Middas, 26th Sun’s Disk, 4E 201
After ensuring Dhali, P’Sua and Khao were settled in the dormitory, I headed for bed.
Meeko came trotting past me but didn’t speak.
I heard a single yip, and then Meeko settled down. Blaise was making his way back into bed.
I asked, “Did you have a bad dream, Blaise?”
“Yes, but Meeko is here, and he makes the bad dreams go away.”
“He used to sleep near me when I was your age.”
“Meeko is not that ancient!”
I laughed as I entered my room.
I spent ages talking to Rigmor about the Ka’Po’Tun via our amulets. She was eager to meet them but had a trade delegation from Solstheim visiting for a few days.
The following day, I watched as people exited the dormitory. The Ka’Po’Tun chatted amiably with the ex-Blades and soon joined the eating, or more accurately, devouring.
I walked over to Kharjo.
“So, what do you think of your Ka’Po’Tun cousins?”
“It is difficult, for they do not speak Tamrielic or Ta’agra, and I do not speak their native language or Tsaesci. Therefore, I say something, one of The Dragonguard translates for them. Then they say something in reply, and The Dragonguard translates it for me. It is a long process and lacks cohesion.”
“Most languages derive from Aldmeris, including Tsaesci. You will be surprised how quickly they become adept at Tamrielic.”
“Even though it was slow awkwardness, they patiently answered Khajiit’s questions. They are Khajiiti but not. It is strange.”
“Do you still want to come with us today?”
“Yes, for it has been too long since this one has exterminated bandits. It will remind Khajiit of being a caravan guard. That one will leave some for others to play with, Khajiit hopes.”
“I am sure those caves have more bandits than Inigo has fleas.”
“This place is strange without Inigo here.”
“Langley spent a long time looking for Inigo. Our blue friend thought it only right that he spent some time with him.”
“It seems our Ka’Po’Tun friends have a good appetite!”
“Dhali may be petite, but she eats like a horse.”
“That one is noble, yes?”
“Yes, the equivalent of a baroness. However, Dhali left all that behind when she joined The Dragonguard, much like Celestine has.”
“This one would like to meet Emperor Tosh Raka.”
“If I could meet him without violence, it would be wonderful.”
“How can one turn into a dragon?”
“I have a theory on what he is. But it could be considered blasphemous by some, so I shall keep my speculation to myself.”
“That one is not a dragon?”
“Oh, yes, he is. The clue is in the last three letters of his name.”
“Now you have left this one with a puzzle.”
“Even if you solve that puzzle, I will not confirm or deny its accuracy.”
“Sometimes this one thinks his friend is Baan Daar playing tricks for laughing.”
“I am not furry enough to be Baan Daar.”
“True, but Baan Daar was good at disguises.”
“We will leave in about two hours.”
“This one will be ready.”
I joined Sakiya, Bashita and Khao at a table.
- Wulf: You look unsure about that blueberry tart, Khao.
- Khao: It is bigger than the treats we had as cubs. I find it strange to have such a thing as a first meal.
- Bashita: Not many people would break their fast with such sweet things. However, Rigmor introduced the habit, and now many Dragonguard are guilty of indulging.
- Khao: Rigmor is your mate, Wulf? The one we cannot mention outside?
- Wulf: The polite term in Tamrielic is ‘partner’.
- Khao: It will be some time before my tongue can tackle that language.
- Wulf: Yes, Khao, Rigmor is my mate, although we are not married.
- Khao: Why are sweet things shunned when bacon, sausages and other traditions of your people are likely to make us fat?
- Sakiya: Food is turned into energy. If all the food consumed is not turned into energy, weight problems result. It is more tradition than logic that sweet things are avoided in the morning meal. Clerks sitting at a desk writing all day might become rotund if they ate as much as a Royal Guard or Dragonguard.
- Khao: Dhali is not fond of traditions. Many of them seem redundant to her.
- Wulf: Many traditions are redundant. However, we must understand why the tradition exists. If there is a deep-rooted religious or social reason, it may be best to accept the tradition.
- Khao: Wulf, you were quick to abandon protocols. Why is that?
- Wulf: Many protocols are in place to create a class barrier and try to force respect when I believe respect should be earned. The Royal Guards not sitting with nobility is an example.
- Khao: This is true. P’Sua and I respect Dhali for her courage, kindness and honesty. We do not bow to her because she is noble. Such a thing is a radical idea in Ka’Po’Tun.
- Sakiya: Those who don’t think they can earn respect fear being judged. They are the ones who enforce protocols of subservience.
- Khao: Emperor Tosh Raka is far more lenient and relaxed about protocol than his advisors. They have ordered supplicants beheaded for not bowing low enough when addressing them.
- Bashita: That is the type of noble Wulf would happily chop into pieces.
- Khao: I gather that Rigmor is a very high noble. Is Countess one step below the Emperor?
- Wulf: Counts, Countesses, the Kings and Queen of High Rock and the Jarls of Skyrim are of equal noble rank. They are responsible for many people, but there are those above them, or there should be. In Skyrim, we have a High King or Queen. They don’t have one in High Rock, but they badly need one. In Cyrodiil, the Counts and Countesses report directly to the emperor. Therefore, you could say that Rigmor is one noble rung below His Imperial Majesty.
- Sakiya: Like Emperor Tosh Raka’s advisors, His Imperial Majesty has advisors of high noble rank. They make up The Elder Council. Some of them act above their station and believe themselves of superior noble rank than Counts and Jarls. Rigmor has already told several of them the truth, and they no longer try and demand she does things.
- Wulf: When Rigmor first became Countess, I cautioned her to listen to advisors but make them understand who makes the decisions. Unfortunately for our current and previous emperors, The Elder Council often forgets who is in charge.
- Khao: Why not chop their heads off and appoint competent ones who will listen?
- Wulf: I am sure His Imperial Majesty is tempted. But the politics are messy, and Cyrodiil could easily fracture along ancient divisions. The Empire is currently a fraction of what it was when Father was emperor. Any more fracturing invites invasion by those currently hesitant to risk it.
- Khao: That is why it was necessary to beat the Stormcloaks.
- Bashita: The Thalmor aided The Stormcloaks but never wanted them to win. The longer the civil war lasted, the weaker The Empire became. If weakened enough, The Great War would have resumed.
- Khao: It never finished?
- Wulf: Many believe The White-Gold Concordat is a ceasefire agreement, not a peace treaty. Neither side claimed victory in that war.
- Khao: Dhali says The Dragonguard spoiled The Stormcloak plans, as they did with The New Order.
- Wulf: Once we crushed Ulfric Stormcloak’s main army outside Whiterun, The Stormcloaks had effectively lost the civil war. But Ulfric insisted on fighting, so we fought many battles until I cornered him in his castle and killed him.
- Khao: Dhali has explained why The Thalmor wants to ban the worship of Lord Talos. I can understand how easy it would have been for Ulfric to recruit angry Nords.
- Sakiya: When we examined the bodies of dead Legionnaires, just as many wore Amulets of Talos around their necks as dead Stormcloaks.
- Wulf: I wanted to end the civil war quickly, as Ulfric’s lies killed more worshippers of Talos than The Thalmor ever did.
- Khao: Ka’Po’Tun has only ever had one enemy, although the Kamal sometimes invade. How our conflict with the Tsaesci started is lost in history. But now, there is a hatred that prevents any chance of peace. We want to help the Tang Ho in their struggles against the demons, but we cannot afford the troops.
- Wulf: I would like to return one day and help the Tang Ho. The Kamal are vulnerable during their winter hibernation and when they first emerge. I would have an army ready to greet them when they emerge from their dens.
- Khao: The Tang Ho are a quiet people who deserve peace.
- Wulf: As do the Ka’Po’Tun and Tsaesci. As do all the mortals of Nirn. I have a gift for you, Khao.
I handed Khao a Master of Magicka ring I had prepared before everybody else awoke. He took it and then gasped.
- Khao: I can feel very strong dweomer on it. What does it do?
- Bashita: Wulf makes them for all the mages. It increases the effects of all Schools of Magicka, increases your Magicka reserve by a large percentage and makes it recharge twice as fast.
- Sakiya: Put it on.
Khao put the ring on, and his look of astonishment was comical.
- Khao: You made this ring, Wulf?
- Wulf: I brought many of those runic rings from Khajiiti traders. It does not take long to place the dweomer.
- Khao: You must be a mage of great skill.
- Wulf: I am, but I have used little of my mage skills after my Thu’um reached a certain strength. Then again, I have only ever used a fraction of the Shouts I know. I have become a creature of habit.
- Khao: If you are killing the enemy quickly and efficiently, why change for the sake of it?
- Sakiya: Quickly and efficiently is Wulf’s speciality. You saw his dance of death in Akavir. It is almost an art that way he weaves, dodges and kills. Now he can use brute force, and it is not so artistic.
- Bashita: I don’t know. Some of the blood splatters and how the entrails land can be abstract art.
- Khao: Do you kill with The Voice so that the dead do not become memories?
- Wulf: It is easy to tell you are a mage. Your analytical mind is sharp. Yes, Khao, killing massed enemies with the Thu’um doesn’t add them to my tally and, therefore, is more palatable.
We talked about many other subjects, and Khao proved bright and intuitive. I think he will find many friends among The Dragonguard.
It was time to leave and the squad assembled outside.
Hashire said telepathically, “Hello, Dhali! I am pleased the reports of your death were premature.”
We walked to the stables.
- Wulf: Khao and P’Sua, have you ever communicated via telepathy?
- Khao: No.
- P’Sua: Never.
- Wulf: Hashire is a unicorn and can speak to you via telepathy. The advantage is that language is no barrier. Whatever is communicated telepathically is converted to your inner voice subconsciously. You can tell who is speaking telepathically as accents and idioms are also subconsciously converted. It can be strange speaking this way, as mouths remain static.
- Dhali: You will feel a probing, like somebody trying to poke a finger into your head. Just relax, and without training, you will drop your barrier. We can then use telepathy.
Hashire kept telepathically asking P’Sua and Khao, “Can you hear me?”
After a few seconds, both of them answered that they could. However, they used their voices.
- Hashire: That is good. It takes practice, and sometimes you will answer with your voice. Now try and answer with thought only.
- Khao: Hey, I can do it! This thought process is not unlike some of the mental exercises I endured in mage training.
- P’Sua: Whatever the scrawny little mage can do, I can do. See!
- Wulf: Good. We are now all able to converse with Hashire.
- Sune: Can I join in?
- Wulf: Yes, of course, you can. Khao and P’Sua, I am honoured to introduce Sune, another unicorn who recently escaped from Hircine’s Hunting Grounds.
- Khao: And who is the white stallion?
- Wulf: That is Frost. He is a horse, so he doesn’t talk. Well, not to us.
- Dhali: It is a delight to see you, Hashire!
- Hashire: I never expected to see you in Skyrim Dhali. P’Sua and Khao are also Ka’Po’Tun. Can I expect Tang Ho and Tsaesci to arrive soon?
- Wulf: It would be wonderful if some of those Dragonguard survived, but they didn’t.
- Dhali: Sune, you are as beautiful as Hashire is handsome. I am pleased to make your acquaintance.
- Sune: Ah, somebody who has experience with unicorns and knows that flattery is our weakness. I am glad to meet you, Dhali, Khao and P’Sua.
- Khao: You lived with The Dragonguard in Akavir, Hashire?
- Hashire: I have lived with Wulf his entire life, as has Meeko.
- P’Sua: Meeko tried to speak telepathically, but I did not know how to open my mind.
- Wulf: Meeko will verbalise to punctuate what he says. His sentences come in quick bursts, and it takes practice to decipher them smoothly.
