December 25, 2015

Missing Rachel - Entry III: The Lonely Escape
Missing Rachel
Entry III: The Lonely Escape
Location: The Sewer Facility
Date: Friday, June 19th, 2015

I could still feel the faint burning sensation of the rope in my hands as I pressed against the heavy metal door. It was probably best that I hadn’t jumped down; the ache in my leg was bad enough as it was. If I could have, I would have run straight out of those awful tunnels. Who would keep such a place? At least I had found that old handgun; it seemed to work and from the smell of it, it had been used already. I fingered the gun in my pocket; it seemed like a familiar weight there. The grinding of the metal door pulled me out of my thoughts and back to reality. I needed to focus on finding a way out of here and back to Rachel. As I entered the sewers, I noticed an exposed ventilation shaft high above me. The grate looked like it had been kicked out and laid bent before my feet. Maybe someone crawled through there, but it was so high up, that must have been a sore landing. I also saw wet dirt and grass smeared on the ground. At least now I knew there was a way out of this place.

I climbed a ladder as I searched for an exit but I only found a mess of filthy garbage bags. There were rips in most of the bags and the smell wafting from them was disgusting. I found an old VHS tape sticking out from one of the bags, I wasn’t sure what I hoped to discover with the tape, but I took it anyway. I found another ladder leading to a lower level. Once I had descended to the bottom, I could hear the faint trickling of water. I didn’t know where it was originating from so I continued on until I reached a door with a sign above it that read: ‘EXIT.’ I opened it hastily, thinking I had reached freedom when I was hit with rancid air. A rusty ladder lay halfway sunk in murky water. There was no way I was getting out that way but maybe I could find a way to drain the water.

I went back the way I came and found a door I had not tried before. In the room was a kitchen knife, covered in drying blood. Thinking about it made me sick; I didn’t even want to touch it but I thought I could use it to pry open whatever door or panel I may run into. I slipped the knife in my boot since I still had the gun in my pocket. Did I really need all of this? Then I remembered the dead body in the house and the bones buried in the tunnels… I kept them both and moved on. I came across another door but it was locked and there was a musty smell permeating from the inside. I entered a much larger room next, with four valves like features sitting in each corner. I thought turning these may shut off the flow of water. I struggled with the large metal wheels until each one had been turned. I should have felt exhausted by the physical exertion but instead, I felt revived. I had the hope of finally escaping this place and going home.

I hobbled back to the exit door to find that the water had indeed been drained. I carefully climbed down the ladder, since it was still covered in a thick slime. When I reached the bottom, I could see a metal grate in the wall, it looked like the water had been siphoned through there. When I looked closer, I could see a small metal key floating in the shallow pool of rancid water. I pocketed the small key, it was an odd-shape and I had no idea what it might open, but it may prove useful nonetheless. Next, I reached what looked like a break room. There was a safety poster on the wall that had definitely seen better days. Just how old was this facility? I past another locked door, this time I could see a faint light illuminating the room from within. I banged on the door and called for someone to open up but it seemed like there was no one inside.

I continued my search and found another ladder, this time it lead upwards. This facility was an absolute maze and I was starting to get tired now, I just wanted to go home and see Rachel, to know that she was safe. I came across another door, the handle turned but there seemed to be something blocking it. I pushed all of my weight against it and forced it opened only to discover that it was a dead body that had hindered me from opening it. Another body?! What the hell was wrong with this place? The clothes looked like that of a sewer facility worker and by the wounds all over his face and body; I figured he’d been stabbed repeatedly. Stabbed? My hand bolted down to my boot but then coiled back in revulsion. Was it the same knife? I shook my head and came back to my senses; I needed to get out of this place. I examined the body and found a keyring sticking out of the man’s pocket. I carefully picked the keys from his pocket, I was almost worried he was going to grab me but the sewer worker remained still. I looked around the room before leaving, noting a security camera in the corner. Maybe that VHS tape I had found in the garbage was from the security camera and may be useful, if only I could play it.

