Tirdas, 2nd Hearthfire 4E 201
to Turdas, 4th Hearthfire 4E 201
We exited The College of Winterhold and made our way to the shoreline.
- Inigo: My friend, are we swimming between the icebergs and islands?
- Wulf: No, Inigo. I will walk across the sea, climb some icebergs, and look for signs of Septimus’ dig site. You will wait for me in a lovely cosy mead hall.
- Vayu: What if you get attacked?
- Wulf: Alduin might know we teleported into Winterhold, but he would not know where we went. Anyway, I can summon all of you if need be.
- Lydia: You are going to walk on water like solid ground?
- Wulf: Yep.
- Lydia: Is there anything you can’t do?
- Wulf: I can’t lick my elbow.
- Lydia: Now we shall all look silly while trying to lick our elbows.
- Wulf: Have fun!
We stopped in front of a memorial.
- Ko’rassa: Is that Lady Kynareth?
- Wulf: Yes, it is a popular depiction of Kyne as the mother of Men. In that iteration, she is the widow of Lord Shor.
- Ko’rassa: Are Kyne and Kynareth the same god?
- Wulf: Yes, as is Khenarthi, the Khajiiti interpretation of Kynareth. Many gods have multiple aspects.
- Vayu: The memorial is for those who perished in The Great Collapse.
- Wulf: I would love to find the true story behind that disaster. Many locals blame The College of Winterhold because their buildings suffered little damage whist Winterhold was almost obliterated.
- Vayu: Which is stupid because the college has a dweomer on it to protect it against disaster.
- Wulf: If you argue that point, the distractors ask why other buildings didn’t have that protection.
- Lydia: It is almost impossible to change a stubborn Nord’s mind. They had to blame somebody, and many of the mages were Mer. So naturally, they must have been responsible.
We entered Frostveil Mead Hall, and nobody objected to my plan. I didn’t think they would after they felt the warmth, smelt the food and realised how hungry they were.
I headed back to the shore.
I cast Water Walking. Then I proceeded directly to the circle’s centre that Urag drew on my map.
I saw a rowboat and torches around an entrance in the distance and headed for them. I only had to deviate a few degrees from the straight path.
I arrived at the dig site and entered.
I could hear metaphysical gobblygook being spoken by somebody to themselves.
There was a ramp leading down to some excavations. An elderly mage walked in seemingly random patterns while speaking the gobblygook.
He said to himself, “Dig, Dwemer, in the beyond. I’ll know your lost unknown and rise to your depths. When the top-level was built, no more could be placed. It was and is the maximal apex.”
I made my way down the ramp.
A large Dwemer contraption had been chipped out of the ice. If one man had done the work, it would have taken months, if not years.
The mage waited for me to approach. He was wearing Master of Conjuration robes and was of Imperial stock.
I asked, “Hello, are you Master Mage Septimus Signus?”
“I was, once, long ago. But now I am his champion.”
“My name is Lord Welkynd, and I seek information on Elder Scrolls. Can you help me?”
“Elder Scrolls. Indeed. The Empire. They absconded with them. Or so they think. The ones they saw. The ones they thought they saw. I know of one. Forgotten. Sequestered. But I cannot go to it, not poor Septimus, for I… I have arisen beyond its grasp.”
“In other words, it is somewhere too dangerous for you to venture alone.”
“Are you okay? Maybe you bumped your head or have eaten funny mushrooms? Not a Skooma addict, perchance? Maybe you have a venereal disease and were too ashamed to have it treated?”
“Oh, I am well. I will be well. Well, to be within the will inside the walls.”
“Uncle Sheo would love you! Anyway, where is this sequestered Elder Scroll?”
“Here. Well, here, as in the plane. Mundus. Tamriel. Nearby, relatively speaking. On the cosmological scale, it is all nearby.”
“Good. No quick trip to Oblivion, then. Where on Nirn will I find the scroll?”
“I could tell you, but as one block raises another, perhaps ourselves could help each other?”
“Why can’t anybody ever say, ‘Here you go, Wulf, just what you need with no strings attached since you are trying to save my life or freedom.’ But alas, I must ask, what do you need me to do?”
“You see this masterwork of the Dwemer. Deep inside their greatest knowings. Septimus is clever among men, but he is an idiot child compared to the dullest of the Dwemer.”
“They were so smart they disappeared up their rectums!”
“Lucky then, they left behind a way of reading the Elder Scrolls. In the depths of Blackreach, one yet lies. Have you heard of Blackreach? ‘Cast upon where Dwemer cities slept, the yearning spire hidden leanings kept.’”
“I have heard of Blackreach. It is where they mined Aetherium, and it connected Skyrim’s four major Dwemer cities. Do you know of an entrance? What is this spire?”
