15 - Riften

We left him at the Sanctuary, and headed back to Whiterun. I presented the sapling to Danica, who wasn't too happy. She'd been expecting the sap, and to get the old Gildergreen back. I told her what Maurice had told me, and she began to see the point. When I added my own insights, especially the comparison between Dagon's methods and Kynareth's, she came around. It wouldn't be the same tree, but it would be young and fresh, and could grow into a new Gildergreen, given time.

That was the last of my obligations fulfilled, except for the trip to visit the Greybeards. I wasn't going there until I had my Daedric armour, and I still couldn't make ebony. What had Ghorza told me? Balimund in Riften could train me further, so that is where I should go next.

We took the carriage. I'd already walked half-way there before, twice, and it was the destination, not the journey, that mattered. I expected we'd find reason to explore the area nearer Riften after we got there. It would not have surprised me to find that this Balimund would need me to do something before he'd give me training.

Well, he did have a request, but it wasn't a pre-requisite for anything. His forge needed fire salts, and he'd like me to bring him ten units of the stuff. If I had the coin, he'd train me, but higher-level training costs more, and I couldn't afford as much as I'd have liked. Still, the ability to forge ebony was geting closer. He warned me that he couldn't train me that far. I'd still have to do more work on my own.

Two of the townsfolk had requests to make that fit in with my plans. I needed to collect dwarven metal, so that I could make more bows, and practice my smithing. Mjoll gave me directions to a dwarven ruin in the north where she'd lost her sword, Grimsever. An Argonian woman, down a the docks, had the opposite to ask me. She wanted an item taken back to a dwarven ruin. Avanchnzel was closer, so we went there first.

I must admit that I quite like dwarven ruins. Perhaps it's just the way that the metal rings when I crush one of the automata with my war-hammer, or that it's particularly effective against them.

My companion doesn't appear to share my opinion. They resist her spells, and the spiders remind her too much of the live ones. At least I assume that's why she glares at them with obvious hatred. And although they resist the fire, when a fireball hits them, they fall apart quite nicely. So she hits the spiders, and I take the spheres.

We found ghosts in the ruin, but they weren't hostile, Maybe apparitions would be a better description, too, as one of them appeared to be From-Deepest-Fathoms, the woman who'd sent us here. She didn't appear to be dead, when we'd talked to her in Riften. Or did Argonians get restored, like the Kyn? I didn't think so. The Nords don't, and two of the ghosts were Nords.

We saw them several times as we worked our way through the maze of hallways and chambers. They'd clearly encountered the automata, too, as we overheard comments about the dormant creatures as we progressed. Apparently, they'd been woken up by this party, and we were having to deal with more than they did. There were four of them, and only two of us, but we were Dremora, so that counted for more. I hoped it was enough, as the ghosts seemed to be having an increasingly hard time of it.

We did have the advantage that they'd marked a few of the traps with their dead bodies. We found Drennen first, but it wasn't clear what had killed him. Perhaps the automata had caught him, when he left the group to turn back.

Watches-the-Roots, the Argonian who was apparently leading the expedition, had fallen to a blade trap on one of the ramps. Seeing his body lying at the end of a long slot on the floor made me suspicious, and I'd gone down to investigate along the wall, staying as far from that slot as I could. A lever at the end turned the whirling blade on and off. A couple more steps, and he'd have reached it. Perhaps one of his companions had, as the other two must have passed here.

The final "trap" was a huge dwarven centurion, guarding the lexicon stand we'd come to find. The body of Breya lay at his feet, where she'd fallen, as From-Deepest-Fathoms had escaped up the stairs beyond. Another centurion lay broken next to her. I wondered if she'd managed to defeat that one, or if it had been like that when the first party arrived.

We had only one to deal with, but those things are big! It appeared to shrug off the fireballs that struck it, and stomped in our direction. I pointed to an alcove for her to duck into if the thing fired anything back at us, and I charged. Its blast of steam went over my head as I connected with my first swing. A fireball exploded above me, too, helping to put the machine off-balance. I kept swinging, as hard as I could. I aimed at the joints, hoping at least to cripple it in case I needed to withdraw.

Fortunately, I didn't. Our combined attack had been enough, or pehaps just well-enough timed, and it fell. I placed the lexicon on its stand, and looked back to see if I was alone. That blast of steam hadn't been aimed at me. Her head appeared around the corner she'd ducked behind, and she ran to catch up again.

The cube of the Lexicon had opened, and the inner sphere was spinning and glowing. It felt like I was learning something, but I wasn't sure what it was. The feeling was not unlike what I'd experienced at the word walls, where I'd learned words of the Dragon language. I wasn't hearing anything in my head, this time, just getting the same sensation of extra knowledge.

And it had something to do with smithing, I was sure. This had been the right place to come first.

We didn't need to go back to Riften before continuing to Mzinchaleft. It would have been quicker, perhaps, to go back and take the carriage, but we had some exploring to do on the way to Dawnstar. I hadn't been to Ivarstead, the village at the foot of the seven thousand steps that led to High Hrothgar. Although I wasn't planning to make the climb for some time, I'd like to see what it looked like from the bottom. From there, we could travel north and cross the road that we'd taken from Whiterun to Darkwater Crossing. If I recalled the signs, we'd be headed for Windhelm, but I suspected we'd meet the road to Dawnstar before we got there.

A little before we could see Windhelm, the weather started to get cold, and the first flakes of snow began to drift down. My armour kept me fairly well insulated from both heat and cold, but a certain lady had been wearing progressively less, and I was wondering if she'd return to something warmer.

Apparently mages can keep themselves warm by magic, as she didn't cover up, and she wasn't shivering. Perhaps it's an enchantment on the robe? I hoped there wasn't any illusion involved. I wanted what I was seeing to be real!

We'd passed a mill, and several side-roads that may have led off to other adventures, but we hadn't taken them. Now we were approaching another mill, and we hadn't met anything more challenging than a couple of wolves all the way here. That made me uncomfortable, as it usually meant that life was saving up trouble to throw at us all at once.

As if to confound me, an Argonian in tight leather approached, with two swords drawn, and murder on his mind. He didn't even get close enough to swing, as a fireball knocked him backwards before I could get the war-hmmer off my back. I found a note on his body that said that the Dark Brotherhood had a contract to kill me. They didn't know who wanted me dead, just that the ritual had been performed. That made no sense. Killing me wouldn't achieve very much. Did they think they were dealing with a mortal?

It did make me ponder for a while, though. I knew that I could re-summon my companion if she was taken from me. I would do all I could to prevent that, however, as I was sure she'd prefer not to have that experience too often. But if I had to be restored, would I still have that ability? Did I need to preserve myself for her? From what I'd seen fighting conjurers, their summons were dispelled when they died, so the same would probably happen for us.