CLEANSING

Morndas, 27th Frostfall, 4E 201

& Tirdas, 28th Frostfall, 4E 201

My friends were excited as today we would, hopefully, start to unravel Miraak’s plans. The first task was to inform Captain Veleth of General Carius’ defeat.

We teleported to Raven Rock.

I talked to a guard outside The Retching Netch, one of Raven Rock’s taverns.

“Excuse me, guardsman, do you know where I can find Captain Veleth?”

“He is inside this tavern, breaking his fast.”

“Thanks for your help.”

We entered The Retching Netch tavern, which was quite busy. It was as noisy as any Skyrim tavern, except the conversations were in Dunmeri, not Tamrielic.

A young woman was speaking to Captain Veleth in Dunmeri. Here is my translation.

  • Dreyla: I don’t know if I can do this anymore, Modyn.
  • Veleth: Is it because of your father, Dreyla? Or is it me?
  • Dreyla: He’s never been the same since my mother died. I don’t think he ever wants me to feel the pain he suffers.
  • Veleth: At some point, you’re going to have to choose. No matter the outcome, I’ll always respect your decision.

Dreyla moved away when she saw us approaching Captain Veleth.

“Good morning, Captain Veleth.”

“The day’s greetings to you, General Welkynd. Forgive my urgency, but do you bring news of Fort Frostmoth?”

“We went to the fort and killed many Ash Spawn. General Carius commanded them, and they obeyed his orders. We eventually reached him and killed him. I am sorry it took us a while to report to you. We had urgent business elsewhere.”

“I had my suspicions that he was undead. How else could he have survived for nearly two hundred years? It’s a shame. There are quite a few tales of General Carius’s exploits, including the founding of Raven Rock.”

“Technically, General Carius wasn’t undead. He was restored using the magic of Heart Stone. The necromancer responsible is Ildari Sarothril. Do you know of her?”

“She is Master Neloth’s apprentice. Ildari rarely visits Raven Rock as Tel Mithryn is fairly self-sufficient. We don’t mind if she infrequently visits as Telvanni arrogance does not sit well with most citizens! If anything is needed from here, Master Neloth’s steward, Varona Nelas, makes the trek from Tel Mithryn.”

“I might have to visit Master Neloth as Ildari is responsible for the deaths caused by General Carius. You will no longer have to worry about Ash Spawn attacks on Raven Rock.”

“Councillor Morvayn told me to give this to you if you made it back in one piece… and you got rid of General Carius. Better than a soldier’s pay, so you should be thankful.”

Captain Veleth tried to hand me a hefty bag of coins. I pushed his hand away and said, “I have been tasked by The Nine to protect the mortals of Nirn. I do not do it for financial reward. Widows, widowers and orphans of the Redoran Guard that the Ash Spawn killed need that coin far more than we. Please, distribute the money amongst them as you see fit.”

“That is most generous of you, and it will be my pleasure to hand those unfortunates some badly needed funds. Thank you for your assistance. It’s raised my men’s spirits quite a bit.”

“We are glad we could help.”

The closest place to Saering’s Watch to which I could teleport was the Skaal Village. I gathered the group and teleported.

I walked close to the meditating group, and Storn said, “Hurry, we cannot hold on for much longer!”

“We are heading to Saering’s Watch now, Shaman.”

Rigmor enjoyed the walk and showed genuine delight when we had to use a log to cross a river next to a waterfall.

I commented, “Rigmor, it warms my heart to see you so relaxed.”

“This part of Solstheim is pretty. It reminds me a lot of Bruma.”

“One day, you will be able to show me your favourite places, Countess.”

“Maybe I can show you a few tonight? Your hand can explore them!”

Rigmor laughed loud as my mouth hung open.

Lucky for my dignity, the noisy waterfall drowned out our conversation.

A few minutes later, we heard sounds of battle and rushed to see what was happening. A couple of reavers had upset some Ice Wraith.

Unrelenting Force killed all combatants.

Then another reaver attacked, and Rigmor took care of him.

In the distance, two bears were fighting another reaver.

I Blinked into the fight and eliminated the reaver.

The bears snuffled and then curled up to sleep.

I walked over to Rigmor and asked, “Do they remind you of somebody?”

“Yes, and I often wonder what happened to Mister Bear.”

“He is probably a well-loved rug in front of somebodies fireplace.”

“WULF!”

Later, we walked past a Riekling cave called Benkongerike.

I looked around and observed many ancient ruins in this part of Solstheim.

Saering’s Watch came into view, and we could see a Word Wall at the top.

  • Wulf: Outdoor Word Walls nearly always have a dragon guardian.
  • Rigmor: Good, it is about time Felix lost his cherry.
  • Felix: Lost my cherry?
  • Lydia: It is another one of Wulf’s colloquialisms. It means to lose your virginity.
  • Felix: Losing your virginity to a dragon doesn’t sound like fun. Besides, I like females.
  • Rigmor: You are a virgin when it comes to fighting dragons.
  • Felix: Oh, well, yes, you are correct, and I hope the dragon takes that into account.
  • Rigmor: As I have told you before, leave the snappy part with lots of teeth to Wulf and attack the flank.
  • Felix: Does it hurt?
  • Lydia: Only for a little while, even if the dragon eats you.
  • Rigmor: Some of us like to be e…
  • Wulf: Rigmor!
  • Rigmor: Too bad you are not wearing your red armour. Your face would be a perfect match.
  • Celestine: Felix, if you don’t find your first time with a dragon fun, just pretend it is.
  • Felix: I should close my eyes and think of The Empire?
  • Lydia: That is taking the analogy a little too far.

I used Zoom-Vision and told the group, “There are a few Draugr guarding the Word Wall. But more importantly, there is some sort of Standing Stone at the summit of the mountain.”

Rigmor replied, “You will have to visit the summit some other time, my Guardian.”

“Yeah, I know. Save everybody before having fun.”

“Yep.”

We stopped some distance from the ruins, and I challenged, “Inigo, I bet you can’t hit that Draugr sentry in the head from here!”

“Challenge accepted, my friend.”

Inigo fired two arrows. One hit the Draugr in the knee and the other in the foot.

My first arrow hit the Draugr in the head. Inigo was not amused.

We fought several strong Draugr to reach the Word Wall. I was surprised that no dragon challenged us.

The Word Wall tried to teach me ‘GOL’, which means earth and is the first Word of Power in the Bend Will Shout. I already knew both Word and Shout.

I laughed out loud.

