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.
It took us to another base camp. I looked up and could imagine the stars’ voices telling me to sleep.
I teleported us to the palace.
I made my way to bed. I managed to stay awake long enough to undress before climbing into it.
The following morning, it was decided that Nords should be the one to visit Sovngarde. Ultimately, my squad consisted of Celestine because I promised she could come, Inigo, Iona, Lydia and Jordis. The last three were victors in a short straw competition.
I didn’t want to take any others, as the summit of The Throat of The World was not a large battleground, and I didn’t want anybody plummeting to their deaths.
The Elder Scroll fascinated me. But I was starting to wonder if my intuition was correct about the Time Wound.
Just after breaking our fast, Inigo asked to have a private talk.
The children cleaned their breakfast plates and played outside before lessons started. So, we sat at their dining table.
“Yes, Inigo, you look worried about something.”
“I need to speak to you about my deception and lies. You are not the person I murdered.”
“You knew I could not possibly be the person you shot. I was in Akavir till four months ago, and I think I would remember getting shot! Also, I am wealthy and would not need to resort to crime. Plus, we can assume that a Champion of The Divines should not be a drug-addled bandit.”
“I know. I did not believe you when you first denied our past in my cell. Now I know better. I am sorry. I have misled you and myself, and our time together began with a lie. I am glad it is ending with the truth. I will bother you no longer. For what it is worth, thank you. We had some good times, you and I. Goodbye.”
“You’re speaking drivel, but still, talk we must.”
“There is nothing to talk about. Langley was right. I am crazy. My mind is broken!”
“Langley is in no position to judge you or comment on your sanity. He doesn’t know you, but I do! You haven’t misled me since I never thought I was the one who was shot! You believed what you said and were mistaken. That is not lying! You have been through a lot, so stop being so hard on yourself!”
“I am not worthy of your time.”
“You have a good soul. You are my friend and part of my team. You are worth more than my time.”
“What did you call me?”
“What I have been calling you for weeks. You are my friend, Inigo. A good and close friend who I am starting to rely on. That is why I have asked you to accompany me today.”
“Do you mean it? I will not hold it against you if you do not.”
“I said that you are my friend. If you doubt my word, I will be forced to hurt you. You told Langley something similar, and it warmed my heart to hear it.”
“Thank you. That means more than you know. I thought we had a past together, but I began to doubt myself as time passed. You are so like the person I once knew. You even smell the same… in a good way.”
“I don’t think you wanted to face the fact you killed your old friend.”
“Yes, I think deep down I knew my old friend was dead. I needed to believe forgiveness was possible, and if not forgiveness… redemption in death. I deceived myself. It was selfish of me.”
“It is understandable and does not make you a bad person.”
“Thank you, my friend. I still have much to live for because of you.”
“Inigo, you are helping me against Alduin! You might save the world from The Doom Strider. You may even help me save the world a few times before he appears. You have much to live for, including the friends you have already made! Oh, and don’t forget the lovely Ko’rassa!”
“I promised Ko’rassa we would spend some time together at one of your houses if that is okay with you?”
“That is a good idea and perfectly okay. You will all deserve a rest once we have dealt with Alduin.”
“True! Anyway, I am still in your debt. You gave me a reason to go on, made me face my past, and now you are helping me come to terms with what I have done. I will follow you to Oblivion and back if need be. I did not mean to lie to you… or myself. I am ashamed. I hope in I will be able to earn your forgiveness. Ultimately, I hope our friendship and future adventures will prove more important than how we met.”
“I am going around in circles here! There is nothing to forgive, and I was never deceived! It matters not how we met. You are my friend and part of a fantastic team trying to save everybody from enslavement. Every person you see will owe their freedom to you when we succeed in defeating Alduin. Think about that!”
“That is very kind. It is a beautiful gesture, but my debt to you stands. I have not come near to earning forgiveness yet.”
“Surely, I am the one to judge if you have anything to be forgiven for?”
“Your words bring me joy, but I do not deserve them. I am happy you do not hold my confusion about our past against me, but I cannot say the same. Also, the person I thought you were is dead because of me. He is yet another casualty of my former life. I will know when I am ready to move on, but for now, the guilt I bear still weighs down on my heart. Maybe that guilt will be there for the rest of my life. I am the only one who can let it go.”
“I can understand your guilt about the killing of your old friend. For that, I cannot forgive you because I am not the one who was wronged. But I will do what I can to help and hope your heart will recognise redemption when you find it.”
“Yes. I believe it will. I must continue to readdress my life’s balance. I can feel a shift already.”
“You killed one person under the influence of Skooma. You and Fergus saved a lot of people and did a lot of good deeds together. You are now facing terrible danger by my side, helping all the people of Nirn! Put those facts on the scales and see your life’s balance.”
“J’darr and J’zhar upset me a great deal, my friend.”
“Skooma withdrawal must be a terrible thing.”
“Indeed, it is. J’darr would not have realised how odd it was to be conversing with his dead brother.”
