Part 46 - Back in Skyrim

Staff of Magnus
The Staff of Magnus

By coincidence, Brelyna and Mjoll were staying the night at the Candlehearth Hall when Clark got back to Windhelm. "Show him the Staff" Mjoll urged.

"This is the Staff of Magnus," Brelyna told Clark, showing him an impressive-looking staff with a glowing orb at its tip. "We just went to Labyrinthian to get it. It turned out that Savos Aren, the late Arch-mage, had been there when he was young, and sealed the place up to trap the undead Dragon Priest Morokei, who was using it. Because it drains magicka, it's a particularly powerful one when used against mages, so Mjoll was just the right person to have with me. She's all brute strength and raw power, and the Dragon Priest didn't stand a chance!"

Mjoll was clearly proud of what she'd done at Labyrinthian. "Show him the mask, too!"

"Oh yes, this is the mask he was wearing. Ugly, isn't it? Mind you, it's probably better-looking than the undead face he was hiding behind it. If it wasn't so repulsive, the enchantment would almost make it worth wearing; I could use the magicka regeneration. Still, there are other things I could wear for that."

Clark was more interested in what had happened at the College. He'd heard that the Arch-mage had been killed in an explosion, and clearly Brelyna and Mjoll had survived. What was that all about?

"Ancano's taken control of the Eye of Magnus. Or at least he thinks he has. He's making it do all sorts of things, one of which is a shield around the Hall of the Elements, to stop us getting to him. It was the initial release of magical energy from the Eye that killed Savos Aren, and it also spawned some kind of creatures, sort of like wisps, that terrorized the town for a while. The Psijics sent me to find the Augur of Dunlain. He told me that this staff is the only thing that can control the Eye properly. It's not surprising that Ancano's getting bad results."

"So now you're headed back to Winterhold to take control yourself?" Clark asked. "If it's that dangerous, do you want to control it?"

"It's more a case of stopping Ancano before he destroys the rest of Winterhold, or the whole of Nirn. He's a Thalmor; that wouldn't be a bad outcome from his viewpoint. And I want my College back in operation. I can't learn anything with that kind of disruption going on."

"Aren't you learning just as much on these trips? Especially the combat aspects of magic, I'd have thought."

"That's not all there is to magic, and even that needs as much laboratory research as field trials. You need to develop new spells in an environment where you don't have to rely on them."

That made Clark think of Neloth's preferences in the matter. He'd prefer to keep the research to himself and let someone else do the riskier stuff. He'd left Vicuņa doing that for him.

"I know that name, Neloth. My mother had a lot of tales to tell about him. Is he on Solstheim now?" Brelyna remarked. "And who's this Vicuņa?"

"Her real name is Velith Telvanni. She went over with me to study enchanting with Master Neloth. I know she's already very good at it, so she's ready to take the next step of learning from the Master."

"I know her, too, from our days in Morrowind. She wasn't using that other name then. Why did she change it?"

"Probably to play down her Telvanni roots. It does make everyone expect you to be a Master Wizard before you're ready for that. She had other things she wanted to do first."

Brelyna laughed at that. She remembered what her friend Velith liked doing. Not that she was immune to those urges, either. She was a Dunmer, after all. She just had more dedication to her magical studies than Velith had. And smaller breasts, so she wasn't getting quite so many invitations to get distracted.

"If you knew her in Morrowind, does that mean you're from House Telvanni, too?" Clark asked.

"Yes, and you can't imagine the pressure you get to be an incredible mage, even before you've had the chance to learn how. That's one of the main reasons I came to the College of Winterhold. I could learn at my own pace there, and not have everyone rushing me. I prefer to do things thoroughly, rather than quickly, and make sure I have all aspects covered."

"I've been working on Conjuration and Alteration. My ambition is to merge the two, and improve the duration of my summons by reinforcing them with alteration magic. That's why I use staves for destruction, and it turned out that was the best tactic against Morokei, the Dragon priest who had the Staff of Magnus. He could drain my own magicka, but he couldn't stop me using staves against him. Or Mjoll. He had nothing to use against her."

"Do you think all that practice using staves will help you use the Staff of Magnus?" Clark inquired.

"I hope so. Although I don't really understand what it does, yet. Maybe it will become clear when we get back to Winterhold."

Clark's next destination was Riften. He'd left Gilda building the Thieves Guild back up, and looking into reducing Maven Black-Briar's influence on the city. Serana was most likely there, too, as she'd joined the guild as a suitable nocturnal vocation. And he had a letter to deliver to Sapphire.

At Honeyside, Clark found Gilda in residence, instead of Iona. She told him the housecarl was up north at Gloombound Mine, mining the ebony she needed for her new armour.

"I took her up there a few days ago," Gilda said. "I was already welcome in the strongholds, after the Karthwasten Mine clearance, so I thought it would be a good idea to take Iona and introduce her. They were a bit suspicious of her, and didn't react very well to her presence."

"Still, I wasn't expecting her to get into a fist-fight with the Chief! That turned out to be the best thing she could have done, although it didn't seem that way to me at the time. He likes strong women who don't get pushed around, and she certainly proved to be that. Mind you, deciding to fight him stripped to the waist probably helped a lot."

Clark smiled at that. What could Gilda have achieved?

"So that accounts for Iona. What about Karliah?"

"She's staying out of sight at the Nightingale Hall outside town. Maven Black-Briar doesn't know she's back, and we'd prefer to keep it that way. We have plans developing to deal with her, but we don't want to reveal anything until it's all in place and ready to roll."

Clark nodded. The Thieves Guild worked best in secrecy. He didn't expect her to tell him much about the plans until he needed to know, either. He asked about Serana.

"The vampire? She'll be somewhere around, but you won't see her until after dark, of course. I'd check the Bee and Barb this evening. Most people drop in to catch up on the daily gossip, at some time or other. But what do you want with her?"

Clark explained to Gilda about her wanting to get her mother back from the Soul Cairn.

"I can see why she needs you to do it, but are you sure you won't get trapped like her mother did? The Ideal Masters sound like they're not exactly trustworthy."

"I fully expect them to try something. But I'll have Serana with me going in, and both of them, hopefully, coming out. They should know the Ideal Masters by now, so there won't be too many surprises. By the way, what exactly did you tell Serana about my immortality?"

"Just the little I know, which is that you were made immortal by a Daedric Prince. And that sex was involved, naturally."

"It's just that she thinks it happened for me in sort of the same way it did for her. And although she hasn't described it in any detail, I don't think Molag Bal was as considerate as Nocturnal and Azura."

"What I don't understand is how she talked you into doing this for her. I know what usually motivates you, and that woman just doesn't. She almost seems to be afraid of it, not that anything else seems to scare her."

"Think about it, Gilda. If Molag Bal made her a vampire that way, it can't have been any fun. Wouldn't that put anyone off?"

"I just can't imagine. But then, I have no experience of Daedric Princes at all, and would prefer to leave it that way."

"You've talked to Nocturnal, haven't you?"

"Talked, yes. You know what I meant by experience. You can have too much of a good thing, and I know that from that contraption of Madesi's. I almost feel sorry for Rigel Strong-Arm."

Clark smiled at that memory. "Well, anyway, it's not so much that she persuaded me to do this, as that I'm curious about her mother. She's either the most manipulative monster imaginable, or the kind of parent that inspires complete devotion. There's no room for anything in between."