Turdas, 20th Sun’s Dusk, 4E 201
to Loredas, 22nd Sun’s Dusk, 4E 201
When we materialised at Fort Dawnguard, the sky was overcast.
- Wulf: Even overcast, this is much more pleasant than the Soul Cairn. That place was so dull I would prefer to visit a hundred Dwemer ruins.
- Serana: All colours were muted. The trees and plants were dead, and every building was a crumbling ruin.
- Wulf: The Ideal Masters created that realm and could make it colourful and exciting. It makes me wonder what kind of creatures they are. Do they not value beauty at all?
- Rigmor: You seem to have trouble describing how bad it was.
- Wulf: You are right. Therefore I will show you.
I connected to Rigmor via an Empathetic Link and showed her some memories of the Soul Cairn.
- Rigmor: That isn’t very pleasant!
- Serana: Are you showing Rigmor your memories?
- Wulf: Yes, via an Empathetic Link.
- Serana: Is that another bit of Psijic Order magic?
- Wulf: No, it is a natural ability I have. It is not one of the blessings given by The Nine.
- Rigmor: Serana, has your mother lived in that boring place for a thousand years?
- Serana: Mother has been there all that time but was enclosed in a small area. She was being held captive by The Ideal Masters.
- Wulf: When we next sit down for a meal, I will tell you of our trip through the Soul Cairn. The vital thing to know is the prophecy requires the blood of a Daughter of Coldharbour to corrupt Ariel’s Bow. Valerica, Serana’s mother, thinks Lord Harkon would kill Serana to obtain all of her blood, even though the prophecy doesn’t specify that requirement.
- Serana: That is why Mother hid me away and took the Elder Scroll to the Soul Cairn. Father would not hesitate to kill me if he discovered that part of the prophecy.
- Wulf: We released Valerica from her prison. However, she is also a Daughter of Coldharbour, which is why she stays in the Soul Cairn until we eliminate Lord Harkon.
- Serana: Wulf managed to squeeze some truths from Mother. I now know why Molag Bal turned my parents into Vampire Lords. They killed many innocents to gain his favour and promised I would participate in the rape ceremony. They were never kind people, and I have been living a lie.
- Rigmor: Oh, I am so sorry to hear that, Serana.
- Serana: My life began anew when Wulf released me from stasis. I regard what came before as a sad chapter I am leaving behind. Or should I say I will leave it behind?
- Wulf: Yes, we still have some things to do to end the threat. Therefore, let’s visit our favourite Moth Priest.
- Inigo: My friend, if you know what is written in the last Elder Scroll, why do we need a further reading?
- Wulf: Some Elder Scrolls will not divulge all information they contain in one reading. I hope another reading will tell us where to find Auriel’s Bow. I haven’t talked much about how strange Elder Scrolls are but think about this. How did I find the same Elder Scroll used by the ancient Tongues to banish Alduin? How did that Elder Scroll become part of this prophecy? There is intelligence behind Elder Scrolls and many other relics.
- Inigo: Like the Ring of the Khajiit! If it decides its current owner is not doing the right thing, it loses itself and is found later by a more worthy mortal.
- Rigmor: And Meridia’s Beacon found Wulf.
- Wulf: And every time Rigmor turns around, she finds another Sweetroll!
- Rigmor: They are not relics.
- Wulf: You are correct. Something must be old to be a relic, and Sweetrolls never last long when you see them.
- Rigmor: Lucky for me, they don’t make me fat, do they, Wulf?
- Wulf: Um…ahh…
- Rigmor: WULF!
- Wulf: No…no…of course, they don’t make you fat!
- Inigo: That was a close call, my friend.
We entered Fort Dawnguard and saw Dexion standing still and turning his head from side to side. I guessed that he was blind.
Dexion heard our approach and turned to face us. The bandage over his eyes confirmed my guess.
- Wulf: Brother Evicus, are you blind?
- Dexion: Yes, and it is my fault. In my haste to read Serana’s Elder Scroll, I neglected the careful preparation required. I have only recently read your Elder Scroll, so the danger was more significant. I mistakenly thought I could alleviate the after-effects. Now I am paying for my foolishness.
- Wulf: I am a Master of Restoration. Perhaps I can restore your eyesight?
- Dexion: I am afraid not, as no mortal magic can repair it. The blindness may be temporary and have to run its course. It may be some time before we know if it is permanent.
- Wulf: This is too steep a price. I am so sorry. I knew that members of your order risk this infliction and should have considered that before asking you to read Serana’s Elder Scroll. Please, forgive me for my thoughtlessness.
- Dexion: What is there to forgive? I have dedicated my life to reading and deciphering the Elder Scrolls. The same could have happened when I read yours at the museum. If I hadn’t read Serana’s, some other Moth Priest would have risked their sight instead. That would have been cowardly and selfish of me to allow such a thing.
- Wulf: It sounds callous, but we can’t wait and hope your eyesight returns. I will have to act fast and get the Elder Scroll read in The Imperial City.
- Dexion: It is not insensitive at all but simply practical. There is another way that will save you time. The question is, how much are you willing to risk to find Auriel’s Bow?
- Wulf: I do not want the bow for any selfish reason. I need the bow to stop a catastrophe, namely, the masking of the Sun. I am constantly risking all to help the mortals of Nirn, Brother Evicus, so tell me what needs doing.
- Dexion: I can’t guarantee you would be free from harm. Becoming blind could be the least of your worries.
- Wulf: I understand and accept the risks.
- Dexion: Scattered across Tamriel are secluded locations known as Ancestor Glades. There is one in Skyrim, in a pine forest northeast of Peak’s Shade Tower.
I recalled my map from memory, and the Ancestor Glade was marked.
- Wulf: Yes, I see it is at the foot of the Jerall Mountains. We could get there quickly from Falkreath, but snitches are probably watching the cities and towns. We can get there just as quickly from one of my new properties and reduce the chance of being found.
- Serana: Will it take long to get there?
- Wulf: It is a reasonably easy walk from my house though it is a steep climb. It is not far from the Bloodlet Throne. A clan of vampires that eats children lived there once.
- Serana: That is the coven you destroyed.
- Wulf: Yes. They lure children when sleeping using a dweomer I assume was a present from Molag Bal. The vampires had captured a young orphan girl who was living with us. I went to retrieve the child, and they attacked me. I did not hunt them down, but I wiped them out after they attacked! Dozens fell to my wrath, and I was much weaker then. So, when Lord Harkon boasted of his powers, it was difficult not to laugh. According to some notes I read inside Bloodlet Throne, this clan has covens in other parts of Tamriel. Any child affected by the dweomer would find their way to the nearest coven. The children they did not consume were sent to their Broodmother for purposes unknown. I protected the rescued child with items I found inside that terrible place, and they will never lure her again.
- Serana: And is the child still living with you?
- Wulf: No, some friends adopted her.
- Dexion: I find this discussion fascinating, but we had better talk about the Ancestor Glade.
- Wulf: Sorry, Brother Evicus. Please, explain what I have to do in the Ancestor Glade.
- Dexion: You must perform ‘The Ritual of the Ancestor Moth’ within the glade. This ritual will allow you to read an Elder Scroll.
- Celestine: Wulf, we long discussed Ancestor Moths in Akavir. You found them fascinating. What was that book that mentioned them?
- Wulf: The Pocket Guide to The Empire, Cyrodiil Volume.
- Celestine: Can you please recite the passage that refers to them?
- Wulf: Let me make sure, yes, I remember it.
- Serana: You will quote a passage from some dusty old esoteric tome?
- Rigmor: Wulf never forgets what he reads.
- Inigo: If you noticed, my friend did not unroll his map to find the glade. He has memorised that as well.
- Celestine: His ability to memorise things is one of Wulf’s natural abilities that appealed to The Divines when they were looking for a mortal champion.
The passage reads, “For long the Cyro-Nordics had exported ancestor-silks to other regions, simple yet exotic shawls woven from the silks of an indigenous gipsy moth and inscribed with the requisite genealogy of its buyer. Under the Cult, however, ancestor and moth became synonymous: the singing and hymnal spirits of one’s forebears are caught in a special silk-gathering ritual, the resource used to create any manner of vestment or costume.”
- Dexion: Yes, that is the origin of my order.
- Wulf: I read my Elder Scroll without the use of Ancestor Moths. But I think I know why and how the moths will allow me to read another.
- Felix: How high is this on the gobblygook scale?
- Wulf: I might have to use some strange words, but it is not as gobblygook as the Elder Scrolls.
- Felix: Okay, my brain is ready.
- Wulf: To read my Elder Scroll, I had to stand within a Time Wound. It was like a festering sore, making me queasy when looking at it. To any being sensitive to sequential time, Time Wound is an apt name for the phenomena.
- Celestine: The Time Wound was created when the Ancient Tongues used the Elder Scroll to banish Alduin.
- Wulf: When I stood within the Time Wound and unrolled the Elder Scroll, I was in two moments at once. I was simultaneously when the Elder Scroll was used to banish Alduin and in the present. Because of my dragon soul, I have an affinity for sequential time. This affinity allowed me to make sense of both times at once. Being in the Time Wound and sequential time affinity gave me access to the same ancient magic that the Ancestor Moths possess. I assume the Ancestor Glade’s ritual will provide me access to this ancient magic.
- Dexion: ‘Primal Augury’ is what we call that ancient magic.
- Inigo: I know my friend can read and understand many languages, but I find it hard to believe moths will read an Elder Scroll to him!
- Dexion: Oh, the moths don’t read the scrolls. However, they maintain a connection to the Primal Augury. If you listen closely when within the glade, you should be able to hear their song, which is a soft, harmonious trilling. Through this ancestral chorus, the moths tap into the Primal Augury and become a conduit for deciphering the scrolls by the Moth Priests.
- Inigo: Oh, so the moths decipher the Elder Scroll unintentionally via some gobblygook, and the Moth Priests use more gobblygook to understand the stuff the moths didn’t know they knew.
- Dexion: Ah… um… no. The moths only provide access to the Primal Augury. The same way Wulf’s sequential time affinity while standing in the Time Wound did.
- Inigo: Aha… I understand! Why can’t they just read fish guts like some village shamans I met on my travels?
- Felix: Brother Evicus would then be a Fish Gut Priest. That is not a title anybody would want!
- Serana: By having the Ancestor Moths close to the Moth Priest, they can utilize a conduit via the moths to the Primal Augury.
- Dexion: Precisely! It can take a few or many Ancestor Moths to be nearby. Only the most resilient of priests can do it this way, as it takes years of practice to interpret the harmony of the conduit.
- Serana: If that is so, how can Wulf hope to interpret the harmony or establish a conduit?
- Dexion: You’ve found several Elder Scrolls. Whether you believe it or not, the scrolls have a mind of their own. If they didn’t want Wulf to find them, they wouldn’t allow it. Because of this, I firmly believe he was meant to hear the ancestral chorus.
- Wulf: That might be true. However, I believe I have a chance because of my affinity for time, and I have previously connected to the Primal Augury. The Ancestor Glade is our quickest option and is worth trying first.
- Serana: Somebody from Bruma can always visit The White-Gold Tower if the glade doesn’t work out.
- Felix: Go ahead and rub more salt into the wound, Serana.
- Celestine: Brother Evicus, can you please explain the ritual in detail?
- Dexion: Wulf must carefully remove bark from a Canticle Tree. When carrying this bark, Ancestor Moths will be attracted to him. Once enough of the moths follow Wulf, they’ll provide him with the ‘second sight’ or conduit needed to decipher the scrolls.
- Serana: The Ancestor Glade will contain ‘Canticle Trees’?
