure mortals survive or remain free. Without living, free mortals, Hermaeus Mora would be starved of new knowledge.
We continued onwards as an ash storm made visibility poor. In the far distance, I could see a rather large Dwemer structure. It is called Nchardak and was a depository of knowledge, a library.
We could see Tel Mithryn, a town of giant mushrooms made by Master Neloth.
Occasionally we would come across grass meadows not buried under feet of ash. As we approached one meadow, Meeko growled and ran ahead. He and an Ash Hopper attacked three reavers waiting in ambush.
We quickly disposed of the first two. The third died with an arrow in his head. When Rigmor triumphantly yelled, “How about that, Angi!” I guessed she had fired it.
Lady Kynareth had turned the helpful Ash Hopper green. I let it hop away unharmed.
I asked, “Meeko, are there any more reavers nearby?”
“Well then, lead us to them!”
Meeko and I reached the reavers well before the others.
When I killed the last one, Meeko got covered in arterial blood.
Meeko lay in the expanding pool of blood. He was used to being half red.
The others caught up, and we continued on our way.
Further on, a Morag Tong assassin attacked.
I was furious as I cut her down, thinking somebody had organised a Writ of Execution.
To my shock, my Dragon personality manifested in spirit form. I was warned it could happen but never thought it would.
The spirit wielded a large axe and killed one Morag Tong before swiftly moving on to another.
It disposed of that assassin and then moved with incredible speed to another, a long way from where we were.
Another assassin used an invisibility potion. Knowing the Morag Tong often did this, I had enabled Heat-Vision.
I cut that assassin down.
Then I had some explaining to do as my spirit form vanished.
- Rigmor: Who were they, and what was that thing with the axe?
- Wulf: They were Morag Tong assassins. That thing was me.
- Rigmor: Did you summon something?
- Wulf: No, I was furious at the first assassin. My Dragon personality then manifested in spirit form.
- Celestine: Didn’t Lord Talos warn you that can happen?
- Wulf: Yes, but I have had my anger under control. I have been far angrier for extended periods, and it never manifested. I have no idea why it would manifest now.
- Rigmor: Is it something we should worry about?
- Wulf: No, it is nothing to be concerned about. As you saw, it can be of great assistance. I will figure out why it manifested when I have fewer pressing issues. Right now, I need to check the corpses for a Writ of Execution.
We checked the dead Morag Tong and did not find a writ.
When we reached the last one killed by the spirit, it was near the entrance to some ruins. I knew them to be a disused Imperial fort called Ashfallow Citadel.
We entered with weapons drawn but encountered no more Morag Tong.
We exited and continued on our way. We had no idea why the Morag Tong attacked.
Miraak’s Temple finally came into view.
- Lydia: That place is enormous!
- Wulf: Miraak was placed in charge of Solstheim by the dragons. It may have ended up as a temple, but it started as his palace. Hence its size.
- Felix: It will be interesting to find out why he rebelled against the dragons.
- Celestine: Miraak may have been seduced by hidden knowledge promised by Hermaeus Mora.
- Wulf: That is very likely since Apocrypha is where Miraak fled.
- Rigmor: But it is still speculation.
- Wulf: And that is what it will remain till Miraak tells me his story.
- Inigo: My friend, Miraak might attack you without talking, and then you will have to kill him before learning anything.
- Wulf: I am yet to meet a powerful adversary who doesn’t bore me with boasts and justification for their actions.
- Rigmor: You usually get them angry, so they spill the beans.
- Felix: Excuse me, Countess, but what does ‘spill the beans’ mean?
- Wulf: The Countess sounds like she is having difficulty mastering Tamrielic!
- Celestine: Rigmor has picked up some of Wulf’s colloquialisms. ‘Spill the beans’ means to divulge secret information.
- Inigo: Is there a colloquialism for the foul mood that Rigmor is now in?
- Wulf: How about ‘Angrier than a scolded cat’?
- Rigmor: The rule, dear Dragonbum, is that we all pick on you.
- Wulf: But Countess Ragnarsdottier, you are of high noble rank, and this peasant dare not usurp your rights. I am but excrement on the bottom of your boots.
- Lydia: Yes, they are right. You two sound like a long-married couple who bicker all the time.
- Rigmor: Who are ‘they’ so I know who to beat up after Wulf?
- Wulf: Everybody who knows us, my beloved. But elderly bickering couples still love each other.
- Rigmor: Yes, they do and never change, my Dragonborn.
As we approached Miraak’s Temple, a Bristleback Boar crossed our path.
I asked, “Tell me, Rigmor, what do you think of Bristleback Boars?”
“They have their charms. Why, what do you think when you see a Bristleback Boar?”
“I think of bacon, pulled pork and crackling.”
Meeko barked in agreement.
Following behind the Bristleback Boar was a creature rarely seen in Skyrim or Cyrodiil.
- Rigmor: What is that horrendous thing?
- Wulf: That is a Nix-Hound. When out of range of Kyne’s Peace, it will attack and kill the boar. Then the Nix-Hound will suck out the boar’s insides through its feeding spikes.
- Meeko: Woof!
- Wulf: I know, Meeko. Sucking the insides out is not as appealing as bacon.
- Rigmor: Would it attack us if not for Kyne’s Peace.
- Wulf: If it was in a pack, then yes. A solo Nix-Hound would be too smart to attack a group of people.
- Celestine: They were made by Vivec to hunt Dreugh.
- Rigmor: Do I have to ask?