“The hidden keep. Tower Mzark. Alftand. The point of puncture, of first entry, of the tapping. Delve to its limits, and Blackreach lies just beyond. But not all can enter there. Only Septimus knows the hidden key to loosen the lock to jump beneath the deathly rock.”
“You sound as if from inbred stock!”
Septimus just stared at me. There was an uncanny resemblance to Sheogorath in that stare.
I asked, “Alftand is not far from here. How do I get in?”
“Two things I have for you. Two shapes. One edged. One round. The round one for tuning. Dwemer music is soft and subtle and needed to open their cleverest gates.”
“The round one is a key for a Tonal Lock.”
“Yes, indeed! The edged lexicon for inscribing. To us, a hunk of metal. To the Dwemer, a full library of knowings. But…empty.”
“There must be a transcription machine for the lexicon. Where is it?”
“Find Mzark and its sky-dome. The machinations will read the Scroll and lay the lore upon the cube.”
“This transcription machine is how the Dwemer read Elder Scrolls without danger.”
“To glimpse the world inside an Elder Scroll can damage the eyes.”
“Or the mind. I think you read one too many of them!”
“The Dwemer found a loophole, as they always do. To focus the knowledge away and inside without harm. Place the lexicon into their contraption and focus the knowings into it. When it brims with glow, bring it back, and Septimus can read once more.”
“You hope the knowledge contained will let you operate this Dwemer machinery.”
“Ooooh, an observant one. The Dwemer Lockbox. Look upon it and wonder. Inside is the heart. The heart of a god. The heart of you. And me. But it was hidden away. Not by the Dwarves, you see. They were already gone. Someone else. Unseen. Unknown. Found the heart and, with a flair for the ironical, used Dwarven trickery to lock it away. The scroll will give the deep vision needed to open it. For not even the strongest machinations of the Dwemer can hold off the all-sight given by an Elder Scroll.”
Septimus handed me a sphere and a lexicon.
“You think Lorkhan’s Heart resides in the lockbox?”
“Yes, the ice entombs the heart. It was the bane of Kagrenac and Dagoth Ur. To harness it is to know the fundaments. The Dwemer lockbox hides it from me. The Elder Scroll gives insight deeper than the deep ones, though. To bring about the opening.”
“How do you know Lorkhan’s Heart is within?”
“My Lord, the Daedric Prince of the unknown, Hermaeus Mora, told me. I thought there were no secrets left to know until I first spoke to him. He asks a price to work his will, such as a few murders, some dissent spread and a plague or two. For the secrets, I can endure. In time, he brought me here to the box. But he won’t reveal how to open it. Maddening.”
“You have killed, and spread plagues in pursuing what you think is in the lockbox. Would Hermaeus Mora allow you to possess something as powerful as Lorkhan’s Heart?”
What I didn’t say is I would not allow it. I will have to reread the histories. But I doubt very much Lorkhan’s Heart is in the lockbox. The Nerevarine disposed of it.
Septimus did not answer my question. His mind was fixated on one thing. I think he is simply a tool to be manipulated by Hermaeus Mora.
When we visited Langley, I placed a Mark outside his cottage. I exited the dig site and Recalled to the Mark. I then summoned the squad.
- Inigo: Woah, one can get dizzy with all this summoning here and there! Oh, are we visiting Langley?
- Wulf: No. I brought you here as it is a shortcut to where we must go.
- Vayu: Did Septimus know where to get an Elder Scroll?
- Wulf: Yes, even though he is nuttier than a fruitcake.
- Lydia: Another strange saying from Weirdo Land, the childhood home of Wulf.
- Wulf: Septimus is a few sheep short in the top paddock.
- Lydia: Huh?
- Wulf: He likes Apple Cabbage Stew.
- Kharjo: Blah! Khajiit thinks the mage is a friend of Skooma Cat.
- Lydia: Hey! The cooks at Aurane asked for the recipe. I showed them how to make it, and some people liked it.
- Kharjo: Khajiit will never get over the trauma!
- Vayu: Where did Uncle Sheo’s prize specimen say we can obtain an Elder Scroll?
- Wulf: Alftand. It is not far from here. From Alftand, we can enter Blackreach and search for The Tower of Mzark. There is an Elder Scroll in there and a transcribing machine. The Dwemer would transcribe Elder Scrolls onto lexicons and avoid going blind or insane.
- Inigo: What makes you go blind or insane?
- Vayu: Reading Elder Scrolls can make you go blind or insane. Most Moth Priests, who look after the Elder Scrolls in The White-Gold Tower, end up blind.
- Inigo: My mother said reading certain illustrated books would make me blind.
- Wulf: That habit can also lead to hairy palms.
