Part 24 - Potema's Tomb

A ghostly shape was floating in the center of the chamber, up near the roof. It was hard to see what it was, as lightning was crackling around it, and flaring randomly at the walls. Potema's voice was coming from the same direction, so they assumed it was her spirit energising it.

Several coffins standing around the periphery fell open when the lightning passed, and draugr emerged and advanced on Clark and Gilda. The first wave were weak, probably just a probe to test them.

"Impressive, but don't applaud yourself too soon!" Potema's voice announced another wave of draugr. Or maybe she'd just noticed Gilda, Clark thought to himself.

There were still draugr lying there from the first wave, and Clark tried an experiment. He raised one of them himself, and sent it back to fight its brethren. That seemed to cause them some confusion, as it was no longer obvious which side any draugr was on. Gilda caught on quickly, and added to the mayhem by using her Turn Undead spell. Clark continued raising any draugr that fell. It was a weak spell, and didn't take much magicka. The reanimated undead were also feeble, but their main task was to be a distraction, and that they did well.

Clark soon noticed that he was taking Potema's cannon fodder away from her. The draugr wouldn't raise a second time, and she was running out of allies. Gilda and he concentrated their offense on the tougher opponents, and let the others beat on each other. Since both of them were mainly using their blades for that, it didn't stop them raising and turning the rest.

The final draugr lord shouted Clark's blade out of his hand. But he couldn't repeat that for Gilda, who struck before he could raise his own weapon. She kept him reeling back, unable to regain his balance, until he slipped over the edge of the stairs, down to where Clark was standing.

"Oh, that's where it went!" Clark gleefully grabbed up his sword. The draugr was just getting back on his feet from the fall, when a blow from Clark's weapon set him on fire. Clark kept him falling back, as Gilda jumped down to help.

A soul filled one of Clark's gems as the final draugr lord died. But the greater swirl of magicka was passing through the door at the end of the room. Potema was retreating to her throne room, and they needed to pursue. Clark could see a skull on the throne, presumably hers. He grabbed for it, but was pushed back by a ghostly shape which had to be Potema herself. Not entirely substantial yet, but she was already able to affect the mortal world, and the sword in her hand was real.

"If she can affect us, we can hurt her," Gilda reminded him. She hacked at the ghost, and her blade glowed as it absorbed health from the spectre. Clark could see Potema fade as that happened, and he added his assault to Gilda's. Finally there was no more resistence, and he picked the skull off the throne.

"I thought that someone had put a circlet around the skull, but it looks like these jewels and gold bands are embedded in the bone. I wonder what that would have felt like if she came back to life." Clark mused.

Clark takes the skull.

"I, for one, am glad I don't get to ask!" Gilda replied. "And I hope that door is the way out, and we don't have to go all the way back to the Temple. I don't think the priests would like me flashing my breasts there!"

"You can use both hands to hold your jacket in place now. We should be done with fighting."

"I still need to go somewhere I can fix it before we go back to the Temple. Open the door and see where it leads."

"There are a couple more draugr out here, but I don't think they'll be any trouble now Potema's gone," Clark called back to her, "and the next door leads out to the mountainside."

Out in the relative safety, Gilda rummaged through her backpack until she found a leather strip that she could use as a temporary fix.

"That still looks delightfully precarious," Clark told her, "but it won't give the guards an excuse to arrest you."

After a short side-trip to Beirand's forge for a more permanent repair, they made their way back to the Hall of the Dead with Potema's skull. Styr was intrigued with the way her followers had encrusted it with jewels. He wondered if that had had any influence on her return. Gemstones were often reservoirs of magicka, and that might have been part of their plans. He didn't detect any magicka now, and he'd remove the gems before the skull was sanctified.

Falk was delighted. He presented them with a Shield of Solitude and a decent amount of gold. "The Jarl would prefer this be kept quiet. You can imagine the chaos that would have ensued if Potema had succeeded in returning. Elisif will be much happier if the people don't start speculating about that!"

Gilda took the coin purse, and handed the shield to Clark. "I need to go back to Riften," she announced. "I have Guild work I should be doing."

"Before you go too," Falk addressed Clark, "there's another small matter that Jarl Elisif would like you to consider."

Elisif beckoned Clark over to the throne, and spoke to him quietly, so that her voice wouldn't carry too far. "When my husband died, I made offerings to each of the Divines at the Temple. I couldn't make one to Talos, of course, and that's important to a Nord. Since I can't leave the city without a Thalmor escort, could you take Torygg's war horn to one of the shrines in the wilderness? Most of the members of my court are under too much surveillance to do it, but you're a travelling merchant that won't arouse any suspicion."

Out of the corner of his eye, Clark could see Bolgeir Bearclaw, her housecarl, nodding in approval. The White Gold Concordat was observed, but parts of it regularly ignored, in most of Skyrim. Whiterun was nominally under Imperial control, for example, but it still had a shrine to Talos in the Cloud District.

Clark asked if that wouldn't be a better location, but Elisif marked a specific location on his map. "There are reasons for sending you there. And also for my waiting until Gilda left before asking you. We know she's in the Thieves Guild."

"She may be its Guildmaster before we speak next," Clark confirmed.

"Then maybe I need not have worried. They'll be less of a concern under her control. Regardless, the horn is a unique item, and if it wanders from the shrine, that may provide useful intelligence. People who see it will remark on that, and other people may overhear."

Clark left with the horn and headed for Whiterun. Elisif had as good as told him that she expected him to be tailed by Thalmor spies, and probably some of her own. Only the former were any concern, of course. He'd like to have Lydia with him when he went out to the shrine. If the Thalmor were going to do anything, that was the most likely place he'd encounter them.

What they weren't expecting to meet were a dragon, and giants. The latter were herding a couple of mammoths down the valley, and heading away from the shrine. The dragon seemed to be coming from the mountain to the north, headed towards the Throat of the World. The giants saw it, and reversed direction to see off the threat, which placed them between Clark and Lydia, coming from the west, and the shrine, to the east.

They paused, watching to see what unfolded. The dragon circled once, tempted by the mammoths, but then continued on its flight towards the Throat of the World. The giants stared after it for a while, then turned back towards their original path. Something else, however, drew their attention. Clark could see them shaking their clubs at another threat, this time on the ground.

After a minute or two of inaction, the giants resumed following the mammoths. But now it was clear to Clark and Lydia that there was something up ahead, and they were ready for it.

"Bears, do you think?" Lydia suggested.

"I doubt it, you usually hear them first. They'd rather warn you off than fight. No, this is something that likes to stay silent, and hidden. Bandits, for example."

Clark knew who he was really expecting, of course, and he wasn't wrong. A Thalmor Justiciar and a couple of soldiers were loitering near the shrine. They attacked without provocation. It seemed that just visiting that location was reason enough.

Clark did little other than block the wizard's spells with his ward. Lydia, in her carved nordic armour and with her recently-enchanted sword, tore through them without any real effort.

"Hey, this fiery soul trap really makes a difference!" she enthused. "I should have let you do this a long time ago."

"You improved the sword at Warmaiden's too. How do you know that wasn't the main factor?"

"Well, I don't. Not for certain. But the flames certainly intimidate the others. Hit one, and the others back off!"

"The soul trap didn't do anything, though," she added after a moment's thought.

"You don't have a black soul gem. You need one of those to trap a person's soul."

"Are Thalmor people?" she asked, almost seriously.

Clark didn't reply. He reverently laid the war horn that Elisif had given him on the shrine. It wasn't an ostentatiously decorated piece, but the workmanship was fine, and distinctive. He could understand what Elisif had said. Anyone who saw it would talk about it.