I went back to the locked door with the light still on and tried one of the keys on the keyring. The sound of the lock clicking back into place was like music to my ears and I hurriedly entered the room. There was a shelf full of security tapes that was strictly organized, though covered in dust. I examined the tapes and noted that one was missing, so the tape I had found was from the security cameras. There was a dusty VCR on the desk next to the shelf. I had to know what was on the VHS tape so I flicked the monitor on and it came to life with a low hum. The VCR worked too, so I put in the tape and sat down to watch it with the hopes that what I saw would give me answers. The image was grainy but I could make out the outline of a man… a man right there, in the same room where I found the dead facility worker… being attacked. I pulled out the tape and examined it; the tape had been stretched like someone had tampered with it. I put it back in the VCR and played it again, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, I just couldn’t. I watched again as the man was attacked… wait, was he attacked by one person or two? I couldn’t do anything about the picture quality but I knew now that a killer was on the loose. I had recently stumbled upon two dead bodies, but to see the act of murder with my very own eyes had made their killings a reality. I couldn’t help it when my hand slipped into my pocket and caressed the old handgun.

I exited the security room so quickly it was like I was fleeing, fleeing everything I had just witnessed. I came across another locked door and tried a bunch of keys on the keyring until finally it opened. I paused for a moment, steeling myself for what I might find. Inside, there was a collection of stale liquor bottles littering the floor; it almost looked like the kitchen in the dead man’s house. The wall was covered with dozens of old and faded papers. Whoever did this was obsessed with local murders. According to some of the clippings, bodies had been found in ravines, in the wood, and in one case… even dumped in the back of an abandoned truck. I couldn’t be sure but I thought some of these same articles had also been pasted on the walls in the tunnels. I spied a faded receipt that was half-trampled on the floor. It was from the local train station, and it was for two tickets. I didn’t know what use it could be but I neatly folded the soiled receipt and slipped it into my front pocket.

Another ladder led me up, hopefully towards an exit. As I traveled down the narrow hall, I saw what must have been the other end of the ventilation shaft. It was low enough that I could have climbed into it without much difficulty. Whoever used it could have gotten past the flooded room with this. I reached another ladder and began to climb. I couldn’t help but think about all the events that had happened to me so far. Would I need that gun, or that knife before the end? Both weighed me down and aggravated my leg as I climbed the old ladder. The thought of the VHS tape still gave me chills. Who was it that didn’t want to be seen? Was it the same person that hid all those clippings away in that locked room? Suddenly, the awful smell of the sewer gave way to a pine-scented blast of fresh air.

November 27, 2015

Worth Fighting For - Entry VIII: If at First You Don’t Succeed
Worth Fighting For
Entry VIII: If at First You Don’t Succeed
Location: Manhattan Rebel Base
Date: Monday, October 20th, 2003

Pain. That was the first thing I remembered feeling. Then there was a pounding in my head like a jackhammer and a ringing in my ears that made me feel like I was standing inside of a church bell. I recalled trying to move my limbs and then questioning if I even had limbs. I almost believed that I had no body at all and consisted only of pain. That’s when I heard a voice call my name. As I finally regained my senses, I opened my eyes and saw Kat leaning over me. She told me I had been unconscious for a couple of days and that the explosion didn’t do any real damage but that I’d be groggy for some time. I was confused, I couldn’t think clearly and then it all came back to me. We had destroyed the Manhattan Power Plant and were trying to escape via the monorail tracks, only to have a Soviet tank show up. Tony had stayed behind so that the rest of us could live. Chris and I had been the last ones to reach the tracks and had been caught in the explosive fire from the tank. I muttered Tony’s name and Kat just shook her head solemnly. I knew he was gone but it was still too hard to comprehend.

Then my mind shifted to Chris and I bolted upright in bed only to be hit with a wave of nausea. Kat gently pushed me back down and chided me for trying to sit up in my current state. I grabbed her hand and asked about Chris’ condition. She assured me that he was fine and was already up and walking a bit. Though Chris’ hearing had not recovered yet, he had overcome most of the headaches and nausea that the blast had caused. I relaxed knowing that our leader was still alive because as long as he lived, our hope to reclaim our nation lived on as well.

