Turdas, 6th Sun’s Dusk, 4E 201
& Fredas, 7th Sun’s Dusk, 4E 201
It was not a long ride from Largashbur to Avanchnzel. The countryside was pretty.
When we arrived at the Dwemer ruins, a Short-Faced Bear growled loudly at Lydia and her horse.
- Lydia: What is wrong with this Short-Faced Bear?
- Wulf: I doubt he is drunk.
- Lydia: Huh?
- Wulf: In Roscrea, somebody drunk is said to be Shit-Faced.
- Lydia: I said what is wrong with this Short-Faced Bear?
- Wulf: Sorry, I can barely hear you with all that noise.
- Lydia: Please, no more puns.
- Jordis: I am afraid, Lydia, you will have to grin and bear it.
- Wulf: I think it is a Nord bear.
- Jordis: Why?
- Wulf: It is bar-bear-ick!
- Iona: Jordis, what kind of art do bears make?
- Jordis: Portraits! That is an oldy but goody.
- Hashire: Iona, why are bees important to bears?
- Iona: Ahh, because bears like honey?
- Hashire: No. Without bees, bears would just be ears.
- Lydia: The bear isn’t going to attack me, is it?
- Wulf: No, I just think it has lost its bearings.
Lydia groaned under the pun attack and then growled back at the bear. It ran away.
I rode Hashire closer to the ruins and said, “The entrance is through that cave over there. But I want to have a look at the flying machine port.”
We made our way to the port’s platform, and I stared at the machinery. It was still operating after thousands of years, and the function of its moving parts illuded me.
I turned to my friends.
- Celestine: You always have a look at the flying machine ports.
- Wulf: I could endure the longest and most boring Dwemer ruins if I thought a flying machine was at the end.
- Jordis: You can fly on the back of dragons whenever you want.
- Wulf: The science is what appeals to me. I have seen drawings of the craft. They are round with no wings. How do they defy gravity? What propels them through the air?
- Jordis: Science says dragons shouldn’t be able to fly.
- Wulf: Dweomer is used to keep dragons aloft, but The Dwemer relied on mechanics, not Magicka.
- Iona: Maybe the knowledge within the Dwemer Lexicon will tell us how to make a flying machine.
- Lydia: It might tell us how and why the Dwemer vanished.
- Wulf: I already know that. Somebody made a large batch of Apple Cabbage Stew. The resulting flatulence ignited, and that was the end of The Dwemer.
- Celestine: Rest assured, Wulf, you don’t need Apple Cabbage Stew to pose that risk.
- Wulf: I will remind you I am a noble. All you can smell when I pass wind is roses.
- Celestine: Hmph! A proper noble never farts. They have servants to do that for them.
We made our way to the cave and entered.
A short corridor led to an overhang and a natural ramp leading down.
As we prepared to walk down the ramp, four projections appeared.
- Drennen: Breya, I don’t like this place. It feels like we’re being…watched.
- Breya: It’s a simple job, Drennen. We get in, steal the Lexicon, and then leave. Don’t get jumpy.
- Fathoms: If you two cannot handle this, Roots and I will find others to hire.
- Roots: Relax, Fathoms, their services will be more than adequate. Let us continue.
The thieves started walking towards the cavern’s exit but faded away before they reached it.
- Lydia: Were they ghosts?
- Wulf: No, the female Argonian is the one who gave me the Dwemer Lexicon. Her name is From-Deepest-Fathoms. She did not die here, although her mental health is suspect.
- Celestine: The expedition was run by Roots and Fathoms. The other two were hired hands.
- Lydia: If they are not ghosts, what are they?
- Wulf: They are projections. There is Dwemer machinery capable of recording and projecting past events. The display we saw is a projection.
- Iona: A secret tryst in some dark corner can be displayed for all to see!
- Jordis: A noisy, theatrical privy visit caused by Apple Cabbage Stew flatulence is shared by all!
- Lydia: Why is the machinery showing us what happened?
- Wulf: This is a place of knowledge and learning. Something has triggered the machinery to replay recent history.
- Celestine: Or we just admit to it being gobblygook.
- Jordis: Was the only survivor From-Deepest-Fathoms?
- Wulf: I have no idea.
We followed where the others had once travelled and soon met our first Dwemer Automaton.
I advised, “Remember, the spiders explode and zap you!”
We destroyed several Dwemer Spiders before we saw the next projection.
- Drennen: This place is unbelievable!
- Roots: Indeed. Avanchnzel is as much a library as it is a city. It was built to hold the vast memories of the Dwemer.
The projections walked towards a southern exit and vanished.
- Wulf: I want to see what is up the ramp on the left before we follow them south.
- Lydia: Isn’t that subjecting yourself to more Dwemer ruins boredom?
- Wulf: It would be irresponsible not to investigate all we can.
- Jordis: What can go wrong? We have the best Restoration mage in Nirn with us.
- Celestine: Even I can’t save Wulf from chronic boredom.
- Wulf: I am willing to risk all once more for advancing knowledge!
- Lydia: Then lead on, brave soul!
We climbed the ramp and could see a Dwemer Spectre in the distance.
- Wulf: Some of the spectres are Tonal Architects, and their Thu’um is strong. But they are vulnerable to electricity.
- Lydia: They are the equivalent of Draugr.
- Wulf: Yes, they are mortals who voluntarily chose undeath to guard a place. Usually, if you see many Dwemer Spectres, you won’t see Falmer.
- Celestine: How did the four tomb robbers get past them?
- Wulf: I have no idea. We haven’t seen any destroyed Dwemer Automatons.
- Lydia: Perhaps Avanchnzel’s defences were dormant till they reached a specific area?
- Wulf: That is an excellent supposition.
- Iona: Poor Lydia. Inigo is not here to rub his nose in it.
- Lydia: I miss Inigo when we travel without him.
- Celestine: I think Ko’rassa and Inigo will marry.