- Dexion: There has to be at least one there to keep the Ancestor Moths within the glade. Otherwise, they would go searching for them elsewhere. Tradition dictates that Wulf must use a specific tool to gather the bark. It is an implement known as a Draw Knife, and there should also be one or more of those within the glade.
- Rigmor: The Ancestor Glades sounds like places of peace and beauty.
- Dexion: Indeed, they are! As I mentioned earlier, if you listen when you enter the glade, you should hear the song of the Ancestor Moths. It is a soft, harmonious trilling. The beauty of the glade helps relax the Moth Priest and allows the almost hypnotic state required to access the conduit. When the Thalmor captured the White-Gold Tower, they destroyed our most ancient Canticle Trees and desecrated our glade. Even though it was rarely used, its mindless destruction caused much grief amongst my brethren.
- Wulf: It would have been destroyed at the behest of Boethia. But that is another story for another day.
- Rigmor: Will the glade be full of people enjoying its beauty? It is on Wulf’s map. Therefore people must know of it.
- Dexion: I doubt there will be anybody in the glade. Many people find the glades uncomfortable as they subconsciously connect to the conduit for brief periods. That is also why it is rare to find animals using the glades as dens. The glades have become places associated with superstitions and primal fears, and Moth Priests might tell a few tall tales to enforce those fears.
- Inigo: I approve of the deviousness!
- Lydia: You would, being a bandit and burglar.
- Inigo: Used to be. Like you used to be young and desirable.
- Felix: And the blue underdog, or cat, scores a badly needed point.
- Dexion: This may be premature, but what will you do with the Elder Scrolls if we all survive this prophecy?
- Serana: I will gift the other two Elder Scrolls to Wulf. They are of value to my parents only as tools in their power struggles. When that is ended, they will have no further use for them.
- Wulf: I believe others need to study them. We will allow them to be read by Moth Priests, but I also want their dweomer investigated. That may give us some insight into Dawn Magic. Therefore, the Elder Scrolls will remain accessible via The College of Winterhold and my museum.
- Dexion: That is a wise choice. Fresh minds may provide fresh insights. At least with the museum and college, the Elder Scrolls will not be lost to the people. I cannot say the same for the Elder Scrolls in possession of The Synod. The Emperor needs to order their return!
- Celestine: Along with many other relics that The Synod has stolen over the years.
- Wulf: I couldn’t agree more, Brother Evicus. The Synod needs to be brought to heal. Now, we must be on our way, and I thank you for your assistance.
- Rigmor: We are teleporting to one of your new houses and walking?
- Wulf: Yes, we shall teleport to Lakeview Manor. It is a beautiful house, but we won’t spend any time there. Maybe soon I can give you a tour of my new estates.
- Dexion: I hope you find the answers you seek.
Dexion wandered off and was greeted by several Dawnguard.
My friends gathered around me, and I teleported us to Lakeview Manor.
Bun-Za saw us materialise and said, “I haven’t got time to talk, my Thane, as I need to make and deliver some more blue pills to the Jarl. He has a bevvy of young ladies applying for positions in the longhouse, and he wants to try new positions. How he exhausted the stock of pills I delivered last week is beyond me. He pays well, so who am I to argue? Oh, I got rid of the Falkreath guards. They were as untrustworthy as the Jarl, and some expensive items vanished from the house. Please find some replacements soon, as I have spent too much time turning bandits and other nasties into piles of ash and not enough time making potions.”
Bun-za disappeared inside the house, and I laughed.
Celestine asked, “Was that Bun-za?”
“Yes, he is one of the stewards I hired. Do you know him from the college?”
“Yes, and he stood out in a place full of eccentrics.”
“He is unique but also very efficient. I will look into some new guards soon. Meantime, let us head for the Ancestor Glade!”
An enormous wolf decided a knight in full plate armour looked delicious. The knight and his warhorse were doing well, but one slip could mean their demise. Therefore, I intervened and killed the wolf. The knight thanked me in a heavy High Rock accent and rode away.
A while later, we saw some people tackling a large boar. When they saw us, they switched their attention to us.
They did not live long after that foolish decision.
Serana asked, “Do random bandits often attack this heavily armed and armoured group?”
“All the time. I don’t mind as we get to clear the roads of more vermin.”
We came upon a small hut destroyed by Dragonfire.
There were two charred corpses outside the hut.
- Wulf: This attack was recent. I would say they were killed two days ago at the most.
- Serana: Did a dragon do this?
- Wulf: Yes, but I can’t hear one nearby. I will ask Vayu to bring the new Blade recruits here and see if they can find the offender.
- Celestine: It is disappointing that some dragons cannot control their impulses.
- Wulf: It is not unexpected, and many rogue dragons may exist. That is why we will need Blades that can work independently of us. Vayu was overseeing their training, so this will be a chance for him to assess their fieldwork.
We continued and were soon climbing a familiar path.
I looked at Rigmor, and we talked via our amulets. She said, “Yes, Wulf, I remember this trail. All of that seems so long ago, and I hardly made it to Angi’s.”
“You did well that day, considering the injuries you had.”
“What happened to that wonderful armour you gave me?”
“Well, it wasn’t suitable attire for the sacrificial table.”
“Haha. So, it might still be in that fort?”
“Maybe, but I never want to visit there and look for it. I think there is a similar suit of armour in my collection. I will have a look if you remind me.”
“Will do. Is the glade much further?”
“No, we should turn off this path soon. It is a shame we miss out on the steep parts.”
“Oh, yes, so sad.”
We both laughed, and Serana looked concerned.
Inigo told her, “Do not worry, Serana. They are speaking to each other telepathically. They are not insane and do not simultaneously laugh at nothing.”
A short time later, we turned left and followed a ridge for some distance.
Then we found the entrance to the glade. Next to the entrance was a small camp with a single bedroll. The fire was out, but warmth still emanated from it.
- Wulf: I would not be surprised to find Lord Harkon has mortal snitches placed everywhere associated with Moth Priests and Elder Scrolls.
- Serana: He is not as bright as Mother, but Father would do as you suggested.
- Rigmor: A snitch might have seen us coming up the trail and is now on his way to earn some gold.
- Wulf: Inigo, use that huge proboscis of yours at the entrance.
We stood at the entrance, and Inigo did his usual sniffing.
- Wulf: What does your nose tell you, Inigo?
- Inigo: I smell fresh air and flowers coming from the glade. There is no hint of animal or vampire.
- Wulf: When we get inside, only Rigmor and Serana will be with me when I read the scroll. I want the rest of you to guard the entrance.
- Lydia: Will you be vulnerable while reading the Elder Scroll?
- Wulf: I don’t know. I might go into a trance.
- Celestine: There is another reason you only want those two with you. It is for our safety we are not near you.
- Lydia: Please explain.
- Celestine: Sometimes, reading an Elder Scroll causes insanity. Do you want to be close to an insane Wulf?
- Wulf: If I go insane, everybody runs. On the way out, put up your best barriers at the entrance. Then seek help from the Priests and Priestesses at the Temple of The Divines in Solitude.
- Serana: If you think that is possible, let Rigmor stay with the others. Let me be the only one with you when you read the scroll.
- Rigmor: It is difficult for you, Serana, as you don’t know our secrets. Wulf and I share a thing we call Our Quiet. When together, our thought processes are more precise, and we worry less. It is like we are isolated from the world. Wulf wants me close as an anchor to reality and sanity.
- Wulf: Even if insane, I could never lash out and hurt Rigmor. That I something I know for sure.
- Rigmor: You could sweeten the deal a bit more, my Dragonborn.
- Wulf: Yes, Rigmor, if I am going to go blind, I want you to be the last thing I see.
- Celestine: That is excellent work, Rigmor. He is well-trained!
- Rigmor: Thank you.
- Felix: Wulf is lost to us, Inigo. Looking closely, you can see the thumbprints on his forehead.
- Serana: I don’t think any of you is right in the head.
- Lydia: True, but we no longer dribble and rock back and forth.
- Felix: You don’t? I will have to try harder!
We entered the glade, but the corridor was far too narrow to fight a melee safely if one was to occur. Therefore, we stayed together as we moved further into the cave.
We had to cross a small ravine using a fallen log and traverse a series of narrow, switchback corridors.
We eventually exited into a large cavern, and several people sighed at the beauty they saw.
I turned and issued instructions.
“Inigo, stand at the entrance to this cavern. Your nose and ears will give you plenty of warning if Lord Harkon sends any goons here. The rest of you, please don’t get any closer to the water. I think that is where I will read the Elder Scroll. Rigmor and Serana, let’s go collect some bark and moths.”
We made our way to the water and could see a tree we didn’t recognise and decided it must be the Canticle Tree.
A scraping implement, similar to those you use on leather, floated in the middle of a stone ring. Behind the stone ring was a beam of light. Instinctively, I knew that was where I needed to read the scroll. I assumed the implement was a Draw Knife and took it to the Canticle Tree.
I gently scrapped the top surface of the Canticle Tree’s bark and let the shavings fall onto my armour. Then, after half a dozen scrapes, I stepped away from the tree.
The Ancestor Moths congregated in small whispers of half a dozen. I approached a whisper, and the moths circled and followed as I moved elsewhere.
Rigmor laughed and said, “You are starting to glimmer?”
“Do you hear the trilling?”
“Well, it is fairly loud for me. I hope I don’t have to gather too many whispers.”
“That is the collective noun for moths.”
“Yeah, right. Pffft!”
Serana came to my defence and said, “He is correct, Rigmor. A group of moths is called a whisper.”
I poked my tongue out at Rigmor and raspberried.
Serana asked, “Rigmor, how can we possibly know if Wulf has gone insane?”
She replied, “I have no idea, Serana.”
I walked around and gathered more whispers. Each one that joined with me made the trilling louder. I started to see the Primal Augury and thought I could trace its lines. Rigmor was close to me, and Our Quiet made me think logically. Trying to trace the Primal Augury is a sure path to insanity.
After I collected seven whispers, the trilling became something more. Sometimes when I stare at the stars, I can hear murmuring, not unlike the many voices of a busy inn. The volume rises and lowers randomly, and I know I hear a language, but I can’t pick out individual sentences or words. I was receiving the same from the Ancestor Moths. There must be a connection between the two phenomena.
Instinct told me enough moths surrounded me. I said, “I am ready to do the reading. Serana, please stay a fair distance. Rigmor, please stand in front of me when I move into position.”
I stepped into the light beam, and the trilling was as loud as a Shout.
I looked at Rigmor and smiled but failed to transfer my confidence to her. She was worried.
I unfurled the Elder Scroll, and my mind was inundated with information. It was too much so I let the scroll rewind into its tube.
I repeated that process several times. Each time, the information I received made more sense. My mind was decoding something it understood, even if I didn’t.
In the end, my mind had decoded a map with the ancient symbol for Solitude, a wolf, in the top right corner. The symbol for Markarth was at the bottom left. The mountains and rivers of Skyrim were shown and provided points of reference. A symbol denoted the Ancestor Glade in which I stood. Another symbol denoted a place called Darkfall Cave. That is where our search for Auriel’s Bow must commence. The Elder Scroll did not say it was there. I knew more information was provided, but it lacked the context to make sense. I did not pursue it as it would be revealed when needed.
I used my willpower to disconnect from the Primal Augury. There was an attraction to it that trapped some people’s minds, which was another source of insanity.
As I closed the Elder Scroll, there was a bright flash. Then Rigmor came into focus, and the Ancestor Moths flew away.
I stepped closer to Rigmor and smiled. Serana saw I was okay and joined us.
