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Posted by dankempster

Day Twenty-Three - Secrets Beneath the Sleeping City

I was awoken suddenly in the early hours of the next morning by a tremendous crash on the roof of the Frozen Hearth. I sprang from my bed immediately, gathering my things and rushing out of the inn. Outside, a huge dragon was laying siege to Winterhold, setting what remained of this once great city aflame with its breath. I Shouted at the beast to draw it down from the rooftops, Marked it for Death to weaken it, and then began hacking at its wings and neck with my elven blade. When the dragon finally fell and I'd absorbed its soul, I assisted the city guards in numbering the dead. Thankfully, only a single casualty was suffered - a member of the Winterhold guard. With the crisis averted for now, I turned my attention to my reason for visiting Winterhold - the Mages College.

As I approached the entrance to the College, I was stopped by an Altmer named Faralda. She demanded to see some proof of my magical abilities, demanding that I cast a Fear spell as a means of illustrating my prowess. I obliged, and she duly welcomed me into the College proper. She introduced me to Mirabelle Ervine, the College's Master Wizard, who issued me with my own set of mage's robes and showed me round the College itself before dropping me into a lecture with three other newcomers. The lecturer, an elderly fellow named Tolfdir, put all of us through our paces, then gave us a chance to prove ourselves in a practical exercise at the ancient city of Saarthal.

Supposedly the very first settlement built up by men in Tamriel, the old city of Saarthal had long been lost beneath centuries of snow and ice, before the College's recent excavations had unearthed it once again. Situated southwest from Winterhold, high in the mountains, it was nonetheless fairly simple to find and reach. Tolfdir was already waiting there for us when I arrived, and led us down into the excavation chamber where we were each given a task. My task was to find anything that might have held clues as to the ancient civilization responsible for Saarthal. While searching the chamber I happened upon an amulet, which I foolishly removed from its pedestal without a second thought. Tolfdir told me to put the amulet on, and as I did, a strange resonance seemed to emanate from its pedestal. One lick of a simple flame spell reduced the pedestal to ashes, revealing a secret passage which Tolfdir and I both followed deeper into the bowels of the city.

As we walked, I found myself visited by a strange apparition - an individual claiming to be a member of the Psijic Order, who told me that Skyrim was facing a very real threat, and that I had been chosen by the order to try and prevent that threat from coming to pass. When I spoke to Tolfdir about the vision, he had no knowledge of it, but seemed to believe my claims. He left me to further explore the ruins of Saarthal alone, while he mused over what this might all mean. I continued to move deeper into the underbelly of the lost city, battling with scores of Draugrs as I progressed. I endeavoured to practise my magic wherever possible, but on a couple of occasions found myself falling back on my trusty sword and shield.

At the very centre of what was once a thriving city, I happened upon an enormous glowing green orb. Even Tolfdir, who by now had caught up with me, was unable to determine its origin or purpose. As we approached the orb, an incredibly powerful Draugr emerged from a nearby sarcophagus. Between the two of us we were able to make short work of it - Tolfdir with his magical expertise, and I with a dexterously-handled combination of sword strikes, fire bolts, and dragon Shouts. Hanging from the Draugr's pocket was an old hand-written note, a writ of sealing condemning the Draugr (who had once been named Jyrik Gauldurson) as a murderer. It also carried a fragment of an amulet. All this had the overbearing feeling of being only a fragment of a much wider picture - a picture I was very curious to piece together. I pocketed the note and spoke with Tolfdir on the subject of the orb. He asked me to return to the College and inform the Arch-Mage of our findings. On my way out of Saarthal, I passed yet another word wall, this one containing the second word of the Ice Form Shout.

It was around 2:00am by the time I arrived back in Winterhold, and so I elected to sleep through the rest of the night and speak with the Arch-Mage in the morning. A Dunmer by the name of Savos Aren, he seemed almost disinterested when I informed him about the orb we had uncovered beneath Saarthal, and dismissed me to the College's library to read up on the implications of the discovery myself. I took myself off to the Arcanaeum, with the intention of researching the orb, but my attention was soon diverted to the Draugr we had encountered and the cryptic writ of sealing it was carrying. In a short time I uncovered an ancient legend, concerning the court wizard of King Harald, one Gauldur by name. It appears that Gauldur was assassinated, although whether it was by the King himself or by his own three sons, the history books could not be sure. Supposedly one of his three sons fled to Folgunthur, near Solitude. It seems like that would be the perfect place to continue my search, and perhaps find out what happened to Gauldur all those centuries ago.