- Lydia: Inigo, look at the fur on your palms! You pervert!
- Inigo: Seriously, my friend, won’t you be risking your eyes and sanity at the Time-Wound?
- Wulf: I am not reading the Elder Scroll, Inigo. When I unroll the Elder Scroll, its dweomer will make a conduit to the time when the Ancient Tongues used it to cast Alduin into the timestream.
- Vayu: Wulf will then use his ability to ethereal travel and send his spirit back through time via the conduit. Once there, he will observe the fight with Alduin. Hopefully, he will hear Unrelenting Force being used and learn it that way.
- Ko’rassa: How do we know the Elder Scroll in Blackreach, whatever that is, is the same one they used back then?
- Wulf: If the Elder Scrolls want me to find that one, it would now be the one we find in Blackreach, even if it wasn’t before.
- Ko’rassa: I am now convinced. The gods are all Skooma addicts. Every single one of them!
- Lydia: Kharjo, were they speaking Tamrielic?
- Kharjo: Yes, but a lot of gobblygook was included. Khajiit nods head vigorously as if this one understands.
- Lydia: Does that help?
- Kharjo: If that one does it hard enough and long enough, dizziness will help decipher the gobblygook.
- Lydia: Ah, sage advice!
- Inigo: What enemies can we expect?
- Wulf: Alftand will be full of Dwemer automatons and Falmer. Blackreach will be full of Falmer.
- Vayu: We might also encounter enemies as we cross the snowfields.
- Wulf: Let’s go!
- Vayu: Wait! You will transcribe the Elder Scroll onto a lexicon, but we don’t need to know its contents. Therefore, I assume Septimus does. What question does he want to be answered?
- Wulf: He is trying to open a Dwemer Lockbox. He thinks the Elder Scroll will tell him how and that the lockbox contains The Heart of Lorkhan.
- Vayu: Fuck!
- Wulf: I doubt it does, but Septimus can’t do anything without the transcribed lexicon. Therefore, the lockbox’s contents are not of concern now.
- Vayu: Why does he think it contains the heart?
- Wulf: Hermaeus Mora told him. But the Dark Lord can lie, as can all gods. You can trust them only when you make them bound to a verbal contract. Even then, you must be careful of the wording.
- Lydia: Is that the artefact that made mortals into gods?
- Wulf: Yes, Lydia, it created The Tribunal. It also powered the Numidium. The Nerevarine hid Lorkhan’s Heart, and I doubt it is within the lockbox. However, if Hermaeus Mora puts such effort into opening it, it might contain a relic he shouldn’t have.
- Lydia: You will retrieve whatever it is and keep it from the mage and the Dark Lord.
- Wulf: Yes. Septimus has murdered and spreads diseases at Mora’s request, and the Dark Lord can do nothing to me if I defy him.
- Inigo: Please, can we get moving? Icicles are forming on my whiskers and other vital parts of my anatomy!
Heading towards Langley’s were three pirate spirits. My first Unrelenting Force Shout did not destroy them.
My second one did.
Inigo laughed and said, “That will wake Langley, but it is better than having them in his room!”
Some giant spiders approached. Inigo shot one, and I killed the other with Unrelenting Force.
A Draman ran towards us.
Unrelenting Force killed it.
Vayu asked, “Can you feel your focus improving, Wulf?”
“No, the only indication with Unrelenting Force is the damage it does. With some other Shouts, the improved focus will be evident when their duration increases.”
Remains of an expedition were scattered near the entrance to Alftand. In one hut, I found a journal called ‘Expedition Manifest.’ I read the relevant section out loud.
“We’ve managed to secure the site and hold off any others who may try to steal our discoveries so far, especially those from the College of Winterhold, who seem to think the glory of exploring every ruin should be theirs alone.
The crew for our expedition is as follows:
- Sulla Trebatius (myself) – Expedition leader
- Umana – my constant companion and bodyguard
- Valie – a mage not associated with Winterhold (took some time to find)
- Endrast – a fellow explorer of some local renown
- Yag – a great brute of a woman, hired to keep the rest of the labour in check
- J’darr and J’zhar – two Khajiit brothers, hired as labour
We need a couple more labourers. Getting through the ice is proving difficult.
We’ve set up a shelter and scouted the area. The small ruins on the lower plateau of the glacier don’t seem connected to the main structure, and we haven’t managed to find a way into the tower parapet we’ve found here. Yag mentioned spotting a fissure in the glacial wall that may lead into the ruins, so we will try to find a way to get down there with the gear. It looks like a storm is coming.”
- Wulf: I don’t care what the expedition was doing or what relics and treasure will be inside Alftand and Blackreach.
- Vayu: They can be revisited after Alduin is removed.