- Celestine: Dreugh are an aquatic race that, according to some sources, once had an advanced civilisation that ruled much of Nirn. Molag Bal was reportedly their leader. In some depictions of Molag Bal, he is similar in appearance to Dreugh. The surviving Dreugh are brutal and beastlike.
- Wulf: Dunmer once enslaved Argonian. They hunted Dreugh for their wax and hides. In both cases, the persecuted species fought back.
- Rigmor: Wulf, have you ever seen a Dreugh?
- Wulf: Only once in Skyrim. However, some Akavir islands have large populations. The staffs that Vayu uses are made from Dreugh limbs.
The Nix-Hound continued its leisurely pursuit of the Bristleback Boar as we proceeded towards Miraak’s Temple.
We soon came upon the first of twenty-one dragon skeletons surrounding the temple.
Nearby was Thirsk Mead Hall.
Rigmor observed, “That place looks like a decent tavern!”
“It is called Thirsk Mead Hall. It is home to a Nord tribe that rejected the teachings of The All Maker and broke away from the Skaal. They are idiots who glorify battle.”
“I take it we won’t be stopping for a few drinks then?”
“It would be like a mini Sovngarde. Therefore, I have no desire ever to visit Thirsk Mead Hall.”
When The Beast Stone came into view, we saw that Rieklings and a few Nords, who we assumed came from Thirsk, were enslaved by Miraak. They were constructing an arched edifice identical to that surrounding The Earth Stone.
When we got close, a Miraak Goon attacked. She wielded a katana!
I growled, “How dare you use a katana! You are not worthy of such a weapon!”
I sidestepped a clumsy swing. Then I grabbed the goon and turned her around before thrusting my sword in her back.
My sword burst her heart before sticking out of her chest. It would have been the last thing she saw before I dropped her corpse to the ground.
Felix commented, “It seems that Wulf isn’t fond of Miraak’s sidekicks.”
Rigmor replied, “When certain groups of people keep ambushing you, they are not thought of fondly.”
The ensorceled Riekling chattered in their strange language. Presumably, it was Miraak’s Mantra they were repeating.
Inigo asked, “My friend, do you intend to touch this stone too?”
“No, Inigo. I do not feel the need to touch every large, hard, vertical object.”
“Unlike Shumba in Riverhold. Ahh, don’t tell Jo’rassa I mentioned Shumba.”
“I thought Jo’rassa was your first?”
“She was, and my twelfth. Shumba filled in the gap.”
We should have continued directly to Miraak’s Temple, but I felt compelled to visit some of the fallen dragons. They were gone for all eternity, their souls absorbed by Miraak. I found it disturbing as I had killed more of my brethren than the twenty-one in the area. The guilt I thought had gone threatened to overwhelm me.
Rigmor recognised what was happening and took my hand. She said, “Wulf, what is this Dwemer ruin?”
Rigmor dragged me to a rock overlooking a small Dwemer ruin.
I told Rigmor, “That is Kagrumez. The Dwemer enjoyed blood sports, but I am sure they had a logical reason, not just bloodlust. Kagrumez is an arena, like the ones that once flourished in Cyrodiil.”
“There is a tent. There might be archaeologists down there.”
“We only know what Kagrumez is from Dwemer documents. Nobody has figured out how to unlock the Dwemer lift. Or perhaps they have? If so, good luck to them.”
We walked past several more dragon skeletons on the way to some stairs. With Our Quiet surrounding me, I did not pause and brood as I had been.
We climbed the stairs and then up a ramp.
A young woman was fruitlessly talking to her people and trying to break through Miraak’s dweomer.
“Oslaf, please! You must fight against what is controlling you! Yrsa, can you hear me? Yrsa, I’m here to help you! All of you must leave this place! It is not safe here! We must go back to the village! You must listen to me! We must leave this place!”
The young woman finally noticed us.
- Frea: You there. Why are you here? What brings you to this place?
- Wulf: I am General Welkynd, and my companions are called The Dragonguard. We are here to stop Miraak. Who are you?
- Frea: I am Frea of the Skaal. I am here to either save my people or avenge them.
- Rigmor: You can’t break the hold Miraak has on their minds by talking to them.
- Frea: Something has taken control of most of the people on Solstheim. It makes them forget themselves and work on these horrible creations that corrupt the All-Maker Stones, the land itself. My father Storn, our shaman, says Miraak has returned to Solstheim, but that is impossible.
- Rigmor: It is far from impossible. He has allied himself with Hermaeus Mora.
- Wulf: You know that aspect of The Adversary as Herma Mora. We recently defeated another aspect that the Skaal call Thartaag, the World Devourer. We know him as Alduin, the World Eater.
- Rigmor: Miraak is controlling the people of Solstheim. He also tried to have the General assassinated.
- Frea: Then, we all have reasons to see what lies beneath us. Let us go. There is nothing more I can do here. As you indicated, The Tree Stone and my friends are beyond help at the moment. We need to find a way into the temple below.
- Wulf: Tell us what the Skaal know of Miraak.
- Frea: His story is as old as Solstheim itself. He served the dragons before their fall from power, as most did. He was a priest in their order. But unlike most, he turned against them. He made his own path, and his actions cost him dearly. The stories say he sought to claim Solstheim for himself, and the dragons destroyed him for it.
- Wulf: I am hoping to discover his motivation before confronting him. He was already master of Solstheim when he rebelled against the dragons. Mora gave him refuge in Apocrypha. Now he has emerged again to reclaim Solstheim. If successful, he will use this island as a base from which to conquer all of Nirn.