  • Inigo: My friend, is the message that funny?
  • Wulf: No, Inigo, I am laughing at how I missed the obvious.
  • Rigmor: What did you miss?
  • Wulf: Of the dozens of Shouts that I know, only one can be used to control people and dragons. It is called Bend Will.
  • Rigmor: You described it to me once. You don’t like anything that removes free will, which is why you wouldn’t use it.
  • Wulf: Miraak is using the power released by the Bend Will Shout to control the citizens of Solstheim. At first, it makes them want to touch an All-Maker Stone. When they do, it is like Miraak used the Shout on them. It is still similar to The Sea Sload Mind Magic and uses the power of the All-Maker Stones to make it effective over a large area.
  • Celestine: How would you Shouting Bend Will on an All-Maker Stone help?
  • Wulf: I still don’t know the details of the dweomer used by Miraak. When I Shout at an All-Maker Stone, we might better understand the dweomer.
  • Celestine: Don’t you think it strange that Skaal Shamans, who know nothing of The Thu’um, passed on the information about this Word Wall? I wonder when it became part of their Oral History?
  • Wulf: Speculation time! What if the All-Maker knew what Miraak was planning on doing? So he then told a Shaman the information about this Word Wall? I think Miraak and his fellow Dragon Priests were planning to use the All-Maker Stones and Bend Will to control the dragons and end Alduin’s reign. However, The Jailor defeated Miraak before the plan was implemented and only now can Miraak try again. But this time, he needs ensorceled mortals to help construct the arches around the All-Maker Stones. When Miraak ruled Solstheim as a Dragon Priest, he could just order mortals to do his bidding.
  • Felix: Miraak had a plan, which is why he didn’t help the Tongues.
  • Wulf: That is what I concluded. But as I said, it is speculation.
  • Rigmor: But why would the All-Maker object to Miraak stopping Alduin?
  • Wulf: He didn’t object at first, but when Miraak ended up in Apocrypha, the All-Maker told a Shaman the information as a precaution against a corrupted Miraak.
  • Rigmor: This is very complicated and very speculative, my dear Dragonborn.
  • Wulf: Curiosity drives me to understand how Miraak has done this. I can always figure out the how and why later on. However, if Shouting Bend Will at All-Maker Stones stops the dweomer, that is our priority.
  • Meeko: Woof?
  • Wulf: Yes, Meeko, I will tell you what the Word Wall says. It tried to teach me the first Word of Power of the Bend Will Shout. In Dovahzul, the inscription says, ‘Qethsegol vahrukiv Bhar fin Golah wo praal het mulhaan ol gol saraan onikiv nunon wah meyz wuth sinon do onik.’
  • Meeko: Woof?
  • Wulf: You don’t need a translation, but for the others, it says, ‘This stone commemorates Bhar the Stubborn who sat here still as Earth awaiting enlightenment, only to become old instead of wise.’
  • Rigmor: Do you have any idea who Bhar was?
  • Wulf: No, but apparently, he was very stubborn.
  • Celestine: Rigmor, if you want to kick Wulf, we will understand.
  • Felix: Why didn’t Meeko need a translation? Can he understand Dovahzul?
  • Wulf: I verbally reply to Meeko for good manners. Otherwise, it would be like two people whispering in each other’s ear and excluding everybody else. We communicated via telepathy as we do with Nafaalilargus.
  • Celestine: When you communicate telepathically, you are not speaking in any language other than your mind’s.
  • Felix: Huh?
  • Wulf: Say a person is deaf from birth. They have never heard a spoken word. Therefore they have no internal voice identifiable as Tamrielic or any other spoken language. Yet, I could speak to them via telepathy, and we would understand each other.
  • Felix: That is not gobblygook, is it?
  • Wulf: It is science.
  • Lydia: Which is very gobblygook if you ask me.
  • Inigo: People who dribble a lot have trouble with science.
  • Lydia: What now, Wulf, while your blue friend still has his teeth?
  • Wulf: We teleport to the Skaal village and make our way to The Wind Stone. Then I try the first Word of Bend Will and see if it frees the ensorceled villagers.
  • Celestine: Is there any danger?
  • Wulf: I doubt it. Storn gave this advice, and I see no reason to ignore it.
  • Meeko: Woof!
  • Rigmor: Draugr? They are a bit late, but it is a chance for more practice with this wonderful sword!

Rigmor leapt over the side and ran towards a Draugr.

She easily dodged the Draugr’s axe.

Then she cut it down with a mighty two-handed swing.

Another Draugr came towards her. By this time, Lydia and Meeko were approaching the melee via the steps Rigmor ignored.

Rigmor blocked the Draugr’s two-handed axe.

Then she cut it down with ease.

Felix remarked, “Rigmor is as deadly as you, Wulf.”

“Impressive, isn’t she?”

“I have only seen her hold court in Bruma once. Her tongue can cut as well as her sword.”

I leapt over the side as Rigmor had. My beloved melted my heart with her smile.

“Rigmor, you will not abandon Morganna for that kai-katana, are you?”

“It is tempting.”

“That was a bit showy, leaping off the side like that.”

“You do that sort of stuff all the time.”

“Yes, but not as showy as your leap.”

“I was not showing off!”

“If I said Felix was very impressed?”

“Well, I am trying to convince him I can defend myself if necessary.”

“Over the last couple of days, Felix has become well aware of your skills.”

“I don’t want him to worry about me in battle. He could become distracted if he doesn’t pay attention to our enemies.”

“It didn’t take long before your other guardian stopped worrying about you in battle.”

“Perhaps Felix regards the position of guardian more seriously than the useless one I dismissed at the border.”

“I spoke to him, and your old guardian was so relieved to get rid of the snotty noble brat.”

Rigmor laughed as the others gathered around us.

We teleported to the Skaal Village.

Then made our way to The Wind Stone.

When The Wind Stone came into view, we saw a mounted Riekling fighting the ensorceled Skaal. Miraak’s dweomer did not remove self-preservation instincts.

I Blinked into the fight and killed both boar and Riekling with a single stroke.

The others caught up and then stood back to observe.

I said to them, “I will use a single Word Shout. That is what is supposed to cleanse The All-Maker Stones.”

I Shouted the first Word of Bend Will.

The effect was instantaneous. The green beam emitted from The Wind Stone vanished. It was replaced by a yellow and orange plasma which then interacted with the new structure.

The yellow and orange plasma dissipated, and for a second, nothing happened.

Then red cracks appeared in the new structure as if it contained magma.

The new structure exploded in a bright flash, but no damage was done to the freed Skaal or anything else. There was no debris left behind.

A Lurker arose from the water.

Inigo ran up and yelled, “Hyah!” as he cut the Lurker down.

As people gathered around the dead Lurker to discuss how ugly it was. I talked to one of the freed Skaal.

 “Greetings, I am Wulf Welkynd.”

“And I am Wulf Wild-Blood. Can you tell me, have I been dreaming?”

“What do you remember?”

“Building something here, but I don’t see any change to The Wind Stone. However, many tools are lying about.”

“Speak to your Shaman. He can tell you what has been happening.”

“Okay, I shall travel with the others to the village.”

I was not surprised that Wulf and the other villagers were confused.

When we arrived at the Skaal Village, some Rieklings attacked. All the Skaal, including children, came to the village’s defence.

The threat was soon over, and the Skaal returned to work or play as if nothing had happened.

We were told Storn was resting in his hut but was expecting us. When we knocked on the door, Frea opened it and invited us in. It was very crowded by the time we all entered.