Location: Manhattan Rebel Base
Date: Thursday, October 23rd, 2003

It had taken me a few more days to recover, and I still wasn’t at one hundred percent. The nausea had passed but I was still touched with throbbing headaches and an annoying drone in my ears. Yet, I wasn’t about to let these minor ailments keep me out of action. I approached our usual meeting room to find Chris, but before I entered I could hear him laughing with Isabella. It was a rare sound indeed, so I left the two alone and decided to talk over our next mission with Phil. We did just that and presented our ideas to Chris and Isabella, once the opportunity presented itself, and got the stamp of approval from them.

We knew from recent scouting reports that the Reds had pooled all their troops to the warehouse district. The POWs were still being held on the east side of the district, heavily guarded by watchtowers and an electrical fence. While we had cut power to the district by destroying the transformer tower, Chelly informed us that Ryo and the prisoners were probably forced to jury-rig a generator to create the electric perimeter. Isabella also had intelligence from Mr. Jones that stated the SAF’s forward operations base was on the west side of the district. Our plan was to split Chris’ team into two separate squads and attack both objectives while Phil’s team worked on getting us an exit. After all, the Manhattan Warehouse District was right in the heart of Soviet controlled territory. We had attacked it once and failed, we all knew that we could not fail again.
Location: Manhattan Warehouse District
Date: Friday, October 24th, 2003

It was barely past midnight when we assembled on the outskirts of the warehouse district. Chris was taking Miguel, Charlie, Daniil, and Nikolay with him to assault the forward operations base to the west. I would be taking Steven, Kat, and Chelly to the east side of the district, with the mission to rescue the POWs held captive there. Before we left for our destination, I had a quick chat with Chelly. I told her that I understood her personal stake in this mission but stressed that she needed to follow commands and work as a team if we were going to be successful. She acknowledged my concerns and I committed that we would rescue her husband and the other imprisoned power plant workers.

We scurried like rats through the labyrinth of the warehouse district, avoiding patrolling soldiers and cargo trucks. It appeared that the Reds were transporting munitions and supplies from other outposts here to the warehouse district. Or maybe it was the other way around; it was hard to tell with all the activity in the district. Either way, we still had our mission and staying hidden from the enemy was imperative. We hadn’t heard any signs of a gunfight so I was optimistic that Chris was succeeding in his mission as well. Granted, my ears still rang with the aftermath of the explosion, that every so often I thought I heard the whizz of bullets only to realize that it was all in my head.

We carried on, still heading west in hopes that we would spot the prisoners before we were spotted by the Reds. Steven was leading the squad while Kat was guarding our backs. Suddenly, Steven signaled us to stop and we all dropped to one knee. He motioned to his ears but I couldn’t hear anything above the hum of my own. It wasn’t until Chelly mouthed the words “fence” to me, that I understood what Steven had heard. Crouching, I slowly inched my way to the edge of the building and peeked out from around the corner. I could see a large fence enclosing five people inside. There were two watchtowers with a soldier in each and four more Reds on the ground. I drew up the plan quickly; Steven and Kat would flank the towers while Chelly and I remained at our current position. Steven and Kat were the better shots and I knew they were the best choice to task with taking care of the watchtowers.

We waited for everyone to get into position. I could see Kat from where Chelly and I were stationed but Steven was out of sight. I counted down with hand signals to try and coordinate our attack as best we could. At the last signal, I rolled out from cover and opened fire. My bullets hit one Red squarely in the chest but only grazed the other. The din of the bullets instigated an extreme pain in my head which caused me to lose balance and soon I had dropped to one knee. I tried to regain my poise and eliminate the Red I had wounded before he did the same to me but my vision was whirling and my shot missed wildly. Kat’s aim was steady though and she was able to take out the Red who was bearing down on me.

We had succeeded in clearing the prisoner camp of SAF soldiers. I motioned for Steven to help Chelly disarm the electric fence and free the prisoners. I tried to regain my footing but stumbled to the ground again. Kat grabbed my arm and helped steady me as the world around me finally stopped spinning. She gave me a concerned look but I waved her off and told her I was fine. The POWs were our main concern now. There were five of them in total, two injured enough that they could not walk on their own. Chelly had an emotional reunion with her husband, Ryo, while Kat and Steven helped the two injured prisoners to their feet. The other two prisoners approached me and introduced themselves as Logan Torres and Arthur Mays. Logan and Arthur were security guards at the power plant before they had been captured. They both picked up guns from the fallen Reds and affirmed to me that they could handle a weapon. Great, we needed the additional firepower. Ryo also armed himself as we prepared to rendezvous with Phil’s team.