- Frea: If he has such power, how can you stop him?
- Wulf: I have the same powers as Miraak. I may even be more powerful than him. It does not matter; we shall defeat him by fighting beside each other.
- Frea: Is he doing this for The Adversary?
- Wulf: Other aspects of The Adversary may want subjugation of the peoples of Nirn. Herma Mora does not. Logic tells me Miraak is not doing this for Herma Mora. Maybe another aspect of The Adversary is now his master. We do not know as yet.
- Rigmor: Are you the only Skaal not under Miraak’s control?
- Frea: There are few of us unaffected by this curse. My father, Storn, the shaman, protects them in the village. I fashioned an amulet to guard me against whatever has taken hold of the Skaal, but it is the only one of its kind. If I cannot find a way to save them, there is no hope for our people.
- Rigmor: General Welkynd was sent to Nirn to help all mortals, including the people of Solstheim. We shall try our hardest to free all people from Miraak’s power.
- Wulf: The power of the Stones is tied in with The All-Maker. Let us see what is in the temple, but I think your father’s knowledge of this ancient magic may be vital to our success.
- Frea: Then, we should not delay. My father cannot protect the village for much longer.
- Wulf: Have you ever entered a complex like this before? Have you ever fought Draugr?
- Frea: No, but I am a skilled warrior.
- Rigmor: If you accompany us, you must do as General Welkynd says. We have a lot of experience exploring places like this temple and combating many different creatures, including the Draugr.
- Wulf: We ask you to obey me for all our safety. If I did not think it was vital for you to see what Miraak was up to, I would insist you stay here. I will not have you endangering us by thinking you know what to do. You don’t.
- Frea: I will follow your lead. That is how I learn from others.
- Wulf: This is important, Frea, so listen carefully. Never get in front of me before I close in on an enemy!
- Frea: Why is this important?
Before I could answer, a grinding noise came from a ramp leading downwards. Meeko growled. I yelled, “Welcoming committee! Watch and learn why it is important, Frea.”
Frea followed close behind as we walked down the ramp.
Two of Miraak’s Goons were cautiously walking up the ramp.
One of them cast his best spell at me, and I laughed.
A full-strength Unrelenting Force Shout killed both enemies.
Frea gasped and asked, “What is that magic?”
“It is called The Voice or The Thu’um. It is the magic of dragons. Lady Kynareth is our god of air, wind and sky. She gifted mortals with knowledge of The Thu’um so that we could win The Dragon War. Our god of time, Lord Akatosh, blesses some mortals to make their Thu’um stronger amongst other gifts. They are called Dragonborn.”
“Miraak was blessed by one of your gods, yet is evil?”
“Those two people I just killed worshipped Miraak, as mortals once worshipped Dragon Priests. Some of their actions may prove evil as I have found human flesh, used for necromancy, upon some of them. However, I am yet to pass judgment on Miraak. As I said before, I need to understand his motivation. Lord Akatosh would not give his blessing to one whose soul is dark. However, a Dragonborn has free will and can become evil.”
“I understand. I also see why I should not step in front of you.”
“Miraak’s Goons have foolishly given us entry into the temple. Let’s enter quickly before the door shuts once more.”
We entered the temple, and it was not dissimilar to the myriad Nord ruins in Skyrim.
We investigated several rooms off the entrance hallway.
- Frea: We should check these rooms for supplies before heading further into the temple.
- Wulf: Two of us are Master Restoration Mages, so potions are redundant.
- Rigmor: Frea, we are very experienced at exploring dusty old ruins. We have everything we need.
- Wulf: I search such rooms as these for clues. Sometimes journals and scrolls provide vital information.
- Frea: Did your gods tell you about Miraak?
- Wulf: No, Miraak let me know he existed.
- Rigmor: Miraak sent some of his followers to Skyrim to kill Wulf. If Miraak hadn’t done that, we might have been too late to stop him.
- Wulf: I don’t know how he discovered my existence. The presence of a Dragonborn in Skyrim was not well known when we first encountered Miraak’s assassins.
- Frea: Would Herma Mora have told him?
- Wulf: Mora might have mentioned me to Miraak out of spite. He tried to recruit me to replace Miraak as his champion, but I refused. Mora still named me his champion even though I refused to aid him.
We continued our exploration, and not far into the temple, we encountered two of the masked morons.
I killed them both and stepped over their mangled corpses. Frea looked shocked. I think she is a hunter used to the gore of her kills. Dead people are different.
Beyond a lowered portcullis, we found evidence of cruelty and torture. Several skeletons in cages hung from the ceiling.
- Frea: I do not wish to imagine the things that happened in this chamber. Who were the poor souls trapped in these cages? What torture did they suffer at Miraak’s hands? Was it in service to the dragons or for his purposes?
- Wulf: These people died and rotted in their cages only recently. Miraak can’t manifest in physical form on Nirn, so he did not kill the people or torture them.
- Rigmor: As Wulf said earlier, we have found strips of human flesh when searching Miraak’s followers. Some of them may perform the evil you see in this room, but not necessarily at Miraak’s command or even knowledge.
- Wulf: Dragons never demanded mortal sacrifices. Some members of The Dragon Cult, the Dragon Priests, may have decided sacrifices were required. If so, they performed those sacrifices without the permission of their gods, the dragons. Similarly, the followers of Miraak may decide sacrifices are required when they are not.
- Lydia: Or some of them are deranged vicious arseholes who need to be removed from this Kalpa.