“Yes, it is not like he stumbled upon his brother’s body. He killed him with an axe!”
“J’darr was a pitiful wretch. He reminded me of my past self, which has been on my mind ever since. I am lucky to have escaped a similar fate.”
“The day we buried Olette’s mother, I saved Wujeeta from that fate.”
“Do you think J’darr was a victim of bad choices?”
“I can’t judge somebody without knowing more. Who am I to say I wouldn’t make the same choices as they? I doubt anybody becomes an alcoholic or a Skooma addict because it appeals to them as a recreational pastime! Everybody has a breaking point, and I fear what I would do if I reached mine, Inigo.”
“Yes, when I reached my breaking point, I knew taking Skooma was a bad idea, but I lacked the willpower to do anything else. Maybe J’darr was in a similar predicament when he started his habit. He may have had a choice, but perhaps long ago, he was in a place where the taking Skooma was as involuntary as a yawn or a sneeze.”
“As I said, who am I to say I wouldn’t make the same choices?”
“Indeed. When most people see someone down on their luck, they assume they would never be in the same position. They may be right, but sometimes we make bad choices that do not seem like choices at the time.”
“Most people don’t want to know why a child is left to prostitute themselves or beg. They don’t want to know that someone with a missing limb lost it when fighting for the privileges and freedoms others enjoy. My parents taught me an ancient saying that has guided me throughout my life.”
“What is it?”
“But for the roll of the dice, there go I. In other words, not all people are born with equal opportunity, and it is random where your soul emerges each Kalpa. Some people raise themselves from poverty, and we marvel at their grit and perseverance. Saint Alessia is an example. But they are the exception because most who start in poverty will remain there no matter how hard they try to better their lot. Many do not have the perseverance or empathy to continue a legal struggle and see crime as an option. I try to help where I can. That is the duty of those with the means to help.”
“Yes. I am lucky you asked me to join you when you did.”
“I offered, but you chose to join me.”
“It is true. We both played a part.”
“All some people need is a helping hand. Wujeeta is now thriving, yet I only offered her that chance. She took it, Inigo. You took yours when you agreed to join me.”
“Maybe if J’darr had a friend watching out for him, he would still be alive.”
“J’zhar tried his best, but circumstances made his plan go astray. J’darr appreciated that helping hand until the Skooma withdrawal overtook all thought.”
“Seeing J’darr like that made me appreciate my new life. Anyway, let’s change the subject. How are you doing?”
“Ahh, I wish you hadn’t asked that, Inigo.”
“My friend, you don’t think your confidence and bravado fool us?”
“Most of the time, it is not an act, Inigo. However, this travelling through time is unknown. Even Paarthurnax, with thousands of years of wisdom and knowledge, is unsure what will happen. Perhaps the only being who might have the requisite knowledge is AKA, the time god oversoul. Taking The Elder Scroll to the Time Wound is a gamble. I do not fear for my life, Inigo. I fear that I might fail the people of Nirn.”
“It is a heavy burden you carry.”
“It is one I accepted with eyes wide open and full knowledge of that burden. Anyway, let us get going. I am eager to end this and move onto more pleasurable things, like cutting Ulfric Stormcloak in two.”
I gathered my squad and teleported us to the base of the summit.
Paarthurnax watched me approach. I am getting quite proficient in reading dragon body language. I could tell the old dragon was excited about something and wondered how long since that had last happened.
I stood before him and held out the Elder Scroll.
He said, “You have it! The Kel! The Elder Scroll! Tiid kreh… qalos. Time shudders at its touch.”
“As I shudder when near the Time Wound.”
“There is no question. You are doom-driven. Kogaan Akatosh. The very bones of the earth are at your disposal.”
“My mortal friends helped me recover the Kel.”
“Go then. Fulfil your destiny. Take the Scroll to the Time Wound. Do not delay. Alduin will be coming. He cannot miss the signs.”
“I do not believe in destiny, Paarthurnax. However, I believe in free will and choose to use the Kel.”
I stood next to the time wound, visible in the bright sunshine.
My friends spread themselves out and watched the skies for Alduin. He could exit the ether above us without warning, but I didn’t point that out to them.
Inigo said, “My friend, you look pale.”
“If I concentrate, I can feel linear time move forward at a steady and familiar pace. If I stare into the Time Wound, I see time swirling in different directions and speeds. It is like a tornado or whirlwind compared to a steady breeze. When I step inside the Time Wound, my sense of time will cause disorientation. Father placed a dweomer on my amulet, so it aids me to anchor myself in this timeline.”
I stepped into the Time Wound, groaning and swaying but remaining upright. I told my friends, “I will stand here, transfixed and not moving. I may even fade out a little or entirely. Do not worry about me but keep your eyes on the sky. Paarthurnax is certain that Alduin will realise what is happening and make an appearance. Face the four cardinal points and be prepared to fight for your lives. None of the other dragons will have prepared you for his strength.”