The unmistakable roar of Nafaalilargus startled the Ka’Po’Tun. He prepared to land on Silverpeak’s roof. I called up to him, “Speak to us telepathically, Nafaalilargus. There are some here who do not speak Tamrielic.”
- Hashire: Oh, terrific. It’s the flying ego.
- Wulf: Open you mind to Nafaalilargus, P’Sua and Khoa. It will be the same probing as you felt from Hashire.
Nafaalilargus landed with a gentle thump on the roof. Any harder and Wujeeta would come outside wielding her broom and some unladylike language.
- Wulf: You can tell me why you are here in a moment, Nafaalilargus. First, let me introduce Swordmaster Dhali of The Dragonguard. Accompanying her are Khao and P’Sua, members of Emperor Tosh Raka’s Royal Guards.
- Nafaalilargus: It has been over a thousand years since I have spoken to Ka’Po’Tun. It is a pleasant surprise to meet you, Dhali, Khao and P’Sua.
- Dhali: Nafaalilargus, you are as magnificent as the many stories about you proclaim!
- Hashire: Please, Dhali, he is already in danger of squashing Wulf’s house. Don’t feed his ego!
- Wulf: You seem agitated, Nafaalilargus.
- Nafaalilargus: A Dovah named Valminoor recently arrived in Skyrim. I did not know this till I saw him whilst hunting Horkers north of Solitude. He is on a small island with a large Thalmor manor upon it. He warned me not to land, for a Dragon Priest named Sirlaak had stolen part of Valminoor’s soul and hid inside the manor.
- Wulf: A Thalmor manor? Are any of the slime living there?
- Nafaalilargus: No, the island is occupied by Khajiiti mages Caistor and Lhu’na and their steward, an elderly Nord called Berla. Lhu’na is of Alfiq Furstock.
- Wulf: Has Sirlaak always been there? Are Caistor and Lhu’na his allies?
- Nafaalilargus: The Thalmor were killed by an unknown assailant several years ago. The current occupants of the manor found it full of corpses. The mages have been aiding Valminoor, who has pursued Sirlaak across several continents. He is unsure why the Dragon Priest entered the manor.
- Wulf: Valminoor was not here while Alduin roamed these skies?
- Nafaalilargus: No, Valminoor has been in Skyrim for less than a week. He was one of the more enthusiastic slaughterers of mortals during The Dragon War. I am sure Alduin would have welcomed him with praise and sent him against you. He was living on an island in the Eltheric Ocean when Sirlaak found him and took a splinter of his soul. That was a month ago, and Valminoor has pursued Sirlaak since then.
- Khao: I thought it was impossible to soultrap a dragon.
- Wulf: It could be done with Dawn Magic, and The Dwemer figured out a way. That is how they created mechanical dragons whose souls I absorb when we defeat them. Some entities adept at necromancy can soultrap a portion of a dragon’s soul. I know a vampire who can do so.
- Nafaalilargus: Caistor heard me talking to Valminoor and came out to speak to me. He thinks you can help Valminoor regain his soul splinter and eliminate the Dragon Priest. He has asked that you visit the island.
- Wulf: Can we do a low and slow swoop so I can leap onto the island?
- Nafaalilargus: Perhaps, but Caistor has sent Berla with a boat to Solitude Docks. It will take time for her to reach them.
- Wulf: Okay, we will do as planned this morning and then make our way to Solitude by boat. It is always risky doing those leaps.
- Nafaalilargus: You can’t hurt yourself from such a height.
- Kharjo: Khajiit thinks the risk is to that one’s pride.
- Nafaalilargus: You might be right, my furry friend.
- Wulf: Will I have difficulty with Valminoor if I make him whole?
- Nafaalilargus: No, he followed Alduin during The Dragon War as he respected the strength of his Thu’um. He did not come to Skyrim when Alduin returned because he no longer wanted to fight mortals. He will now be subservient to you as your Thu’um has proven strong. You can tell him what you have told others. Follow as a friend or not at all. I doubt he would challenge you. That is for the foolish, and Valminoor is far from foolish.
- Wulf: I think being Ningheim and Dragonborn will enable me to help, depending on what Sirlaak has done with the soul splinter. He may even have traded it with The Ideal Masters.
- Nafaalilargus: During his thousand years in The Soul Cairn, Durnehviir did not learn much about souls. So he will not be of much help.
- Khao: This Durnehviir is a dragon who lived in The Soul Cairn.
- Nafaalilargus: Indeed, and Wulf brought him back to Nirn.
- Dhali: Ahh, I am sure P’Sua is as lost as me. What is The Soul Cairn?
- Khao: Black Soul gems contain the souls of mortals. When they are used for enchanting or other purposes, the entrapped soul ends up in a part of Oblivion called The Soul Cairn.
- Wulf: The Consciousness of the soul is trapped in The Soul Cairn. The Lifeforce is what is used for enchanting and other purposes. If that is confusing, I will explain as we walk to the cave.
- P’Sua: I hope my fur doesn’t turn white if I listen to all this magic talk!
- Nafaalilargus: To which cave are you walking?
- Wulf: White River Watch. We are eliminating a gang of bandits.
- Nafaalilargus: Do you require my help?
- Dhali: I want to see my student in action, Nafaalilargus. I can’t do that if you are roasting the enemy with Dragonfire.
- Nafaalilargus: You were one of Wulf’s teachers? You have my sympathy.
- Wulf: Sune, would you like a lovely, gem-encrusted gold dagger? Nafaalilargus doesn’t.
- Nafaalilargus: Ha, you jest. Where is it?
- Wulf: I will summon you when we return from helping Valminoor.
- Nafaalilargus: Then I shall return to my Horker hunt.
Nafaalilargus almost blew Dhali and the Royal Guards over as he lifted into the sky. Kharjo and I knew to brace ourselves. The Dovah quickly flew out of sight.
- Khao: That is the hero of so many tales?
- Wulf: He may seem serene, but I have fought him and know his ferocity.
- Dhali: Why did you fight Nafaalilargus?
- Wulf: He had watched me die dozens of times and wanted to see if I was The Dragonborn of this timeline.
- P’Sua: As well as explaining souls, perhaps that statement also needs clarification.
- Kharjo: One could grow grey whiskers when that one explains the weirdness of his life.
- Wulf: Before we leave, I must ask, what did Olette say to you, Sune and Hashire?
- Sune: A child of eleven showed more wisdom than unicorns thousands of years old. Olette said it was good fortune that Wulf, Nafaalilargus and The Dragonguard saved me when I was in Skyrim’s wilderness, and even a few minutes later, I may have been captured or killed.
- Hashire: Olette said neither could guarantee our survival, as Hircine will never stop hunting us. She said it was obvious we liked each other and that we were wasting time.
- Sune: She told us to make our time together precious, as we don’t know how long it will last.
- Hashire: Your daughter shamed us by telling fundamental truths.
- Sune: Olette is a remarkable young lady, Wulf.
My eyes welled with pride. Olette is remarkable, and I was blessed the day I met her in Riften. I didn’t say a word and started the walk down Silverpeak’s winding path.
I looked up at Father’s statue and shrine. I wondered if he was ever as proud of me.
I had erected a sign for amusement. You could reach Ivarstead along the path indicated if you were adept at climbing mountains.
Partway down, I assured the Ka’Po’Tun that the fog would clear soon. We then discussed the duality of souls, The Soul Cairn and how Nafaalilargus watched me die dozens of times. During last night’s meal, Dragonguard had explained gobblygook and mumbo jumbo to the Royal Guards. Until now, they had been obscure concepts without context. Now they understand why we use those terms.
We left the mist and fog behind and enjoyed the morning sun’s warmth.
When we reached the road, I said, “Those towers need the occasional cleansing as well. However, White River Watch is in the opposite direction.”
I turned and exclaimed, “I can hear Fireballs. Let’s run and see who is fighting!”
We ran and saw a Khajiiti tackling a mage. I had no doubt which one was a bandit. I had seen Anjari escort pilgrims and merchants in the past. She was equipped with Boethiah cultist armour which she took off one of those fanatics that foolishly attacked her. She also had an excellent bow covered in Daedric runes.
I Blinked to the skirmish, and Anjari said, “I have the mage under control, Dragonborn. The Vigilants ahead need your assistance.”
I looked, and three Vigilants were tackling two Perfect Blood Hybrids. Some bandits had joined the fray on the Hybrid’s side.
I Blinked to that fight, and one of the Vigilants, who was bloodied and retreating, recognised me and returned to the battle.
I used all my strength to cut down one of the Hybrids. As it fell, it tripped me, but I still managed to slice a bandit in two.
Ignoring the laughter behind me, I scrambled to my feet and Blinked to the next skirmish. I smiled when the Hybrid attacked a bandit. They have no allies!
A series of quick slices took care of the second Hybrid, which was much larger and more brutal than the first.
A bandit suddenly found herself facing three pissed-off Vigilants and me.
I said to her, “You picked the wrong side!”
Then I decapitated her, turned and did the same for another bandit.
Across the river, next to one of my houses, Whiterun Guards tackled some more bandits from White River Watch.
I Blinked across the river and disposed of the enemy. I must hire some stewards for the house as it is far enough out of Whiterun for burglary to be a worry.
As Whiterun Guards thanked me for my help, I looked across the river at my audience.
I thanked the guards for keeping Whiterun safe and then Blinked to where the Hybrids were.
I approached one of the Vigilants.
I asked, “How were the Perfect Blood Hybrids disguised?”
“I assume you were harassing innocent civilians.”
“We warned them that we will be watching them, and they had better not cohort with Daedra.”
“I cannot wait to make that bullshit a thing of the past. Some would say that Perfect Blood Hybrids are karma for your actions.”
“We are doing Lord Stendarr’s work.”
“No, you aren’t! But I neither have the time nor inclination to educate you. Tell me, have the Vigilants located the headquarters of this cult?”
“We believe it is somewhere in the icefields near Dawnstar.”
“You three would have died if I had not intervened. Perhaps you should stop harassing innocents.”
I inspected the corpses of the Hybrids. They carried bottles of blood and human flesh. Their armour was reminiscent of that worn by Lord Harkon in Vampire Lord form.
Anjari came to me.
She said, “It is good you intervened. After eliminating the mage, I would have been out of my depth and probably died defending those who harass me.”
“Have the Vigilants tried to confiscate your bow and armour in the past?”
“Yes, but I have always been with armed friends who told them to go away. Today I am scouting ahead. Ma’raska, other guards, and the merchant will be here soon.”
“Well, I am glad we were here to help, Anjari. Perhaps it would be wise not to get so far ahead of the others in the future?”
“It was so sunny and pleasant that I was not concentrating on my task. I am sure Ma’raska will give me a long lecture.”
Anjari went to meet her travelling companions. I turned to mine.
- Dhali: I have never seen such speed and efficient kills. No stroke was wasted, and you flowed from one to the other like you were doing sword forms.
- Wulf: I was tripped.
- P’Sua: On the way down, you cut one of the bandits in two!
- Wulf: Many arrows peppered the enemies. That was good shooting from such a range.
- P’Sua: It wouldn’t have been such a range if we could keep up with you.
- Dhali: I explained to P’Sua and Khao about Ethereal Shifting, what you call Blinking, and how it is one of the gifts of The Nine that make you Ningheim.
- Khao: What are those creatures?
- Wulf: They are Vampire Lords and Werewolves in one body called Perfect Blood Hybrids. Those people I rescued are Vigilants of Stendarr. They harass citizens about Daedra worship, which is not illegal within The Empire. Perfect Blood Hybrids look like ordinary people but can change instantly to these forms. I think there is a bit of gargoyle in the mix as well. The Vigilants questioned a couple of pilgrims and found themselves fighting the Hybrids.
