March 9, 2014

The Thief in the Snow - Entry V: Into the Deep
The Thief in the Snow
Entry V: Into the Deep
Location: Bleak Falls Barrow, Whiterun Hold
Date: Tirdas, 19th of Last Seed, 4E 201

I made no mistake this time. I followed the road from Riverwood up the mountain and made certain that I did not go back to the watchtower but forward, towards the barrow. For this journey, I had no cover for the morning sun was steadily rising higher and the clouds that floated overhead did not appear full of snow. I did have one advantage on this attempt; I was not dressed as an Imperial Soldier but looked like a common bandit. I could easily get close to any thieves that may lie in wait before they became too suspicious. On the other hand, the Whiterun guards in Riverwood had almost arrested me until they recognized who I was. Maybe I looked too much like a bandit for my own good.

I had finally arrived at my destination. I was never one for admiring the scenery but the sight of Bleak Falls Barrow before me was one to behold. The ancient ruins towered high overhead and there was an eerie aura in the air. I hesitated for only a moment, gathering myself as I gazed at my surroundings, before I entered the home of Hadvar’s childhood nightmares.

Awaiting me were three Bandits, participants in the robbery of Lucan I presumed. I snuck around the giant stone columns, keeping just out of sight until I was able to let loose a killing shot. The first Bandit fell without a sound. It took a few moments for the other Bandits to notice the death of their comrade. They split up to search for me but they had not realized they had given me the advantage. I fired an arrow at the head of a Bandit but the shot whistled wide. The Bandit whipped around, searching for where the arrow had come from but I had regained my focus and the next shot would not miss. I knew there was at least one more bandit searching for me. I climbed the ancient stone stairs silently, with every muscle in my body tense, ready to spring into action. I stopped for a moment to listen, the wind was whipping across the ruins but my Khajiit senses did not fail me. I could hear the clumsy footsteps of the Human only a few hundred feet away. I drew my bow and waited for the Bandit to appear and with one fluid motion; I planted my arrow into the Bandit’s heart.

I collected my prizes off the corpses of the three Bandits before I proceeded into the interior of the barrow. Here I was, finally inside Bleak Falls Temple. It smelled musty and damp except for the few vapors of burning wood. I was not alone in these ruins. Over on the far side of the room, I could see the dancing shadows of an open fire and the faint silhouettes of two Humans. I wasted no time and fired an arrow at one of the silhouettes, dropping its owner to the ground. I quickly hid behind a pillar as the surviving Bandit ran to the door to investigate. ‘Hah!’ I chuckled to myself as the Bandit ran right past my hiding spot. I did not even have to aim as I let loose an arrow into her back. I was quite pleased with myself until I saw the dead bodies littered about the room. There were five corpses in total but only two had been dispatched by my bow. I crouched down immediately, I must stay on guard.

I descended deeper into the temple; dislodging spider webs that must have been there for generations. I came across some ancient burial urns, they were an unnerving sight. Someone must have inhabited this ruin long ago but I also saw signs of more recent visitors. Dust had been disturbed and fresh mud lined the floors. I crept deeper into the Temple where I discovered another Bandit trying to open a door. It took two arrows to finally kill him and I looted his body like I had done to the previous Bandits I had encountered. I turned to examine the door he had been trying to unlock. It appeared to be some kind of puzzle but I had no knowledge of how to solve it. I turned back the way I came, deciding that it would be best to go back to Riverwood and inquire about the puzzle in town. Maybe Alvor or Lucan would know something about it, or someone from the Sleeping Giant Inn. I was also carrying my limit in goods from the Bandits and I wanted the opportunity to sell what I had collected.
Location: Riverwood, Whiterun Hold
Date: Tirdas, 19th of Last Seed, 4E 201

Unfortunately, no one in Riverwood had any idea what I was inquiring about. It was not a complete waste of time as I did earn quite a bit of gold by selling off the goods from the Bandits. I also created a few potions with the ingredients I had gained and had even overheard an interesting conversation at the inn. According to what I was able to catch, there was a Shrine of Azura, or Azurah as I know her, near Winterhold which was located as far north and almost as far east as you could travel in Skyrim. Supposedly, the shrine was built by refugees from Morrowind and the trek there was very dangerous. This interested me very much because Azura was said to have created the Khajiit race and I had made quite a few pilgrimages to Azura’s Shrine near Cheydinhal during my time in Cyrodiil. Well, it was not the same Azura exactly, but it would be the closest I could get outside of Elsweyr. This would have to wait of course, since I still had my mission to collect the Dragonstone for that Court Wizard, Farengar.
Location: Bleak Falls Barrow, Whiterun Hold
Date: Tirdas, 19th of Last Seed, 4E 201

