Fredas, 26th Hearthfire, 4E 201
& Loredas, 27th Hearthfire, 4E 201
I did not wake Rigmor to say goodbye. I hope she talks to her mother about Mede’s offer. It should be a family decision.
I quietly opened the chest and placed her old Bruma armour in there. It was not of high quality, but I am sure it has some sentimental value to Rigmor. If she wants to wear amour again, she will have a choice.
I teleported to Aurane and quickly waved to everybody as I headed for my quarters.
I looked in on the children. They won’t be up for another hour.
I entered my quarters and changed into my standard armour. I don’t think my Imperial General armour would prove popular in Solstheim.
I spent some time reading about the current politics of the island and who I will need to speak to.
When I entered the main room, I encountered Inigo, which saved me from having to summon him.
I asked, “Have you ever been to Solstheim?”
“No, my friend.”
“Well, you are going there with me after breakfast. Let’s eat in the barracks, and I will tell you and the Ka’Po’Tun what is happening there.”
Over breakfast, I told my companions about Miraak and the situation in Solstheim.
We then gathered close, and I teleported us to Windhelm Docks.
We boarded the Northern Maiden. It was the ship used by Miraak’s Goons to travel to Skyrim.
I approached who I assumed was the captain.
He said, “If you’re looking for a passage to Solstheim, too bad. I’m not going back there anymore.”
“Are you the captain?”
“Yes, Captain Gjalund Salt-Sage.”
“I am Lord Welkynd, The Dragonborn. My associates are The Dragonguard. Please, tell me, Captain Salt-Sage, why don’t you want to return to Solstheim?”
“It’s hard to explain… I remember those people with the masks coming on board, then… The next thing I remember, I was here, and they were gone. That’s not right, losing whole days like that. There’s been something strange happening on Solstheim for a while but after this… I’m done. I’m not going back to Solstheim.”
“Can you make a living without your trips to Solstheim?”
“I’ve been sailing the Northern Maiden across the Sea of Ghosts for nearly twenty years but not always as a ferryman. I used to fish the waters around Solstheim. I made a damn fine living at it, too. But over the years, the ash from Red Mountain poisoned the sea up there, and fishing became difficult. If it weren’t for my supply runs to Raven Rock, I’d have likely sold my ship by now and moved back to Riften.”
“Those people with masks have been hunting me, Captain Salt-Sage. I am not blaming you, as you had no idea who they were or what they planned. If you don’t want to sell Northern Maiden, I am your best chance of keeping her. I need passage to Solstheim to investigate and stop the strange happenings in there. I will pay double your normal fee.”
“I won’t charge you. The Dragonguard fought dragons for hours to save Windhelm, including these docks and ships. And we all owe you our freedom, Lord Welkynd.”
“I insist on paying for our passage.”
“And I refuse it. I have cargo loaded and ready to go, so if I don’t make the trip, I will lose far more than your fare.”
I looked in my gem-bag and found a ruby worth at least six-hundred septims. I tossed it towards Gjalund, who caught it.
I told him, “That is our payment, and I will not take it back. So, let’s get going, shall we?”
He smiled and said, “You can all fit in the cabin or stay on deck. The passage should be smooth today.”
Inigo and I remained on the deck and enjoyed the four-hour voyage. The Ka’Po’Tun headed for the cabin where they stayed, miserable and seasick. They are not a race known for their sea legs.
We arrived in Raven Rock just before midday. Northern Maiden had made excellent time, thanks to favourable winds.
As we glided into the dock, Gjalund said, “Well, here we are. This is Raven Rock. I can’t say I’m all that glad to see it again. Good luck. I hope you can figure out what’s going on around here.”
I could see a vertical green light emanating from The Earth Stone. Scaffolding was in place, and a dome-type structure was being erected around The Earth Stone.
Northern Maiden slowly bumped into the dock, and crew members lashed it to mooring poles.
I watched as a Solstheim official boarded and spoke to Gjalund. It soon became apparent he was Second Councillor Adril Arano.
- Gjalund: Greetings, Second Councillor.
- Adril: I was starting to wonder what happened to you. You have docked and left several times without the required cargo being delivered.
- Gjalund: We, uh… had passengers who needed immediate transport. Before you even ask… yes, I have the supplies you requested. But…
- Adril: But what?
- Gjalund: This load cost me double what we had agreed on. There is nothing I can do about it.
- Adril: Damn it, Gjalund. You know we don’t have much coin.
- Gjalund: The East Empire Company didn’t give me a choice. They’ve raised their prices again. Unfortunately, I can do nothing about it.
- Adril: After all these years, they’re gouging us for every last drake we have. I’ll see what we can do. Let me talk to Lleril.
- Gjalund: All right, Adril. Don’t worry about rushing it. Just pay me when you can.
- Wulf: Second Councillor Arano, I have some influence with The East Empire Company. Perhaps I can negotiate a better deal for Solstheim.
As one of the sailors talked to Gjalund, Adril turned to me.
“I don’t recognise you or your friends, so I’ll assume this is your first visit to Raven Rock, outlander. State your intentions.”
“I am Lord Welkynd, General of The Imperial Army, Dragonborn and Champion of The Divines, Boethia, Azura, Meridia, Sheogorath and Hermaeus Mora. I am also Thane of Falkreath Hold, Haafingar, Hjaalmarch, The Pale, The Rift, and Whiterun Hold. My travelling companions are called The Dragonguard. It is a pleasure to meet you, Second Councillor.”
“I am intrigued as to why one of such esteem is visiting Solstheim. We do not have a dragon problem on this island.”
“We are here to save you all from Miraak. Do you know of him?”
“Miraak… I… I’m not sure that I do.”
“Have you noticed that many of your citizens, including members of The Redoran Guard, are constructing a dome around The Earth Stone?”
“That? It’s… Well, it’s a shrine for… something. I’m not sure what. Yes, I… I’m not sure what to say. Did we build that? I don’t remember.”
“And that, Second Councillor, is why you need our help. It seems that no matter how you try, your mind will wander away from the subject of Miraak.”
“I am sure you think something is important. However, this is Morrowind, not Skyrim, and Raven Rock is the sovereign territory of House Redoran. While you’re here, you will be expected to abide by our laws.”
“I expect life on Solstheim has not been easy, but do not insult us by suggesting we are anything but honest people. Even if you ignore most of my titles, being Champion of two of the three Reclamations demands respect from a devout Ashlander.”
“My apologies. As Second Councillor, the security of Raven Rock is my primary concern.”
“If we do not stop Miraak, every citizen of Solstheim will become enslaved. What his plans are, I do not know as yet.”
“This isn’t exactly the city of Blacklight. We’re on the frontier out here, and we’ve had more than a fair share of troubles. After everything we’ve been through together, I refuse to let Councillor Morvayn down.”
“We are primarily here to deal with Miraak. However, if there is anything else we can assist with, do not hesitate to ask.”
“As you are undoubtedly aware, Raven Rock started as an Imperial settlement, but The Empire abandoned it just as my people were first setting foot here. They left the town a shambles… but when House Redoran took over, we turned it around, and it became ours. And even if it’s been a struggle to make this island liveable, we’re proud to call it home.”
“I respect the hardiness of your people. But as we are here to aid Solstheim, we expect civility.”
“You will find some resentment to anybody representing The Empire. I suggest you approach such from the point of understanding.”
“I know your history and why The Empire stinks to some. However, we are here to help as private citizens and not as representatives of The Empire. None of The Dragonguard accompanying me are citizens of The Empire!”
“Can you influence the prices of The East Empire Company?”
“Yes, I shall speak to Vittoria Vici. In such a large company, it is not unusual for overzealous middle-level managers to do things unpalatable to their superiors. I doubt Vittoria would consider such price gouging as ethical or necessary.”
“I suggest you introduce yourselves to Councillor Morvayn.”
“We shall, and I promise I will keep you updated on our activities.”
We walked to the end of the jetty, and I looked over to The Earth Stone.
I used Zoom-Vision and saw a Telvanni Wizard-Lord observing the ensorceled citizens building an arched dome around The Earth Stone. As far as I knew, only one Telvanni Wizard-Lord lived on Solstheim. His name is Master Neloth, and he is a member of The Telvanni Council and is only outranked by The Archmagister. He is also a member of Morrowind’s Ruling Council.
In the distance was the rock formation that gave Raven Rock its name.
I told the group, “I want to investigate the temple first and see if there are any visible signs of Tribunal worship or if it is entirely dedicated to The Reclamations.”
Three Ashlander shrines to The Reclamations looked like they were constantly in danger of being buried.
Azura and Boethia statues existed, but Mephala’s was under construction.
I asked Inigo, “What do the unfinished statue of Mephala and the amount of ash covering the shrines tell you?”
“Some people are so busy working for Miraak that they neglect other duties.”
“Yes, but it also suggests the worship of Miraak has taken over from The Reclamations. Silah said people became ensorceled after visiting the All-Maker Stones and touching them. An Ashlander might occasionally visit an All-Maker Stone, but actively touching them is rather sacrilegious. The dweomer must influence the victim to touch the All-Maker Stone to ensorcel them. Intuitively, mages will be more resistant to the dweomer as they are logical and question why they should touch an All-Maker Stone.”
“When you told us about The All-Maker, you said the Nord’s who live on Solstheim, The Skaal, worshipped that god, or as you explained it, that concept.”
“They regularly pray at the All-Maker Stones and, unlike the Dunmer, touch them. I imagine a large percentage, if not all of the Skaal, are ensorceled. Anyway, I have seen what I wanted. Let us head to the Councillor.”
A Temple Guard was wearing a traditional but undeniably stupid mushroom helmet.
A Khajiiti wearing costly Stalhrim armour was sweeping the doorway of the temple.
I said, “Hello, I am Lord Welkynd.”
“And this one is called S’thasa.”
“Do you work at the temple, S’thasa?”
“No, this one helps clean up occasionally. Khajiit prays to Azura here, so this one does not mind helping a little. This is Solstheim, yes? So much ash and dust Khajiit sweeps away every time.”
“Have you heard of Miraak?”
“Miraak? Mmm…Khajiit is not sure. This one thinks that name is sounding familiar.”
“It was a pleasure meeting you, S’thasa.”
A single guard stood outside Morvayn Manor.
“Excuse me, guardsman. Please inform Councillor Morvayn that Lord Welkynd, The Dragonborn, and members of The Dragonguard request an audience.”
“The Dragonborn and Dragonguard who defeated Alduin?”
“Just a second.”
The guard dashed inside, and a few seconds later, he returned,
“Councillor Morvayn is keen to speak to you. Please enter.”
“Do we have to disarm?”
“Don’t be silly. If we can’t trust The Dragonborn, who can we trust?”
We entered Morvayn Manor.
I walked over to Lleril, who said, “On behalf of House Redoran and as the Councillor of Raven Rock, I bid you welcome.”
“Thank you for your warm welcome, Councillor.”
“You are The Dragonborn. Therefore, those with you must be The Dragonguard.”
