Skyrim Day 075 – White-Hot Failure

From Traversing Tamriel

1 Sun’s Dusk, 4E201
Fort Dawnguard
With all the pieces of Aetherium in our possession Serana and I had only to travel to the Aetherium Forge to answer one of the many questions the Dwemer left behind. Katria’s journal placed the Forge somewhere south of Ivarstead and we left before sunrise, per Serana’s preference.
Expecting a quiet morning, I was surprised to see a man running through the small town towards me. Stopping in front of me, he announced, somewhat out of breath, that he had a letter for me. Handing it over, he wished me a good morning and disappeared into the inn, no doubt for breakfast and a rest.
The letter was from ‘Muiri’ and concerned the death of ‘Alain Dufont’, a man I unknowingly killed some time ago, at least according to the letter. Perhaps he was a bandit or Dark Brotherhood assassin. Muiri reassured me that she would not be contacting the authorities over Alain’s death and sought to reward me for his end. She (I assume) asked me to visit her to receive her gratitude, but left no hint as to her whereabouts. A mysterious, but also rather useless, letter.
Serana then announced she had business elsewhere, agreeing to meet outside of Fort Dawnguard no later than tomorrow night. I wonder what occupied her today, but she is free to pursue her own life, disagreeable though she may be.
A Bosmer intercepted me on the road towards Windhelm, offering me the “sweetest moon sugar, the finest Skooma.” When I refused his offer he grew angry and attacked me bare-handed. Such a senseless way to throw away one’s life.
The rest of the walk was uneventful and I passed through Ivarstead just before noon. The Forge was somewhere south of the town, but no hints had been given. So I wandered about for a bit, coming across an Imperial camp and stopping in to make some quick trades. I spent a few minutes talking to the Legate, an brusque Altmer named Fasendil. His words dripped with disdain for the Dominion and told me that he was stationed in Hammerfell during the “Night of Green Fire” almost two hundred years ago.
That was news I remember hearing, though not in detail. Altmer, fleeing the Thalmor in Summerset Isle, settled in Sentinel, only to be assaulted by the Thalmor and almost completely wiped out. Fasendil was part of the would-be relief effort, but the Legion arrived too late to save anyone. He has harbored a hatred for the Dominion ever since. He sought a transfer to Skyrim so that he could watch the Thalmor and is of the opinion that they are behind what exists of the “Civil War” and the return of the Dragons.
He knew of one Dwemer ruin nearby, but it had been appropriated by a group of bandits, as usual. It lay only a few moments from the camp, but he forbade his men from engaging the bandits for fear of losing them to what he felt were pointless skirmishes. Perhaps if the Thalmor had taken up residence he would have done something. Fasendil could not tell me if there was anything unique about the ruin compared to others and wished me health as we parted.
The ruin really was only a few seconds away from the camp, but the bandits were nowhere to be seen when I arrived.
Some sort of device lay in the center of the ruins, the design reminding me of the Observatory I found at Mzulft. It was the only thing unusual about the place and Katria shimmered into view as I approached it.
She had been at the ruin for some time, no doubt pacing back and forth impatiently as she waited for someone with physical form to arrive. With nothing else to do but examine things, Katria had found that the device had an impression on it that would fit the shards we have been collecting. Placing all the shards in the impression on the device resulted in the entire platform rising up…with us on top of it.
I hopped off in time to avoid having to make some difficult choices and we both watched as the elevator tower rose from the ground. Quite a dramatic flair from a race I have come to assume was humorless and cold.
The tower’s elevator led to a large underground cavern into which one of Katria’s “resonator” gatehouses was installed.
Smacking each of the resonators with a crossbow bolt opened the gate, begging the question as to what purpose the things really served. If someone need only to throw a stone at them why lock the gate in the first place?
The ruin was small: behind the gate was a pair of uncomfortably warm doors and a stairway leading into a rough cavern with a open pool of lava on one side. Set in front of the lava was the sought-after Forge. The air was hot enough to make breathing painful and my eyes water incessantly, an annoyance which became a grave disadvantage once the Dwemer’s guardians started to drop from valves in the ceiling and walls.
Katria and I must have each accounted for over a dozen of the mechanicals. She was not bothered by the heat, of course, acquitting herself well against the machines which seemed to focus on the only living intruder to the Forge: myself. I got backed into a corner by five of the spider guardians, but managed to fight my way free and strike them from behind.
Once the last guardian clattered to a halt Katria urged me to approach the Forge, but a terrible screeching from behind it sent me scurrying back. The true guardian of the Forge had awoken.
The master of the Forge was a larger version of the massive guards I have been encountering at the Dwemer ruins here in Skyrim. This one wielded an axe large enough to fell a tree with a single swipe on one arm and a hammer no doubt heavy enough to drive the remaining stump flat into the earth. If that was not enough to discourage melee its body was hot enough to glow and we quickly discovered it could breathe fire as well.
Fortunately for me it fixated on Katria, whose spiritual existence made her immune to heat and fire, though not physical blows. She distracted the guardian on one side of the cavern while I sneaked to the other side, prepared to pepper the thing with Dwemer crossbow bolts. I may have gotten a lucky shot in a over-heated joint, who can say?
Our strategy proved unnecessary. As I crept into position the cavern reverberated with a horrendous shriek as something broke inside of the thing. It collapsed, spraying steaming lubricant from all its moving parts. It hit the ground with a mighty crash and lay still, victim to nothing more than time.
Katria was as giddy as a nearly-dead person can be, I suppose. She enthused that the only thing left to do was use the Forge to prove its authenticity…but we had no Aetherium to forge anything with. She hopefully suggested that there might be pieces laying about the chamber and after some minutes of searching we came up with a piece, enough for a single use.
The Forge itself was very easy to use. There was a small chest set before three buttons, one engraved with a shield, one with a staff, the third with a helmet. I placed the Aetherium in the chest and closed the lid, then pressed the helmet button. A hidden platform underneath the chest lowered it into the Forge, then came back up, minus the chest and our Aetherium. I looked at Katria, but she was staring at the Forge, enthralled.
Steam and hot oil sprayed out of Forge, time evidently being no less cruel to it than its guardian. I thought it broken, but Katria refused to hear of it, so we waited, she almost on top of the thing, me a safe distance away. After several minutes the machine quieted and the chest rose back from within, steaming oil oozing all over it.
I carefully opened the lid and peered inside. The chunk of unfinished Aetherium I put into the chest had been transformed into a Dwemer metal circlet, hardly the helmet I was expecting, with four small and one large Aetherium crystal set into it.
Katria wistfully remarked at how beautiful it was, but that was not an opinion we shared. The circlet was very Dwemer: sturdy, blocky, and devoid of any beauty I could see. It was formed of the same gold-colored metal everything else they made is and the five bright-blue crystals looked as though they belonged on something else.
For Katria’s sake I placed it upon my head. Satisfied, she declared that no one could deny the Forge’s existence now that there was an Aetherium crown for all to see. I have my doubts that anyone else cares at all and even fewer would recognize the gemstones for Aetherium crystal.
And with that Katria faded away, thanking me as she began her new adventure in whatever after-life awaited her. Whatever it is, I wish her well.
With a tale to tell to Serana I left the cavern and traced my steps back to the elevator. The cool air of Skyrim was a welcome relief as I stepped out of the tower and while it was already night I felt I could make good enough time to Fort Dawnguard to justify not staying at Riften.
I was attacked on the road by a band of Vampires, but they were weak and poorly led. The dust I scraped from their bodies will fetch a good price. Isran was taking no chances now that he had the Elder Scroll and the Moth Priest under his guard, so I was not surprised to find the Dawnguard garrison vigilant and the gates secure.