- Wulf: Exactly.
- Ko’rassa: Dwemer ruins are not your favourite, anyway.
- Wulf: Their layout is never logical. There are always dozens of rooms with little to indicate their use. The same furniture and fittings are in those rooms and all other Dwemer ruins I have traversed. The Dwemer automatons are mindlessly violent, and the Falmer are not much better.
- Inigo: We are going killing quickly and not look around?”
- Wulf: That is the plan.
Several charred bodies were scattered around the expedition’s camp.
I said, “A passing dragon killed them. There was no tactical reason, just the whim of a dragon.”
Inigo replied, “But there were more named in the journal than lie dead. They may have found a way in?”
“Well, there is some newish-looking scaffolding. Let’s try that!”
The scaffolding led to the fissure mentioned in the journal.
The fissure led to the inside of Alftand.
It was not long before we found the journal of the expedition leader, Sulla Trebatius. I read it aloud,
“We tried to get through the glacier at the top but couldn’t find any way into that tower parapet. Yag spotted a fissure in the glacial wall, and the construction of a catwalk was finished just in time for a storm to hit. At first, we thought to wait it out, but it only worsened. A shift in the glacier took out several of the new labourers.
I ordered everyone to quickly move as much of the supplies as possible into the fissure, and we managed to get most of it. One of the hands decided that he wouldn’t listen and tried to make it out through the storm but got blown off the catwalk by the wind.
It looks like we are well and truly stuck in here. But for all that, I feel even more driven that I should be the one to uncover the mysteries of this ruin. I’m tired of all the credit for my work going to the Mages or the Legion. My name will go down in the history books for this discovery.”
- Wulf: If we come across Sulla Trebatius, and he is a Legion deserter, he will discover my sword in his belly.
- Lydia: My sword will be next to yours!
- Vayu: I hope there is room for three swords!
- Inigo: On a lighter, less violent note, I wondered where an Elder Scroll would hide. I think it would choose somewhere warmer than this place.
- Lydia: You are talking like Elder Scrolls can think.
- Vayu: They are sentient, as many powerful artefacts are.
- Inigo: Yes, the infamous Ring of Khajiiti will abandon its wearer if used for illegal activity. How would it know what was illegal if it couldn’t think?
- Lydia: I am nodding my head vigorously. When does the dizziness happen, Kharjo?
- Inigo: I thought you were in a perpetual state of dizziness.
- Lydia: Keep trying, Fur for Brains. That was only 95% unfunny.
- Inigo: Using my insults against me is against the rules!
- Wulf: If the children have finished, we shall keep going.
Signs of violence, including substantial bloodstains, suggested that even at the beginning of their travels through Alftand, something didn’t like them and attacked.
I commented, “I can’t see any arrows, so I doubt the assailants were Falmer.”
Vayu suggested, “It was probably Dwemer Automatons and Spectres.”
“Would they remove the dead?”
“Good point. Well, we won’t solve the mystery by standing still.”
Some blood stains led from the scene of battle. They could be from a survivor staggering along or bodies dripping blood as they were carried away.
Inigo stopped when the voice of J’darr, one of the Khajiit brothers, echoed through the ice passages and reached us.
J’darr said, “Where is it? I know you were trying to keep it for yourself, J’zhar… You always try to keep it to yourself and do not share with poor J’darr!”
Inigo cringed at what he was hearing. Ghosts of his past had come to haunt him.
After a few seconds, J’darr continued, “No! There’s got to be more Skooma… Shut up! Shut up! Don’t lie to me, J’zhar! You hid it! You always try and steal it from me!”
When it was apparent J’darr had no more ranting to do, I looked at Inigo. He looked into my eyes and then nodded. He was ready to continue.
The amount of ice lessened as we moved further into the Dwemer ruins. It was not surprising when we encountered our first Dwemer Automaton. It was a Dwemer Spider, and Inigo rushed over to kill it. I beat him to it with Unrelenting Force.
The spider exploded, emitting a lot of electricity.
I growled, “Half a second later, you would have been thrown across the room. Do not get in front of me, Inigo!”
The reason for the lessening ice was visible. The Dwemer conduits were active, and steam travelled through them at temperatures enough to make metal glow.
We found automatons not destroyed by us. We guessed that some of the expedition team had survived.
We encountered as many Spectres as automatons. I am sure that is an unusual ratio.
- Vayu: A living Dwemer was once discovered in Morrowind. Can you imagine being the last surviving member of your race?
- Wulf: His name was Yagrum Bogan. He authored an excellent book called Tamrielic Lore. He was infected with Corprus and moved around on Dwemer spider legs.
- Lydia: What is Corprus?
