37 - Brelyna

We went back into Winterhold, to spend the night at the tavern before deciding where to go next. We were surprised to find Brelyna, the young mage we'd met the last time we visited the College, sitting at the bar.

She'd only just found out where Orthorn, the novice mage who'd stolen the books she needed, had fled to.

"He's gone to Fellglow Keep, an old fort between here and Whiterun. Apparently there were a number of mages expelled from the College, and he went off to join them. When people get thrown out, it's either because they did dangerous experiments they weren't allowed to, or they were doing necromancy. In this case, I suspect the latter."

"And you're still here, because...?"

"Because if it was just Orthorn I had to deal with, I wouldn't have a problem. Now I know there are experienced older mages there, I don't feel confident in going alone. When we all went to Saarthal, it was different. I had you two and Tolfdir to help me, and we still only just managed to deal with Jyrik Gauldurson, working together.

"I've been practising my skills, and I can cast a better armour spell these days, and conjure stronger atronachs, but I still don't have enough magicka to cast destruction spells as well. And that's even with Jyrik's amulet helping me. I have to use a staff for that, and worry about the charge running out when I can't afford it."

Zahra seemed to be interested in the idea of hunting necromancers, so we decided to help her again. We wouldn't have Tolfdir, the Master Alteration teacher, with us this time, but with Brelyna's higher skills we should manage.

It should be a workable team, then," Zahra agreed. "We'll plan the route over breakfast tomorrow."

As we ate our morning sweetrolls, we talked about spells and alchemy and enchanting. Brelyna told us that one of her big problems was keeping her staff charged. She had enough magicka to re-cast her atronachs and mage armour whenever they ran out, but once the staff ran out, she couldn't afford to cast offensive spells 'by hand'.

I gave her a handful of filled petty and lesser gems I'd collected. "I don't use these, as my war-hammer's not enchanted, and Zahra doesn't use a staff. I have a lot more unfilled ones, but don't know the spell to fill them."

"You should learn it," Zahra told me. "Now you have Azura's Star, it would be a waste not to make use of it."

Brelyna was suitably impressed that I had the Star. "I know that spell, but only on touch, and I'm always too far away, if I have any control over the situation. What you really need is to have it enchanted on your weapon, so you don't have think about casting."

"But if you enchant the weapon with Soul Trap, what benefit do you get? You want extra damage on it, too," Zahra pointed out.

"Two enchantments? That's something the expert enchanters can do, but it's well beyond me," Brelyna replied.

I wasn't too concerned. The war-hammer did quite enough damage the way it was. My smithing skill had seen to that, and every time I got the chance, I checked to see if I could improve it further. Still, being able to intimidate enemies with an obvious fire or frost effect, that they could see when I hit their comrades, would be a nice bonus. I think I'd prefer fire, as then Zahra's spells would stack more fire on top.

I made a mental note to look out for those enchantments on the lesser weapons I usually discarded. When I started out, I'd collect those, just for the added selling value, but lately I'd stopped concerning myself with mere gold.

Since we weren't going back to Azura's shrine, the road took us past Fort Kastav. We saw a skeleton patrolling the walls, and when it saw us, it raised its bow to take a shot at us. That didn't happen, as both Zahra and Brelyna hit it with fire and shock before it could release the arrow.

However, that brought necromancers running out from inside the walls, and one of them hit Zahra with a Banish Daedra spell.

We'd talked about it after the first time, back in Sunderstone Gorge, and Zahra had told me to summon her straight back into the fray, so I did. And that gave her the satisfaction of returning the compliment. Of course, nobody would be restoring the necromancer!

When the place was cleared, Brelyna asked me about it. "I thought you told me you didn't have much conjuration skill. But you can conjure a dremora mage?"

"She's special. I'm not so much conjuring her, as helping her return. She's my housecarl, which is more than just a summon. And more than just a mage, too. Much more."

There were wolves on the road, too, and bandits. Enough to slow us, so we wouldn't reach the Nightgate Inn before dark. Just before we got there, however, I noticed the smoke of a campfire on the other side of the road. "Why would anyone camp out, when they're that close to the Inn?" I wondered.

