12 - Broken Tower

I presented the diaries and journals to Calcelmo, who recalled the expedition. He'd been intending to pay Staubin's team for their research, but since they wouldn't be coming back to collect, he gave the gold to me instead.

I was glad to receive payment in gold, rather than goods, as I was just about at the limit of what I could carry. I needed to smelt all this scrap into ingots, and make some bows (and sell them).

The ingots somehow weighed more than the items I'd melted down. I could barely walk, as I carried the metal back up to Ghorza's forge to make bows. I bought her entire stock of iron ingots, too, and made more bows than the entire guard here could ever use. Ghorza told me to keep enough dwarven metal to improve them, too, as that would give me even more smithing practice.

And the bows I made were heavier than the metal. I still don't understand that. But since I sold about half of them to Ghorza, I had the strength to take the others down the ramp to the market, where Lisbet at Anlief's bought the remainder. She asked if I could look out for a statue of Dibella that she'd ordered. It had been stolen by Forsworn on the way to her, and she had an idea where they might be holding it.

I didn't have any Orichalcum, or I'd have tried upgrading my warhammer here in Markarth. All that forge-work should have raised my skill level a bit, but I'd have to find out later. Maybe we could go back to the Tower past Dushnik Yal, and I could mine some there. No, the statue that Lisbet wanted was in the other direction. I checked my map, and another Orcish Stronghold was in that direction, so maybe we'd continue on to that instead.

Broken Tower Redoubt was right next to the road, and one of the Forsworn was on guard outside. She was dressed like all the archers I'd encountered before, but this one was weilding dual swords. She was hit by at least two firebolts before she reached me, and fell at the first blow of my warhammer.

But now the archers on the redoubt walls had seen us, and arrows were starting to rain down. We needed to get inside, and engage them on level terms. The door wasn't locked, and nobody was waiting inside, so we got a chance to heal, and for my companion to cast her armour spell, before we resumed battle.

A couple more of the Forsworn women were stationed in the hall we entered. One on the balcony above us had a bow, and the one on our level had an axe and a sword. Engaging the latter took me out of the fire of the former, who was getting a firebolt attack, anyway.

Before leaving the area, I took a look around for Lisbet's statue. I found one, but it wasn't the right one. I took it anyway, as it looked valuable, as well as decorative. I wasn't sure if it was made of gold, or just gilded, but it was well-made, and I liked the choice of subject, too.

It seemed that all the Forsworn we encountered in the redoubt were women. There were archers, mages and sword- and axe-wielding foragers, but they were all female. And in that skimpy armour of theirs, obviously so. I knew that the boss of the Forsworn parties was likely to be one of the briar-hearts, and I'd only encountered males who'd undergone that. Would we meet our first female briar-heart here? Or would it be just one lucky (and probably tired) male?

Whichever it was would probably be behind that door, in the last tower of the redoubt. We'd taken the last of the women by surprise, and she'd dropped quietly, so we had a chance of sneaking in unannounced. I crouched, and tried the door. It wasn't locked.

Up ahead, I could see the (male) briar-heart, standing in front of a large statue of Dibella. Even from this distance, I could see that it was daubed with blood, and clearly part of some nasty ritual. It made sense why this particular bunch would have taken Lisbet's statue, too.

I nocked an arrow, and signalled for my companion to hold her fire a moment. The arrow staggered him, but didn't kill him outright. Nor did the firebolts that followed it, and he started to fire lightning back at us. That appeared to stop her from casting more firebolts, but it didn't stop me from shooting another arrow. He staggered again, and I reached for my warhammer to finish him off.

Just in time, I realised that there was a trap on the floor between us. Going back to the bow, I fired again, as a weak flame from behind me set off the rune trap. The blast of frost from it caught the briar-heart just as my arrow struck. I brushed frost from my face, and saw that I didn't need another arrow.

It was now safe to search the area. I found a key on his body that opened a cell at the far side, but there was nothing in that. A side-room, however, had a chest containing Lisbet's statue, and a number of other valuable items. I picked up a necklace from the table, and found a book on Conjuration back in the main chamber. Not a bad haul.

If I'd been alone, I'd have probably stripped the corpses of the women, and taken their armour to sell, too. Something told me that would not be a good idea now.

And if I'd done that, I'd have turned back to Markarth, as I wouldn't have been able to carry much else. As it was, there was no real reason not to continue on to look for Mor Khasgur, the next Orc Stronghold. That was closer than Markarth, although according to the map I had, there was no road, and we'd be travelling across country.

The map didn't show much in between here and Mor Khazgur, but caves, camps and other such places weren't usually marked, until I added them myself. It really just showed the main towns and cities, and the roads betwen them. A few trails were marked, too, but according to the map, they didn't lead anywhere. There were a couple of these trails to nowhere between here and the Stronghold, crossing our route.

And one that lead in the right direction started just outside Broken Tower Redoubt, and headed north-west, the way we wanted to go. What was at the end of it, we'd soon find out.

The trail forked, and in the rocks above, I could see the entrance to a cave. Neither branch of the trail seemed to lead to it, so I ignored it for now and continued north-west. We soon saw a number of Stormcloak soldiers and the smoke of their campfires. This was just a temporary camp, so it made sense that it wouldn't be on the map.

Beyond it was a shallow area of the river, where another trail forded across it. I had the choice of going West or North on the trail. According to the map, the trail to the west would follow the river, and not take me to Mor Khazgur. The trail to the north would veer to the north-west, but it ended well before reaching there. Still, it was the right direction, and who knew what was at the end?

It turned out to be a Dragon Mound. Crossing the mound took us onto relatively level ground, and although I couldn't see the Orc Stronghold yet, it appeared that there was nothing in between here and there.

Other than some sabre-cats and wolves, that is. It made the journey exciting, even if we didn't exactly need the pelts.

The Orcs were friendly, and I was encouraged to mine as much ore as I liked. They'd be happy to buy all I could dig, as mining is a tedious and heavy labour, and having someone else do the work is always welcome. I mined more than I needed for my own use. The price they offered was good, and making new allies is always worth while.

As I expected, I managed to improve my war-hammer and armour a little. It would not be long before I could start thinking about a trip to Narzulbur, for ebony.

I asked where the trail outside the Stronghold led to. "Nowhere of any significance," the Orc smith repiied. "There's a couple of Nordic ruins in that direction, probably occupied by Forsworn or other bandits by now. Then eventually you'll get to the old road between Solitude and High Rock. You can't cross the border any more. The pass was blocked by a landslide a long time ago, and they never bothered digging it out. All the trade goes around by ship these days."

"If you go back the way you came, but head east at the river, you'll get to Dragon Bridge, and another road to Solitude. On the other side of the bridge, the road divides, and goes to Morthal one way, and towards Rorikstead and Whiterun the other." Those were all places on my map, and I could see the roads she was talking about.

I knew that Solitude was the headquarters of the Imperial legion, and they weren't my favourite people after Helgen. So Dragon Bridge looked the more appealling, but where then? I hadn't been to either Morthal or Rorikstead before, so the curiosity factor was about even. Morthal was the seat of the Jarl of Hjaalmarch, so it had the prospect of being a more interesting place than Rorikstead, which looked on the map as it was just a tavern stop along the road.

Eventually, we'd need to return to Markarth, and take Lisbet's statue back to her, but I'd seen the carriages waiting at the stables and knew that they served the major cities. Perhaps we'd be able to take one from Morthal back to Markarth?