- Khao: Are the Hybrids widespread?
- Wulf: They have only appeared in the last few months. We think there is a cult of Necromancers who stumbled upon a relic, spell or alchemical formula to turn themselves into the Hybrids. There is a vast area of ice fields they could hide in.
- Dhali: Were all of the bandits from the cave system we are to clear?
- Wulf: I assume so. Bandit leaders in Skyrim are careful not to infringe on other gang territories. It can get bloody otherwise. Kharjo wants to talk, so excuse me for a minute.
“Kharjo, I was explaining the Hybrids to them.”
“This one heard that one’s advice to Anjari. I hope Khajiit has learnt a lesson.”
“I am sure she will be more cautious in the future, Kharjo. Anyway, let’s take care of the bandits. This skirmish has been an example of how much of a menace they are.”
We climbed towards the cave entrance.
Eight bandits and a trained wolf attacked when the entrance was in sight.
Two Unrelenting Force Shouts eliminated them all.
As we inspected the mangled bodies and piles of ash, we discussed what the Ka’Po’Tun had witnessed.
- P’Sua: You never used The Voice in the battle we watched in Akavir.
- Wulf: I was instructed by The Nine not to use it on Nirn till Alduin arrived in Skyrim. For twenty-two years, I had a blessing from Lord Akatosh that I could not use.
- P’Sua: Why was this asked of you?
- Wulf: The Greybeards would have recognised the Thu’um of a Dragonborn no matter where on Nirn I used it. They would have called me to High Hrothgar, thereby announcing my existence. We did not want Alduin to know I existed till he revealed himself. The first time I saw him, he recognised what I was but was unsure of my strength in The Voice. He could easily have killed me then, but he was too cautious. That timidity cost him dearly as my strength quickly surpassed his.
- P’Sua: Is your strength in The Voice at its maximum now?
- Wulf: I am probably at maximum strength, but it needs honing. I am learning to concentrate more of my Thu’um on the desired outcome. Much of its energy is still wasted. That Shout I just used is called Unrelenting Force. Father and Ancient Tongues could destroy walls with it. The Greybeard’s Thu’um is so focused they dare not talk.
- Dhali: While Wulf couldn’t use The Voice, he concentrated on magic. He was trained by Psijic monks, a first for that order. They will be disappointed he hardly uses what they taught.
- Wulf: I am not all brute force. Let’s see if we can go through the cave undetected.
I explained to Kharjo what was discussed, and he was keen on using stealth.
The second we stepped into the cave, I killed a sentry.
I then used Heat Vision.
I whispered, “There are three enemies ahead. I have the eyesight of a dragon and can see their body heat.”
I quickly eliminated the three bandits, and we continued.
A bit further on, I whispered, “There seems to be quite a few ahead, including a trained Skeever.”
I killed a dozen bandits and the Skeever. Then I pulled a chain to release a captured wolf.
- Wulf: We can talk. There are no others bandits that I can see.
- P’Sua: None of us got a shot in!
- Wulf: I kill with speed and efficiency, as taught by Father and The Dragonguard.
- Dhali: You certainly do that, Wulf. Ahh, why is that Skeever glowing green?
- Wulf: Lady Kynareth occasionally marks an animal that way for a few seconds. Her challenge is to see if I can kill it before it reverts to normal.
- Khao: All of those you killed in this cave have added to your memories.
- Wulf: Yes, but it doesn’t bother me as much as it used to. On occasion, I have killed with more violence than required. That bothers me greatly.
- Khao: You told us you fear your Dov tendencies.
- Wulf: They can be cruel, and I do not need or want to be.
- Dhali: Have we finished the cleansing?
- Wulf: We have not encountered a bandit leader. They always have the best armour and weapons. We might find them on outside sentry duty. Let me lead the way.
We made our way outside, and a single sentry was wearing expensive, full-plate armour. I cut him down.
On him was a journal. He was a well know bandit leader called Hajvarr Iron-Hand. I know the Penitus Oculatus have been searching for him all over Skyrim.
I turned to Dhali and asked, “Has your student pleased you, Swordmaster Dhali?”
“Wulf, you accepted the role of Champion of The Divines, knowing you would need to kill and in great numbers. I am pleased that we have helped you gain the skills needed to perform your tasks. I am pleased even more that you have surrounded yourself with love to help you carry this burden.”
“Do not doubt, Swordmaster Dhali, that I am forever grateful for the lessons taught by The Dragonguard. Father was right to entrust me to you.”
I asked Kharjo, “Are you ready to help a dragon?”
“Yes, even though the ill dragon would probably eat Khajiit under other circumstances.”
The Ka’Po’Tun knew the procedure as I prepared to cast the teleportation spell. They gathered close, and we were soon on the docks of Solitude.
When we materialised, P’Sua laughed and said, “Watch out for the attack dog. It might chew your ankle!”
I knew without a doubt after I saw the ‘For Sale” sign that Silverpeak Lodge was to have another tenant.
The dog stared at me, daring me to laugh at her diminutive size, tiny tail and stumpy legs.
I said, “Hello, pretty lady. What is your name?”
The dog sat and smiled at me.
Vittoria often has guest merchants at her store, so I was not surprised to see one.
- Wulf: Good day, Vittoria. How is married life?
- Vittoria: Terrific, except for both lots of in-laws needing a good spanking.
- Wulf: I am sorry to hear that. I had hoped they would have shut up by now.
- Vittoria: It is a pity you wiped out The Dark Brotherhood.
- Carys: Vittoria!
- Vittoria: I am joking, Carys. Anyway, Wulf, let me introduce Carys Sundancer from Evermore. Carys, this is Wulf Welkynd of many titles. Might you have heard of The Dragonborn?
- Wulf: I am honoured to meet you, Carys.
- Carys: You are The Dragonborn?
- Wulf: That is who I see when I stare into a mirror.
- Carys: We all owe you many debts, Dragonborn.
- Wulf: Please call me Wulf. Now, is this dog yours?
- Carys: Yes, her name is Gladys, and I love her to pieces. However, as a merchant for the East Empire Company, I travel to many places via wagon and cargo ship. Not all destinations are pleasant or safe. I have realised that such a life is not for Gladys. She needs someone who will always be there for her and the freedom to run around.
- Wulf: Well, I don’t fit that bill, but my house is full of people, including children, and many other animals, including several dogs. Gladys would be spoiled by all the attention and have a substantial estate to run around. May I ask where her outfit comes from?
- Carys: It was a gift from some Bosmer merchants in Valenwood. They thought she was as cute as could be.
- Wulf: I can’t take her with me this very minute.
- Carys: I have to catch the tide in an hour or so.
- Wulf: Vittoria, would you mind looking after Gladys until I pick her up? I hope that is sometime tonight or tomorrow morning.
- Vittoria: Yes, of course.
I poured some gems into my hand and selected an emerald easily worth seven hundred septims. I handed it to Carys, who held it up and inspected it with expert eyes.
- Carys: This is worth more than I am asking!
- Wulf: I know, but I thought you might want to drown your sorrows after departing with Gladys.
- Carys: You are correct and have given me time to say my goodbyes.
- Wulf: Gladys will never be in danger and will always be surrounded by laughter and love.
- Vittoria: I don’t think Gladys could find a better home than amongst Wulf, the orphans who live with him and The Dragonguard.
- Carys: Thank you, Wulf. I didn’t know if I would be able to part with her when it came to it. However, you are offering Gladys something I can’t offer: a stable home. Oh, you need to take her favourite toys. They are called Thal, and Gladys loves to rip them apart.
- Wulf: They are dolls dressed as Thalmor.
- Carys: Gladys has always been a good judge of character.
- Wulf: Leave the dolls with Gladys so she has them to play with when you depart.
- Carys: This is going to be so difficult.
- Wulf: If The Dragonguard are told ahead of your next visit to Solitude, we can let you have Gladys for a day or a few hours.
- Carys: I can! Thank you!
- Wulf: I will pick Gladys up as soon as possible, Vittoria.
I could see Carys tearing up, and Vittoria held he friend as she started to sob. Gladys made her way to them.
As we walked along the docks, Kharjo laughed and said, “We will soon have more animals than people in Silverpeak!”
Berla was described as an elderly Nord. The only person we saw fitting that description was sitting at the very end of the docks.
I said, “Excuse me, are you Berla.”
The woman stood, turned, sighed when she saw five of us and then said, “Yes, I am Berla, Steward of Caistorshold. There is no way I am rowing you lot back to the manor!”
“I shall row us. All you have to do is point the way.”
I climbed into the boat, and the others followed. Berla sat on the front bench, and off we went.
A while later, we reached the island’s jetty and clambered out.
Berla said, “Head up the path to the main gate. Pull the chain and Caistor will speak to you and give you access.”
“He is using a Dwemer Voice Transference machine.”
“Yeah, I dunno. Whatever it is, Caistor can speak to you from his workroom.”
As we made our way up the path as instructed, a dragon roared with frustration and anger.
We could see Solitude and Nafaalilargus flying in circles.
- Dhali: Is that Nafaalilargus?
- Wulf: Yes. He will be concerned about Valminoor and me and watch from there.
- Dhali: Is he as vain as described in the histories?
- Wulf: Oh yes, I told you when I did that time splinter thing that he bathed in gold. I give him the occasional trinket that doesn’t deserve a place in my museum.
- Khao: I am no expert on dragon roars. Is Valminoor angry?
- Wulf: He is frustrated and angry. He will have different symptoms depending on what part and how much of his soul was taken. He may have lost memories, feel weak or have many other maladies.
- P’Sua: Why would the Dragon Priest want a part of a dragon’s soul?
- Wulf: Much magical knowledge has been lost since the Dawn Era. Sirlaak is likely to know spells unknown to me or any other mortal. Perhaps Caistor and Lhu’na have some idea of his purpose.
- P’Sua: Is Lhu’na an alias? Even with my limited knowledge of Khajiiti naming traditions, that sounds too much like lunar.
- Wulf: It is probably an alias. Many Alfiq have been offended by people treating them like house cats. People use the same condescending tones reserved for cute, fluffy and dumb animals. Their names get mangled in that process, so it is not uncommon for them to use aliases amongst us hairless savages.
- Dhali: Does Valminoor mean anything in Dovahzul?
- Wulf: No. Many dragon names are three Dovahzul words like most Shouts are three Words of Power. However, Valminoor has no meaning.
When we reached the gate, I pulled the chain, and Caistor’s voice crackled through the Dwemer machine.
He demanded, “Who is it? You had better not be that crook of a bookseller from Dawnstar!”
“It is Wulf, The Dragonborn. I am here to aid Valminoor.”
“Please, come in. Caistor will expect you in his manor.”
A click preceded the gates swinging open. All of us barely made it through before they clanged shut again.
I grumbled, “I hate Thalmor architecture!” as we walked along a narrow path.”
Valminoor waited for us at the end of a path.
I stood before him and said, “Drem Yol Lok, Valminoor. Zu’u los het wah Nafaalilargus’ laan.”
“Drem Yol Lok, zeymah Dovahkiin!”
“It is an honour to be called brother. May we speak in Tamrielic?”
He replied in Tamrielic, “They are Ka’Po’Tun, are they not? I have learned Tsaesci as I resided in different hiding places. Would that be easier?”
“Easier for all except my Khajiiti friend.”
Kharjo smiled and said, “It is okay. That one will tell Khajiit important things after.”
“Then Tsaesci it is.”
- Wulf: Valminoor, this is Swordmaster Dhali of The Dragonguard.
- Valminoor: The Dragonguard are a worthy and honourable foe of Dov. Greetings Dhali.