I opened the scroll, and a web with superimposed lines and circled Ehlnofex runes were burned into my subconscious, not my retina.
Instinctively I sought and found the conduit to the time of Alduin’s banishment. I willed myself there, and the present started to fade.
Inigo said, “Good luck, my friend. You look funny now you are see-through!”
The past slowly came into focus.
Here I record the heroic deeds of those ancient Tongues for the first time in their entirety.
Hakon On-Eye came running along the path that now leads to High Hrothgar. A dragon, Grahziinir, was in pursuit.
Hakon yelled, “Gormlaith! We are running out of time! The battle….”
Grahziinir landed in front of Hakon.
Grahziinir said, “Daar sul thur se Alduin. Today Alduin’s lordship shall be restored. But I honour your courage. Krif voth ahkrin. Die now, in vain.”
As he attacked, Hakon yelled, “It is you who will die, Grahziinir! For Skyrim!”
Grahziinir tried to burn Hakon with Dragonfire. The Tongue must have had protective dweomer; otherwise, he would have joined the other burnt husks littering the summit.
When fire proved ineffective, Grahziinir resorted to his formidable array of teeth as his primary weapon. Hakon would dodge the giant maw and swing his battleaxe in return.
The battleaxe has the same weakness as other two-handed weapons. They are slow and easy to avoid, which Grahziinir did with lightning reflexes. Hakon would tire long before the dragon and eventually get caught in those massive jaws. The kai-katana is much faster, lighter, and less fatiguing. That is why The Dragonguard uses them.
A loud “Hyah!” announced the arrival of Gormlaith Golden-Hilt.
She ran up and sliced Grahziinir across his face with her sword.
Grahziinir recoiled, then snapped at Gormlaith. She hit him again with a mighty swing, and the dragon recoiled again.
When Grahziinir snapped at her once more, she leapt upon his head.
Gormlaith struggled to gain footing as Grahziinir shook his head, desperately trying to dislodge her.
Gormlaith yelled, “Know that Gormlaith sent you down to death!”
She stabbed Grahziinir through his right eye, her sword finding the dragon’s brain.
Grahziinir died, and Gormlaith leapt from the dragon’s corpse.
I braced for the soul absorption, briefly forgetting I was not physically there. I stared at Grahziinir’s corpse and wondered if he was ever restored.
Many dragons flew overhead but did not attack. I assumed they awaited their overlord. As they walked, Gormlaith spoke with great confidence.
- Gormlaith: Hakon! A glorious day is it not?
- Hakon: Have you no thought beyond the blooding of your blade?
- Gormlaith: What else is there?
- Hakon: The battle below goes ill. I fear all may be lost if Alduin does not rise to our challenge.
- Gormlaith: You worry too much, brother. Victory will be ours.
Hakon moved away and looked at the scene below. I can only imagine the devastation he saw across Skyrim.
Gormlaith looked at the carnage littering the summit, and I could sense her confidence was forced. She was unsure of their ability to win but would face Alduin with courage.
The three Ancient Tongues faced each other briefly.
Dark Clouds appeared in the distance, the product of a dragon’s Shout.
Felldir and Gormlaith continued to face each other. Harkon moved away and surveyed the sky, looking for Alduin.
- Hakon: Why does Alduin hang back? We’ve staked everything on this plan of yours, old man.
- Felldir: He will come. He cannot ignore our defiance. And why should he fear us, even now?
- Gormlaith: We’ve bloodied him well. Four of his kin have fallen to my blade alone this day.
- Felldir: But none have yet survived against Alduin! Galthor, Sorri, Birkir…
- Gormlaith: They did not have Dragonrend and could not hurt him when he was in the air. Once we bring him down, I promise I shall have his head.
- Felldir: You do not understand. Alduin cannot be slain like a lesser dragon. He is beyond our strength, so I brought the Elder Scroll.
Felldir reached into the folds of his robes and retrieved an Elder Scroll.
- Hakon: Felldir! We agreed not to use it!
- Felldir: I never agreed. And if you are right, I will not need it.
- Hakon: No. We will deal with Alduin ourselves, here and now.
- Gormlaith: We shall see soon enough. Alduin approaches!
The Ancient Tongues looked skyward.
The World-Eater roared as he spiralled and then landed upon a Word Wall.
Dark storm clouds appeared, and meteors began to fall.
Alduin’s roar had acted as a Shout. No Words of Power were used!
In a deep, baritone voice, Alduin said, “Meyye! Tahrodiis aanne! Him hinde pah livv! Zu’u hin daan!” (Fools! Treacherous slaves! All your hopes are withered. I am your doom!)
Gormlaith yelled, “Let those who watch from Sovngarde envy us this day!”
Alduin lifted from the Word Wall with a roar as meteors showered upon The Throat of the World.
All three Tongues Shouted, “JOOR ZAH FRUL!”
The three Power Words of Dragonrend mean mortal, finite and temporary. They make a Dovah contemplate their mortality. So disturbed is a dragon’s subconscious as it tries to make sense of a foreign concept that the ability to fly is lost.