- Vayu: It was a disease created by the Dark Lord, Dagoth Ur. It was carried on Ashstorms in Morrowind and was incurable. It would turn all of those inflicted insane. The time to insanity was random. When insane, the afflicted were far stronger and mindlessly violent. Corprus so deformed some that they were not manoeuvrable enough to catch victims and inflict the violence they craved. That made them even more violent if a victim came within their grasp.
- Wulf: The danger of fighting those with Corprus was the chance to catch the disease. Many who avoided infection from Ashstorms were infected when defending homes and families.
- Vayu: There was a whole lot of religious mumbo jumbo involved. It is fascinating history and worth reading about when you get the chance.
- Lydia: I think I will avoid giving myself nightmares, thanks.
- Inigo: Then we had better remove all the mirrors around Aurane!
- Lydia: 90% unfunny.
- Wulf: Whilst the fate of Yagrum Bogan is sad, The Dwemer were architects of their downfall. Consider the Snow Elves instead. The Nord’s genocide involved many isolated pockets of Snow Elves who probably thought they were the last survivors of their race. The last adults, maybe warriors, but most likely not, would fight the Nord Berserkers and inevitably lose. Then the children, old people and other none combatants were summarily slaughtered in a bloodbath considered honourable and just. That is real sadness, and I wish I were there to turn the tide on Ysgramor and his butchers!
- Lydia: I was only ever taught the glory of Ysgramor and his followers. Children were chastised if they questioned the morality of that slaughter.
- Wulf: Unless children are told the truth, history will repeat. That is why I was keen to open Dragonborn Gallery.
We came upon a research station for the expedition. There was a bedroll on the floor and bloodstains leading away. On a table were dissected Dwarven Spiders and research notes written by Valie, the expedition’s mage. I read them to the group,
“If only Umana would have left one of these Dwarven machine creatures intact for me to study. That they almost killed those Khajiit brothers in the middle of the night doesn’t mean we couldn’t have found a way to disable one. We dragged some stuff in front of the pipes they came out of to stop them from coming back.
They are simply fascinating! It is just as Calcelmo described in Dwarves, v2. Their appearance does, in fact, resemble that of an arachnid. I had thought that to be an embellishment given by his source. The inclusion of the soul gem into the design of the apparatus is quite remarkable. It could explain the focus of the lightning that he describes.
Oddly enough, it doesn’t appear to be the primary power source for the apparatus. Perhaps some sort of harmonic resonance with the energies contained in the soul gem to bring heat to a small boiler? Too early to say conclusively. However, that raises the question of where they get the liquid for the boiler.
Huh, that was strange. I thought I just saw something moving beyond the barred door. It looked vaguely humanoid. I wonder if it could be an undiscovered automaton. I will move my bedroll down here to see if I can catch another glimpse. This expedition is so exciting!”
I told my colleagues, “I don’t think Valie was a victim of the Dwemer machines. I think the ‘vaguely humanoid’ thing she saw was a Falmer. Not the majestic Mer race but their twisted form created by the Dwemer when the Snow Elves sought refuge from the Nord genocide. They still infest their old homes as the automatons do.”
Alftand was becoming very warm, yet what appeared to be small icicles were abundant. I explained they were mineral deposits and stalactites, not icicles.
A dropped torch was another clue that some expedition members had survived the attack on their camp.
Broken pipes in areas stopped the hot steam from melting the ice. Hence, we found ourselves in icy corridors once again.
We heard a fight. By the Khajiiti curses being used, we guessed it was J’darr fighting an automaton.
We came upon several destroyed Dwemer Spiders and could hear J’zhar murmuring.
When we turned a corner, J’darr was leaning over the bloody corpse of J’zhar, his brother. He noticed us and waved a woodcutter’s axe, saying, “What? Who is this, Brother? Another of the smooth skins looking for food? But this one wasn’t trapped with us….”
J’darr snarled and ran at me, intent on treating me as wood that needs splintering!
Unrelenting Force killed him instantly.
Next to J’zhar was another woodcutter’s axe. It was covered in the blood of J’zhar, for his brother’s insane need for Skooma resulted in fratricide.
In a satchel near J’zhar were many empty Skooma bottles. Also nearby was J’zhar’s journal, part of which I read to the group.
“This one is at his wit’s end. I signed J’darr and myself up for this expedition to get him clean of the Skooma. I brought a small supply to bring him down slowly, but the storm trapped us in the glacier for weeks.
The others have not yet caught on that one with fur should not shake so much from the cold, but I’ve run out of the little Skooma I brought, and J’darr is getting pretty bad. He’s started hallucinating creatures coming out of the ice and the ruins. The others are starting to think he may be behind Valie’s disappearance, but I know he would never do something like that.”
