From Traversing Tamriel
Assuming she was correct I rose and greeted the man, startling him greatly. He invited us closer though and it was not until we drew closer than I realized there was something off about the man’s appearance. I had taken him for an Altmer, but he introduced himself as ‘Knight-Paladin Gelebor’, the last of the Snow Elves.
I confess to not knowing much of the Snow Elves other than that they were somehow corrupted into the Falmer. The Knight-Paladin was not one for stories however, assuming (correctly) that we were there seeking Auriel’s Bow, for as he acidly put it: why would we be there otherwise?
He and a few others had escaped the corruption by virtue of being away when it happened, but the relationship soured over the many years. Before Gelebor would assist us with finding the Bow we had to agree to kill his brother, the self-styled Arch-Curate Vyrthur, who lay under the sway of the Falmer…somehow.
I admit to confusion on this part. The Falmer are barely above animals and posses no language I have ever heard of. How could they be responsible for the corruption of an un-corrupted Snow Elf? I felt there was more to the story and in this I proved to be quite correct.
Killing Vyrthur would require Serana and I to travel through each of the ‘Wayshrines’ of Auri-El, the first of which Gelebor was guarding and refused to leave. Once we agreed (given no choice), he cast a spell on the stone effigy of Auri-El, revealing a small gatehouse beneath it. Serana was impressed, but the Dwemer left devices that do the very same thing all over the place.
Initiates to Auri-El had to travel to each wayshrine with an empty jug, collecting water from the basins of each wayshrine as they went. Once they had completed their visitations the jug would be filled and brought to the temple nearby. Simple, but they had no Falmer to contend with. We filled our jug with water from Gelebor’s wayshrine and stepped through the shimmering portal that appeared along its brickwork.
In a flash we were in front of a different wayshrine in a very damp, warm cave. The plants were all luminescent, some retracting fearfully as we passed by. Evidence of the Falmer was easy to find, but no Falmer themselves.
After quite a bit of walking we found the second wayshrine, retracted as the first had been. A spectral apparition was faithfully waiting next to it and greeted the two of us as initiates.
We spoke to it, affirming our faith and it opened the wayshrine much as Gelebor had done. Inside was another basin of water and a second portal shimmering along the walls.
This wayshrine deposited us in a wet vale with fog that limited our vision to maybe a dozen paces.
A type of Sabre Cat I have not seen before prowled the valley, seeming to take pleasure in springing out of the fog from above us. They were nothing we could not handle, of course, and the Falmer had yet to be encountered.
The vale’s wayshrine sent us to a frozen canyon, complete with a massive nearly-frozen waterfall cascading over the ice. I was dismayed by the sudden change of climate, but Serana was enamored by the sight, claiming it made all the difficulties up until now worth it. I disagreed, but kept silent.
Onward we went, finding the fourth wayshrine (of Learning) along the bank. This one sent us back underground to the realm of the glowing plants, but the path was different. It was here that we came upon the only indication that we were not the first to suffer this strange path, though Gelebor had not mentioned others before us.
The skeleton nearly crumbled to dust as I retrieved its rotten journal from underneath it and I could only make out the last entry the adventurer wrote, noting that there were traps ahead and that he planned to use them to his advantage…against what, he did not say, nor could I determine how he had died.
There were no Falmer ahead of the skeleton and soon the cavern exited outside the valley, on a path opposite where we had originally entered it. The path wound up the side of the valley wall, the final wayshrine (of Resolution) being along it as it continued upwards towards the main temple.
We stopped, filled the water pitcher, and continued on.
And that is when we finally found the Falmer.
Accustomed to the villages the creatures build in caves and Dwemer ruins, I was unprepared for the large Falmer city (if such a thing can be said to exist) that filled up the valley between us and the temple. Where the paths were too narrow to erect a hut they threw a bridge across to the other side. If a hut could be built atop another, it was. The effect was a very crowded mass of chitinous buildings and bridges, with Falmer above, below, in front, and behind.
I had brought a full sheaf of crossbow bolts into the valley, but exhausted them halfway through their icy metropolis. Serana’s spells proved the deciding factor, as I am sure I would not have been able to fight off multiple Falmer from different directions and elevations all by myself, especially hand-to-hand!