Storn was sitting and enjoying some salmon. He started to stand.

  • Wulf: No, please, Shaman, remain seated.
  • Storn: We felt the change when you prevailed.
  • Frea: We were struggling to maintain the shield. I am glad you finally freed our people.
  • Storn: You have proven yourself allies to the Skaal, so the Skaal shall be allies to you.
  • Wulf: We are glad to have freed the Skaal. Now we must visit all of The All-Maker Stones and free others.
  • Storn: Indeed, but I doubt it will entirely stop whatever Miraak is doing. However, it may slow his progress.
  • Wulf: You are correct; it won’t stop Miraak’s plans. Eventually, he will find another way to return to Nirn. I will have to return to Apocrypha to stop him. Therefore, I will need more Black Books that will take me to different parts of Herma Mora’s realm.
  • Frea: But you can already travel to Apocrypha via the Black Book you carry?
  • Wulf: Each Black Book takes you to a different part of Apocrypha. The magic Miraak used to enslave the Skaal, and other mortals can also enslave dragons. Miraak enslaved a dragon named Sahrotaar. He flies on Sahrotaar to different parts of Apocrypha. I could summon my dragon friends to Apocrypha, but they would risk being enslaved by Miraak. Therefore, I must rely on Black Books.
  • Storn: You have dragons you regard as friends?
  • Wulf: Shaman, not all dragons are evil, and some who harmed mortals seek redemption. If one dragon, his name is Paarthurnax, had not done so, Alduin would have won the Dragon War. Another of my Dov friends, Nafaalilargus, helped Elsweyr prevent a Dovah from becoming a malicious god.
  • Frea: And you fly on them?
  • Wulf: Yes, and it is a beautiful experience. Perhaps you could fly on a dragon when Solstheim is freed from Miraak and see The All-Maker’s work from up high?
  • Frea: That would be wonderful!
  • Celestine: Wulf, what do you think happened when you Shouted at The Wind Stone?
  • Wulf: The Thu’um was corrupted within the structure the ensorceled were making. When I Shouted Bend Will, the corruption was removed. The structure vanished into the winds, and no debris was left behind. I am sure those structures are an affront to Lady Kynareth.
  • Storn: Your Shout broke whatever evil was controlling The Wind Stone and restored its true nature as a conduit of the All-Maker’s gift. Freeing the other Stones will diminish whatever dark influence is spreading across Solstheim.
  • Celestine: Touching The Wind Stone will now provide a boon, like the Standing Stones of Skyrim.
  • Wulf: I should be able to cleanse all of the All-Maker Stones except The Tree Stone.
  • Frea: Yes, it is imprisoned in Miraak’s new temple and most likely beyond the power of the Bend Will Shout.
  • Wulf: As I said earlier, I need to go to Apocrypha and stop Miraak from there. We know where another Black Book is, but we probably need more of them to ensure I can go to the correct part or parts of Apocrypha.
  • Storn: The Black Books are dark things and unnatural. I will have nothing to do with them. However, the Dark Elf Wizard, Neloth, came to us some time ago, asking about Black Books. I believe he knows a great deal about them. Perhaps too much. Seek him out to the south. Be cautious, Dragonborn. There is something else at work here.
  • Wulf: Yes, Storn, there is far more to this than Miraak seeking freedom and control of Solstheim. I believe Miraak has altruistic intentions, but his methods are unacceptable.
  • Storn: The Black Books and Miraak are connected. You read a Black Book and saw him. And the book’s power comes from the same dark source as that which corrupted the Wind Stone. But beware. You are now walking the same road as Miraak.
  • Rigmor: Other gods have tried to corrupt Wulf and failed. He cannot be bribed or persuaded by any of them or their agents.
  • Wulf: The link between the Black Books and Miraak is Herma Mora, and I know that Dark Lord’s tricks, Shaman. He will try to convince me that all of this is predetermined and that I have no free will. He is not the only avatar of The Adversary to use such tactics. He may offer knowledge in exchange for a favour or other knowledge. I will have to be careful when making such a bargain. The avatars of The Adversary will not renege on a verbal contract, but unless worded correctly, the mortal may not get the outcome desired.
  • Frea: Father, I believe Wulf has dealt with many of The Adversary’s avatars.
  • Wulf: Only a couple of them, Frea, but I have studied their interactions with other mortals.
  • Celestine: Shaman, does Lord Neloth own any Black Books?
  • Storn: When he visited here, he had one that he showed to me. It was like the one The Dragonborn carries. It was a thing of dark magic and not The All-Maker.
  • Wulf: Many would say that all we encounter is natural, Shaman. The natural laws of the Aurbis dictate everything, but that is a philosophical discussion for another day. We will vanish now. Do not be alarmed, for it is the teleportation magic I mentioned last night.
  • Celestine: Which All-Maker Stone next, Wulf?
  • Wulf: The Earth Stone.

I teleported us to Raven Rock. Each time we do that, the number of startled locals reduces. They relax when they see The Redoran Guard is not after us with drawn weapons.

We made our way to The Earth Stone.

The sequence was the same as with The Wind Stone.

I Shouted the first Word of Bend Will.

The green beam emitted from The Wind Stone vanished. It was replaced by a yellow and orange plasma which then interacted with the new structure.

The yellow and orange plasma dissipated, and for a second, nothing happened.

Then red cracks appeared in the new structure as if it contained magma.

The new structure exploded in a bright flash, but no damage was done to the freed mortals or anything else. There was no debris left behind.

A Lurker emerged from the water and was soon cut down.

A couple of reavers had been ensorceled and, when they regained free will, found themselves surrounded by Redoran Guards. A melee ensued.

We quickly killed the reavers and then proceeded to The Water Stone. It was a fair distance north along the shore from Raven Rock.

When we exited Raven Rock, we encountered a fight between a Nix-Hound and Wild Boar. The hunter versus prey battle had been raging for some time. The Nix-Hound would eventually win, buts its intended meal was not making it easy.

Lady Kynareth marked a Cliff Racer, which I brought down with an arrow.

As we approached the external towers of Bloodskal Barrow, I noticed several reavers on its ramparts.

I told the group, “They are the external towers of BloodskaI  Barrow. There are a few sentries facing our way.”

I killed a reaver from an impressive distance.

Inigo said, “That was amazing, my friend.”

Another reaver came to inspect their dead comrade. A second arrow killed them.

Both sentries facing us were dead. It was relatively easy to sneak up to other reavers facing the opposite direction.

We quickly eliminated all the reavers we could find.

A while later, three of Miraak’s Goons attacked.

I killed them, and we continued our trek.

As we neared The Water Stone, we noticed a trading vessel anchored nearby. A rowboat was tied to the shore.

A single goon guarded The Water Stone and didn’t last long.

Only four people were working on The Water Stone’s additions.