- Dhali: Greetings Valminoor. Dragonguard and Dov have fought side by side. We are not always a foe.
- Valminoor: When necessity dictates, enemies can become allies. That does not make them friends.
- Wulf: This white-furred Ka’Po’Tun is Khao. He is a mage of Lord Tosh Raka’s Royal Guard.
- Valminoor: Ha, I bet he misses the dragons he once commanded!
- Khao: No, for they were as arrogant as you.
Valminoor laughed, which made many seabirds take flight and the Ka’Po’Tun flinch.
- Wulf: Also of the Royal Guard is warrior P’Sua.
- Valminoor: I admit, Dovahkiin, I am curious about the presence of Royal Guards in Skyrim. But that can wait for a later tinvaak. Do you think you can aid me?
- Wulf: I can but try. I have yet to learn how Sirlaak took part of your soul or the amount. I also need to know what he has done with it.
- Valminoor: I did not see a soul gem. He held up his dagger, the kind we gifted all Dragon Priests, said an incantation in Ehlnofex and fled.
- Wulf: It seems he used Dawn Magic and must have prepared his dagger to entrap the soul splinter.
- Valminoor: I am no mage, Dovahkiin. I am relying on the Khajiiti mages and you to figure this out.
- Khao: How do you know he trapped part of your soul?
- Valminoor: I did not recognise the incantation, but I felt something was missing. Knowledge was lost, and I felt weaker. It is hard to explain. It is a persistent wrongness and makes it difficult to concentrate on anything but retrieving what was stolen.
- Wulf: Did you find it surprisingly easy to track Sirlaak?
- Valminoor: Yes, he tried many things, such as ethereal travel, teleportation and travelling deep underground. He was perturbed by how I was always behind him, but he was too slippery to catch. And what would I have done if I had caught him? If I killed him, would I ever be whole again?
- Wulf: It seems he has taken parts of your Consciousness and Lifeforce. You could track him as your whole being wants to reunite with the splinter of your soul. You wouldn’t even have to seek him consciously.
- Valminoor: Correct. I instinctively knew where he was when he appeared on Nirn.
- Wulf: All souls have a uniqueness you can scry for with the correct incantation. However, it is an automatic and natural thing that occurs without deliberate scrying when your soul is torn.
- Valminoor: You have a deep understanding of souls, Dovahkiin.
- Wulf: That is because I am also Ningheim.
- Valminoor: Indeed, The Divines have equipped you well for your tasks. I know that dealing with Alduin was only the beginning of your work.
- Dhali: What is next, Wulf?
- Wulf: We will see if the Khajiiti mages have any extra information. If not, I have plenty of resources I can utilise, including The Divines.
- Valminoor: Dovahkiin, you may be my only hope of ever being whole again. Sirlaak once served my brethren. But he has betrayed Dov and is striving for what is not his to claim.
- Wulf: I shall try my best, Valminoor. What Sirlaak has done is an affront to my fundamental beliefs, and he can’t be allowed to remain unpunished. That is why I shall confront him, not because he rebelled against his oppressors! And you do not know what he is striving for.
As we continued towards the manor, I told Kharjo the main elements of the discussion.
We entered, and it was so dark and dismal that I used Night Vision.
The place was a maze, and we stumbled upon Lhu’na and Berla just as my temper was peaking.
I said to the Ka’Po’Tun, “Kharjo and I will speak Ta’agra. Alfiq can speak Tamrielic, but with difficulty due to their voice box’s shape and small size. They could never speak Tsaesci.
I called out, in Ta’agra, “Mage Lhu’na, may we please speak?”
Lhu’na waited for me to stand before her.
- Wulf: Greetings, Mage Lhu’na. I am Wulf, The Dragonborn.
- Kharjo: And I am Kharjo. I am pleased to meet an esteemed Alfiq this far from home.
- Lhu’na: No doubt you are here to aid Valminoor.
- Wulf: That is correct.
- Lhu’na: Then I suggest you talk to Caistor, as I have had nothing to do with it. He hasn’t even asked me to help decipher the Black Book written in Dovahzul!
- Wulf: One of Hermaeus Mora’s Black Books?
- Lhu’na: Yes, but interestingly, it is no longer a portal to Apocrypha.
- Wulf: This puzzle gets more intriguing every minute.
- Lhu’na: Are these others Ka’Po’Tun?
- Kharjo: Indeed, they are. But they do not speak Ta’agra or Tamrielic.
- Lhu’na: And an Alfiq has no possibility of speaking Tsaesci. Pity, I would like to ask them many questions.
- Wulf: Where shall we find Caistor?
- Lhu’na: Not in this building. You turned left at Valminoor when you should have turned right. But of course, Caistor didn’t tell you that. His brain is too busy contemplating trivial mysteries to let reality intrude. And who knows what Skooma has done to his brains?
- Wulf: It has been a pleasure meeting you, Mage Lhu’na.
- Lhu’na: It has? That is a pity because you will try and talk to me again.
- Wulf: How about if I try hard to ignore your existence?
- Lhu’na: That would be wonderful!
Lhu’na trotted after Berla, who was keeping a door open with visible impatience.
I explained to the Ka’Po’Tun that we turned left at the dragon instead of right and that Lhu’na knew nothing. We then headed for the correct building.
We entered another maze of dull corridors. The sound of mortar and pestle was our only clue about where Caistor might be. I used Heat Vision to locate him.
We found him at an alchemy table.
Caistor moved away from the table to talk to us.
- Wulf: Do you speak Tsaesci, Mage Caistor?
- Caistor: No, but this one’s Tamrielic is excellent, don’t you think? Why does that one ask about Tsaesci?
- Wulf: Three of my companions are Ka’Po’Tun and do not speak Tamrielic.
- Caistor: Oh, that is fascinating, but a subject for another day. This one is very happy to meet you, Dragonborn. He is wondering if you would help.
- Kharjo: No, of course not. Khajiit, Ka’Po’Tun and Dragonborn travelled here because we were bored.
- Caistor: That one is?
- Kharjo: Kharjo of The Dragonguard.
- Caistor: This one suggests more sarcasm practice is needed by Kharjo of The Dragonguard.
- Wulf: We shall try and help with the problem, Mage Caistor, but I need more information. Mage Lhu’na seems disinterested as you have ignored her.
- Caistor: Typical Alfiq. That one is so easily offended.
- Kharjo: Offence would be easy when Mage Caistor is so annoying.
- Wulf: Please, tell us what you know, Mage Caistor.
- Caistor: This one suspects that only one of the dragon kind can do what is needed to obtain back the stolen splinter of Valminoor’s soul, you see?
- Wulf: That is wild speculation without specifics.
- Caistor: Sirlaak has entrapped the soul splinter from Valminoor with his enchanted dagger, yes. Then he went down into the depth of this hold. This one has a suspicion what Sirlaak did with the soul splinter there, hmm.
- Wulf: Okay, you have a theory on why Sirlaak took the soul splinter. What is that theory?
- Caistor: Caistor has done some research on this in his library. Is that one patient enough to learn about his findings, hmm?
- Kharjo: This is like trying to get blood from a stone.
- Wulf: My Ka’Po’Tun friends are watching our mouths flap and not understanding a word. So let us speed this up, so they don’t fall asleep.
- Caistor: Okay, Khajiit will hurry. A short time ago, Valminoor showed up at Caistor’s hold, and he would not leave anymore, yes. This one was curious and approached the wild creature.
- Kharjo: Oh, that one should not call a dragon a wild creature!
- Wulf: Mage Caistor, dragons are not wild creatures. They are knowledgeable beings! Does the pussycat understand?
- Caistor: Oh, I see. Dragonborn uses insulting term as example. Khajiit apologises for the insult to Dov.
- Wulf: Please, continue.
- Caistor: Oh, fearsome was Valminoor! But Khajiit was able to calm the dragon and learn from him why he wouldn’t leave.
- Wulf: He has pursued Sirlaak here and will not leave before being made whole.
- Caistor: That is what Khajiit was going to explain, but you did so with fewer words!
- Kharjo: Maybe if this one screams, it will feel better?
- Caistor: Yes, Valminoor must have his soul splinter returned. You know this one is a mage by profession, no?
- Kharjo: Khajiit heard Wulf call you Mage Caistor more than once! How much Skooma has that one consumed?
- Caistor: Well, maybe the Dragonborn doesn’t know this one is an excellent researcher as well! So, Caistor queried his extensive library and uncovered some information to solve this puzzle.
I yawned, and of course, the others caught it. Soon there was a chorus of yawns.
- Caistor: Is Khajiit boring you already, hmm? Or do you want to hear more of this fascinating story, perhaps?
- Wulf: I wouldn’t be able to sleep, not knowing the dramatic climax and ending. So, by all means, ramble on.
- Caistor: Certainly, you have noticed that this place was once owned by The Thalmor, no?
- Wulf: I hate Thalmor architecture almost as much as long-winded explanations.
- Caistor: Oh, well, anyways, when The Thalmor left, their documents remained, hmm…
- Wulf: And how did The Thalmor leave? In small piles of ash, perhaps?
- Caistor: No, Caistor found this place full of dead Thalmor skeletons in 4E 195. Much violence was used to kill them. It took a lot of time to remove the dead, cobwebs and dust! Caistor thinks the killing occurred in 4E 177.
- Wulf: What did you discover amongst the documents?
- Caistor: The reason why Sirlaak has come to this place, you see?
- Wulf: I see nothing but Khajiiti’s lips flapping.
- Caistor: Khajiit believes Sirlaak has come here because, in a cave deep below Caistor’s home, a very special kind of soul gem can be found.
- Wulf: What is so special about this soul gem?
- Caistor: You know that a dragon’s soul cannot be trapped within a soul gem, no?
- Wulf: Why would I know about dragon souls just because I have one? Others have trapped dragon souls, including The Dwemer.
- Caistor: Oh, Caistor did not know this. Anyway, Caistor has learned from Thalmor reports that in the cave below Castor’s Hold, there is a soul gem that can trap a dragon’s soul!
- Wulf: That soul gem would greatly interest The Thalmor and other undesirables.
- Caistor: Tell me this, Dragonborn. Why would Sirlaak come here after he has stolen a splinter of a dragon’s soul, hmm?
- Wulf: How can I answer that when I know neither the dweomer of the dagger nor the properties of the soul gem? How about you tell me what your excellent research has uncovered?
- Caistor: Well, this one could find nothing in Thalmor documents of use. So Khajiit went into the depths himself to investigate what drove Sirlaak there. And this one found the special soul gem, you see? Khajiit also found a Thalmor journal with better information about their activities.
- Kharjo: Did Sirlaak let that one wander and investigate?
- Caistor: Oh, when Caistor saw Sirlaak, a great battle occurred. Unfortunately, this one was not able to defeat the Dragon Priest. Caistor could sense some strong magic that prevented this, hmm. So Khajiit used his own magic to bind the Dragon Priest in a prison cell in the basement, yes!
- Wulf: Putting Sirlaak behind a barrier is a clever and skilful move, Mage Caistor. Now, what did you discover about the soul gem?
- Caistor: It is many times larger than even a Grand Soul gem. Sirlaak has embedded his dagger into the crystal, but Caistor could not pull it out. Would you not agree that some strange magic is at work there, no?
- Kharjo: Khajiit thinks Mage Caistor is weedy with no strength.
- Wulf: Many different spells could prevent the dagger’s removal. However, the question is why Sirlaak embedded his dagger and left it. I do not have enough information to speculate why he did that.
- Caistor: Hmm, Khajiit has a suspicion about what Sirlaak did at that soul crystal. But he needs to investigate further before speaking of it more, yes?
- Kharjo: A wise move because Wulf hates wild speculation and that one might get punched.
