4 - Lost Valley

I hadn't gone much further up the road, when a courier came running up to me, and handed me a sealed letter. He left immediately, headed back towards Whiterun.

I broke open the seal and read the letter.

I knew that there were other Dremora in Tamriel, but we were few and widely scattered. We'd not made any attempt to gather, as we were held in great suspicion individually, and a group of us would immediately have been considered a threat. So it was a great surprise to discover that the letter was from the Kyn.

I read that part again. It didn't actually say that these Kyn were in Tamriel. I'd just assumed that, because I'd been given the letter by a courier here. Perhaps there was a way they could have sent it from Dagon's Deadlands. It wasn't clear.

The letter told me of a Nordic Tower, in the hills of the Reach, bordering High Rock and Hammerfell. If I'd go and fix the place up, and furnish it as a home, then I'd get a Dremora for a housecarl. Someone who'd fight alongside me for the right reasons, to command respect. And not a pale Nord woman who didn't even have her horns yet.

Wait, they don't grow horns, do they? It's not a sign of immaturity to be without any, it's just normal for them. Still, a companion of my own kind would definitely be preferable.

The Tower was back in the direction I was coming from, so did I really want to turn around and retrace my steps? My cave, and High Hrothgar, were both in the direction I was already going.

"My cave" was the home I'd known for years, but it wasn't exactly a palace. And it didn't come with a housecarl, not even a mortal one. High Hrothgar could wait, too. I turned around.

A dirt path led off the road toward a small stream flowing from a pond. The pond, in turn, was fed by a waterfall from a long way above. I could see stonework up at the top, but it was too far to make out any buildings. Some mudcrabs were lurking near the ford, as if they were guarding the Nirnroot that grew there. Their shells are useful for alchemy, so I harvested them, and their Nirnroot.

The path continued up some stone steps and crossed the falls between one cascade and the next. I could now see another cascade ahead, not part of this one, and it came from an artificial structure that channeled the water away from the path. Perhaps this path was the original route of the water before someone diverted it? Or maybe it just flooded too often.

I mounted another flight of steps, and still didn't see any signs that this place was inhabited. But it was bare, and rocky, with steep cliffs, so maybe everyone was up at the top. There had to be some level ground somewhere, or why build here at all?

Further up, I found evidence that someone had been here reasonably recently. There was a tripwire strung across the path, and I'm sure that would have been broken by a deer or a goat before long. Someone has to restring those, and reset the traps.

I broke it deliberately, and watched the boulders roll across the path. The noise of that should have brought the inhabitants to investigate, if they were close enough. And if not, at least it wouldn't be a danger when I came back down.

I was beginning to get impatient for combat. It would be easier to defeat whoever lived here if they came at me one or two at a time. I knew they'd be hostile, even before I encountered them, as friendly people don't set traps for their visitors. I didn't have to wait long. A man dressed in furs, and wearing the horns of a deer, came rushing at me with a couple of stone-toothed swords. He proved remarkably resilient to my mace, and took a couple of blows to subdue.

It was almost a pity to kill the woman archer who opposed me next. Her furs covered even less than the man's and she appeared to be quite shapely and fit. She'd have made an excellent slave, if only she'd yielded when I told her to do so.

Now I was climbing between walls, rather than bare rock, and there were more signs of habitation. A grindstone was next to the path, presumably down here so they could sharpen their weapons after battle without going all the way back up. On it was a man's body, dressed like one of the local Nords, rather than wearing the fur garb I'd seen on those attacking me. Perhaps he'd climbed up here before me and found himself equally unwelcome.

And I was now having to dodge arrows, fired from the walls above me. More of the sword-wielders ran down to greet me, also. No, that one had an axe in one hand, but still it's two weapons at once. I knew how to deal with that style already, and sword or axe makes little difference.

The archers again were female, one quite remarkably so. Those breasts were worthy of a Dremora, and almost burst out of her inadequate furs. She didn't wish to yield, either.

The area I'd reached, which I estimated was about half-way up, was flat and partially paved. Most of it, however, was taken up by a large rectangular pool. There were steps leading down into the water, and I could see fish swimming in it. Clearly they caught and ate the fish, as several were hanging up to dry out on a nearby rack. And there were hide tents around, so at least the fishermen must have slept down here.

Some of the walls turned out to be channels for the water from the pool, which fed the waterfalls below. Most of the others were apparently fortifications, and provided vantage points for the archers. None of them seemed to form part of any inhabited buildings, and certainly nothing that resembled the tower I was supposed to find.

The waterfall that fell into the pool appeared to come from between two stone pillars, and there was another stone structure in the middle, which was hard to make out in all the spray. It didn't look like anything anyone could live in, and from down here, I could not see how you could reach it.

Steps to the left of the pool led further up, so that's the way I went. As expected, there were more tripwires, and more opposition. And these people lived in hide tents, too. There was a forge, and other crafting equipment up here, so I'd have expected buildings, not just defensive walls.

The man that came at me next looked a little different from the ones before, and it took a moment before I saw why that was. He only had a sword in one hand, and the other was gathering flames to hurl at me. The Kyn live among flames, so that was little threat, but presumably it was the only destruction spell he knew. Or else, he'd never seen one of us before, and knew no better. Probably that, as he started to gather a frost spell when the first proved ineffective.

I didn't let him finish. Not that I fear frost, but there was no point in prolonging his life. I didn't care if he wanted to yield, after all. I noticed as I checked his corpse for loot, that he had no heart. It had been removed, and a piece of plant material put in its place. I took this briarheart, as I assumed it had magical power.

As I climbed what looked to be the last set of steps, I could see the top of the waterfall. There was a small ridge of islands dividing the river in two, connected by bridges to each other and the banks. The central bridges ended at a platform overlooking the pool below. That was the structure I'd seen from below, and I still had no idea of its purpose.

In the other direction I could hear chanting, and it didn't seem to be human voices. Or elven, for that matter, or Khajiit or Argonian. Whatever the creatures were, they had nothing to do with my reason for being here, so I crossed the bridge to continue looking for the tower.

And there was one right ahead of me, with a brazier burning at the bottom of a ramp that led up the outside. It looked like someone was already living here.

Something, I should have said. Although it might have been a human once, this looked more like a bird. One that threw fireballs, too. I ducked back out of the door and avoided the blast. It didn't get another chance, as I ran in and struck with my mace before another fireball could be readied. The claws she - yes I think that's the right word - used were nearly as bad, and I needed to heal myself after I'd finished her. I climbed up the stairs inside, and after nearly being hit by a gem trap throwing shock, reached a tiny platform at the top, where I found a bird's nest with an egg in it.

And a view of another tower, just a bit further up the mountain. This was not the tower I'd been looking for. That was. Hopefully emptier than this one.