- Meeko: Woof!
- Wulf: Meeko agrees and says some of those arseholes are approaching.
- Felix: Yes, Frea, they can talk to their dog. But he isn’t a dog. I will explain later.
- Frea: Please do. I have met many outsiders but you five…
- Meeko: Woof!
- Frea: You six are stranger than most.
- Meeko: Woof!
- Wulf: It seems we have some Draugr to destroy before Miraak’s Goons get here.
I quickly took care of the Draugr. Then we waited for the goons to show up.
They thought they caught us by surprise. Unrelenting Force surprised them.
Meeko followed the scent of the now dead goons. It led us to catacombs full of the dead with Draugr hidden amongst them.
- Rigmor: I think it is Bleak Falls Barrow time, my dear Dragonborn.
- Felix: Is that some sort of secret code?
- Rigmor: The first dungeon that Wulf and I investigated together was Bleak Falls Barrow near Riverwood in Skyrim. His Thu’um was not very concentrated then, so he relied on his marksmanship to cull the Draugr.
- Inigo: It hurts me to say so, but my friend is a better marksman than me.
- Wulf: That may be so, but your farts are the best!
- Celestine: If best means deadly and can eat through steel, then yes, Inigo’s farts are the best.
- Inigo: It is so kind of you to say so.
- Rigmor: They smell nearly as bad as Apple Cabbage Stew.
- Frea: That is a delicacy amongst my people.
- Lydia: Evidence that the Skaal are an intelligent and superior form of Nord.
- Inigo: Frea, do your people spend most of their time outdoors?
- Frea: Yes, even in the harshest weather.
- Inigo: How sad, their love of Apple Cabbage Stew has driven the Skaal from their homes.
- Frea: This is humour?
- Inigo: Yes.
- Frea: Then, to be polite, I must join in. So…hahaha!
- Wulf: That is evidence that the Skaal are experts at sarcasm.
- Frea: Thank you.
I eliminated as many Draugr as I could using bow and stealth. However, there were so many Draugr that eventually we had to fight with sword and axe. Frea was an excellent exponent of the axe.
As soon as I used Unrelenting Force, all of the Draugr in the catacombs became aware of the trespassers.
Some of them were as strong as any we have faced before. Therefore, because we knew they could use The Thu’um, we swarmed them.
After battling through the Draugr-infested catacombs, we came to a corridor protected by swinging blades.
Frea sat and said, “I am not going down there. It would be foolish to attempt it. I do not doubt that the lever at the far end turns these blades off. One of you has a much better chance than I to make it through those blades. I shall wait here for now.”
“A wise decision, Frea. I could time my leap between each set of blades, but that would also be foolish.”
“Then how do you propose to get to the lever?”
I Blinked to the lever.
When I pulled the lever, the blades stopped swinging, and bars lowered to provide access to the rest of the temple. The others came running up to where I stood.
- Frea: Miraak took great pains to make it difficult to reach him. Let us hope that is the last of these traps. But how did you do that?
- Wulf: It is one of the gifts bestowed upon me by The Nine. I travel via the ethereal plane using my willpower.
- Rigmor: Miraak was not impressed with Dwemer Puzzle Lock Doors. There is one smashed to pieces on the floor.
- Wulf: He must have realised that people more intelligent than bricks would try and penetrate his temple. It is a pity, though.
- Lydia: It is a pity you weren’t here to help knock down the Dwemer Puzzle Lock Door?
- Wulf: How did you guess?
- Lydia: We have all heard your rants about those doors.
- Wulf: They are not rants. They are informative observations.
- Inigo: No, they are rants, my friend.
- Rigmor: Definitely rants.
- Celestine: I have to agree. They are rants, not informative observations.
- Meeko: Woof!
- Wulf: Traitorous mutt!
- Meeko: Woof!
- Rigmor: That’s right, Meeko. You are only being honest.
We continued and soon came to a room with an exit blocked by a lowered portcullis. Beyond the portcullis was a raised drawbridge.
I told the group, “A bit further, beyond the bridge, is a goon. When I lower the bridge, I will take the lead, and when we see the goon, I will use Unrelenting Force. There may also be Draugr, but I can not see them using Heat-Vision.”
Frea looked at Felix, who said, “Frea, Wulf is part dragon. He can see the body heat of mortals through walls and so on.”
Frea squinted at me, no doubt looking for what parts were dragon-like.
In a small alcove was a twist handle.
Twisting and pulling the handle raised the portcullis and lowered the drawbridge.
I took the lead, and we soon came to the room with the goon.
He said, “I am an Arch Cultist, and it will be my honour to kill The False Dragonborn on behalf of Miraak.”
I laughed and used my Thu’um, “GO AHEAD. TRY YOUR BEST!”
The Arch Cultist looked alarmed as the room shook and masonry fell from the roof. Then he hit me with his best spell, and I laughed louder. He kept casting his spell until his Magicka depleted.
I said, “MY TURN!” and killed him with Unrelenting Force.
We then disposed of two Draugr.
The door exiting the room led to a long corridor lined with skeletons strung up as warnings.
I turned to the group.
- Wulf: I suspect we are getting to the crucial parts of this temple. Expect an increase in goons and Draugr.
- Frea: Why did you taunt that man?
- Wulf: You have been told that I am partly dragon. That is true, and like a dragon, part of me desires battle and conquest and can be cruel. It can become dominant if I do not exercise that part of me voluntarily. When an enemy boasts, that is an ideal time to reply with dark humour, which appeases my Dovah personality.