- Rigmor: Wulf, are you okay? Can you see anything?
- Wulf: I am looking at the most beautiful thing in existence.
- Serana: Are you, um…sane?
- Wulf: ALBATROSS!
- Serana: Oh, no!
- Rigmor: Don’t panic, Serana. He says that all the time.
- Serana: Why?
- Wulf: Why not?
- Rigmor: I shared some of what you saw, Wulf.
- Wulf: Oh, we should have thought of that possibility.
- Serana: Are you sure that you’re alright?
- Wulf: I am perfectly healthy, Serana, with all mental faculties intact.
- Serana: I have never trusted those damn scrolls. Just look at Dexion! Who knows what those things could have done to you?
- Wulf: It was just another risk that needed to be taken. There will be more of them as they come with the task I have accepted.
- Rigmor: That map at the end shows where Auriel’s Bow is.
- Wulf: It shows where we start to look for it. I think there was more information embedded that will only make sense later.
- Serana: So where do we go?
- Wulf: We start in a place called Darkfall Cave. I know precisely where it is.
- Serana: Then it is almost over. We can finally put an end to this ridiculous prophecy.
- Rigmor: Come on then, Dragonbum, no dawdling!
- Wulf: We should visit here for a picnic with the children. I doubt they will tap into the Primal Augury.
- Rigmor: That is a good idea. Now get moving!
- Wulf: Yes, milady.
As we approached our waiting friends, we heard Inigo laugh and say, “Did you think you could sneak past Inigo the Brave?”
We ran the rest of the distance and found Inigo carving up vampires, gargoyles and thralls with ease.
The group soon disposed of the enemies.
- Wulf: If Lord Harkon keeps this up, nobody will be left in the castle to defend it.
- Inigo: Are you okay, my friend?
- Wulf: You know, you remind me of myself at a young age. I only cared about riding narwhales, sleeping in honeycombs and drinking babies’ tears. Word of advice, if you ever ride a narwhale, mind the pointy end.
- Lydia: Ah…should we run and put up a barrier?
- Wulf: Can you please be quiet? I’m busy doing the fish stick, and it’s a very delicate state of mind!
- Serana: Wulf is perfectly fine, although his sense of humour needs help.
- Wulf: That’s not fair! I had many more Uncle Sheo quotes begging to be used.
- Lydia: What did you learn from the scroll?
- Wulf: I know where we have to go next. It is called Darkfall Cave. Auriel’s Bow is not in there, but it is part of the path leading to it.
- Inigo: What did the Elder Scroll say?
- Wulf: It was not words but a map and directions given to me by the Elder Scroll.
- Rigmor: I saw the map but do not know how to interpret the symbols on it.
- Celestine: Your empathetic link with Rigmor must be sending The Divines insane.
- Wulf: I find it comforting. The Nine don’t know everything. It means they would still have a sense of wonder.
- Felix: How would Dexion have communicated a map to us? Draw it out?
- Wulf: The vision I had did not seem related to the prophecy, unlike what the Moth Priest saw when he read it for Valerica. I think the Elder Scroll wants me to find Auriel’s Bow or just knew that is what I sought.
- Inigo: When that crazy mage read your Elder Scroll, he was given the secret to opening the Dwemer Lock Box and nothing else. Perhaps each Elder Scroll has multiple uses?
- Wulf: You are correct, my blue genius. The Moth Priest who read Valerica’s Elder Scroll to her must have seen information I did not.
- Serana: There was nothing related to my father. But I don’t suppose we need a prophecy to foresee his future.
- Wulf: There is more to play out before such decisions need to be made.
- Celestine: How do we get to Darkfall Cave?
- Wulf: It is deep in Forsworn territory northwest of Dragon Bridge and close to Mor Khazgur Stronghold. I have been along that way, and it is quite a picturesque walk. The Forsworn in that area are not very friendly.
- Felix: Undoubtedly, it will involve a steep climb. You never take us anywhere lovely and flat or downhill.
- Wulf: It was logical that if Harkon knew about Ancestor Glades, he would have a sentry or two posted outside this one. There is no reason for him to suspect Darkfall Cave is relevant to the prophecy.
- Serana: Let us go before more of the clan appear.
We exited the Ancestor Grove to see if other Volkihar Clan minions were around. When we didn’t see any, I teleported us to Dragon Bridge.
It was a steep climb after we exited Dragon Bridge, and Felix grumbled.
We walked past a sleeping bear. The rest of us are used to Kyne’s Peace, but Serana is not, and she took a wider birth around it.
A while later, Inigo said, “My friend, there is a….”
“…dragon flying towards us.”
A Glacial Dragon hovered over us and said, “Dovahkiin, I am Krivaanzun and do not fear you.”
“Then you are a fool and will die a fool’s death.”
Dragonrend brought Krivaanzun to the ground.
Seconds later, I slew him.
As I absorbed Krivaanzun’s soul, Forsworn from Bruca’s Leap Redoubt attacked us.
I was already angry and upset about the death of a foolish dragon. The Forsworn attack triggered my temper and doomed their entire clan to annihilation.
I used my Thu’um and said, “YOU JUST SAW ME KILL A DRAGON AND SAVE YOUR PEOPLE. YET YOU ATTACK US FOR NO REASON OTHER THAN A DESIRE TO HARM US. I AM THE DRAGONBORN, AND YOU WILL ALL DIE FOR YOUR IDIOCY! NO OTHER TRAVELLER WILL NEED TO WORRY ABOUT YOU FROM TODAY.”
I then proceeded to kill dozens of Forsworn in minutes.
When we exited their cave system, Serana wanted to speak to me. Rigmor grabbed her arm, and when Serana looked at my beloved, she shook her head. Serana understood. I was to be left alone to my thoughts.
I had calmed down somewhat when we saw a foolish mage tackling a Clannfear. I disposed of the Daedra, but instead of thanks, the mage trained her Destruction magic on me.
I growled, “What is wrong with people? Can’t they thank me for saving their arse?”
I cut the mage down.
Then I examined the Clannfear.
Inigo asked, “My friend, what is that ugly thing?”
“I don’t know the mage’s name.”
“No, the green thing.”
“It is a Clannfear and is a low-level Daedra. It seems the mage summoned it and couldn’t control it.”
After more steep climbing, we arrived at the entrance to Darkfall Cave.
Inigo sniffed, then said, “There are many spiders inside, my friend.”
“They will not attack us, so leave them be.”
“Can’t I just squish a couple?”
“No, Inigo. Killing animals under the influence of Kyne’s Peace is immoral. Like your Skooma addiction, you need to control your spider-squishing addiction.”
We saw plenty of spiders before arriving at a bridge over a fast-flowing river.
I turned to the group.
- Wulf: Some information given to me by the Elder Scroll will save us time.
- Rigmor: How?
- Wulf: Well, we can stroll through hours of spider-infested tunnels or use a shortcut.
- Serana: Obviously, we would want to take the shortcut.
- Rigmor: Not so quick, Serana. There is a catch to the shortcut, isn’t there, Dragonbum?
- Wulf: I don’t want to spoil the fun. How about you follow me and enjoy the ride?
- Rigmor: But…
- Inigo: Rigmor, where is your sense of adventure?
- Rigmor: Honestly, the next person to use that line on me will get a punch in the kisser!
- Wulf: Here we go!
I took two steps along a bridge that spanned the river. Then I leapt into the water.
As I was swept along, I heard splashes indicating my friends had followed.
When I went over a waterfall, giant spiders accompanied me down.
As I was swept towards another waterfall, I could hear Rigmor’s laughter. She still had her sense of adventure.
I landed in a much broader section of the river that became a shallow stream over a rocky bottom.
I watched my friends, and accompanying spiders, emerge from the spray.
It wasn’t long before we were gathered together once more.
- Wulf: Wasn’t that fun?
- Serena: Did the Elder Scroll tell you that it was safe and you would survive that route?
- Wulf: Well, no, but it didn’t tell me I would die, either.
- Lydia: What about Inigo’s family? They probably drowned!
- Inigo: My fleas are perfectly okay, and Mr Dragonfly says you are a bitch. I reminded him that it was a bit sexist and not a nice thing to say.
- Rigmor: Don’t listen to any party poopers, Wulf. That was fun!
- Wulf: There is only one way out of this cavern, so let’s go!
We came upon a small camp. Two bedrolls indicated two people, but only one could be seen. She was dead, and her injuries were consistent with a troll attack.
I searched the corpse and recovered a blood-soaked note. I read it aloud,
“Sister, I know you’ll come to find me, but it will be too late. If you find this letter, get out of this forsaken cave as soon as possible. We were fools to think we could live so close to such creatures and live peacefully.
I should’ve headed back to camp with you after we placed the torches down here. I thought these trolls would be different, that they would somehow understand that we didn’t want to hurt them.
I am now cornered, and it’s only a matter of time before one of the trolls decides to finish me off. I hope it is a quick death.
Farewell, my dear sister.”
- Wulf: I think her brother is a troll turd by now.
- Serana: That is a bit heartless, joking like that.
- Wulf: I feel sorry for every lonely death I find in the caves and ruins I navigate. Their senseless deaths make me angry, so I will joke because whatever you think of me then is better than my anger, as demonstrated earlier. These two were foolish and ill-prepared for the reality of places like this.
- Felix: Spend any time with soldiers, and you will find the same dark humour. It is natural, and it helps.
- Serana: Forgive me. I have a lot to learn about mortals, it seems.
- Wulf: Now, if everybody will remain quiet while I perform Arkay’s Rights. She looks like a Breton, so it is probably appropriate.
I performed the ceremony, and then we continued.
The siblings had set up a rudimentary tripwire. The troll that killed the woman had stepped over it.
I tripped the wire so that other innocent travellers did not. We then continued.
The narrow tunnels gave way to a large cavern, and we could see two trolls. I drew my bow.
Inigo whispered, “I thought killing animals affected by Kyne’s Peace was immoral?”
“They have killed people, Inigo. They will now regard people as easy prey and can’t be left to kill others.”
I quickly disposed of the two trolls.
When we investigated their home, we found the remains of the brother. Once again, I performed Arkay’s Rights.
We were at one end of a large cavern. There were no visible exits, so we decided to travel to the other end.
We travelled for a few minutes, and then I put my hand up, signalling a halt and silence.
We could see somebody praying before an altar of Auri-El. He was a Mer, but his skin was pale, almost white. Logic told me what he was, but still, it was hard to believe.
I used Heat Vision, and he gave off no body heat. I tried looking at his aura, and he had none.
- Rigmor: Who is it?
- Wulf: I would say he is a Falmer. Not one of the blind snarling ones, but a Snow Elf. However, he gives off no body heat and has no aura.
- Celestine: A ghost of some sort?
- Wulf: I don’t know. We best approach him with weapons sheathed and not comment on his seeming deadness.
- Serana: Well, I doubt he is a devotee of a Dark Lord. They don’t often pray in front of Aedra shrines.
We approached with weapons sheathed and hoped we were not considered a threat. We halted out of weapons reach.
He said, “Come forward. You have nothing to fear here.”
We moved closer, and without using Heat Vision or trying to detect an aura, I would believe the entity to be a mortal. I scanned his soul and had never encountered anything like it. The best way of describing it is a shadow of a soul. The actual soul was elsewhere. Then it dawned on me. What was in front of us was an avatar. I put the mystery of his existence aside. For now, I needed to concentrate on our task.
- Wulf: If you are a servant of my Celestial Father, I should have nothing to fear.
- Gelebor: I am Knight-Paladin Gelebor. Welcome to the Great Chantry of Auri-El.