Two minutes. That is all it took for me to solve the puzzle and open the door. I regretted not trying to open it the first time I stumbled upon the room but I would rather take the cautious route than end up as a rug on the wall. Beyond the door I found a chest filled with quite a bit of gold and a book entitled ‘Thief.’ ‘My kind of book.’ I grinned to myself. After thumbing through its pages, I realized it had some useful information to improve my lockpicking technique. This book turned out to be more valuable than the gold I had found. To the left of the room was a spiral staircase that led deeper into the barrow. ‘Down I go.’ I mused.

When I reached the bottom of the stairs, I was suddenly attacked by a horde of Skeever rats. The stairwell was too narrow and the Skeevers too close for my bow to be effective. I hurriedly wielded my dual daggers, one steel and the other iron, to dispatch of the vermin. Luckily, I was not bit for Skeevers carry horrid diseases that I was not equipped to treat. I reached an open room in the ruins below and I searched it but found nothing of value. As I continued further on I could hear a panicked voice calling out the names of his comrades. I wondered if he was the thief who had stolen the Golden Claw but I had more important things to worry about first, he knew I was there. I pulled out my bow and notched an arrow. I would kill him in one shot.

I approached the room where the voice had come from with stillness to my step, stalking my prey before unleashing the killing blow. I was so focused on the task at hand that I failed to notice the spider webs that were now encroaching every corner of the ruins. I could hear him crying for help, pleading with his dead comrades to save him but he did not realize that he was alone. The room where this voice was coming from had been sealed by webbing so thick that I had to cast a fire spell to breach it. I now knew this was going to be no ordinary kill.

With Steel Dagger in my right paw and Flames ready to be conjured in my left paw, I approached the owner of the voice I had been hearing with caution. It happened in an instant. I saw the Dark Elf screaming for help as he tried to break free from the webbing that confined him. A Giant Frostbite Spider fell from the ceiling and began to attack. ‘Why did it have to be a spider?’ but I had no time to complain, it attacked ferociously, poisoning me with its wicked venom. I cast a healing spell on myself with one paw and with the other, feverously attacked with my dagger. The battle waged on for what felt like hours; dodging, countering, healing, and always trying to gain the upper hand. Then I saw it, my chance to end this monster’s life. I slid under its hulking frame and thrust my dagger up into its abdomen. The giant spider squirmed for a few moments before slumping to the ground; dead. I turned my attention to the thief, a Dunmer, who was still trapped in the spider’s web.

“Get me out of here!” he pleaded. “Do not leave me, for Arkay’s sake!”

I approached him with my dagger still drawn, “Where is the Golden Claw?”

“Yes, the claw. I know how it works.” he answered as if he were pleading for his life. “The claw, the markings, the door in the Hall of Stories. I know how they all fit together! Cut me down and I will show you. You will not believe the power the Nords have hidden there.”

I did not trust this man but I had little choice, “Fine. Dar’Raza will see if Dar'Raza can cut this one down.”

“Sweet breath of Arkay, thank you!” the Dunmer exclaimed with appreciation.

I took two swings at the webbing with my dagger.

“It is coming loose. I can feel it.” he said ecstatically as I continued to cut at the web.

With one last swift swipe of my dagger, the Dunmer fell to the ground, free of his prison. He got up to his feet and then smirked at me.

“You fool.” he declared, “Why should I share the treasure with anyone?”

He ran. He was the fool. Did he think he could outrun me, a Khajiit? I chased after him, I could have pulled out my bow and shot him but I wanted to sink my daggers into his back. He ran down into what appeared to be a tomb and I followed in close pursuit.

He stopped momentarily, “What is that sound?”

I did not allow him the opportunity of an answer as I pounced on top of his back, plunging steel and iron into the back of his neck. I stood up feeling proud that I had caught my prey only to realize that I was not alone. I whirled around as I saw three corpses rising up from their coffins. ‘Draugr! These creatures were what had haunted Hadvar’s dream!’ I had to react quickly; I attacked the Draugr that was closest to me first. Two strong strikes and he was down. I spun around to face the other two; one had a shield and the other a greatsword. The exertion of chasing the Dunmer thief had spent most of my energy and I did not have the stamina to land another heavy attack. I used my swiftness to maneuver behind the two Draugr and attack their backs. Within moments, the ambush was over and the Draugr were corpses once more.