- Rigmor: You do not want to see Wulf when his Dovah personality is dominant. It is far better if he occasionally shows glimpses of it.
- Frea: You are all efficient killers but are unlike the other Nords on Solstheim. You do not seem to relish violence.
- Lydia: People that celebrate battle and think there is glory in war are ignorant fools. Nobody who has stood amongst the dead and dying on a battlefield sees glory. It is right to celebrate the bravery and a strong defence of innocents. However, the act of slaughtering another mortal should never be celebrated!
- Frea: And all of you have seen such battlefields.
- Celestine: Some of us have seen it many times, not just in Skyrim. As far as the eyes can see, there are piles of bodies, both ally and enemy. The dry earth is turned to mud as blood soaks the ground. The terrible sights and smells and sounds of battle are never forgotten. I would like to drag the Nords of Thirsk Mead Hall to such a battlefield and ask them to point out the glory they see.
- Wulf: Restoration mages such as Celestine and me can spend days after a battle struggling to keep alive both ally and enemy injured in such battles. I can assure you that not one of our patients has ever died while thinking it to be a glorious death.
- Frea: You dislike killing but must do so.
- Felix: That is the burden soldiers accept. We kill so that others don’t have to. The farmers can keep farming, the merchants can keep selling, and the children can keep laughing because we kill.
- Frea: It has been many years since my people fought a war. But what you say is echoed in the teachings passed to us by our elders.
- Wulf: Then your elders were wise, unlike many of those revered by Skyrim’s Nord population.
- Frea: I do not know what Miraak learned that gave him reason to turn on his masters.
- Wulf: That is what I hope to discover. I like to understand the motivations of my enemies.
- Rigmor: No, my dear Dragonborn, you need to understand the motivations of your enemies.
Just for a change, Skeletal Warriors attacked.
They fell apart when hit with Unrelenting Force and did not reconstruct themselves, to Rigmor’s great disappointment.
We started encountering more powerful Draugr and Miraak Goons. As I predicted earlier, that suggested we were getting close to the temple’s heart.
Meeko destroyed a Skeletal Warrior and seemed pleased with himself.
I walked up to him and said, “Don’t be complacent. That skeleton is reconstructing.”
Rigmor said, “Cool!” as she watched the bones gather and knit.
She then smashed the Skeletal Warrior with one of her mighty sword strokes.
I faced the group.
- Wulf: I can hear a Word Wall.
- Felix: What is a Word Wall?
- Wulf: It is easier for you to see than to explain.
- Rigmor: Wulf told you on the ship how Shouts work.
- Inigo: Frea, Shouts are the spells of The Voice, the magic that dragons and Wulf use.
- Felix: Each Shout consists of one to three Words of Power. The more Words of Power used, the more powerful the Shout.
- Rigmor: A Word Wall will try and teach Wulf a Word of Power. Most of the time, he already knows the Word.
- Felix: But Wulf might not know the Shout it is used in or how to use it.
- Rigmor: Correct. Normally, Wulf would gain that knowledge from the souls of dragons he defeats in combat. But he objected to that restriction, so Lady Kynareth taught him dozens of Words and Shouts and gifted him the knowledge needed to use them.
- Frea: Wulf, didn’t you want to kill dragons to gain this knowledge?
- Wulf: No, Frea, and for two reasons. First, I needed to be stronger to defeat Alduin in battle. The longer it took for me to gain that strength, the more people would be killed by Alduin and his dragon allies. I was asked by The Nine to travel to Skyrim and defeat Alduin. I argued with my gods that it was senseless for me to be so ill-equipped for the task.
- Rigmor: The Nine agreed, and Lady Kynareth aided Wulf.
- Wulf: The second reason is what happens when I absorb a dragon’s soul. The dragon’s spirit does not return to the All Maker. It can’t be shaped into something new and returned to Mundus.
- Frea: I have never heard of such a terrible thing! Can’t you refuse to absorb the dragon’s soul?
- Wulf: No, because it is not voluntary. I asked The Nine if they could stop it from happening, but they could not. I still have to kill dragons, but fewer than would have been the case without Lady Kynareth’s aid. Saving mortal lives was not the only reason I needed to defeat Alduin quickly.
- Rigmor: Wulf, I have not told Felix about this.
- Wulf: We can’t do anything about the souls lost, Rigmor. I think Felix needs to understand the truth about Alduin.
- Rigmor: Yes, you are right.
- Wulf: Alduin needed to absorb souls so he could use their Lifeforce to recover fallen dragons. He absorbed the souls of dead mortals who travelled to Sovngarde for their afterlife. He did not absorb the souls of other dragons.
- Felix: Are you saying mortals suffered the same fate as the dragons you slay?
- Wulf: Worse, the dragons know and accept their fate if they lose a battle against me. The dead mortals reached Sovngarde, thinking they were to enjoy an afterlife until the next Kalpa. Instead, Alduin hunted them in Sovngarde and absorbed their souls.
- Rigmor: People who felt solace that a loved one would greet them in Sovngarde will no longer have that reassurance.
- Lydia: Lord Shor let me see Bjorn, so I knew Alduin had not taken him.
- Frea: This is unknown to my people. Although the spirits of our deceased do not travel to Sovngarde, the rebirth cycle was stopped, which is a great tragedy. This terrible thing must be remembered and told, so future generations know of its possibility.
- Felix: Wulf, have you kept this quiet so those who lost loved ones do not panic?