- Wulf: I am Wulf, Dragonborn and Champion of The Divines. I am honoured to be within this Chantry.
- Gelebor: Ah, that explains the Celestial Father bit. After thousands of years, you are the first of Auri-El’s blessed to come this way.
- Serana: We know little of the Falmer. Your lifespan must be considerable!
- Gelebor: I prefer Snow Elf. The name ‘Falmer’ usually holds a negative meaning to most travellers.
- Wulf: Only negative to the ignorant of which we are not. But if Snow Elf is your preference, we will comply.
- Gelebor: As for my prolonged life, I believe our sovereign, Auri-El, has something to do with that. I have no idea what keeps my brother alive, however. But more of him in a minute.
- Wulf: Do you have a preferred name for Falmer?
- Gelebor: I call them The Betrayed.
- Serana: I imagine you know why we are here.
- Gelebor: Of course. You’re here for Auriel’s Bow. Why else would you be here?
- Inigo: We heard rumours of arrogant Mer who asked stupid rhetorical questions. We wanted to meet one of them.
- Wulf: We do not seek the bow for profit or other base needs. We seek it to stop a prophecy that threatens all mortals. You would know why Auri-El’s blessed mortals are placed on Nirn.
- Gelebor: They are placed on Nirn as Auri-El’s mortal champions in times of great need.
- Wulf: Then you understand why I need the bow.
- Serana: Do you know where Auriel’s Bow is?
- Gelebor: Yes, I can help you get it, but first, I must have your assistance.
- Wulf: Would Auri-El want you to bargain over something needed to aid others? I have told you why we are here.
- Gelebor: I am afraid the aid I require is the only way you can retrieve Auriel’s Bow. For it is guarded by my brother, Arch-Curate Vyrthur, and he needs to die.
- Wulf: I am no assassin, Knight-Paladin! I will never agree to kill somebody unless I know they have committed offences deserving of that punishment.
- Celestine: Why do you want your brother dead?
- Gelebor: The kinship between us is long gone. I don’t understand what he has become, but he is no longer the brother I once knew.
- Wulf: I will need an excellent explanation of why the most senior member of this chantry, therefore loved by Lord Akatosh, should die.
- Gelebor: It was The Betrayed. They did something to him, and I don’t know why Auri-El would allow this to happen.
- Wulf: You should know better than to ask such an ignorant question. Exactly how is Auri-El going to intervene? The Aedra have never been able to manifest upon their creation. That is why they need mortal champions. Why don’t you ask Auri-El why he didn’t save your entire race from the Nords and Dwemer?
- Rigmor: Knight-Paladin, I advise you to explain what you think happened with some clarity.
- Gelebor: The Betrayed swept into the Chantry and began killing everyone without pause.
- Wulf: That is nothing unusual. I assume the mace you carry is not just decorative?
- Gelebor: The Chantry was a place of peaceful worship. I led a small group of paladins, but we were no match for the Betrayed’s sheer numbers.
- Wulf: You were in the middle of a genocide. Logic dictates more than a handful of paladins would have been prudent! It could just easily have been a horde of mindless Nords.
- Inigo: My friend, what is done is done. We need to concentrate on why we are here.
- Gelebor: After slaughtering everybody in the central part of the Chantry, they stormed the Inner Sanctum, where I believe they corrupted Vyrthur.
- Wulf: What makes you think Vyrthur is corrupted, and how could The Betrayed do such a thing? They have rudimentary magic and are not aligned with any Daedric Prince.
- Gelebor: I know my brother. He is different. And it must have been The Betrayed who made him that way. There is no other explanation.
- Wulf: Have you spoken to Vyrthur? If so, what did he say?
- Gelebor: I have only seen him from a distance. But something is wrong. He never looks as though he is in pain or distress. He stands there and watches as though waiting.
- Serana: Have you tried to get into the Inner Sanctum?
- Gelebor: Leaving the wayshrines unguarded would violate my sacred duty as a Knight-Paladin of Auri-El. A solo assault on The Betrayed guarding the Inner Sanctum would only end in my death.
- Wulf: How many who sought Auriel’s Bow have you sent to their deaths over these thousands of years?
- Gelebor: I never forced anybody to attempt the task.
- Wulf: But you never told them the odds they faced, did you? Do you even know what happened to them? If they died, how and what killed them?
- Gelebor: I… never warned them, and I assume The Betrayed killed them all.
- Wulf: The Betrayed are territorial. They would not be guarding the Inner Sanctum but protecting their home. So let me summarise. You think your brother has somehow been corrupted by The Betrayed but have no idea how or what the corruption entails. You accuse him of no crimes yet still expect us to murder him.
- Serana: We need the bow, so we will have to go to the Inner Sanctum.
- Wulf: Listen, Knight-Paladin Gelebor. We shall make our way to the Inner Sanctum, but I do not agree to kill your brother. We will judge him on his actions, not the accusations of his estranged brother. Will you still aid us?
- Gelebor: How can I deny somebody that Auri-El blessed?
- Wulf: Those blessed by a shard of AKA are not guaranteed to be the mortal champion he desires. However, I am.
- Gelebor: Does he speak to you?
- Wulf: Other Aedra and some Daedra do. I don’t believe AKA’s shards speak to anybody.
- Gelebor: Auri-El used to speak to Vyrthur. He was our sovereign’s voice amongst my people and loved by all. I don’t understand why somebody of such strong faith would act as he does. If he is not corrupted, why has he not helped me defend the wayshrines as Auri-El would want him to do?
- Wulf: I don’t know, but perhaps we can find out by reaching the Inner Sanctum. Will you aid us?
- Gelebor: Of course. I would be betraying Auri-El if I didn’t.
- Wulf: If Auri-El once spoke to Vyrthur, he might have been the last mortal to hear his voice.
- Serana: You said you guard wayshrines. What are they?
- Gelebor: Follow me, and I will show you.
We walked over to what I assume was a wayshrine. It was a dome with Auri-El’s symbol, the Sun, on top.
Gelebor cast a spell, and the symbol glowed briefly.
When Auri-El’s symbol returned to normal, the dome rose, revealing an archway allowing access to a hexagonal room with a central font. I recognised what it was from similar items in Aetherius. The walls were portals.
Serana walked over and inspected the wayshrine.
- Serana: So, this is Snow Elf magic. Incredible!
- Wulf: It is a portal.
- Gelebor: This structure is known as a wayshrine. They were used for meditation and transport when the Chantry was a place of enlightenment.
- Celestine: Wulf is right once more. It is a portal.
- Gelebor: Prelates of these shrines were charged with teaching the mantras of Auri-El to our Initiates.
- Serana: What does the basin in the centre signify?
- Gelebor: Once the Initiate completed his mantras, he’d dip a ceremonial ewer in the basin at the wayshrine’s centre and proceed to the next wayshrine.
- Serana: These Initiates had to lug around a heavy water pitcher. Marvellous.
- Gelebor: Well, once the Initiate’s enlightenment was complete, he’d bring the ewer to the Chantry’s Inner Sanctum. Pouring the contents of the ewer into the sacred basin of the Sanctum would allow him to enter for an audience with the Arch-Curate himself.
- Serana: All that water collecting and lugging only to end up dumping it out? It makes no sense to me.
- Celestine: Serana, if there is one person here who should not question the validity or sensibility of a religious ceremony, it is you! Carrying a jug of holy water makes more sense than being raped by a Daedric Prince.
- Serana: Yes, Celestine, you are correct. I apologise, Knight-Paladin Gelebor.
- Gelebor: It is symbolic. I don’t expect you to understand.
- Wulf: You must have handed out hundreds of these ewers over the years. We will probably trip over them!
- Gelebor: There were only a dozen or so made. If progress to the Inner Sanctum halts, they will eventually reappear here.
- Wulf: Handy confirmation that more have died pursuing the bow.
- Gelebor: If there were another way, I would have done it long ago.
- Wulf: We will follow in the Initiate’s footsteps, and I will be proud to do so.
- Inigo: Who gets to carry the ewer?
- Wulf: Don’t worry, my furry friend, I have a solution.
- Gelebor: The first wayshrine is at the end of Darkfall Passage. It is a cavern that represents the absence of enlightenment.
- Wulf: How many wayshrines are there?
- Gelebor: There are five, spread far apart across the Chantry.
- Felix: These caves must be massive!
- Gelebor: Caves? Oh, no. The Chantry encompasses more than a few caves, as you’ll soon discover.
- Wulf: May I have an Initiate’s Ewer?
- Gelebor: Yes, of course.
Gelebor walked behind the wayshrine and returned with the ewer.
I opened my Journal Case, which expanded, so its opening was big enough for the ewer.
I said, “When the ewer contains water, I will freeze it. Please wait for a second while I place it on a shelf.”
Half of me vanished into my Journal Case while I secured the ewer on a shelf.
When pleased with the arrangement, I stood up, the Journal Case shrunk to its standard size, and I closed it.
Gelebor and Serana stared with open mouths. My friends had seen it all before.
- Wulf: It is a gift from the Psijic Order.
- Gelebor: Okay…umm…when you locate a wayshrine, there will be a Spectral Prelate tending to it. They allow you to draw water from the shrine’s basin if you are enlightened.
- Wulf: I think we know all we need to complete the initiation.
- Gelebor: This may be the last time we’re able to converse. If you have any questions before you leave, I suggest you ask them. Otherwise, all I can do now is grant you my hopes for a safe journey.
- Wulf: You call Auri-El your sovereign. I assume that most Snow Elves worshipped him?
- Gelebor: As Akatosh is the head of your Divines, Auri-El is the head of our pantheon. This Chantry was constructed near the beginning of the First Era. It provided a retreat for those that wished to become enlightened.
- Wulf: I notice a lot of similarities to Ayleid architecture.
- Gelebor: That is not surprising since both peoples separated from the Aldmer at about the same time, and our peoples mingled for centuries. Our mutual respect and cooperation were lost when the Ayleid became puppets of various Daedric Lords. Many Ayleid who stayed loyal to the Aedra crossed the Jerall mountains and became part of our society.
- Wulf: Did smaller chantries exist for Trinimac, Syrabane, Jephre and Phynaster?
- Gelebor: Yes. They were just as splendid but smaller. A temple within this chantry catered for those gods if somebody divided their worship or was visiting.
- Wulf: Will I be enlightened if I visit each wayshrine and pour the water at the end?
- Gelebor: Yes. I can sense this would be important to you.
- Wulf: I have many titles. I like the ones that show my dedication to The Nine.
- Gelebor: The wayshrines were an essential part of the process here. Sadly, the magics used to construct these wonders were lost long before I arrived here.
- Wulf: You would be amazed how much ancient knowledge has been lost.
- Celestine: Can you please explain the spectral Prelates?
- Gelebor: They are ghosts of the Snow Elf priests who tended the wayshrines before being slaughtered by The Betrayed. Through the grace of Auri-El, they were restored to their spectral form to enable them to continue their duties.
- Serana: Their love of Auri-El survived even death?
- Gelebor: Yes, their faith was strong. In their current form, they still believe the Chantry to be an active centre of worship.
- Felix: Who were your people?
- Gelebor: We were once a wealthy and prosperous society that occupied a portion of Skyrim. Unfortunately, we were constantly at war with the Nords, who claimed the land as their ancestral home. We had always maintained an uneasy alliance with the underground-dwelling dwarves, and when faced with extinction, we turned to them for help. Surprisingly, they agreed to protect us but demanded a terrible price… the blinding of our race. There were splinter groups that resisted the agreement and even some that sought alternate alliances. But when it was all said and done, those elves were either slaughtered, vanished or gave up and took the dwarves’ bargain.