I had Steven and Kat run point as Chelly and Ryo helped the injured POWs. I took up the rear with Logan and Arthur. We knew from Mr. Jones’ intelligence reports that there was a sewer entrance not far from our location. Phil’s team should already be there, keeping it clear of enemies for our arrival. Our escape was surprising calm and at one point it felt like I was taking a quiet stroll down the city streets, just like I had done before the Russian invasion. We reached our destination and Phil was there just as planned. As the injured were being helped to safety, I questioned Phil on the other facets of our mission. After all, Chris’ squad should already be assaulting the forward operations base. Phil stated that everything was going smoothly and that he would keep the Reds occupied while my squad regrouped with Chris.

As if appearing on cue, a SAF patrol opened fired on us. We all dove for cover as quickly as we could. I found myself hiding behind a large brick planter box with Phil while the rest of the Resistance members were scattered around us. When there was a break in gunfire, I whipped up over the planter box and shot off a few rounds of my own. My aim was awfully off the mark as my vision once again swirled. I hoped Chris didn’t have the residual symptoms I had, he was a much more effective fighter but even he could not overcome this with sheer will. Phil’s team was quite capable of finding its targets and soon the Reds were being pushed back. I motioned to Phil and pointed back at the warehouse district. He knew what I was thinking and with a sly grin; he jumped out of cover and yelled at his team to “give the Reds everything you’ve got.” I signaled for my squad to follow me as we scurried back towards the warehouse labyrinth.

This time stealth wasn’t the objective but speed was. We needed to rendezvous with Chris and the others before they were overrun. Seconds mattered and I was going to make sure we weren’t late. Soon, we could hear the sounds of a gunfight, no it sounded more like a full blown battle. There must have been over a dozen Reds attacking Chris’s squad and more seemed to pour out of every crevasse in the district. As we raced forward, we all realized that we had flanked the Red soldiers and were in striking position. I could see Chris and Charlie to the left of me as a group of Reds tried to outmaneuver them. I quickly called for Steven to follow me while the rest held their positions. We engaged the Reds and eliminated them proficiently. Chris gave me a slight nod and a smile as we reached his side. I told him that there were three more Freedom Fighters with me and to watch out for them. Chris updated us on the status of their objective, the forward operations base had been destroyed but in doing so, they had drawn the attention of every Red left in the district. I told him that Phil was working on our exit and that we needed to get moving before we were overrun.

I left the safety of the wall that we were using for cover first, spraying bullets as I went along and Chris followed close behind. Then in an instant I heard Chris shouting at me. I didn’t comprehend what he was saying until I saw a grenade roll past me. I was able to find shelter in an alleyway before the blast hit me but the concussive sound triggered a searing headache. Once again my world began to spin like I was in a blender. Every sound seemed to blur together from bullets to people shouting. I staggered out from the alleyway, still trying to collect myself. I remember Chris motioning for me to get down, as I was still standing upright, how I don’t know. But I couldn’t get my mind focused enough to command my body to move. I just stood there, motionless until I felt the hot searing heat of metal as it ripped through my skin. My body dropped to the ground and I felt myself being drawn into the black abyss once more. The last thing I recall thinking was that surely this time I really would die.

October 23, 2015

The Thief in the Snow - Entry XV: Answering the Summons
The Thief in the Snow
Entry XV: Answering the Summons
Location: Throat of the World, Whiterun Hold
Date: Morndas, 25th of Last Seed, 4E 201

At first, the trek up the Seven Thousand Steps was much like any other journey I had previously taken. The weather was fair and the path was clearly laid out before me. Soon, as I began to ascend higher and higher up the mountain, things began to change drastically. Snow began to fall lightly then turned into a blizzard. The wind whipped around the mountain at such a velocity that I feared it would send me flying off the side of the narrow path. Eventually that too disappeared, for the Steps soon turned into a treacherous path of snow and ice. The mountain was desolate and devoid of life. I only came upon two Ice Wolves that I dispatched effortlessly. Just when I thought I was all alone on my journey, I passed a fellow Pilgrim. The hooded Pilgrim simply nodded as I passed by.

