Fredas, 7th Sun’s Dusk, 4E 201
The plan for the day was to visit the dragons in the valley and then the Jarls.
While I visited Sky Haven Temple, the team guarding the dig changed. Bashita, Kogo, Taku and Jin went to the dig site. Sakiya, Shouken, Ishen, Olette and Omoi teleported into Silverpeak Lodge and bathed.
After bathing, Sakiya teleported Olette back to the dig site as it was her turn to help with the morning meal. When I returned from Sky Haven Temple, my team for the day was ready.
We then teleported to the dig site.
I sought out Madras first.
- Wulf: Madras, are you having fun yet?
- Madras: Did you know about the jest?
- Wulf: How did you find out?
- Madras: A particular child and traitorous Khajiiti wouldn’t stop giggling when they saw me sorting the shards.
- Sakiya: I was surprised you fell for it. There has never been evidence of a Dwemer ruin within miles of here.
- Madras: That is why they knew I would fall for the prank. I thought we were on the verge of a significant discovery!
- Omoi: It serves you right for whining about how primitive the Nords are and how superior The Dwemer were.
- Madras: Okay, I admit, I harp on about The Dwemer a bit.
- Wulf: Who knows what we will find on the other side of the valley? Don’t lose hope yet, Madras.
- Madras: Unless it is me who finds evidence of Dwemer activity, I won’t believe it.
- Wulf: Where is Professor Marassi?
- Madras: He is where we removed the blockage. All nearby creatures were taken care of by The Dragonguard. They had no choice as the animals attacked in numbers.
- Wulf: He is there by himself?
- Madras: Yes. As I said, all nearby creatures were taken care of.
- Wulf: Does that include the creatures living in the valley or the other part of Windcaller’s Pass? They could wander into the cleared section.
- Madras: Oh.
- Wulf: I don’t make the rules for the fun of it!
We found Kyre warming himself in front of the fire.
- Wulf: How is the digging going?
- Kyre: It is slow going. Some areas are more challenging, but many heavy rocks can be rolled aside with a little effort.
- Sakiya: There are two Masters of Destruction Magic with you. If they alternatively heat and cool rocks, they will either shatter or become brittle.
- Kyre: Why didn’t we try that earlier?
- Sakiya: The heat must be applied for as long as possible. Then the heated area must be rapidly cooled. This process requires the coordination and Magicka reserves of two Master Mages.
- Kyre: Okay, if there are further obstacles, we might try that method and see if it works.
- Wulf: It works. Imperial Battlemages have used that technique to bring down enemy walls and towers.
Auryen was standing on some rocks, observing the camp activities.
He greeted me with, “Good morning, Guild Master.”
“Good morning, Auryen.”
“Did you recover anything of interest in Avanchnzel?
“Only at the very end. I recovered a Dwemer Puzzle Cube and this unique ring. They came from a Dwemer Spectre named Kadahk.”
I handed Auryen the ring. It wasn’t unusually ornate, and he couldn’t feel the dweomer it contained, but he looked excited.
He exclaimed, “Kadahk Mezalf and his brother, Dahrk, worked as smiths under the tutelage of Chief Tonal Architect Kagrenac. This ring will be a fine addition to the museum!”
“Avanchnzel should be safe to explore, but I would still take The Dragonguard if you do so.”
“Professor Marassi and Madras will be keen to visit there after this dig.”
“Okay, we shall head to the valley and speak to the dragons.”
Olette was busy stirring something in the pot over the fire. The trouble with camp stews is that each day, something is added to the leftovers from the day before until, eventually, it doesn’t resemble anything.
She laughed and said, “I didn’t realise how grubby I was till I took a shower and looked down. It was like a mudslide!”
“Shower or bath? Which is better?”
“I like both. A shower to get rid of most of the dirt. A bath to soak and relax.”
“Madras was not too happy about the prank.”
“He will get over it. Everybody else appreciated the humour. Am I visiting the cities with you later?”
“That is the plan.”
“We shall be back soon.”
“As long as the dragons don’t eat you.”
“Yeah, not getting eaten is part of the plan.”
We entered Windcaller’s Pass and made our way to the cleared rockfall. Professor Marassi was inspecting some Nord carvings when we got there.
I advised, “Professor, you shouldn’t be here without two Dragonguard with you. That was the agreement.”
“They cleared the wildlife between here and the valley.”
Sakiya explained, “But we didn’t clear the wildlife in the valley. I can hear trolls close by. They probably wandered inside since The Dragonguard dispensed with the other beasts.”
Madras looked around worried and replied, “Oh. I hadn’t thought of that.”
I added, “I shall talk to the dragons and ensure they are okay with people using Windcaller’s Pass. Nafaalilargus said they are.”
“Do you think they are guarding something significant?”
“No, the dragons, Izvenyah and Kreindeinvith, are not followers of The Way of the Voice. They don’t care about Windcaller or his nonsense, so they would not guard anything of his. They have simply found a quiet haven they now call home.”
“Okay. I will go back to camp.”
The Dragonguard had cleared a lot of aggressive animals. I had wanted to do the clearing and had done so in the first part of Windcaller’s Pass. However, the animals in this part of the pass stalked and attacked the group numerous times. No research was possible under those conditions.
I disposed of one troll. We could still hear others, but they seemed to be moving away.
When we approached some closed doors, Sakiya said, “There is one of those weird ice spear thingies inside that room.”
“Ice spear thingies?”
“What would Rigmor call them?”
“Ah, ice spear thingies.”
I collected the ice spear thingy. Then we climbed some stairs to another level.
Bathed in sunlight was another emblem similar to those along the seven-thousand steps.
I read it to the group, “I, Jurgen Windcaller, dedicate this temple to ice and time, for they forged my land.”
- Ishen: I can’t see a temple.
- Wulf: There may have been something more religious about this place once.
- Omoi: His land?
- Wulf: I think he means his homeland. Jurgen Windcaller had no authority to claim land. High Hrothgar is where it is because The Jarl allows it to be.
- Ishen: Windcaller is not your favourite historical figure.
- Wulf: He did nothing to aid the citizens of Skyrim. The Greybeards have done even less. They are parasites. At least The Companions get off their arses and help people, for a price. The Greybeards charge for their non-existent services and call it charity.
- Sakiya: Windcaller fought for this land once.
- Wulf: Windcaller and other Tongues lost a significant battle because they thought Mer could not compete with the Thu’um. Instead of accepting the loss and learning from it, he made up bullshit about how Lady Kynareth doesn’t want us to use the Thu’um as an offensive weapon. That is why she taught us the damn thing in the first place! When other Tongues objected, did he soothe them with words? Yes, but he used Words of Power. He used the Thu’um as an offensive weapon to establish his pseudo-religion!
- Sakiya: Yet you will give any relevant relics we find to The Greybeards.
- Wulf: You know why and there is no need to go over this again. I disagree with their philosophy, but I admire their dedication and commitment to it.
- Sakiya: Let us keep moving, Wulf. Your temper does you no good, especially when about to speak to dragons.
We came to a corridor leading to the valley. It is not unusual in Nord ruins to find a corridor lined with reliefs of Nord totemic gods. Gods of the old Nord religion that preceded The Eight, now The Nine.
- Wulf: This doesn’t make sense. Every relief is of one god and not Lady Kyne or Kynareth.
- Sakiya: They are all Alduin or Akatosh.
- Omoi: They did not distinguish between the two, did they?
- Wulf: No. In a sense, they are the same being, but that is deep gobblygook.
- Ishen: If The Way of The Voice is about Kyne’s gift, why celebrate Lord Akatosh like this?
- Wulf: I have no idea. That is why it doesn’t make sense.
- Sakiya: Perhaps the dragons in the valley know?
- Wulf: Maybe. Now, allow me to speak to the dragons without interruption. All weapons are to remain sheathed and hands idle by your sides.
We made our way into the valley, and I noticed a strange piece of magical apparatus. It was a vertical column of stones with a split in the middle. That mystery would have to wait. I had to concentrate on the dragons.
Izvenyah sat atop a Word Wall, which did not try and teach me a Word of Power. Neither did it have a coherent message inscribed. Instead, many Words of Power were listed. It was a shrine to the Thu’um.
“Drem yol lok, Izvenyah.”
“Drem yol lok, Dovahkiin.”
“Mu fent tinvaak ko Tamrielic grik faal joor mindoraan.” (We shall talk in Tamrielic so the other mortals understand.”
“This I can do, Dovahkiin.”
“Alduin did not reform you?”
“No, we heard his call and came out of curiosity. Like many Dov, we were not interested in helping his ambition again. We almost became extinct last time we were foolish enough to do so.”
“But you liked Skyrim and decided to stay.”
“Yes, the cold of Atmora did not suit me. Kreindeinvith found the deserts of Elsweyr boring. When we saw and heard of Dov being defended by you, the ultimate dragonslayer, we decided to stay. Perhaps the great cities of Dov and Joor can be once more, but with equal status. Dov are not supposed to be worshipped.”