- Wulf: Yes, but they need to know. People must understand there is no way of knowing whose souls were consumed by Alduin. We cannot just publish this fact in news sheets. The priests and priestesses of The Nine must find a way to inform citizens in a way that reduces panic.
- Felix: What about my comrades who died in The Great War, Hammerfell, the invasion of The New Order and Skyrim’s civil war?
- Wulf: At the earliest, I think Alduin returned to Mundus two months before destroying Helgen. Alduin could only prey on those still to reach The Hall of Valour and not those already inside. Therefore, the souls of those who died more than two months ago would be safe.
- Felix: That is a relief for me, but I can’t imagine the worry this news will cause others.
- Wulf: I think Alduin only absorbed a tiny percentage of souls. Lifeforce is powerful, yet he was slow restoring his dead allies. It did not take long to drain his power when we fought in Sovngarde, yet the first fight in Skyrim took hours.
- Felix: But you can’t be sure.
- Rigmor: Wulf’s intuition is uncanny, and he is rarely wrong.
- Felix: Why tell the population if it will cause worry and uncertainty?
- Wulf: Once you justify hiding the truth, even if you think it is for altruistic reasons, it becomes a norm. You will start to justify secrets because it is easier than dealing with the consequences of the truth.
- Inigo: We spoke to souls in Sovngarde, Legionnaires and Stormcloak, who were terrified.
- Lydia: Alduin consumed souls in Sovngarde during the first Dragon War. If this fact were known, perhaps more Stormcloaks would have hesitated to kill and risk being killed. Many of them were fearless as an afterlife in Sovngarde was not the worst fate imaginable.
- Felix: I have fought beside enough Nords, including berserkers, to know that as truth.
- Wulf: My museum in Solitude will reveal secrets, and so will the journals I keep. Secrets that the citizens of Nirn have a right to know.
- Felix: Timing is critical. You must keep some secrets till the appropriate time.
- Wulf: Yes, you must, even when you feel tremendous guilt for doing so.
We walked in the direction from which the last group of Miraak’s Goons had come.
We entered a room with the Word Wall. From the roof hung the skeleton of a dragon.
Brasiers within grotesque sculptures lighted the room.
Sealed sarcophagi stood upright and lined one side of the room.
A single sarcophagus was upright against a wall opposite the entrance.
- Frea: I had heard Miraak had turned against the Dragon Cult, but to display the remains in such a manner as this… It is no wonder the dragons razed his temple to the ground. Seeing remains hung up like trophies must have enraged them to no end.
- Wulf: The Dovah could not see this. Miraak’s act of defiance was enough to enrage them.
- Frea: Wulf, you seem very upset at seeing this.
- Wulf: I have the blood and soul of a dragon. This abomination is akin to seeing a Skaal flayed and put on display as a trophy! Dragons are my half-brothers as we share the same celestial father, Lord Akatosh.
- Rigmor: Read the Word Wall’s inscription for us, my Dragonborn.
- Wulf: Everybody, be alert for Draugr appearing from their coffins. Just because they haven’t jumped out yet doesn’t mean they won’t.
I walked close to the Word Wall, and it tried to teach me ‘QAH’, which means armour. It is the second Word of Power of the Dragon Aspect Shout. I already knew it and the Shout.
- Frea: What just happened?
- Wulf: The writing on the Word Wall is in Dovahzul, the language of Dov. As discussed a few minutes ago, some words in Dovahzul are called Words of Power. They are used in the magic of dragons called The Voice or Thu’um.
- Rigmor: That glowing tendril thingy was the magic of The Word Wall trying to teach Wulf a Word of Power.
- Wulf: In Dovahzul, the inscription reads, ‘Het ont kriist Miraak wo ahtiir ok sahvot ol qah spaan naal Deyra fah ok unslaad midun.’
- Felix: That sounds nothing like any other language I have heard.
- Wulf: It is the spoken language of Dragon Priests and Dov.
- Frea: What does it say in our language?
- Wulf: Here once stood Miraak, who wore his faith as armour, shielded by Daedra for his eternal loyalty.
- Frea: Who or what is Daedra?
- Wulf: Aspects of The Adversary change creatures made by the All Maker. These corrupted creatures act as their guards and soldiers and are called Daedra or minions. The different aspects of The Adversary favour different types of Daedra. Herma Mora favours two types of Daedra. One has arms and many tentacles and floats rather than walks. They are called Seeker and act as librarians as well as guards. The other type of Daedra created by Herma Mora are called Lurker. They hide in pools of water and have tentacles but are much taller than Seeker and walk on two legs. Neither are very powerful.
- Rigmor: You fought a Seeker when we were ambushed on our walk to Riften.
- Wulf: That was a day full of memories.
- Rigmor: Yes, my Dragonborn. It certainly was.
- Lydia: What are those hideous brasiers?
- Wulf: Based on pictures I have seen, I would say they are supposed to be Lurker heads.
As I stepped away from the Word Wall, the entire temple shook. An inactive Lich fell from a sarcophagus.
Active Draugr stepped out of others next to it.
The most potent Draugr I have ever encountered emerged from the sarcophagus opposite the entrance. In the middle of that sarcophagus was a closed door.
We destroyed the Draugr after an intense melee.
I retrieved a key from the powerful Draugr. It opened the door at the back of its coffin.
We entered the living quarters of the temple. Then we travelled downwards till we were at least six stories underground.
We arrived at a long staircase lined with Lurker brasiers and populated by powerful Draugr.
After destroying all adversaries, we stood before a Shrine to Hermaeus Mora.