- Wulf: I don’t know about that. Inigo seems to be putting things on hold while waiting for the next part of his prophecy to develop.
- Lydia: That would be foolish. Live life to its fullest while you can.
- Wulf: Which is something none of you can do while living with me.
- Jordis: Knowing what you endure for us, we are compelled to aid you.
- Celestine: We couldn’t abandon you and live a normal life with such guilt, Wulf.
- Wulf: You are all insane.
The spiral ramp led to living quarters and more spectres.
We ended up outside and looking down on our mounts. We talked to Hashire telepathically.
- Wulf: Yoohoo, Hashire!
- Hashire: You know what is more boring than Dwemer ruins?
- Wulf: Nothing.
- Hashire: Try playing I Spy with horses. ‘I see something beginning with G.’
- Lydia: Grass?
- Hashire: Yes, every time, no matter the horse, they choose grass as the object.
- Iona: What if you were in stables with hay and oats available?
- Hashire: Wow! Then they would have three objects from which to choose! The excitement would overwhelm me.
- Wulf: We appreciate you looking after them, Hashire.
- Hashire: Excuse me, it is my turn to guess. Let’s see, something beginning with G? Give me time to think, you nag! G…G…ahh…grass?
A Dwemer Spider fell from the roof as we returned to the ramp.
Lydia whacked it with her sword, the spider exploded, and she and Jordis screeched when hit by lightning. My loud guffaws did not amuse them. Their stern faces elicited more laughter.
We encountered many more automatons and spectres as we followed the path of the tomb robbers.
We came upon a Dwemer Spider that we hadn’t destroyed. It seems the tomb robbers may have eventually triggered Avanchnzel’s defences.
We watched the projections discuss the metal guards not far from that destroyed automaton. Unlike the projections of people, those of the automatons were not translucent and had a foggy aura surrounding them. We could see the remains of the two automatons being projected.
- Breya: Why are all these metal… things… ignoring us?
- Roots: Avanchnzel is waiting.
- Breya: Waiting for what?
- Roots: No one seems to know. Perhaps the return of the Dwemer. Perhaps the end of the world.
- Breya: We should continue getting rid of the ones we see. Just in case.
This time the projections faded instead of walking away. We followed while eliminating more spectres and spiders.
The following projection didn’t show until we stood where the tomb robbers had stood.
- Breya: I told you we should have hired a thief.
- Fathoms: We are thieves, you fool. We’re stealing the cube.
- Breya: And yet none of us can pick a damned lock.
I unlocked the gate that stumped the thieves. There was nothing of use beyond them.
We had no more encounters before arriving at the next projection. The tomb robbers had established a camp. Why one of them bothered erecting a tent is a mystery.
- Drennen: This place is enormous.”
- Roots: It is large, indeed. I did not anticipate Avanchnzel’s size or the time it took to uncover its entrance. A few hours of sleep and we should be ready to continue through.
- Drennen: Maybe we should turn back. I don’t want to sleep here.
- Roots: Drennen, do you understand that the Lexicon at the bottom of this place holds the accumulated memories of centuries of Dwemer?
- Breya: Not to mention our pay.
- Drennen: So?
- Fathoms: So, we’re not turning back, you fool.
- Breya: Besides, you’re not scared of a few sleeping metal men. Are you, Drennen?
The projections faded once more.
- Wulf: They have entered ruins without somebody who can pick locks.
- Celestine: And they have only encountered dormant automatons.
- Lydia: They are all fools!
We continued and passed complex Dwemer machinery. The Dwemer could have been the dominant species if they had not pursued the knowledge of the gods.
The routine repeated itself. We eliminated more automatons and spectres and then stumbled upon the next projection. This place was turning out as dull as I feared.
- Breya: I thought you said these things were sleeping?
- Roots: You said they were sleeping. I said they were waiting. It seems a few of them were waiting for someone to try and take the Lexicon.
- Breya: Great. The Lexicon had better be worth all this trouble.
- Roots: I assure you that it is. The knowledge contained in the Lexicon allowed the creation of everything you see around you.
- Roots: Properly controlled, it has enough knowledge to turn paupers into kings.
- Breya: Are you sure that’s a power we’re meant to have?
- Roots: Absolutely!
I growled, “So the fools finally woke the guardians. I don’t think they know what they will be facing.”
Celestine replied, “This is another example of risking all for knowledge. Hermaeus Mora would have recruited these morons if he knew what they sought.”
“But he didn’t know anything about this expedition. He is not omnipotent despite his lies to the contrary.”
Following the thieves led us to an automaton factory. Dwemer Spiders were building and repairing more powerful automatons, including Dwemer Centurions. If the Dwemer Centurions had been activated, all the tomb robbers would have perished. A few destroyed spiders suggested the thieves had rushed through the room and killed the weaker automatons in their way.
We destroyed the remaining spiders and then inspected the centurions.
Sparks from machinery suggested a problem with the giant automatons. The tomb robbers were fortunate.
We came upon a corpse. It was Brennen, and automatons killed him.
Around the corner and at the end of a long corridor, a projection showed us what led to Brennen’s demise. He had abandoned the others and tried to flee Avanchnzel.
- Breya: Drennen!
- Fathoms: Let the field mouse run. Your pay will be double.
- Breya: My pay will be nothing if we die in here!
- Roots: Calm yourself, Breya. We’ll continue without Drennen. We are closing in on the Lexicon, and I can feel it calling.
Brennen’s projection ran past my friends.
The other projections faded away.
- Lydia: What does he mean when he said, ‘I can feel it calling’?
- Wulf: I think that past a certain point, the Dwemer Lexicon lures trespassers to their death.
- Celestine: Like a Nereid, or a Siren, as some people call them.
- Wulf: Yes, and the dweomer on our armours might not protect against such a thing. My mind barriers would.
- Lydia: Roots was targeted because he was their leader.