A blue miasma surrounded Alduin.
Then he landed heavily in a barely controlled landing.
The Ancient Tongues spread out in an arc.
Alduin growled, “Nivahriin joorre! What have you done? What twisted Words have you created?! Tahrodiis Paarthurnax! My teeth to his neck! But first… dir ko maar. You will die in terror, knowing your final fate… To feed my power when I come for you in Sovngarde!”
Alduin turned to Gormlaith as she yelled, “If I die today, it will not be in terror. You feel fear for the first time, worm. I see it in your eyes.”
The three Tongues engaged Alduin with weapons and Thu’um.
Alduin concentrated on Gormlaith. She was agile, and she swung her sword with speed and power. Every time Alduin’s massive jaws snapped shut where Gormlaith was, she had moved elsewhere. I could see why she had slain many lesser dragons.
Felldir Shouted, “FO KRAH DIIN”
Even with the might of Felldir’s Thu’um, Frost Breath had little impact on Alduin.
The dual between Gormlaith and Alduin continued.
Then Alduin turned his head, seemingly distracted by one of the other Tongues.
Once again, forgetting where I was, I yelled, “It’s a trick! Jump back!”
But Gormlaith didn’t jump back. She yelled, “Skyrim will be free!” and moved closer to Alduin
Alduin lunged far faster than any dragon I have faced. His mouth snapped closed around Gormlaith, and bones could be heard splintering. She died quickly, and only her armour stopped Alduin from biting her in two.
Alduin then shook her body like a terrier with a rat.
Alduin tossed Gormlaith’s broken body with disdain, then faced the two remaining Tongues.
Hakon yelled, “No, damn you! It’s no use! Use the Scroll, Felldir! Now!”
Hakon attacked Alduin as a Berserker. He cared not for defence, and all effort was directed towards offence. I have no doubt he did so to provide a distraction. If Alduin saw the Elder Scroll, Felldir might not have time to use it.
Felldir sheathed his sword and stepped back.
Alduin covered Hakon in Dragonfire, and unlike that of the weaker Grahziinir, it started to damage the brave Tongue.
Felldir held up the Elder Scroll and yelled, “Hold, Alduin on the Wing! Sister Hawk, grant us your sacred breath to make this contract heard! Begone, World-Eater! By words with older bones than your own, we break your perch on this age and send you out! You are banished! Alduin, we shout you out from all our endings unto the last!”
Halfway through Felldir’s recitation, Alduin noticed what he was doing and turned his Dragonfire upon him. That spared Hakon, who fell to his knees, his life almost spent.
I became engaged in what was happening, forgetting I was not there in bodily form. I wanted to heal Hakon but could not.
Alduin ceased his resistance and then stared in my direction. As Rigmor could sense where my ethereal spirit was, so could Alduin.
He said, “Mul Dovahkiin, nuz Miraak. Zu’u los wah dii dir?” (Dovahkiin, but not Miraak. Perhaps we will meet again?)
Alduin knew of my existence despite our wasted efforts to remain unknown. Now I know how he knew.
Felldir finished, and the power of Kyne dragged Alduin into the flow of time.
Alduin’s last words of that age were, “Faal Kel…?! Nikriinne…” (The Elder Scroll…!? Cowards…)
Alduin started to fade into the timestream.
Then he vanished with a pop as air filled the vacuum where The World-Eater one stood.
Felldir finished with, “You are banished!”
The badly injured Hakon stammered, “It worked… you did it….”
Felldir replied, “Yes, the World-Eater is gone… may the spirits have mercy on our souls.”
I had learned what I needed, so I willed myself back to the present.
Alduin had come out of the ether and hovered. I hit him with Dragonrend.
My friends fired spells and arrows at the airborne Alduin.
I used my Thu’um and told them, “REMEMBER, ALDUIN CANNOT BE HARMED IN THE AIR. KEEP YOUR ENERGY FOR WHEN HE LANDS!”
Alduin crashed to the ground, knocking Jordis and Inigo over.
He then turned his attention to Celestine.
Silah appeared and screamed her challenge. I hadn’t told my ally Dov not to participate. I don’t think Silah would have listened anyway. Alduin’s refusal to obey Lord Akatosh was an insult to the Jill.
Dragons are ponderous on the ground, and Alduin was no exception. Celestine hit Alduin repeatedly with fire spells, and they hurt him. He was enraged and forgot about me in his pursuit of the mage. It was pretty comical how he would turn, and she would quickly move so he could not lunge at her.
Still, it was perilous, so I quickly intervened. I hit Alduin with Dragonrend once more, and that got his attention.
Alduin repeated the dance he had with Gormlaith. My advantages over the Ancient Tongue were my katana’s speed and my shield’s effectiveness.
Silah hovered and hit Alduin with various Shouts.
Alduin tried the same trick he used with Gormlaith and turned his attention elsewhere.