“Yes, they are. More importantly, The Dragonguard are my close friends.”
“Whether you’re simply visiting or staying here, I think you’ll find our citizens will welcome you with open arms.”
“We are here to save your people from a danger you are unaware of.”
“Oh, and what danger would that be?”
“Do you know someone called Miraak?”
“Do I? What a strange thing. It sounds so familiar, yet I cannot place the name.”
“Can you tell me anything about him?”
“I’m not even sure… I can picture a temple here in Solstheim. It must have been a bad dream.”
“Miraak is enslaving the people of Solstheim, and some Raven Rock citizens are building a structure surrounding The Earth Stone. But you will forget I said anything about him after I leave.”
“If you rescue us, you will be well rewarded.”
“We need no reward, Councillor. My role as Champion of The Divines is to protect all mortals. We shall speak to you again after we succeed.”
“Succeed at what?”
“Nevermind. Is Solstheim prospering?”
“Since the mine closed, Solstheim has little coin and insufficient guards. The Redoran Guard are some of the best soldiers on Nirn, but reavers vastly outnumber them.”
“Reavers are just waterborne bandits and easily eliminated. We will gladly reduce their numbers if they cross our path.”
“We were talking about something. I feel it is important, but I can’t recall what it was.”
“That’s okay, Councillor, don’t concern yourself with it.”
Lleril looked worried and confused as we left Morvayn Manor.
Raven Rock was busy with a crowded market, dockworkers, and other citizens.
I was not expecting the numerous Khajiiti and Argonian in the town.
To my surprise, there was a Nord blacksmith. Even more surprising was a Riften Thieves Guild Shadowmark telling me he was a guild member. Although curious, I was determined to concentrate on Miraak.
The market was busy, even though most vendors were not attending their stores. I would not be surprised to find them building Miraak’s structure around The Earth Stone.
We approached The Earth Stone, and I told my friends, “Stand here. Khao might be able to resist the calling of the dweomer, but others might succumb. If you get ensorceled, it will be permanent until we figure out how the dweomer works.”
I approached the Telvanni Wizard-Lord.
I asked, “Excuse me, are you Master Neloth of House Telvanni?”
“Yes. Why do you ask?”
“I am Lord Welkynd, The Dragonborn. My friends are known as The Dragonguard.”
“If you expect me to be impressed with your title, I apologise for disappointing you. I am pleased you carried out your duty and removed Alduin’s menace. Accomplishing a difficult task should be rewarding enough for anybody!”
“I expect nothing but courtesy, Master Neloth, or am I to take your surliness as standard behaviour for House Telvanni.”
“No, not at all. Now, what do you want?”
“I want to discuss what is happening here.”
“It is obvious they are building something. And yet the builders don’t seem to have much to say about it. I’m very interested to find out what happens when they finish.”
“When they finish, Miraak will emerge from Apocrypha and enslave everybody, including you.”
“Miraak…Miraak… that name sounds familiar, but I can’t quite place it… Oh. Wait. I recall. But that makes very little sense. Miraak’s been dead for thousands of years.”
“Miraak is not dead but has lived in Apocrypha for forty-five centuries.”
“Are you sure?”
“Fascinating. Quite unexpected. Perhaps it has some relation to what’s going on here. I’m afraid I can’t give you any answers. But there are ruins of an ancient temple of Miraak’s toward the island’s centre. That is where I’d look for answers.”
“We intend to, but you will soon forget I mentioned Miraak.”
“Impossible. I never forget a thing.”
“I assume you haven’t tried stopping them.”
“Certainly not! Doing so would interfere with whatever is going on, and I would be unable to see how this all turns out.”
“I told you that Miraak will emerge from Apocrypha and enslave everybody, including you.”
“The name Miraak rings a bell, though I can’t quite remember why. Oh, hold on. I remember now. However, it’s puzzling because Miraak passed away millennia ago.”
“Haven’t you noticed those working on The Earth Stone are chanting a mantra about Miraak?”
“Perhaps in the future, Master Neloth, you should write down your observations. That way, your fallible memory will not fail you.”
“Why would I do that? I never forget a thing!”
I slowly approached The Earth Stone.
Neloth commented, “You don’t seem to be in quite the same state as the others here. Very interesting.”
If I spoke to them, the enslaved would only answer with a line of Miraak’s mantra.
I stood close to the central monolith and studied what was being made. I could feel the compulsion of the dweomer battering at my mind’s shield, but it was not strong enough to penetrate.
The primal force that flows through All-Maker Stones also flows through Skyrim’s Standing Stones and Cyrodiil’s Rune Stones. The new structure was designed to concentrate that primal force near the top of The Earth Stone. When completed, Miraak’s dweomer would be far more powerful, affecting a much larger radius. People would be attracted to The Earth Stone from much farther away.
I assume that when the power of The All-Maker Stones is strong enough, Miraak will use it to escape Apocrypha.
I couldn’t sense the wrongness of the air around The Earth Stone. That is not a sense gifted to me. However, Lady Kynareth detected it.
I could sense the Thu’um, but it was being used in a way I did not understand. It was woven with Magicka to produce the dweomer.
I told my audience, “I will remove my helm and gloves, then touch The Earth Stone.”
Neloth replied, “That seems inadvisable… oh well.”
I reached out and touched The Earth Stone.
I could detect the use of Magicka, the Thu’um and the existence of a dweomer. I now knew more about how the dweomer works as I had hoped.
Inigo said, “My friend, is your brain still yours? Who is Miraak?”
“He is the first Dragonborn and has been a guest of Hermaeus Mora for forty-five centuries. His Goons arrived in Skyrim and tried to kill me. I might have to spank him for that.”
I stopped touching The Earth Stone and walked towards my friends. Neloth stood with them and studied me as I approached.
Everybody gathered around, including Neloth.
I told them, “First, let me recite Miraak’s Mantra that the enslaved are muttering.”
- Here in his shrine
- That they have forgotten
- Here do we toil
- That we might remember
- By night we reclaim
- What by day was stolen
- Far from ourselves
- He grows ever near to us
- Our eyes once were blinded
- Now through him do we see
- Our hands once were idle
- Now through them does he speak
- And when the world shall listen
- And when the world shall see
- And when the world remembers
- That world shall cease to be.
- Neloth: I am glad you were an interesting exception to the otherwise universal phenomenon. Now I need to contemplate what may be causing this and its implications.
- Wulf: Don’t concern yourself, Master Neloth. I know what is happening and will find the solution.
- Neloth: I doubt you can solve something that a Telvanni Wizard-Lord cannot.
- Wulf: You cannot resolve this matter, Master Neloth, for the dweomer is affecting you. You also lack the required knowledge.
- Dhali: Before you protest, Master Neloth, let me explain. Lord Welkynd is a Master of The College of Winterhold, is Master of all Schools of Magicka, and has training from The Psijic Order. He is a powerful exponent of The Voice and receives advice from The Divines, other gods, and Dov. In this matter, his knowledge far exceeds yours. Sorry if that bruises your ego.
- Neloth: Hmm…in this matter, I must concede.
- Wulf: Does anybody feel the compulsion to touch The Earth Stone?
- Inigo: I do, my friend. It is not as bad as my need to squish spiders, but it is there.
- Khao: I think the compulsion will increase in time. Master Neloth has resisted the compulsion to touch The Earth Stone, but the dweomer is playing havoc with his memory.
- Neloth: What? I never forget…
- Khao: … a thing. You have told us that several times, then forgot you said it.
- Inigo: The compulsion reminds me of the tugging sensation when Langley tries to summon me.
- Wulf: Silah said Riekling were ensorceled, which suggests the dweomer works on any sentient being.
- Shiva: Inigo feels it, so the being doesn’t have to be smart.
- Inigo: Shiva, are you deputising for Lydia?
- Shiva: Yes, I promised Lydia I would. When she returned from guarding the farm, she told me she was worried you were missing her amusing banter.
- Wulf: When I touched The Earth Stone, I understood the nature of the dweomer.
- Neloth: Why did you not succumb to the dweomer?
- Wulf: I have developed a solid barrier to my mind. It is necessary to keep the Daedric Princes out of my head. It just so happens to help against others who try and intrude. My mind barrier blocked the compulsion. Without the compulsion in my brain, the ensorcellment could not work as that is the conduit it needs.
- Dhali: Do you think the dweomer is Daedric?
- Wulf: No, it is not Daedric. It is a combination of Magicka and Thu’um. It uses the power of The Earth Stone to spread the compulsion. Upon touching The Earth Stone, a person becomes ensorceled.
- Khao: Can you think of anything similar?
- Wulf: Yes, the Mind Magic as practised by The Sea Sload. I think the dweomer on The All-Make Stones spreads spell particles that infect people like a disease. That is what Lady Kynareth detected as something wrong with the air. These spell particles cause the compulsion. When a person touches an All-Maker Stone, they are mind-trapped.
- Neloth: Those affected are inside a mindscape when building these structures.
- Wulf: The mindscape is constant, so victims forget what they have been doing and about Miraak. Those who have not succumbed to the compulsion do not notice anything unusual. Eventually, they will succumb to the compulsion.
- Khao: I have had discussions about mindscapes with Vayu. He told me they are formed from the mind-trapped person’s memories.
- Wulf: Miraak has found a way to insert false memories. Remember, he has had access to the knowledge in Apocrypha for thousands of years. It may even be knowledge gifted to him by Hermaeus Mora.
- P’Sua: Can you simplify the gobblygook for the rest of us?
- Wulf: The dweomer works through the All-Maker Stones to produce spell particles. The spell particles float through the air and are breathed in or absorbed through the skin. The spell particles create the compulsion to touch the All-Maker Stone. They also make people accept what is happening and forget any mention or knowledge of Miraak. Touching an All-Maker Stone will place you into a mindscape, a waking dream. In the mindscape, the ensorceled follow Miraak’s instructions. The mantra they repeat reinforces Miraak’s control.
- P’Sua: The mindscape makes people forget about Miraak and that they might have worked for hours at a One-Maker Stone.
- Wulf: Yes. Not all the ensorceled build Miraak’s structures, but all are compelled to forget him and ignore what is happening.
- Inigo: My friend, do you know Mind Magic?
- Wulf: Not as the Sload do. However, I can do similar via other methods. I call it an Empatheric Link. The difference is that I must have witnessed what I try to place in your mindscape. For instance, I witnessed the first time you tried Apple Cabbage Stew. I could place you in a mindscape where you experience that entertaining event again.
- Inigo: That would be evil!
- Wulf: If made strong enough, the events within a mindscape are actual enough that your body reacts accordingly. If you die in a mindscape, it might prove fatal in the real world.
- Dhali: How confident are you that your theory is correct?
- Wulf: Very confident. I don’t have to understand how Miraak did something to recognise what it does. However, my theory is speculation until proof to verify it is found.
- Inigo: My friend, I will keep a close eye on you. You may have been ensorceled and not know it, but I will be able to tell if you act abnormally.