  • Inigo: My friend, I don’t think many people pass this way. That is why so few of them are enslaved compared to the other All-Make Stones.
  • Wulf: I think you may be right, Inigo.
  • Rigmor: The elderly man carrying the rocks is an Imperial. The other three are Nords.
  • Wulf: They are more than likely the crew of the nearby trading vessel.
  • Rigmor: Hurry up and do your thing, Wulf. I want to know what cargo they carry and from where they sailed.
  • Wulf: Okay, hurrying so the snobby noble brat can interrogate the merchants and sailors.

I Shouted the first Word of Bend Will, and the same process occurred as at the previous two All-Maker Stones.

Before we had a chance to talk to the merchants, Rieklings attacked. One of their spears penetrated Celestine’s shoulder.

With the aid of the freed sailors, we quickly eliminated the Rieklings.

Celestine asked, “Wulf, could you please heal me. I can’t use my arm well enough for the wavy hands part of the incantation.”

I healed Celestine, and then we talked to the elderly Imperial.

  • Wulf: Hello, I am Wulf Welkynd, and my friends are called The Dragonguard.
  • Palevius: I am Palevius Rex and am honoured to meet you, Dragonborn. What happened to us?
  • Wulf: How do you know I am The Dragonborn?
  • Palevius: We sailed from Windhelm on the 14th of Frostfall. We were in dock when you flew over on that magnificent dragon and told the citizens the truth about Ulfric.
  • Wulf: So, you reached Solstheim on the 17th or 18th of Frostfall?
  • Palevius: Early morning of the 18th.
  • Wulf: Today is the 27th.
  • Palevius: Oh, I hope our goods from Skyrim are still fresh! We would not take such an extended shore leave. What happened to us?
  • Wulf: You were ensorceled and forced to build a structure here. But we just destroyed it and freed you.
  • Palevius: Then we owe you and The Dragonguard our thanks.
  • Rigmor: What goods are you carrying?
  • Palevius: Basic foodstuffs. We return to Skyrim with the exotic alcohol beverages of this land and Netch leather. It is pretty profitable. May I ask, what has happened with the civil war?
  • Rigmor: Ulfric is dead. The civil war is over.
  • Palevius: That is good news. None of the Nords with me were fans of his fanaticism. That is why they agreed to accompany this wrinkled old Imperial.
  • Wulf: We are glad to have helped. I advise you to get your goods to Raven Rock as soon as possible. They have had difficulty with supply reliability lately.
  • Palevius: We will, and thank you once again.

Palevius and his crew members headed for their boat.

I told the group, “We will fix The Sun Stone next. It is a bit of a walk from Fort Frostmoth, but that is the closest place to which I can teleport.”

I teleported the group to Fort Frostmoth, and we started walking to The Sun Stone.

We helped a couple of Redoran Guards being assailed by Ash Hoppers.

Inigo and his bow eliminated some of the jumping, exploding spiders.

  • Rigmor: What is that sound?
  • Wulf: Can’t you see the Silt Strider?
  • Rigmor: Oh, your right about them being insects. It looks like a giant pill bug!
  • Wulf: You mean slater bug? By the way, slater bugs are not insects. They are crustaceans.
  • Rigmor: Who calls them slater bugs?
  • Celestine: Educated people call them woodlice.
  • Lydia: They are called sowbugs!
  • Meeko: Woof!
  • Wulf: Yes, Meeko, it does resemble a giant cockroach.
  • Felix: Nobody is going to argue about that comparison or name? Good, then let’s all agree it looks like a giant cockroach.
  • Wulf: Whose father was a slater bug.
  • Rigmor: You always have to get the last word in.
  • Wulf: Do not!
  • Rigmor: Do too!
  • Wulf: Do not!
  • Rigmor: Do too!

The others started walking towards the Silt Strider. Rigmor poked her tongue out at me and joined them. It should be like this all the time, where Rigmor and I enjoy each other’s company without great danger looming over us.

As we got closer to the Silt Strider, we noticed a small camp and a Dunmer nearby.

When we reached the small camp, there was a tamed Nix-Hound present.

  • Wulf: Hello, I am Wulf, and my friends are called The Dragonguard.
  • Revus: I am Revus Sarvani, and from the look on your faces, I’m guessing none of you has seen a Silt Strider before.
  • Rigmor: It is magnificent!
  • Revus: It is a she. Her name is Dusty. The blast from the volcano killed most adult Silt Striders. Silt Strider cocoons are pretty tough. I found Dusty here in a small cave on Vvardenfell and raised her from pupae.
  • Rigmor: How do you make a living way out here?
  • Revus: We get by trading odds and ends with the locals. I’ve decided to stay here and make sure Dusty passes in peace. It’s the least I can do for her. Every once in a while, a local makes it out here. Although, they usually just want to catch a glimpse of Dusty. Silt Striders are pretty rare now.
  • Wulf: I buy rarities and artefacts. Would you have anything in which I might be interested?
  • Revus: I have got this weird gem. I believe it is from a Dwemer ruin.

Revus showed me a white, pointed gem with a Dwemer Metal collar near one end.

  • Wulf: How much do you want for it?
  • Revus: Ah…seven hundred and fifty?
  • Wulf: Five hundred. Final offer.
  • Revus: Deal!

I handed Revus two sapphires worth at least seven hundred septims. He looked at them with a trained eye and knew their value. He smiled as he handed me the Dwemer gem.

  • Revus: Why do you want that gem?
  • Wulf: I think it is a key to a Tonal Lock. A way into parts of a Dwemer ruin.
  • Revus: Okay, I understand, I think.
  • Rigmor: Is that Nix-Hound your guard?
  • Revus: Yes, although he can be slightly lazy when warning me about danger. His eating habits are disgusting!

We had a closer look at Dusty.

We then continued our trek to The Sun Stone.

Reavers and necromancers were modifying The Sun Stone. If they attack us after being freed, we will kill them. If they leave us be, we will let them live.

The same routine produced the same outcome.

After we ended their enslavement, the necromancers and reavers were not interested in being slaughtered and let us be.

We teleported to Miraak’s Temple, which was not far from The Beast Stone.

A combination of Riekling and Nords from Thirsk Mead Hall worked at The Beast Stone.

I cleansed The Beast Stone.

Riekling and Nord walked away confused but not keen to fight each other.

  • Rigmor: What now, my dear Dragonborn?
  • Wulf: We inform Storn of our success. I also want to speak to a historian who lives with the Skaal. His name is Tharstan Harrier. He is a Nord from Skyrim who came to Solstheim to study the Skaal and old tombs. He ended up marrying Fanari Strong-Voice, the Skaal’s leader.
  • Rigmor: Why do you want to speak to him?
  • Wulf: I would like to know as much as possible about Miraak before confronting him. Vahlok, whose name means guardian in Dovahzul, was the Dragon Priest that defeated Miraak in battle. Vahlok then took over from Miraak as the Dragon Priest in charge of Solstheim. I am hoping Tharstan knows when Vahlok’s tomb is.
  • Rigmor: My pretty Guardian seeks an ancient guardian alongside my new guardian.
  • Wulf: You have only ever called me pretty once before.
  • Rigmor: I remember. It was just before you kissed me for the first time in Riverwood.
  • Celestine: And then we offended Wulf by joking about it.
  • Wulf: I have a book about Vahlok in my journal case. Let me read the relevant passage to you.
  • Inigo: Mr Dragonfly wants to know if it has a happy ending.
  • Meeko: Woof!
  • Inigo: It is not strange that I talk to Mr Dragonfly. He is still a person even if transformed into an insect.

