52 - Summit

The book took me back to where I'd first encountered Miraak, but he wasn't there this time. In fact, the area was pretty much deserted. I'd have expected the Seekers to be left guarding the entry, but I didn't encounter any until I went a bit farther, into areas I hadn't seen the first time.

This was one of those areas that Mora had divided into "chapters" with book portals between them. The first Seekers were in chapter II. And not much else. I found a copy of "Heavy Armor Forging" which of course wouldn't help me at this point. Perhaps it would be useful to Ranyu. Although I suspected he preferred Light, the skill to make it is much the same.

However, just before I found the next chapter portal, I came across another book on a pedestal, entitled "Boneless Limbs". It didn't teach me anything, but the fact that it had been so prominently placed, (and that a door opened when I picked it up,) made me think it was important. I took it with me.

Chapter III was a maze, and I was starting to feel like a rat in a laboratory. Perhaps that was just how Mora was treating me, observing how I navigated his realm, and perhaps evaluating me against Miraak. There were a couple more books like the first, "Delving Pincers" and "Prying Orbs", each with a number of Seekers as guards, or distractions. I wasn't sure what Hermaeus Mora was intending from them, other than to slow my progress, so I could be observed for longer.

I'd found a couple of other skill books along the way, but of course nothing that would actually help me until I returned to Solstheim. Alchemy, or Enchanting meant nothing without the apparatus, and here there was nothing but books.

Chapter IV again contained Seekers and confusing pathways that lead nowhere. The ones that did take me forward refused to open until I'd gone in another direction first. Perhaps now Mora was trying my patience. Eventually I found the next book "Gnashing Blades" and a path lead me to a Lurker. I was almost glad to have a change of opponents.

Chapter V took me back to Seekers, and more of the futile dead ends, that had to be visited before the right path would open. Eventually, however, I reached a large room with a central pillar surrounded with empty pedestals. Most of those were guarded by Seekers, and I just knew that I'd have to use the pedestals to progress any further. It turned out that I needed to place the four books I'd found on the right ones to open the next chapter. The images on the pedestals were sufficient clues to get that right, and I moved on.

The final chapter took me to a large open space surrounded by what this realm has for a sea. Two Seekers were guarding a word wall at the other side, so obviously that would be a word I needed. It was the final word of Dragon Aspect, the one I'd guessed would only be available here.

As soon as I'd learned the new word, I naturally came under attack again. This time from a dragon, who'd swooped in from nowhere while I was distracted. I knew that I needed this dragon to take me to where Miraak was hiding from me, so instead of retaliating, I used Bend Will on him. He landed, told me his name was Sahrotaar, and, as I'd hoped, offered to take me to Miraak. I couldn't help reflecting on the similarity with my ride to Skuldhavn, in pursuit of Alduin, and that gave me extra confidence in the eventual outcome.

Sahrotaar was more easily distracted than Ohdaviing had been, and we didn't fly directly. There were a number of Lurkers and Seekers that he wanted to attack on the way.

Eventually, however, we flew up to a tall tower and landed on the top. Two more dragons were perched there, one of which had presumably brought Miraak, as he was waiting for me.

I'd been half-expecting Hermaeus Mora to make an appearance to tell the two of us what he expected from our confrontation, but he didn't. Instead I just got a taunting from Miraak, who told me that he'd soon be using my power to return to Solstheim. That because I was in his realm, I was subject to his power, and stood no chance against him.

I could have pointed out that this was Mora's realm, and we were both in the same position, but I didn't. Let him have his delusion, as he'd just come down harder when he saw his mistake.

Combat naturally started with each of us using Dragon Aspect. I think he was surprised that I knew it also, so the psychological advantage there was all mine. And from what I knew of its effects, the combat advantages were in my favour, too. He didn't have as much of a physical attack to be enhanced. He was smaller than I, so it's perhaps not surprising that he preferred magic.

I was glad that I'd chosen to use the Bloodskal Blade, as Miraak kept running away from me, and its ranged damage turned out to be as important as its melee power. I was certainly doing more damage to Miraak than he could do to me, but that wasn't the whole story.

As he weakened, he used something similar to the Become Ethereal shout that I knew. Instead of just pausing the fight for a while, however, it let him regenerate his health - at the expense of one of the dragons around us, who withered to bones as he did so.

