What, no comments on the last one? Tough crowd. I'll have to try harder.
...in which mages show they aren't very bright, the Thalmor continue to be a pain in the ass, and Ryne gets a new job and immediately begins redecorating...
So, a few new developments in the last couple weeks. First, it seems the Blades demise was at least partially exaggerated, as Delphine was/is a member. That inspires confidence - a greying woman enlists a Breton adventurer that all of Skyrim is out to kill to save the world. What could possibly go wrong? After Delphine further informed me the dragons were not actually returning but, in another bit of wonderful news, were actually RISING FROM THEIR GODSDAMNED GRAVES, she assisted me in offing one as he arose immediately after a very large, very black one that awakened him left. That was the fellow from Helgen. I don't like how I keep running into that monstrosity.
Delphine and I met back in Riverwood, where she filled me in on some of the Blades' misfortunes and the dragons, and confirmed that she also suspected the Thalmor had a hand in the return of the dragons. Either we're both crazy, or a pattern is forming. She then instructed me to head to Solitude and meet up with a Bosmer in order to infiltrate the Thalmor Embassy. OK, look, I've had quite enough of those Thalmor bastards lately. Maybe in a couple weeks.
When last I was in Winterhold, Mirabelle suggested I take a trip to Mzulft to look for something to help examine the Eye of Magnus, so I decided to head off and see what I could do. I arrived at the ruins in the middle of the night, and headed inside. I'm going to spare most of the details, but lets just say that after fighting Falmer, Chaurus, and Dwarven leftovers, I'm not going to complain the next time I run into Draugr of any sort. I also found the place liberally interspersed with dead Synod researchers, which seemed to be a hint that perhaps Imperial mages should stick to their books rather than go running around dungeons. Things just haven't been the same since the Mages' Guild was dissolved.
When I finally reached the door to the Oculatory, I discovered it locked and my picks had no effect. Apparently I was now on a great quest for a key in a massive Dwarven ruin. A quest to follow a trail of breadcrumbs... if breadcrumbs were dead Falmer in various states of being ripped limb from limb. Something told me the end of this little journey was going to be unpleasant. And I was right. I hate being right sometimes.
When I opened the final set of doors, before me stood a very large, very active, very unfriendly Dwarven Master Centurion. Seriously, couldn't the key have been guarded by something pleasant? Perhaps a butterfly I could mix in a potion? Skeever? Hell, I'll take a bear. Nope. Big, nasty, machine powered by a soul gem made by a vanished race of magickal axe-lovers with a height complex. I can only imagine they were compensating for something when they decided to make their Automatons brush the bloody ceiling two spans above my not-inconsiderable height.
I conjured my friendly Dremora Lord and stood back as the machine went for it, slipped behind, and began hammering on its back with my Dragonbone sword while the Dremora swung its greatsword, and we dropped the thing with a minimum of fuss, though it was somewhat amusing to see the Dremora vanish as the Automaton fell on it. Dremora aren't particularly bright at the best of times.
Key in hand, I headed for the Oculatory, unlocked the door, and found myself stuck behind another door, this time with a Synod researcher - the only one with enough sense to put a locked dwarven door between himself and the Falmer, it seems - who immediately began babbling incoherently about crystals and the other researchers and his dire situation. Pulling a crystal I had retrieved from a dead Falmer from my pocket, he immediately went from annoyingly whiny to annoyingly superior, and began lecturing on about the great Dwarven machine.
I admit, few things impress me, but that machine impressed me. What did not impress me was the intelligence of the Synod researchers. Apparently, all of them died because one of them failed to anticipate how the cold would affect the focussing crystal and he had to trek back to Cyrodiil to get it fixed - however, the lone survivor informed me that I would have to tune the crystal in the machine by heating or cooling it. While I already knew flame and frost spells, I discovered two spell tomes in the room itself as well. If these Synod characters were so smart, don't you think they would have tried heating the crystal to repair it here?