I collapsed to the floor, exhausted, trying to collect my breath. So those were the monsters Hadvar told me about and the ghouls Camilla warned me to be on guard for. It was bad enough I had run into a Giant Frostbite Spider but now I had corpses to fear as well. After taking a few more minutes to collect myself, I stood up and began searching the bodies. The Draugr did not have much on them, they were corpses after all, but the Dunmer thief had exactly what I was looking for; the Golden Claw! Upon further examination I could see that the claw had three symbols on it. A quizzical expression crossed my face, ‘I wonder what they mean?’ I moved on to the other items the thief was carrying. One was a book, ‘Arvel’s Journal.’ I looked down at the lifeless Dunmer, ‘Thank you very much for your cooperation, Arvel.’ I seethed. Arvel the thief did say he knew the secrets to this place, his journal might be the key. I opened the book and began to read.

‘My fingers are trembling. The Golden Claw is finally in my hands, and with it, the power of the ancient Nordic herves.’
‘Herves? What is that?’ I queried. I looked at the word closely, squinting to try and make it out. ‘Heroes!’ I exclaimed in my head. I gave Arvel’s body a kick, ‘You could have written more clearly.’ I kicked him again. ‘Fool.’
‘That fool Lucan Valerius had no idea that his favorite store decoration was actually the key to Bleak Falls Barrow.

Now I just need to get to the Hall of Stories and unlock the door. The legend says there is a test that the Nords put in place to keep the unworthy away, but that “when you have the Golden Claw, the solution is in the palm of your hands.”’
I laughed out loud. This was just too easy. The symbols were obviously a part of the key. Now all I had to do is find this ‘Hall of Stories’ and claim the treasure that awaited me for myself. This would be as simple as baking an Apple Pie. I calmly dodged the traps that lined the floor in the rooms ahead as I delved deeper into the barrow. I stopped for a moment when I approached another series of tombs. I peered into the room and examined each corpse closely. One of the corpses had a sword on its side and I placed three arrows into it before it had time to get up. I now knew how to spot a Draugr before it spotted me.

I came upon another series of tombs with two more Draugr lying in wait. I killed them with little effort and was about to continue on my way when I heard the sound of metal behind me. I spun around and held up my bow, blocking the sword that was swinging for my head. I quickly dropped my bow and grabbed my daggers, two hasty motions and the third Draugr was dead. ‘Okay, so my Draugr detection method is not completely accurate.’ I wiped the sweat from my brow. This quest was a lot more dangerous than I had anticipated.

I located a locked chest hidden in one of the tombs but it was no match for my skill. Inside I found a pair of enchanted Hide Bracers of Sure Grip. Too bad they were of no use to me but they would make me quite a bit of money when I sold them in Whiterun. I carried on, towards what I hoped would be the Hall of Stories. I passed more traps and entered another series of tombs but this time there were no Draugr lying in wait. Really.

I reached another room, but this one was different. A waterfall flowed down from the ceiling and coffins, standing upright, lined the walls. I was about to move further into the room when I heard a loud crash. One of the lids to the coffins flew off and a Draugr stepped out. Too slow, before it could even lift its sword, it had an arrow sticking out of its head. Nothing would surprise me now. I followed the stream that was flowing through the room to a gate. There was a chain on the wall and when I pulled it, the gate ascended enough for me to slip under.

I continued following the flowing water into a large green cave. The color came from the Glowing Mushrooms that lined the cave walls. It was surprisingly warm inside the cave and it was humid because of the stream passing through it. I saw something knocking against two rocks in the stream. Upon closer inspection, I found it was a Troll Skull. ‘Troll. That is not good.’ I inhaled deeply. ‘Oh, this is not good at all.’

I pushed forward, using the stream as my compass through the cave. Another waterfall, but this time I was standing at the top of it. I carefully peered over the edge; below me was a patrolling Draugr that I took out with ease. I found a path down to where the Draugr had been patrolling but I did not find its body. There was another path that took me to the pool that the waterfall fed and there, I found not only the Draugr I had shot but also a locked chest. I opened it with much anticipation only to find it empty. What a cruel trick to play on a person.