At the end of the valley lay the final wayshrine, this one of Radiance.
Its portal sent us to our final destination: the Snow Elves’ temple to Auri-El.
It was quiet, with no evidence of Falmer having made the place their home. Serana noted that the statue in the courtyard was of Auriel, but using symbols ancient to us. Given that she had been trapped underground so long this would mark the place as very ancient indeed.
Pouring the water we had laboriously collected into an empty basin at the entrance unlocked the door somehow and we cautiously stepped through to an eerily chilling sight.
Falmer and Chaurus stood frozen, encased in ice, around a shrine to their Auri-El. Several of the Falmer were wearing robes and holding staves above their head, suggesting an intelligence that is not quite present today. Perhaps they were seeking a cure for the horrid transformation? I will never know.
The remainder of the temple was more Dwemer in construction, large stone furniture geometrically shaped and littered with bones and skeletons.
And at the rear of the Temple waited the Arch-Curate Vyrthur, seated on a throne and surrounded by more frozen Falmer and Chaurus.
Watching us approach, he languidly congratulated me, saying that I had done exactly as he had hoped, bringing my “fetching companion” to me. Serana gasped and whispered if he was asking about her, which of course he was, for there was no one else with me.
With that the frozen “corpses” of the Falmer and Chaurus burst free and attacked us. Being encased in ice for however long left them weak and the two of us dispatched two dozen of them in only a few minutes. Once the last of his hapless pawns had fallen Vyrthur screamed and unleashed magicka into the ceiling of the temple, shattering it.
We ran for cover as he laughed and disappeared, but we fortunately escaped harm and continued after him.
Serana, probably spooked by discovering she was the center of Vyrthur’s attention, ran ahead of me and caught up with the mad Snow Elf on a balcony overlooking the valley. As I caught up with them I heard him demand that she look into his eyes and tell him what she saw.
The Arch-Curate of Auri-El was a vampire.
Infected by one of his initiates, Vyrthur was (or felt) abandoned by his God and grew embittered. Cursed with immortality he had more than enough time to plan his revenge. So he created the prophecy Serana’s father is so enamored with for the sole purpose of drawing a pure-blooded vampiress, a Daughter of Coldharbour, to harvest the blood he required.
The entire prophecy is a sham. The long sleep Serana took out of safety, unnecessary, save for the insanity of her father. With a snarl Serana hurled him from the balcony and the fight was on.
It lasted longer than I thought it would. The ancient armor Vyrthur and Gelebor wore provided some protection against Serana’s spells, but my blade was another matter. Chasing the crazed man down was a different issue altogether, but eventually we cornered him and pummeled him with spell and blade until he was dead. So ends the prophecy, so far as the truth of it is concerned.
A few moments later a hidden wayshrine rose up in the courtyard and Gelebor stepped out, any help he could have provided no long being required. I walked over to him as Serana started to angrily strip the his brother’s corpse, but Gelebor seemed not to mind.
The man’s heart was colder than the surroundings. He expressed joy only in that the Falmer were not to blame for Vyrthur’s madness, stating that there was still hope that they could be turned back to the guiding light of Auri-El. Sadness for his brother, previously half of Cyrodiil’s Snow Elf population, was conspicuously missing.
He proclaimed Serana and I the rightful inheritors of Auriel’s bow, despite neither of us being able to shoot it very well, if at all in Serana’s case.
I was ready to take on Lord Harkon immediately, but Serana demurred. She felt that we would be overwhelmed by her father’s loyal minions and advised a return to Isran on the entire opposite side of the province.
This is maddening. And frustrating. I want this business over almost as much as Serana does, if only to save me from walking so much!
We used the temple’s wayshrine to teleport back to the first one and backtracked through the cavern into the welcome light of the morning.
Serana and I were both surprised to discover it had only taken a day to travel to the cavern, fight to the first wayshrine, blunder about underground, fight through a Falmer city, open the ancient Temple, confront half of the remaining Snow Elves, kill him, claim Auriel’s Bow, and return outside.
It was only when we arrived at Solitude for a much-deserved rest that we discovered it is now 11 Sun’s Dusk, three days after we set off from Falkreath.
I should have stuck to chopping wood and escorting merchants. I may be immortal, in a way, but there are days like this when I simply feel very old.