Part 8 - Cidhna Mine

Down in Cidhna Mine, it took Clark several days of toil, digging at the silver veins, before he got any contact that might lead him to Madanach. He figured that only the King in Rags would be any help to him now.

He'd noticed that there was an iron gate at the back of the mine area which was always locked. A large Orc was standing guard over it, too, although he was a prisoner, like the others. Clark had never seen him digging, only standing guard there.

The jailers never came down into the mine itself. They were mercenaries, working for the Silver-Bloods, rather than city guards, and they stayed on their side of the main gate at the top. That was where everyone went to collect their food, and hand over the silver ore they'd dug. No silver, no food, so all the prisoners had an incentive to work.

It wasn't clear where the Orc's food came from, as he didn't seem to be doing any of the digging. He was large enough to just take it from the others if he wanted, but Clark hadn't seen that happen.

One of the other prisoners saw him looking towards the iron gate. "If you want to speak to Madanach, you've got to get past Borkul the Beast first." That told Clark that Madanach was indeed back there, and gave him a name for the Orc. Clark decided that was enough of an introduction, so he'd approach the Orc and see what happened.

Borkul demanded a shiv as toll. "I don't have one, and Madanach's expecting me." Clark replied. Surprisingly, the Orc believed him and let him through. Clark was equally surprised when Madanach actually was expecting him.

Madanach was planning to escape the mine soon, and Clark was welcome to join him, but first he needed to go back and talk to Braig, so he'd understand their cause.

Braig told Clark how his young daughter, Aethra, had begged the Jarl to take her to prison instead of her father. The Jarl took the daughter, but not just to imprison her. Braig was forced to watch his daughter being executed. As her head rolled off the block, they hauled Braig away to Cidhna Mine anyway.

He called the Jarl Ulfric, however, not Igmund. So this had been quite a few years back, just after Madanach was deposed, when Windhelm's Jarl had control of Markarth, and Igmund was not yet on his father's throne. According to Cedran, the hostler at the Markarth stables, Hrolfdir, Igmund's father, had turned over Ulfric to the Thalmor as soon as he'd got control of his city back. Igmund had inherited a city that was firmly in the Imperial camp, and not much he could do about it.

It also wasn't clear to Clark whether Madanach's survival was due to Hrolfdir's intervention or someone lower down the chain of command. Obviously Thonar, and presumably the rest of the Silver-Blood clan, had something to do with it. But had they kept it from the Jarl, or was he aware of his city's prisoner?

Madanach still had a test for Clark. Grisvar the Unlucky, the only Nord prisoner, wasn't coming with them. He had to die first. Madanach handed Clark a shiv, a crude blade made from a rusty piece of iron railing. Several of the prisoners had one, but they usually only threatened each other with them.

Clark found Grisvar working in one of the tunnels. "Madanach says hello." Clark said, and had to duck as the man's pickaxe swung at his head. That was all that was needed to provoke the others. Grisvar found himself under attack from all sides. He didn't seem to be popular among his peers, and he was quickly dead, without any help from Clark.

Madanach seemed satisfied. He led Clark further into the tunnels. "We'll leave as soon as it gets dark. Then we'll only have the guards to deal with. Many of the Nords in the city will oppose us, if we're seen."

The tunnels led into the Dwemer ruins, where they encountered frostbite spiders, and a couple of dwarven automata. The prisoners were poorly equipped, but they had the superior numbers, and several of them could use spells. By stopping frequently to heal and recharge, everyone survived to reach the door out into the city.

A young woman in Forsworn "armour" was there to meet them. Her name was Kaie, and Clark thought she'd have been quite attractive, if it wasn't for the severe hairstyle and the warpaint. She handed out armour and weapons to everyone, including returning the equipment confiscated from Clark when he was arrested. She gave him some Forsworn things, too, in case he wanted to fit in with the group. It was all enchanted, which perhaps explained how they got away with wearing so little. Clark had noticed a bias towards magic among the Reachmen, so this wasn't unexpected.

Kaie told him that he'd be welcome at Druadach Redoubt, which was apparently their headquarters, and hinted that she'd personally see to that.

They still had to get out of the city. They hadn't gone far before they ran into a city guard, and Thonar Silver-Blood was with him. Thonar confronted Madanach and the two soon came to blows. Thonar and his guard were heavily outnumbered, and both were quickly killed. The Forsworn continued to the city gates.

Clark went along with them, but they parted at the stables. While the Forsworn prisoners headed off towards Druadach Redoubt, Clark collected his horse and carriage and set off back towards Whiterun.

As ever, the horse's pace was slow and steady, and Clark was unable to persuade him otherwise. Clark was constantly looking over his shoulder, expecting a contingent of guards to be on his trail, but nothing happened. Either they'd chased Madanach in the other direction, or the death of Thonar had removed his bounty.

There was only the one road down the valley, and the cliffs were high on either side. This was prime bandit country, but Clark was surprised not to encounter any. Were the Forsworn keeping them in check? There didn't seem to be many aggressive wild animals either, and the few he saw were more interested in chasing goats.

Clark stopped around dawn at Old Hroldan. He hadn't eaten, and the horse needed water. He declined the use of Tiber Septim's room, and just bought some food for the journey. He'd stop again later, and sleep in the back of the wagon, but right now, he didn't want to waste the daylight.

He needed to stop every few hours to feed and water the horse. When it got dark, he pulled off the road and set up camp. The horse was tethered to a tree, and he slept in the carriage, under a bear pelt. This was his routine for the next few days, until he reached the Western Watchtower outside Whiterun.

Something had happened here since he headed for Markarth, a few months ago. The tower had obviously been attacked, and much of it was now rubble. There were signs of fire, more than just the wood from the buildings burning. Someone or something had been using flame spells.

He continued to the stables, and left his horse and carriage with Skulvar. "Did you see what happened at the watchtower?" he asked. You could just about see the tower from here, and any war-parties might have passed close to the stables.

"Aye, it was a dragon that attacked. Flew right over here and blasted it with flames. Irileth and some of the guards went down there and fought it. Killed it, too, from what I hear."