- Shiva: When is Wulf ever normal?
- Inigo: I will be able to tell when Wulf is even weirder!
- Shiva: Weird looking for weird make sense.
- Neloth: What is the purpose of the structure being built?
- Wulf: The dweomer uses the primal force of the All-Maker Stones. The structures, when complete, will increase the primal force of the All-Maker Stones, spreading the compulsion over a wider area. Miraak might use the enhanced primal force to escape Apocrypha.
- Neloth: You are talking about the long-dead Miraak of legend?
- Wulf: Yes, Master Neloth, but he is not dead.
- Dhali: Visiting Miraak’s Temple is logically the next step.
- Wulf: Yes, so that is where we shall go. It is a bit of a walk, but I think there is a shortcut over a mountain range. We need to walk through Raven Rock and use another of its exits.
- Neloth: You are very confident of yourself, Lord Welkynd.
- Dhali: He has every right to be.
- Wulf: It was a pleasure meeting you, Master Neloth.
- Neloth: No doubt it was.
Neloth wandered away and ignored an apparent mugging taking place.
Shiva said, “We are going to do something, Wulf!”
“Yes, of course, we will! Have you ever known me to ignore someone in trouble?”
As we rushed over, it was apparent the mugging had turned to murder.
I yelled, “You two, drop your weapons or die!”
They refused, so they died.
The murderers had nothing on them.
Near the victim was a journal and a satchel.
- Wulf: Most of his journal is illegible, thanks to fresh blood reacting with the ink. His name is Hugin Ice-Shaper. He was an artisan who made jewellery using Stalhrim. That would be a scarce skill. Very few blacksmiths can work enchanted ice.
- Dhali: Could you use Stalhrim?
- Wulf: Yes, if shown the secrets by a skilled craftsman.
- Inigo: Some Argonian and Khajiiti in Raven Rock wear armour made from Stalhrim.
- Wulf: I am guessing they are successful guards or mercenaries.
- Shiva: These two probably hoped to find Stalhrim jewellery on Hugin.
- Wulf: He has no finished items, but several pieces of Stalhrim and Quicksilver ingots were in his backpack. They are the components he used when making pieces.
- Dhali: We should report his death.
- Wulf: We shall tell the first Redoran Guard we encounter.
When we reached the market, I saw a Redoran Guard and approached him.
He said, “What are you gawking at, outlander?”
“A rude bastard would be my guess.”
“Just remember who’s in charge around here! Raven Rock may be the frontier, but we’ve still got rules. Break them, and you’ll wind up in prison.”
“Listen, you jumped up turd! Councillor Morvayn is in charge, and he greeted us with warm words. He knows dragons would have enslaved him and everybody else on Solstheim if it wasn’t for me and my friends.”
“Wait… are you?”
“Yes, I am the outlander called Lord Welkynd, also known as The Dragonborn.”
“A Solstheim citizen, Hugin Ice-Shaper, was murdered by two Reavers at the entrance north of The Earth Stone. You will find all three bodies there if you hurry and beat the Nix-Hounds and boars to them. Have a nice day.”
We walked away as the guard commandeered some help to retrieve the corpses.
I had learnt what I could about the leaders of Solstheim before arriving on the island. As we walked past the temple, an elderly priest of The Reclamations was heading for the market. I was sure it was Elder Othreloth.
I asked, “Excuse me, are you Elder Othreloth?”
“Yes, I am. And you are?”
“Lord Welkynd, The Dragonborn. My friends are called The Dragonguard.”
“I am unaware of any dragons on Solstheim.”
“Dragons are not the problem. We are here to save you all from Miraak. Do you know of him?”
“Hmm. It sounds like something from a dream, yet it might be more. Strange, I remember a temple on Solstheim and working to build something. It… it was not a pleasant dream.”
“It wasn’t a dream, Elder Othreloth. I see lots of people heading for the temple. Are many of them concerned about similar dreams?”
“Now you mention it, yes. But why haven’t I recognised this problem?”
“You will forget there is a problem in a short while. Blessings of The Nine, Elder Othreloth.”
“May Azura, Mephala and Boethia guide you.”
A domesticated Nix-Hound stood at the exit.
- Inigo: My friend, I have seen several of those ugly things. What is it?
- Wulf: That is a Nix-Hound. They feed by killing their prey and then sucking their insides through their proboscis.
- Inigo: Do they attack people?
- Wulf: Yes. However, a solo Nix-Hound would be too smart to attack a group of people. Plus, Kyne’s Peace makes them docile.
- Khao: They were made by Vivec to hunt Dreugh.
- Inigo: Do I have to ask?
- Khao: Dreugh is an aquatic race that, according to some sources, once had an advanced civilisation that ruled much of Nirn. Molag Bal was reportedly their leader. In some depictions of Molag Bal, he is similar in appearance to Dreugh. The surviving Dreugh are brutal and beastlike.
- Wulf: Dunmer once enslaved Argonian. They hunted Dreugh for their wax and hides. In both cases, the persecuted species fought back.
- Inigo: Have you ever seen a Dreugh, my friend?
- Wulf: Only once in Skyrim. However, some Akavir islands have large populations.
- Dhali: The staves that Vayu uses are made from Dreugh limbs.
We exited Raven Rock and could see Neloth in the distance.
A few seconds later, Redoran Guards and strange-looking assailants started a melee. Neloth joined the fight.
I Blinked to the melee and saw that Neloth had summoned an Ash Atronach and pierced some assailants with Ice Spears.
A lone Redoran Guard was starting to slow and would not last much longer against three assailants. Several other guards lay nearby.
The assailants looked like the ash and embers of fire had been moulded into humanoid form. Their weapons glowed red and seemed made of ash and embers.
I cut the three assailants down in seconds and before my friends arrived.
Neloth continued on his way as if nothing had happened.
I approached the survivor after he and Khao checked the fallen Redoran Guards. Khao shook his head, indicating they were dead.
I said, “I am sorry for your losses.”
“Thanks… I wasn’t sure I’d make it off this farm alive. I wish I could have said the same for my men here.”
“I am Lord Welkynd, The Dragonborn and my friends are known as The Dragonguard.”
“The Dragonborn? I was unaware you were to visit Solstheim, but I am glad you and The Dragonguard are here.”
“And you are?”
“I am Captain Modyn Veleth of the Redoran Guard”
“What are those creatures?”
“Some of the Redoran Guard call them ‘Ash Spawn.’ Me? I don’t care what they’re called… all I know is that they are a danger to Raven Rock and need to be stopped.”
“You are a fair distance from The Bulwark.”
“I was going to search this old farm for clues that might tell me where they’re coming from. It isn’t the best place to start, but we know they’ve been coming from this direction.”
“The best place to start is the corpses of your enemies. Let’s have a look at the ash piles.”
In the third ash pile that I searched, there was a letter. I read it to the others.
“Raven Rock Stronghold,
My calls for the unconditional surrender of your forces and an immediate cessation of all hostilities have been ignored numerous times. Therefore, I have no choice but to assume your purpose on Solstheim is hostile and treat Raven Rock Stronghold as an enemy of The Empire. I warn you that any attempt to breach Fort Frostmoth will be met with equal aggression. I will do everything in my power to wipe you and your forces off the face of Tamriel. There will be no further communication between us.
— General Falx Carius. Garrison Commander, Fort Frostmoth”
- Wulf: Well, that’s interesting. A long-dead Imperial General has declared war on Raven Rock!
- Dhali: What do you mean by long dead?
- Veloth: General Carius was the Imperial garrison commander at Fort Frostmoth, but he died nearly two hundred years ago when Red Mountain’s eruption levelled the place. There’s no way he could still be alive.
- Khao: He might be undead or, gods preserve us, resurrected.
- Wulf: I would never resurrect somebody because I could not be sure where the soul was when I cast the spell. Tearing a soul from The Void or the afterlife could have unforeseen circumstances apart from being morally corrupt. If somebody resurrected General Carius after two hundred years, they need my sword in their stomach.
- Dhali: Could General Carius have been thrown forward in time or somehow preserved?
- Wulf: Fort Frostmoth was, as Captain Veloth said, obliterated by Red Mountain’s eruption. It is well-documented as General Carius was a famous soldier and regarded as the founder of Raven Rock. I don’t know if being covered in Red Mountain’s ash is the catalyst for his return.
- Dhali: Why was he famous?
- Wulf: General Carius’ heroic deeds in Solstheim attracted the attention of Lord Hircine. The Daedric Lord then chose him as prey for The Wild Hunt. He survived Lord Hircine’s Wild Hunt thanks to The Nerevarine showing mercy. After sparing General Carius, The Nerevarine defeated Hircine’s avatar in solo combat, thus ending The Wild Hunt. The Nerevarine had spared General Carius because, unlike others chosen as prey in The Wild Hunt, he was not of evil disposition.
- Dhali: Why does he think enemies populate Raven Rock?
- Wulf: General Carius may have found Solstheim different than he remembers. If he still thinks it is 4E 05, he might regard the mostly Dunmer population of Raven Rock with suspicion. When Red Mountain erupted, Raven Rock was a town of Nords and Imperials with a small population of Dunmer.
- Dhali: Captain Veloth, how often have Ash Spawn attacked Raven Rock?
- Veloth: We’ve had two other assaults on The Bulwark at different spots on the wall. It sounds unbelievable, but it’s almost like they’re becoming more organised and probing it for weaknesses.
- Wulf: It is not unbelievable if under the command of General Carius, who thinks Ash Spawn are Legionnaires, they, in turn, obey his orders. Some of the Ash Spawn killed earlier may have carried correspondence.
- Veloth: Nobody is sure what the Ash Spawn are. Superstitious folk say they’re the risen forms of those that died long ago. Perhaps they are right? Perhaps they are undead Legionnaires?
- Wulf: Well, this is all reasonable speculation, but…
- P’Sua: But we must visit Fort Frostmoth and talk with General Carius.
- Wulf: We must prioritise that as these attacks present an immediate danger, especially with the reduced number of Redoran Guard on duty.
- Veloth: What do you mean by a reduced number? Losing two of my men hear hardly reduces the garrison. And what are The Dragonborn and Dragonguard doing in Solstheim?
- Inigo: The two things are related, Captain Veloth. We are saving the people of Solstheim from Miraak.
- Veloth: Miraak? I might know someone by that name. Or maybe not. I can’t remember…
- Inigo: You will find many of your guardsmen working on building something at The Earth Stone. You are not concerned about that because of Miraak.
- Wulf: Captain Veloth, we shall investigate Fort Frostmoth and report our findings to you when we next visit Raven Rock.
- Veloth: On behalf of Raven Rock, I thank you for your assistance.
As Captain Veloth headed for Raven Rock, I summoned Vayu.
“Hello, Wulf. Wow, this place looks, ahh….”
“What is happening with our New Order friends?”