I moved through more glowing caves until I reached a room that looked much like the rooms at the beginning of the barrow. I was about to press onward when I spotted a Draugr’s shadow dancing on the wall. I crouched down again and readied my bow. I hit him squarely in the chest but he did not go down. He rushed at me and I fired another arrow, this time to his leg but he was still racing towards me. He lunged, his axe grazing my arm as I fired another shot into his chest. He finally fell but not before spilling some of my blood. I reached the door into the Bleak Falls Sanctum. I had to be careful, things were getting serious now.

I pushed open the door; the ruins were a bit different than the ones I had previously cleared. I had a feeling no living creature had stepped inside this place for a very long time. I reached a large open room with a second level. There was a Draugr standing guard on a walkway above me. I quietly snuck under him and was able to shoot him in the back. A coffin opened behind me, I turned and fired, knocking the Draugr back into its final resting place. Across the room, another Draugr came running down the stairs. I took out its legs first with arrows, knocking it to the ground. I then placed the final arrow into its neck. Draugr eradicated.

I was not going to make the same mistake twice. I snuck up to the second floor, my bow ready for any undetected Draugr about. Finding none I pushed forward into a strange looking room. At the end of this room was a circular door or at least I thought it was a door. There were three rings, each adorned with symbols, and at the center of the rings was a medallion. Upon closer inspection of the medallion, I could see that it had four indentations in the shape of a… claw! ‘This is it!’ I exclaimed with jubilee. I swiftly pulled out the Golden Claw and examined it. The shapes on the claw were of a bear, a butterfly, and an owl. I rotated the rings of the door to align the correct symbols and then placed the claw into the medallion. With a loud din, the door began to lower; I had reached my final destination.

Inside I found a large cavern and by large, I mean enormous. A great stone monument was positioned in the middle of the cavern and three waterfalls descended from the ceiling. In the middle of the monument seemed to lay a coffin but I could not tell from this distance; I had to get closer. I crept my way across the large expanse of the cavern; inching closer to the monument and what I hoped to be the resting place of the Dragonstone. As I approached the monument, I could see some kind of writing etched into the stone. It was a language I had never seen before. As I edged closer and closer, the stone began to glow. No, the writing began to glow. I felt an odd presence as I could not help but gaze at the single glowing word written in stone. I reached out to touch it and the light suddenly shone so bright that it temporarily blinded me. The light wrapped around my body and I could swear it seemed to enter my body. With a flash, it was gone and the writing on the stone monument returned to normal.

I shook off what had just happened ‘I am fatigued. I am sure I am just hallucinating.’ I tried to convince myself. I turned back to the coffin, could the Dragonstone be inside? Before I had the time to understand what was happening, a Draugr burst out from inside the coffin. It was like no Draugr I had ever seen. It wore a horned helm and wielded an enchanted greatsword. I put two arrows into its chest but the monster acted as if I had done nothing. Then it, I do not know how to explain it, I think it shouted at me. I thought I heard the words ‘Fus! Ro!’ shouted at me and with it, a huge force that knocked me on the ground.

I clambered to my feet and let loose another arrow. My aim as off, my head was still spinning from the powerful force that the Draugr had, had shouted at me. I dove behind a boulder, trying to gain some kind of cover from this unrelenting force that kept hitting me. I notched an arrow and waited.

“Fus!” the Draugr shouted.

I waited a second for the wall of energy to pass me and then I jumped out of cover and fired an arrow into its chest. The Draugr staggered and fell to its knees. I would not miss this opportunity. I fired an arrow into its shoulder yet the Draugr still lived. I fired another, and another until with the fourth arrow protruding out of its chest; the Draugr dropped its greatsword and fell to the ground motionless.

I wanted to get out of there as rapidly as possible. I did not even care about the loot. I took everything from the Draugr and emptied the chest that was next to its coffin. I did not even look at its contents, the Dragonstone was on the Draugr’s corpse and that was all I needed to know. The battle with the Draugr had shaken me. It was a monster, more of a monster than the Draugr I had faced just hours earlier. It was like this Draugr was some kind of master, a Draugr Overlord. It did not matter; I knew I had to get out of there. I had found Lucan’s Golden Claw and Farengar’s Dragonstone, now it was time to go back to Whiterun and end this entire journey. As I made my way out of Bleak Falls Barrow, only one thought crossed my mind. ‘Hadvar was right; this place was the home of nightmares.’