- Wulf: So, where is the Black Book written in Dovahzul?
- Caistor: Dragonborn knows of this?
- Wulf: That’s because Dragonborn spoke to Mage Lhu’na, yes, you see, hmmm?
- Caistor: Caistor believes it is about Dragon Priest magic. Khajiit will need it to confirm his suspicions.
- Wulf: Can you read Dovahzul, Mage Caistor?
- Caistor: No, but Khajiit has translation dictionary.
- Wulf: How about The Dragonborn, fluent in Dovahzul and a far more powerful mage than Khajiit, reads the book? To do that, he needs the book. So Khajiit will tell the patient Dragonborn where it is before he loses his temper.
- Caistor: It is in a display case in Caistor’s library.
- Wulf: Would Caistor’s library be in this building or the other one?
- Caistor: The other one.
- Wulf: Good. We shall fetch the book and go from there. Do you have the journal that tells poor Dragonborn what The Thalmor were doing here?
- Caistor: Yes, follow Khajiit to his bedroom.
- Wulf: On our first date? Okay.
Caistor led us to his bedroom and pointed to a table with a journal on it.
I took the journal and faced Caistor once more.
- Caistor: Will Dragonborn give Caistor a chance to figure out the puzzle?
- Wulf: If I can give you the opportunity, then yes, you can have time to figure out the puzzle.
- Caistor: This one is very proud to have such a well-stocked library. The Dragonborn has a museum, yes? So Khajiit is hoping that Dragonborn will judge if Caistor’s library is good or bad.
- Wulf: I will be glad to appraise your library, Mage Caistor.
- Caistor: Is Kharjo still grumpy with Khajiit?
- Kharjo: No, Mage Caistor. This one and Dragonborn have short amounts of patience sometimes. It was rude of us to be impatient. Verbose talking is not that one’s fault.
- Caistor: Good, because Caistor does not get many visitors and would like Dragonborn and friends to visit sometimes.
- Wulf: Perhaps we will visit if you make this manor a bit brighter.
- Caistor: How does Khajiit brighten up this manor?
- Wulf: I assume you know how to cast Fireballs. Use them to set the manor alight. That will brighten it and make me happy!
- Caistor: Dragonborn jokes, yes?
- Wulf: No, I am not joking. I hate Thalmor architecture!
I placed a Mark so I could use Recall later.
Caistor asked, “What is that dweomer?”
“It is a Mark. We can teleport to it later instead of enduring the endless corridors of this place.”
“That is lost knowledge!”
As we walked to the library, I explained to the Ka’Po’Tun what Kharjo and I discussed with Caistor, which took far less time than the actual conversation.
Then we stopped so I could read the Thalmor Journal to Kharjo first and then the Ka’Po’Tun.
“17th of First Seed, 4E 177
I have set off for northern Skyrim on a decree of Justiciar Elanya. Her orders are to verify the existence of a particular crystal, secure our access to it, and determine its value to us further. According to her, this crystal may become relevant for our upcoming endeavours in this part of Tamriel.
The Justiciar has provided me with ample funding. I am excited to lead such a strategic mission.
5th of Rain’s Hand, 4E 177
We have arrived on the isle and found it inhabited by several Nords. We have detained them for now. I am planning to start with my interrogations sometime soon. I am certain at least one of them will have some knowledge to share on the crystal. For now, I will be using their building, but we will need to start constructing an infrastructure more suitable for our purposes soon.
We also found the entrance to an ancient Dwemer ruin on the isle. I presume we will find what we are looking for in those ruins.
29th of Rain’s Hand, 4E 177
The early discoveries we have made in the Dwemer ruins are promising. We have located the crystal down in the caves. It has a very peculiar orange glow to it.
As Justiciar Elanya ordered, we have now started to secure the location. The main building is being constructed directly over the ruin’s entrance, and we will use some existing underground infrastructure to prepare several interrogation rooms. That will end the never-ending whines of the subjects, which still share the temporary housing with us…
7th of Hearthfire, 4E 177
The construction work is progressing well. The main building and the interrogation rooms are completed. The workers are now focusing on the estate. It will be housing our visitors and guests, should this place become of such relevance to the Dominion as the Justiciar is indicating.
9th of Frostfall, 4E 177
Justiciar Elanya will be visiting soon. I sincerely hope she will agree that her funds have been well invested…
Unfortunately, I have not progressed much in understanding the crystal’s secrets. My interrogations of the subjects so far did not provide any viable new information. Let us see if Justiciar Elanya’s skills will yield better results.
So, it is still unclear how the crystal is functioning. From all I can judge, it seems impossible to break out a sample from it, so all studies have to be performed at the site. The good thing is that we do not have to worry about anybody else getting their hands on the crystal as long as we control access to the cave.
27th of Hearthfire, 4E 177
Finally, we have made some progress.
One of the subjects has submitted to Justiciar Elanya’s outstanding interrogation expertise. It was a pleasure to learn from her. After completing this entry, I will dispose of the subject later.
The significant finding is that the crystal below is a unique type of soul gem capable of capturing dragon souls. The subject believed that dragons would return to Skyrim soon. If that is true, this crystal may prove beneficial, according to Elanya. I am unclear about this, but I trust her judgment.
As to how to capture a dragon soul and what use this could be to us, there is still much to learn. Maybe one of the remaining subjects can help shed light on this…”
- Wulf: This journal tells us nothing new.
- Dhali: I wonder who wiped out The Thalmor in 4E 177?
- Wulf: Whoever did it seems to have erased records of this place and the soul gem in Alinor.
- Khao: I agree. If this place were known to them, The Thalmor would not leave the soul gem unprotected and their research incomplete. They would have sent more people here.
- Wulf: If I were into wild guesses, I would say The Psijic Order eliminated The Thalmor and erased the records.
- Dhali: Why leave it unprotected?
- Wulf: The Psijic Order has unknown objectives and often relies on foresight. The only thing for sure is their dislike of The Thalmor. Let’s get the Black Book and see if that helps Valminoor.
We stopped to tell Valminoor of our progress.
“We are making progress, Valminoor. We know that Sirlaak came here because he knew of a special soul gem deep under the manor. A soul gem that can hold a Dovah’s soul.”
“That is a foul thing!”
“Yes, it is, and I will eventually destroy it.”
“What else have you discovered?”
“Sirlaak left the dagger containing your soul splinter embedded in the soul gem.”
“Do you know why?”
“I am retrieving a book that might tell us why or at least allow an educated assumption.”
“What of Sirlaak?”
“Caistor could not kill Sirlaak but has imprisoned him below the manor. I will deal with Sirlaak eventually. First, I need to know how to fix your soul.”
“I will wait with hope, Dovahkiin. It is a strange emotion for a Dovah.”
We entered the library, which was too dark like the rest of the dreary place. Therefore, I used Night Vision.
I said, in Ta’agra and then Tsaesci, “Careful, do not step on the thing whose existence I am ignoring.”
Lhu’na hissed, and she should have known that would elicit laughter.
Caistor’s library was superb. It needed sorting, but I had never seen such an extensive private collection. Some books were in poor condition, but at least they were there. It must have taken him many years to collect them all.
We found The Black Book in a display case, as Caistor indicated. It glowed blue, meaning it was not a book I had read before. It was in poor condition.
I opened the display case and checked the book for a portal. There wasn’t any. Still, I said to my companions, in Tamrielic and then Tsaesci, “I can detect no portal on the book. However, if glowing tentacles of Ehlnofex runes grab me and I turn transparent, don’t panic. I will return soon from Apocrypha.”
I warned Rigmor via our amulets, “My beloved, I might be taking a quick trip to Apocrypha. Don’t panic, and I will explain later.”
“Our visitors from Solstheim are lovely people. I am growing quite fond of Ashlanders.”
“Yes, once you get passed their paranoid racism, they are lovely.”
“You don’t mince words, do you.”
“Should I? Whoever is listening in, if you don’t like what I say, stick your nose elsewhere!”
“Very, and don’t ever change, my Dragonborn.”
I opened the book and didn’t end up with tentacles dragging me into Apocrypha.
I contacted Rigmor once more, “Nope, no trip to Apocrypha. I was so looking forward to meeting The Tentacled Turd again.”
I said to the group, in one language and then the other, “It is not a spellbook but a set of instructions on bypassing a requirement of the soul gem. Normally, only detecting a full dragon soul will allow the carving of the soul gem. In the past, a Dragon Priest asked Hermaeus Mora how to make it seem like a dragon was doing the carving, not him. The book tells how to combine a splinter of a Dragon Priest’s soul with a splinter of a dragon’s soul to make an intertwined splinter appear as a full dragon soul. It may take me a few minutes to understand as there are thirty pages of instructions, so please, no questions until I have finished.”
After reading through the book twice, I said to Kharjo, “Excuse me while I discuss this with the Ka’Po’Tun. As a mage, Khao may have some insight.”
“Khajiit understands. It is probably the type of gobblygook guaranteed to give this one a headache or raise questions about sanity.”
“Indeed, it is that.”
I then described something complex to the Ka’Po’Tun and was pleased they understood it.
- Wulf: Sirlaak wanted to remove a segment of the soul gem. However, the soul gem is protected by a dweomer which allows only dragons to cut it. Therefore, Sirlaak needed to fool the dweomer into believing he was a dragon. The dragon soul splinter in his dagger wasn’t enough by itself. For the deception to work, he had to combine a splinter of his soul with Valminoor’s splinter using the technique outlined in the Black Book. The term used is intertwined splinter. The intertwined splinter would work, but it was not perfect, as remnants of it had to be left behind. When he cut out a segment of the soul gem, the intertwined splinter was divided into three. Part of it was left inside the soul gem. Part of it remained inside the dagger. Part of it was embedded in the removed segment.
- Khao: Because the soul gem needs a dragon to carve it, dragons must have created it. There is no other logical reason for that restriction.
- Wulf: Yes, that is correct and what the Black Book says.
- Dhali: Why would they create such a thing?
- Wulf: We can speculate. Perhaps it was a place to store dragon souls if a Dragonborn came along and started absorbing them? Caistor said it was large, and this book indicates it can hold many souls.
- P’Sua: Could they use the dragon souls stored inside?
- Wulf: I mentioned that The Dwemer created mechanical dragons with dragon souls, proving they could use them. Therefore we must assume the creators of this soul gem could as well.
- Dhali: I ask this for clarification. Is the soul gem a naturally occurring crystal?
- Wulf: No, it isn’t. Dragons created it and placed the protective dweomer on it. There are many unknown things, but we almost have enough information to restore Valminoor’s soul.
- Dhali: For what use did Sirlaak use the cutaway segment of soul gem?
- Wulf: That is a critical piece of the puzzle. The obvious answer is Sirlaak used it to create a magical construct. I can’t think of any other use.
- Dhali: A weapon? A piece of armour?
- Wulf: The Black Book tells how to bypass the dweomer and remove a piece of the soul gem. It doesn’t outline possible uses for the removed piece or how to use it.
- P’Sua: Sirlaak might have been involved in the soul gem’s creation. That is how he knew of its existence.
- Wulf: That is logical. It must have been well hidden, or Caistor would have found it before Sirlaak arrived.
- Khao: Do you think Caistor suspects dragons, and you, are the only entities that can remove the dagger from the soul gem?
- Wulf: It would be a logical conclusion by him. However, I am sure that if I touch the dagger, I will absorb the intertwined splinters embedded in it and the soul gem. I don’t think Caistor would figure out that part of the puzzle.
- P’Sua: Why would you absorb the intertwined splinters?
- Wulf: The intertwined splinters are not anchored to a living dragon.