“They are making extremely good time, or were, till we did our first culling. Nahfahlaar spotted a group of officers standing, looking at maps, pointing, laughing, and having a good time. He told Silah, who appeared in her spirit form, which scared the shit out of Tullius and his staff. She told me, and six of us, all Masters of Destruction, appeared close to the jolly officers and sent them to The Void. It was noisy and quick, and a dozen of them died.”
“What happened after that?”
“The army slowed down as Aedriath rearranged his command structure to replace the dead and crispy officers. We decided to wait at least two days before culling some more. We don’t want to halt their progress completely. We have also decided a change of tactics might be worthwhile. Of course, you need to approve the change.”
“Our first culling of officers has delayed them. Therefore, they know their element of surprise has gone and will expect a strong and prepared resistance in Morthal. Therefore, if we present them with strong enough defences, they will skirt Morthal rather than spend troops and time trying to take the city.”
“I can see the benefit. Even with a controlled withdrawal, we would leave the people of Morthal at their mercy. Therefore, I agree with that change of tactics. We could even try the same at Dragon Bridge.”
“We will bring outlying farmers, families, and other citizens into the towns and cities. Therefore, they might loot and pillage when The New Order skirts those places, but not kill innocents.”
“There is no way we can stop the destruction of property without engaging in large battles in less-than-ideal environments. Saving lives is our priority. Farms and shops, and houses can be rebuilt. You may have to get forceful with some stubborn Nords, but they will thank you when they live through this.”
“It would be easier if we had Royal commands from a High Queen or King. Since we can’t have that, we might have to use a bit of muscle in a few places.”
“Do what is needed for their protection. It is better to be angry and alive than stubborn and dead.”
“Hey, we might get the unlucky troops evacuating people to chant that as they go.”
“How is Rigmor?”
“Erandur summoned Celestine after Rigmor exited the farmhouse in her new armour and did perfect sword forms with her new sword. Celestine arrived, checked Rigmor physically then spoke to her for some time. Rigmor is spending today with her mother at the farm. Tomorrow, Rigmor will start riding towards Yngol’s camp to collect The Sons of Talos. She will then head for Yngol’s bivouac about a day out from Whiterun.”
“Who will accompany Rigmor to Yngol’s camp?”
“Erandur’s squad as well as Celestine’s. Valminoor will be their scout. Another squad will protect the farm.”
“That is a formidable collection of guards. I am comfortable with that arrangement. Did Rigmor say what changed her mind about wearing the armour and using a sword?”
“Okay, I have two cryptic messages from Rigmor to Celestine and passed on to me. The first one is Rigmor swapped Jenny for a sword with the girl. Rigmor said she will tell you the full story when next you meet.”
“I understand that one.”
“Okay, I am glad somebody does. The second one is a bigger puzzle. Rigmor said she was standing on the porch of your farmhouse with drinks ready.”
Vayu looked at me worriedly as I laughed.
I told him, “That is some of the biggest gobblygook imaginable and so fantastic I can’t describe it.”
“I am sure you will soon put me out of my misery and explain both messages.”
“Oh, I will, one day, perhaps, maybe.”
“Are you getting anywhere with the Miraak mystery?”
“Yes, I understand what he is doing. Now I have to figure out why and how to stop him.”
“Can you summarize what is happening?”
“Miraak has developed a dweomer combining Magicka and Thu’um. It does several things. It compels people to touch an All-Maker-Stone. When they do, they become ensorceled. Miraak is using the enslaved people to build structures around the All-Maker Stones. The structures, when complete, will increase the area of effect for each All-Maker Stone. I assume he will be able to escape Apocrypha at that stage. It doesn’t matter if somebody is working on the new structures or maintaining their normal daily rituals. Everybody on Solstheim remains unaware of what is happening.”
“A lot of the Redoran Guard are working on the structures. Yet their commander is ignorant that his patrol and guard duties are not being carried out. Many people go to the market unconcerned most vendors are working on the structures.”
“Don’t hesitate to summon me when you need another update.”
“Thank you, Vayu, for taking on the tactical side of things for me.”
“You will come into your own on the battlefield. That is where your tactics win the day.”
Vayu vanished, and we headed towards Fort Frostmoth.
It looked like a misty morning in The Rift, but very fine ash, not water, filled the air.
When we approached two skeletons near a chest, two Ash Hoppers came out of the ground.
- Dhali: What are they?
- Wulf: Ash Hoppers. They hide under the ash and ambush prey that gets too close.
- Inigo: I wonder if they crunch like spiders when you hit them?
- Wulf: If any of you fight Ash Hoppers, beware of their bite. They will infect you with a disease called Droops that makes you feel weak. You could not carry as much or swing your weapons as hard. Droops can be cured by praying at a Shrine of The Nine or drinking a Cure Disease potion. Any Restoration Mage can also cure it.
- P’Sua: It is pretty cunning how they have positioned themselves near a chest.
- Shiva: I don’t think prey would come along very often. Not with two skeletons as evidence of foul deeds.
Further along, we came across an abandoned, derelict house. Curiosity won over urgency, and we decided to investigate.
When we were close, Ash Spawn came out of the ground and attacked.
We quickly disposed of them, then backtracked as we heard a melee where the Ash Hoppers were.
Some reavers were tackling a Burnt Spriggan. When one of them attacked me, they sealed their fate.
We quickly eliminated the reavers, and then I laughed.
- Inigo: My friend, what is so funny?
- Wulf: Ask Khao.
- Khao: Wulf finds it amusing I used my limited Necromancy skills to animate a skeleton.
- Wulf: But they are so scary and tough!
- Khao: Hey, I am new at this undead stuff!
- Dhali: That Spriggan looks different than the ones in Skyrim.
- Wulf: Many species mutated because of the dust and Heartstone that covered Solstheim after Red Mountain erupted. Burnt Spriggan use fire in their attacks, whilst the Spriggan of Skyrim use poison. They also explode upon death.
- Khao: And I noticed Neloth summoned a weird Atronach.
- Wulf: It was an Ash Atronach, and they are not very powerful. They also tend to turn on the caster more often than other Atronach species.
- Inigo: My friend, will we still investigate that destroyed house?
- Wulf: Yep.
We returned to the house, and it was evident the destruction was relatively recent.
There was a trapdoor, but we did not investigate further, even though we felt a vibration.
- Wulf: Can anybody else feel that?
- Dhali: Yes, there is something under this house.
- Inigo: My friend, this needs investigating, but do we want to spend the time?
- Wulf: No, whatever is down there is not the immediate threat. We may return here after solving other problems.
We left the mystery trapdoor for another day and continued our trek.
We reached Fort Frostmoth and walked around its perimeter, eliminating Ash Spawn.
Instead of entering the fort’s courtyard via its entrance, we climbed over a wall. This manoeuvre was made possible by the accumulation of ash over the centuries.
When we reached the courtyard’s centre, Ash Spawn started to appear.
General Carius’ disembodied voice echoed as he said, “Men, invaders have entered the fort! Prepare yourselves for an ambush!”
I used my Thu’um and replied, “I AM GENERAL WULF WELKYND OF THE IMPERIAL ARMY. GENERAL CARIUS’ ORDER IS ILLEGAL. ANY LEGIONNAIRE WHO ATTACKS ME WILL BE COURT-MARTIALED!”
The Ash Spawn ignored me and attacked, so we destroyed them.
We entered Fort Frostmoth and immediately encountered Ash Spawn.
It seems that many of the Legionnaires died in their beds.
We eliminated many Ash Spawn as we explored the fort.
In an alcove, we came upon the remains of a Legionnaire named Maximian Axius. We knew his name because of a pile of letters close to his body and in his backpack. Only four were legible, and I read them to my friends.
The first letter read,
“20th Evening Star 4E 04
My dearest Selina,
It’s been a difficult day. General Carius ordered us to help the labourers shore up the walls since they were starting to show their age. It was back-breaking work, but those walls wouldn’t withstand a siege without the extra support. Some men are grumbling about the task, but I disagree with them.
The general knows what’s best for Fort Frostmoth, and I would follow him to Oblivion and back if he asked. There’s a supply ship due on Solstheim in a few weeks, and I hope to send you all these daily letters I’ve been writing. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them. I miss you, Selina, and I can’t wait to see you when my time on Solstheim is through.
Yours always, Maximian Axius.”
The second letter read,
“11th Morning Star 4E 05
My dearest Selina,
Euphemius was killed this morning by one of those awful Rieklings. We were escorting a supply wagon from Fort Frostmoth to Raven Rock when a war party of those bastards ambushed us from the cliffs. We fought them off, but poor Euphemius was impaled by one of their spears. The healers at the fort couldn’t do anything for him, and I watched him slip away as I held his hand. I don’t know how much longer I can stand being here. My loyalty to The Empire and the strong words General Carius delivers to us at each morning muster are the only things keeping me going. The supply ship should arrive tomorrow, and I promise to give the quartermaster my letters so they can finally be sent home. Give my love to the children.
Yours always, Maximian Axius.”
Dhali observed, “Maximian had children and a wife waiting to hear from him. These letters describe a sad tale, Wulf.”
“Yes, it is sad but not unusual. I do not envy the families of soldiers.”
I read the third letter to my friends.
“1st Sun’s Dawn 4E 05
My dearest Selina,
The supply ship due in Solstheim hasn’t arrived yet, and no one knows what happened. I’ll keep writing these letters in hopes they can be delivered one day. It’s awful being isolated on Solstheim like this, but General Carius keeps telling us we must maintain Fort Frostmoth for the good of The Empire. I believe what he’s saying because he’s never led us down the wrong path in the past, but I’m wondering if anyone on The Imperial Council even gives a damn about this pile of rock. Four soldiers have died in the last two years at Fort Frostmoth. The Empire almost seems to take us all for granted and expects us to sit out here and get chipped away like the rock inside the mines. My posting here can’t end soon enough.
Yours always, Maximian Axius.”
The last letter brought several of my friends close to tears.
“3rd Sun’s Dawn 4E 05
My dearest Selina,
This is my last letter. I don’t know if you’ll ever get any of them, but I’ll keep them on me in case I’m ever found. Something happened here, Selina. It was horrible! Something’s happened at Red Mountain, but I can’t describe it. It’s as if hundreds of Oblivion Gates opened at once at its summit, spitting fire and death in all directions. Fort Frostmoth has been destroyed. The walls crumbled like loose dirt, and the land is on fire. Everything around me smells of ash and death. I don’t know where anyone is. I’ve been trapped in one of these lower sections of the fort, and I don’t expect to be rescued anytime soon. I miss you, Selina. I want to hold you and the children in my arms and tell you everything will be fine, but I don’t think that will ever happen. Give my love to Siricus and Atia for me. Tell them their father died bravely defending The Empire, so they can hold their heads high when they speak of me one day. When you close your eyes at night, my love, think of me so my spirit can finally come home.
Yours always and forever, Maximian Axius.”
I told the group, “I will find the descendants of Maximiam and Selina and pass these letters onto them.”
I placed the letters in my journal case. Then we continued our search for General Carius.