"Bandits, perhaps?" Brelyna suggested. "Someone who wouldn't be welcome at the Inn, anyway."

"Should we investigate?" Zahra asked me. I saw no reason not to, and now I was curious.

The two we found at the campfire weren't hostile, as we'd expected, although they weren't entirely happy to see us. Salma and Beem-Ja didn't want to share the treasure they were sure was inside Ironbind Barrow with anyone else.

"So why haven't you gone in and collected it already?" Zahra asked.

"We were just asking ourselves the same thing," Salma told us. "Beem-Ja's being too cautious."

"We must gather our strength. Who knows what's inside?" the Argonian replied.

"Consider it gathered," I told him. "We're going in, even if you aren't."

That was enough to get them rushing in ahead of us, fearful that we'd get to whatever treasure the place held before them.

We found spiders guarding the ice tunnels near the entrance, so of course there were a lot of fireballs flying from Zahra. Fortunately, the Redguard and the Argonian weren't so far ahead that they were close to the spiders when they struck, but I did have to remind Zahra that these two didn't have our resistance to fire.

It didn't matter, as we were soon at the entrance to a Nordic tomb, and looking for a way to unlock the grating. Brelyna found a handle hidden in an alcove and turned it, and the grating opened without a key. No sign of spider webs beyond the next door, so perhaps the fireballs would be tossed more calmly as we proceded.

Beem-Ja was delighted. This was looking more and more like the "Gathrik's Tomb" he'd hoped to find. Presumably he'd researched the place, and had some idea of what was ahead of us, and what treasure he expected to find, but he wasn't sharing the information with us.

Some of it didn't need telling. This was a Nordic tomb, so we were encountering draugr. And the usual traps, with spears thrusting out of holes in the walls, floor, and ceiling if you trod on the wrong stone, or picked up the wrong helmet.

I was a bit surprised not to find one of those puzzle doors, with its dragon claw key. The corridor we were in looked just like those that usually led to one.

The chamber beyond it had a word wall at the far end, so my guess was that we'd arrived at our destination, and I was expecting the next draugr to be a powerful one.

What we found, however were skeletons. Two archers, and a mage with the usual frost spells. We had them outnumbered, and they quickly fell.

That's when Gathrik finally took notice. The draugr got up from his throne facing the word wall, and came towards us, brandishing an ebony longsword. I moved to intercept him before he got to Salma. She was clad in steel plate, and her sword was steel, too. This draugr was likely more than she could handle, so Beem-Ja's reticence to come in here was justified. I, however, wear legendary daedric, as is my war-hammer.

He blocked my first blow with his shield, but the others all hit him with spells. All but Salma, who was thankfully holding back at this point. That prevented him from dealing much of a riposte, and I had a second chance to swing. This time he went down.

And got back up again. Raised by Beem-Ja, who clearly wanted everything here for himself. Zahra and Brelyna turned to deal with him, as I renewed my battle with Gathrik.

He wasn't as tough the second time around, although I did have to block a couple of swings of his sword. I looked down to where the others had cornered Beem-Ja, just in time to see him fall, too.

Salma was devastated that the Argonian had turned on us. "Father never trusted Beem-Ja," she told us. "Now I know why. Take anything you want. I'll just spend a while getting myself back together, and I'll be heading home."

I approached the word wall, to find out what this one would teach me. More of Become Ethereal, it turned out. The chest nearby had a few minor items in it, and there were more behind Gathrik's throne. The steel battleaxe didn't look too inviting, but Brelyna thought it was something special.

"It's got just the enchantment you need!" she told me. "A single enchantment that has both a soul trap effect and fire damage."

"That's one enchantment?" Zahra queried. "It sounds like two."

"No there are a few special ones like this. Such as on my robes. I have fortify alteration, and regenerate magicka together as a single enchantment. It's stronger than I can manage, as these college robes are made by more experienced mages, but I've found the same on the plain black ones, at lower levels."

"So is there a way to transfer it to my war-hammer?" I asked

"Yes. It means destroying the current axe, but I don't think you care about that. Once I know the enchantment from doing that, I can apply it to any weapon. I do need to use an enchanter's bench, though, and there isn't one here."

I kept the axe. We'd find the apparatus somewhere on our travels, I was sure.