- P’Sua: Ahh, so it will be like you absorbing the soul of a dragon you slay! The intertwined splinter’s resemblance to a complete dragon soul fooled the dweomer. Therefore, it will probably fool your innate ability to absorb dragon souls.
- Wulf: That is correct, and you have done well understanding this gobblygook.
- Dhali: Is P’Sua’s fur looking a shade lighter?
- Khao: Why did Sirlaak leave his dagger embedded in the soul gem?
- Wulf: Sirlaak may think that whatever construct he has used the soul segment to create would be vulnerable to whoever wields his dagger. What would happen if the dagger still held the two fragments of intertwined splinter and touched the construct or the being holding it?
- Khao: The larger part of the intertwined soul, the two fragments, would absorb the single intertwined splinter fragment inside the construct and probably destroy it.
- Dhali: Sirlaak would think the dagger is safe because a dragon can’t reach it to withdraw it. Well, not at the moment. They must have had access to the soul gem to create it.
- Khao: But a Dragonborn can reach it!
- Wulf: A fact stops the dagger from being dangerous to Sirlaak. If a dragon or Dragonborn removed the dagger, it would no longer contain any fragments of the intertwined soul. It would just be a Dragon Priest’s dagger. I can’t think of any scenario where the dagger would threaten Sirlaak.
- Dhali: Does the book say anything about the dagger being dangerous to the Dragon Priest?
- Wulf: No, and Hermaeus Mora would not add such information if not requested in the verbal agreement made.
- Dhali: That is valuable knowledge requiring further negotiations.
- Wulf: Yes, and if you never asked, that is not Mora’s fault. You must be precise and include safeguards when negotiating with a Daedric Prince. Their word is sacrosanct, but they will not warn a mortal they are making a bad deal.
- P’Sua: We don’t know what kind of construct Sirlaak has created.
- Dhali: Caistor had a theory as to why he couldn’t defeat Sirlaak. Perhaps Caistor thinks the construct made Sirlaak invulnerable?
- Wulf: Invulnerable or perhaps increase his health restoration to an impressive rate as trolls do. If Caistor thought he was damaging Sirlaak but didn’t see the expected results, he might think that the Dragon Priest is immortal or impervious to damage. Dragon Priests are liches. Like others of that undead variety, they vary widely in strength and abilities. I don’t know Sirlaak’s strength, but even if weak, it is impressive that Caistor constructed a barrier strong enough to hold him in the middle of a fight. If it had been easy to do that, the Dragon Priests wouldn’t have lasted long during The Dragon War.
- P’Sua: Do you think you could do sufficient damage to negate the effect of the construct if it just regenerates health?
- Wulf: I have destroyed infamous and powerful Dragon Priests will a single shout in the past.
- Dhali: So, our biggest unknown is what Sirlaak used the soul gem segment for, and we might have to figure out a plan if he is invulnerable.
- Wulf: Correct.
- Dhali: What would happen to the part of Sirlaak’s soul you absorbed if you killed him?
- Wulf: It would recombine with Sirlaak’s soul. Only the original splinter taken from Valminoor would remain within me.
- Dhali: And how would you return that soul splinter to Valminoor?
- Wulf: I would donate part of my Lifeforce to repair that part of Valminoor’s soul. The Consciousness part of the soul splinter is knowledge. I would gift that knowledge to Valminoor as beings have gifted knowledge to me. I expect you to see this soul exchange when I kill Sirlaak and gift Valminoor. You won’t see it when I remove the dagger because it is not a pure dragon soul splinter I am absorbing. Well, that is my intuitive guess.
- Dhali: Would sacrificing some of your Lifeforce weaken you?
- Wulf: Yes, but if I visit Aetherius, it will replenish as my soul is that of a dragon. That would not be the case if you visited Aetherius. Your mortal soul’s Lifeforce would be drained until you die. Sovngarde is not a separate realm but exists entirely within Aetherius. Although we would have liked to explore Sovngarde more after defeating Alduin, we had to return to Nirn because the Lifeforce of The Dragonguard accompanying me was being drained.
- P’Sua: You can visit Aetherius at will?
- Dhali: Lord Talos created a room in Aetherius for Wulf. While inside that room, Wulf can make time run faster or slower relative to Nirn.
- Wulf: I couldn’t have learnt everything needed in the six years I spent on Akavir. My room in Aetherius let me expand that time to many more years. However, I am no older physically. I could will myself to Aetherius right now, spend several years there, and reappear seconds later and only seconds older.
- P’Sua: This is getting too much. I might sit in a corner and start giggling any second now.
- Wulf: If you travel with me, you must accept illogical or impossible things. You don’t have to understand it all, but accept it exists. That is why the term gobblygook is essential. It is the catchall phrase for things like these soul splinters, my room in Aetherius and so on.
- P’Sua: Okay, that might leave me sucking my thumb, but it is an improvement.
- Wulf: Would it make you feel better to know gods, even The Divines, also deal with gobblygook? Our gods did not create the rules that govern the universe. Therefore, how those natural laws work might be known to some degree, but a larger part remains a mystery to them.
- P’Sua: Knowing our gods are somewhat ignorant makes thumb-sucking more likely.
- Wulf: Let me try and explain this to poor Kharjo, who has been listening without understanding.
I started to explain it all to Kharjo, but he soon threw his hands up in submission and said, “That one will write all of this in his journal. Then one day, Khajiit will drink lots of alcohol and read the journal. Then it will make sense, and this one will be content.”
I laughed then Dhali came over to me and said, “Ahh, we have a problem. A certain diminutive mage has turned transparent green.”
Lhu’na retreated under the stairs and refused to face me when I said, in Ta’agra, “Khenarthi is playing a trick on you. Perhaps she has done this because you were rude to her mortal champion? Your colour will return soon.”
I Returned us to the Mark I had set earlier.
We had to search for Caistor and found him in his dining room.
- Wulf: Here you are, Mage Caistor, the Black Book.
- Caistor: Ah, Caistor is thankful that you have saved him the effort to go there, hmm. May Khajiit ask what you thought of this one’s library?
- Wulf: It is an excellent and well-stocked library! You should be very proud of it.
- Caistor: This is true? Dragonborn is not playing tricks on this one?
- Wulf: Mage Caistor, your library is as good as any private library I have ever seen. I am not tricking you. It must have taken great effort to collect them.
- Caistor: You know Ri’saad and Khajiiti caravans, yes?
- Wulf: Ri’saad and I are close friends because he has made a fortune from the gems I sell him at fair prices.
- Kharjo: This one was a guard for Ri’saad before joining The Dragonguard.
- Caistor: Merchant Ri’saad is most excellent at finding books this one requests. Khajiit visits stores in Skyrim and sometimes finds books for Caistor’s library, but Ri’saad is the primary source.
- Wulf: I know most of why Sirlaak came here and what he has done. There are still bits of the puzzle for me to solve. While I inspect the soul gem, you can try and decipher the book and solve the puzzle as well.
- Caistor: It is good you give Khajiit a chance to solve this interesting puzzle. It makes this one happy when Khajiit has to think hard and long.
- Wulf: Mage Lhu’na suggested you like to think about obscure things. I also like to ponder mysteries. Alas, I haven’t had much opportunity lately. I would like to know who bargained with Hermaeus Mora for the knowledge in that book. The Daedric Lord would have driven a hard bargain.
- Caistor: Then Caistor hopes it was a Khajiiti merchant like Ri’saad. Perhaps The Gardener would have come out second best in negotiation, yes?
- Wulf: I think that would be possible since I have fooled that god. He is arrogant, and that can be used against him.
- Caistor: This one hopes The Dragonborn visits and shares tales of his adventures.
- Wulf: And I hope you visit my museum. There are many things to ponder in there.
- Caistor: Relics from exotic places?
- Wulf: Lots of them.
- Caistor: And it is only a short boat ride, as long as Khajiit uses the tides!
- Kharjo: Maybe Lhu’na can do the rowing?
- Caistor: That is a good idea. Wait, that one is too small to reach the oars.
- Kharjo: DUH!
- Caistor: Duh? What is duh?
- Kharjo: DUH means DUH. Perhaps that one has a book on DUH!
- Caistor: Khajiit does not think so. Perhaps this one will ponder DUH! However, the fixing of Valminoor puzzle comes first.
- Wulf: How come you never found the soul gem before Sirlaak arrived?
- Caistor: This one thought he knew every inch of this property, but Sirlaak smashed through several walls. Khajiit thinks whoever killed The Thalmor hid the tunnel leading to the soul gem.
- Wulf: One could get dizzy with all these things to ponder.
- Caistor: Khajiit sometimes gets dizzy and falls over. It is probably the Skooma rather than too many thoughts. Here is the key to the basement. It is in this building.
I laughed, took the key and said to the Ka’Po’Tun, “We are going to inspect the soul gem.”
Dhali replied, “And that is giving the mage a chance to solve the puzzle. You have always been a softy, dear Wulf.”
“Rigmor accuses me of that all the time. In reality, I am a heartless killing machine.”
“If we were in our Akavir headquarters, that self-pity would earn you privy cleaning duties for a week.”
“If we could go back to a headquarters full of all those we have lost, I would gladly clean privies for a year.”
“There you go, softy time again.”
We went down several levels before encountering Sirlaak in his prison. I stood close to the barrier to inspect it and the Dragon Priest. Sirlaak made the mistake of getting close enough for me to detect the dweomer on his mask.
Sirlaak cast some spells, but they could not penetrate the barrier. He was surprised when I spoke to him in Dovahzul.
“I am Wulf, Dragonborn and Champion of The Divines. It seems your embedded dagger will soon be freed.”
“Why are we enemies, Dovahkiin? We both combat our Dov oppressors.”
“You took a splinter of Valminoor’s soul for purely selfish reasons, and now I see what you have done. The mask you are wearing is made from the soul gem. It has a dweomer that uses a tiny part of Valminoor’s soul to repair physical damage rapidly. You would seem impervious and immortal to somebody who can’t cause damage at a high enough rate. But you aren’t, are you? And I know somebody who can kill you without effort.”
Caistor’s barrier blocked Destruction spells and prevented Sirlaak from escaping, but it did not block The Voice. Sirlaak tried to move away from me, but he had nowhere to hide in the small cell in which he resided. A cell created by The Thalmor to house the original inhabitants of the manor.
A single Word Unrelenting Force Shout smashed into Sirlaak, who was hurled against the back wall.
The dweomer on the mask rapidly healed the Dragon Priest.
I snarled, “You live because I let you. When I am positive you are no longer needed, I will reduce you to a pile of ash and dirt. What you have done to Valminoor is abhorrent, and I am tempted to wipe your soul from existence.”
I turned to my companions, who looked amused.
- P’Sua: None of us understood a word you said. Dovahzul is a very harsh language, and you made it sound very menacing.
- Wulf: I understand what Sirlaak has done. He has created a mask from the soul gem segment. Its dweomer rapidly repairs physical damage. I had to test my conclusion.
- Dhali: Aha, you did a less powerful Shout to test your theory!
- Wulf: Yes, and Sirlaak quickly healed. Caistor could not cause enough damage to beat the repair rate.
- Khao: But you can, using The Voice.
- Wulf: I could probably do it with my sword, but I am guaranteed to do it with The Voice. I have left Sirlaak alive for now, as he might be needed. When I am sure he isn’t, I shall kill him.
- Dhali: Come on then, Wulf. Let’s get the dagger and end this. Valminoor has suffered long enough.
I told Kharjo what had happened, and then we continued down.
We came to the section where Sirlaak had forced his way through. It wasn’t a single wall, but three that he demolished.
The newly reopened part of the manor led to a Dwemer Lift.
- Dhali: What is that lever for?