I rummaged through my journal case, and Felix mumbled about accepting gobblygook.

I finally found the book and read the relevant section to the group.

“The Guardian and the Traitor by Lucius Gallus

One of the more intriguing legends found on the island of Solstheim is the story of a mythical figure whose name is long forgotten but whom time remembers as ‘The Traitor.’

Confident that this myth is rooted in history, I set out to learn what I could and perhaps piece together a presumptive account of the events that gave rise to the legend.

The tale is remembered best by the shamans of the Skaal, that unique tribe of Nords whose culture evolved along an entirely divergent path than that of their brethren in Skyrim and Bruma.

I spoke at length to the shaman of Skaal Village, a wise and hospitable man named Breigr Winter-Moon. He described an age long ago when dragons ruled over the whole world and were worshipped as gods by men. Presiding over this cult of dragon-worshippers were the Dragon Priests, powerful mages who could speak the dragon language and call upon the power of The Thu’um, or Voice.

According to the legend, one such Dragon Priest was seduced by a dark spirit named Herma-Mora, an unmistakable analogue for the Daedric prince Hermaeus Mora. Lured by promises of power, this treacherous priest secretly plotted against his dragon master.

The Traitor’s plot was discovered by one of his contemporaries, another Dragon Priest who legend named The Guardian. The two fought a mighty battle that lasted for days. Both adversaries hurled terrible arcane energies and Thu’um Shouts at each other.

So great and terrible were the forces unleashed in this contest that Solstheim was torn apart from the mainland of Skyrim. Here, the myth clearly descends into the realm of pure fantasy.

The Guardian, whom the legend presents as a paragon of loyalty and nobility, finally defeats the despicable Traitor, who seems to represent all that is corrupt and evil in men. Their epic duel is clearly representative of a greater struggle between good and evil. Perhaps this timeless quality has kept the tale alive for so long.

Unlike many similar myths, the tale of The Guardian and The Traitor does not feature a suitably heroic ending. Herma-Mora snatches The Traitor away just as The Guardian is about to strike the killing blow.

The dragons appoint The Guardian ruler of Solstheim, but not before he is compelled to swear an oath of vigilance to watch for the Traitor’s return. His reign is, by all accounts, a time of peace and prosperity for the island’s people, and he is remembered as a wise and just leader.

No further mention is made of The Traitor, but neither is he thought to be dead. The legend ends on a cautionary note that the people of Solstheim, the heirs of The Guardian, must remain wary lest the dark influence of Herma-Mora, or even The Traitor himself, return someday.

Although no physical clues exist now on Solstheim to suggest the presence of the dragon cult, it is hardly difficult to believe that it might once have flourished there. Perhaps some hidden tomb still waits to be discovered that will tell the tale’s truth.

There are other tantalising clues, though perhaps these connections strain the bounds of credibility. For example, is it possible that the Skaal deity, The All-Maker, is some distant echo of mighty Alduin, The World-Eater of the ancient Nord pantheon?

Perhaps not, but one thing is certain: Solstheim’s history is riddled with unanswered questions. Perhaps future generations will pull aside the veils of mystery and reveal the truth about the origins of the Skaal and the identities of The Guardian and The Traitor.”

  • Celestine: Is the author, Lucius Gallus, well respected?
  • Wulf: No, for he wrote about places he never explored in-depth.
  • Felix: Step outside the Skaal village, and you see abundant evidence that The Dragon Cult once ruled here.
  • Wulf: His theory on The All-Make being Alduin is absurd. The Skaal’s name for Alduin is Thartaag, the World Devourer. He is regarded as an avatar of The Adversary, the eternal enemy of The All-Maker.
  • Lydia: He gives credence to some of what Breigr Winter-Moon said and doubts other parts.
  • Wulf: In all fairness, he does say it is a presumptive account.
  • Rigmor: If this is based on Skaal oral history, can’t you ask Storn to verify it?
  • Wulf: Yes, and that is what I shall do. As for evidence of the Dragon Cult on Solstheim, Auryen thinks there are at least five Dragon Priest tombs on the island. He researched extensively and marked where he thought Vahlok’s tomb might be. I want to know if Tharstan has explored the tomb.
  • Celestine: Wulf, you had to explain to Storn who The Jailor was.
  • Wulf: The Jailor is the name given to Vahlok later in life. The verbal histories probably only mention The Guardian or Vahlok.
  • Rigmor: Poor Storn looked exhausted. It must have taken a lot of effort to maintain that shield.
  • Celestine: Yes, intense concentration can be as exhausting as physical exercise.
  • Wulf: Let’s get going. I want to fit in as much as I can today.

We teleported to Skaal Village and soon found Tharstan. He wore Skyrim noble clothes and not the traditional furs of the Skaal.

  • Wulf: Good evening, would you be Tharstan Harrier?
  • Tharstan: I am indeed, and you are Wulf, the Dragonborn. Therefore, these lovely people must be The Dragonguard. Storn and Frea have made everybody aware of the efforts you all made to free us from our enslavement.
  • Wulf: What do you think happened to you?
  • Tharstan: Well, that was a most disturbing experience. But to answer your question, the architecture was strange, almost otherworldly. Given that and the considerable power it must have taken to affect our minds so completely, it would suggest the work of a powerful mage. Maybe even a Daedra. If the latter, then pray The Nine protect us.
  • Wulf: Storn and Frea have not told you the complete story?
  • Tharstan: They blamed it on The Adversary. But that could be any malignant entity not natural or of The All-Maker’s construction.
  • Wulf: The entity behind your enslavement is Miraak, a Dragon Priest living in Apocrypha for forty-five centuries. He used the power of The Thu’um to corrupt The All-Maker Stones.
  • Tharstan: Are you sure?
  • Rigmor: Wulf went to Oblivion and confronted Miraak. Yes, we are sure.
  • Wulf: Tharstan, have you explored some of the ruins on Solstheim?
  • Tharstan: As a history scholar, I’ve always found Solstheim to be most intriguing. I’ve made many forays into the ancient ruins that cover the island. I’ve come to know those ruins so well that I could draw you a map from memory. That’s why I noticed the new passage when I first saw it.
  • Wulf: A new passage where?
  • Tharstan: An old tomb, I think. It must have been opened by an earthquake that accompanied one of the Red Mountain’s eruptions. I’d love to look closer, but those old ruins can be dangerous, and I’m no adventurer. I’ll pay you to watch my back down there. I’ll be heading back there soon. If you’re interested, meet me at the ruins, and we’ll see what we can find. Now I’m off to pack for the expedition!
  • Wulf: Please point out on my map where this tomb is.