- Felix: How did they become The Betrayed?
- Gelebor: I’ve often asked myself that very same question. The blinding of my race was supposedly accomplished with a toxin. Certainly not enough to devolve them into the sad and twisted beings they’ve become. The Chantry is relatively isolated, so it took some time for the dwarves’ offer to reach us here. By the time the compact had been completed, it was too late for us to attempt to intervene.
- Felix: Is that why you have not lost your sight?
- Gelebor: Correct. We only numbered perhaps a hundred at a time, so our presence remained a secret to the dwarves and the Nords. Ironically, our undoing came at the hands of our people.
- Wulf: You lived peacefully with the Nords until the Night of Tears. Why did the Snow Elves attack Saarthal?
- Gelebor: We were aware of a powerful relic buried beneath the place Ysgramor chose for his city. We feared the discovery of this relic by the Nords, not just for us but all of Nirn. We wanted to prevent them from discovering and using the relic, so we sacked the city. We were successful in achieving our objective, but the consequences were unforeseen.
- Wulf: There is no justification for genocide. Man against Mer continues to this day, and it sickens me.
- Gelebor: It was galling to find the ones slaughtering my people suddenly professing love for Akatosh. I suppose they did not consider Auri-El and Akatosh to be the same.
- Wulf: Was the relic beneath Saarthal removed?
- Gelebor: No, we did not know how to handle the relic safely. It was left in place.
- Wulf: An institution called The College of Winterhold is about to start an archaeological dig at Saarthal.
- Gelebor: Then, in a way, our attack on Saarthal only delayed the inevitable. And look what it cost us!
- Rigmor: How many Snow Elves still live?
- Gelebor: Within this Chantry, there is just my brother and me. I suspect there may be isolated pockets of survivors hidden throughout Nirn and pocket planes of Oblivion.
- Wulf: We shall get going. Divines bless you.
- Gelebor: And may Auri-El light your path.
I tried Heat Vision once more. Gelebor had no body heat.
I tried reading his aura. There wasn’t one.
A portal appeared, and Gelebor exclaimed, “I did not enable that portal. Somebody or something else has!”
Two Betrayed stepped through the portal. They held amulets of Auri-El and said, “Odioth, Odioth!”
- Wulf: Everybody, leave your weapons sheathed. Odioth means to worship, and they hold amulets of Auri-El.
- Gelebor: That is not possible!
- Wulf: Why is that Knight Templar? Do the Dwemer still have an influence on The Betrayed within the Chantry?
- Gelebor: No, there are no Dwemer ruins or remnants of their civilisation in the Chantry.
- Wulf: I assume The Betrayed in the Chantry have had thousands of years to develop separately from their brethren elsewhere in Tamriel.
- Gelebor: Yes, that is true.
- Wulf: Then I think it is a valid assumption that some of the damage done by the Dwemer is being removed as The Betrayed race evolves.
- Gelebor: That would be astounding.
- Wulf: I cannot speak Falmeris, but I should be able to communicate if we all speak slowly. It shares much with Ayleidoon and Aldmeris. I am fluent in Ayleidoon.
- Arepiroth: There is no need. We speak Tamrielic as well as Falmeris.
- Gelebor: Okay, I think introductions are needed first. I am Knight-Paladin Gelebor. Who are you?
- Arepiroth: I am Arepiroth.
- Yszhina: I am Yszhina, Shaman and wife of Arepiroth.
- Arepiroth: You are Valdr?
- Rigmor: How would he know?
- Wulf: Yes, I am Valdr, but few know that name. Who told you?
- Arepiroth: Hjalti.
- Wulf: When did Hjalti speak to you?
- Arepiroth: Not long ago. He gave me this to show you.
Arepiroth handed me a gold coin. I had an identical one. Father has handed out a few since reaching apotheosis, and I could feel his divine presence in the coin. I smiled and handed it back to Arepiroth.
- Wulf: That coin will bring you luck, Arepiroth. Now, why have you risked your life to talk to us?
- Arepiroth: Our people are different and changing. Auri-El does not want us to die. Hjalti says you would be sad if you killed us, for we are not savages.
- Gelebor: Then why have you killed the people searching for Auri-El’s Bow?
- Yszhina: They think we are savages and kill us, so we defend ourselves. We do not attack first.
- Gelebor: What about my brother, Arch-Curate Vyrthur? You have done something to him!
- Yszhina: We have never hurt Arch-Curate Vyrthur. He never leaves the Inner Sanctum, and we know nothing of him.
- Gelebor: Who killed my people?
- Yszhina: Falmer who once lived amongst us, but they were not seen after the killing.
- Gelebor: Why should we believe you?
- Yszhina: Do you know many talking Falmer, Knight-Paladin? We wear Amulets of Auri-El as that is who our people used to worship. Our people want us to speak for them. They do not want Valdr to hurt them and want peace. Minfani taught us how we could live in peace.
- Gelebor: Minfani Lenehan?
- Arepiroth: That was her name.
- Wulf: You know of Minfani, Knight-Paladin?
- Gelebor: She was one of the most vocal opponents of the Dwemer solution. My people hunted her. I am glad she eluded them. Now, I must ask, who is this Hjalti to whom you place such trust?
- Wulf: He is the Ninth Divine known as Lord Talos. Hjalti was his mortal name, and it seems he has intervened on behalf of Auri-El in this matter. He realised I would feel tremendous guilt if I killed innocents.
- Rigmor: Wulf tells all who will listen that we should only kill based on actions, not race. The fate of the Snow Elves would have been different if the Nords had abided by this tenet.
- Gelebor: Yes, I doubt this conversation would ever have been required.
- Wulf: What are you proposing, Arepiroth?
- Yszhina: Why ask him? I am the wife and make the decisions.
- Wulf: My apologies, Yszhina.
- Yszhina: I will stay here with Gelebor. We know you must visit wayshrines and Arepiroth can show you the way and our people will not be afraid. Arepiroth will guide you to the Inner Sanctum.
- Wulf: Why do you want to stay with Gelebor?
- Yszhina: If Arepiroth is untrue, Gelebor can kill Yszhina. It was the practice when we were also pretty.
- Gelebor: That is true, and it would be an unforgivable insult if I were to refuse a hostage.
- Wulf: I would be honoured to be guided by Arepiroth.
- Yszhina: Do not let his head get bigger with praise.
- Rigmor: What will you do while we are gone? Will you worry about Arepiroth?
- Yszhina: No, because Hjalti said Valdr was kind, and he was very convincing. He spoke our language well and knew our customs. The Knight-Paladin and I will find exciting things to do while you are away. Do you have a wife, Knight-Paladin?
- Gelebor: Ahh…no…why…um…
- Yszhina: Then you must suffer from swelling. Arepiroth will not mind if I ease your swelling. It is expected of the Shaman.
- Gelebor: Swelling? Oh, you don’t mean…no…no, that will not be necessary.
- Yszhina: Okay, Yszhina will watch while you take care of the swelling. Maybe ease her own.
Yszhina moved close to Gelebor. She followed every time he tried to escape and moved back into position. He soon gave up and accepted her proximity.
I said, “Please guide us, Arepiroth. We will not hurt your people.”
As we entered the portal, Rigmor said, “Good luck with your swelling, Knight-Paladin!”
When we teleported to Darkfall Passage, the group’s males knew that saying anything would invite ribald comments. Therefore, we kept quiet. It took several minutes for Rigmor, Celestine and Serana to control their giggle fits.
- Arepiroth: The females found swelling talk amusing.
- Rigmor: Yes.
- Arepiroth: Is that because Knight-Templar is so proper and polite?
- Rigmor: That is part of it. The impropriety of the discussion made it amusing.
- Arepiroth: Then our humour is similar. That is good to know.
- Rigmor: Yszhina was joking about helping with his swelling?
- Arepiroth: Yes. Knight-Paladin got her angry with his prominent nose-in-air attitude. ‘That is not possible!’ he said. Idiot!
- Wulf: Is there anything we should be wary of in Darkfall Passage?
- Arepiroth: Many things will appear suddenly. Please keep weapons out of your hands, and nothing will happen.
- Wulf: What kind of things?
- Arepiroth: We walk, and you shall see.
- Wulf: Do many of your people talk?
- Arepiroth: Not the Falmeris or Tamrielic language. Clicks, like the Chaurus use, are the language of these Falmer. Minfani chose some of us who showed an aptitude to teach Falmeris and what was Cyrodiilic and is now Tamrielic. A lot tried, but only a few could make the correct sounds. The ones who could speak have taught others. There are not many of us with agile mouths.
- Wulf: Are all your people blind?
- Arepiroth: Most are, and some have little sight. Yszhina and I can see. This helmet is clever in design and transparent from the inside. It is prudent not to look too different from other Falmer. We hope our children will be able to see and talk.
- Wulf: I am sure we will have more questions as we travel.
- Arepiroth: That is good. The more you know my people, the less you want to hurt them.
- Rigmor: Did you try and speak to those who hurt your people?
- Arepiroth: Some who could talk did. They were killed because a talking Falmer is an abomination. There are not enough of us to keep trying and dying. So no, we have not tried talking to strangers in a long time. If not for Hjalti, we would not have tried talking to Valdr. That might not have been good for my people.
- Felix: Why did Minfani want you to learn Tamrielic?
- Arepiroth: Falmer books and history were being destroyed. If we want to learn, we must read other languages. To discuss what is in the books, it was best also to speak the language of the books. Being in Skyrim, the most accessible books were in Cyrodiilic and Tamrielic. Minfani would bring in lots of books, so we learnt, but much was from a Nord perspective. Their hatred for my people has never made sense. We have never read where Ysgramor says we all needed to die. We wonder if he ever did.
- Wulf: Blind hatred has its momentum, Arepiroth. Often, later generations of haters have no idea where the hate originated. They are born and live the hatred and regard it as natural and meant to be.
- Arepiroth: Is Ysgramor still a hero to Nord?
- Wulf: Unfortunately, yes. All Mer can be subjected to hatred as the ancient animosities smoulder in the background. Most Skyrim citizens are not racist. Those who are racist seem to be greater in number as they are the loudest.
- Arepiroth: Come, let us walk. We do not want the Spectral Prelates to die of old age.
- Felix: But they are ghosts! How can they die of old age?
- Lydia: Felix, your sense of humour needs repair.
- Felix: Oh, that was a joke.
- Lydia: DUH!
- Arepiroth: Do I need to speak slower for that one?
- Felix: Hahaha, that was another funny joke.
- Arepiroth: It was a serious question. I will speak slower, so you don’t get confused.
Phosphorescent plants provided light until you got close to them. Then their bright flowers would recede into their stems.
We were approaching one of the many things that would suddenly appear. I did not warn the others.
When close to its cocoon, a Flying Chaurus broke free and hovered in front of us. Its multifaceted eyes looked from person to person. It decided we weren’t a threat and noisily hovered in place.
- Felix: Faaaaark! That was enough to age somebody ten years!
- Rigmor: You knew that was going to happen, didn’t you, Wulf?
- Wulf: Who? Me? Nah.
- Arepiroth: Do we keep moving, or does the not-smart one need to empty his trousers?
- Felix: Hey, I am pretty smart, thank you.
- Arepiroth: There is no need for shame. We can’t all be clever.
- Rigmor: What is that thing?
- Wulf: When a Chaurus is old enough, it makes a cocoon and metamorphosis into that form. Only in that form can they breed.
- Inigo: Mr Dragonfly says they are like butterflies and moths.
- Wulf: Except butterflies and moths don’t kill you and suck your insides out with a long proboscis.