- Wulf: Either that or he was the most vulnerable. At no stage has he exhibited reservations.
- Iona: If they tried to leave, they would have had to battle all the spectres and automatons we destroyed. They wouldn’t have made it.
- Jordis: I don’t think they would have seen most of the Dwemer Spiders and none of the spectres on the way in.
- Iona: True, so they would have thought they could make it out alive if they retreated.
- Wulf: Breya was motivated by greed. Fathoms seems to follow Roots blindly.
- Celestine: And Roots was ensorceled.
It was not far to the next projection.
- Roots: We are close now. Can you hear the Lexicon calling out?
- Fathoms: Sure.
- Breya: So, we grab it, and we get out, right?
- Roots: Once we have the Lexicon, we’ll need to take it to its podium. I know what to do from there. Soon the Lexicon’s knowledge will be mine.
- Fathoms: Ours. Soon the Dwemer Lexicon’s knowledge will be ours.
- Roots: Of course.
I commented, “Roots is becoming obsessed. I wouldn’t be surprised if he turned on the other two once they have the Dwemer Lexicon.”
We destroyed more spectres and spiders on the way to the next projection. I was finding it hard to use The Voice because I often yawned.
- Roots: We’re almost there. I can hear the Lexicon. Come on. Quickly!
- Breya: Something doesn’t feel right.
Roots wasn’t cautious enough, and he paid the price. From the other side of the door, we heard Breya yell, “Wait!”. A scream followed that.
Through the door was a downward ramp with pressure plates at the top.
Spinning blades would have appeared, followed a single track to the bottom, and then returned. It would go back and forth till somebody pulled a lever at the far end.
Roots was almost sliced in two.
I turned to my friends.
- Wulf: Roots was the architect of his demise.
- Lydia: We see lots of corpses when travelling ancient ruins. At least we know the story of these four.
- Celestine: I think we are about to enter the last room.
- Wulf: Yes, so everybody ready. There may be lots of automatons and spectres.
We entered the next room and then turned a corner.
Two Dwemer Centurions attacked the two remaining thieves.
- Fathoms: I have the Lexicon! Where’s the podium?
- Breya: I can’t hold these things! We need to leave!
- Fathoms: I did not come all the way here just to walk out empty-handed.
- Breya: The way out is right there! Run, damn it!
We approached slowly, knowing the remaining Dwemer Centurion would likely attack.
- Lydia: It is impressive that Breya took down one of the centurions!
- Wulf: A heroic act preceded by total idiocy.
- Celestine: From-Deepest-Fathoms left before having the Lexicon’s knowledge transferred.
- Wulf: There were two centurions between her and the pedestal.
- Jordis: She ran, and the three deaths achieved nothing.
As expected, the remaining Dwemer Centurion attacked.
It required two Unrelenting Force Shouts to destroy it.
We looked at the carnage.
And then, I approached the Lexicon Receptacle and retrieved the Dwemer Lexicon from my journal case.
I checked my mental barrier and placed the Dwemer Lexicon into the receptacle.
The Dwemer Lexicon opened, and something tried to penetrate my mental barrier. I did not care for the knowledge it wanted to give me, so I kept the mental barrier in place.
As I headed for the exit, I looked at the machinery of Avanchnzel. It was impressive. Too bad the rest of the place was so mind-numbingly tedious.
We opened the door and saw a Dwemer Lift. Guarding the lift was a spectre different from any other we encountered.
The spectre said, “Another party of fools for Kadahk to dispose of!”
It then drew its weapon and attacked.
I quickly blocked a two-handed swing and then countered with a slice across the spectre, destroying it.
As Kadahk turned to ashes, he said, “Dead again. I suppose that is to be expected.”
I searched the glowing ashes and retrieved a ring with a unique dweomer. I studied it for a minute, then handed it to Celestine. After another minute, she handed it back.
I also retrieved a Puzzle Cube. It was different from the one I retrieved from Mzark, which seems a long time ago in Blackreach.
- Lydia: Who was Kadahk?
- Wulf: I don’t know, but Auryen probably does. The ring is fascinating.
- Celestine: The ring produces a field that protects the wearer against physical and magical damage.
- Lydia: Have either of you seen that dweomer before?
- Wulf: No, and it would be a good one to learn. When learning such a dweomer, the problem is that you often have to destroy the artefact.
- Jordis: And you won’t do that, will you?
- Wulf: No, I won’t. The ring will go on display in the museum.
- Iona: Are we going to tell From-Deepest-Fathoms that we have returned the Dwemer Lexicon?
- Wulf: Yes. She deserves to know.
- Celestine: Do you know what the knowledge was it tried to teach you?
- Wulf: I have no idea and was unwilling to let it into my head.
- Lydia: After Riften, are we heading for Nightgate Inn?
- Wulf: Yes, I want to bring Fultheim to safety.
The lift gave us access to a barred door.
I said, “From-Deepest-Fathoms came this way, so she must have removed the bar to get outside. It seems an automaton or spectre put it back in place.”
I removed the wooden bar, and the door led to an outside terrace.
I told Hashire via telepathy, “You can teleport back to Silverpeak Lodge. We have finished here.”
“Okay. I am sure Sune missed me.”
“You keep thinking that if it makes you feel happy.”
My friends blew their horns, which sent their horses back to their stables.
I then teleported us inside Riften.
We made our way to the docks and soon found From-Deepest-Fathoms.
- Wulf: We have returned the Dwemer Lexicon to Avanchnzel.
- Fathoms: Did you see the bodies of the others?
- Wulf: Avanchnzel showed us everything that happened.
- Celestine: We encounter dead adventurers quite often in ancient ruins.
- Fathoms: That is kind to call us adventurers. We were thieves and paid the price for our greed.
- Wulf: You seem more coherent.
- Fathoms: You mean I am less crazy? I have slowly improved since handing you the Dwemer Lexicon. Tell me, what knowledge did it impart?