Too bad for him, a smiling Celestine was there to smack him across the snout with her katana.
Dragonrend had ended, so I shouted it again.
I noticed Celestine had time to summon a Dragon Priest that blasted Alduin with Destruction spells. Simultaneously, Silah blasted him from behind with Frost Breath. The World-Eater was not enjoying the fight.
Alduin surrounded me with Dragonfire, which hurt despite my natural resistance to the Thu’um.
Alduin roared, and as I saw in my time travel, it acted as a Shout, and meteors started to fall. This time, ice shards accompanied them.
Alduin was under attack from all directions by swords, spells, and Shouts. It took far longer than any previous dragon, but he inevitably succumbed. However, he was a demi-god and could not be so easily defeated.
I stepped back and sheathed my weapons. My friends took my lead and sheathed theirs.
Silah’s summoned minion hobbled past as she voiced a victory roar.
It took a while for Alduin to recover enough to talk. Meantime, Dragonrend’s blue miasma dissipated.
Finally, Alduin said, with no arrogance and a measure of respect, “Meyz mul, Dovahkiin. You have become strong. But I am Al-du-in, Firstborn of Akatosh! Mulaagi zok lot! I cannot be slain here by you or anyone else! You cannot prevail against me. I will outlast you… mortal!”
I replied, “Do not think we will give you time to regain what little strength you had. We shall soon meet again in Sovngarde, where we shall defeat you again.”
Alduin took off, and Paarthurnax flew beside him hurling insults.
Paarthurnax landed on his favourite rock. Silah hovered in the distance. Observing and ready to report to The Nine, no doubt.
I asked my friends, “Is everybody here and healthy?”
I received a ‘Yes’ from each in turn.
Paarthurnax took off again and then landed on the Word Wall.
I approached him.
Paarthurnax said, “Lot krongrah. You truly have The Voice of a Dovah. Alduin’s allies will think twice after this victory.”
“It is a battle won but not the war’s end.”
“Ni liivrah hin mere. True, this is not the final krongah – victory. But not even the heroes of old were able to defeat Alduin in open battle. Alduin always was pahlok – arrogant in his power. Uznahgar paar. He took domination as his birth right. This defeat should shake the loyalty of the Dov who serve him.”
“He has fled to Sovngarde and will soon be strong enough to return. Ulfric Stormcloak and yesterday’s dragon attacks have ensured he has plenty of souls to hunt and consume. He must have a portal to that part of Aetherius!”
“Yes… one of his allies could tell us. Motmahus… But it will not be easy to… convince one of them to betray him. Perhaps the hofkahsejun – the palace in Whiterun… Dragonsreach. It was originally built to house a captive Dovah. A fine place to trap one of Alduin’s allies, hmm?”
“His Lieutenant, Odahviing, will respond to my challenge.”
“Indeed. Odahviing has visited and expressed reservations about this new war. I do not think he has harmed mortals since his restoration. Many Dov are reluctant to repeat the same mistake that almost made us extinct! Those he brought from Hammerfell were weak, and he knew they would soon die.”
“First, I must convince Jarl Balgruuf to allow a dragon to land on his palace.”
“Hmm, yes. But your su’um is strong. I do not doubt you can convince him of the need.”
“Tell me what you know of Dragonsreach.”
“They held a Dovah prisoner there for a very long time. This imprisonment was ages ago, you understand. There were more of us then. Before the bruniike – the Akaviri – came and killed all my zeymah. I used to visit him from time to time. He was nearly crazed by loneliness and captivity. Tiiraz sivaas. He did not even remember his name. I do not know how he came to be caught. But the bronjun… the Jarl… was very proud of his pet. Paak! The hofkahsejun has been known as Dragonsreach ever since.”
“A Dovah’s skull sits above the throne. I wonder if the Jarl realises what that symbolises. It is like seeing the skull of a mortal above the throne. It is barbaric.”
“Perhaps you can tinvaak… talk to him and allow some dignity for a fallen brother.”
I turned and faced my friends.
- Wulf: We have managed to do something no other mortals have done before. We defeated Alduin in combat.
- Inigo: That was exhilarating. What a battle! I think Alduin will think twice before messing with you again.
- Wulf: He will think twice before messing with us. He would have killed me without my friends backing me up.
- Iona: That fight lasted more than three hours!
- Wulf: You seemed to enjoy hitting him with your katana, Celestine.
- Celestine: He made me angry when he tried to chew on me early in the fight!
- Lydia: Wulf, you already have access to Aetherius.
- Wulf: I cannot reach the part where Alduin resides from my Aetherius Room. Traversing the infinite is not something I have been trained to do.
- Celestine: Alduin must have a portal to Sovngarde. Wulf must convince one of the World-Eater’s allies to tell us where that is.
- Lydia: But can we follow you?
- Wulf: Lydia, I am a mortal! Therefore, if I can use the portal, so can all of you. If I can’t use the portal, we shall find another way.