- Inigo: Look, somebody made a statue of Lydia without her makeup!
- Lydia: I have no comeback. Well done!
- Rigmor: Is Hermaeus Mora that horrendous?
- Wulf: That is not his ugliest avatar. I have spoken to the one known as Wretched Abyss. It is a floating, jet-black tangle of tentacles and eyes that keeps changing shape. When he speaks, he makes grotesque gurgling sounds like he has a throat full of phlegm.
- Rigmor: What a lovely description!
- Lydia: It is better than how he described Seekers to us. Do you remember?
- Rigmor: Yes, and I have seen a Seeker. If you are a perverted weirdo Dragonborn, a Seeker’s mouth might look like a woman’s genitals.
- Felix: Pardon me, but that is the most disturbing thing I have ever heard.
- Lydia: You haven’t travelled with us for long, Felix. If you do, that revelation will seem mild.
- Felix: Oh…goody.
- Frea: We must be close to the centre of this place.
- Wulf: Yes, Frea. Have you noticed that we have only been facing powerful Draugr? It seems that Miraak’s goons were not allowed in this part of the temple.
We ended up in a small room. In its centre, a Black Book sat upon a pedestal. A metal grate surrounding the pedestal allowed flames from molten rock to shoot upwards.
- Frea: There are dark magics at work here. Ready yourself. That book… It seems wrong, somehow… Here, yet… not. It may be what we seek.
- Wulf: It is called a Black Book. It acts as a portal to Herma Mora’s world called Apocrypha. It may lead to the part in which Miraak resides.
- Rigmor: What will you do if Miraak is there?
- Wulf: That depends on him. I do not want to kill him till we have more information on the dweomer that controls the people. If I killed Miraak, what would happen to those people he controls? Would they go insane or die or remain in that state?
- Inigo: And, my friend, you want to understand why he turned away from Alkosh.
- Wulf: Yes, I not only want to understand, but I also need to understand.
- Frea: You are confident you could defeat Miraak.
- Wulf: He is a Dragonborn that has forsaken the god, Lord Akatosh, that gave him his power. Our other gods, such as Lady Kynareth, would not have taught him what they have taught me. I think his ability in the magic of the Dragonborn, The Thu’um, will be a fraction of mine. I would know far more Shouts, the spells of The Thu’um, than he. However, he may be able to focus his Thu’um better than I. As for skill with sword or Magicka, he will most likely pale in comparison.
- Frea: And what of Herma Mora?
- Wulf: He would not harm me. He knows the mortals he trades knowledge with may cease to be or become enslaved if I am not alive to prevent it. What Miraak is trying to do would stop mortals from trading knowledge with Herma Mora. That makes me suspect that Miraak no longer serves The Adversary.
- Lydia: Frea, General Welkynd must take this risk. We all wish he did not have to, but it is why our gods have given him his powers. He is on Nirn to protect all mortals and to accomplish that, he must risk such things.
- Wulf: Frea, would you have attempted to enter this temple by yourself?
- Frea: Yes, I would have done so for my people.
- Wulf: Then you understand why I will open that book and go to Herma Mora’s world.
- Frea: I will pray to the All Maker for your safe return.
- Rigmor: Wulf, please try not to antagonise Herma Mora when you are in his realm.
- Wulf: But my dear, after the boredom of this place, I need some fun!
- Inigo: Will you vanish?
- Wulf: No, I don’t think so. From what I have read, the Black Books return the reader to their point of origin if read in Apocrypha. To do so, they would have to have an anchor on Nirn. So I may turn transparent and not vanish altogether.
- Inigo: At what stage should we panic? How long will you be gone?
- Wulf: Time will always be an unknown when I enter Oblivion. Like I can with my Aetherius Room, the owners of a realm in Oblivion can control how time flows.
- Rigmor: We will be sensible, Inigo. As soon as one of our stomachs rumbles from hunger, we will abandon Wulf as a lost cause. Then we can get something to eat.
- Felix: You are taking this very calmly, milady.
- Rigmor: I have no choice in the matter, Felix. I would not and could not stop Wulf from doing what he deems necessary.
- Meeko: Woof!
- Rigmor: Yes, Meeko, I know you will worry. Would a good scratch behind the ear help?
- Meeko: Woof.
Meeko sidled up to Rigmor as I lifted the Black Book.
I held it vertically so Celestine could see the cover. She gasped, “That is Vayu’s tattoo!”
I chuckled and said, “That will give you something to think about rather than worry.”
The title of the Black Book was Waking Dreams. Similar to The Elder Scroll I read, its language was that of the gods, Ehlnofex. Unexpectedly, I could interpret the text, but it would require much research to achieve any understanding. I know it refers to a theory of how the universe came to be. A theory I am uncomfortable with, and Father refuses to discuss. The small part I saw before entering Apocrypha said,
“The eyes, once bleached by falling stars of utmost revelation, will forever see the faint insight drawn by the overwhelming question, as only the True Enquiry shapes the edge of thought.
The rest is vulgar fiction, attempts to impose order on the consensus mantlings of an uncaring godhead. First….”
The teleport to Apocrypha was not instantaneous. At first, I could not see, but I could hear. A familiar voice, heard when I touched The Earth Stone, said, “The time comes soon when… What?”
My eyesight quickly returned.
Miraak demanded, “Who are you to dare set foot here?”
He cast Lightning which surprised me. I would have thought a Shout would be his offensive weapon of choice.
