48 - Skaal Village

We travelled back to the Skaal village to tell Storn what Hermaeus Mora had said.

"What are the 'secrets of the Skaal?'" I asked him

"Ancient lore, handed down from shaman to shaman since the All-Maker first gave us Solstheim. How to talk to the wind, how to listen to the earth - these are our secrets. Nothing of power or mastery."

"Why would Hermaeus Mora want your secrets?"

"We know him as Herma-Mora, the Demon of Knowledge. It is in his nature to horde secrets to himself. Their value to him is of no consequence. The very fact that the Skaal have kept knowledge from him has merely increased his desire to have it."

"My experience of him is that he thinks that knowledge exists only if you can write it down in a book. How could you ever write down your secrets?"

"That I do not know either, but since Herma-Mora doesn't know these secrets, he doesn't know what kind they are. Perhaps he believes they can be written."

I told Storn that I needed to do a lot more preparation before I was ready to confront Miraak, so any decision on the secrets wouldn't be needed soon. There were still more words of power to learn, and Black Books to read.

Now that the Earth Stone outside Raven Rock was cleansed, there was a good chance that the townsfolk would be a bit more willing to talk with us about Miraak. We headed back there to ask around for clues to more word walls and Black Books. We needed to tell Captain Veleth about General Falx Carius, as well.

Glover Mallory, the blacksmith, didn't know of any word walls or Black Books, but he did have a story to tell us about how he arrived here on Solstheim. He'd learned how to work Bonemold from a Dunmer over on the mainland, but didn't find any demand for it, so he'd come over to the island looking for work. He'd found enough trade supplying the Redoran guard, and stayed. He had a recipe for an improved version of Bonemold, but it had been stolen from him, and the thief had run off to the North.

"If you go looking for him, you might find some Stalhrim on your travels, too," he told us.

Brelyna had heard of that. "It's like ice, but it doesn't melt"

"If you've ever slipped and fallen on your ass, you'll know how hard ice is, even before you add magic. It would make great armour, apart from the melting. So mages tried to enchant it to resist heat. They failed, of course. It turned out you'd take a lifetime to do it that way."

"So how did Stalhrim happen?" she asked.

"Well, you know how when someone dies, there's magic left in them, unless they were soul-trapped? If you bury enough people together in the same tomb, that starts turning them into draugr. The Ancient Nords figured they could stop that, by sealing the coffins with ice."

"It actually worked, and there was another effect they hadn't expected. A dead person does have forever to turn ice into Stalhrim. But they don't know when to stop, so that stuff gets so hard you can't work it with a normal pickaxe. So they had to make special pickaxes to cut it. I had one of those, but I lent it to Crescius Caerellius while I fixed his, and he hasn't given it back. Could you persuade him it's about time he did? It's not like he's digging up anything in Raven Rock mine these days."

We went off into the mine to find Crescius. Glover had told us he was quite old for a human, so he'd probably know a lot about the island, having lived here all his life.

Crescius was a bit reluctant to return the pickaxe, doubting that Glover had obtained it honestly in the first place. I reminded him that he hadn't either, and he relented, but not before asking us if we'd help him out, too. He had evidence that the decision the East Empire Company made to close down the mine wasn't based on it being worked out, but something more suspicious. He had a key to some door down in the mine that his great-grandfather had left behind, but he'd never been able to find the lock that it fitted. That and a letter were all that he had to go on.

The letter had been written by Gratian Caerellius to the East Empire Company, but he'd never sent it. He'd been lost in a rockfall in the mine before he could do that. It said that some kind of ruins had been found down there, and asked for an investigation.

The mention of ruins was enough to get my interest. That was the sort of place to find word walls and Black Books. I agreed to continue the search for him, and we set off down the main shaft. We could return Mallory's pickaxe when we came back out.

Zahra was not happy to find spiders in the mine, but she hurled fireballs and got it out of her system. She let me kill the skeever.

We didn't pass much except for empty crates and barrels. The ore veins seemed to be pretty well exhausted, and sections had already been boarded off. Since Crescius hadn't found anything down here, I decided that I'd look behind the boards, and knocked them down with my war-hammer. Just a bit further on, we found the gate that the key unlocked.

Beyond the gate, it didn't look like mine-workings any more. This was the ruin that Gratian had mentioned in his letter, and it was soon clear why the Company had sealed it back off. It was full of draugr.

"And traps," Ranyu noted. "Nice of that draugr to point it out to us."

We let the spiked gate swing back, and trod carefully around the trigger, as we engaged the next wave of draugr. Nothing we couldn't handle, but there did seem to be a lot of them. Especially in the next room, where they were seated all around the walls,

I was glad we still had Mallory's special Ancient Nordic Picakaxe, as we found a Stalhrim-covered coffin against the wall in the next room. I hacked at it for ages, but eventually managed to collect the rare material. I wanted to take it back to the smith with the pickaxe, and see what he could do with it.

Brelyna and Zahra were more interested in the potions and ingredients on the tables, and took advantage of the alchemy table there to make a few more potions before we moved on.