- Celestine: The plan is to trap a dragon in Whiterun?
- Wulf: If I use my Thu’um to challenge Odahviing, he will accept. The chance to test his strength against those who defeated Alduin will be irresistible. It is Dov nature.
I walked over to where the Time-Wound used to be. There was no sign the anomaly ever existed.
Silah landed, so I went and spoke to her.
Silah sounded excited, like she had heard some juicy gossip. She gushed, “That was fun! Did you see me freeze his big black arse?”
“I saw, even though I was trying to avoid his big black maw full of big brown teeth.”
“Yes, you were dodging more than hitting.”
“Hadn’t you better be off and tell The Nine their investment in me wasn’t wasted.”
“That is not how they think of you, Valdr Septim! They love you, and you know it!”
“Yes, Aunty Silah, I know.”
“Good luck with Jarl Balgruuf. He is almost as stubborn as you.”
“I hope he has kept the dragon trap in good order.”
“It is just some chains and a harness. I am sure it will work.”
“Bye, Silah, and thanks for the assistance.”
Silah took flight.
I gathered my group, and we teleported into Dragonsreach. The place seemed very dark after the sunshine at the summit.
I walked up to Jarl Balgruuf, who looked worried.
- Balgruuf: Dragonborn, for the last few hours, explosions and The Voice could be heard from The Throat of the World. Countless citizens have come here to ask their Jarl what is happening.
- Inigo: That was us kicking Alduin in the goolies! Oh, my name is Inigo, in case you have forgotten.
- Balgruuf: You fought Alduin and survived? Does that mean the dragon problem is over?
- Wulf: Not yet, for Alduin has fled to Sovngarde, and we must follow him. Only in Sovngarde can he truly be defeated.
- Balgruuf: Okay, but I guess you aren’t visiting every Jarl to inform them of this.
- Inigo: Only the Jarls whose castles have handy dragon traps. Counting you, that makes a total of one!
- Wulf: You would never make a diplomat, Inigo.
- Inigo: I don’t know. The Kingdom of Fleas has an embassy near my right ear.
- Balgruuf: Inigo, please be quiet, or Irileth will tie you up and put you in the corner.
- Inigo: Okay, being quiet.
- Wulf: I need to trap a dragon in your palace.
- Balgruuf: I must have misheard you. I thought you said you needed to trap a dragon in my palace.
- Wulf: Is the dragon trap apparatus still in position and operational?
- Balgruuf: Yes, it is a part of the city’s history. The stories intrigue many visitors who want to see how the trap works. It was last greased less than a month ago.
- Wulf: I want to challenge Alduin’s Lieutenant, Odahviing, to a fight. He cannot refuse as that would be cowardice, and his reputation would be shredded. When he comes to fight me, I will use what I learned from travelling back in time to force his landing. Then we trap him. Simple.
- Balgruuf: You went back in time?
- Inigo: Wulf does a lot of weird things. Oops, back to being quiet.
- Wulf: You can read about it soon, but we need to get moving on this while Alduin is weakened.
- Balgruuf: And what use will this captured dragon be?
- Wulf: He will accept my Thu’um is stronger. Then he will tell me how Alduin gets to Sovngarde.
- Irileth: Surely, my Jarl, you can’t allow this plan!
- Wulf: You may not have heard, but yesterday Solitude, Windhelm, Riften, Rorikstead, Dawnstar and Dragon Bridge were attacked by multiple dragons. My friends and I put our lives at risk defending those cities, as we did for Whiterun. Do not think that Alduin is done with Whiterun. If we allow him to regain strength, he will send dragons to reduce this city and its citizens to ashes.
- Balgruuf: All those places were attacked in one day?
- Wulf: Yes. So, what will it be, my Jarl? Will you help me defend Skyrim, or hide under a desk and hope the dragons disappear?
- Balgruuf: Irileth, if we can’t trust The Dragonborn and his friends, who can we trust?
- Irileth: You are right. I have no reason to question their plan.
- Balgruuf: Dragonborn, Whiterun will stand with you and your friends. We will take the risk and gain the glory, whether in victory or defeat.
- Wulf: Good. We are ready to go, but you must agree to obey my orders. If not, we shall find another way of convincing Odahviing.
- Balgruuf: Yes, of course. We know nothing about fighting dragons.
- Wulf: We won’t be fighting him. I will taunt him, and his anger will overcome his caution. He could kill you in seconds. You and Irileth can watch but don’t get his attention, or you will die.
- Balgruuf: Understood.
- Wulf: And you, Irileth.
- Irileth: I will do as told, Thane Welkynd.
- Wulf: And to think, I didn’t even have to throw my noble title at you.
Jarl Balgruuf and Irileth gathered some guards and went to the balcony. There they would position their men ready to trigger the trap.
We gathered at the balcony’s doors.
- Wulf: You are all the stay here until I say you can join me.
- Celestine: What if you get hurt?
- Wulf: Then I will probably cry a lot.
- Celestine: Wulf!