I shrugged off his spell, which I believe shook him somewhat. His mask made his mood challenging to ascertain.
The ugliest dragon I have ever seen stood behind Miraak. Four Seekers surrounded him.
I replied, “You must be Miraak. Traitor to The Divines, the Dov, the people of Nirn and probably Hermaeus Mora.”
“Ahh… You are Dragonborn. I can feel it. And yet… So, you have slain Alduin… Well done. I could have slain him back when I walked the earth, but I chose a different path.”
“A path of cowardice and self-indulgence. Alduin can’t be slain, but I defeated him in battle on Nirn and Sovngarde. I doubt you could have accomplished either.”
“You have no idea of the true power a Dragonborn can wield!”
Miraak Souted Dragon Aspect.
“MUL QAH DIIV!”
I laughed and asked, “Is Dragon Aspect supposed to impress me?”
Mask or not, I could tell Miraak was disturbed that I knew the Shout.
I used the pause to scan Miraak’s soul, and it was disturbing to see it did not differ from that of a dragon. Mine would be the same. Up to now, the claim of having a dragon soul was abstract. Seeing Miraak’s soul made it an undeniable fact.
If Rigmor and my soul are eternally intertwined, have I been Dragonborn in previous Kalpa?
I quickly put that thought aside as my immediate puzzle was Miraak. I could see no darkness in his soul!
I continued, “I know Dragon Aspect Shout and dozens of others that you don’t. They were taught to me by Lady Kyne. Do you know Dragonrend?”
Miraak remained silent. The dragon witnessing our conversation chuckled.
“Did you know that Alduin can’t be harmed whilst flying?”
The dragon said, “Dovahkiin. Rok drey ni!” (Dragonborn. He did not.)
Miraak growled, “Silence, Sahrotaar!”
I asked Sahrotaar, “Sahrotaar, dreh hi aam Miraak?” (Sahrotaar, do you serve Miraak?)
“Zu’u los ok zaam!” (I am his slave!)
“Zu’u fent stin hi zeynah.” (I will free you, brother.)
I returned my attention to Miraak.
“Miraak, if you didn’t know the Dragonrend Shout, you could not have brought Alduin to the ground. Alduin would have consumed you and shit you out over Sovngarde!”
Miraak started to turn away.
I used my Thu’um, “DO NOT WALK AWAY. WE ARE NOT FINISHED!”
Miraak turned to me once more.
“Miraak, you have no idea of the true power of a Dragonborn because you abandoned the very gods that gave you that power! You would not know the Dragonrend Shout as the Tongues you refused to aid created it. It took a Shout created by mortals to defeat Alduin. Nothing you have learned in Apocrypha would have sufficed. Hermaeus Mora does not know Dragonrend. Otherwise, he would have offered it to me as a prize for my cooperation. Did you know I have replaced you as his champion? He desires a Dragonborn as his champion, and since his old one is broken, he sought a new one.”
“This realm is beyond you. You have no power here. And it is only a matter of time before Solstheim is also mine. I already control the minds of its people. Soon they will finish building my temple, and I can return home.”
“I have no power here? You only live now because I desire it. I resisted your domination in Solstheim, and a young Skaal woman has created a Dweomer that allows others to do so. I easily resisted your best spell, and your Thu’um would not harm me. As soon as I have freed the people of Solstheim, I will hunt you down and then what?”
“Fate decrees that you must die so I can win my freedom.”
“There is no such thing as predetermined fate. If Hermaeus Mora claims otherwise, he lies.”
Miraak angrily commanded the Seekers, “Send him back where he came from so that he can await my arrival with the rest of Tamriel.”
Miraak turned his back once more.
Miraak would have some resistance to my Thu’um. Dragon Aspect would provide more protection. Therefore, I did not hesitate and hit him with a full power Unrelenting Force Shout.
Miraak flew about forty feet, landed heavily and then rolled another twenty. I could hear his groans and knew he would live.
The Seekers cast spells designed to drain my Lifeforce. They did little harm, and I quickly cut them down.
I walked over to the groaning and still prone Miraak.
“You are a mystery to me, Miraak. Lord Akatosh chose you for the honour of his blessing and gifts. No god is omnipotent, but our celestial father must have seen something in you. Perhaps what made you worthy in Lord Akatosh’s estimation is still there and waiting for the chance to re-emerge?”
“If only it could be so. In order to subdue the chaos of Nirn and set things right, I must return to Mundus in full.”
“The chaos is being subdued by mortal heroes of which I am among many. Not just heroes of The Divines but other gods, including some Daedric Lords who do not wish mortals enslaved or Mundus destroyed. You and three other Dragon Priests planned a rebellion against Alduin’s overlordship before mortals started their rebellion. You never sought power for selfish reasons. You sought power for the same reasons as me. However, you made the mistake of trusting Hermaeus Mora and abandoning The Divines and Tongues. He has enslaved you for over forty-five centuries! Now you want freedom from him so you can fight the chaos you once witnessed and still think exists.”
“You… you are the true Dragonborn….”
“I am a Dragonborn, as are you. Paarthurnax and Odahviing are now my allies through choice and strive to make amends for their past allegiances. I have allowed them to live so they can do so. Think about my power if they did not have to be coerced. I will leave you to recover and contemplate what you desire and how it can be accomplished. Take heed, Miraak. If you choose to fight me, I can kill you and will do so if necessary. I will absorb your soul, and you will cease to exist in this Kalpa and those of the future.”
I walked over to Sahrotaar, and he was even uglier up close.