Tharstan looked at my map, then looked at me.

  • Tharstan: You already have it marked with the name Vahlok underlined.
  • Wulf: You should not approach that tomb unless accompanied by us. I am telling you this for your safety and that of the people of Solstheim.
  • Tharstan: Young man, I am pretty experienced at these things and don’t need advice from some wet behind the ears amateur.
  • Celestine: You just said you are no adventurer and insulted us by offering money to guard you. We are not mercenaries or guards for hire, Tharstan!
  • Rigmor: Wulf is the owner of Dragonborn Gallery in Solitude. It is full of artefacts that Wulf and The Dragonguard have recovered from ancient tombs, ruins, and even Oblivion!
  • Wulf: Tharstan, I will tell Fanari my warning if necessary. What do you think your wife would do?
  • Tharstan: I apologise. It is stupid of me to question your advice. However, if you investigate the tomb, please take me with you.
  • Wulf: If you came with us, you would have to make a solemn promise to obey me without question. You would not be allowed to touch anything without asking. You would follow behind like a faithful puppy and not dare get ahead of me.
  • Tharstan: I could agree to that. When do you think you will explore the tomb?
  • Wulf: Not for a day or two. In the meantime, I will lend you a book. The tomb is of Vahlok. Do you know Dovahzul?
  • Tharstan: Only through the translation book I carry.
  • Wulf: Vahlok means guardian. He is the Dragon Priest that defeated Miraak and three other Dragon Priests in battle. The dragons then made him leader of Solstheim. His name then changed to The Jailor, for he was tasked to watch for Miraak’s return.
  • Tharstan: Do you think the passage suddenly appearing is no coincidence?
  • Wulf: An educated guess is that Vahlok has risen and is trying to make his way to the surface, and we don’t know his mental state. He will be surrounded by Draugr, who worship him and will defend him with vigour and without mercy. Many Dragon Priests, even benevolent ones like Vahlok, resorted to Lichdom.
  • Celestine: We were going to investigate that tomb in the hope of finding information about Miraak. Our priority now is stopping Vahlok from reaching the surface if he has risen.
  • Wulf: Read this book. I promise we shall collect you before we go to the tomb. However, you must inform your wife of the dangers and consider her opinion.

I handed Tharstan ‘The Guardian and the Traitor’.

  • Wulf: Is Storn in the village?
  • Tharstan: He is resting, and we have been told not to disturb him.
  • Wulf: That is okay, but please tell him we have cleansed every All-Maker Stone except the one in Miraak’s Temple.
  • Tharstan: All of them were taken over by this Miraak fellow?
  • Wulf: Yes. I will need to confront Miraak again in Oblivion, but I want to understand him more before I do so.
  • Tharstan: Once again, I apologise for my rudeness.
  • Rigmor: Tharstan, do not worry about that. Just think long and hard about whether or not you want to accompany us.
  • Tharstan: I might see wonders I have never imagined. I could not pass up such an opportunity.
  • Rigmor: And if Fanari objects?
  • Tharstan: I would submit to Fanari’s decision. She is far wiser than me.
  • Rigmor: Where now, Wulf?
  • Wulf: Raven Rock. I want to report to The Councillor and maybe investigate the mine. It shut down when the amount of ebony being mined was substantial.
  • Celestine: There has to be a reason why The East Empire Trading Company would close down such a profitable mine.
  • Wulf: When Auryen looked into it, he said it made no sense.
  • Rigmor: I know why you are looking at the mine.
  • Wulf: I don’t know what you mean! Anyway, farewell, for now, Tharstan

We teleported to Raven Rock and made out way to Morvayn Manor.

The guardsman told us to enter, as The Dragonguard and I were heroes, and Councillor Morvayn was eager to speak to us.

We entered and approached Lleril.

  • Wulf: Greetings Councillor, Second Councillor. I have some good news. We have cleansed The All Maker Stones of Miraak’s dweomer. You should now be able to remember our discussions about him.
  • Lleril: It wasn’t only Raven Rock affected by that insanity?
  • Wulf: The whole island was affected. Anybody who got too close to an All-Maker Stone became ensorceled. None could remember much about Miraak or remember talking about him. Some people worked long shifts building stone structures and did not remember doing so.
  • Adril: Is the threat over?
  • Wulf: No, Second Councillor, not yet. It is a very complex issue. Therefore, I need to gather more information before taking extra steps to remove the danger.
  • Lleril: Can we aid you in any way?
  • Wulf: I am afraid not. However, you can answer some questions on an unrelated matter.
  • Lleril: And what would that be?
  • Wulf: Why was the ebony mine shut down?
  • Adril: Why indeed. The East Empire Company claimed it was not profitable and had dried up. The closure was not long after most miners were killed in a rockfall. Before that unfortunate incident, the amount of ebony being mined was increasing, not decreasing, and they were expanding the mine.
  • Wulf: Did anybody investigate their claim that the mine was dried up?
  • Lleril: My mother was Councillor at the time. I remember she spent a lot of time consoling the many families who lost loved ones in the rockfall. Initially, when the mine was boarded up and closed, most residents were not upset. After all, the cursed place had taken their loved ones from them.
  • Adril: Later, when The Empire withdrew from Raven Rock, many wanted to reopen the mine to provide funds and employment for the increasing Dunmer population.
  • Wulf: Have investigations been undertaken to assess the viability of the mine?
  • Lleril: My mother, and I, have refused requests from people interested in undertaking such investigations. The East Empire Company told us that the whole mine was unstable and dried out. There is no justification for risking lives, even those of volunteers, on a lost cause.
  • Wulf: I think something stinks. A mine does not suddenly change from ore rich to dried up in a short amount of time.
  • Adril: One of our citizens, Crescius Caerellius, is convinced that the remains of his great-grandfather, Gratian Caerellius, are at the bottom of the mine and that The East Empire Company has falsely designated his ancestor’s death as an accident. He has been refused access to the lower mines on several occasions.
  • Lleril: Crescius believes the closing of the mine is suspect. I suggest you speak to him and discuss his theories.
  • Wulf: You will not object to us investigating the mine?
  • Lleril: You and The Dragonguard have proven to be capable and resourceful. If anybody can survive the dangers of the mine, I suspect it will be you and your friends.
  • Adril: We could finally get an answer and plan accordingly. If the mine is a lost cause, then we must continue as we are. However, things change for the better if the mine can be used again. Raven Rock, and therefore Solstheim, would greatly benefit from the income. Even at a lower ore output than in the past.
  • Wulf: We shall quickly look at the mine and then seek Crescius. I hope to return with good news.
  • Lleril: May I ask why you want to see the mine reopened?
  • Wulf: Altruistically, I think your people deserve better. I hate to see communities of good people suffer despite their best efforts and determination. But another reason will become apparent if the mine is viable.
  • Rigmor: The third reason that Wulf won’t mention is his curiosity. The closing of the mine is a mystery that must be solved.
  • Adril: That is not an uncommon trait that often leads to a sticky demise.
  • Celestine: That is, unfortunately, true, especially amongst mages. Some of the things I have seen… well, are best left to your imaginations because they can’t compare with reality.
  • Wulf: Thank you for your assistance, Councillor, Second Councillor.
  • Lleril: We thank you and The Dragonguard for freeing our people.
  • Wulf: As I said earlier, the danger from Miraak is not over. However, we will do what we can to end it.
  • Lleril: We have complete confidence that success is imminent.