- Wulf: I didn’t let it put anything in my head. You saw what it did to Roots.
- Fathoms: His full name was Watches-The-Roots. I don’t know the full names of those we hired. We planned to marry once we made our fortune.
- Lydia: What will you do now?
- Fathoms: Bolli has offered me Wujeeta’s vacant position at The Fishery. He has been patient and assured me you would complete the task I thrust upon you.
- Wulf: Wujeeta told me that Bolli is a good, kind man, and I think you will enjoy working for him.
- Fathoms: Thanks to all of you, I can start making an honest living, but I will never forget Watches-The-Roots.
- Wulf: Good luck, From-Deepest-Fathoms.
- Fathoms: I have been staying at Haelga’s Bunkhouse if you want to visit sometime.
From-Deepest-Fathoms headed for the entrance to Riften, and it warmed my heart to see her so well.
Lydia asked, “How are we getting to Nightgate Inn?”
“I will teleport us to where the Stormcloak camp was.”
“You know it well enough to teleport there?”
“Once Nafaalilargus found all the Stormcloak camps, we flew over them so I could memorise their positions. It also gave Stormcloaks a chance to see their potential doom. I hoped it would make a few go home. When their time was up, I teleported from camp to camp, and the killing was over in an hour.”
“You have refused to talk about it before.”
“What is there to say? I gave them a chance to go home. I told them what would happen if they didn’t. I did what I promised to do.”
“How many did you kill, Wulf?”
“I started at their Falkreath camp. I killed fifty-two there, including their leader, Thorygg Sun-Killer. I saw him at Yngol’s camp. He cheered Rigmor’s speech.”
“Wulf, I didn’t want you to relive this!”
“No, it is time I told somebody. The Stormcloak Hjaalmarch camp was next, where forty-one fell to my sword, Thu’um and Magicka. I don’t know the name of their officer. He wore Sons of Talos armour, and he dual-wielded dagger and axe. He was too young to have been campaigning with Ragnar, so he was probably the child of a Sons of Talos. The dead were already piled around me when I decapitated him.”
All The Dragonguard were listening, and all had tears flowing as I continued.
“I killed fifty-five at The Pale camp. Their officer, Frorkmar Banner-Torn, was one of the concerned faces surrounding Rigmor when she was injured at The Battle for Whiterun. He shouted the idiotic, ‘Skyrim is for the Nords!’ rubbish before I plunged my sword into his belly. There were a lot of young women in that camp. Some were no older than Rigmor. They probably listened to that bullshit their entire lives and believed that Ulfric was a hero.”
The faces of those I killed and their manner of death replayed in my mind as I told my tale.
I continued, “The Reach Stormcloak camp was the biggest, with sixty-three dying there. Their officer was another son of a Sons of Talos named Kottir Red-Shoal, who fought beside Yngol at Whiterun. He had hatred in his eyes as he faced me. I am The Dragonborn sung about in songs and a hero of The Nords. I had defeated Alduin and The New Order, yet Kottir hated me!”
My tears were flowing. Rigmor tried to talk to me. I ignored her pleas as I needed to unburden my soul.
I explained, “The Rift camp was small. Only forty-one faced me and died. Nearly all of them disintegrated when Unrelenting Force ripped through their bodies. Gonnar Oath-Giver, their officer, was another child of a Sons of Talos.”
I finally said something to Rigmor, “Please, Rigmor. I am not in danger. Let me be for now.”
“You are finally telling about the night you culled the Stormcloaks. You should have had that discussion within the safety of Our Quiet.”
“No, Rigmor. I don’t want to look logically at this. Our gods use logic to justify what they do. I am not a god and need to understand this from a mortal’s perspective. It has taken me weeks to find the courage to do so.”
“You need me. Teleport me to you when you get back home!”
“No, Rigmor. You have guests and duties, and I am alright.”
“Talk to me later. It doesn’t have to be about that night.”
“Okay, I promise.”
“I love you, Wulf. Never forget that.”
I smiled, then continued my unburdening.
“That last camp was close to the trail leading to Silverpeak Lodge. Fifty Stormcloaks died there, including another who proudly wore their father’s Sons of Talos armour. His name was Hjornskar Head-Smasher. Talos’ son had finished killing sons of the Sons of Talos.”
I sighed as the last Stormcloak death that night finished replaying in my mind.
I concluded, “Over three hundred were added to my list of kills in that one hour. Many were veterans, and I recognised more than a few from The Battle for Whiterun. Some were teens who were probably there to support their grandparents and parents. That is more than five deaths every minute. It would have cost many Legionnaire lives and taken much longer if I had left it to The Imperial Army. I made a statement that all Stormcloaks heard. I believe my actions saved more lives than I took.”
Lydia said, “And yet you feel some guilt. You knew it would have to be done. Therefore, you did what you could to persuade Stormcloaks to go home and not die needlessly. Nobody forced them to remain. It was their choice, Wulf.
“Not once did my eyes change or my Dovah stir during that hour. It was necessary and a burden I freely accepted.”
“And once again, you are helping people. The light you bring overwhelms any darkness you think you bring.”
“I enjoyed helping From-Deepest-Fathoms. Let’s help a Blade whose only crime is fighting for The Empire.”
I teleported us to where the Stormcloak camp once stood.
I laughed when I saw the thunderbox was left standing. I suppose some people don’t like using a shovel and a hole in the ground.
I told my friends, “We must use a path to the left of that cave across the river.”
Lydia asked, “That cave where spiders are fighting a Dwemer Automaton and Spectre?”
We helped the spiders defeat their adversaries.
When the fighting was over, I inspected some pedestals with a hollow recess on top.
I said, “There must be Dwemer ruins through that cave. I have no idea what these pedestals are. Both cave and pedestals can wait for another day.”
We made our way to the inn.