A scant few seconds later, I had the crystal tuned and a partial map of Skyrim projected on the wall, which the Synod fellow was very displeased with. From his cryptic muttering, I gathered that he and his fellows planned to mark all objects of power in Skyrim so better to aid the Empire - or perhaps the Dominion - in overrunning the place. Nevertheless, it appears the Eye of Magnus and Staff of Magnus both provided sufficient interference that he wasn't getting much for readable information. Such a shame.
I headed out of the ruins and made my way back to Winterhold, where I discovered that, in true Thalmor fashion, the slimy creep Ancamo had figured out how to tap into the Eye of Magnus, render himself invulnerable to my sword, and severely wounded Mirabelle while killing the Arch-Mage in the explosion that ensued when we tried to stop him. Mirabelle survived, and dispatched me to recover the Staff from Labyrinthian, with an odd comment that the Arch-Mage must have known something. Ominous. I felt bad for the fellow, though I barely knew him. On the other hand, I felt significantly less bad about him and more pleased that I barely knew him a short while later while I was delving into Labyrinthian and discovered that he wasn't exactly the best friend an aspiring mage could have, either.
One minor glitch before I headed to Labyrthian - it seemed Ancamo's meddling produced some sort of magickal attack on Winterhold. The anomalies it spawned caused little in the way of hurt, but Phineas, Faralda, and I spent the better part of a half hour clearing them out. The little glowballs were fast, agile, and tough - not much shrugs off dragbone weapons, but these did with little trouble. Fortunately, their attacks were disorganized and ineffectual in the extreme.
Labyrinthian held few small surprises, but one large one. It seems that dragons can also be undead, or at least the walking collection of dragon bones that tried to kill me while skeletons were flinging arrows in my direction suggests that to be the case. I set the Dremora Lord loose on the skeletons, and knocked my clattering large friend into a motionless pile of bones with a few arrows of my own, which is odd when you think about it because there was really nothing for them to pierce. Logic doesn't seem to enter into the destruction of magickal undead in this country, though, so I just went with it and was glad I didn't get eaten - it would be awkward trying to explain to the Dremora that I wasn't dead, just encased in a skeletal ribcage and in need of some assistance. Like I said before - not very bright at the best of times.
Dispatching dozens of Draugr of various kinds - some of the rotten assholes (get it? oh come on!) apparently not getting the memo on the Fus ro da moratorium either - I made my way deeper through the ruins, regularly encountering ghostly apparitions of six mages, one of whom appeared to be the dead Arch Mage. Well, five. No, four. Apparently the bodies to whom said apparitions belonged didn't fair nearly as well against the inhabitants of the barrow as I had. Their numbers continued to dwindle. Between ghostly meetings which fewer and fewer participants seemed interested in showing up for, I ran into a few more skeletons, a wispmother, and several highly irritating wisps, followed by yet MORE Draugr. Honestly, if someone could figure out how to command Draugr, the Stormcloaks could eject the Imperials and their Thalmor masters from Skyrim in a matter of hours (ironic note: I would later come to regret these thoughts; I'm behind in journal entries).
Finally, I arrived at what I gathered to be the final door to the final monstrosity that no doubt would prove an epic battle of wits and skills that would test me to my limits - or, at least, that's what I gathered from the three remaining ghosts who said more or less that at the heavy iron door in their last meeting. When I opened the door, I was greeted by a strange sight. Alright, I suppose most of what I enter in my journal could be considered strange sights. I was greeted by an unprecedented sight - on stone bridges, two ghosts were sustaining beams of what I could only assume to be magicka at a bubble around what appeared to be a large, angry, undead, and otherwise immobile Dragon Priest. Who had my staff. Why do they always have the things I need? Honestly, just once I'd like to find the artifact I' questing after snuggled in among a group of fluffy, white bunnies that would bound around at my feet while I grinned and pondered stew. Alas, with my luck, if ever I do find something guarded by bunnies they will be thirty feet long with horns, breathing fire, and keep trolls who will try to stew me for pets. Come to think of it, that isn't far removed from my typical dragon encounter.