“Nafaalilargus says you and Kreindeinvith have claimed this area as home.”
“Dov will not fight over territory at the moment. We have all claimed areas of rest. All share the hunting grounds. This way, we will not diminish our numbers further.”
“Do you know anything of Jurgen Windcaller’s structures within this mountain?
“Nothing at all. If Dov were supposed to enter, the entrance would be bigger! However, many predators entered where you just exited. I assume they are now deceased.”
“Yes. I try to avoid killing predators unless they threaten mortals. It seems the ones in these tunnels like the taste of mortals.”
“Three trolls exited one entrance and ran to the other just before you came outside.”
“Mmm…this valley might not be suitable for a herd of horses.”
“The grass ices completely over on occasion.”
“Then we might have to find somewhere else.”
“That is good, for when I get lazy, a few fat horses might be more tempting than a hunting flight.”
“Would you tinvaak with travellers who use Windcaller’s Pass?”
“Do you know a Dovah who would not tinvaak if given a chance?”
“In that case, I think you might talk yourself horse rather than eating one.”
“Nafaalilargus warned me you were a bit strange. Something to do with being dropped on your head.”
“Did that milk drinker tell you how a single mortal, not a user of the Thu’um, defeated him in battle?”
“Ahh…that is a tale worth hearing.”
“You might have to insist that he tells it. He is not proud of that disgrace. It led to a stronger Redguard and Tiber Septim accepting a truce.”
“Kreindeinvith returns from his hunt and meal. If he ate wild boar, stand back a bit. His rectal emissions can be a bit unfortunate.”
As we walked toward another Word Wall, Kreindeinvith hovered over us.
“Drem yol lok, Kreindeinvith.”
“This one is pleased to meet you, Dragonborn.”
“You have picked up the speech patterns of the Khajiiti.”
“This one spent thousands of years only speaking Ta’agra with furry friends. Dragon thinks it is natural that this one speaks a foreign language, Tamrielic, different than a native.”
“I have never heard of a Dovah who can speak Ta’agra.”
“And this one has never heard of a mortal surviving their brain being mushed when a child.”
“You believe Nafaalilargus’ tale?”
“This one was sceptical till the evidence was presented. It must have been difficult for Dragonborn’s parents to raise such a strange child.”
A stench reached us, and The Dragonguard and I started dry retching.
I exclaimed, “Oh, by The Divines! Did you eat wild boar?”
“Excuse this one. It would be safer for that one to keep a distance while I digest my meal.”
Kreindeinvith flew away and landed behind the other Word Wall.
It, too, had nothing but Words of Power upon it.
We had a look around the clearing and came upon a locked chest.
I picked the lock and retrieved an amber Dragon Claw.
Tracks indicated trolls had recently left and entered the other exit to the valley.
We wandered over and examined the rectangular monolith I noticed earlier.
I said, “I think we use this rectangular thingy to turn the ice spear thingies into an ice staff thingy.”
I then teleported us to the dig site.
Professor Marassi was using a mortar and pestle.
- Wulf: Professor, Kreindeinvith and Izvenyah will not harm anybody. There is an entrance to the rest of the pass on the valley’s far side. We found a jade Dragon Claw in a locked chest. So more than likely, there is a Dwemer Puzzle Door somewhere.
- Patero: Wonderful, Guild Master. Is it okay if some of us come with you to explore the new area?
- Wulf: Yes, but everybody is to remain behind me.
- Olette: Cap’n, can I come too?
- Wulf: Yes, but the same rule applies. Stay behind me at all times.
- Olette: And don’t touch anything.
- Wulf: Yep.
- Patero: I will gather those who want to go with you.
- Wulf: And we will wait at the cave entrance.
Everybody who wanted to accompany us gathered, and we quickly made our way to the valley.
We walked to the far entrance.
I then spoke to Olette once more.
“Olette, you have never heard me use The Voice before. I will give a hand signal, and one of the Dragonguard will tell you I am about to use it.”
“Will it be loud?”
“If I Shout Unrelenting Force, it will be one of the, if not the, loudest thing you have ever heard.”
We entered, and there was another emblem. It had the same message as the earlier one, and I read it to the group.
“I, Jurgen Windcaller, dedicate this temple to ice and time, for they forged my land.”
- Olette: This is a strange temple if you ask me.
- Latoria: Khajiit thinks the same little one. Is it a temple to rocks and dirt, maybe?
- Olette: How do you know which rocks are holy? What if you pray to an evil rock?
- Wulf: Everybody knows evil rocks cackle evilly.
- Olette: What if the rock has learned how to control its evil cackle?
- Wulf: Then my advice is to regard all rocks with suspicion. That one behind you, for instance. Its beady eyes are too close together. That is a good sign that it is evil!
- Olette: I had a shower and a bath this morning. Did I commit blasphemy by washing all the dirt away?
- Latoria: Khajiit is sad that little one’s soul is damned.
- Olette: Oh well, I had better start practising my evil cackle!
We approached locked doors, which I picked.
Olette remarked, “I thought only sneaky thieves could do that?”
“It is a convenient skill to have.”
“Can you teach me how to pick locks?”
“Yes, I can set up many practice ones at home.”
The door led to a Dwemer Puzzle Door.
I told Olette, “A code and a key are needed to open this door. Study this while I check for traps.”
I handed Olette the jade Dragon Claw. She studied it from different angles and noticed the three symbols underneath. Olette then stared at the door and shook her head.
I told her, “Okay, there are no traps on this door. So, my street urchin, how do we open it.”
“You said we needed two things. A code and a key but handed me a single object.”
“So why have they put the code and key together? What is the point of that?”
“I tell you what. Think of a plausible answer to that question and tell us later what it is.”
“Anyway, Cap’n, the code is, top to bottom, bear, whale and snake.”
“Turn the wheels so that code shows, then insert the talons into the holes within the central circle. If you have it right, the centre circle will turn by itself, and the door will slide downwards.”
Olette did as instructed, and the door slid down, accompanied by grinding sounds and clouds of dust.
I told Olette, “Well done. That is pretty cool, don’t you think?”
“No, Cap’n. It is stupid. Key and code together? Brynjolf and the other thieves in Riften would be laughing themselves silly.”
The door gave access to a rectangular room.
To the left of the entrance, at the room’s far end, was a table partially lit by sunlight.
On the table, there was another Eternium shard and a small lockbox.
I gathered the shard and placed it in my journal case.
I then picked the lock of the small lockbox.
Inside was a ring with a stylised dragon skull. It significantly increased unarmed combat damage.
There was also a necklace of a dragon skull. It decreased the restore time for the wearer’s Thu’um. The Amulet of Talos I wear is much more powerful, but still, the necklace would have been precious to an ancient Tongue.
I took the relics to Professor Marassi.
“I do believe these belonged to Jurgen Windcaller. The ring increases unarmed combat damage. The necklace rapidly returns the wearer’s Thu’um, like regenerating Magicka for a mage.”
“Oh, fascinating! If you don’t mind, I’ll have Latoria take them back to Auryen and see if he confirms your suspicion.”
“I shall give them to her, and while Latoria does that, we can continue to explore.”
I walked over to the ever-smiling Khajiiti mage.
- Wulf: Dear Latoria, can you please take this necklace and ring to Auryen?
- Latoria: Of course, Guild Master. Khajiit wonders if you found any Dwemer artefacts.
- Madras: There are no Dwemer ruins within hundreds of miles!
- Wulf: Are you sure? You were willing to believe there might be.
- Madras: Positive! I shouldn’t have second-guessed myself.
- Latoria: Khajiit is happy that one did, as much amusement resulted.
- Madras: Too bad The Guild Master and his friends have removed all the carnivores. Perhaps they missed one who is looking forward to Khajiiti steaks.
- Latoria: Now you have made this one frightened! That is not funny but mean.
- Wulf: There is nothing left to harm you, Latoria.
- Madras: I apologise. I didn’t mean to frighten you, Latoria.
I handed Latoria the relics, and she left us with fear in her eyes. I thought of sending Madras to accompany her. However, that might have caused some resentment. Madras is not used to being the target of a prank.
I walked over to Olette.
“We will be entering an area most likely populated by violent wildlife. Stay near the back, remain silent and be prepared for me to use The Voice.”
We entered a cavern where three trolls lived. I gave a hand signal and turned to make sure Olette understood. She nodded but did not try and block her ears.
My Thu’um roared, and Unrelenting Force sped towards the trolls.
One was disintegrated. The other two died before smashing against a far wall.
The Shout echoed for several seconds, and then the only sound was Olette whispering, “That was so cool!”
A granite column had fallen long ago and blocked further progress unless you climbed over it.
I turned to the group.
- Wulf: We could climb over it and continue, but I would prefer we make Windcaller’s Pass useable for wagons.
- Kyre: It is solid granite. I estimate at least three days of hard labour to clear it.