- Wulf: I want Odahviing to have one person in sight, me. I don’t want him going defensive. I want him angry, so he blunders into the trap. All of that will be easier if a group of armed and armoured people aren’t with me. You would be regarded as a threat even if you stood passively with weapons sheathed.
- Lydia: Would Nahfahlaar or Valminoor know where Alduin’s portal is?
- Wulf: They don’t know. It is well hidden like the portal into Aurane.
- Inigo: We shall wait here, my friend.
I went to the balcony and saw guard standing in the open. I ordered him far back, so he wasn’t a target for Odahviing.
Jarl Balgruuf stood in one corner.
Irileth stood in another corner.
Odahviing needs to be stretched out and chasing me. That should be easy to achieve. A guard upstairs would release the trap when Odahviing’s head was in the correct position.
I asked, “Is everybody ready?”
Jarl Balgruuf replied, “Ready when you are, Dragonborn.”
I walked from under cover and, using the full strength of my Thu’um, summoned Odahviing.
“OD AH VIING!”
Irileth said, “Fuck!”
Balgruuf said, “The Voice!”
The mountains said, “OD AH VIING!”
After a few seconds, the typically impatient Balgruuf asked, “Did you do it right? Was I a fool to listen to you?”
Odahviing answered with a roar as loud as my call was followed by, “Dovahkiin! Here I am!”
He flew around and then hovered to attack me.
I shouted Dragonrend, and the now familiar blue miasma surrounded Odahviing.
He roared in pure anger as he crashed onto the balcony.
I taunted, “I am disappointed. I wanted another challenge.”
Odahviing covered me in Dragonfire. It hurt, but I didn’t let on.
Balgruuf and Irileth could feel the immense heat even where they were standing.
Balgruuf exclaimed, “Kynareth, save us!”
I asked, “Is that all the mighty Odahviing can do? It seems your prowess in battle is somewhat exaggerated. I don’t know if you are worth bloodying my sword upon.”
Two more bouts of Dragonfire followed. When the Dragonfire cleared, and Odahviing could see me, I yawned and grinned. I stood without a weapon drawn and arms crossed.
Dragons do not yawn, but they know mortal body language. I just told Odahviing his best was far from impressive. He stared at me with hate and anger and then stomped towards me.
When Odahviing approached the right place, I yelled, “Release the trap!”
Odahviing halted, briefly looked up saw the harness dropping.
He roared, “NID!”
I Shouted, “GEH!”
When the harness hit Odahviing’s neck, restraints sprung, and the collar encircled it.
Odahviing roared with anger and frustration. I decided to let him calm down before approaching.
I opened the door to the map room and asked my squad to join me.
I told the guard he could stand in the sunshine if he wanted. He walked past Odahviing without a care in the world. I wondered if Irileth had checked the barracks for Skooma or special mushrooms lately.
Odahviing soon realised anger would not release him. He calmed, and I approached.
Inigo was amused and said, “Hehe! Look at that silly gas bag. I bet Odahviing is feeling very embarrassed now.”
Odahviing grumbled, “Horvutah med kodaav. Caught like a bear in a trap…”
“A bear would have been more cautious.”
“Zok frini grind ko grah drun viiki, Dovahkiin… Ah. I forget. You do not have the Dovah speech.”
“Daar los folaas. That is wrong. Did Alduin tell you I do not speak Dovahzul? It seems he was wrong about so many things. I knew you would want to test yourself against me, and I smiled and yawned to make you angrier. I do it to mortals, immortals and gods. It is a good tactic as they all make mistakes when anger takes over.”
“Dovahkiin. I salute your, hmm, low cunning in devising such a grahmindol – stratagem.”
“I am Dov, and I know how we react. It was intelligent planning, not cunning.”
“Zu’u bonaar. You went to a great deal of trouble to put me in this… humiliating position. Hind siiv Alduin, hmm? No doubt you want to know where to find Alduin?”
“I know he is hiding in Sovngarde. He needs to consume more souls quickly before we arrive and defeat him. I need to know how he gets to Sovngarde so I can follow.”
“Rinik vazah. Hiding is an apt phrase. Alduin bovul. I came to your call to test your Thu’um for myself. Many of us have begun questioning Alduin’s lordship, whether his Thu’um was truly the strongest. Among ourselves, of course. Mu ni meyye. None were yet ready to defy him openly.”
“I am not interested in your politics. Tell me how I get to Sovngarde.”
“Unslaad krosis. Innumerable pardons. I digress. As you said, Alduin has travelled to Sovngarde to regain his strength, devouring the sillesejoor… the souls of the mortal dead. A privilege he jealously guards… His door to Sovngarde is at Skuldafn, one of his ancient fanes high in the eastern mountains. Mindoraan, pah ok middovahhe lahvraan til. I surely do not need to warn you that all his remaining strength is marshalled there. Zu’u lost ofan hin laan… now that I have answered your question, you will allow me to go free?”