- Wulf: Do you see the large cogs? This device is a Dwemer Lift. It will take us deep underground.
- P’Sua: Did Caistor mention this?
- Wulf: No, he did not, and neither does the Thalmor journal.
- Khao: Is there danger?
- Wulf: There could be Dwemer automatons, Falmer, and various giant insects. Nothing that we can’t handle.
I said to Kharjo, “Caistor never mention a Dwemer lift.”
“Khajiit thinks this would have been good information to have.”
“Yes, but I think it was just an oversight by Caistor. His mind seems to flit all over the place.”
“This one saw Skooma bottles.”
“So did I. Caistor admitted using Skooma. Some mages have been known to use it in small amounts when they like to think of abstract things.”
“Pull the lever. This one is keen to explore exciting Dwemer ruins!”
“This one suggests more sarcasm practice is needed by Kharjo of The Dragonguard.”
Kharjo laughed as I pulled the lever.
The lift took twenty seconds to reach the bottom. We were now hundreds of feet below the surface.
Kharjo asked, “Is this Blackreach? The place mentioned in that one’s journals?”
“Yes, Kharjo, this is Blackreach.”
“Khajiit hopes that one won’t use The Voice on any large orange globes.”
“I will try and resist the urge. I had better tell our friends where we are.”
“Yes, Khajiit has the advantage of reading the journal. It is wondrous!”
- Wulf: Well, this is a pleasant surprise. We are not inside Dwemer ruins. This underground void, called Blackreach, stretches across most of Skyrim and, I believe, into Cyrodiil.
- Dhali: Does anything live here?
- Wulf: It has large Dwemer cities now populated by Falmer and enslaved people. I have encountered a dragon, Dwemer automatons, Chaurus, and giant spiders. Think of it as another country the size of Skyrim. There is plenty of room for anything and anybody that wants to live in Blackreach.
- Khao: Is the glowing mineral Aetherium?
- Wulf: Yes, the mineral that almost destroyed the Dwemer people.
- P’Sua: What happened?
- Wulf: When made into a weapon, Aetherium allows much stronger dweomer to be applied.
- Khao: Fire damage from a dweomer placed on an Aetherium sword would be much greater than if made from any other metal or mineral. Any dweomer of any type is stronger when placed on Aetherium.
- Wulf: Four of the largest Dwemer City States allied to study, mine and forge Aetherium. When it was realised how powerful the mineral was, the City States started squabbling over it. A civil war was the result. The Dwemer population was decimated, and their major cities were destroyed. They never recovered completely.
- P’Sua: If it is so powerful, and there seems to be a lot of it, why haven’t I seen weapons made from it?
- Wulf: The Dwemer only built one forge that could smelt it. How to work the forge is lost knowledge. Therefore, you can collect as much Aetherium ore as you want, but it will just be a pile of glowing rocks. I haven’t heard of any smelted Aetherium being found in a long time. But, even if you found ingots of it, no blacksmith knows how to work it.
- P’Sua: If the Dwemer hadn’t argued over Aetherium, they could have conquered Nirn.
- Wulf: Some people think that was a possibility.
- Khao: Even though there are glowing plants and rocks, it must be very dark to you, Wulf.
- Dhali: Remember, Khao, that he has the eyesight of a dragon.
- Khao: Yes, that allowed him to see body heat.
- Dhali: He can also see in the dark, probably better than we can.
- Khao: You are right about it being dark, Khao, so I have to use Night Vision.
We followed a path then Khao said, “I can hear a weird sound!”
“Ahh, that is a native plant of Blackreach. Come, I will show you.”
Next to a Dwemer structure buried in silt was a Crimson Nirnroot.
Khao asked, “Does it have different alchemical properties than normal Nirnroot?”
“No, the alchemical properties of Crimson Nirnroot are the same as normal Nirnroot. It can be used in place of normal Nirnroot. However, Damage Health and Damage Stamina potions are far more powerful if Crimson Nirnroot is used.”
Old wooden planking crossed a shallow pond.
In the distance was a small island infested by Chaurus. The Ka’Po’Tun had been told about Kyne’s Peace and knew the insects would not attack us. Caistor had killed half of them.
We came to a section of the planking, and I said in Ta’agra and then Tsaesci, “This section in front of me looks brittle. I suggest you leap to the section after it.”
I did just that, then crashed through the even more brittle wood where I landed. When my head popped out of the water, hysterical laughter greeted me.
I splashed my way to shore. There was a camp used by The Thalmor, a lot of equipment and another Dwemer building.
I ignored the distractions as my eyes were drawn to the soul gem.
I looked at it with and without Night Vision. The same with Heat-Vision.
I told the others, “I am not surprised dragons used Aetherium to create the soul gem. I can see where Sirlaak carved out his mask because that area is not as warm as the rest of the soul gem. I don’t know what generates the heat, but it is only a fraction hotter than the surrounding Aetherium. Sirlaak’s mask was the same colour and also emitted heat.”
I touched Sirlaak’s dagger and absorbed the two intertwined splinters segments, one from the dagger and one from the crystal. I then removed the dagger from the soul gem.
The heat generated inside the soul gem dissipated, and I felt sick.
- Dhali: Wulf, you have gone pale.
- Wulf: I have just absorbed part of a Dragon Priest’s soul. I am not supposed to absorb mortal souls nor those of the undead!
- Khao: Will you be alright?
- Wulf: Yes, it is like eating something that doesn’t agree with you. I will be uncomfortable until I purge the bits of Sirlaak’s soul.
Kharjo asked, “Is Dragonborn okay?”
“Yes, Kharjo. The bits of Sirlaak’s soul doesn’t agree with me. I will be okay.”
I signalled for everybody to move away from the soul gem.
I focused a full-strength, Unrelenting Force Shout at the crack where the dagger had entered the crystal. A pickaxe flew through the air.
The power of my Thu’um didn’t break the soul gem into pieces. It vapourised it! The soul gem vanished in a flash of energy and left nothing behind.
I had no interest in examining the camp as I urgently needed to eliminate the soul splinters.
We Recalled to the Mark.
Then we talked to Caistor, who was attending to a fireplace in his bedroom. I stood with Sirlaak’s dagger in hand as we spoke.
- Wulf: I have removed the dagger from the soul gem.
- Caistor: As Caistor predicted you could. Certainly, you took the dagger with you, no?
- Kharjo: Yes, Wulf was stupid and threw away Sirlaak’s dagger. It is just a coincidence that The Dragonborn found the other Dragon Priest dagger he carries. Will that one suffice?
- Caistor: Oh, yes, this one didn’t notice. Anyway, Khajiit has solved the puzzle and ready to share the answer with others.
- Wulf: Please, go ahead.
- Caistor: Dragonborn looks ill. Are you sure you want to hear Caistor’s answer?
- Wulf: Yes, Mage Caistor, I am convincingly, positively, indisputably, unequivocally, unquestionably, indubitably, and unwaveringly sure I want to hear Caistor’s answer.
- Kharjo: Khajiit thought The Dragonborn was in a hurry.
- Caistor: Sirlaak has stolen a splinter of Valminoor’s soul because he needed it to create a magical item which grants him incredible power, hmmm… The Dragon Priest has made himself an enchanted mask which provides him with limitless health. With it, Sirlaak cannot be defeated in battle, do you see? And that is why Caistor could not best Sirlaak in battle, yes! Certainly, you want to learn which kind of magic Sirlaak used, no?
- Wulf: My heart is all aquiver with anticipation.
- Caistor: Here is what this one believes after translating the Black Book. The Dragonsoul entrapped within the dagger gave it the power to cut through the soul gem, hmm… So Sirlaak used the dagger to carve a mask from the crystal. And the splinter of Valminoor’s soul flowed into both crystal and mask, do you see? Then he added a splinter of his own soul into the mask. Through this sacrifice, he completed the enchantment, yes.
- Wulf: Keep going, Caistor, while you can string coherent sentences together!
- Caistor: The combined souls now grant the mask its incredible power. But its magic works for the soul-givers only, do you see? When the task was completed, a few remnants of Valminoor’s soul remained in both dagger and soul gem, binding them together, hmm…
- Kharjo: Is that one doing well, Wulf? Remember, this one will wait till drunk before reading the gobblygook.
- Wulf: He is doing quite well, Kharjo. A few mistakes, but that is to be expected.
- Caistor: Mistakes?
- Wulf: Don’t worry, Caistor. As I said, you are doing quite well. Why could I pull the dagger out while you couldn’t?
- Caistor: It is because you are Dovahkiin, of course! Your dragon soul touched the remnants of Valminoor’s soul and sucked them from the gem and into the dagger. Along with some tiny bits of Sirlaak’s soul, Caistor believes…
- Wulf: Interesting. Now, why did Sirlaak leave the dagger in the soul gem? He could have removed it.
- Caistor: Sirlaak knows that the dagger could be his doom, yes! So, that one left it there, bound into the crystal forever. But that one did not plan for a Dragonborn!
- Kharjo: Wulf, the eyes of the Ka’Po’Tun are starting to glaze over.
- Wulf: How can the dagger cause Sirlaak’s doom?
- Caistor: A very important question, yes. Are not the dagger and mask still connected through the souls contained within them, hmm? So, when the dagger is used against Sirlaak, this soul bond will pull the souls back into the dagger, thus removing the mask’s enchantment.
- Wulf: So, you think I need to attack Sirlaak with his dagger?
- Caistor: Dragonborn’s understanding is correct. Just let Caistor know when he is ready, yes? Then we take care of Dragon Priest and the poor dragon.
- Wulf: If I hit Sirlaak with the dagger, why doesn’t his mask suck the soul splinters from the dagger instead of the other way around?
- Caistor: Well…oh…um…
- Wulf: Why would the soul gem contain remnants of Sirlaak’s soul? The segment he removed and carved into the mask was not enchanted using a soul sacrifice till it was no longer part of the soul gem.
- Caistor: Ahh…mmm…ahh…
- Wulf: Neither the soul gem nor the segment carved into a mask live. They are not intelligent beings requiring a sacrifice, so why would Sirlaak need to give part of his soul?
- Caistor: Well…Okay, Khajiit seems to have made errors.
- Wulf: You have done exceptionally well, Caistor. However, you don’t know souls as I do. Dragons created the soul gem and placed a dweomer on it. That dweomer tested for a dragon soul before allowing the cutting of the soul gem. Valminoor’s soul splinter in the dagger was not a large enough sample to pass as a dragon soul. It was all that Sirlaak could partially soultrap. Therefore, Sirlaak had to provide, not sacrifice, a sliver of his soul and combine them in a way the Black Book instructs. The intertwined slivers simulated a complete dragon soul, which allowed the carving of the soul gem.
- Caistor: But Sirlaak has a mortal soul.
- Wulf: No, it is a soul changed by dragon mages to create a Dragon Priest. Eventually, the Dragon Priest became a lich. Sirlaak is undead. The sliver of Sirlaak’s soul was carefully chosen to match what the Black Book outlined. Following further instructions in the Black Book, Sirlaak combined his soul splinter with Valminoor’s in a specific way. The result was accepted as a dragon’s soul by the dweomer. However, the process needed parts of the intertwined splinter to remain inside the soul gem and the dagger.
- Caistor: Ahh, yes, Khajiit sees this now.
- Wulf: When I touched the dagger, I absorbed the intertwined soul fragments from the soul gem and dagger. I could have used any sharp enough blade to cut the soul gem, as I don’t have bits of a dragon soul but have many of them inside me waiting to be used. Even if I had never killed a dragon, I would still have my soul, that of a dragon.
- Caistor: This Khajiit now understands, but if the dagger has no bits of soul, how can you defeat Sirlaak?