- Wulf: Make chips in it, so there is a rough surface.
- Sakiya: Then Bashita and Jin can use spells to turn those chips into cracks. Once a crack forms, you pour water into it and freeze it. The ice expands, broadening the crack.
- Kyre: Is this another method of using Magicka to speed up the removal of obstacles?
- Sakiya: Yes. The cracks and ice are a method that is useful with granite. Other minerals are more sensitive to extreme heat, rapidly turning into extreme cold.
- Patero: I will return to camp after we have made some chips and ask the mages for assistance.
I gathered my friends as the guild members started chipping away at the granite column.
Then I teleported us inside Honeyside.
Olette asked, “Cap’n, are we going to visit Honourhall?”
“Yes, I would like a tour of the new facilities.”
“That is cooler than cool!”
We exited into the Riften fog. Olette breathed in and exclaimed, “Ahh, the stench of Riften. I missed it even if my nostrils didn’t.”
As we passed the temple of Mara, I was summoned.
“Dragonchild, please enter my temple. I need your assistance.”
Olette asked, “Who was that?”
“That was Lady Mara.”
“Why did she call you Dragonchild? I thought you were Dragonborn.”
“Mmm…it is complicated. What if I promise to sit down and tell you more about my family.”
“I would like to know about your parents. But what has that got to do with a god calling you Dragonchild?”
“As I said, it is complicated. Can you wait till we have that private talk?”
“Please sit and be quiet while I speak to Lady Mara.”
“I think I can manage that for at least a minute. I couldn’t guarantee two minutes, though.”
When we entered, Olette asked, “Why are there so many Khajiiti in here?”
“Many species have Lady Mara in the pantheon.”
Olette sat down, and I approached Lady Mara’s statue.
“Dragonchild, the people of Dawnstar need your assistance. I have already sent Brother Erandur to investigate, but I believe he will need your skills to survive.”
“Please, can you explain further, Lady Mara?”
“Vaermina is somehow causing the people of Dawnstar to have night terrors. Such is the realism of these dreams that several have died. I only know the cause because Brother Erandur knows Vaermina. As you are aware, I cannot see into her realm.”
“I shall attend to the matter immediately.”
“I have told Brother Erandur to wait for your arrival. Farewell, for now, Dragonchild.”
Everybody in the temple heard the conversation and immediately started chatting amongst themselves.
I went over to Olette, who looked stunned.
“I am sorry, Olette, but our planned activities will have to wait.”
“That is okay, Cap’n. I know you have to help the people in Dawnstar.”
“You can come with me to Dawnstar while I find out what is happening there.”
We walked over to High Priestess Dinya, who smiled as we approached.
- Wulf: Good morning, High Priestess.
- Dinya: Good morning to you, Wulf, Lady Welkynd and Dragonguard. It seems, Wulf, that you only visit when summoned by Lady Mara.
- Olette: Lady Mara ambushed him as he walked past!
- Dinya: And what did you think when our Lady spoke to him?
- Olette: I thought the Cap’n was needed again, and his plans would be delayed.
- Dinya: Cap’n?
- Olette: That is what I first called him. It is now a form of affection.
- Dinya: The children at Honourhall often speak of you.
- Olette: We shall visit them soon. They would understand the need to help others.
- Dinya: Constance is a remarkable governess and a devout Mara worshipper.
- Olette: It was sad when Constance was the only one caring for the children.
- Dinya: Everybody else, apart from you, Lady Welkynd, let them down. This temple and the citizens of Riften learned a valuable lesson.
- Wulf: High Priestess. Did you know of the problem in Dawnstar?
- Dinya: Brother Erandur told me what is happening and will need your assistance. I am under instruction not to say more than that.
- Wulf: Of course.
- Olette: One day, Cap’n will be told lots of information before he accepts a task and faint with surprise.
- Dinya: Were you supposed to spend the day with your father?
- Olette: Yeah, but I know we will do so another day soon. He can take me back to the archaeological dig. The is lots to do there. I especially want to talk to the two dragons.
- Dinya: Your life is a bit different now, Lady Welkynd.
- Olette: I am still the same street urchin, even if less grubby.
- Dinya: Your compassion shines, and it is always heartening to see you.
- Wulf: We had better head to Dawnstar. I could sense some urgency in Lady Mara.
- Dinya: And I had better attend to the stunned audience. You forget, Wulf, that hearing the voice of a Divine is not something most mortals will ever experience.
- Wulf: I won’t let any god into my head, High Priestess.
- Dinya: Blessings of The Nine, Wulf.
We exited the temple then teleported to the Khajiiti caravan outside of Dawnstar.
“Cap’n, what is that weird bird?”
“It is called a Road Runner because it dashes around at quite a velocity.”
“I can see it is designed to lean forward with its tail feathers extended to help keep balance.”
“Sometimes, Olette, your insight is uncanny. That is exactly how they manage to run so fast.”
“I haven’t been taught these things. I just apply that logic stuff.”
“Let’s say hello to Ahkari.”
As we walked towards Ahkari, Olette became enamoured with an ornate Alik’r outfit. I might discretely purchase one for her when I get the chance.
Ahkari greeted me with a smile.
- Ahkari: The people of Dawnstar are not happy, and this one knew Valdr would visit and fix it.
- Wulf: What if I am here with a bag full of gems and know nothing of this problem?
- Ahkari: You always deal with Ri’saad because he is not as good at bartering as this one. Therefore, you would not be here merely to trade gems.
- Wulf: I can see many new and exotic goods. It seems business is good.
- Ahkari: Dragons no longer threaten us. We have an honest Jarl in Dawnstar, and if rumours are true, another in Riften. People no longer think all Khajiiti are thieves and welcome our caravans. All this adds to good business.
- Olette: Hello, Ahkari.
- Ahkari: Greetings, Olette. Here, have one of these Azura’s Star treats and tell me what you think. Free of charge to my favourite but no longer grubby orphan.
- Olette: I am no longer an orphan, and why did you call Cap’n Valdr?
- Ahkari: Oh, this one apologises Lady Welkynd. Khajiit was pleased to hear of your adoption. Valdr is the name The Dragonborn first used when meeting this one.
Olette accepted one of the treats and took a huge bite. Her face lit up as she chewed.
- Wulf: I would say the pastry has Olette’s approval.
- Olette: Mmm!
- Ahkari: So, is Dragonborn here to help the people of Dawnstar?
- Wulf: Yes, Lady Mara asked me to assist Brother Erandur.
- Ahkari: Zaynabi and Dro’marash have both suffered terrible dreams, but only when camping outside Dawnstar.
- Wulf: Did the night terrors happen last time you camped here?
- Ahkari: Yes. The problem has been here for at least a month.
- Olette: The civil war and dragons probably masked the problem.
- Ahkari: Yes, little one, they were enough to give anybody terrible dreams. However, these dreams are the personal horrors of the caravan members. They are troubled by things that have concerned them since they were cubs. The people of Dawnstar have said the same when talking to Khajiit.
- Olette: Cap’n and The Dawnguard will figure it out.
- Ahkari: I am sure that will be the case. How was Ra’ario the last time you saw her?
- Olette: All of the orphaned cubs in Solitude have been accepted by the population. Ra’ario is like a big sister to many of them. They are often seen playing games with other children of all races.
- Ahkari: And Kharjo?
- Olette: He is a friend to all.
- Wulf: Kharjo has earned his spot amongst The Dragonguard.
- Ahkari: That warms Khajiit’s heart.
- Wulf: It has been good to speak to you, Ahkari. Please assure the others that we will try to solve the problem.
- Ahkari: Khajiit will do. But I must ask, Lady Welkynd, are you a mage?
- Olette: No, why do you ask?
- Ahkari: You made Azura’s Star vanish!
- Olette: It was delicious.
- Ahkari: This one is pleased you enjoyed it. Hopefully, they will sell well.
Ahkari offered another treat to Olette, who looked my way. I nodded, and she eagerly took it and scoffed it down. Ahkari chuckled as we made our way into the city and The White Hall, home of Jarl Brina Merilis.
As we approached Jarl Brina, she conversed with her Court Mage, Madena Brolini. Jarl Brina was a Legate in the Imperial Army during The Great War. Her steward, Horik Halfhand, was one of her captains and fought by her side for the entire campaign. I could tell there was more than the familiarity of commander and officer between them. I liked the battered, old-style Legionnaire armour that Horik proudly wore.
- Brina: Madena, I was wondering if you could help me with something. Your magic would be invaluable.
- Madena: If this is about battle magic, forget it. I’ve told every Jarl I’ve served under that I won’t…
- Brina: Actually, I was just wondering if you could ensure people are tended to if they get hurt. I’m sure you wouldn’t object to that.
- Madena: I, well, no, of course not. I would be glad to help.
- Brina: Thank you, Madena. I appreciate your assistance.
- Horik: My Jarl, General Welkynd and The Dragonguard are here.