I took the opportunity to swig a health potion myself. I hadn't come unprepared. So now we were both back to square one, and Miraak had two dragons left, and I had a lot more potions.

I assumed that Dragon Aspect would last as long for each of us, and probably for the whole time it would take to defeat him. Unless, of course, Miraak had some other unexpected tricks he hadn't shown me.

When Sahrotaar was sacrificed to keep Miraak alive, I began to wonder how I would get to leave. Was this how Hermaeus Mora intended it to end, with Moraak defeated, but myself marooned here, unable to leave? I kept attacking, regardless. I'd cross that bridge (or lack of one) when I got there.

And get there I finally did. Miraak made one last run back to the pool in the middle, where he'd previously used the recovery shout, and I was anticipating some new magic from him. But instead Hermaeus Mora finally made his appearance. A tentacle impaled the cowering Miraak, and raised him up near Mora's floating main eye. Mora told him he didn't need him any more, that he'd found a new Dragonborn to serve him.

Miraak wished me the same fate he was experiencing. A nice gesture of defiance, worthy of one of the Kyn, I thought.

As Miraak died, I experienced the same magical transfer that normally happened when I defeated a dragon. Except that this was somehow larger, passing on the knowledge of all the dragons that had fallen to Miraak. Including, I assumed, Sahrotaar, Knuzikrel, and Relonikiv, the three dragons whose bones now littered this arena.

Mora faded out without any word to me, but a pedestal bearing a black book rose up out of the central pool where Miraak had fallen. It appeared that the book was my portal out.

Before I left, however, I wanted to restore the three dragons, especially Sahrotaar, who'd been my transport here, and didn't deserve the treatment he'd received.

As each re-assembled, in that "burning leaf" fashion I'd seen before, they faded from view. They didn't belong in Apocrypha, and had been returned to their own realm.

I picked up Miraak's equipment as proof of his demise. I thought the Skaal would appreciate the extra evidence, even if the termination of Miraak's influence wasn't proof enough. I declined the opportunity to adjust my skills, as I didn't think I'd made any wrong decisions on acquiring the ones I had. I just read the book, and returned.

When I emerged back at the Skaal village, I was still wearing the Dragon Aspect aura, which startled the villagers a bit. Frea was eager to hear that Miraak was truly defeated. She told me that she could feel the oneness of the land had returned, but wanted to hear confirmation from me, too.

"A pity that it took my father's sacrifice to achieve that," she reminded me.

I wasn't so sure about that. Before I'd read the book to re-enter Apocrypha, I'd had my doubts about what I'd seen. Hermaeus Mora should not have been able to act that way through a portal. So I acted on my hunch. I shouted "Slen Tiid Vo" at the lifeless Storn, and the villages were suitably amazed when he stood up and shook the snow from his hair.

"How did you know to do that?" he asked me. "Herma-Mora was convinced that I would remain his prisoner, until I revealed the true secrets of the Skaal to him. The ones that exist only in his imagination. But suddenly I find myself returned here."

"The shout I used is all about restoration," I told him. "I'd noticed when I restored the dragons in Apocrypha that it also restored them to the correct Realm, and I hoped it would do the same for you. Mora could not kill you unless you were bound to his Realm by your own choice. As Miraak had once foolishly allowed, in his greed for power.

"What we saw when you read the book was just an illusion. Your mind was transported to Apocrypha, but instead of your body simply fading here, he made it appear as if he'd killed you."

"I hope that didn't alarm everyone else too much" Storn responded. "I wasn't aware of what was happening here, just that I was marooned on an island in a corrosive sea with some tentacled beasts guarding me, and rendering me unconscious if I tried to leave. Mora told me he could wait until I gave him a clue as to where the 'true secrets' were written down. If I didn't know them then they must be in some hidden book, he assumed.

"I resigned myself to a very long wait, but it didn't happen that way. And now I can feel that Mora's influence is truly gone. The oneness of the land is restored, which must mean that the Tree Stone is cleansed as well."

"I will go and confirm that," I told him. "The last time I was at Miraak's Temple, I could see the remains of many dragons around the area, but did not have the capacity to restore them. Now Miraak's defeat allows me to do so."

Frea was apprehensive that we were about to replace the threat from Miraak with an equal one from dragons, but her father reassured her. "The dragons are not our enemies. Miraak may have bent their wills and turned some of them against us in the past, but that was not of their own making. We can live in peace with dragons in the sky."