Leaving that unpleasant thought behind, I crept up the stairs and tapped one of the ghostly mages roughly where his shoulder should be. He turned, looked at me, opened his mouth... and flung a destruction spell in my surprised face. FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THE DAEDRA AND DIVINES, EVEN GHOSTLY DEAD PEOPLE WHO BELONGED TO MY OWN ORGANIZATION WANT TO KILL ME NOW? WHAT DOES A MAN HAVE TO DO NOT TO BE MURDERED AT EVERY OPPORTUNITY AROUND HERE?
Fortunately, my spell absorption talents and magicka resistance enchantments are not dependent on my situational awareness - I would be dead several dozen times over were that the case - and the spell fizzled in the air. My enchanted dragonbone sword, however, did not. Apparently both Absorb Health and Fiery Soul Trap (told you I'd learn that without delay) still work on ghosts, as the ethereal fellow vanished on the spot.
Knowing what to expect of his compatriot, I nevertheless still tried the friendly approach with her, and was rewarded for my efforts much the same way. With the shield and his ghostly friends gone, the Dragon Priest - Morokei, his name turned out to be - was loose and pursued me across the room while I hastily pulled out my bow and sent arrows in his undead direction. And then he caught up to me when I backed into a corner. I pulled out my sword and held up the shield when he gave me a malevolent look and...
...nothing happened. Turns out Morokei can't fight. Well, not without magicka. I'm virtually invulnerable to magicka. Laughing, I poked him in the place where his chest used to be. More raging sounds, staff raised, and... yeah, still nothing. Chuckling to myself, I recalled the fear in the dead mages' voices when they spoke of this creature, and promptly sliced its skull from its neck. Morokei fell, finally banished from the world. I picked up his mask - these Dragon Priest masks have some interesting enchantments and are well worth recovering - and the staff, and headed for the door. Just as I reached it, the ghost of Aren, the Arch Mage, appeared and gave a lament-filled account of how he had bound his friends for eternity to ensure Otar could never be loosed upon Skyrim. With friends like him... I shuddered and contemplated my good fortune in not being sent on more errands by the man as I headed up the stairs, through the hall, and walked smack into a Thalmor named Estormo wielding two charged bolts of lightning in hand, who assurred me that hewould be taking the staff as Ancamo could not afford to have me meddling, and I might as well just give up and die. This is becoming a tiresome refrain from people who seem unable to recognize bits and pieces of the dead dragons decorating my armour and weapons.
I gave Estormo a contemptuous look when his spells hit the back of my armour as I walked away from him. Estormo died badly. That is to say, screaming when my Dremora Lord split him in half with its enchanted burning greatsword. I wasn't giving him the courtesy of being killed by my weapons; he died to a daedra. Picking among the bits of elf-goo on the floor, I collected his pocket change, whistled tunelessly, and climbed up the ladder and back out of the ruins, heading for the College.
On my arrival, I discovered things had gone, in their usual fashion when I'm involved, from bad to considerably worse. The majority of the powerful college mages were sitting on the precarious entrance path. The students were missing. Mirabelle was missing. And there was a potent magickal wall between us, and the College. Toldfir informed me Mirabelle was dead, having defended their retreat from Ancamo as the barrier was raised. Have I mentioned how much these Thalmor creeps are beginning to annoy me? I showed Toldfir the staff, and he said he'd follow me in. The Staff appeared to burn all the power from the barrier, and we sprinted for the Hall of Elements.
Ancamo was being a typical pompous Thalmor inside, going on endlessly about how he was beyond our reach when Toldir tried to incinerate him and the spell did nothing. Taking the more direct route, I slammed my dragonbone sword into his head... or tried to. Nothing happened. Why can't anything ever go according to plan?