- Brina: I can see that, Horik. I am old, not blind.
- Horik: You are not that old, my Jarl.
- Brina: Hmph. Anyway, step forward, General Welkynd. Let me have a closer look at our new Thane.
I stepped forward and felt awkward towering over the Jarl.
- Wulf: Thane?
- Brina: Yes, of course. Don’t be surprised if you are the first person in history to be Thane of every Hold.
- Horik: We neither have the sword of office nor his housecarl here, my Jarl.
- Brina: Yes, so Thane Welkynd, please visit again soon when we are better organised.
- Horik: There is a reason for our disorganisation, Thane.
- Brina: Thane, you have come to Dawnstar at a bad time. Tempers are… fiery.
- Wulf: My Jarl, I have been sent here by Lady Mara to aid Brother Erandur.
- Horik: My Jarl, The Divines must think there is something of importance. Lady Mara sent one of her priests and Champion of The Divines to investigate and try and calm things down!
- Brina: Indeed.
- Wulf: I have some inkling of what is happening. Please, can you describe what the problem is?
- Horik: Not a single man or woman in Dawnstar has gotten a good night’s rest for many days. We keep having repeat nightmares, over and over.
- Brina: Some have not woken from their troubled sleep. Not the elderly or infirm that one may expect to die in their slumber. Healthy, younger people are falling to this horror that inflicts my hold.
- Horik: If people aren’t tired, they’re angry, and if they aren’t mad, they’re afraid. It’s made keeping order a mess.
- Wulf: I will speak to Brother Erandur. Lady Mara informed me that the Dark Lord, Lady Vaermina, is causing the night terrors. They are different from nightmares and leverage the victim’s most feared scenarios. That is why they have the power to kill even the young and healthy.
- Brina: What more can you tell us?
- Wulf: Nothing but conjecture. How Lady Vaermina is achieving this is unknown to me.
- Brina: The Divines don’t give you all the information needed?
- Wulf: Sometimes. But The Divines are not omnipotent. They rely on mortal agents like myself and Brother Erandur to solve problems. Plus, The Divines believe it is better to approach issues without the bias that prior knowledge might generate.
- Brina: An interesting concept but one that would not work in the Legion.
- Wulf: But a good commander must be able to figure things out when the intel is wrong. I am sure you experienced occasions when Legion Command told you something about an area that turned out to be incorrect.
- Horik: Too often. That is when a good commander stands out from others. They are quick to adapt and improvise.
- Wulf: Where can I find Brother Erandur?
- Horik: He has been at the inn collecting statements from people.
- Wulf: Okay, we will see what we can do to help him and Dawnstar.
- Horik: Return soon, and we will make your title official.
I walked over to Court Mage Madena.
I asked, “Is your official title Court Mage?”
“Court Wizard. But it doesn’t matter what you call me, for I am not setting foot on any battlefield! How do you do it? How do you keep killing and remain sane?”
“You must have a reason for asking.”
“I was a Legion Battlemage stationed in the Imperial City when The Aldmeri Dominion laid siege to it. It was the only action I saw during The Great War. I was on the front line for many days, blasting young Elven men and women apart with fire and lightning. By Akatosh, all the blood and the smell of flesh burned and pulled apart by magic! I never want to do that to another soul ever again.”
“I have killed thousands in a short amount of time. But in doing so, I have saved Nirn from destruction or mortals from slavery or extinction. When you killed Dominion troops during the Great War, it was difficult for you to see the benefits their deaths purchased. On the other hand, when I hear a child laugh or see a young couple holding hands or even a farmer showing pride in his produce, I feel justification for my actions. I hate killing, yet The Divines need me to be this age’s most efficient and ruthless killer. By accepting this burden, I spare others from the burden. I would like to have spared you from it.”
“You resist Nords trying to glorify your actions. Jarl Skald spoke endlessly about your heroics and said you were of the old blood and what a Nord should be.”
“Did he still think so generously of me after I killed Ulfric?”
“He thought that was the Nord way and that you would become High King and kick the Imperials out of Skyrim. He thought that up until you demolished The Stormcloaks and arrested him.”
“Did Jarl Skald ask you to fight in the Civil War? I remember he gave Brina and Horik a hard time.”
“Yes, and he threatened to have me tried as a traitor when I refused to kill Legionnaires. Jarl Brina understands. She is also a Legion veteran and was threatened by Jarl Skald when she refused to fight or choose sides. Nords seem to have difficulty with the concept of neutrality.”
“Yet Nords revere The Companions who also remained neutral. You are Breton, are you not?”
“Yes. The history of my homeland is one of continuous civil war. I came to Cyrodiil to escape such violence. Then I found myself in the middle of The Great War and, years later, the civil war.”
“Thank you for your time, Madena.”
“Thank you for accepting the burden you carry. I hope The Divines reward you with peace one day.”
Olette looked sad.
“Sorry, Olette, but we can visit the holds another day. Soon, I hope.”
“I think it is unfair that you can’t make plans. Things always get in the way!”
“The Divines do not force me to do what I do.”
“No, being Wulf forces you. That is good for everybody you help, but I am worried about you. You couldn’t refuse to help the people of Dawnstar and still be Wulf. Who is there to help you?”
“You, my friends, Rigmor, a sense of accomplishment and my faith.”
“I hope all of that is enough. This Vaermina sounds like darkness. How much darkness can you handle, Cap’n?”
“Infinite amounts when I am enveloped in the love of my daughter, Rigmor and friends.”
“Those who love you can see the vulnerability you pretend isn’t there. I just hope your enemies don’t see it.”
“Dear Olette, you have just expressed my greatest fear. I don’t pretend the vulnerability isn’t there. I must live with the fear and not let it stop what I do.”
“Come on then, zap us to the dig site.”
I did as commanded. Olette gave me a big hug and walked away, hoping I hadn’t noticed her tears. She carries the same burden as Rigmor. She waits and hopes I return and can continue to resist my dark nature. Like Pelinal Whitestrake, it awaits a catalyst.
I was melancholy when I teleported us back to the Khajiiti caravan.
My mood brightened somewhat when a saddled reindeer walked by. If Olette were with us, it would undoubtedly be added to her menagerie.
We entered Windpeak Inn.
I could see a group of people crowded around Brother Erandur. We tried to remain discreet, so I could hear what he was saying.
- Irgnir: It’s a curse! It has to be! I’ve got to get out of this town.
- Fruki: Irgnir, get a hold of yourself. They’re just dreams. Please tell her, Erandur.
- Erandur: Listen to your friend, Fruki. They are just dreams, my dear. I assure you that it is quite normal.
- Irgnir: It’s the same dream over and over again. Do you think that’s normal? It’s evil, I tell you!
- Fruki: Erandur, she has a point. You keep telling us no harm will follow these dreams, but they must be an omen, and I have heard of people not waking from their sleep.
- Thoring: Give him a chance to speak. He’s trying to help us.
- Erandur: Everyone, please. I’m doing what I can to end these nightmares. In the meantime, all I ask is you remain strong and put your trust in Lady Mara.
- Irgnir: I… I will. Thank you…
The crowd was agitated, so I stepped in to assist the flustered priest.
- Wulf: Brother Erandur. Lady Mara sent me to assist with the problem.
- Erandur: And who are you?
- Thoring: You must have been living in a cave not to recognise The Dragonborn. They must be more than just dreams for him to be here!
- Wulf: Have faith, all of you. The Nine trust Brother Erandur can resolve the problem, and so do I.
- Erandur: You are The Dragonborn?
- Wulf: Yes, I am Wulf, Dragonborn and Champion of The Divines, and these lovely people are The Dragonguard.
- Erandur: Then Lady Mara listened to my plea. I know what is causing the nightmares, and everybody is in grave danger. But there was very little I could do about it by myself.
- Wulf: I know who is causing the night terrors. I don’t know how. Perhaps we can talk outside.
- Erandur: I know where we have to go to resolve the problem. It is not far, and we can talk as we walk.
We left the inn, and Erandur set a brisk pace.
- Erandur: A tower on a nearby hill is our destination. People around here call it the Tower of the Dawn.
- Wulf: It was an Imperial fort once. I passed close to it during the civil war.
- Erandur: I’m not familiar with the tower’s history, but it was deserted for quite a long time before Nightcaller Temple was established inside.
- Wulf: I assume it was a temple dedicated to Lady Vaermina.
- Erandur: Yes, it was. These dreams, or as you called them, night terrors, are manifestations created by the Dark Lord called Vaermina.
- Ishen: Wulf, have you made an enemy of that one yet?
- Wulf: No, but she is not one of the nicer ones. By default, she would detest me and everything I stand for.
- Sakiya: Wulf, what can you tell us about Vaermina?
- Wulf: She is often called Vaermina the Dreamweaver. Her pastimes include influencing nightmares and dreams. She thrives on torment and horror and is known to hand out ill omens. Often, she steals memories from those traumatised by her actions.