Near Maximiam was a door whose lock I could not pick. We could hear shuffling on the other side and thought there might be Ash Spawn.
We continued searching and ended up in the fort’s Hall of the Dead.
In an end alcove, we found evidence of necromancy amongst coffins and loose bones.
The Necromancer was called Ildari Sarothril, and her journal lay atop a coffin.
I read the relevant sections of the journal to the group.
It’s been almost a month since unearthing the crypt at Fort Frostmoth, and I haven’t seen a single spark of life in the general’s remains. Grafting the Heartstone to the subject is much more complicated than anticipated. I’ve used almost every method I can think of, and still, there’s no sign of reanimation. At this rate, it could be years before I make any progress… which is time I can’t afford right now. If my vengeance is to come to fruition, I need results. If not, I may need to resort to more dramatic measures.
It finally appears that I’m making some progress. After my latest experiment, General Carius’s eyes briefly opened, and he moved his arms. It lasted less than a few moments but was the first sign of progress since I arrived here. A few of my assistants insisted that I was imagining things, but I dismissed them for their insolence. They won’t be bothering anyone ever again.
General Carius awoke fully today. He bolted upright after my incantations and began staggering around like a blind man. He seemed to ignore my commands… in fact, hearing my voice increased his hostility. I removed the Heartstone before he became violent, but this isn’t what I expected. Even though he can be awakened, I feel the real work has just begun.
The general is still unable or unwilling to listen to my commands. He’s acting increasingly paranoid and appears to have his own free will. He’s convinced I am a ‘spy’ or the ‘enemy,’ and I’ve had to restrain him to prevent him from attacking me outright. This situation is becoming intolerable. I’m wondering if someone with a Heartstone can be commanded at all. If my experiments with General Carius fail, I may have to resort to self-experimentation… something I’ve been avoiding for a long time.”
- Dhali: You mentioned Heartstone earlier. What is it?
- Wulf: Molten rock surrounding The Heart of Lorkhan became imbued with some of its power. When Red Mountain erupted, the imbued molten rock was ejected then landed and solidified over a wide area, including Solstheim. You can find it in rocks and ore veins. Heartstone is still warm to the touch even after two centuries and is responsible for some of the mutations on the island.
- Khao: It seems that the power of the Heartstone brought General Carius back to life, similar to how dragons are restored.
- Wulf: Like the Briarheart of The Forsworn and Nirncrux Heartstone of other Reachfolk, the Dreadhorn Clan.
- Dhali: And what is Nirncrux?
- Wulf: Nirncrux is a red stone found in the Craglorn area of High Rock. It can absorb and release Aetherial Energy, the power of the stars. The Nede had to learn how to mine Nirncrux safely as it is incredibly toxic, then they built a forge called The Bloodroot Forge to create a form of Nirncrux usable in weapons and alchemy. The Dreadhorn Clan discovered the forge and learned to imbue themselves and creatures with Nirncrux. Such creatures and people were called Nirnblooded. Eventually, they started replacing their hearts with Nirncrux Heartstones.
- P’Sua: Do you think the Ash Spawn are creatures made by Heartstone?
- Wulf: That is an excellent theory, P’Sua. However, the difference is that restored dragons are identical to their original form, while the Ash Spawn are grotesque mimics. Dragon souls remain with their skeletons, while mortal souls move to other planes. Maybe their unexpected and unusual deaths have left the souls wandering Mundus, and only a small section of bone is needed to restore a mortal.
- Shiva: Why would they suddenly appear? The eruption was almost two hundred years ago.
- Khao: Perhaps the restoration takes time to happen? Say, almost two hundred years.
- Wulf: We won’t know some answers without years of study. It is likely that somebody has already done the research. If so, I would love to find out what they have discovered.
- Dhali: Somebody other than Ildari, you mean. She killed her assistants for doubting her!
- Inigo: Yet she didn’t kill General Carius even though he was uncontrollable.
- Wulf: Necromancers are reckless, and often their experiments cause problems for innocents. General Carius’ actions resulted in the death of Redoran Guards and maybe others. Ildari is responsible for those deaths.
- Dhali: Well, let’s hope we find her rotten corpse after General Carius or Ash Spawn killed her.
- P’Sua: Wow! That is a bit bloodthirsty coming from your, Dhali!
- Dhali: Maybe I am tired of seeing the innocent suffer.
- Wulf: It gets to all of us, Dhali, including P’Sua.
- P’Sua: Yes, it does, and I understand your anger, Dhali.
Inside a satchel was a key. We surmised it was for the unpickable door.
We continued to search the fort and came upon thick spiderwebs.
Shiva quipped, “If you hear groaning, it is Inigo getting overexcited about giant spiders.”
Inigo replied, “Lucky the leather in my trousers is thick, and you can’t see the stain!”
That earned a collective “Ewww!” from the group.
I burnt the webs with Dragonfire.
When we came upon the spiders, Inigo lamented, “They are tiny. I bet they don’t even make a crunchy sound.”
I replied, “They are still the size of a cat, Inigo. That is not tiny. And look at the venom dripping from their fangs!”
Kyne’s Peace meant the spiders did not attack us. We had a look around and then surmised the nature of the spiders.
- P’Sua: The way they are crouching suggests they leap at their victims.
- Wulf: With Heat Vision, I can see that the red ones are scorching and the white ones are icy cold.
- Dhali: I think they explode. Vayu has described similar spiders to me. They sacrifice themselves for the good of the colony.
- Inigo: They live in colonies like ants and bees?
- Dhali: If they are like the ones Vayu described, then yes.
- Inigo: Well, there are certainly a lot of them here, but I see no queen like ants and bees have.
- Wulf: They probably have a hive mind. That means they are separate organisms with a single mind.
- Inigo: My friend, I want a few things out of life. The pleasure of crunching giant spiders is one of them. Little spiders that explode and probably sound squishy when you hit them do not sound entertaining!
- Wulf: There is a lot of Heartstone ore in here. That probably caused this mutation. Their webs are embedded with molten rock.
- Khao: There is a large ruby geode as well. But I don’t think that has anything to do with these monstrosities.
- Wulf: Let’s see if this key opens that door. If the general is in there, let me try and talk to him.
We returned to the locked door, and the key opened it.
We climbed stairs to a large room, and General Falx Carius stood at the far end.
I studied him with Zoom Vision.
His eyes were completely white. A harness had been added to his armour, holding a polished Heartstone in its centre. The general was armed with a Warhammer.
I told him, “General Falx Carius, I am General Wulf Welkynd of the Imperial Army. The Dunmer at Raven Rock are our allies, and you must cease your attacks upon them immediately.”
“You lie, spy, and will die alongside the Khajiiti traitors with you. Long live The Empire!”
I charged Carius and cut him down.
I then aided my friends in disposing of a few Ash Spawn.
After the brief skirmish, I inspected General Falx Carius and asked for silence as I performed Arkay’s Rights.
We then made our way outside.
The winds dictate the weather on Solstheim. When the ash from Red Mountain is being blown onto the island, it seems darker than normal. The ash can be heavy, fall quickly, or very fine, and float in the air for longer. That means the light levels change quickly when the wind changes direction.
I placed a Mark on Fort Frostmoth’s courtyard, then teleported us to Raven Rock’s jetty. I decided we would teleport there rather than in the middle of town. Fewer people would be shocked that way.
When we reached the town centre, a Bull Netch had gotten past the reduced number of Redoran Guards and attacked some locals. We soon killed it.
A Dunmer woman was injured, and I used Night Vision to see to what extent.
I cast Grand Healing on her, and she stood with a look of surprise on her face.
I told her, “You received some shocks from the Netch’s tentacles. I have healed the burns and internal injuries, but you might feel weak for a day or two.”
She asked, “What is your name?”
“I am Lord Welkynd, The Dragonborn. My friends are known as The Dragonguard.”
“I am Galsa Andrethi, and I thank you for your assistance.”
“You look surprised, Galsa.”
“I was surprised by the ease with which you and your friends disposed of that Netch. Now I know why, for even these backwaters of Morrowind know of The Dragonborn and Dragonguard.”
“Take my advice and rest, Galsa. Fatigue can prove dangerous.”
We found Captain Veleth patrolling the market.
“Good evening, Captain Veleth.”
“Evening’s greetings to you, General Welkynd. Forgive my urgency, but do you bring news of Fort Frostmoth?”
“We went to the fort and killed many Ash Spawn. General Carius commanded them, and they obeyed his orders. We eventually reached him and killed him.”
“I had my suspicions that he was undead. How else could he have survived for nearly two hundred years? It’s a shame. There are quite a few tales of General Carius’s exploits, including the founding of Raven Rock.”
“Technically, General Carius wasn’t undead. He was restored using the magic of Heartstone. The necromancer responsible is Ildari Sarothril. Do you know of her?”
“She is Master Neloth’s apprentice. Ildari rarely visits Raven Rock as Tel Mithryn is fairly self-sufficient. We don’t mind if she infrequently visits as Telvanni arrogance does not sit well with most citizens! If anything is needed from here, Master Neloth’s steward, Varona Nelas, makes the trek from Tel Mithryn.”
“I might have to visit Master Neloth, as Ildari is responsible for the deaths caused by General Carius. However, with his demise, you will no longer have to worry about Ash Spawn attacks on Raven Rock.”
“Councillor Morvayn told me to give this to you if you made it back in one piece… and you got rid of General Carius. Better than a soldier’s pay, so you should be thankful.”
Captain Veleth tried to hand me a hefty bag of coins. I pushed his hand away and said, “The Nine have tasked me to protect the mortals of Nirn, and The Dragonguard volunteered to assist me. We do not do it for financial reward. Widows, widowers, and orphans of the Redoran Guard that the Ash Spawn killed need that coin far more than we do. Please, distribute the money amongst them as you see fit.”
“That is most generous of you, and it will be my pleasure to hand those unfortunate people some badly needed funds. Thank you for your assistance. It’s raised my men’s spirits quite a bit.”
“We are glad we could help. Now, do not be shocked when we vanish.”
“When you what….”
We Recalled to the Mark at Fort Frostmoth.
I looked up, and the sky seemed clear.
However, our visibility was reduced by the still-settling ash deposited earlier. Therefore, Night Vision was needed by me. My furry friends also have Night Vision, so we might as well have been travelling on a sunny day. Their glowing eyes can be startling if seen unexpectedly.
We stumbled upon two gangs of reavers having a dispute. We didn’t take sides and killed them all with equal prejudice.
We came to a shortcut over a mountain.
I told my friends, “I will Blink my way over the mountain and then summon you.”
I did that, then summoned the group with Miraak’s Temple came into view. We noticed a lot of scaffolding around parts of it.
We saw many dragon skeletons as we approached the temple.
- Wulf: Miraak and three other Dragon Priests managed to kill twenty-one dragons before Miraak was injured and fled to Apocrypha.
- Dhali: Did Miraak absorb their souls?
- Wulf: Yes.
- Inigo: My friend, if Miraak kills you, would he absorb your soul?