The Eye of Magnus began to pulsate, glow, and expand, and more of the magickal anomalies popped out. Wonderful. I told Toldfir to deal with them, and focused the Staff of Magnus on the Eye. Sure enough, it shrunk back to its ordinary size and stopped spawning the little magickal balls of doom. Ancamo retreated behind a pillar. I followed. He scurried to another pillar. I strode after him. A magickal ball flung itself at me and bounced off. I took two more steps, and the thing turned and stuck to my face. Peeling it off with my sword, I looked for Ancamo, who had retreated behind yet another pillar. Three strides and I grabbed the front of his robes, glared at him, and stuck my sword through his lungs. With a few choking gasps, he fell over, dead. Thus ends another Thalmor. Good riddance.
When I turned around and walked after Toldfir, our friends from the Psijic order mysteriously appeared, again - I'm pretty sure they're using Mark/Recall like the Dunmer from Vvardenfell apparently used to be able to - and congratulated me for a job well done, informed me the Eye was far too powerful and our world was not ready, and prepared to teleport away. What? You mean you guys could have grabbed this from Saarthal? How about when we first brought it to the College? Hunh? You were the ones that warned me about an irreversible set of events... seems to me that there was ample opportunity for you to at least alter them. Honestly, I wonder abotu six times a day how this country has survived as long as it has with the kind of intellectual prowess that seems to populate it. Or formerly populate it - these monks have been pretty tight-lipped about their current location.
Regardless, my annoyances aside, I was then informed how I would be a great Arch-Mage, and the Psijics disappeared. Wait a moment. Arch Mage? No, no, I didn't sign up for any position of responsibility - in point of fact, I've been trying to avoid responsibility. I figured Toldfir would have something to say about this since he clearly outranked me and had considerable more experience at the College than I did and he'd take over the job.
Ha! Of course not. Why would he do something when I could do it instead?! Apparently, I'm Arch Mage, like it or not. Not that that appears to mean much. Aside from the title and the rooms, the authority of the Arch Mage doesn't count for much around here. Certainly, nobody wants to listen if I try to assign them jobs, and a few of the elder mages are downright demanding - Arniel keeps going on about some fool project of his, Toldfir wants me to retrieve some dagger and dragonscales for a spell, and Phineas has the wonderful idea to summon an unbound Dremora. I can only imagine what Faralda or Collette are planning to inflict on me. Or Berlyna... I haven't forgotten the whole being turned into a cow incident.
After checking out my new apartment, I headed out to the courtyard, intending to enjoy some fresh air and sunshine, when a roar, flapping wings, and bout of fire announced the arrival of a Revered Dragon. A big, orange, angry revered dragon. Surely being Arch Mage, I'll get some assistance from the other mages? Ha! What mages. Suddenly the College seemed to be empty of everyone. Sighing, I resorted to my bow and Ancamo's pillar tricks... until a bolt of lightning knocked me into the flames.
Patting out the fires burning on various parts of my body, I looked around for the newest enemy, and discovered it was not actually anyone hostile, but rather J'zago arriving to aid me. Given his previous "aid" and remembering a certain disastrous flame cloak experiment, I filed him under "Enemy for all intents and purposes." Heading to the OPPOSITE side of the courtyard - dodging flame breath the entire way, the dragon was quite persistently fixated on me - I found another pillar and dispatched it with another volley of arrows. Stepping out of cover, I collected some scales, bones, most of my arrows, and a pile of gold as the creature incinerated itself and I absorbed its soul - a process that made the now-arriving collection of mages exiting the towers gasp and mutter. Oh sure, now you incompetent magickal morons show up. So much for the title of Arch Mage.
Several of the passing mages remarked in nervous voices that they couldn't believe it, that they were afraid, didn't know what to do, or where it came from. Having dispatched over twenty dragons by this point - it's becoming quite routine, in fact - I merely surveyed my handiwork. The dragon's skull lay at the entrance to the college, tail near the Hall of Elements, wings rolled up by the central statue. In fact, the way the tail curled, it seemed to point directly to the staircase leading to the Arch Mage quarters.
Turning, I laughed and announced to no one in particular: "Do? You don't need to do anything. That just means the new Arch Mage is in residence today."