As we walked toward the mine, Rigmor asked, “Wulf, if you are only doing this to help with my trade negotiations, I don’t want you to.”

“What I told Councillor Morvayn is true. I think the people of Solstheim deserve better. They are good people who lost a lot when Red Mountain erupted. You must remember that Dunmer live long, and many on Solstheim experienced The Red Year. It is not distant history to them.”

“And it is a bit suspicious how it was suddenly closed down.”

“Yes, and if some danger exists that The East Empire Company kept secret, that is both morally wrong and leaves these good people in peril.”

“You suspect what happened, don’t you?”

“Many times, I have encountered, or read about, archaeological excavations or mining operations that dig their way into unexpected ruins. Ruins that not-so-friendly locals inhabit. In Skyrim, it is often Falmer but occasionally a crypt protected by Draugr. If miners are killed by rockfall, a standard compensation is paid to their families. Rockfalls are an accepted hazard of the profession, and mine owners must maintain a fund exclusively for such compensation. If miners break into an ancient ruin of some type, all work must cease and the mine evacuated. A surveyor, usually an archaeologist of some renown, is then required to investigate, and upon their recommendation only, mining can resume. If miners are killed by hostile inhabitants of an accidentally uncovered ruin or tomb, their deaths were not caused by an accepted hazard. Thus, the compensation is greater. If, as I think, miners were killed before a surveyor allowed mining to continue, that is negligence. The compensation would be substantial.”

“So, you suspect The East Empire Company has hushed something up to avoid large compensation claims?”

“Something along those lines. If there is an entity in the mine, The East Empire Company are negligent for not informing others of that fact. That is also unacceptable behaviour.”

“What about the members of The Explorer’s Society? Can they handle unexpected breaches?”

“Kyre is an excellent swordsman and Latoria a Master Mage in various Schools, including Destruction. But still, they have put their explorations on hold until Celestine and I can join them. After we finish here, I hope we can join them on several digs.”

“I would like to do that with you.”

“Well, we shall have to see what can be arranged. But that is in the future. Right now, we have a cobweb and dust-filled mine to investigate.”

When we entered the mine, we heard a heated discussion, so of course, we had to stickybeak.

  • Crescius: Damn it, Aphia! I said to leave me be!
  • Aphia: Crescius, the last time you explored the mine, you almost fell to your death! I’m not spending the rest of my days as a widow!
  • Crescius: And I’m telling you I’ll do whatever it takes to find my great-grandfather’s remains. He’s down here. I can feel it.
  • Aphia: That was almost two centuries ago. There may be nothing left to find.
  • Crescius: Just let me go, woman!
  • Aphia: Crescius, you’re an obstinate old fool, and you’ll get yourself killed.

Aphia stormed past us and out of the mine. We approached Crescius.

  • Crescius: Who in the blazes are you?! Can’t you see I’m busy?
  • Rigmor: Speak to us with civility, Crescius. What are you busy doing?
  • Crescius: Why should I tell you? I don’t even know who you are.
  • Wulf: If you had given us a chance before being rude, I would have introduced us.
  • Crescius: Well then, introduce yourself!
  • Meeko: Woof?
  • Inigo: No, Meeko, not yet. We will give Crescius a chance before you bite him on the arse.
  • Wulf: I am General Wulf Welkynd, The Dragonborn and Champion of The Divines. My friends are known as The Dragonguard.
  • Crescius: The ones who defeated Alduin and stopped the Ash Spawn?
  • Rigmor: Among many other things, including freeing the people of Solstheim from Miraak.
  • Crescius: I spent weeks working on something at The Earth Stone. Most of it is a blur, like a bad dream. Most of Raven Rock’s citizens were affected.
  • Rigmor: All of them were affected. Spouses might work at The Earth Stone, and their husband or wife would not notice. People not working at The Earth Stone did not recognise something was amiss.
  • Crescius: I apologise for my surliness. It has been difficult trusting anybody lately, as I inevitably get labelled as crazy.
  • Wulf: They don’t believe your suspicions about this mine?
  • Crescius: What do you know of my suspicions?
  • Wulf: Only the basics. I would like you to tell us what you think has happened.
  • Crescius: These mines hold a secret that could put Raven Rock back on the map. A secret that The East Empire Company swept under the rug two centuries ago. It killed my great-grandfather and left Raven Rock with a worthless and tainted mine.
  • Wulf: Your grandfather was Gratian Caerellius.
  • Crescius: Yes, and Gratian spent his entire life exploring ancient ruins across Tamriel. He died in these very mines almost two hundred years ago. The East Empire Company called it a terrible accident, claiming he was lost in rockfall, but I know better.
  • Wulf: I have read some of Gratian’s work. He was well respected amongst scholars and historians.
  • Rigmor: Do you have proof to support your suspicions?
  • Crescius: Yes. My wife and I were cleaning our home and discovered some of my great-grandfather’s things locked in an old chest. I found a letter he’d received from the East Empire Company and a key.
  • Rigmor: Is Aphia your wife?
  • Crescius: How did you guess? Oh, it must be how we were bickering like man and wife.
  • Rigmor: You don’t have to be married to bicker like that. But I know love when I see it.
  • Crescius:  Aphia thinks that old age has addled my mind and that I see things when there’s nothing to be seen. I realise she cares about me, but she has to understand I can’t rest until I find out what happened to Gratian.
  • Wulf: What did the letter say?
  • Crescius: It describes a discovery that was made in the mine by some of the diggers. They wanted Gratian to take a closer look. The East Empire Company must have felt it was of great value, as they locked that section of the mine off from everyone else.
  • Wulf: At that stage, no miners had been killed?
  • Crescius: Correct.
  • Wulf: The mine operation was not suspended while Gratian investigated?
  • Crescius: No, it was business as usual.
  • Wulf: That is negligence. No wonder The East Empire Company wants the whole saga kept quiet.
  • Rigmor: Wulf said that The East Empire Company would have to pay much larger compensation to the families if a rockfall did not kill the miners. If negligence were proven, they would be forced to pay substantially more.
  • Wulf: Do you have the letter with you?
  • Crescius: Yes, here, have a look.

Crescius handed me the letter. I read it to the group.

“Gratian,

I would appreciate it if you could help us with a situation we’ve encountered in Raven Rock. It seems that the miners there have stumbled across some ruins under the surface near shaft three, and we need your expertise to take a look. I could send someone else if you’re busy, but I figured you’d want to go since I seem to recall that you’re originally from Solstheim. Let us know if you make any progress.