As I continued my slow and labored ascent, I stumbled upon the body of another Pilgrim. Examining it closely, I could tell that she had been killed by a creature much larger than an Ice Wolf. Crouching down, I tried to peer into the snow-laden distance to see if the creature was still near. I listened, straining my ears to make out anything other than the whistling of the wind. Soon I could hear the crunching of snow and realized that a Frost Troll was walking away from me, merely yards ahead. I pulled out my bow and readied an arrow. I could barely see its white hulking frame against the snow covered rocks and the flurries that continued to fall from the sky. I fired an arrow into the white abyss ahead of me and a slight grunt told me I had hit my target. The Frost Troll turned and charged at me, arms waving wildly in the air. I jumped to the side as it came stampeding towards me, sliding on my side across the icy snow. The Frost Troll had built up too much momentum and could not stop itself from careening over the side of the mountain to its death. Klimmek had been right, you really needed to watch your footing when walking the Seven Thousand Steps.

As I ascended higher, to what felt like the heavens and beyond, I noticed stone tablets that lined the path like a monument. Each Emblem had a different text written on it and as I climbed towards High Hrothgar, I read every single one.
‘Before the birth of Men, the Dragons ruled all Mundus. Their word was the Voice, and they spoke only for True Needs. For the Voice could blot out the sky and flood the land.

Men were born and spread over the face of Mundus. The Dragons presided over the crawling masses. Men were weak then, and had no Voice.

The fledgling spirits of Men were strong in Old Times. Unafraid of war with Dragons and their Voices. But the Dragons only shouted them down and broke their hearts.

Kyne called on Paarthurnax, who pitied Man. Together they taught Men to use the Voice. Then Dragon War raged, Dragon against Tongue.

Man prevailed, shouting Alduin out of the world. Proving for all that their Voice too was strong. Although their sacrifices were many-fold.

With roaring Tongues, the Sky-Children conquered. Founding the First Empire with Sword and Voice. Whilst the Dragons withdrew from this World.

The Tongues at Red Mountain went away humbled. Jurgen Windcaller began His Seven Year Meditation. To understand Strong Voices could fail.

Jurgen Windcaller chose silence and returned. The seventeen disputants could not shout Him down. Jurgen the Calm built His home on the Throat of the World.

For years all silent, the Greybeards spoke one name. Tiber Septim, stripling then, was summoned to Hrothgar. They blessed and named him Dohvakiin.

The Voice is worship. Follow the Inner path. Speak only in True Need.’
I did not fully understand the words but recognized the stories as those of the ancient Nord heroes who battled Alduin and the tale of Tiber Septim’s summoning. When I had finished reading the last Emblem, I paused and examined my surroundings. I had reached the summit of the Throat of the World. At the peak, the snow had stopped falling and the sky was clear. I could see almost all of Skyrim beneath me from the great White River to Whiterun itself. I took a moment to enjoy the view and etched it into my memory before turning towards High Hrothgar. There, near the door to the temple sat a chest which I put Klimmek’s Supplies in and then proceeded inside to discover my fate.
Location: High Hrothgar, Whiterun Hold
Date: Tirdas, 26th of Last Seed, 4E 201

As my eyes adjusted to the dimness of the temple, I was greeted by four Greybeards. None spoke to me, only gazing at me with steady eyes, like they were examining every facet of my being. Then slowly and softly, one of them spoke to me.

“So…” his voice was filled with a subtle power that sounded as if he had not spoken in centuries. “A Dragonborn appears, at this moment in the turning of the age.”

“This one…” I began with my normal voice bellowing through the temple. Startled by the din of my speech, I paused before continuing. I started again, this time with a whisper, “This one calls Dar’Raza Dragonborn, what does that mean?”

“First, let us see if you truly are Dragonborn. Let us taste of your Voice.” the Greybeard whispered as he gestured towards an empty wall.

I turned towards the area he had pointed at and inhaled deeply, “Fus!” A gust of wind hit the wall and dissipated as quickly as it had appeared.