- Erandur: It feels good to finally have a chance to help these people. Helplessly watching them suffer has been difficult.
- Shouken: Why didn’t the locals demand the temple’s removal when it was active?
- Erandur: When the temple was active, the priests would rarely be seen in Dawnstar. They preferred to live a solitary existence. They gave the local people no reason to fear or shun them. The temple’s been abandoned for decades now. Ironic, isn’t it… a ruin within a ruin?
- Wulf: How did you hear of the problem?
- Erandur: Lady Mara told Head Priestess Balu of the problem. She told me, and so here I am.
- Wulf: I can’t recall you at the Temple in Riften the many times I have visited there.
- Erandur: I travel a lot, spreading Mara’s word.
- Wulf: An Agent?
- Erandur: You are familiar with an Agent’s work?
- Wulf: Yes, but I have not yet enjoyed that task. I have been too busy with more unsavoury problems.
- Sakiya: Wulf, how can Lady Vaermina affect mortals with the Liminal Barrier in place?
- Wulf: She would need a relic of some sort. I have an idea what it might be as I have studied the many gifts the Dark Lords gave mortals. Do you know what that relic might be, Brother Erandur?
- Erandur: Yes, I do. I need to return to the problem’s source, Nightcaller Temple, and destroy the relic.
- Wulf: Brother Erandur, you said ‘return,’ and you know what is within Nightcaller Temple causing these nightmares. There is only one logical explanation.
- Sakiya: Brother Erandur, were you a Priest of Vaermina?
- Erandur: Yes, I was a Priest of Vaermina. It is not something I find easy to discuss. Please, allow me to tell you more when we reach our destination.
We continued in silence as Erandur struggled with his past.
Suddenly, Erandur halted and said, “There are two bears ahead.”
“You walked within inches of an Elk, and it didn’t run away. For the same reason, the bears will leave us be.”
“Is their acceptance a blessing from one of The Nine?”
“Yes, the blessing’s old name is Kyne’s Peace. Call it Kynareth’s Peace if you feel more comfortable. It pacifies creatures most of the time. Sometimes the creatures will even fight by my side. It can be given to any mortal as a temporary thing by completing a task along The Seven Thousand Steps. Lady Kynareth has bestowed it as a permanent blessing upon me.”
“The bears could be hostile?”
“There is a slim chance. Don’t worry, for if they attacked, they would die before harming any of us.”
“What other blessings did The Nine bestow.”
“Many, for I am Ningheim.”
“That is a form of Sainthood!”
“Some regard it as such. In my case, the blessings aid in the tasks I undertake. They are of practical importance, not religious. Shall we continue?”
We walked past the bears, who snuffled but were content to let us be.
We stopped before the entrance.
- Erandur: Before we enter, I must warn you about the dangers within.
- Sakiya: This fortress looks no different than others built by the ancients of Skyrim.
- Erandur: As I said before, I know little of its history. But I know the temple inside was raided by an Orc war party seeking revenge. Nightmares were plaguing them, just like the people of Dawnstar.
- Wulf: If they were true to Malacath, he would have told them the source of those nightmares.
- Ishen: Were they successful in stopping the nightmares?
- Erandur: No. Knowing they could not defeat the Orcs, the Priests of Vaermina released what they call ‘The Miasma,’ putting everyone to sleep.
- Ishen: The dweomer on our armours will protect us against The Miasma.
- Erandur: Lady Mara gave assurance that I would also be protected. The Priests and Orcs have been asleep since that time. We must break the seal on this place to stop the nightmares and that may awaken priests and Orcs alike.
- Ishen: They may continue their brawl. I still see no danger to us.
- Erandur: The Miasma was created by Priests of Vaermina for their rituals. It’s a gas that places the affected into a deep sleep. Because the rituals could last for months or even years, The Miasma was designed to slow down ageing.
- Ishen: Yes… but where is the danger?
- Erandur: The longer an individual is exposed to The Miasma, the more the mind can become damaged. Those under its effect for extended periods have been known to lose their minds entirely. Some never wake up.
- Ishen: The danger is a few insane Orcs and priests. Brother Erandur, they are not a threat to us!
- Erandur: Once we get inside, all will become clear.
- Wulf: We are not going anywhere until you come clean. The Orsimer and priests were caught in The Miasma. They cannot tell the story of what occurred, so how do you know what happened?
- Sakiya: Brother Erandur, you must have been there at the time and escaped before the seal was in place. Or perhaps you placed the seal.
- Erandur: You know I was a Priest of Vaermina.
- Wulf: Yes, and it is not your past that concerns us but what you do to redeem yourself. Now tell me, what relic is causing the nightmares?
- Erandur: The Skull of Corruption. It is behind yet another barrier.
- Wulf: As I thought. Vaermina will no doubt try and turn us against each other. Daedric Lords are predictable in that manner. But we cannot destroy the relic, so what is your plan, Brother Erandur?
- Erandur: Lady Mara says she can banish it to Aetherius using me as a conduit. I would be vulnerable during that process.
- Wulf: I hope you were not planning to keep the truth from us. Do you know what would happen if I touched that staff?
- Erandur: No.
- Wulf: The Skull of Corruption would duplicate me but without my moral inhibitions. My double would use all the knowledge and skills I possess in an attempt to kill us all. I doubt we would be able to stop it. If we did, casualties would be a certainty.
- Sakiya: A duplicate of Wulf without morality would be a far greater danger to the people of Dawnstar than the staff!
- Erandur: I did not know that about The Skull of Corruption. I have only ever seen the devotees of Vaermina touch it.
- Wulf: If Vaermina decided one of them was powerful enough, they would have been duplicated. Let us enter and help the people of Dawnstar.
We entered and were immediately faced with a pulpit from where a Priest of Vaermina would sprout his blasphemous words to an enraptured audience.
In an alcove was a Shrine of Mara.
I asked Brother Erandur, “Did you install this shrine?”
“Yes. I would visit and pray for the strength to undo what I helped create. But I knew I would never be able to accomplish that without assistance.”
Behind the dais was a concealed entrance protected by a magical barrier. Sakiya looked at me, and I tilted my head towards Brother Erandur. She smiled and understood. We were to let Brother Erandur bring it down. I wanted him to feel like he contributed much to resolving the nightmare problem.
Erandur said, “Give me a moment, and I’ll have this open.”
Erandur then cast Flames upon the barrier.
Eventually, the barrier failed, and the hidden door became translucent. There was still a magical barrier in place, but that was to keep The Miasma inside and not people outside.
We all followed Erandur into a hallway. The Miasma was thick, but none of us was affected.
Not far along the corridor, we could view the Skull of Corruption surrounded by another magical barrier. Even from a distance, I could tell that barrier was far more substantial.
I used Zoom Vision to study the statue, relic and surroundings.
- Erandur: Behold the Skull of Corruption, the source of Dawnstar’s woes. We must reach the inner sanctum and destroy it.
- Wulf: I thought we would allow Lady Mara to banish it to Aetherius.
- Erandur: Yes, that is what I meant. Come, there is no time to lose.
- Omoi: You should follow us. We can quickly deal with foes if you are not in our way.
- Erandur: Let me lead you to the doorways, and you can enter before me. That would be the easiest.
- Omoi: Did you flee when the Orcs attacked?
- Erandur: I will give you the entire story one day. But the longer we stand talking, the likelier another citizen of Dawnstar succumbs to the Skull.
- Wulf: Answer Omoi, Brother Erandur. Did you flee when the Orcs attacked?
- Erandur: Yes, I fled. I left my brothers and sisters behind to die. I’ve spent the last few decades living in regret and seeking redemption from Lady Mara. And by Her Benevolence, I will right my wrongs.
- Sakiya: Nobody is controlling the Skull of Corruption. Has it become sentient?
- Erandur: Lore dictates that the Skull of Corruption holds a constant hunger for the memories of mortals. What it does with these memories is just conjecture and an argument for scholars and historians. The Skull was out of touch for so long that it gained the ability to reach out on its own and try to feed.
- Wulf: The obvious answer is it passes the night terrors onto Vaermina. Why else would she have made the thing? But the Skull is also a trap for those who want to use it for selfish gains or wish to destroy it. As I said before, it can duplicate a mortal. The duplicate will attack anybody it encounters.
- Erandur: Come, there is no time to lose.
- Wulf: Do you have a way to bypass the barrier?
- Erandur: Barrier?
- Sakiya: Even without Wulf’s exceptional eyesight, I can see a soul gem being used to power a barrier.
- Erandur: The other priests must have enabled the barrier after I fled. I need to have a closer look.
As we approached the barrier, two Orsimer started to rise.
Unrelenting Force killed both before they gained their feet.
We stood before the barrier, and Erandur seemed upset.
- Omoi: Don’t worry, Brother Erandur. Your ears will eventually stop ringing.
- Wulf: That is not why Brother Erandur is upset. He was not expecting this barrier and is unsure how to bypass it.