Inigo said with grief threatening to overcome him, “J’darr was another Skooma-addled moron. These brothers are making me remember things I would rather forget.”
A sad Inigo was something new and foreign. We are used to the light-hearted Inigo.
A bit further on from the brothers, we discovered another journal. This one belonged to Umana and read,
“It’s been about a week since Valie went missing, and now Endrast is gone. We found blood leading over to the barred-off doorway. Sulla seems to think they found a way through and are trying to cut him out of the discovery.
He keeps saying that we need to press on. We’ve managed to break through into another section of the ruins, an ‘Animonculory’, where the dwarves would produce their automatons.
We learned the hard way that the metal creatures are still alive, and it hasn’t improved Yag’s mood. She holds that the Khajiit brothers aren’t involved with the disappearances and has kept a stern eye on Sulla.
The rations have all but run out, and we will have to decide soon whether to brave the storm or try to push further into the ruins. I don’t know if the echoes of screams I’ve heard in my sleep are those of our missing comrades or my nightmares.”
I said, “I don’t recall any great storm near Winterhold lately. And how would they know it was there unless they kept returning to the entrance?”
Lydia replied, “I was thinking the same thing. Nords are highly resistant to the cold and could easily have survived. A storm, as they described, would be all over the news sheets. Anything is better than starving to death.”
“It is also strange how ignorant they are of Falmer living in Dwemer ruins. They populate nearly every single one!”
“Perhaps some of them did know and kept it quiet. Sulla and Umana might not have told the others because they needed people for the expedition.”
We approached an area where several automatons hid in the pipework and on balconies.
We soon destroyed them.
Ko’rassa asked, “Why didn’t the expedition members get attacked?”
Lydia replied, “They didn’t have Inigo with them.”
Inigo laughed, which was a welcome mood change.
Lydia was looking at a metal rod going up and down.
She asked, “What is the purpose of those things?”
Vayu replied, “They are valves. When the pressure in a pipe reaches a certain level, the valve will rise, release some steam, and relieve the pressure. The release of the steam is the hissing sound you hear each time they pop up.”
We were walking along a narrow corridor when I suddenly stopped, and everyone piled into the back of the proceeding person.
Lydia asked, “Inigo, are you pleased to see me, or is that a metal pipe in your trousers?”
“Ahh, no, over my dead body, Lydia.”
“Whatever makes you happy, my furry friend.”
“Please, I am rarely scared, but the thought of you naked terrifies me.”
I interjected and asked, “Does anybody know why I have stopped?”
Inigo replied, “I can smell something, a gas of some sort.”
I used the Fire Breath Shout, and Dragonfire left my mouth as if I were a dragon. The gas ignited, and flames whooshed down the corridor and around a corner.
Lydia asked, “Wulf, does it hurt breathing fire like that?”
“Only from the other end, Lydia. You can try some of Kharjo’s Elsweyr Chowder to experience the feeling.”
Room after room. Automaton after automaton. Spectre after spectre. I alternated between Fire Breath and Unrelenting Force so I wouldn’t die of boredom. The occasional gas pockets were highlights of the walk.
A large pool of Dwemer oil posed a hazard, so I cleared it with Fire Breath.
We found some gelatinous piles of eggs.
Lydia asked, “Yuck. What are those disgusting things?”
Ko’rassa replied, “Chaurus Eggs. They are delicious with the right salad and wine. Argonian like to eat them raw. I like mine boiled.”
Everybody stared at Ko’rassa, who shrugged her shoulders and said, “You never know unless you give it a go!”
I lowered a portcullis that led to a steep spiral ramp leading downwards. We wanted to go down because Blackreach is in that direction.
The first half of the spiral ramp was populated by Spectres and automatons.
Using Zoom Vision, I identified the body of Yag, the Orsimer warrior. Falmer were near her corpse.
I eliminated all Spectres, automatons and Falmer I could see, and then we continued down the ramp.
To reach Tag, we could go through more corridors full of enemies or drop thirty feet down. The dweomer on our armours made the drop relatively safe, which is what we did.
As I inspected Yag, a group of Falmer ran up the ramp towards us.
We soon disposed of them and continued.
My sense of urgency was extreme. I needed to get the Elder Scroll and end Alduin’s terror. Therefore, I slaughtered dozens of Falmer without pause. Lydia was seeing me in my element for the first time. I was an unmatched killing machine.
In a room containing torture equipment, we found the remains of a person on a slab and piles of bones littered a small room used as a prison.
Valie’s corpse also lay on a slab.
Random items from the expedition were laid out on a bench, including clothing.
I said, “This is unusual. I can’t recall reading any reports of Falmer doing torture. They will kill and loot, but not this.”
Lydia asked, “Are they eating people?”