“Dragonborn. It is you.” the Greybeard exclaimed, with no more than a slight murmur. “Welcome to High Hrothgar. I am Master Arngeir. I speak for the Greybeards. Now tell me, Dragonborn, why have you come here?”

“Dar’Raza wants to find out what it means to be Dragonborn.” I answered, sounding like a hissing snake in my whispering accent.

“We are here to guide you in that pursuit, just as the Greybeards have sought to guide those of the Dragon Blood that came before you.” Master Arngeir replied.

“Dar’Raza is not the only Dragonborn?” I asked already knowing the answer.

“You are not the first.” Master Arngeir nodded. “There have been many of the Dragon Blood since Akatosh first bestowed that gift on mortalkind. Whether you are the only Dragonborn of this age…” he paused for a moment, “That is not ours to know. You are the only one that has been revealed thus far. That is all I can say.”

“Who is this one? What is this place?” I asked pointing first at the Greybeard and then around us.

“We are the Greybeards, followers of the Way of the Voice.” answered Master Arngeir as he gestured to the others standing near him. “You stand in High Hrothgar, on the slopes of Kynareth’s sacred mountain. Here we commune with the voice of the sky, and strive to achieve balance between our inner and outer selves.”

I nodded then added, “Dar’Raza is ready to learn.”

“You have shown that you are Dragonborn. You have the inborn gift. But do you have the discipline and temperament to follow the path laid out for you? That remains to be seen.” he uttered as he drew closer to me. “Without training, you have already taken the first steps towards projecting your Voice into a Thu’um, a Shout. Now let us see if you are willing and able to learn.” Master Arngeir raised his voice ever so slightly, “When you Shout, you speak in the language of Dragons. Thus, your Dragon Blood gives you an inborn ability to learn Words of Power. All Shouts are made up of three Words of Power. As you master each Word, your Shout will become progressively stronger.” He pointed at one of the other Greybeards, “Master Einarth will now teach you ‘Ro,’ the second Word in Unrelenting Force.” As Master Einarth moved towards the center of the room, Master Arngeir continued his lesson, “‘Ro’ means ‘Balance’ in the Dragon tongue. Combine it with ‘Fus’ meaning ‘Force,’ to focus your Thu’um more sharply.”

Master Einarth shouted softly at the stone floor, “Ro.”

The Word written in the Dragon language appeared etched into the stone floor and began to glow much like the Word at Bleak Falls Barrow did when I first saw it. I looked at the Word and could understand it just like I did at the stone monument.

“You learn a new Word like a master… you truly do have the gift.” Master Arngeir declared with controlled enthusiasm. “But learning a Word of Power is only the first step… you must unlock its meaning through constant practice in order to use it in a Shout. Well, that is how the rest of us learn Shouts. As Dragonborn, you can absorb a slain Dragon’s life force and knowledge directly. As part of your initiation, Master Einarth will allow you to tap into his understanding of ‘Ro.’”

A sudden burst of light emanated from Master Einarth, just as the Dragon did when we defeated it at the Western Watchtower. I could feel the power and knowledge  of Master Einarth surge through me, a strange yet familiar sensation.

“Now let us see how quickly you can master your new Thu’um.” Master Arngeir stated.

Master Einarth summoned a familiar that I could practice on and I shouted.

He summoned another, “Fiik, Lo… Sah!”

“Fus… Ro!” I answered as I blew the familiar away.

“You learn quickly,” Master Arngeir commented. “Once more.”

“Fus Ro!” I Shouted again.

“Impressive. Your Thu’um is precise. You show great promise, Dragonborn.” Master Arngeir stated as he motioned for me to follow him. “We will perform your next trial in the courtyard. Follow Master Borri.”

One of the Greybeards gave a low bow, I assumed this was Master Borri and followed him. He and the other Greybeards led me through High Hrothgar’s vast hallways towards the courtyard. It was like a maze with corridors winding in every direction. Finally, Master Borri opened a large steel door that led us outside. As I stepped through the door, I raised my hand to shield my eyes from the blinding sun. The dimness of High Hrothgar’s halls had made my already sensitive Khajiit eyes adjust to the darkness. Now, standing in the courtyard, I could barely focus on my surroundings.