- Erandur: Yes, I fear for the people of Dawnstar, for this barrier is impossible to breach.
- Wulf: That is not accurate, Brother Erandur. I could travel ethereally and bypass the barrier. Alternatively, Sakiya and I could bring the barrier down with our Magicka.
- Erandur: You are a mage?
- Wulf: Sakiya and I are Masters of every School of Magicka.
- Erandur: Why is it that Maramal and Dinya have never divulged much information about you?
- Wulf: The Divines have instructed them not to. The reasons for that must remain a secret.
- Sakiya: We need a safer way to bypass the barrier.
- Wulf: Correct. There may be a greater danger than The Miasma. The barrier prevents me from detecting what is beyond it.
- Erandur: There is another way to bypass the barrier.
- Sakiya: How?
- Erandur: First, I must check the library and confirm it can be done. Then we can discuss the details. I still have my key to the library.
- Wulf: Then lead on but only till you open the door and only feet in front of us. Then I insist that I enter first.
- Erandur: Agreed. Let us move on.
We climbed some stairs to a door that Erandur unlocked.
He pushed the door open, and I quickly entered the library.
An Orsimer and priest started to rise.
Unrelenting Force killed them.
Upon a pedestal sat a Dremora Mask of Terror.
- Erandur: Do not touch that evil thing.
- Wulf: I know what it is. It cannot harm me.
- Omoi: Do you mind educating the uneducated?
- Wulf: It is a Mask of Terror. High-level Dremora Lords wear them. They have a dweomer that instills fear in mortals that gaze upon it.
- Sakiya: The sort of present Vaermina would give one of her minions.
- Wulf: Yes, and Auryen would love it for the museum.
I placed the Mask of Terror in my journal case. Erandur watched in amazement but wisely didn’t ask about the four-dimensional object.
- Erandur: This library used to be filled with arcane volumes. Now, look at it! Almost everything’s been burned.
- Wulf: What book do we need?
- Erandur: A book of alchemical recipes called ‘The Dreamstride.’ It has Vaermina’s symbol on its cover.
- Shouken: Wulf has incredible luck. Every other book could be burnt to cinders, and The Dreamstride will be found in pristine condition.
- Wulf: I am sure it won’t be the only one to survive. Fires are random things, and there is no logical reason some items survive when others nearby are consumed. I will use a spell to highlight books I haven’t read before, so if that one is intact, I will easily find it.
- Omoi: I suggest we take care of the priests and Orsimer before getting distracted by a search.
- Ishen: Why are they waking up? The Miasma is still present.
- Wulf: The Skull is waking them in self-defence.
- Ishen: That makes sense.
- Erandur: It does? Do you accept such as a possibility?
- Sakiya: When you travel with Wulf, you learn many seemingly absurd things are possible. After dealing with Elder Scrolls and other artefacts, we have learned to accept gobblygook.
- Erandur: Gobblygook?
- Sakiya: Wulf’s word for the unexplainable that we just have to accept as fact.
- Wulf: Briefly, I deal with gods of all types and ancient magics. Although I desire a logical reason for things, I must accept there are those I will encounter that have no such explanation. Lord Talos has warned me of the dangers of trying to unravel some mysteries. A mortal mind will never fully comprehend the metaphysics involved, and harm has come to those who pursue such knowledge.
- Omoi The Dwemer are just one example.
- Shouken: Stay behind us, Brother Erandur. We will dispose of the priests and Orcs.
- Wulf: I will use my sword rather than The Voice when books are in my Thu’um’s path. Otherwise, I could inadvertently destroy the very book we seek.
Where no books were in harm’s way, I used my Thu’um. Otherwise, we cut the enemy down with swords and spells.
My spell highlighted a book in the distance, so we headed for it.
Intact books I had previously read did not glow.
The Dreamstride glowed until I picked it up.
I read its entirety quickly and then read the relevant section to my friends.
The Mysterious Alchemists of Vaermina
For over a thousand years, the Priests of Vaermina have been masters of the art of alchemy. The complexity and potency of their mixtures are nothing short of legendary. These alchemical treasures are so highly sought-after that a single draught showing up on the black market can command sums in the tens of thousands of septims.
Of the numerous potions that have surfaced to date, Vaermina’s Torpor is perhaps the most impressive. A single sip of this viscous liquid places the imbiber in a state known as ‘The Dreamstride.’ This condition allows the subject to experience the dreams of another as if they were physically there. The subject becomes integral to the dream, behaving as if they belong. To any other entity in this dream state, the subject will be mistaken for the dreamer; the subject will even find his mannerisms, speech patterns, and knowledge expanded appropriately.
To an observer, they will appear to vanish after the subject has imbibed the potion. As the subject travels distances within the dream, they will also travel distances in the actual world. When the Torpor’s effect has expired, the subject will fade into reality in the exact location projected within the Dreamstride. Some Dreamstriders have transported their subjects a few feet, while others have appeared thousands of miles from their origin in a matter of minutes.
It’s to be noted that the Dreamstride is highly dangerous and presents the subject with numerous pitfalls. In specific dreams, subjects have been exposed to life-threatening scenarios such as sicknesses, violence and even death. In most cases, the subject fades back to our world without harm, but in some instances, the subject never reappeared and was assumed to have expired or reappeared deceased. It’s also possible that the subject could reappear in a precarious or hazardous location in reality, even though that location appeared safe within the Dreamstride.
Vaermina’s Torpor is as mysterious and elusive as the priests that created it. It’s unknown whether this unique transport mechanism is a result of the Torpor itself or simply the odd machinations of Vaermina. Still, the potential for using the Dreamstride to penetrate seemingly impassable obstacles certainly outweighs its mysterious nature.”
Sakiya said, “Brother Erandur will want us to find some Vaermina’s Torpor.”
I replied, “Maybe, or just the ingredients to make it. The recipe is not listed in this book, but perhaps Brother Erandur knows it.”
We returned to Brother Erandur, and I handed him the book, which he opened and started to read.
- Wulf: You will want us to find Vaermina’s Torpor or the ingredients to make it.
- Erandur: You have read this book already?
- Wulf: I can read entire books in seconds and remember them word for word. A blessing from The Divines to aid with my duties.
- Erandur: I do not know how to make the potion, so we must hope some can be found.
- Sakiya: If it is a common thing used by the followers of Vaermina, there are likely to be intact bottles within this building.
- Erandur: It is an amazing thing. Alchemy and the blessings of a Divine distilled into ingestible liquid.
- Wulf: Brother Erandur, I realise that some people use Divine to describe any god. As a Priest of Mara, you should refrain from using that term when referring to Daedric Princes.
- Erandur: Of course. Please accept my apology.
- Wulf: We killed some enemies near an Alchemy Lab. That is a logical place to look.
- Erandur: I will wait here.
There weren’t many intact potion bottles. Most of them were easily identifiable by the shape and colour of the bottle. We found one oddly shaped and coloured bottle. I removed its stopper and sniffed. I could not identify the reagents used, so I assumed the bottle contained Vaermina’s Torpor.
We returned to Erandur, and I held up the bottle.
- Erandur: The Nine be praised. You have found some!
- Wulf: Okay, we have the potion. What is your plan?
- Erandur: As a sworn Priest of Mara, the elixir won’t work for me. The Torpor will only work for Priests of Vaermina or the unaffiliated. So, you will need to drink the potion.
- Shouken: Wulf is far from unaffiliated!
- Ishen: He is the Champion of The Divines.
- Omoi: And Champion of Azura.
- Sakiya: And Champion of Hermaeus Mora.
- Shouken: And Champion of Meridia.
- Ishen: And Champion of Boethia.
- Omoi: And Champion of Uncle Sheo.
- Wulf: I am the Champion of Malacath as well.
- Sakiya: But Malacath and several other Dark Lords hate Wulf.
- Erandur: Oh… then somebody else must drink the potion.
- Wulf: No, I will not allow that, and it should not be necessary. The potion will work.
- Erandur: How have you reached that conclusion?
- Wulf: You need me to find and witness a past event. Specifically, the moment when the barrier was raised. I assume the Priests of Vaermina did not always know where or when the Torpor would take them?
- Erandur: No, they didn’t, which is a flaw in my plan!
- Wulf: I can will myself to that moment.
- Erandur: What?
- Sakiya: Ahh… your soul!
- Wulf: Erandur, as Dragonborn, I have the blood and soul of a dragon. They give me an affinity for time. It is part of the blessing given to me by Lord Akatosh. I believe that if I will myself to travel to that exact time when the barrier was raised and then drink the Torpor, I will enter the mind of a witness to the event. It will not be dissimilar to when I travelled back in time to discover how the Ancient Tongues banished Alduin.
- Erandur: That is… that is… gobblygook!
- Shouken: Poor Brother Erandur. He is another victim of travelling with Wulf.
- Ishen: What will we see? Will Wulf vanish or freeze in place or become transparent?