The Moth Priest Dexion was in conversation with Isran when I entered and both turned to me as I approached, Dexion in gratitude, Isran in…whatever passes for gratitude with him. Serana must have heard me enter for she suddenly landed in the midst of all three of us, smugly pleased by having startled us by leaping from the second floor. With a small smile and a wave, she welcomed me back, in a much better mood than I expected for having stayed among the Dawnguard by herself.

Dexion exclaimed that his visit to Skyrim had been “quite the adventure” so far, a comment I felt was rather insensitive given that his visit has so far cost several Legionnaires their lives. I inquired into the preparations required prior to reading an Elder Scroll, but there was nothing he had to do prior to simply reading the Scroll to the best of his ability. Isran was impatient to begin, so Serana handed over the Scroll without comment and the priest began.

Isran’s dour expression did not change and Serana acted as if she was bored. Curious, I walked behind Dexion to see what the Scroll looked like and was surprised to find it looked like nothing: to my eyes it was simply a blank scroll. To Dexion’s it was a treasure-trove of information and prophecy and he began to recite what he could read of the vampires and the Dawnguard.

He spoke of the Daedric artifact, Auriel’s Bow, claiming that it would return to Mundus after the Dragons were awoken and “night and day become one”. More than that though, he could not read. He claimed that he could only read the beginning of the prophecy surrounding the Bow and that the acquisition of two more Elder Scrolls would allow him to read it in full. I scoffed at the notion of finding even one Scroll, let alone three, but Serana spoke up.

She felt that she knew of a lead towards finding the second scroll, if not the third also. Serana claimed that her mother, Valerica, would know of its location. I found that difficult to believe, but neither Isran nor Dexion had any other suggestions, so to Valerica Serana and I must go.

Unsurprisingly Serana had no idea where her mother was. She had gone into hiding before Serana was sealed away for a thousand or so years, giving her daughter only the hint that she would hide where her obsessed father would never think to look. Serana complained that she could not think of a place her father would not look in order to acquire a Scroll, but I immediately pointed out that he would never look where he lived: her family’s castle.

Serana sheepishly admitted that she did not think of that, but that it occurred to her that if Valerica remained in the castle she would likely hide, somehow, in the castle’s courtyard garden. As to how Serana and I were to enter the castle, she explained that there was, and hopefully still is, a small escape passage behind the castle which the previous owners used to ferry supplies. The notion of previous owners interested me before I reminded myself that they were probably previously there thousands of years ago.

So after walking across the entire province I find myself having to immediately turn around and walk all the way back. It is very frustrating, but perhaps I can use this as an opportunity to attend to some business on my way there and back.

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