- Wulf: Yes, unless The Divines have somehow protected it. I would absorb his soul if I killed him.
- Inigo: You risk your afterlife as well as death.
- Khao: More than that, Inigo. If Wulf’s soul were absorbed, he would cease to exist in this and future kalpa.
- Inigo: If your soul is entwined with Rigmor’s, what would that do to her?
- Wulf: I have no idea. I doubt The Divines would know. So, I will have to make sure that doesn’t happen.
- Inigo: Is Rigmor aware of this?
- Wulf: I usually tell Rigmor everything, but she was still recovering from the concoction, and I didn’t want to burden her with more worry. I will explain it to her when she is well enough.
- Inigo: I can’t handle losing you, my friend. So, you had better beat Miraak!
- Shiva: We all think the same, Inigo. A world without Wulf would be…
- P’Sua: Less weird!
My friends laughed loud, and so did I.
We approached The Beast Stone and found Riekling working on it. They recited Miraak’s Mantra in their guttural language. There were also Nords, but I did not think they were Skaal.
I told the group, “I do not want to get closer to Miraak’s Temple in the dark. We shall get a good night’s sleep in Aurane and return tomorrow.”
I placed a Mark and then teleported us to Aurane.
My friends quickly made their way to the kitchen. I entered my quarters. I ate some fruit, then retired to bed.
After breakfast the following morning, we gathered in my quarters.
When we Recalled to The Beast Stone, a Miraak Goon attacked me, and I cut her down with more violence than necessary.
- P’Sua: It seems you are not too fond of Miraak’s sidekicks.
- Dhali: None of us thinks fondly of those who try to kill us, P’Sua.
- Inigo: My friend, do you intend to touch this stone too?
- Wulf: No, Inigo, I do not feel the need to touch every large, hard, vertical object.
- Inigo: Unlike Shumba in Riverhold. Ahh, don’t tell Ko’rassa I mentioned Shumba.
- Wulf: I thought Ko’rassa was your first?
- Inigo: She was, and my twelfth. Shumba filled in the gaps.
- Shiva: Make sure you are loyal to Ko’rassa now you are back together. Otherwise, I will castrate you with my teeth!
- Inigo: Is that some form of Ka’Po’Tun foreplay?
- P’Sua: Actually, it is quite a common form of punishment for adultery. We do not have the same relaxed views on fidelity as Khajiiti.
- Dhali: Raw testicles are somewhat chewy. I prefer them fried.
Inigo stared at Dhali in horror as she smacked her lips and stared back.
After spending time controlling our laughter, we continued towards Miraak’s Temple. Gritty, grey snow fell for awhile and then the sky cleared.
Enslaved reavers worked on the external structures.
We climbed some stairs and then up a ramp.
A young woman was fruitlessly talking to her people and trying to break through Miraak’s dweomer.
“Oslaf, please! You must fight against what is controlling you! Yrsa, can you hear me? Yrsa, I’m here to help you! All of you must leave this place! It is not safe here! We must go back to the village! You must listen to me! We must leave this place!”
My friends remained as I made my way to The Tree Stone. Those who worked close to the stone were Skaal. The dweomer was the same as The Earth Stone and seemed no stronger.
The young woman finally noticed us.
- Frea: You there. Why are you here? What brings you to this place?
- Wulf: I am Lord Welkynd, and my companions are called The Dragonguard. We are here to stop Miraak. Who are you?
- Frea: I am Frea of the Skaal. I am here to save my people or avenge them.
- Dhali: You can’t break Miraak’s hold on their minds by talking to them.
- Frea: Something has taken control of most of the people in Solstheim. It makes them forget themselves and work on these horrible creations that corrupt the All-Maker Stones, the land itself. My father, Storn, our shaman, says Miraak has returned to Solstheim, but that is impossible.
- Dhali: It is far from impossible. He has allied himself with Hermaeus Mora and has been in Apocrypha since The Dragon War forty-five centuries ago.
- Wulf: You know that aspect of The Adversary as Herma Mora. Miraak hasn’t returned to Nirn yet. However, I believe he will use these new structures to do so.
- Dhali: Miraak is controlling the people of Solstheim. He also tried to have Lord Welkynd assassinated in Skyrim.
- Frea: It seems we all have reasons to see what lies beneath us. Let us go. There is nothing more I can do here. As you indicated, The Tree Stone and my friends are beyond help at the moment. We need to find a way into the temple below.
- Wulf: First, please tell us what the Skaal know of Miraak.
- Frea: His story is as old as Solstheim itself. He served the dragons before they fell from power, as most did. He was a priest in their order. But unlike most, he turned against them. He made his own path, and his actions cost him dearly. The stories say he sought to claim Solstheim for himself, and the dragons destroyed him for it.
- Wulf: I am hoping to discover his motivation before confronting him. He was already master of Solstheim when he rebelled against the dragons. Mora gave him refuge in Apocrypha. Now he has emerged again to reclaim Solstheim. If successful, he might use this island as a base from which to conquer all of Nirn.
- Frea: If he has such power, how can you stop him?
- Wulf: I have the same powers as Miraak. I may even be more powerful than him. It does not matter because we shall defeat him by fighting beside each other.
- Frea: Is he doing this for The Adversary?
- Wulf: Other aspects of The Adversary may want subjugation of the peoples of Nirn. Herma Mora does not. Logic tells me Miraak is not doing this for Herma Mora. Maybe another aspect of The Adversary is now his master. We do not know as yet.
- Dhali: Are you the only Skaal not under Miraak’s control?
- Frea: There are few of us unaffected by this curse. My father, Storn, the shaman, protects them in the village. I fashioned an amulet to guard me against whatever has taken hold of the Skaal, but it is the only one of its kind. If I cannot find a way to save them, there is no hope for our people.
- Dhali: Lord Welkynd was sent to Nirn to help all mortals, including the people of Solstheim. We shall try our hardest to free all people from Miraak’s power.
- Wulf: The power of the stones is tied in with The All-Maker. Let us see what is in the temple, but your father’s knowledge of this ancient magic may be vital to our success.
- Frea: Then, we should not delay. My father cannot protect the village for much longer.
- Wulf: Have you ever entered a complex like this before? As a place once inhabited by a Dragon Priest, it is undoubtedly populated by Draugr. Have you ever fought Draugr?
- Frea: I have never ventured into such a place nor faced Draugr. However, I am a skilled warrior.
- Dhali: If you accompany us, you must do as Lord Welkynd says. We have much experience exploring places like this temple and combating many creature types, including the Draugr.
- Wulf: We ask you to obey me for all our safety. If I did not think it was vital for you to see what Miraak was up to, I would insist you stay here. I will not have you endangering us by thinking you know what to do. You don’t.
- Frea: I will follow your lead. That is how I learn from others.
- Wulf: This is important, Frea, so listen carefully. Never get in front of me before I close in on an enemy!
- Frea: Why is this important?
- Wulf: I use The Voice, a type of magic. It does not distinguish friend from foe and could kill you.
- Frea: I have heard of this thing. I shall remain behind until weapons clash.
Just then, a grinding noise was heard, followed by the voice of a Miraak Goon saying, “Find the intruders and slay them!”
We ran down a ramp and slew two Goons.
I said, “Miraak’s Goons have foolishly given us entry into the temple. Let’s enter quickly before the door is locked.”
We entered the temple, which was not dissimilar to the many Nord ruins in Skyrim.
- Frea: We should check nearby rooms for supplies before heading further into the temple.
- Wulf: Two of us are Master Restoration Mages, so potions are redundant.
- Dhali: Frea, we are very experienced at exploring dusty old ruins. We have everything we need.
- Wulf: However, we will search the rooms for clues. Sometimes journals and scrolls provide vital information.
- Frea: Did your gods tell you about Miraak?
- Wulf: No, Miraak let me know he existed.
- Dhali: Miraak sent some of his followers to Skyrim to kill Wulf. That is how we found out about him. Then an aspect of The All-Maker, a god called Lady Kynareth, detected something wrong with the air over Solstheim. A dragon called Silah investigated and told us what was happening with The All-Maker Stones.
- Wulf: I don’t know how Miraak discovered my existence. The presence of a Dragonborn in Skyrim was not well known when we first encountered Miraak’s assassins.
- Frea: Would Herma Mora have told him?
- Wulf: I don’t know. However, Mora might have asked Miraak to deal with Alduin, The World Eater. He is an aspect of The Adversary that The Skaal call Thartaag, the World Devourer. Mora tried to recruit me to replace Miraak as his champion, but I declined the offer. Mora still named me his champion even though I refused to aid him.
We explored the nearby rooms but found nothing of consequence.
Not much further in, we encountered another two Goons.
Unrelenting Force killed one and then the other, who had been partially shielded.
Frea gasped and asked, “Was that The Voice?”
“Yes, and it is also called The Thu’um. It is the magic of dragons. Lady Kynareth is our god of air, wind, and sky. She gifted mortals with knowledge of The Thu’um so that we could win The Dragon War. Our god of time, Lord Akatosh, blesses some mortals to make their Thu’um stronger amongst other gifts. They are called Dragonborn. Miraak was the first Dragonborn.”
“Miraak was blessed by one of your gods, yet is evil?”
“Those two people I just killed worshipped Miraak, as mortals once worshipped Dragon Priests. They may be labelled evil, as I have found human flesh, used for necromancy, upon some of them. However, I am yet to pass judgment on Miraak. I need to understand his motivation and, hopefully, before we engage in combat. Lord Akatosh would not give his blessing to one whose soul is dark. However, a Dragonborn has free will and can become evil.”
“I understand. I also see why you warned me not to step before you.”
Frea looked disturbed as we walked past the dead Goons. I think she is a hunter used to the gore of her kills. Dead people are different.
Beyond a portcullis, we found evidence of cruelty and torture, including several skeletons in cages hung from the ceiling.
- Frea: I do not wish to imagine what happened in this chamber. Who were the poor souls trapped in these cages? What torture did they suffer at Miraak’s hands? Was it in service to the dragons or for his purposes?
- Wulf: These people died and rotted in their cages only recently. Miraak can’t manifest in physical form on Nirn, so he did not kill these people or torture them.
- Dhali: As Wulf said earlier, he found strips of human flesh when searching Miraak’s followers. Some of them may perform the evil you see in this room, but not necessarily at Miraak’s command or even knowledge.
- Wulf: Dragons never demanded mortal sacrifices. Some members of The Dragon Cult, the Dragon Priests, may have decided sacrifices were required. If so, they performed those sacrifices without the permission of their gods, the dragons. Similarly, the followers of Miraak may decide sacrifices are required when they are not.
- Shiva: Some are deranged vicious arseholes who must be killed on sight!
- Inigo: My excellent nose and fluffy ears tell me some of those arseholes are approaching.
- Shiva: Don’t sound smug, Khajiiti. My superior ears and nose also detect arseholes. One is blue and close while the others are approaching.
- Frea: You are not all Khajiiti?