- Erandur: I don’t know. I have never witnessed the Torpor being used.
- Wulf: I expect I will vanish as written in The Dreamstride. My essence must enter the Ethereal Plane for this to work. But I will not be subjected to the extreme cold of that plane as I will physically be in the past. That is why the users of Vaermina’s Torpor can be harmed.
- Erandur: Those around you will perceive you as normal. You will find the words you utter may not be your own.
- Wulf: I will be a passenger unless I choose otherwise.
- Erandur: Thanks to all the odd principles, there is quite a lot of debate about whether it is a dream or just the machinations of Vaermina.
- Wulf: If the Torpor fails, then we know it is the machinations of Vaermina. Those machinations would require access to my inner thought processes, which she and every other god is denied. No, this is simply viewing a particular event from the past and not a dream. The difference being I am viewing it from the eyes of a participant and not as an external witness as I did with the Ancient Tongues at The Throat of the World. The Torpor acts as the conduit for this time travel.
- Erandur: You are very confident of your speculation.
- Sakiya: Wulf must make such judgments quite often. If he got such things wrong in the past, we would all be dead or enslaved by a Dark Lord or other immortal.
- Wulf: As with all educated guesses, the proof is in experimentation. The best place for me to drink the Torpor is at the barrier. On the other side, I believe the soul gem is the key to lowering it, and I would like medical help to be close if I am injured.
- Sakiya: You will tell her before you vanish from this timeline.
- Wulf: Of course.
- Erandur: Tell who?
- Wulf: Somebody who lives thousands of miles from here. I can speak to her via our Amulets of Talos. We can also detect each other’s mood and health. A bonus The Divines did not intend to imbue in the amulets.
- Erandur: Are you saying The Nine make mistakes?
- Wulf: Quite often. Some things are gobblygook to them. They may have made the Aurbis, but they did not create the rest of the universe.
- Erandur: That is a disturbing thought.
- Wulf: I have seen lifeforms unlike those on Nirn. There are an infinite number of planets and lifeforms, and gods in the universe.
- Erandur: That is even more disturbing. Where did you see these other lifeforms?
- Wulf: I saw them when I was dead and stuck in The Void for a few days.
- Erandur: I think I will stop asking questions before I start rocking slowly back and forth while dribbling.
- Omoi: Yes, it is bad enough when Ishen does that.
- Ishen: Oi! I am getting better.
- Omoi: Yes, Ishen. Soon you will be able to feed yourself and not wear adult nappies.
We made our way to the barrier, and I said to Erandur, “Excuse me for a minute while I talk to my beloved. Please refrain from speaking to me till I indicate it is okay.”
I then contacted Rigmor.
“My darling, our amulets will cease to work in a little while.”
“Are you travelling to another plane?”
“I am travelling back in time.”
“For how long?”
“I hope only a matter of minutes. I am trying to view a particular event of short duration.”
“You know what I expect.”
“Yes, I will contact you as soon as I return.”
“What are you doing that requires this time travel?”
“The residents of Dawnstar are suffering constant Night Terrors caused by a relic of Lady Vaermina, a Dark Lord. I am helping a Priest of Mara neutralise the relic.”
“I am so gobblygooked I just accepted this time travelling without hesitation.”
“It is the best way to stay sane.”
“I love you.”
“And I love you.”
I said to Brother Erandur and The Dragonguard, “Okay. Here I go!”
I concentrated on what I wanted to see. Then I drank Vaermina’s Torpor. It had the consistency of honey and the taste of rotten meat.
Sakiya asked, “Wulf, are you okay?”
I did an impressive burp in reply. Then the present faded, and the past came into focus.
I found myself in a three-way discussion with two other Priests of Vaermina. I also realised I was in the mind of Brother Erandur and that his old name was Casimir.
- Thorek: Brother Veren and Brother Casimir, the Orcs have breached the inner sanctum!
- Veren: We must hold. We can’t allow The Skull of Corruption to fall into their hands.
- Thorek: But no more than a handful of us remain.
- Veren: Then we have no choice. The Miasma must be released.
- Thorek: The Miasma? But, brother…
- Veren: We have no alternative. It’s the will of Vaermina.
Will of Vaermina, my arse! I had to control my objection to this statement. Free will was at play, not irresistible demands of a Dark Lord.
- Veren: And what about you, Brother Casimir? Are you prepared to serve the will of Vaermina?
- Erandur: I have made my peace. I am ready.
- Thorek: Then it is decided.
- Veren: Brother Casimir, you must activate the barrier and release The Miasma. Let nothing stop you.
- Erandur: I shall do my duty.
- Veren: Brother Thorek, we must remain here and guard the Skull with our lives if necessary.
- Thorek: Agreed. To the death.
- Veren: Then let it be done. Farewell, my brothers!
Erandur is alive, which means he made it through the dangers. Therefore, if I act as a passenger, there is no danger to me. I passively watched from Erandur’s eyes.
I also suspected that if I changed things too much, a Dragon Break would occur, and Silah would be rather angry.
Erandur eventually came to where the barrier was.
I was faced with a paradox. A pull chain was what released The Miasma and raised the barrier. A soul gem was what powered the barrier.
Erandur said other priests raised the barrier. However, I could see that the release of The Miasma and raising the barrier was accomplished by pulling a chain. I witnessed Erandur pulling the chain.
Erandur did not lie. He did not remember pulling the chain because I was in his head when he did it. My consciousness interfered with his. Before the barrier became fully activated, he fled. He remembered that part as I was no longer inside his mind.
I could not tell if traps were attached to the chain. Therefore, I removed the soul gem instead.
My body manifested where Erandur once stood, and my consciousness entered it. The barrier was gone. Erandur and my friends stood with weapons drawn.
I walked up to Erandur.
- Wulf: Relax, everybody!
- Erandur: It… it worked. Mara, be praised!
- Wulf: Yes, Brother Casimir, it worked. And let us praise Lord Akatosh for the blessings he bestowed upon me rather than Lady Mara.
- Ishen: Brother Casimer?
- Wulf: Yes, that was Brother Erandur’s name when he was a Priest of Vaermina. It was he who enabled the barrier.
- Ishen: Then he lied, and it was not a surprise to find the barrier in place!
- Erandur: No, it wasn’t me!
- Wulf: There is no lie. I was in Brother Erandur’s mind when he did it, which is why he doesn’t remember that occurring. Two consciousnesses existed at once. I now have that memory, but Brother Erandur does not.
- Erandur: I remember running from this spot, never looking back.
- Wulf: Brother Veren said it was the will of Vaermina that the barrier was to be raised and The Miasma released. He ordered you to do these things. He was willing to die defending the relic.
- Erandur: It was the will of Veren. I had realised months before that the instructions he gave us were of his invention, not those of Vaermina. I was not willing to die for him or Vaermina. It was not like I volunteered to be indoctrinated into her coven of worshippers.
- Ishen: Then how did you end up a Priest of Vaermina?
- Erandur: I was a young child taken from impoverished parents and groomed. For decades I was a devotee of Vaermina, but I remembered the time when I was free to choose my path. I decided that I wanted that freedom once more. That is why I escaped The Miasma. It was not out of cowardice. I would die for Lady Mara but not for Vaermina or the whims of Brother Veren.
- Wulf: You have proven once more that the power of the Dark Lords is nothing compared to that of mortal free will.
- Omoi: Free will is Wulf’s favourite topic for lecturing.
- Wulf: My least favourite thing is paying disrespectful Dragonguard their stipend.
- Omoi: Oh, I didn’t say it was a bad thing. It is just that I have neglected to bring a pillow.
- Erandur: You vanished after drinking the Torpor and materialised on the other side. I have never seen anything quite like it.
- Wulf: The potion served its purpose.
- Erandur: After what just occurred, you are not amazed! I am at a loss for words.
- Wulf: I have been inside the mind of a long-dead emperor and cured his insanity. I have travelled back thousands of years and witnessed the banishment of Alduin. I have been to several realms of Oblivion and talked to gods as close as you are now. I have visited Sovngarde and met the heroes of old. On the amazement scale, this is minor.
- Omoi: Remember the danger of rocking back and forth and dribbling, Brother Erandur.
- Erandur: Inside the mind of a long-dead emperor?
- Shouken: Is that dribble that I see?
- Omoi: Yes, I think it is too late for Brother Erandur.
Rigmor said telepathically, “I realise you must be discussing things with those with you. But I must greet the next supplicant so forgive me for butting in. I am glad you are back safe. Tell me about it later when we are naked!”
Brother Erandur looked at me as if I had gone insane. I couldn’t help but laugh. The Dragonguard knew why.
- Erandur: Wulf, are you okay? Are you positive Vaermina’s Torpor has not harmed you?
- Wulf: It is okay, Brother Erandur. I was speaking to somebody who amused me.
- Erandur: A Divine?
- Wulf: No, but to me, she is a goddess.