“There is a chance. That has been reported but rarely.”
I continued the rapid killing, barely noticing the surroundings as we went. Dozens of enemy fell to me, and it was monotonous.
As we approached a large gate, Inigo whispered, “I can hear two people arguing.”
I replied, “We had better introduce ourselves!”
The two people were Sulla Trebatius, the Imperial deserter, and his seemingly former friend, Umana. According to their argument, they stood in front of a Dwemer Lift, which led outside.
“Sulla, let’s just get out of here. Hasn’t there been enough death?”
“Oh, of course, Umana. You’re just waiting for me to turn my back so you can have all the glory for yourself!”
I said, “Both of you, drop your weapons and keep still. We outnumber you and will not hesitate to kill you!”
They attacked and died.
A Dwemer Lift led us to the base camp.
We took the lift back down, and I explained what was next.
I handed around the small sphere that Septimus had given me for the others to inspect.
I explained, “Much Dwemer technology utilises light, electricity and sound. Most people only think of steam-powered machines, as that is what is written about in standard texts and books. Also, the steam technology is visible and easy to understand. Most of the equipment based on other technologies is incomprehensible to us. Sometimes we can figure out how to use it but have no idea why it works. That sphere is a key for a Tonal Lock. If you place it in the receptacle, it will use sound that we may not even hear to open this Tonal Lock. Maybe it will give us access to lower levels and Blackreach. Many Dwemer artisans were called Tonal Architects because of their specialist knowledge.”
Lydia asked, “So if I put this little ball in that receptacle, something will happen?”
“Try it and see.”
Lydia inserted the sphere.
The Tonal Lock twisted and turned.
A set of stairs leading down was revealed.
I retrieved the sphere, as it would make a good exhibit in my museum.
At the bottom of the stairs were a pair of large doors. I opened them, and we entered Blackreach.
There was a chorus of ‘ooh!’ and ‘wow!’ and other exclamations. Even Vayu expressed wonderment, and he had seen a lot of strange places when training as a shaman in Akavir.
Giant luminescent mushrooms floated or stood upon huge stalks. A constant blue from Aetherium ore added to the varied colours of the fungi. Heat Vision showed both Dwemer automatons, and Falmer populated the area.
Inigo exclaimed, “My eyes are having trouble taking this place in. It is magical, mysterious, and menacing!”
“What about that large proboscis of yours.”
“There are many new scents. My nose is very busy at the moment.”
I told the group, “I am not here to explore Blackreach. Via the Dwemer Lifts, we can always return later. However, I don’t fancy being ambushed, so we shall eliminate the danger.”
I destroyed an automaton guarding the entrance to an isolated building.
I killed a Falmer that glowed orange, thanks to Heat Vision.
We eliminated many Falmer, a Crystal Golem, Flying Chaurus and Chaurus.
We continued along the main road, and I ignored the many buildings I would like to explore. They didn’t look like the dull Dwemer buildings on the surface. They would have to wait. I wanted the Elder Scroll, and nothing else mattered at that moment.
We climbed a small tower, and I eliminated many Falmer from there.
Inigo pointed to a large orange globe and asked, “My friend, what is that thing?”
“It produces artificial sunlight. It allowed the Dwemer to grow crops underground.”
“I bet it would upset the Falmer if something bad happened to it.”
“What are you suggesting?”
“Hit it with an arrow and see if it shatters.”
“It won’t shatter, Inigo. It would withstand much punishment if it were crucial to the Dwemer.”
“Is it solid?”
“No, it will be filled with a mixture of gasses.”
“If it is hollow and won’t break, would it act like a bell?”
“Go on, then, my friend!”
“Go on what?”
“Hit it with a Shout. I want the Falmer to get headaches and leave us be.”
“It will probably make them angrier!”
“They are already trying to kill us.”
“Okay, here goes.”
Unrelenting Force travelled swiftly across the cavern.
The globe made a high-pitched and short-lived peal.
Inigo said, “Well, it’s hollow, but I expected something spectacular.”
A dragon bellowed and strafed the Falmer with Dragonfire just as he said that.
I asked, “Spectacular enough, Inigo?”
He laughed and said, “Let us help our scaly friend make the Falmer miserable!”
Among the Falmer were enslaved people. The enslaved had become enslavers.
After killing all the Falmer and enslaved, I approached the dragon.
He said, “I am Vulthuryol, and I am not your ally, Dovahkiin.”
Vulthuryol tried to roast me with Dragonfire, so I retaliated and killed him.
After absorbing the dragon’s soul, I pointed to a distant tower.
I told the group, “We might as well have a look. Septimus did not describe the tower in detail.”
Nothing accosted us, and we soon reached the entrance to the tower.