- Wulf: Inigo is. The other four are of the race Ka’Po’Tun from Akavir.
- Frea: Now I see the subtle differences. The Ka’Po’Tun are more like tigers, whilst Inigo is like the cats we keep as pets.
- Shiva: Yes, Inigo is similar to those but is not yet house-trained and is covered in fleas.
- Frea: I have met many strangers, but you six are stranger than most!
- Wulf: Let’s do some Goon culling!
When we approached the stairs that the Goons were climbing, two Draugr emerged from upright sarcophagi.
We quickly disposed of them.
I then used Unrelenting Force to eliminate the Goons.
Once again, Frea looked uncomfortable as we passed by the mangled corpses.
Not much further along, we entered catacombs full of the dead, with Draugr hidden amongst them. Some of them used The Voice.
At one stage, Inigo said, “What is that, Mr Dragonfly? I don’t like zombies either, so stop complaining, or I will leave you here.”
After traversing the Draugr-infested catacombs, we came to a corridor protected by swinging blades. A lowered portcullis and lever were at the far end.
I turned to my friends.
Frea said, “I am not going down there. It would be foolish to attempt it. I do not doubt that the lever at the far end turns these blades off. One of you has a much better chance than I to make it through those blades. I shall wait here for now.”
“A wise decision, Frea. I could time my leaps between each set of blades, but that would also be foolish.”
“Then how do you propose to get to the lever?”
I Blinked to the portcullis.
Then I pulled the lever.
The blades stopped swinging, and bars lowered to provide access to the rest of the temple. I laughed when I saw what had been demolished.
The others came running up to where I stood.
- Frea: Miraak took great pains to make it difficult to reach him. Let us hope that is the last of these traps. But how did you do that?
- Wulf: It is one of the gifts bestowed upon me by The Nine. I travel via the ethereal plane using my willpower.
- Dhali: Miraak was not impressed with Dwemer Puzzle Lock Doors. There is one smashed to pieces on the floor.
- Wulf: He must have realised that people more intelligent than bricks would try and penetrate his temple. It is a pity, though.
- Shiva: Do you mean it is a pity you weren’t here to help knock down the Dwemer Puzzle Lock Door?
- Wulf: How did you guess?
- Shiva: We have all heard your rants about those doors.
- Wulf: They are not rants. They are informative observations.
- Inigo: No, they are rants, my friend.
- Dhali: They are undeniably rants.
- Khao: I have to agree. They are rants, not informative observations.
- P’Sua: Some of the rantiest rants that have ever been ranted.
- Wulf: Mmm, when are this month’s stipends due?
- Dhali: On behalf of us all, we are honoured you took the time to inform us about Dwemer Puzzle Lock Doors.
- Wulf: Who needs spells and All-Maker Stones to enthral people? Shiny, clinky gold does the same thing with less effort.
We continued and soon came to a room with an exit blocked by a lowered portcullis. Beyond the portcullis was a raised drawbridge.
I told the group, “A bit further, beyond the drawbridge, is a Goon. When I lower the drawbridge, I will take the lead, and when we see the Goon, I will use Unrelenting Force. There may also be Draugr, but I cannot see them using Heat-Vision.”
Frea looked at P’Sua, who said, “Frea, Wulf is part dragon. He can see the body heat of mortals through walls and so on.”
Frea squinted at me, no doubt looking for what parts were dragon-like.
In a small alcove was a twist handle.
Twisting and pulling the handle raised the portcullis and lowered the drawbridge.
I took the lead, and we soon came to the room with the Goon. On either side of him stood Draugr.
He said, “I am an Arch-Cultist, and it will be my honour to kill The False Dragonborn on behalf of Miraak.”
I laughed and used my Thu’um, “OH NO, HE IS AN ARCH-CULTIST! I AM SO FRIGHTENED I MIGHT DIE FROM LAUGHTER. PREPARE TO DIE, SCARY ARCH-CULTIST.”
Unrelenting Force knocked him backwards, but he did not die.
I Blinked to him, only to discover he had summoned a type of Daedra called Seeker.
I decapitated the Goon, and his summoned minion vanished.
Meanwhile, my companions tackled the two Draugr. One of them used Unrelenting Force which staggered Frea.
While she was getting back to her feet, Inigo cut down the Draugr.
I watched as the others killed the last Draugr.
The door exiting the room led to a long corridor lined with skeletons strung up as warnings.
- Wulf: I suspect we are getting to the crucial parts of this temple. Expect an increase in Goons and powerful Draugr. More of the Draugr will use The Voice but they have nowhere the power of my Thu’um. Still, they can do damage and knock you down, as Frea discovered.
- Frea: Why did you taunt that man?
- Wulf: You have been told that I am part dragon. That is true, and like a dragon, part of me desires battle and conquest and can be cruel. That part of me can become dominant if I do not exercise it voluntarily. When an enemy boasts, that is an ideal time to reply with dark humour, which appeases my dragon personality.
- Dhali: Very rarely does Wulf allow his dragon instincts to dominate. It is terrifying when he does. It is far better that he occasionally shows glimpses of it.
- Frea: You are all efficient killers, but unlike the Nords living in Thirsk Mead Hall, you do not relish violence. Well, that is what I think from observing you.
- Shiva: People that celebrate battle and think there is glory in war are ignorant fools. Nobody who has stood amongst the dead and dying on a battlefield sees glory. It is right to celebrate the bravery and a strong defence of innocents. However, the act of slaughtering another mortal should never be celebrated!
- Frea: Have all of you seen such battlefields?
- Khao: Some of us have seen them often in Akavir. As far as the eyes can see, there are piles of bodies, both ally and enemy. The dry earth is turned to mud as blood soaks the ground. The terrible sights and smells, and sounds of battle are never forgotten. I want to drag the Nords of Thirsk Mead Hall to such a battlefield and ask them to point out the glory they see.
- Wulf: Restoration mages like Khao and I can spend days after a battle struggling to keep allies and enemies injured in such battles alive. I can assure you that not one of our patients has ever died while thinking it to be a glorious death.
- Frea: You dislike killing but must do so.
- P’Sua: That is the burden soldiers accept. We kill so that others don’t have to. The farmers can keep farming, the merchants can keep selling, and the children can keep laughing because we kill.
- Frea: It has been many years since my people fought a war. But what you say is echoed in the teachings passed to us by our elders.
- Wulf: Then your elders were wise, unlike many ancestors revered by Skyrim’s Nord population.
- Frea: I do not know what Miraak learned that gave him reason to turn on his masters.
- Wulf: That is what I hope to discover. I like to understand the motivations of my enemies.
- Inigo: No, my friend, you need to understand the motivations of your enemies.
Just for a change, Skeletal Warriors attacked.
They fell apart when hit by Unrelenting Force and did not reconstruct themselves.
As predicted, we encountered more powerful Draugr and Goons. We must be getting close to the temple’s heart.
A Goon tried to run away. Inigo cut his head off while yelling, “Hyah!“
I stopped and listened at the top of some stairs.
- Inigo: Why have you stopped, my friend?
- Wulf: I can hear a Word Wall.
- Frea: What is a Word Wall?
- Dhali: Word Walls teach Wulf what is called Words of Power. Several Words of Power are used in a Shout.
- Inigo: Frea, Shouts are the spells of The Voice, the magic that dragons and Wulf use.
- Dhali: Each Shout consists of one to three Words of Power. The more Words of Power used, the more powerful the Shout.
- Inigo: A Word Wall will try and teach Wulf a Word of Power. Most of the time, he already knows the Word.
- Dhali: But Wulf might not know the Shout it is used in or how to use it.
- Khao: Normally, Wulf would gain that knowledge from the souls of dragons he defeats in combat. But he objected to that restriction, so Lady Kynareth taught him dozens of Words and Shouts and gifted him the knowledge needed to use them.
- Frea: Wulf, didn’t you want to kill dragons to gain this knowledge?
- Wulf: No, Frea, and for two reasons. First, I needed to be stronger to defeat Alduin in battle. The longer it took for me to gain that strength, the more people would be killed by Alduin and his dragon allies. The Nine asked me to travel to Skyrim and defeat Alduin. I argued with my gods that it was senseless for me to be so ill-equipped for the task.
- Khali: The Nine agreed, and Lady Kynareth aided Wulf.
- Wulf: The second reason is what happens when I absorb a dragon’s soul. The dragon’s spirit does not return to The All Maker. It can’t be shaped into something new and returned to Mundus.
- Frea: I have never heard of such a terrible thing! Can’t you refuse to absorb the dragon’s soul?
- Wulf: No, because it is not voluntary. I asked The Nine if they could stop it from happening, but they could not. I still have to kill dragons, but fewer than would have been the case without Lady Kynareth’s aid. Saving mortal lives was not the only reason I needed to defeat Alduin quickly.
- Frea: I fear that this reason is something more terrible.
- Wulf: Alduin needed to absorb souls so he could use their Lifeforce to recover fallen dragons. He absorbed the souls of dead mortals who travelled to Sovngarde for their afterlife. He did not absorb the souls of other dragons.
- Frea: Are you saying mortals suffered the same fate as the dragons you slay?
- Wulf: Worse because the dragons know and accept their fate if they lose a battle against me. The dead mortals reached Sovngarde, thinking they were to enjoy an afterlife until the next kalpa. Instead, Alduin hunted them in Sovngarde and absorbed their souls.
- Dhali: People who felt solace that a loved one would greet them in Sovngarde could no longer have that reassurance.
- Frea: This is unknown to my people. Although the spirits of our deceased do not travel to Sovngarde, the rebirth cycle was stopped, which is a great tragedy. This terrible thing must be remembered and told so future generations know of its possibility.
- Inigo: We spoke to souls in Sovngarde, Legionnaires and Stormcloak, who were terrified.
- Dhali: Alduin consumed souls in Sovngarde during the first Dragon War. If this fact were known, perhaps more Stormcloaks would have hesitated to kill and risk being killed. Many were fearless, as an afterlife in Sovngarde was not the worst fate imaginable.
- Frea: I know not what Stormcloaks are. Legionnaires are the soldiers of The Empire.
- Wulf: Stormcloaks are rebels trying to make Skyrim independent of The Empire, resulting in a civil war. The worst battles are those fought between neighbours, friends, and family.
- Frea: The ancestors of those who reside in Thirsk Mead Hall killed one person before they were allowed to leave. It was the wise thing to do. Otherwise, we could have escalated into such a terrible thing as this civil war.
- Wulf: Many leaders could learn from the wisdom of The Skaal.
We entered the room with the Word Wall.
Opposite the Word Wall were several vertical sarcophagi.
The group needed no warning and kept watch for emerging Draugr except for Frea, who stood fascinated as I absorbed the Word of Power.
Just as I finished absorbing the Word, the temple shook. Dust and shards of rock fell from the ceiling.
I yelled, “A Dragonborn has been detected. Be prepared for an assault!”
Several dead Draugr fell from their sarcophagi.
Inigo said, “Well, they can’t assault us like that!”