When we entered, two people wearing Blade katanas were sitting together. One was a Khajiiti in Blade armour. The other was a Nord, who I assume was Fultheim.
In a stern and loud voice, I said, “Captain Fultheim Jorgiverson, front and centre, now!”
Fultheim and the Khajiiti stood and turned, hands on sword hilts.
Fultheim recognised who we were, sighed and came over to us. The Khajiiti smiled as he watched.
- Fultheim: How did you find me?
- Wulf: A young boy at another inn told somebody he trusted.
- Fultheim: Well, now you can leave me be.
- Wulf: Show me your discharge papers, and I will.
- Fultheim: Discharge papers? The Blades were made outlaws!
- Wulf: Yes, his Imperial Majesty disbanded The Blades but recently made it known that The Blades are part of The Empire’s military once more and that they aided in the defeat of Alduin. However, your oath was not just to The Empire, but also to Dragonborn blessed by Lord Akatosh. That oath binds you. You are still a Knight Captain of The Blades. Therefore, I am your commander!
- Celestine: And since we are The Dragonguard, the Grandmaster of The Blades is now Vayu. He is the shaman and Grandmaster of The Dragonguard.
- Fultheim: I know all this. Your names are all over the news sheets. Heroes of The Empire and all that. But why bother me? My only interest is spending my remaining fortune on mead and other liquor.
- Wulf: Vayu and other Dragonguard speak highly of you. Tell me why you have not sought us and returned to your duties.
- Fultheim: I am a coward. I left my colleagues to die at Cloud Ruler Temple. If anything, you should be executing me.
- Wulf: Were you inside when Cloud Ruler Temple was besieged?
- Fultheim: No, I returned from a scouting mission, and the assault was underway.
- Celestine: So, you wisely thought that a single person could not help The Blades inside the temple.
- Fultheim: I could have tried! I could have died with honour! Instead, I ran and became a drunk.
- Celestine: Knight Captain Fultheim, what regulation of The Blades demands senseless sacrifice?
- Fultheim: There doesn’t need to be a regulation. It is expected!
- Celestine: The Blades, now The Dragonguard, left our Swordmasters in Akavir to die. Countless Tsaesci vampires overran our headquarters, and we were ordered to leave. The same happened at Cloud Ruler Temple. Blades were ordered to leave to preserve the knowledge of what occurred and the institution.
- Fultheim: I had no orders.
- Celestine: But you had a duty to preserve The Blades and tell what had happened. You don’t need orders to perform expected actions. You did what was right.
- Fultheim: I have heard of no survivors from Cloud Ruler Temple.
- Wulf: There is one that I know of. I acquired his dossier when visiting The Thalmor Embassy. Knight Commander Acilius Bolar was ordered to leave Cloud Ruler Temple during the siege. He was tracked to Skyrim and executed by The Thalmor. I have no doubt there were others thus ordered.
- Fultheim: How do you expect me to contribute? I can’t match The Dragonguard in battle prowess.
- Wulf: Grandmaster Vayu has been recruiting new Blades. He seems to have chosen capable people in dire need of discipline and training. They are his words, not mine. You can remain within Sky Haven Temple as a trainer and join us on Blade missions, which will initially consist of hunting rogue dragons.
- Fultheim: What other Blades are there?
- Wulf: Delphine and Esbern.
- Fultheim: A famous Knight Commander and a Loremaster. Okay, I would be contributing to The Empire once more. I would be foolish not to try, at least.
- Wulf: Welcome back, Knight Captain Fultheim.
- Fultheim: Please, speak to Knight Urjabhi. He and other Blades remained in Hammerfell after The Great War. He is in Skyrim tracking a rogue Blade who he thinks murdered Swordmaster Garrett. He can tell you the tale.
I walked over to Knight Urjabhi, full of curiosity.
- Urjabhi: Greetings, Dragonborn.
- Wulf: I should have realised that The Invalids were not the only Imperial troops to remain in Hammerfell.
- Urjabhi: We helped Ragnar and his army with scouting and spying. A bit of sabotage here and there as well.
- Wulf: Your Tamrielic is excellent. I assume you did not grow up in Elsweyr.
- Urjabhi: Born and bred in Leyawiin. My family has a long tradition of sailors. I get seasick, so I ended up joining The Blades.
- Celestine: Knight Captain Fultheim said you are tracking a rogue Blade.
- Urjabhi: Knight Commander Celestine, you probably do not remember me as I rarely lived within the walls of Cloud Ruler Temple. However, I remember the Princess who owned the hearts of many Blades.
- Celestine: Now my heart belongs to Vayu, the Dragonguard Grandmaster.
- Urjabhi: About a dozen of us stayed loyal to The Blades and in Hammerfell after we helped The Redguards kick The Dominion out. But we had to keep moving as The Thalmor still had agents hunting us. We did not look like the natives, so we were memorable to snitches seeking easy money. Our leader was Swordmaster Garrett.
- Celestine: He was the only Blade Swordmaster who taught dual-wielding.
- Urjabhi: His training was brutal, and very few learnt all Nine Stances of The Divines. Knight S’vashini had learned eight and was being tested for the ninth, the Stance of Arkay. Before Swordmaster Garrett would teach her the stance, she had to duel him to first blood. Knight S’vashini was always a braggart, but few surpassed her dual-wielding skills. However, the gap between her and Swordmaster Garratt’s skills soon became apparent.
- Wulf: You witnessed the duel?
- Urjabhi: Yes, I was the sole witness and the adjudicator.
- Wulf: Was another one of Swordmaster Garrett’s students the best you have seen?
- Urjabhi: Indeed, she was an Argonian called Kasaha Theomean. I also witnessed her duel with Swordmaster Garrett, which was over in seconds. He laughed even as blood poured down the slash on his cheek. He was a hard taskmaster but gave praise where earnt. Kasaha beamed at the compliment encapsulated in that laugh.