I left for Solitude almost immediately, recognising that by the time I reached the other side of the province it would be almost night and I would need a place to rest. I was slightly worried that news of my joining with the Stormcloaks or rescuing Thorald Gray-Mane might have reached Solitude and rendered me unwelcome, but nobody seemed to know anything when I arrived in town late this evening. I was able to catch the local blacksmith just before he shut up shop, and he kindly sold me some Orichalcum ingots and lent me the use of his forge. I set about refining my Orcish armour, and also fashioned a shield and sword in the same style, before refining those as well. Satisfied with my smithing efforts, I retired to the Winking Skeever and rented a room for the night. Tomorrow, I will head down to Folgunthur and see if I can unearth any more of the truth about Gauldur's demise. Until then,

Ever Honest,

Lenah'd Retsmek


Previous Episodes

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

Winterhold looks like my town outside the window right now. Ugh. Anyways, solid write-up as always. Those Draugr were a royal pain. I think that might have been a fight I got into with all of two healing potions and a base level restoration spell, which was why I had sought out the Mage's College in the first place.

Posted by dankempster

@Sparky_Buzzsaw: Have to admit, that makes me kinda jealous. We haven't really had any snowfall in this part of the UK this winter, and while I'm ordinarily not the kind of person to get excited about the frozen white stuff, I'd really love to see our two dogs playing together in the snow. Watching them both bound about in their natural element would be incredible.

On the topic of the Mage's College, it was probably a pretty silly place for me to go to boost my magic skills. It seems much more like a place for established mages to go, rather than a place for aspiring mages to learn the craft. After all, there are court wizards in every Hold that will happily sell you all sorts of spells without being bothered about your magical prowess. That being said, the storyline already seems more interesting than that of the Companions, and I wouldn't mind seeing how it progresses. I'm just not sure if I'll feel comfortable melee-ing my way through it (which, given my character build, I inevitably will). Maybe when this series is over I'll roll a pure mage and play it that way.

Posted by Vinny_Says

So I was playing Skyrim yesterday with my level 77 dude and for a second thought that I was out of things to do. Then I went through 2 unique dungeons and realised: Goddamn this game is huge!

Just the sheer amount of time it must of took to build this world is mind boggling. Your 30 day stay is like a tiny spec on the overall amount of content in the game....

Posted by dankempster

@Vinny_Says: Tell me about it. In the twenty-three days I've documented so far, I've played for over fifty hours and done the first few quests in the main quest line, the opening major quests for the Companions and College of Winterhold, the first couple of quests in the Civil War, and just two Daedric quests. That still leaves two main factions (the Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood) completely untouched, thirteen more Daedric quests to sniff out and complete, most of all the quest lines that I've started still to do, and that's just the main, Achievement-related content. There are still three cities I haven't even set foot in yet. I've played this game for fifty hours and done pretty much nothing. That is mind-blowing.

I think the greatest testament I can give to Skyrim's breadth and depth of content is that every time I stop playing it, my quest log is more full than when I started. That is the sign of a game with a lot of stuff to do.

Posted by kgb0515

My only complaint about your blog is that it makes me want to play entirely too much Skyrim. I have other games I need to finish for Pete's sake :-).

Posted by Storms
@dankempster: Companions quests are good, just way too short. I found it makes sense from a roleplaying standpoint if I do a lot of solo adventuring in the middle of the questline -- much like Lenah'd is doing. 
My town looks like Windhelm right now too, and I love it. I have wanted to live in St John's, Newfoundland for a long time -- the oldest city in North America and in the far north... I wouldn't be suprised if it was the inspiration for Windhelm, the oldest human city in Skyrim and in the far north.
Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@dankempster: I would like the snow a lot more if we didn't have it upwards of 7-8 months a year. Moving back here was my own stupid decision, though, so I take full blame for it.

I tried at first to have my character be a pure mage, because I assumed that the level cap was something like Fallout's (i.e. 30 or so). At first, it worked great - roasting early mobs with the flamethrower-like spells was a cakewalk. But destruction and healing magic increased very slowly for me, and after a certain point, my equipped weapons outpaced my spells and it soon became necessary to use them instead. One of the very few annoying parts of Skyrim is not being able to craft spells. I used trainers almost specifially for spells, and had a hell of a time finding a Restoration teacher until I hit the college. Even now, I have to keep a notebook handy with the locations of various trainers, as I'm still trying to increase some of my magic to help round out my character.