27 - Learning

Nothing else happened. We'd have to push the buttons, and find out what they did. I pushed the first(?) one. The one nearest to the lexicon pedestal, anyway. I had no idea what order the buttons needed pushing, or even if I had to push more than once. The large spherical part in the middle rotated when I did that, but nothing gave me any clue what to do next. Was this a better position for the sphere, or worse?

The second button did much the same as the first, except that the sphere rotated in a different direction. I decided at this point to look around the rest of the room, in case there was a book or note with instructions. I found instead the skeleton of someone who'd died trying to work the device. His notes just left me thinking it might be impossible.

He did write that more of the buttons became usable if the sphere was in the right position, whatever that was. I pushed the first two a couple more times, at random, to see what happened, and the third button did uncover, and light up. The lexicon cube also opened up and glowed.

"Ok, leave the first two alone now," I thought, maybe out loud in case Zahra decided to help. I pressed the third one, and the sphere didn't move, but the apparatus above it re-arranged itself a bit. I pressed it again, and got a new arrangement, this time more symmetrical. The light from above now flowed through the lenses, and it appeared that the lexicon was doing ... something.

The final button was also now opened, so I pressed that, and a container moved down into the centre of the apparatus, and then opened, revealing the scroll we had come for!

I went down to take the scroll, and indicated to Zahra that she should pick up the cube, as we needed to take both back to Septimus. When I had the scroll, I looked back to see that Zahra was frozen with her hand on the cube, and light was swirling around her and the pedestal. And then it stopped, and the cube closed and she took it.

I asked what she'd experienced, and she was unaware of anything. "I just picked up the cube, like you asked," she told me. "But I do have this feeling that I learned something. I'm just not sure what it was."

That was exactly what had happened to me in Avanchnzel, when I put back the lexicon there. In my case, it had been a lesson on smithing (dwarven, of course). Just what I needed at the time, as it happened. I hoped that Zahra had just learned something useful.

We left Blackreach through another lift in this tower, and found ourselves at a campsite somewhere in the mountains. It wasn't clear where we were, but following the path down the hillside eventually took us into familar territory, near Fort Dunstad. Now we had to trek back to the north, and Septimus' hideout again.

On the way, Zahra and I discussed the lexicon, and the way it absorbed and dispensed knowledge. Septimus had given us a cube he described as empty, and asked us to fill it with the knowledge from Mzark,. That meant that whatever it had taught her came from the contraption at the tower, and was presumably part of what Septimus wanted to know. However, she couldn't tell me anything new about opening boxes, and thought it was probably something related to spellcasting. "I think I'm using my spells more efficiently now, so perhaps it will just let Septimus do whatever he's doing better."

Septimus told us he didn't need the scroll itself. "The knowledge is inscribed in the cube now. Give me that, and I can read it."

I didn't see how he could do that, without one of the Dwemer pedestals, but Septimus revealed that he had help. Hermaeus Mora was guiding him, and was helping him with this task. The Daedric Prince also wanted the contents of the Dwemer lock-box, or at least the facts about what was in there. And the cube had revealed that it will take the mixed blood of each of the elven races to open the cube. Well, Dwemer blood alone would have worked, but you can't get that any more. The mixture would have all the parts that had been lost with the Dwemer, and would be an adequate facsimile.

He gave me an "extractor" to collect the blood. It appeared to have separate containers for each race, connected together by an apparatus that presumably sorted what it received. Having quickly instructed me on how to use it, he urged me back out to continue the work.

We were stopped by something that materialised in the passage. A blob of writhing tentacles, and eyeballs and a voice from elsewhere. Hermaeus Mora was speaking to me, telling me that he'd chosen me to replace Septimus as his agent in this realm. As soon as the box was open, he'd no longer be of use.

I heard him out, and agreed to what he demanded. After all, I couldn't get out of the cave until I did so, and from what I knew of Mora, he'd just take the facts he gathered back to Apocrypha, and file them away. He rarely did anything disruptive, but just poked his nose (tentacles, eyeballs?) into everything, and generally got in the way. Mortals, however, would have a harder time, as he considered them expendable, and if they got in the way of his quest for ever more facts, they'd probably get killed.

I decided that I should forget Septimus' request for now. Filling his extractor would only hasten his demise, if Mora had already decided he didn't need him any more. And using the scroll was much more important to me.

"Are we headed back to Paarthurnax now?" Zahra asked.

"Not immediately. I want to go back to Riften, first. There's a loose end there to clear up."

When From-Deepest-Fathoms had given me the lexicon to return to Avanchnzel, she'd implied that returning it would fix her problems, but I was beginning to doubt that. I now had a better idea of what the cubes and their pedestals did, and a little more would be needed.

"Have you been to Avanchnzel yet?" she asked me as soon as she saw me. "You must take the lexicon back, so these voices in my head will stop."

"I did take it back, but you need to return there yourself, if you want the memories to go away."

"No! I can't! That thing will kill me, like it killed Breya."

"I destroyed it. It won't kill anyone. And we can go in the back way, so you don't have to pass all the traps that killed Searches-the Roots."

"But why do I have to go back?"

"Because you didn't finish what you started. The lexicon was trying to teach you something, but you didn't give it enough time. The voices or memories are an incomplete lesson that doesn't make any sense. That's going to leave your mind confused, trying to sort out what you learned with half of it missing."

She didn't seem convinced, but was desperate enough to try anything. We led her out of town and back to the ruin.

"I thought you said we were going in the back way. This is the entrance we used the first time."

"It is, but we'll take a different turn at the first hallway."

Soon she brightened up. "This is the way I came out, but I went out that door over there."

"So you know that the other door takes us to the lift. We'll be right back at the pedestal with the lexicon when we get off at the bottom."

She hung behind us as we entered the room and walked down the steps. "Is it dead?" she asked, pointing at the centurion.

"Broken, incapacitated, destroyed, but it was never alive, so ..."

"Breya's dead, though. I thought I would be, too. I should have helped her fight that thing. Maybe together, we'd have been able to kill it."

"I doubt it. I barely managed myself, with much better armour and weapons. But don't concern yourself with what might have been, we're here for the lesson." I took her hand and placed it on the cube.

She froze, just like Zahra had done, while the knowledge flowed from the cube or the pedestal to her. And maybe something flowed the other way, too.

"Strange," she said when the light stopped swirling. "I learned how to use my bow better, but also how to safely harvest Harrada in Dagon's Deadlands. What use is that to me?"

"You might also find it in Cyrodiil. There were a few growing around the old gates there, and I've collected some myself." I realised that the information had come from me, the last time I was here. The cube had collected the new information, and wanted to pass it on.

"And the voices in your head?" I continued.

"Gone! And I understand what they were trying to tell me, now. The little pieces that wouldn't fit, now they do. But I have nothing to give you for what you've done for me."

"Perhaps you do," Zahra told her. "Kothet, you and I should see what the lexicon learned from her."

We took turns using the cube. If I had a tail like an Argonian, I'd now be able to swim much faster. And maybe my alchemy would be better, too. I hadn't known how many useful potions you could make from fish.