The door opened to a Dwemer Lift.
We all piled in, and I pulled the lever.
The lift stopped at a round-shaped room. Paraphernalia, including a bedroll, suggested another explorer had investigated The Tower of Mzark.
We searched the room and found nothing of relevance. However, a bedroll and other items suggested the room had been used by another explorer.
We exited through doors directly opposite the lift and found ourselves at the bottom of a gigantic machine.
I quoted, “Cast upon where Dwemer cities slept, the yearning spire hidden learnings kept.”
Lydia said, “Huh?”
“This is The Tower of Mzark. Now I need to place the lexicon into their contraption and focus the knowings into it!”
“Did you know, when the top-level was built, no more could be placed? It was and is the maximal apex!”
“Maybe you need to lie down and have a rest?”
“When the lexicon brims with glow, I will know it contains the knowings!”
Lydia stared at me with a worried frown. I laughed and proceeded up a spiral ramp.
At the top of the spiral ramp, the spectre of Mzark sat.
I peppered it with arrows and turned it into an ectoplasm puddle.
The gigantic machine dominated the top of the tower.
On the ground, next to the machinery, was a skeleton.
Logically it was the owner of the bedroll we had noticed earlier. Next to the skeleton was a journal which I read aloud,
“I was never one for writing about my life. The king-priests of old deserve their stories told, but Drokt is a simple man. So, this isn’t no journal, and I’m not telling any stories here. But this infernal machine done worked its way into my brain-space, and I won’t leave till it’s figured out.
The whole contraption just sets like a dead horker if it doesn’t have the box. Putting the box in the hole made it all come to life.
Five rings, but only four buttons? Most of them don’t work most of the time anyhow. When the lights line up, more open, but they don’t seem to help. Just make another damned thing move.
The old fleabag Khajiit what sold me this cube said something about ‘the light through the knowledge through the machine rests on the cube.’ I remember because he made me say it back at him until I wanted to throttle him.
So, I did.
Tried to leave, but wolves to the top and them eyeless freaks outside the tower. I gotta stay here till I get it right.
And I will get it right.”
I said, “It seems like Drokt got what he deserved for murder.”
We climbed the ramp to where Mzark’s Spectre had been.
I looked up at the machine, which consisted of crystal lenses with arms to move them.
An array of four buttons was used to control the machine. In the centre of the four buttons was a celestial map. Metal covers covered the buttons.
To the right of the buttons was a receptacle for the blank lexicon.
I placed the lexicon into the receptacle.
This action did three things. It uncovered the button furthest to the right. It also made a pentagonal pane of glass at the top of the machine start emitting a bright vertical beam of light. Some arms moved, revealing a crystal oval containing an Elder Scroll.
I said to the group, “There is an Elder Scroll here. I can see it using Zoom Vision. It is encased in a crystal oval or egg if you prefer. Now all I must do is get it released!”
I pushed the uncovered button. The arms moved, and the machine’s floor changed to reveal several crystal lenses. The button next to it became uncovered.
I told my friends, “The lenses must be moved to split the light. A light beam must hit each crystal lens on the floor. They will direct the light to hidden machinery, and hopefully, that will give us access to the Elder Scroll.”
Ko’rassa asked, “Have you seen a machine like this before?”
I replied, “No, Ko’rassa, but logic tells me how to work it. I have no idea how it works!”
I pushed the second from the right button several times. Each time I did, the arms and lenses moved. The lexicon opened the last time I pushed the button, which I assume meant it was ready for the transcription. The second from the left button was uncovered.
I pushed that button several times until light beams hit all the ground lenses. The last button was uncovered when that occurred, and the lexicon closed. The surface of the lexicon now showed blue, glowing glyphs written in Ehlnofex, the language of the gods.
I said, “The lexicon now contains the information in the Elder Scroll. When I push the last button, we can retrieve the Elder Scroll. That allowed The Dwemer to change scrolls and repeat the process.”
I pushed the last button.
The cradle holding the crystal oval swung down.
The oval was moved into a horizontal position.
The oval then opened with a mechanical clatter.
I removed the lexicon and placed it into my journal case.
We then went to the oval, and I removed the Elder Scroll.
I briefly looked at the scroll and then place it in my journal case.
Inigo exclaimed, “You got the Elder Scroll! Well done, my friend.”
Vayu said, “You are exhausted and must rest before using the scroll at the Time Wound. Unless your oath as a Dragonguard means little, you will obey your shaman and go to bed.”
“Yes, Vayu, you are right. And I don’t fancy fighting Alduin in the dark. He is almost guaranteed to show up if I step into the Time Wound with an Elder Scroll.”
At the foot of the machine, another set of doors led to another Dwemer Lift.