- Inigo: My friend, you have scared Mr Dragonfly, and I will have to clean his jar again.
- Arepiroth: Is it normal for furry people to carry insects with them? Are they a snack?
- Inigo: Calm down, Mr Dragonfly. Arepiroth is trying to learn and does not deserve a kick in the groin.
- Rigmor: Khajiiti don’t usually carry insects, and Mr Dragonfly is a cursed mortal, not a snack.
- Arepiroth: It was a person?
- Inigo: Mr Dragonfly is still a person.
- Arepiroth: Okay, I did not mean to offend. Still, he does look tasty.
- Lydia: That was well done, Arepiroth. I think Mr Dragonfly has fainted, but we shall enjoy minutes of peace while Inigo recovers from the shock!
We occasionally came upon skeletons of Auriel’s Bow seekers. Arepiroth explained that clothing and armour were claimed by those who killed them. He stressed their killing was always in self-defence.
The Betrayed would approach and show natural curiosity by sniffing and touching us. Arepiroth would use their clicking language and answer their questions. At no stage did they show aggression or fear.
Many Betrayed tents had Chaurus Chitin arranged to form elaborate sculptures. Every sculpture represented the Chaurus, and no two were the same.
- Wulf: Arepiroth, are those sculptures for the sighted Falmer?
- Arepiroth: They are made by both sighted and blind and are enjoyed by both.
- Wulf: Do they hold religious significance?
- Arepiroth: We respect the Chaurus. They have been the most significant aid to Falmer survival, but they are not worshipped.
- Celestine: It signifies higher thinking when things are made for aesthetics and not practical use.
- Arepiroth: Yes, but others who came here saw nothing but savage, primitive beings. To them, we are no better than the Chaurus.
There was a beauty to Darkfall Passage if one cared to look. Rigmor did and found delight in the many fluorescent plants. She found the curiosity of The Betrayed endearing and wished she could use their chitter language. The one person in the group who remained silent was Serana. I had an idea she realised that each step we took was one closer to her father’s doom. It would be a heavy burden as I did not doubt that she still loved him.
As we approached a bone sculpture, Arepiroth watched us closely. He wanted to see our reaction and probably judge us on our assumptions.
We stood in front of it, and nobody said a word for a minute. Then I began the conversation.
- Wulf: We have seen no other bone sculptures, Arepiroth. Therefore, I do not think this is supposed to be art. Everything indicates this is a monument to somebody important. Fluorescent rocks have been placed at the foot of the skeleton so the sighted can see it better. Are these the remains of Minfani Lenehan?
- Arepiroth: Hjalti said you would think before speaking and understand what has been done. Yes, it is Minfani Lenehan. She was killed by strangers seeking Auri-El’s Bow over a thousand years ago. Like Knight-Paladin and his brother, she lived a very long time. Strangers had seen Minfani even though she was careful to stay hidden. They captured some Falmer and threatened to kill them. That kept the other Falmer at bay. Then they tortured some of the captured Falmer until Minfani came and pleaded for them to stop. They then tortured Minfani, asking over and over where Auriel’s Bow was. When they finally believed her screams were truthful and she did not know, they killed her like her life was worth nothing. I was one of the Falmer being tortured and escaped my bonds. I slaughtered all five strangers by myself with a sword I picked up. It was the first time I ever killed another person. Minfani died trying to save me, so I asked Auri-El if I could continue her work. Now I have lived longer than should be possible. Yszhina is my fourth wife. I have watched three others grow old and die. One after the other perished, and it is sad, and I would like to die one day, but I must continue Minfani’s work.
- Celestine: Her hands are on her head, and I can see they were severed. Was that by those who tortured her?
- Arepiroth: Yes, and I did not think it right to pretend they were attached to Minfani when she died. Other Falmer ask about the hands, and I can remind them of Minfani’s sacrifice.
- Wulf: I can see why Auri-El asked Lord Talos to intervene here. I think we should seal the Chantry from the outside world. Your people need to be protected from strangers.
- Arepiroth: That is a good idea but would not be easy, as you will soon see. Come, we are close to the first wayshrine.
The frequency of dead strangers seemed to increase in this part of Darkfall Passage.
We came to a dead end with two pull chains.
Arepiroth pulled the left chain, and a hidden wall slowly sank into the ground. He pointed to a skeleton and said, “They must have pulled the right chain and died from poison. They would have become cat food if they pulled the left chain.”
When the hidden wall was fully lowered, a huge black Sabre Tooth leapt into the cavern, and Arepiroth gave her a scratch and hug. He laughed and said, “It is good to see you as well, Nala. How are the cubs?”
Arepiroth looked over the cat’s head and said, “Go on, you should be able to see the wayshrine. Nala will let me join you in a second.”
We could see the wayshrine, and I used Zoom Vision to look closer. I could see the ghostly prelate standing still with all the patience of the dead.
- Inigo: My friend, this is very much like Blackreach.
- Wulf: Yes, it is. I wonder if this place connects to Blackreach.
- Lydia: We killed many Betrayed there. I am glad we are travelling with less violence today.
- Felix: Killing wears you down. Then one day, you realise it has become routine, and you fear losing your empathy.
- Wulf: But that fear proves you are still a person with empathy.
- Felix: That is very philosophical but true.
- Inigo: Arepiroth has escaped his furry friend.
- Lydia: I will have to ask him how he managed that. Then we could leave you behind.
- Inigo: So, you admit that I am your friend.
- Lydia: Damn it!
- Felix: Another point for Inigo. At this rate, he may catch Lydia by the end of this era.
Our unexpected ally caught up, and we continued towards the wayshrine.
Some of Nala’s pride came trotting past. Their colouring would prove helpful in dark environments.
I approached some strange plants with a sort of netting over their centre. Arepiroth said, “Don’t get too close. Their spores are poisonous.”
As he said, one of the plants opened, releasing its spores in a cloud of toxins.
I assured Arepiroth, “We are protected against such poisons. I find these plants fascinating!”
After another plant spread its spores, we continued.
Arepiroth advised, “Get the ewer ready. Prelate Sidanyis will then recognise you are an Initiate. The ceremony is brief.”
I retrieved the Initiate’s Ewer from my Journal Case and approached the ghostly figure.
“Welcome, Initiate, I am Prelate Sidanyis, and this is the Wayshrine of Illumination. Are you prepared to honour the mantras of Auri-El and fill your vessel with His enlightenment?”
“Then behold Auri-El’s gift, my child. May it light your path as you seek tranquillity within The Inner Sanctum.”
The spell to open the wayshrines can only be cast by people crouching. Well, that was the impression we got.
Prelate Sidanyis crouched and cast the spell. Auri-El’s symbol briefly flashed, and the wayshrine opened.
I entered and gathered water in the Initiate’s Ewer.
A portal opened to somewhere we haven’t been before.
I asked, “Arepiroth, do we go through the portal?”
‘Yes, Valdr. It leads to the Forgotten Vale, the next part of our journey.”
I froze the water in the ewer and placed it into my Journal Case.
We then stepped through the portal, and instead of a vale, we were in another cave.
Arepiroth laughed and said, “It is a short walk to the vale. There is only one path. You shall see. Do not fall in the water, or you will end up with Knight-Paladin, and he might be busy with swelling.”
We followed a winding path, and below was the waterway leading to Gelebor.
We emerged into a valley. There were remnants of many Snow Elf structures, an assortment of wildlife and the sounds of dragons nearby.
We made our way to the valley floor. Among the clouds above, two dragons roared and flew away.
- Wulf: Arepiroth, how many dragons live in the Forgotten Vale?
- Arepiroth: There are two called Naaslaarum and Voslaarum. They have lived here since the Akaviri arrived in Skyrim and hunted their kind. They are protectors and very handy for eliminating strangers.
- Wulf: Naaslaarum means Tooth Water Twin. Voslaarum means Claw Water Twin.
- Arepiroth: Twins means two siblings born at the same time. Is that correct?
- Wulf: Yes, but even though Alduin claimed to be the oldest dragon and Paarthurnax the second oldest, all dragons came into existence in a fraction of a second. So, in a way, they are the twin of any other dragon they encounter.
- Arepiroth: They fight together well and have a trick that surprises violent strangers every time. You might see it, but since I don’t think they will fight you, maybe not.
- Rigmor: There are a lot of destroyed buildings in this valley.
- Arepiroth: The ones who attacked the Inner Sanctum also destroyed many of the houses and shops in the vale. They did not destroy other temples, which are well hidden and hard to enter without the correct relics.
- Rigmor: And they were not your people?
- Arepiroth: They were, then they did these bad things, and then they were gone.
- Celestine: Knight-Templar Gelebor says only about a hundred Snow Elves lived here?
- Arepiroth: Many more than that lived here. Only about one hundred remained after others accepted the Dwemer offer. Nearly all of those one hundred were killed. Knight-Templar calls all Falmer The Betrayed. He seems to think my people are guilty of crimes simply because we are Falmer. He has no evidence of my people doing these nasty things. Some others who once lived with us did these things but not those who remained.
- Celestine: Perhaps Knight-Templar Gelebor will realise his error after you help us reach the Inner Sanctum.
- Arepiroth: I hope so, for Auri-El would want his people to work together. We need to go that way.
Arepiroth pointed, and we travelled in the direction indicated for some time. In front of a cave entrance, Arepiroth stopped.
- Arepiroth: You have not seen young Falmer or others who can talk.
- Wulf: No. We assume they live in parts we have not visited.
- Arepiroth: Yes, they live in that cave. It is massive, with many levels and good water. The Falmer who can see and the Falmer who can talk live in there. It is a place of learning and peace. Now I have told you a big secret. That shows trust.
- Wulf: Yes, Arepiroth, that has shown great trust in us, and we appreciate it.
- Arepiroth: It is not just what Hjalti said. I feel safe with you, Valdr, and I can tell you are a good person.
- Rigmor: He is a very good person, Arepiroth, and often puts himself in danger to help others.
- Arepiroth: You seemed surprised I called you Valdr. Why is that?
- Wulf: Valdr is the name Mother gave me, but I use Wulf while in Skyrim. Valdr is an Ayleidoon word that means wolf. Hjalti should have used Wulf. I will tell him off the next time I see him.
- Arepiroth: You would scold a god?
- Wulf: I do when they deserve it.
- Arepiroth: Do you have two names, like Minfani Lenehan?
- Wulf: Wulf Welkynd is my name. Welkynd means star child. It is the name the Ayleid gave to their starlight-gathering stones.
- Arepiroth: That is a pretty name. Arepiroth doesn’t mean anything. It is just a group of syllables that sounded good when combined.
- Rigmor: It is a beautiful name. You should be proud of it.
- Arepiroth: You are different types of people working together. It makes me happy and gives me hope.
- Rigmor: I think your people will give Auri-El hope. I am sure he was sad when the Nords killed so many.
- Arepiroth: People blame gods for bad things. Gods did not make the Nords do those terrible things. They said they worshipped Akatosh. He is the same as Auri-El.
- Wulf: They did not accept that fact, Arepiroth. It would have hindered their genocide.
- Arepiroth: Haha, I like your dark humour, Valdr. The next wayshrine is just over the next hill.
From the top of the hill, we could see the next wayshrine. I removed the ewer and melted the water. It was awkward to carry, and I felt guilty for cheating. Still, I could justify such if I tried.
I approached the ghostly prelate, who said, “Welcome, Initiate. This is the Wayshrine of Sight, and I am Prelate Athring. Are you prepared to honour the mantras of Auri-El and fill your vessel with his enlightenment?”
“Yes, Prelate Athring.”
