Day Eight - Azura's Champion
I woke much later than planned today, probably on account of our late return from Dustman's Cairn last night. After the events of yesterday, particularly the revelations concerning the Companions, I feel like I need to spend some time away from Whiterun. With that in mind, I charted a course to the spot on my map where I'd been told I would find the Shrine of Azura. Before leaving I paid a visit to Eorlund Grey-Mane at the Skyforge - as part of my initiation into the Companions, Kodlak had promised me a token weapon forged by Eorlund from his famous Skyforge steel. I selected a fine longsword, which I took to the grindstone outside Warmaiden's and refined to a superior sharpness. Equipped with my new blade and stocked up on potions, I left Whiterun and began my journey to the Shrine of Azura.
Azura's shrine is located in the northeastern corner of the province, due south of the city of Winterhold. My route to the shrine took me north of Whiterun Hold and into the snow-covered valleys of The Pale. A vast mountain range stands between the cities of Windhelm and Winterhold, and I had to skirt around the edge of this range in order to ascend to the site of the shrine. The shrine itself takes the form of the Daedric prince, looking out over the northern coastline. As I approached the shrine and ascended its stone steps, I found myself recalling stories from my childhood - centuries-old stories of Azura's involvement in the quest of the Nerevarine in Vvardenfell. I think that is what attracted me to this place - the prospect of getting caught up in a grand adventure. It might have seemed far-fetched to think such things a week ago, but all that I have seen since I arrived back in Skyrim has confirmed that anything is possible.
A Dunmer named Aranea Ienith was watching over the shrine on my arrival. She told me that Azura herself had foreseen my coming, and required me to serve her in some capacity. Once again, the memories of those childhood stories made my head swim with dizzying excitement, and I listened intently for my orders. Aranea relayed Azura's demands by means of a cryptic riddle. From what we could decipher, it seemed Azura wished me to visit Winterhold and consult with an elven enchanter about the blackest of stars. A strange message, to be sure, but I wasted no time in descending the mountain-side and continuing to follow the path to Winterhold.
I arrived in the city by early evening and immediately headed for the local inn, an establishment named the Frozen Hearth. As I entered, I almost collided with an exceptionally sour-faced Altmer. A brief exchange with the innkeeper revealed this elf to be Nelacar, a former resident of the Mages College here in Winterhold - an elven enchanter!
Nelacar seemed reluctant to discuss anything with me, especially after I mentioned I was sent by Azura. Thankfully a flagon of mead and some coins for his purse managed to loosen his lips a little. He explained that many years ago, he worked alongside another elf at the college - a Dunmer named Malyn Varen. The aged and seriously ill Varen had been conducting research into soul gems, and in particular Azura's Star - a Daedric artifact with the power to hold and release an unlimited number of souls without shattering. It was Varen's hope that he might find a way of storing his own soul within the Star, preserving his life essence and rendering him immortal. The only hurdle he had to overcome was to find a way to alter the Star, such that it would accept human souls. The last Nelacar had heard of Varen, he had taken his research to Ilinalta's Deep, far to the southwest.
By the time Nelacar and I had finished talking, both of Nirn's moons were hanging heavily in the blackened night sky. I've rented a room at the Frozen Hearth and resolve to begin my trek to Ilinalta's Deep tomorrow morning. Until then,