- Wulf: Sirlaak’s mask does not make him immortal but rapidly repairs physical damage, like a troll but much faster. When you fought Sirlaak, you could not inflict enough damage to beat the speed of repair. I have placed a dweomer on The Dragonguard armour to do similar, but not as well as Sirlaak’s mask.
- Caistor: But The Dragonborn can inflict damage fast enough?
- Kharjo: Wulf has defeated infamous Dragon Priests far stronger than Sirlaak with a single Shout. He will turn Sirlaak into ashes.
- Wulf: When I kill Sirlaak, I will stand close to the mask and ashes. I will absorb the fragments of Valminoor’s soul in the mask. The part of Sirlaak’s soul I carry will seek and combine with the rest of his soul. You will see this happen as if I were absorbing the soul of a fallen dragon.
- Caistor: And then Valminoor can claim his soul splinter from you!
- Wulf: No, Valminoor does not have that ability. There are two parts of a soul, Consciousness and Lifeforce. When I absorb a dragon’s soul, I absorb the Consciousness part. Their Lifeforce is depleted. That is why they are dead! Sirlaak had entrapped a splinter of Valminoor’s soul containing both Lifeforce and Consciousness. Are you following this, Caistor?
- Caistor: Oh yes, Khajiit is finding this fascinating.
- Kharjo: Khajiit thinks Caistor needs to get out more.
- Wulf: When I absorb the Consciousness of a dragon, it is in the form of knowledge. Think of each dragon soul I carry as a book waiting to be opened and read.
- Caistor: That is a good analogy Khajiit understands.
- Wulf: The Greybeards, gods and other beings can transfer knowledge to me. It is like they hand me a book I instantly read and understand. If I transfer the knowledge in Valminoor’s soul splinter to him, that will be like adding missing pages and chapters to a damaged book. The Consciousness part of his soul will be fixed. I would still have to fix Valminoor’s Lifeforce, or he would be weaker than he should be. The powers of a Dragonborn do not let me fix his Lifeforce. However, the powers of a Ningheim do. I will transfer some of my Lifeforce to Valminoor, and his soul will be completely repaired.
- Caistor: Khajiit will have to research Ningheim, but I understand what The Dragonborn is saying. Khajiit thinks this transfer of Lifeforce would weaken The Dragonborn.
- Wulf: Only a little, and I have a way of replenishing it.
- Caistor: Okay, are we ready to dispose of Sirlaak?
- Wulf: Yes, just let me tell the Ka’Po’Tun what is happening.
I said, in Tsaesci, “We are going to dispose of Sirlaak now and then fix Valminoor’s soul.”
Dhali replied, “I take it you let Caistor give his solution to the puzzle and then corrected some mistakes.”
“Yes, but he did remarkedly well. I am impressed with the rather eccentric Khajiiti.”
“Well, there is no need to summarise what you told him. We understood as much as we are going to from the discussion in the library.”
I said to Caistor, “Come on then, stop dawdling!”
Caistor was keen to end the suffering of Valminoor and eliminate Sirlaak. Therefore, he almost ran!
We stopped on the last stairs before Sirlaak’s prison.
Caistor said, “Soon Dragonborn will have the opportunity to defeat Sirlaak. Be careful, yes?”
“I have little to fear from Sirlaak, Mage Caistor. I will defeat him and then make Valminoor’s soul whole again.”
“Then the dragon would no longer need to trample Lhu’na’s favourite flowerbed.”
“Ahh, that might explain her grumpiness.”
“No, that is Lhu’na’s natural state.”
We approached Sirlaak, and Caistor wisely removed his barrier while standing beside the cell entrance.
I walked in front of Sirlaak and didn’t bother talking.
As Sirlaak prepared a spell, a full-strength Unrelenting Force Shout tore him apart.
Sirlaak’s ashes fell to the floor. His armour and mask dropped with a clang a few feet away. He died no differently than other Dragon Priest.
I stepped closer and absorbed the last part of Valminoor’s soul. Bits of Sirlaak’s soul left me and combined with his. I have no idea where his afterlife will be. I speculate he will be floating in The Void until the next Kalpa.
I picked up Sirlaak’s mask, and it was inert. I could detect no dweomer on it, so I dropped it back on the floor.
When I approached him, Caistor had the biggest smile.
He said, “Caistor is very thankful that you helped him to defeat Sirlaak, yes!”
“Did you see how I absorbed the last part of Valminoor’s soul?”
“Very pretty lights, Khajiit saw.”
“Yes, that was the soul transfer.”
“So, Dragonborn can return the soul splinter to Valminoor!”
“Yes, and I am going to do that right now. Then I want to speak to you about Blackreach.”
“Is that what is below the manor?”
“Okay, Khajiit will eagerly await your return with good news.”
We quickly made our way to Valminoor.
I asked in Tsaesci, “Are you ready to be whole once more, Valminoor?”
“Yes, Dovahkiin. Is Sirlaak dead?”
“Yes, I killed him with my Thu’um.”
“That is good.”
I instinctively knew how to do the soul transfer. It was strange to witness the process in reverse.
When Valminoor’s soul was whole once more, his body briefly glowed with the power of the restored Lifeforce.
I could feel a slight weakness, but that was all. The transfer of the relatively small amount of Lifeforce shouldn’t adversely affect me.
Valminoor joyously declared, “I am whole again! Thank you, zeymah Dovahkiin!”
“I am pleased to help a brother. I see Nafaalilargus is heading our way. Perhaps he can show you around Skyrim and introduce you to other dragons.”
“That would be good. I have hardly seen another Dov since the Dragon War.”
“You will find the attitudes of the Dov survivors are less bloodthirsty without Alduin as overlord.”
“I will be forever grateful for your help, Dovahkiin. I will gladly accompany you on your travels if you need me.”
“If you accompany me as zeymah, my brother, and not because my Thu’um is stronger, you will be a valued ally.”
Valminoor lifted and roared with joy. Nafaalilargus replied similarly, and they flew towards the mainland.
I Recalled to the Mark.
Caistor was busy at his alchemy table.
- Wulf: Valminoor’s soul is restored. My friend Nafaalilargus is flying with him.
- Caistor: That one has dragon friends?
- Wulf: Yes, quite a few now. They can burn down this manor if you want.
- Caistor: Dragonborn jests once more, yes?
- Kharjo: Guess what, Mage Caistor?
- Caistor: DUH?
- Kharjo: Yes.
- Caistor: Caistor was very surprised to find out that Khajiit had been living above such a vast structure for so many years.
- Wulf: Do you know what Blackreach is?
- Caistor: Khajiit has heard of it. This one will do research, yes.
- Wulf: If you explore the Dwemer buildings and open up that area to the rest of Blackreach, you will be overrun by Falmer or Dwemer automatons.
- Caistor: Then Dragonborn has given this one a timely warning, so Khajiit thanks you. The Thalmor had hidden its entrance behind several walls that Sirlaak burst through.
- Kharjo: We don’t think The Thalmor hid it.
- Caistor: Then who did?
- Wulf: Whoever slaughtered The Thalmor that lived here. It is not feasible that The Thalmor would abandon the study of that soul gem or leave it to be discovered by others.
- Caistor: Does The Dragonborn have a theory?
- Wulf: At a guess, The Psijic Order killed The Thalmor and sealed the entrance to Blackreach. They have agents in Alinor who could delete records and kill people who knew about the soul gem.
- Caistor: So, those ones might try and stop Khajiit from studying the soul gem?
- Wulf: I destroyed the soul gem. There is nothing left of it to study.
- Caistor: Why did The Dragonborn do this thing?
- Wulf: The Dov population is a fraction of what it was. I didn’t want people to hunt dragons so they could use that soul gem. Now it is gone, and they can’t. Valminoor called me his brother, which is not wrong as we share a Celestial Father, Lord Akatosh. Dragons are family, Mage Caistor, and I will not have them harmed or used in experiments. I will not let the essence of who they are, their souls, be abused by power-hungry mortals or undead.
- Caistor: Khajiit understands. But there is still much to explore down there.
- Kharjo: Heed The Dragonborn’s advice. That one should be careful not to open the wrong door and invite trouble.
- Caistor: Khajiit will be cautious. This one will do a lot of research before exploring.
- Wulf: We must go now. Don’t forget to visit my museum, and we shall visit soon to ensure Caistor still lives here, not Falmer.
I told my companions, in both languages, “We shall pick up Gladys from the docks and then teleport home in time for supper.”
We appeared on the docks just in time to catch Vittoria, ready to head home with Gladys in tow.
Vittoria said, “Wulf, I must warn you, Gladys has more energy than dogs ten times her size!”
“I am sure the children will keep her busy.”
“Clara appreciated your offer of bringing Gladys to visit her when she is in Solitude. That helped a bit, but still, she found it hard to leave her companion behind.”
“If Gladys is so energetic, then life aboard a cargo ship would not have been ideal.”
“Clara knows that, and she made the right choice.”
“Are you ready for your new home, Gladys?”
I scooped up Gladys and handed her to a startled P’Sua.
“I can’t hold her and cast a spell.”
Everybody laughed as P’Sua was covered in licks by the squirming dog.
I teleported to Silverpeak Lodge, where P’Sua quickly handed Glady to me.
As the group headed for food, I put the squirming dog on the floor and said, “Come and meet Olette, Gladys.” The little dog trotted behind me as we approached my surprised daughter.
“Cap’n, who is that?”
“Her name is Gladys. Her owner was a travelling merchant who spent a lot of time at sea on trading vessels. She decided that was not the life Gladys deserved, so I purchased her.”
“I have never seen such a small dog.”
“Small dogs are popular in parts of High Rock. Nords tend to like the big breeds. I have been warned Gladys is extremely energetic.”
I handed Olette a couple of Gladys’ chew toys.
“Cap’n, these dolls are dressed as Thalmor.”
“They are Gladys’ favourite toys and are called Thal. I have more if she chews those two to pieces. Have fun!”
I left a still startled Olette with a yipping, growling Gladys, who was eagerly attacking one of her dolls.
I stood near Meeko as he watched the newcomer. Gladys would toss the doll in the air, crouch low, wiggle her butt, and then leap on the doll once more.
“No, Meeko, Gladys is not a barking rat.”
“Yes, go and introduce yourself. I am sure Olette would appreciate some help. Please don’t chew up Gladys’ dolls.”
I said hello to a few people as I toured the room. I expected derogatory remarks about our new yappy companion, but everybody seemed to think Gladys was cute.
After a quick meal, exhaustion hit me. I made my way to my bedroom.
When I entered, I said to Rigmor via our amulets, “Today’s chinwag will have to wait, my beloved. I need to sleep in my Aetherius room.”
“I gifted some of my Lifeforce to a dragon, which has made me more tired than I thought it would.”
“The delegation from Solstheim is leaving tomorrow. Then I can be with you again for a few days. But go, Wulf, I can sense your weariness.”
I willed myself to my Aetherius room.
I often find myself standing still, looking at Aetherius and filled with a sense of wonder and belonging. I didn’t have the energy to do so.
I staggered to a bed I hadn’t slept in since arriving in Skyrim and slumped onto it. I instantly fell asleep, fully armoured and armed.
When Wulf entered Aetherius, his father detected something was amiss. Talos appeared next to Wulf’s bed and studied his son. He didn’t know how Wulf lost some Lifeforce, but it would take days to recover. So Talos willed it to be, and Wulf’s soul was complete. Talos is immensely proud of his son and wonders if Wulf realises that.
Lord Talos, the Ninth Divine, was nothing more than Hjalti Earlybeard for a brief moment. The father kissed his son’s forehead as he did every night in their tiny hut. But there was no Alessia to add her kiss, and Hjalti sighed. Then he vanished, as godly duties called.