- Erandur: Oh, the amulets of Talos. I need to ask no more.
- Omoi: Good! Perhaps there is hope for you yet.
- Erandur: Well, the inner sanctum lies ahead. We must reach the Skull and put an end to Dawnstar’s troubles. Lead on, my friends.
We killed a few more Priests and Orcs on our way to the inner sanctum.
When we reached the inner sanctum, we faced yet another barrier. Brother Erandur was preparing to take the barrier down when two acquaintances from the past stepped through it, and it slowly faded.
- Erandur: Veren… Thorek… you are alive!
- Veren: No thanks to you, Casimir.
- Erandur: I no longer use that name. I am Erandur, Priest of Mara.
- Veren: You are a traitor. You left us to die and then ran before The Miasma took you.
- Wulf: You, Veren, asked Erandur to activate the barrier and release The Miasma. He did as you requested. You also said, ‘Brother Thorek, we must remain here and guard the Skull with our lives if necessary.’ Therefore, you gave the impression to Erandur that you wanted to remain and die if necessary.
- Veren: Who are you?
- Wulf: Wulf, Dragonborn and Champion of The Divines. If we look at this logically, you two are traitors! The Divines and other et-Ada sacrificed much to create everything you see and experience. Yet you turned your back on them and willingly harmed other mortals for the praise of one who has contributed nothing to our creation or continuing existence. Veren, you falsely claimed that releasing The Miasma was the will of Vaermina. That was a lie and blasphemed the god you are supposed to revere.
- Thorek: Does this stranger speak the truth? Tell me, Veren, did Vaermina tell you to release The Miasma?
- Veren: You would believe an enemy of Vaermina?
- Wulf: I am not an enemy of Vaermina. I am an enemy of anybody who chooses to harm innocent mortals. Brother Erandur saw through your lies and decided he would not die for them. Now put your weapons down, or we will cut you down!
The Priests attacked. We quickly killed them.
We approached Vaermina’s Shrine and The Skull of Corruption. Yet another barrier stood between us and the relic.
- Erandur: I… I knew Veren and Thorek. They were my friends.
- Wulf: I saw them when I used the Torpor.
- Erandur: Is this punishment for my past? Is it Mara’s will to torment me so?
- Wulf: Brother Erandur, that is an odd question coming from a Priest of Mara. Please tell me of a single historical incident where one of The Nine has punished a mortal for past sins. Lady Mara and her priests and priestesses have shown you nothing but charity and compassion! Lady Mara has not and would not torment you!
- Erandur: Oh… please forgive me, Mara! The grief over my companions had skewed my thoughts.
- Wulf: Lady Mara does not need an explanation. When you speak to her, your remorse is evident, and she understands.
- Ishen: We had no choice but to kill your old friends, Brother Erandur. Wulf did give them the chance to surrender.
- Erandur: Wulf showed far more mercy than any Priest of Vaermina would or could.
- Shouken: Wulf offers mercy more often than most devotees of any religion.
- Erandur: It is time. The Skull must be banished!
- Wulf: Brother Erandur, you must be prepared for Vaermina to speak her plans out loud. She cannot talk in my head and has no choice. Do not fear that I will betray you, for she will offer a bargain to spare her relic. My loyalty to The Divines, mortals, and my beloved is not negotiable. Other gods have offered me riches beyond imagining.
- Sakiya: Brother Erandur, devoted followers of other Dark Lords, have discovered, thanks to Wulf, that they mean nothing to their chosen god. You have rejected Vaermina, so do not be surprised at her hostility.
- Erandur: I must maintain my faith to act as Lady Mara’s conduit. Her love and compassion will flow through that conduit and provide a shield against whatever Vaermina says.
- Wulf: Then proceed. I am eager to witness the power of Lady Mara.
Erandur raised his arms and incanted, “I call upon you, Lady Mara! The Skull hungers. It yearns for memories and leaves nightmares in its wake. Innocent mortals have died as a result. Use me to break through this barrier and send the Skull to Aetherius, where it can no longer harm the innocent.”
The familiar presence of Lady Mara enveloped the room. Brother Erandur went rigid as Divine power surged through him. I moved around so that I could view the process from different angles.
The barrier vanished, and a red haze surrounded Erandur.
I felt the familiar probing of a Dark Lord on my mind’s barriers.
When she realised she could not penetrate my barriers, Vaermina spoke audibly and said, “He’s deceiving you. When the ritual’s complete, the Skull will be free, and Erandur will turn on you.”
I laughed, then replied, “Lady Vaermina, pathetic lies only embarrass you.”
“Quickly! Kill him now. Kill him and claim The Skull for your own! Vaermina commands you!”
“And Wulf, Dragonborn and Champion of The Divines, commands you to kiss my arse!”
Uncontrolled giggles suddenly wracked my friends. The Skull of Corruption and the red haze vanished, and Erandur could move again.
Erandur walked away from the shrine. I joined him at the bottom of the steps.
- Erandur: Forgive me if I don’t appear relieved. This temple had taken its toll on me.
- Wulf: Believe me when I say I know that feeling well.
- Omoi: Brother Erandur, could you hear the discussion between Vaermina and Wulf?
- Erandur: Yes, I could and am shocked at his answer to Vaermina’s command!
- Wulf: I detest Daedric Princes trying the ‘I command it!’ crap. They have no authority over us. Some of them would be amused at my insolence. I have no idea how Vaermina will take it, but I don’t care.
- Sakiya: Wulf is friendly with some Dark Lords. Others do not like him very much. Even some who have declared him their champion would enjoy seeing him eaten by rabid Skeevers.
- Wulf: Brother Erandur, are you going to be alright?
- Erandur: In time, I believe I will. As you saw when we entered, I have constructed a meagre shrine to Mara in the antechamber. I intend to spend the rest of my years here, burying the past and praying for forgiveness.
- Wulf: It is evident that Lady Mara has already forgiven you. Do not waste your life in senseless guilt, asking for something already provided.
- Erandur: Yes, you are right. In that case, let me offer my services to you. I am at your disposal if you desire me to journey with you.
- Wulf: You currently do not have the skills to earn a place among The Dragonguard. However, I would find your presence of great spiritual aid to me. Your mage abilities are weak, and not much improvement would occur, no matter how hard you tried. However, if you are willing to train beside The Dragonguard and hone your skills with katana, shield and bow, you may eventually have the skills required to be a Dragonguard. Even if you never reach that status, you are welcome to live with the children who abide or will abide in my house and us. I am sure Lady Mara would still call on you to be an Agent on occasion.
- Erandur: You would trust me amongst the innocent?
- Wulf: I just saw Lady Mara’s trust in you manifested. So, of course, I also trust you implicitly.
- Erandur: Then I would be honoured to live among you.
- Wulf: Sakiya, Brother Erandur needs to be fed and get some sleep. Please inform Jarl Brina of our success. Assure her I will visit soon.
- Sakiya: Will do.
- Wulf: Brother Erandur, please place your hand on my shoulder.
- Erandur: Why?
- Wulf: You must have physical contact with me so that I can teleport you to my home and save days of travel and saddle sores. When I know you better, physical contact will not be required.
Sakiya vanished. Erandur looked at where she had been with fear, but still, he timidly placed his hand on my shoulder.
I instructed Erandur, “Hold your breath. Don’t be afraid, for we shall only be in the darkness and cold for a couple of seconds.”
Seconds later, we were inside the entrance of Silverpeak Lodge. I had to pry Erandur’s hand from my shoulder.
I asked, “Did you find that experience interesting?”
“The cold and dark were extreme. I never thought such a place could exist!”
“The ethereal plane is devoid of all light and warmth. Even The Void seems bright and cheerful in comparison.”
“I have never understood what The Void is.”
“Ninety-five per cent of all matter in the universe exists in a form that we cannot see. It is all around us but is a different state of existence. Our mortal senses are not attuned to it, although some beings can detect changes in The Void. Time and The Void are interlinked. A change in time can cause a ripple effect in The Void.”
“Much of metaphysics is gobblygook. Come, I will show you a couple of rooms and introduce you to my friends.”
We walked to the shrine room.
Erandur exclaimed, “You have shrines of Daedric Princes!”
“Yes, The Reclamations, Auri-El, and, because one of my friends asked, Nocturnal. I fully support religious freedom as long as no harm is done to innocents.”
Erandur pointed to the animals.
“What are those creatures?”
“They are part of my daughter’s menagerie. She has a way of befriending animals which I believe is a blessing from Lady Kynareth.”
“Are you married?”
“No, I adopted Olette recently. Current circumstances don’t allow my beloved and me to marry. You will learn all about Rigmor, and I will divulge secrets to explain our predicament.”
I took Erandur around the tables and introduced him to everybody.
Wujeeta then took control and made sure Erandur was fed.
I retired to my room, and although a naked Rigmor was a tempting prospect, she had to remain in Bruma. Still, we managed to talk for several hours before sleep beckoned.