“Then behold Auri-El’s gift, my child. May it speed your journey to the Inner Sanctum.”
Prelate Athring crouched and cast the spell. Auri-El’s symbol briefly flashed, and the wayshrine opened.
I entered and gathered water in the Initiate’s Ewer.
I then froze the water and placed the ewer in my Journal Case.
I walked to the portal and said, “This portal leads to Darkfall Passage. Do we need to return there?”
Arepiroth replied, “We use no more portals for reaching the wayshrines. We have to do lots of walking. Valdr might be able to help with other portals, though. We shall talk about them later.”
I walked over to Arepiroth and asked, “Where do we go next?”
“Can you see the arches still standing? We follow that path. There are many giant spiders along the way, and they are not friends of my people.”
“That won’t attack us. Lady Kynareth has made them our friends.”
“Odd friends. But that is good because they make the worst noises when you fight them.”
Lydia laughed while Inigo spluttered with indignation.
It was getting dark, and I decided to use Night Vision.
There were signs of many spiders, but they didn’t show themselves.
Past the spiders, we entered another valley. It looked like a glacier had carved it in the distant past.
- Felix: By Ysmir, that is impressive.
- Wulf: I didn’t make it.
- Rigmor: Wulf!
- Serana: You are doing it deliberately, Wulf.
- Wulf: Doing what?
- Serana: You are trying to distract me from worrying about Father and what we might have to do.
- Wulf: Maybe.
- Serana: Okay, it worked. I am now going to ponder the ramifications of you being Ysmir.
- Inigo: Wulf had to endure loud shouting by The Greybeards to receive that title.
- Arepiroth: Wulfharth, Pelinal Whitestrake and Hjalti were all called Ysmir. I think it is a significant title.
- Wulf: Indeed, it does seem that way. Let’s continue, shall we?
At the bottom of the valley, we found a skeleton next to a chest. The chest held nothing of great value, but a well-preserved book was next to it. I opened it, and it was written in Falmeris. Although the spoken language can be understood to an extent by Ayleidoon and Aldmeris speakers, its written glyphs were incomprehensible. Punctuation and inflexions were included as minute changes to the glyphs. The best scholars would take days to interpret the book, but I had a native reader and speaker with me.
I handed the book to Arepiroth and asked, “Can you interpret this for us? Is it of importance?”
Arepiroth took the book and flicked through the pages. He said, “It is the story of my people written by one of the scholars who lived here early in the First Era. I will read it to you.”
“The Betrayed by Engwe Emeloth.
And when The Snow Prince fell to the ground.
The ice elves were divided above and below.
Now vanquished and brutally bound.
One moment had shattered all they did know.
The once cool wind on their skin.
Now replaced with the heat of the flame.
And a pride once felt deep within.
Forgotten along with their name.
Torn from their home of ice and frost.
Thrown into the pitch-black dread of night.
Living in fear as their minds become lost.
As their eyes began dimming the light.
Chained and enslaved.
What once was light turned to blackness.
Alone and betrayed.
Sinking deeper into madness.”
- Wulf: The Snow Prince was killed in Solstheim. The Nords regarded that as the end of the Snow Elf resistance.
- Arepiroth: Interestingly, the Nords showed great reverence for The Snow Prince. They entombed his remains and weapons rather than burning them as was the tradition and defended his tomb from grave robbers.
- Wulf: They did not respect the species, only a warrior that showed great skill and courage in battle. The Snow Prince cut a swatch through the Nords and felled many of their best warriors and champions. A twelve-year-old girl killed him after he cut her mother down in battle.
- Felix: She must have been an impressive Swordmaiden!
- Wulf: She was untrained and threw her mother’s sword. It hit point first in the only vulnerable part of The Snow Prince’s armour. The strength of the girl fuelled by anger is what killed him.
- Rigmor: The news of his death must have demoralised the Snow Elves.
- Arepiroth: Yes, it removed the will to fight from many and increased the rate at which the Snow Elves accepted the Dwemer offer.
- Wulf: The reverence the Nords showed for that single warrior did not extend to other soldiers or the non-combatants of the Snow Elves. They continued to rape and murder the women and children and bash infant heads with mace and rock. Elderly Snow Elves who didn’t even have the strength to wield a weapon were skewered, burnt, or left to starve.
- Arepiroth: All this because decades before, one city was attacked by a small band of Snow Elves.
- Wulf: Saarthal was just an excuse, Arepiroth. It was hatred of all Mer that motivated the slaughter. At no stage was a truce considered or mercy offered.
- Arepiroth: Yet we all come from the same gods and are so alike we can interbreed. This Man and Mer hatred is senseless!
- Rigmor: It makes Wulf angry when he thinks about it and how Ysgramor is revered.
- Wulf: My stomach churned when he greeted me in The Hall of Valour. I felt like grabbing him and demanding he justify what he and his hatred caused. I might still do that one day.
- Inigo: My friend, the next wayshrine is not far. Let us get this over with, so you can return to Silverpeak and listen to the music of life once more.
- Arepiroth: I can tell there is great violence in you, Valdr, and it is held in check by love.
- Wulf: Have you always been this perceptive, Arepiroth?
- Arepiroth: Many skills improve with age.
- Serana: That is true unless you have been in stasis for hundreds of years. Then you are just old.
- Wulf: Serana, you don’t look a day over nine hundred and eighty!
- Rigmor: You can kick him if you want, Serana. We won’t stop you.
It was not long before the next wayshrine came into view. I used Zoom Vision to look closer and then made our way there.
I removed the Initiate’s Ewer from my Journal Case, melted the water it contained and approached the prelate.
He said, “You’ve reached the Wayshrine of Learning, Initiate, and I am Prelate Celegriath. Are you prepared to honour the mantras of Auri-El and fill your vessel with His enlightenment?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Auri-El bless you, child. For you are a step closer to the Inner Sanctum and everlasting wisdom.”
Prelate Celegriath did his crouching casting of the spell. Auri-El’s symbol briefly flashed, and the wayshrine rose to give me access.
I dipped the ewer into the font. Then I froze the water and placed the ewer into my Journal Case.
I exited the wayshrine and asked Arepiroth, “Where do we go from here?”
He pointed and said, “You can see far away things. What do you see over there?”
I used Zoom Vision and asked, “Is that a temple?”
“That is the Inner Sanctum. There is much climbing in tunnels and not in tunnels to reach it. We must cross the frozen river first. Then we head up to the frozen lake.”
We did as Arepiroth instructed and soon found ourselves on a large frozen lake. In the distance, the two dragons mentioned earlier stood on the ice.
Arepiroth tutted and said, “It is sad, but you won’t see their trick. They stay under the ice until violent strangers get close. Then they break through the ice and attack. It is fun to watch.”
Serana laughed and said, “Some of my Volkihar cousins do that. I don’t mind the cold but hiding under the ice is no better than Mudcrabs pretending to be rocks.”
When we got closer to the dragons, they took flight.
As they approached, I used my Thu’um,
“DREM YO LOK NAASLAARUM AHRK VOSLAARUM. ZU’U LOS WULF, FIN DOVAHKIIN.”
Naaslaarum replied, “MU QUILAAN WAH HIN MULAAG AHST FIN THU’UM DOVAHKIIN.”
Voslaarum added, “MU FEN NI NOS”
The dragons climbed, then flew in circles, and we continued across the ice.
- Arepiroth: What did you say to the dragons?
- Wulf: I used a traditional greeting and told them who I was. They recognised my superiority in The Thu’um and said they wouldn’t attack.
- Arepiroth: Do some dragons not respect your power and attack?
- Wulf: Rarely. One attacked us earlier today.
- Rigmor: Wulf gets very sad when he has to kill a dragon.
- Arepiroth: Wulf absorbs their souls. I remember that from an ancient book.
- Wulf: I destroy their souls, and they can never return to Nirn.
- Arepiroth: That is needed to learn The Thu’um.
- Wulf: Yes.
- Arepiroth: And you do not want this to happen?
- Wulf: No, for their crime does not earn the punishment given. It is too harsh.
- Arepiroth: Can you decide not to absorb their souls?
- Rigmor: Wulf has no choice. It happens automatically, and even Lord Akatosh can not remove the process from him.
- Wulf: Over there is a Word Wall. Watch as I learn more about The Thu’um.
We approached the Word Wall, which tried to teach me Lah, which means Magicka. It was the second Word of Power of the Drain Vitality Shout. I already knew the Word, how to use it and the entire Shout.
I then spent a few minutes explaining to Arepiroth and Serana about Words of Power, Shouts and dragon souls.
When I finished, there were questions I knew would arise.
- Arepiroth: Your god, Lady Kynareth, responded to your prayer. Therefore, the Aedra have some ability to help mortals.
- Wulf: Most gods, Aedra and Daedra and assorted others have parts of nature where they have increased influence on the mortal plane. None of them has anywhere near the power the Daedric Princes wielded when they could manifest on Nirn. Gods will try and aid and hinder with whatever tools they have. However, they all depend on mortal agents to get most things done.
- Arepiroth: Have you faced Daedric Princes in their realms of Oblivion?
- Wulf: Yes, within their realms or pocket planes of Oblivion.
- Arepiroth: Couldn’t they have killed you?
- Wulf: Yes, they could have squashed me like a bug. They didn’t want this Kalpa to end and realised I was the best hope for its continuance. Therefore, no matter how angry they were with me, they did not kill me.
- Arepiroth: But some would kill you if within their realm?
- Wulf: Yes, a few would not hesitate. Lord Molag Bal would kill me even though we have yet to meet. Like some Daedric Princes, he desires to control or destroy Nirn and doesn’t care if the Kalpa ends.
- Arepiroth: Does the dragon writing say anything, or is it just a collection of words?
- Wulf: In Dovahzul, the dragon language, this Word Wall says, ‘Lungerd wahlaan qethsegol ahmulii vahrukt Thorgrima deinmaar do sahqon yolos ahrk drog do lah.’
- Arepiroth: That is harsh language to speak and hear.
- Wulf: Yes, it is supposed to be spoken by dragons with their naturally deep bass, baritone voices, and large throats. The direct translation makes little sense grammatically, so I will take some liberties when converting to Tamrielic. In that language, it says, ‘Lungerd raised this stone in memory of her husband, Thorgrima, who was the keeper of crimson fire and lord of Magicka.’
- Arepiroth: Are these people, Lungerd and Thorgrima, famous?
- Wulf: They may have been in their day, but their names mean nothing to me. There are probably histories that mention them, but I have not read them.
- Serana: Who placed the Words of Power on the Word Walls?
- Wulf: History doesn’t say. It would have to be a powerful Tongue with exceptional magic skills.
- Serana: The Word Walls detect your presence from a distance?
- Wulf: Yes, I heard this Word Wall from the moment we came level with the frozen lake.
- Rigmor: How far to the next wayshrine, Arepiroth?
- Arepiroth: We go to the end of the lake, climb some more, and will soon arrive at the wayshrine.
- Inigo: Arepiroth, I notice you and the other Falmer scratch your buttocks regularly.
- Arepiroth: I am sure Nords and others would do it as frequently if not for social taboos. It is mainly habit and not an actual itch.
- Lydia: Inigo was scared you had stolen some of his fleas.
- Arepiroth: What would I want to add to my collection? I already have trouble remembering all their names.
- Lydia: Oh.
- Inigo: Lydia believes you, Arepiroth.
- Arepiroth: Apparently, that is so.
- Lydia: Was that a joke?
- Inigo: She is slower than a one-legged centipede sometimes.
- Arepiroth: Wulf, they can say such falsehoods because they are friends?