With perfect timing, a Draugr emerged behind him.
I laughed as I helped engage that Draugr and two more that emerged.
Then I helped tackle the most powerful Draugr I have ever encountered. It took several of us to wear it down and destroy it.
I looked to the ceiling and issued a string of expletives. The skeleton of a dragon was on display like a trophy. It had no soul attached, so Miraak must have killed it.
- Frea: I had heard Miraak had turned against the Dragon Cult, but to display the remains in such a manner as this… It is no wonder the dragons razed his temple to the ground. Seeing remains hung up like trophies must have enraged them to no end.
- Wulf: The Dovah could not see this. Miraak’s act of defiance was enough to enrage them.
- Frea: Wulf, you seem very upset at seeing this.
- Wulf: I have the blood and soul of a dragon. This abomination is akin to seeing a Skaal flayed and put on display as a trophy! Dragons are my half-brothers, as we share the same celestial father, Lord Akatosh.
- Inigo: Please read the Word Wall’s inscription for us, my friend.
I stood before the Word Wall.
- Wulf: It tried to teach me ‘QAH,’ which means armour. It is the second Word of Power of the Dragon Aspect Shout. I already knew it, and the Shout.
- Frea: Please, describe in more detail what I just saw.
- Wulf: The writing on the Word Wall is in Dovahzul, the language of Dov. Some words in Dovahzul are called Words of Power. They are used in the magic of dragons called The Voice or Thu’um.
- Frea: Was the glowing tendril the magic of The Word Wall trying to teach you a Word of Power?
- Wulf: Yes.
- Frea: Is that a message on the Word Wall or just random words?
- Wulf: It is a message. In Dovahzul, the inscription reads, ‘Het ont kriist Miraak wo ahtiir ok sahvot ol qah spaan naal Deyra fah ok unslaad midun.’
- Frea: That sounds nothing like any other language I have heard.
- Wulf: It is the spoken language of Dragon Priests and Dov.
- Frea: What does it say in our language?
- Wulf: Here once stood Miraak, who wore his faith as armour, shielded by Daedra for his eternal loyalty.
- Frea: Who or what is Daedra?
- Wulf: Aspects of The Adversary change creatures made by the All Maker. These corrupted creatures act as their guards and soldiers and are called Daedra or minions. The different aspects of The Adversary favour different types of Daedra. Herma Mora favours two types of Daedra. One has arms and many tentacles and floats rather than walks. They are called Seeker and act as librarians as well as guards. You would have seen one earlier when I taunted the Goon. The other type of Daedra created by Herma Mora are called Lurker. They hide in pools of water and have tentacles but are much taller than Seeker and walk on two legs. Neither is very powerful.
- Frea: Yes, I saw that creature with tentacles.
- Wulf: The strange brasiers in this room are modelled on Lurker heads.
- Frea: They have lots of teeth!
- Wulf: They are also very tall. I only know of Lurker from books. I have never met one.
A locked door was at the back of the sarcophagus from which the very powerful Draugr emerged.
I searched the Draugr and found a key.
I unlocked the door, and we entered the temple’s living quarters.
We made our way through several rooms.
Then we travelled downwards till we were at least six stories underground.
We arrived at a long staircase lined with Lurker brasiers and populated by powerful Draugr.
- Wulf: I shall eliminate them with my bow.
- Frea: Our best hunters could not hope to do such a thing!
- Inigo: It hurts me to say so, but my friend is a better marksman than me.
- Wulf: That may be so, but your farts are the best!
- Khao: If best means deadly and can eat through steel, then yes, Inigo’s farts are the best.
- Inigo: It is so kind of you to say so.
- Dhali: They smell nearly as bad as Apple Cabbage Stew.
- Frea: That is a delicacy amongst my people.
- Shiva: Lydia would say that is evidence that the Skaal are an intelligent and superior form of Nord.
- Inigo: Frea, do your people spend most of their time outdoors?
- Frea: Yes, even in the harshest weather.
- Inigo: How sad, their love of Apple Cabbage Stew has driven the Skaal from their homes.
- Frea: This is humour?
- Inigo: Yes.
- Frea: Then, to be polite, I must join in. So…hahaha!
- Wulf: That is evidence that the Skaal are experts at sarcasm.
- Frea: Thank you.
After killing several Draugr with my bow, we proceeded up the stairs. I killed several more Draugr and Skeletal Warriors with The Voice.
After destroying all adversaries, we stood before a Shrine to Hermaeus Mora.
- Inigo: Somebody has made a statue of Lydia without her makeup!
- Frea: Who is Lydia? She has been mentioned several times.
- Wulf: Lydia is another Dragonguard and a close friend of all of us, including Inigo.
- Frea: Ahh, so Inigo and Lydia say nasty things to each other for fun. I understand.
- Shiva: Unfortunately, I have no comeback on behalf of Lydia. Well done, Inigo!
- Dhali: Is Hermaeus Mora that horrendous?
- Wulf: That is not his ugliest avatar. I have spoken to the one known as Wretched Abyss. It is a floating, jet-black tangle of tentacles and eyes that keeps changing shape. When he speaks, he makes grotesque gurgling sounds like he has a throat full of phlegm.
- Dhali: What a lovely description!
- Shiva: It is better than how he described a Seeker to us. Do you remember?
- Dhali: Unfortunately, yes. I understand now that I have seen a Seeker. If you are a perverted weirdo Dragonborn, a Seeker’s mouth might look like a woman’s genitals.
- Frea: Now you have placed that image in my head. I shall need to pray to The All Maker to remove it.
- Shiva: You haven’t travelled with us for long, Frea. If you did, that revelation would seem mild.
- Frea: Then I am fortunate we must be close to the centre of this place. Our journey together will soon be over.
- Wulf: I agree that we must be close to the centre. Have you noticed that we have only been facing powerful Draugr? Miraak’s Goons were not allowed in this part of the temple.
A pull chain rotated a door and lowered its gate.
I destroyed some Skeletal Warriors with The Voice.
We followed a winding, downward corridor to a small room. In its centre, a Black Book sat upon a pedestal. A metal grate surrounding the pedestal allowed flames from molten rock to shoot upwards.
- Frea: There are dark magics at work here. Ready yourself. That book… It seems wrong, somehow… Here, yet… not. It may be what we seek.
- Wulf: It is called a Black Book. It acts as a portal to Herma Mora’s world called Apocrypha. It may lead to the part in which Miraak resides.
- Dhali: What will you do if Miraak is there?
- Wulf: That depends on him. I do not want to kill him till we have more information on the dweomer that controls the people. If I killed Miraak, what would happen to those people he controls? Would they go insane or die or remain in that state?
- Inigo: Also, my friend, you want to understand why he turned away from Alkosh.
- Wulf: Yes, I not only want to understand, but I also need to understand.
- Frea: You are confident you could defeat Miraak.
- Wulf: Miraak is a Dragonborn who has abandoned the god, Lord Akatosh, that gave him his power. Our other gods, such as Lady Kynareth, would not have taught him what they have taught me. I think his ability in the magic of the Dragonborn, The Thu’um, will be a fraction of mine. I would know far more Shouts, the spells of The Thu’um, than he. However, he may be able to focus his Thu’um better than I. As for skill with sword or Magicka, he will most likely pale in comparison.
- Frea: And what of Herma Mora?
- Wulf: He would not harm me. He knows the mortals he trades knowledge with may cease to be or become enslaved if I am not alive to prevent it. What Miraak is trying to do would stop mortals from trading knowledge with Herma Mora. That makes me suspect that Miraak no longer serves The Adversary.
- Shiva: Frea, Lord Welkynd must take this risk. He is on Nirn to protect all mortals, which is why our gods gave him his powers. To perform that task, he must risk such things. We all wish he did not have to.
- Wulf: Frea, would you have attempted to enter this temple by yourself?
- Frea: Yes, I would have done so for my people.
- Wulf: Then you understand why I will open that book and go to Herma Mora’s world.
- Frea: I will pray to The All Maker for your safe return.
- Dhali: Wulf, please try not to antagonise Herma Mora when you are in his realm.
- Wulf: We have already had harsh words, Dhali. Mora needs me, so pointing out his lies is less dangerous than you think.
- Inigo: Will you vanish?
- Wulf: No, I don’t think so. From what I have read, the Black Books return the reader to their point of origin if read in Apocrypha. To do so, they would have to have an anchor on Nirn. So, I may turn transparent and not vanish altogether.
- Inigo: At what stage should we panic? How long will you be gone?
- Wulf: Time will always be unknown when I enter Oblivion. As I can with my Aetherius Room, the owners of a realm in Oblivion can control how time flows.
- Dhali: We will be sensible, Inigo. As soon as one of our stomachs rumbles from hunger, we will abandon Wulf as a lost cause. Then we can get something to eat.
- Frea: You are all taking this very calmly.
- Dhali: Wulf is doing what he deems necessary, and we accept that. Humour helps calm our nerves.
I opened the Black Book.
The title of the Black Book was Waking Dreams. Hermaeus Mora randomly selects known but obscure texts for the Black Books. Waking Dream refers to a theory of how the universe came to be. A theory I disbelieve and which Father finds ridiculous. The small part I read before entering Apocrypha said,
“The eyes, once bleached by falling stars of utmost revelation, will forever see the faint insight drawn by the overwhelming question, as only the True Enquiry shapes the edge of thought.
The rest is vulgar fiction, attempts to impose order on the consensus mantlings of an uncaring godhead. First….”
Tentacles, covered in the language of the gods, Ehlnofex, dragged me into the portal.
The teleport to Apocrypha was not instantaneous. At first, I could not see clearly, but I could hear. A familiar voice, heard when I touched The Earth Stone, said, “The time comes soon when… What?”
Before I could entirely focus, Miraak demanded, “Who are you to dare set foot here?”
He cast Lightning, which surprised me. I would have thought a Shout would be his offensive weapon of choice.
I shrugged off his spell, which I believe shook him somewhat. His mask made his mood challenging to ascertain.
The ugliest dragon I have ever seen stood behind Miraak. Four Seekers surrounded him.
I replied, “You must be Miraak. I am Lord Welkynd.”
“Ahh… You are Dragonborn. I can feel it. My faithful told me that you had slain Alduin. Well done. I could have slain him back when I walked the earth, but I chose a different path.”
“Alduin can’t be slain, but we defeated him in battle on Nirn and Sovngarde. I doubt you could have accomplished either.”
“You do not know the true power a Dragonborn can wield!”
Miraak Shouted Dragon Aspect.
“MUL QAH DIIV!”
I laughed and asked, “Is Dragon Aspect supposed to impress me?”
I then Shouted Dragon Aspect.
Mask or not, I could tell Miraak was disturbed that I knew the Shout.
I used the pause to scan Miraak’s soul, and it was disturbing to see it did not differ from that of a dragon. Mine would be the same. Up to now, the claim of having a dragon soul has been abstract. Seeing Miraak’s soul made it an undeniable fact.