Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Black Horse Dispatch 18 - Into the Void

After breakfast, I stop by at Mistveil Keep to shop at the rather scatterbrained court mage - but that hasn't kept her from accumulating an astoundingly large selection of spell tomes. I pick some conjuration spells - both for summoning a magical raincoat and a variety of spells for summoning spirit wolves. When fighting dragons, it helps to fight in a target-rich environment, and as such beings cannot be truly killed, they should provide a good distraction.

And I immediately have the opportunity to test this hypothesis, as two dragons attack us in close succession as we leave Riften along the southwestern road along Lake Honrich. And indeed, as the spirit wolves race after the dragons, the dragons focus their attacks on these ghostly creatures, allowing us plenty of time to pepper them with arrows. More surprising is an attack by a trio of vampires in broad daylight - but still, the spirit wolf is useful here, as it cannot contract sanguinare vampiris and I don't want my minions to thirst more for my blood than they already do.

After slaying a frostbite spider (not a particularly difficult task), another dragon appears - this one simply circling nearby. I get the suspicion that they hunt us - perhaps at the instigation of the Black One. We wait in an old, abandoned lakeside house until it flies away. I notice a badly damaged book in front of the long-cold fireplace - the title "Spirit of the Deep" is barely visible. Curious, I flip it open...

...and the world shifts around me. Damn. I hate it when this happens - especially when I am perfectly sober.

I appear in another version of the ruined house - floating in some kind of void, along with other detritus. As I take a step, a strange man of indeterminate race appears in front of me, and as I stare into his pitch black eyes, I realize that I am in the presence of a daedric lord.

This is the third time I have found myself in this position, and if you, gentle reader, should ever find yourself in such a situation, I recommend being both very polite and very, very cautious. No doubt he would soon explain himself as much as he cared to for my translocation into this realm of Oblivion (for where else could I be?).

"You are wondering why I brought you here. Your life has taken a turn, has it not?

You should have died at Helgen, Dragons have returned to Skyrim, and you will play a pivotal role in the days to come."

All this is said in a soft, almost monotonous voice, which only makes it more worrying.

"For this, I have chosen you and drawn you into the Void. I am the Outsider, come find me."

And with that, he vanishes. None of the daedric lords I am familiar with, but that is not exactly comforting.

Well, if he want to play hide and seek, then I am not in a position to tell him no. However, as I take a few steps I hear Vilja's inane chatter just behind me - and I discover to my horror that she has somehow been stuck into the wall behind the fireplace. Even more disturbing is that her disposition seems to be entirely unaffected, and she continues to chatter like she always does. Is this an illusion, or is she really here in this abominable state - and if so, has she been driven mad or is her mind clouded? And will she be restored when this "Outsider" becomes bored of us?

I cannot help her, so I press on. In any case, there doesn't seem to be much hiding involved on the part of the Outsider, for as come to the end of a bridge of sorts which hangs into the void, he simply reappears again in front of me.

"There are forces in the world and beyond the grave. Great forces that you mortals call magic, and now these forces serve your will. Use this newfound power, my gift to you."

And with this, he vanishes again. But suddenly, there is new knowledge in my mind. Knowledge of, if I just reach out with my hands to a distant point, I can...

I transform into lightning, and the lightning transforms into me on the other side of the chasm.

I experiment a bit with this new power. It is not exactly a spell, though I feel it slightly drain my reserves of magical power. I need to see the point I am "blinking" towards, and there seems to be a limit to my range.

Suddenly I hear the sound of a weapon being drawn. Somehow Vilja has managed to get out of the fireplace and across the chasm, standing right behind me. Surprised, I blink again - but each time she reappears behind me, looking warily around without saying a word. This spooks me more than anyone else.

Then I see a table adorned with two candles and a skull, horns, banners, and... ribcages of some enormous creature? This seems to be an altar, of sorts. As I approach it and let my hands fall down, I hear Vilja saying behind me: "Guess I'm just being silly."

...I don't want to think about this right now. Instead, I approach the altar, which seems to throb in my mind somehow. As I touch it, the Outsider appears again and tells me:

"Seek the ancient runes bearing my mark in the lonely places of your world at the shrines raised in my name. These runes will grant you power beyond those of others. How you use what I have given you falls upon you, as it has to others before you.

And now I return you to your world, but know that I will be watching with great interest."

I return to Mundus, in the same cabin as before. Then I see to my horror that Vilja has somehow become stuck in the floor, with only the head and shoulders looking out.

"I think I need more sleep."

Horrified, I use Blink again, in the hopes that she will somehow follow me out as she has done in the Void, but this doesn't seem to help. Then I have no time to contemplate other solutions, as two dragons appear - who seem to be attacking a nearby orc stronghold. Flames are everywhere, and as the two beasts are finally slain, I discover that Vilja has made it out somehow - though she seems to be heavily wounded, though I cannot say whether it was getting out of the floor or the fight with the dragons that did the damage. Finally, she manages to stand up under her own power, though she looks pained.

I could kick myself. I should have seen behind her cheerful facade. What was she hiding behind that smile and that chatter? What horrible sights and experiences have shattered her sanity in the past, and what was she forced to revisit in the Void? I was looking for an assistant when I hired her, but now I fear I found a time bomb. Still, there is a story here, and I must follow it to the end.

To be continued. Read from the beginning!