- Wulf: Yes, Arepiroth. Those two will risk their lives to save each other, but they bicker constantly.
We could soon see the next wayshrine.
As we approached it, a picturesque valley attracted my friends. I noticed a Frost Giant amongst the beauty.
Arepiroth asked, “Do you see the Frost Giant?”
“They are very territorial and also like shiny things. Perhaps you can get some important stolen things back without hurting them.”
“Yes, I can try that.”
“Good, let us see prelate first, then I will explain.”
It was the same routine as previously with the Initiate’s Ewer.
The prelate asked, “You’ve arrived at the Wayshrine of Resolution, and I am Prelate Nirilor. Are you prepared to honour the mantras of Auri-El and fill your vessel with His enlightenment?”
“Then go forth, child. May the enrichment of Auri-El strengthen your resolve as you undertake your journey to the Inner Sanctum.”
Showing extra skill, Prelate Nirilor cast his spell while facing away from the wayshrine! He still had to crouch.
I scooped some water into the ewer, froze it and then placed the ewer into my Journal Case.
- Wulf: Where to now, Arepiroth?
- Areiporoth: The last wayshrine is far away. But first, can I please explain the Frost Giant problem?
- Wulf: Yes, of course you can.
- Arepiroth: Wayshrines are not the only way to teleport here. Senior Snow Elves carried paragons that acted as keys on other teleport machines. They are like big egg-shaped gems, and the giants find them pretty. You sometimes see them holding them up to the light and admiring them. However, they have stolen them. They belong to the Chantry and should be returned.
- Wulf: There are apparatus that accept these paragons?
- Arepiroth: Yes, I will show you the first thieving giant. Then you can decide if you will retrieve the paragons.
- Rigmor: If they are important to the Chantry, and Wulf can retrieve them without hurting the giants, I am guessing he will do so.
- Wulf: Do you know where the portals lead?
- Arepiroth: No, but I am curious to discover the answer.
- Wulf: Show me the first giant with a stolen paragon.
- Arepiroth: Okay, go that way to the valley floor and climb till we see the next one.
We headed in the direction indicated. Occasionally our guide would alter our path.
When we arrived close to the giant’s den, Rigmor had a suggestion.
“Wulf, if you remove the paragon, the giant might look for a replacement. Perhaps you can leave a replacement rather than risk Betrayed and giants fighting?”
“That is an excellent idea. I will leave an assortment of gems in its place. Let’s hope I don’t have to pickpocket the giant. That could be awkward!”
I cast Shroudwalk and approached the giant.
I found the Amethyst Paragon in the giant’s bedding and replaced it with a handful of gems.
I returned it to the group, and the paragon was passed around.
- Lydia: It is beautiful. No wonder the giants like to look at them.
- Rigmor: The colours seem to swirl around inside it.
- Celestine: How many paragons are there, Arepiroth?
- Arepiroth: I only know of five. Giants stole two. The others we can get on the way to the last wayshrine.
- Wulf: Where is the next thieving giant?
- Arepiroth: Opposite a portal machine. Follow the river upstream, and you shall see.
We did as we were instructed and soon came upon the portal machine.
Arepiroth said, “Insert the paragon, and the portal should open.”
I inserted the paragon, and a portal did appear.
We stepped through and found ourselves in a large cave complex.
We noticed several dead Betrayed.
I asked Arepiroth, “What has killed those below?”
“I do not know. I shall ask.”
In their clicking language, Arepiroth asked some Betrayed what happened. After some back and forth, he told us the story.
“The dead ones had eaten bad mushrooms. They became insane and attacked each other and anything else that came close. When everybody is sure they are all dead, or the toxin has worn off, they will gather the bodies and attend to any injured.”
“Does that often happen?”
“No, this is the first time in decades.”
We returned to the river.
- Wulf: I am sorry that your people died, Arepiroth.
- Arepiroth: They will be mourned, and their bodies returned to the earth.
- Rigmor: Do your people eat meat?
- Arepiroth: Occasionally, if we come across an injured deer or another animal, we may kill it for its hide and meat. But we do not actively hunt as the balance between hunter and hunted is delicate, and clever Falmer could cause many problems. You saw I was friends with Nala. That is because we do not compete for the deer and other animals she needs for her pride.
- Rigmor: And if the big cats can’t find enough prey, your people might be endangered.
- Arepiroth: I would be most upset if Nala ate me. I would probably be bad for digestion and make her unwell.
- Felix: That was a joke, wasn’t it?
- Lydia: I think you are right, Felix. That was very funny, Arepiroth.
- Arepiroth: It is funny that I would not want to give my friend Nala a sour stomach?
- Felix: Yes, well, I thought it was.
- Arepiroth: And you are right, not so slow, Felix.
- Felix: Thanks, I think.
Serana was watching the giant, who had been watching us.
- Serana: Wulf, the giant is staring at us.
- Arepiroth: He probably saw us use the paragon. He might attack to get it.
- Wulf: Is he one of the thieves?
- Arepiroth: Yes, he has one of the paragons already.
- Wulf: I had better steal that one back and leave some gems as replacements.
I cast Shroudwalk and made my way across the river.
I found the Sapphire Paragon hidden amongst some dead branches. I left a handful of assorted gems in its place and returned to the group.
The group positioned themselves so the giant could not see what I was doing. I replaced the Amethyst Paragon with the Sapphire Paragon, and a different portal appeared.
We entered the portal and found ourselves in a small room containing chests and assorted treasures. I could feel Auri-El’s presence.
I asked Arepiroth, “What is this place?”
“I think it is part of the Inner Sanctum.”
“That would make sense as I feel Auri-El’s presence here.”
“So do I. But it is not a good idea to sneak into Inner Sanctum. The fifth wayshrine should be visited.”
“Let’s look around but not approach anybody.”
After searching the room, we concluded it was part of the Inner Sanctum. However, it seemed it could only be accessed via the portal, and there was no exit into the main building.
We left everything where it was and exited back to the river.
I cast a Mark we could Recall later and removed the paragon.
We returned to the Wayshrine of Resolution and proceeded towards the fifth and final wayshrine.
As Arepiroth had told us, it was a long journey through tunnels, across rickety bridges and along narrow ledges.
At one point, Arepiroth moved ahead and talked to other Betrayed. He soon returned with three more Paragons.
There was a Diamond Paragon.
An Emerald Paragon.
And a Ruby Paragon.
I Recalled us to the portal machine.
- Wulf: Which one first?
- Rigmor: Emerald.
- Wulf: No objections.
- Inigo: Not from me, my friend. Green is the second-best colour after blue.
- Lydia: There are a million colours better than blue!
- Serana: Such as Vampire Royal Purple!
- Wulf: You are all delusional if you think anything is better than red.
- Rigmor: Red probably leads to smelly old privies.
- Serana: Too much red makes me hungry.
- Rigmor: Celestine, the peasants are revolting.
- Celestine: Put your noble foot down!
- Rigmor: Yes, when clad in plate armour boots, it is an effective tool!
- Wulf: There is no need, milady. Let me insert the Emerald Paragon, and we shall travel through yonder portal.
- Celestine: Rigmor, now you know how effective threatened violence can be!
- Wulf: I remembered Rigmor’s foot stamping tantrums, and we don’t want one of them.
- Rigmor: I never throw a tantrum!
Rigmor turned red as those who know her laughed loudly. Even Arepiroth smiled at that absurd claim.
The portal led us to another narrow valley carved over millions of years by a fast-flowing river.
We could see the Inner Sanctum from another angle.
In a moment of Déjà vu, we found a skeleton next to a chest and another ancient Falmer tome. There wasn’t much in the chest, and I handed the book to Arepiroth.
He read it and said, “It is part of the journal of a young maiden called Mirtel Angoth.” He then read it aloud.
“Fourth Evening Star
I used to dream of fighting in battles like my Father. He had begun teaching me to fight when I could pick up a blade. Mother had argued that I was too young, but he paid her no mind. I can still remember the elation I felt the first time I bested Father in a match and the look of pride on his face. If it were up to him, I know he would have allowed me to join him in battle. With me at his side, he may have fared better. Now with Father and so many others slain, the Old Ones claim we are left with too few warriors to continue the fight. I was not the only Young One that spoke out in protest, but our small voices went unheard. It has been decided that we must flee to seek help and protection.
Eighth Evening Star
News has reached us that the great Snow Prince has fallen in battle. The urgency to go into hiding has left many of us scattered and those of us still together, unsure of which direction to turn. In the long hours of the night, we keep huddled together, continually fearing the worst until the first light of the blessed Sun allows Auri-El to guide our footsteps.
Thirteenth Evening Star
In the night, I overheard the Old Ones whispering secrets of the underground and the Dwemer who dwell there. I thought back on stories Father once told me of these dwarves, heroic tales of honour and glory. The Old Ones must know of these stories, for it has been decided that we will change course upon first light. I hope the Dwemer will help us avenge our fallen and reclaim our land.”
- Rigmor: Did the Young Ones have any say in the decisions?
- Arepiroth: They were allowed to sit in on council discussions and voice their opinions, but they could not vote on a resolution.
- Celestine: At least their voices were heard. Much wisdom can come from younger minds.
- Wulf: It is essential to listen to all who a decision may impact.
- Arepiroth: Falmer still place the elder’s opinions above the younger.
- Rigmor: As do most societies.
- Wulf: Thank you for the translation, Arepiroth. Let’s return and try the Ruby Paragon.
- Rigmor: Boring red is guaranteed to lead us somewhere equally as dull.
- Lydia: The Inner Sanctum privies?
- Felix: That would be good. I have been busting to go for the last hour.
We looked at the view of the frozen lake and then returned to the portal machine.
I looked at the group and said, “The Ruby Paragon will not lead to privies. They wouldn’t use the best colour for such mundane stuff. It probably leads to the throne room.”
Rigmor quipped, “Isn’t the throne room one of your colloquialisms for the privy?”
“Why, thank you. It feels good to be appreciated.”
I replaced the Emerald Paragon with the Ruby Paragon.
We were teleported to a densely treed valley when we entered the portal.
Trolls were attacking a Betrayed. I took care of them with my bow.
The Betrayed we rescued started chittering at me.
Arepiroth translated, “This is one of our warriors. His name is Girlor. He came to this clearing to retrieve the shield he now carries. We believe it was the one used by Auri-El during Convention when he battled Lorkhan. He is pleased you arrived in time to rescue him.”
Girlor handed me the shield, and Auri-El’s presence was strong.
I asked, “Arepiroth, was the shield placed here?”
“No, it was found here in the First Era. How it got here, nobody knows. Girlor is the first Falmer to touch it. He was hoping to present it to you in a friendlier environment.”
“How do you say thank you in his language?”
Arepiroth smiled as he slowly clicked and clacked the words.
I turned to Girlor and did my best to reproduce the correct pronunciation. Both he and Arepiroth burst out laughing.
After a few seconds, Arepiroth said, “You just called Girlor a hairy scrotum!”
The merriment at my expense travelled to my friends, who also found it highly amusing.
I shook my head and headed for the portal, giggling and chuckling friends followed close behind.
I didn’t say a word as I replaced the Ruby Paragon with the Diamond Paragon.
The giggling continued as we entered the portal and found ourselves on a high ledge overlooking a lower one.
Arepiroth said, “We will return and soon travel that path. Or you can cheat the pilgrimage and jump down to it from here.”
“No, I respect the symbolism of the task. Let us return and continue.”
We returned to the portal machine. I retrieved the Diamond Paragon. Then we teleported back to where Arepiroth had collected the last three paragons.
We would travel inside for some time, then find ourselves outside again. This transition happened several times.