Rendellus Thandarian, East Empire Company, Imperial City, Cyrodiil.”

  • Wulf: The letter has The East Empire Company’s seal at the bottom. There is no denying its authenticity.
  • Felix: Crescius, you said there was a key. Is it to the locked section of the mine?
  • Crescius: It is. Well, I assume it is. I haven’t been able to find the entrance.
  • Wulf: If you give me the key, we shall look for the entrance. We shall investigate and hopefully solve this puzzle for you.
  • Crescius: You believe me?
  • Wulf: I had suspicions before talking to you and seeing that letter. So yes, I believe you.
  • Rigmor: What if Aphia was right and we don’t find anything?
  • Crescius: Then I’ll settle down peacefully and never set foot in this mine again. I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time… even before I discovered Gratian’s old things. I just hope you don’t mistake my enthusiasm for insanity.
  • Wulf: We understand, Crescius, and would never think you are insane.
  • Rigmor: I think some people are afraid you are correct because they will look foolish.
  • Crescius: Yes, they would. But all would be forgotten if we can make this mine viable once more.
  • Wulf: Okay, Crescius. Head on home and speak to Aphia about anything else but this mine. I promise we will inform you of what we find or don’t find as soon as possible.
  • Rigmor: That is good advice, Wulf. It looks like my training is working.
  • Celestine: I told you it would.
  • Inigo: Please, ladies, don’t tell Jo’rassa your training techniques.
  • Rigmor: Sorry, too late. You are under her control but don’t realise it.
  • Celestine: Think of her as your very own Miraak.
  • Wulf: Don’t worry, Inigo. The thumbprints on your forehead eventually fade.
  • Crescius: And they call me crazy?

Crescius handed me the key and chuckled as he headed for the exit.

When Crescius was out of earshot, Rigmor said, “I would love to know the story behind those two!”

I replied, “Their love must be strong. She will still be relatively young for a Dunmer when he dies of old age. They would have known that from the beginning.”

“I remember discussing with my father when I was ten about getting a puppy. He told me I would outlive it, and its death would break my heart.”

“And your answer to that?”

“I argued that my love would not die when the dog grew old and took its last breath. That I would cry because I missed its company but would laugh when I remembered the good times. That is the love that would be forever.”

“And the outcome?”

“We went to a reputable breeder the next day, and I got Rana. She lived up to her name and was as noble as any human I have met. She tried to bite the Thalmor dragging me away from my father. She died at the end of a Thalmor boot. Not one kick. Many. One after the other.”

“Oh, Rigmor. You have never mentioned this before.”

“It took the love of a Dunmer woman for a stubborn old man to remind me. Isn’t that strange?”

Rigmor cried, and I held her tight. I didn’t think I could despise the Thalmor any more than I did. How wrong I was.

Tears freely flowed with Lydia and Celestine. Inigo had a look I had not seen before. It took a few seconds for me to realise what it was. For the first time since I met him, Inigo was livid with anger. Meeko whined and nudged my friend till he took notice and gave him a good scratch behind the ear. That dog is not a dog. He is a gift from the gods. But then again, all dogs are. Felix tried to look stoic, but I saw the treacherous tears forming.

After everybody had blown their noses and wiped their eyes, we made our way into the depths of the mine.

It was not long before we encountered giant spiders. However, Kyne’s Peace was in effect, and Inigo did not want to squish them if they would not fight back.

We came across some extremely thick spider webs that blocked progress. Felix again looked on in astonishment as Dragonfire from my mouth burnt the webs.

Felix asked, “Doesn’t that hurt?”

“No, because at no stage is the fire in my mouth. An illusion of the Shout looks similar to how dragons produce Dragonfire.”

“Still, it is impressive.”

“Yes, and it scares enemies, which is always a bonus.”

Beyond the web, a short corridor led to a haphazardly boarded-up tunnel.

  • Rigmor: That looks like it was done in a hurry!
  • Lydia: If worried about nasties killing everybody they encounter, you would also hurry!
  • Felix: I am impressed they took the time to try and block the entrance.
  • Wulf: Crescius wouldn’t have survived the spiders and probably stopped when he saw their webs. He never came close to this area.
  • Rigmor: Peasant, remove the wood!
  • Wulf: Yes, milady.

I did a weak Unrelenting Force Shout, and the timbers gave way.

Not very far from the timbers, we came upon the locked gate.

  • Rigmor: The East Empire Company thought the ruins were dangerous enough to invest the time and expense to install this gate.
  • Felix: Perhaps they were protecting whatever treasure they thought could be within the ruins, not the miners.
  • Lydia: Felix, it is good to see our cynicism is contagious.
  • Felix: Believe me, Lydia, the events of The Great War would make anybody cynical.
  • Wulf: Hey, I have one of those conundrums you all love.
  • Meeko: Woof!
  • Wulf: I don’t care if they make your brain hurt, Meeko.
  • Inigo: It is no good begging for mercy, my friend?
  • Wulf: This one does not involve gobblygook.
  • Celestine: We might as well get it over with.
  • Wulf: If Gratian perished in the mine, why do I have his key?
  • Rigmor: Well, the obvious answer is that at least one other person had a key and escorted Gratian.
  • Inigo: Somebody could have been negligent and left the gate unlocked.
  • Felix: Gratian might have had more than one key.
  • Celestine: Gratian forgot his key but was very skinny and climbed through the bars?
  • Lydia: Okay, Wulf, what do you think is the answer to the conundrum?
  • Wulf: I have no idea.
  • Meeko: Woof!
  • Wulf: Yes, Meeko, I found this amusing.
  • Rigmor: Felix, I told you how Wulf was dropped on his head as a child.
  • Felix: Yes, and this is a symptom?
  • Rigmor: Unfortunately, yes. We must forgive him for his weirdness.
  • Felix: Does Wulf ever give a conundrum that is impossible to solve?
  • Lydia: Yes, but we will not inflict you with them. They can keep you awake at night.

The key unlocked the gate, and we soon found ourselves in Nordic ruins.

Meeko growled.

  • Inigo: Zombies! Meeko says there are zombies!
  • Felix: Zombies?
  • Lydia: Inigo has a Draugr phobia. He hates the word Draugr when he thinks some may be close.
  • Felix: So, Inigo, if I said Draugr, would it upset you?
  • Inigo: Mr Dragonfly says if he was free of his jar, and you were not so big, and he had teeth, he would bite you!
  • Felix: Even if I was protecting you from Draugr?
  • Lydia: Maybe there are lots of Draugr? Wouldn’t that be fun?
  • Inigo: La la la, I am not listening. La la la la la….
  • Wulf: You should also stick your fingers in your ears, Inigo.
  • Inigo: I need my hands free for when zombies attack!

We were soon fighting dozens of Draugr, and Inigo was at the forefront as usual. His fear of Draugr was far less a force than his loyalty and love for his friends.