- Celestine: You speak of Knight Kasaha in the past tense.
- Urjabhi: Alas, she did not survive our time in Hammerfell. I found her body, placed on display by The Thalmor. Flayed alive and then left in the desert sun.
- Wulf: Knight S’vashini was outclassed, so what happened?
- Urjabhi: Others go away and practice. They take the criticisms of Swordmaster Garrett and use them as motivation. S’vashini’s ego would not allow that. Every failed attack was picked apart by Swordmaster Garrett, who schooled her on why it failed. I could see he deliberately let the duel last longer so he could teach her. But she saw it as humiliation. When Swordmaster Garrett finally drew blood, he was withdrawing and ready to bow to end the dual. S’vashini attacked the unprepared swordmaster and severed his neck artery. Swordmaster Barrett fell to his knees and stared at his lifeblood pooling around while S’vashini shook him and demanded that he teach her Arkay’s stance. Swordmaster Barrett’s eyes closed, and he keeled over, dead.
- Celestine: Did S’vashini realise her mistake?
- Urjabhi: She fled. I have been searching for her since. For two years, I have tracked her. Three months ago, she crossed into Skyrim from Morrowind.
- Wulf: And you believe it was murder, not just an accident that is a hazard of such duels.
- Urjabhi: The reflexes needed to master the first eight stances are impressive. S’vashini realised the duel was over, and Master Barrett had won. She could have aborted her attack, but she didn’t. So yes, I think it was murder.
- Wulf: You are travelling Skyrim in your Blade armour. That is guaranteed to attract Thalmor attention.
- Urjabhi: As far as I am concerned, The Thalmor are still my enemy. I wear the armour in memory of Knight Kasaha. I remember her treatment, and my blood boils. Four patrols of Thalmor have tried to take me down since I entered Skyrim. All have perished.
- Wulf: Are you using Wind Scour Temple?
- Urjabhi: No. The Thalmor would have watchers paid to spy on that ancient fortress. It was decided it was safer we move around.
- Celestine: What will you do if you find Knight S’vashini?
- Urjabhi: My original plan was to kill her, but in retrospect, I would not win a swordfight and do not want to assassinate her. Therefore, if I locate her, I will inform The Dragonguard. Grandmaster Vayu should decide her fate.
- Wulf: Did you recognise Knight Captain Fultheim?
- Urjabhi: No, we had never met till a few hours ago.
- Wulf: Good luck with your hunt, Urjabhi. I hope you will consider joining us once we have dealt with Knight S’vashini.
- Urjabhi: Perhaps I will.
I turned to Fultheim and said, “You shall spend the night in Silverpeak Lodge. After breaking your fast, I shall take you to Sky Haven Temple.”
“I don’t have a horse.”
“You don’t need one. Place your hand on my shoulder and take a deep breath. Do not let go of my shoulder!”
Fultheim did as instructed, and we teleported to Silverpeak Lodge.
He exclaimed, “Woah, that was interesting!”
“We just teleported to Whiterun Hold.”
“I don’t have much enthusiasm for magic, but that spell is amazing!”
“The ladies will show you to the sleeping area. They can also help you with food if you are hungry. As I said, tomorrow morning, after breaking our fast, I will teleport you to Sky Haven Temple. There you will be known as Knight Captain Fultheim once more. Grandmaster Vayu has a knack for recruiting people you might call misfits. Some are even criminals. But they always turn out okay with discipline and set goals. Some of his past recruits are now Dragonguard. The training in Akavir was mentally and physically demanding. Not all of my friends escaped unharmed.”
“A couple of dozen Dragonguard destroyed Ulfric’s army at Whiterun. That feat alone makes them legends. However, I must make them Blades before they think about being Dragonguard. It will be fun to yell at recruits, no matter their age or experience. I shall help get them into shape.”
“Good, because Delphine will probably have no idea what to do with Vayu’s misfits.”
“Don’t tell me anything about them. I want to start with a clean slate.”
“Agreed. Now I shall leave you to the ladies. I need to speak to somebody important.”
“The Countess of Bruma.”
“Is she staying here?”
“Are you going to zap over to Bruma?”
“No. I can talk to the Countess from here.”
“Oh! I think I will be better off getting recruits into shape than experiencing all the…ahh….”
“Goodnight, Knight Captain.”
“Night, night. My mother used to say that when tucking me in.”
I laughed as I walked to my room.
I spent a few hours speaking to Rigmor about Avanchnzel, Fultheim and the Hammerfell Blades. The night I slaughtered the Stormcloaks was not mentioned.
The Dragonguard and Wujeeta made Fultheim feel at ease during our morning meal. Some of the Dragonguard he recognised. Others he never met when they were Blades. He was shocked to find out the ladies I was with yesterday were never Blades.
After breaking our fast, I teleported us to Sky Haven Temple.
As Fultheim wandered around in awe at the ancient home of The Blades, I spoke to Delphine.
She looked at Fultheim and asked, “Dragonborn, isn’t that man a bit old for a recruit?”
“Take a closer look at him.”
Delphine stared at Fultheim and soon recognised him.
“Is that Knight Captain Fultheim?”
“Yes. He has spent the last few years as a drunkard. The Thalmor eventually tracked him down, and he killed those who tried to arrest him. He thought himself a coward as he didn’t attack The Dominion army sieging Cloud Ruler Temple.”
“Blades are not expected to commit suicide!”
“He accepts that now and wants to help train the recruits Vayu sent here.”
“Thank The Divines for that! I have no idea what to do with them.”
Fultheim came running over and said, “I never thought I would ever see Sky Haven Temple.”
“Knight Captain Fultheim, I will leave you in the capable hands of Knight Commander Delphine. I must warn you not to exit the room with the bust of Reman Cyrodiil. Beyond that room are undead Akaviri who protect the temple from intruders.”
Fultheim saluted, and then Delphine started bombarding him with questions.
