Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Skyrim Journal #4

The old man, the leader of the companions, had the same reservations about the the blood I now carried, but not for the same reasons. He was concerned about the long term affects on his soul, where he would spend his afterlife. My biggest worry was getting stabbed in the back be werewolf hating extremists, though the the likelihood of that happening was reduced significantly after I killed most of them. He pulled me into his quarters to chastise me for what he called over zealous revenge. In the same breath, however, he told me the story of how the companions were cursed in this way.

Several hundred years ago they made a deal with a coven of witches. Those in power at the time thought it would be easy to remove the curse later, so they took what they thought would be a short term power boon to complete the witch's task. After it was done the witches betrayed them and they could not find a way to undo the curse. As the years went by more and more of the companions came to accept it as a gift and use it accordingly, but the current leader thought it went against what it truly meant to be a nord. Being an elf I cared little for the second part of his plight, but the betrayal of the witches was not imagined. I had come to enjoy their company in spite of myself, so when he asked me to seek out these witches and kill one I accepted.

Killing one of them was not really an option. It was a long, cold walk, so by the time I got there anything living in their cave was going to be the victim of my frustrations. The old man had spoken of the witches in a way that had me more than a little worried. Had they been smart enough to all come at me simultaneously there might have a problem, but each was sequestered away in her own little section of the cave. I have no idea what each of them were doing, honestly I didn't look hard enough to find out, instead killing them from behind with several well placed arrows. They may have been ancient, but they bled like anything other living thing, and died just the same.

The old man had specifically requested one of their heads to use in the ritual to remove his curse. If I knew then what I know now I would have harvested several, but at the time even placing one in my pack was difficult enough. The smell was incredible and it never seemed to stop bleeding. I killed a pilgrim I ran across on the way back just so I had more clothing to wrap it in. By the time I got back I could not wait to be rid of the thing, but it was not to be. In my absence the remnants of the Silver Hand attacked. There was only one casualty, and it was the one person who cared about the what was to happen to him after he died.

I did not want to be moved, and I certainly did not enjoy this feeling of loss. He had given me a task, and I had completed it, but my shield brothers were too incompetent to keep him safe while I was gone. This was their fault, not mine. I stood as far from them as I could during the funeral, and afterward when the remaining members of the circle retreaded to their cave I made a move to the now empty guild house, intent on emptying their coffers and taking my leave. The blacksmith pulled me aside and asked that I retrieve something from the now dead leader's quarters. He had hidden the final piece of an ancient weapon in his quarters and I was to retrieve it. Only fitting, seeing as I had been all over Skyrim looking for the damn things.

It was not difficult to open the locked cabinet that contained the final piece. Besides that I found several nice sized gems, a bit of gold, and finally his journal. With no one around I was free to read through it. He though highly of me in spite knowing nothing of who I was or what my motivations were. It was his intent to pass the position of leader of the companions down to me upon his death, but he had not planned on dying for a long time. Out of respect I put back his gems and gold, instead emptying the quarters of those responsible for his death. If they couldn't do as much as protect an old man then they certainly did not deserve any of the wealth he had helped them accumulate.

I was half way out of the door when they stopped me. No, they did not know that my pack contained most of their gold, but they did want my input on what to do next. I was of the opinion that the old man was right, that the blood of the wolf was a curse, and I told them so. Surprisingly I was not alone; at least two other took my side, and even those who would never give the ability up admitted that it was his right to seek a cure and that it was a pity they he did not find one before he died. 

There was silence for quite some time, as no one, including myself, knew what to do to properly honor our leaders death. Finally the blacksmith entered the cave, carrying an ax much to large for any normal sized man or elf to properly wield. He said that it was the reforged Wuthgard, heated it the fires of out leaders funeral pyre. With this weapon we would be able to unlock the very place that souls moved from this life to the next, and it was to be my job to carry it there. I believed none of this, but had I refused this 'honor' I would have been cut down right there. I accepted it, noting that I could not possible use it in battle, and placed it in my pack right next to the witches head.

The journey north to the nord's holy burial ground was a long one. How these people live here in the winter is a mystery to me. I am swaddled like a babe under layer upon layer of skins and they trapse about in little more than chain mail armor and a smile. Thankfully they are much too troubled to harass me, and my opinion of them was low enough that I would not have taken it gracefully. The cave itself was guarded my a statue over twice my height. This ax was clearly meant for it, and I was told that only it would open the way inside, so I placed the ax in its hands. I was happy to be rid of the thing, and it did indeed open a hidden door behind us.

As we made out way deeper into the cave one by one the companions deserted me. They made excuses of honor or shame, but I saw only fear. We were assaulted by the ghosts of companions past, there to test us and make sure only the worthy made it to the central altar. Only one companion made it there at my side, the woman whose wolf form shed the blood that turned me, and even she did not make it without injury. By the time we arrived at the central alter my quiver was dangerously low and she was moving at about half speed. Much more of this and we would both not survive.

The alter itself was little more than an over sized brazier, though how it continued to burn with no one to attend it I could not understand. Behind it stood the shadow of our leader, looking as he did in his youth. Death had suited him well, and he knew that I was there with what he needed to save him from his curse, even now. He instructed me to place the witch's head in the flames, and as soon as I did so it erupted into a bright green flame. The ghost faded quickly, replaced by a new specter, a giant red wolf that attacked us as soon it noticed we were there. It was a difficult battle but we prevailed, and in retrospect I do wonder why physical arrows did anything to a ghost in the first place. I survived, and that is all that matters.

When the old man returned he thanked us for out efforts and asked if I had brought anything to cure myself. He told me that if I had brought another head that he would be able to cure me as well. I want to believe that his original instructions to kill only one came from ignorance, not malice, but I did not hide my disgust with him very well. His words of parting were that I was indeed to be the new leader of the companions, a statement echoed by the only companion to make it to the end of this at my side.

I wanted nothing to do with these people any longer. Each was more self serving than the last, right down to the one I actually though had my best interests in mind. I did not tell them this, instead accepting the appointment with the condition that I be allowed plenty of time to pursue my own interests. Then I left them, wondering if they would ever figure out who it was that left with all their gold.

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