“Tell me how to get to Skuldalfn, and I give you my word that I will release you once Alduin is defeated.”
“Hmm… krosis. There is one… detail about Skuldafn I neglected to mention.”
“You have the Thu’um of a Dovah, but without the wings of one, you will never set foot in Skuldafn. Of course, I could fly you there, but not while imprisoned like this.”
“Odahviing, do you swear on Bormahu, on Lord Akatosh, that you will fly me to Skuldafn if I release you from this trap?”
“Onikaan koraav gein miraad. It is wise to recognise when you only have one choice. And you can trust me. Zu’u ni tahrodiis. Alduin has proven himself unworthy to rule. I go my own way now. Free me, and I will carry you to Skuldafn.”
“Then we have a deal, Odahviing.”
I called up to the guard, “Open the trap.”
He called back down, “Are you sure about that?”
“Let’s all become enslaved because you know more about Alduin and dragons than I do! I am Thane Welkynd, and I order you to open the trap. Do it now or spend a week in the brig after I pull the lever myself.”
“Oh…ah…of course, Thane.”
The lever was pulled, and counterweights lifted the harness to free Odahviing.
Odahviing slowly turned and shuffled to the end of the balcony.
I said as I walked to join Odahviing, “Squad, I will summon you once we reach Skuldafn.”
I stood next to Odahviing.
He asked, “Saraan uth – I await your command, as promised. Are you ready to see the world as only a Dovah can?”
“Yes, I am eager to experience the domain of Kaan! Take me to Skuldafn.”
I climbed aboard Odahviing’s outstretched neck, and he said, “Zok brit uth! I warn you, once you’ve flown the skies of Keizaal, your envy of the Dov will only increase.”
I laughed and replied, “You are much smaller than Nafaalilargus and I think less agile than Silah. It will be interesting to see how your speed compares.”
“You have flown on Dov?”
“Lord Akatosh sent them to assist me. Perhaps Alduin neglected to tell you of my Dov allies.”
“I knew of one, Valminoor, for I caught him scouting. He put up a brave fight, but he stood no chance. I let him live.”
“Valminoor wanted no part in Alduin’s first grasp for overlord. He was hunted for his refusal.”
“Alduin is wary of me due to my lack of enthusiasm for another war. I could have recruited more powerful allies in Hammerfell, but I did what I could to reduce Alduin’s fears. I could not refuse and live, Dovahkiin. I did not ask to be revived.”
“Paarthurnax said you visited and expressed misgivings about this continuation of The Dragon War.”
“I hold no animosity towards Paarthurnax. I want us to fly free in the skies again and not be hunted by other Dov or mortals.”
“That is possible, Odahviing. The first step is sending Alduin back to Bormahu.”
“Why do you not use one of the other Dov to take you to Skuldafn?”
“I want to demonstrate trust, Odahviing.”
Odahviing chuckled, leapt into the air, and trumpeted, “Amativ! Mu bo kotin stinselok.”
I laughed and replied, “Indeed, let us fly onwards into the freedom of the sky!”
It took just over an hour before we landed in Skuldafn. I immediately jumped to the ground.
Odahviing leapt back in the air as he said, “This is as far as I can take you. Krif voth ahkrin. I will look for your return or Alduin’s.”
If I lose to Alduin, I don’t suppose Odahviing being spotted transporting me to Skuldafn would be healthy for him! Hence his haste to depart.
I summoned my friends.
- Inigo: Woah! That was a bumpy one! This place smells exciting. Where are we, my friend?
- Wulf: We are in Skuldafn. It is one of many cities that mortal and Dov once shared. Now it is Alduin’s eyrie.
- Lydia: Will this place be heavily guarded?
- Wulf: I expect many Draugr will be here, all the most potent kind. Close on them fast, as they will be users of The Voice.
- Jordis: What about dragons?
- Wulf: I don’t know how many Dov remain loyal to Alduin. If any, they will be here.
- Inigo: Giant spiders?
- Wulf: Probably not.
- Inigo: This place no longer smells exciting.
- Wulf: I will try and cull some of the guards from a distance.
I removed six Draugr guards.
Inigo sniffed, then said, “Pew! The smell of dragons and death is strong here.”
A dragon roared out of the ether and flew overhead.
Inigo laughed and said, “Told you so!”
When the dragon turned and hovered to attack, I hit him with Dragonrend.
The dragon valiantly struggled to stay airborne and reached a higher-up place.
A few seconds later, he attacked again.
This time Dragonrend brought him to the ground.
He was weak and lasted seconds.
I looked up to where he had landed to recover.
I pointed and said, “That is the portal to Sovngarde. That is where we are headed.”
We killed a few Draugr then another weak dragon attacked.
He idiotically landed near me so I didn’t have to use Dragonrend.
He lasted seconds. If these dragons were the best Alduin could muster to defend his portal, I doubt he has any allies willing to attack cities and towns.
We had to go higher, so I did that without pausing.
Eventually, my squad caught up with me.