I noticed some of the recruits were not wearing their Blade armour. I used my Thu’um and said, “RECRUITS, I AM GETTING SOME FRESH AIR IN THE TEMPLE GARDENS. WHEN I RETURN IN FIFTEEN MINUTES, A RECRUIT NOT IN THEIR ARMOUR WILL BE ON HALF-RATIONS FOR A WEEK!”
I laughed as the startled recruits looked for the source of the command, saw me and then ran for their quarters.
I made my way outside and was pleasantly surprised at the improvements to the garden. I hadn’t noticed it when we ran through it when travelling to Old Hroldan.
Esbern wandered over to me.
“Dragonborn, would you believe dragons helped me get this garden into shape?”
“Odahviing and Nafaalilargus. They carried away the dead foliage and destroyed masonry. Then the dragons found suitable masonry outside decrepit ruins, brought it here and placed it under my supervision.”
“So, Loremaster Esbern, has your opinion of the winged beasts changed?”
“I shall never again regard them as beasts.”
“I have returned a colleague to us. Knight Captain Fultheim is currently getting drilled by Delphine. He will help train the recruits.”
“I wonder how many of us are still hiding?”
“There are a few Blades in Hammerfell. I met Knight Urjabhi last night. He is hunting a rogue Blade who murdered Swordmaster Garrett.”
“I didn’t think those who served in Hammerfell survived.”
“I hadn’t even considered looking there till now.”
“Swordmaster Garrett was the only one who taught dual-wielding techniques.”
“Yes, it is a loss going forward.”
“Will you bring those in Hammerfell to Skyrim?”
“I have no idea when I can visit Hammerfell. I will have to assess the situation when there.”
“Have you seen the changes we made inside?”
“I noticed a lot of dragon skulls and skeletons. I want them removed.”
“They are not real, Dragonborn. They are replicas used to teach Dov anatomy. The Akaviri treated Dov as worthy enemies and would not display their deceased as trophies.”
“Unlike a particular Jarl of Whiterun who I need to have a word with.”
“Grandmaster Vayu assures me the recruits will turn out fine.”
“He has never picked a bad one. Vayu is an unusual character and knowledgeable in many subjects, of which I am a complete novice. He cannot read souls like me but has an uncanny knack for measuring a person’s worth through simple conversation. I have never probed too much as I know some of his teachers were Necromancers and even Lich.”
“It is better to remain ignorant than have one’s opinion unfairly biased.”
“Exactly. I don’t even care that Vayu has a glowing tattoo of Hermaeus Mora on his chest.”
“He can’t even remember how he got it.”
“Vayu said that you are Hermaeus Mora’s champion.”
“I am also champion of other Dark Lords, including Malacath.”
“I think that you do it deliberately. Every time you speak to me, you like to shatter my illusion of normal.”
“I live to serve.”
“I think I need to sit and stare at the normal, never changing mountains for some time.”
“I will wander around and check out the gardens. I have given the recruits a few minutes to get into their armour.”
Esbern headed for a seat overlooking the valley and distant mountains. I looked closely at the gardens’ transformation and was very impressed.
I gave the recruits twenty minutes to get into their armour, not fifteen, and then re-entered the temple. I could hear that one of them was having difficulties, and their fellow recruits were helping them. So I had a look around at the changes made by Esbern and Delphine.
Upon closer inspection, I could tell the Dovah skeleton was not made of Dragonbone. The same with the Dovah skull decorations.
Eventually, the commotion ended, and the recruits waited to talk to me. Vayu had advertised we were recruiting, and fifteen candidates had made it to the temple. Vayu chose only four of those. Each candidate had to survive the trip, which included travelling through Forsworn territory and surviving the undead Akaviri.
The first I spoke to was Shargam, an Orsimer Berserker from Narzulbur stronghold.
“Recruit Shargam, you are to wear your armour and carry weapons and shield at all times.”
“Tell me about yourself.”
“I’m the kind of Orc who likes to kill those who ask too many questions.”
“Any of The Dragonguard could dice you into pieces in seconds. You had better get used to answering questions because we will be asking many.”
“Will being a berserker make it harder to become a Knight?”
“The important thing is teamwork. A dragon will chew up a berserker whose comrades do not flank them.”
“I am used to two-handed weapons. Why the sword and shield?”
“Some Dragonguard use dai-katana, but they are exceptionally skilled. Vayu has assessed your skills and decided you are better off learning to be a sword and board fighter. Once you use a katana for some time, you will appreciate why it is our standard weapon. When a dragon breathes fire at you, a shield will stop you from turning crispy. A two-handed weapon will not.”
“The Akaviri spirits guarding the temple used katana, and I could see the benefits.”
“Surviving those Akaviri spirits is an indication of your prowess.”
“Others survived but were rejected. Why is that?”
“Grandmaster Vayu has his way of assessing candidates that are a mystery to me. But he has never been wrong. His recruits from the past are now Dragonguard. That is testament to their quality.”
“We have been waiting to start our training.”
“We needed four recruits before starting. Many tactics to be taught rely on three warriors and one mage working cohesively. Each squad going forward will consist of that combination.”
“Loremaster Esbern is unsure how many dragons we will have to face.”
“None of the dozens of dragons currently flying over Skyrim are a menace. However, dragons have a natural desire to conquer and dominate. Not all dragons will be able to suppress those desires forever. Therefore, some dragons will go rogue despite the risk of their souls being destroyed.”
“Knight Commander Delphine said our training starts today.”
“Yes, Knight Captain Fultheim will be your trainer. Vayu and other Dragonguard will regularly visit for more advanced weapon training. Work hard, Recruit Shargam, and you will earn your Knighthood.”
I left Shargam and found two other recruits at the dining table. They are Athir, a Redguard mercenary and Elmera, an Altmer Warlock.
- Wulf: Good morning, recruits. You are to wear your armour and carry your weapons and shields at all times.
- Athir: We listened to what you said to Shargam. We will do as required.
- Wulf: Recruit Elmera, I believe you were thrown out of The College of Whispers.
- Elmera: I discovered a way to summon Atronachs inside another person. Unfortunately, I accidentally summoned one inside another student. The College of Whispers is relatively tolerant regarding magic research, but I had disobeyed an order not to keep developing my spell. The Cynosure met, and expulsion was the fair and proper punishment.
- Wulf: It is an eternal problem. Mages who desire knowledge endanger themselves and others with their impatience.
- Elmera: I came to Skyrim to research The Dwemer. Do you know what a Dwemer Thresher is?
- Wulf: They are Dwemer Ballista that have their firing mechanism replaced by spinning blades. I have never encountered one in the many ruins I have traversed.
- Elmera: The College of Whispers had one, and I found it fascinating.
- Wulf: There is not much Dwemer research in your new role.
- Elmera: No, but dragonlore is also a subject of great interest to me. I want to learn about dragons, not just kill them.
- Wulf: I insist that recruits learn the truth about dragons. They are not the beasts written in biased texts.
- Elmera: I watched two of them assist Esbern with the gardens. I failed to see the beasts in Odahviing or Nafaalilargus.
- Wulf: Yet Odahviing has killed many tens of thousands of mortals.
- Elmera: As a soldier during a war. That does not make him a beast.
- Athir: It seems to me that an open attitude towards dragons is paramount to Grandmaster Vayu.
- Wulf: Indeed, it is. Loremaster Esbern and Knight Commander Delphine had no experience with dragons before Alduin returned. They believed all Dov to be evil and deserving of death. They now realise that is not true. Tell me, Recruit Athir, how you found yourself in Skyrim.
- Athir: There is not much to tell. I joined the Alik’r at an early age but left that all behind to live a life on the road. I was in the service of The Fighter’s Guild in Cyrodiil for a time before coming to Skyrim. My single motivation was more lucrative work. The clink of gold was all I cared about. The Silver Blood Family of Markarth were a frequent client of mine. However, my conscience started to rebel. I found I could not enjoy the gold because of it. I also found the Silver Blood Family’s hatred of Forsworn was based on profits and nothing more. Therefore, I obeyed my rebellious conscience and looked for something my deceased ancestors would approve of. That is when I read Grandmaster Vayu’s recruitment poster and how I ended up here.
- Wulf: We will discuss the long-term plans for The Blades soon. I can tell you now that I envision them as similar to The Fighters Guild or The Companions, except fees will not always be charged for our services. There will always be people who need help and can’t afford the fees charged by other mercenary outfits. There will never be enough rogue dragons to justify The Blades’ existence.
- Elmera: And if The Companions object?
- Wulf: They can always apply to be a Blade recruit. The Companions do not have a monopoly on mercenary work.
- Athir: Can I be excused, Dragonborn? Loremaster Esbern is expecting me. He needs assistance interpreting some texts written in Yokudan.
- Wulf: Of course.
As Athir wandered away, I asked Elmera a few more questions.
“Why didn’t you do your mage training in Alinor, Recruit Almera?
“The Thalmor make it difficult if you do not agree to work with them. I was not prepared to do so and left Alinor when The College of Whispers accepted me.”
“It is almost certain that The Dominion and The Empire will be at war again. What are your thoughts on that?”
“By a large margin, most Dominion and Empire citizens want to live peaceful lives. The Thalmor would find very few volunteers willing to follow them into another war. However, they will have lots of gold, and as with The New Order, many foreign mercenaries will join them. I assume The Blades would act as saboteurs and spies once more.”
“Perhaps. The Penitus Oculatus are supposed to have taken over those duties.”
“They have many expert assassins in their ranks, but their espionage skills are questionable.”
“As I thought, you have been assessing various institutions’ relative strengths and weaknesses.”
“Yes, and I chose to join The Blades because, with the training and backing of The Dragonguard, they can do more to help citizens.”
“I am sure you will fit in nicely, and The Thalmor will try to recruit you.”
“No doubt they will. It should be interesting to see what threats or rewards they offer.”
“They tend to be cheap on the money and big on the threats.”
“They haven’t had a party at their embassy for some time.”
“Yeah, lots of them died mysteriously at their last party.”
“Those poor Thalmor.”
“I know. It makes you want to weep.”
Elmera smiled as I walked away.
I found Daenlit studying Alduin’s wall. She is a Bosmer archer and accused thief.
“Alduin’s Wall is rather impressive, don’t you think, Recruit Daenlit?”
“I hope our training is a bit more straightforward. Allegory does not make something more important. However, it does make it stupid.”
“I agree. If you want people to learn, teach them with plain words and diagrams.”
“I am not part of The Green Pact, and I will happily chop down trees and plants.”
“Do you like to dine on vanquished foes?”
“Soft mages are okay, but most warriors are full of gristle and very stringy.”
“Why were you in Solitude’s prison?”
“Thane Erikur owed me money for a necklace I sold him. He refused to pay, claiming it was stolen from him months ago. He convinced the City Watch that I was a thief.”
“Where was the necklace from?”
“It was mine, given to me for winning an archery competition in Valenwood. I needed some gold, so I sold it for a fair price Erikur.”
“Vayu paid for your bond. Unless we get the charges dropped, he is under oath to return you for trial. Don’t worry. I will talk with Erikur and have all charges dropped.”
“Please don’t kill him. I want that pleasure.”
“A good marksman is always welcome in a Blade squad.”
“My skill with the bow is unsurpassed.”
“Then I challenge you to an archery competition. Practice a bit, so you don’t look silly against me.”
“Haha. Challenge accepted. Next time you visit, bring some humble pie.”
“What filling would you like?”
I stepped away from Daenlit and teleported to Silverpeak Lodge. It was time to visit the Jarls.