Master Arngeir, unaffected by the change in light, spoke again, “We will now see how you learn a completely new Shout. Master Borri will teach you ‘Wuld,’ which means ‘Whirlwind.’”

Master Borri gave another short bow before he whispered, “Wuld.”

On the ground appeared the Word etched into the stone floor. I absorbed it the same way I had the previous two Words of Power and I absorbed Master Borri’s knowledge. Master Wulfgar, the fourth and final Greybeard, demonstrated how to use the Shout by running past a closing gate. The Shout gave him tremendous speed that even with my Khajiit abilities, I could not have caught him. Next, it was my turn to try the Shout. I tensed my muscles, concentrated on the Word, and then Shouted. An unseen force propelled me forward at the speed of the wind, as if Khenarthi herself was propelling me forward.

“Your quick mastery of a new Thu’um is… astonishing.” Master Arngeir declared in amusement. “I had heard the stories of the Dragonborn's abilities, but to see it for myself…”

There was silence for a few moments until I replied with the only thing I could think of, “Dar’Raza does not know how Dar’Raza does it. It just happens.”

“You were given this gift by the gods for some reason.” replied Master Arngeir, with a hint of surprise and questioning in his voice.

I wondered to myself if he was questioning what I was going to do with my gift or why his Nordic gods gave this gift to a Khajiit. I felt it would be impolite to ask so I stayed quiet and listened.

“It is up to you to figure out how to best use it.” Master Arngeir continued. “You are now ready for your last trial. Retrieve the Horn of Jurgen Windcaller, our founder, from his tomb in the ancient fane of Ustengrav. Remain true to the Way of the Voice, and you will return.”
Location: Ivarstead, The Rift
Date: Tirdas, 26th of Last Seed, 4E 201

I left High Hrothgar and returned to Ivarstead. The journey felt easier and shorter for I spent most of my descend recalling what the Greybeards had said. I needed to find this horn before the Greybeards would teach me anymore about my gift and its location was in Hjaalmarch. I had no plans on returning so soon to the marshy hold so I decided to spend a little time in Ivarstead and slowly make my return to Whiterun. Night had fallen when I met Klimmek at the inn. He thanked me for helping by buying me a drink and lending me his company. He asked about my pilgrimage and I related the story of my climb, avoiding any mention of actually meeting the Greybeards or their affirmation that I was Dragonborn. We switched to different topics, finally resting on the Rift and its capital city, Riften. He informed me that there was an orphanage in Riften that took in children from all over Skyrim. ‘This is perfect!’ I rejoiced in my head, ‘Just the place for Lucia and Blaise.’ I could not help but grin to myself. If Klimmek noticed my elated smile, he did not let on but continued talking about the Temple of Mara that was there. He also told me of the troubles Riften was having with the Thieves Guild. ‘Eh?’ the question bubbled in my head, ‘Oh ho, indeed Riften seems to be the answer to all my needs.’ I thanked him for the drink and the conversation but told him I would like to leave for Riften right away. He was surprised considering the time it was but walked me outside of the inn anyway.

As we stood outside in the cool night's air, two strangely dressed men approached us. They were wearing long black robes and funny looking masks. One asked me if I was the Dragonborn, I lied and told him I had no idea what he was talking about. Klimmek confirmed my lie, telling the man he ‘had taken too many slaps to the head by his woman’ but the strange man kept insisting. He told me I was a ‘False Dragonborn’ and that I would not oppose his lord. The two strangers drew their weapons and attacked me. Klimmek and the Guards nearby came to my defense and the strangers were killed quickly. Klimmek was slightly shaken up by the whole ordeal but I reassured him that everything was alright. He asked if I would stay with him, saying that the roads to Riften were dangerous, even in daylight. I insisted that I must leave tonight and while he was hesitant to let me go, he wished me well.

Before leaving Ivarstead, I searched the bodies of the strangers to find they were Cultists of some kind. The one who had spoken to me had a note on his body which read,
‘Board the vessel Northern Maiden docked at Raven Rock. Take it to Windhelm, then begin your search. Kill the False Dragonborn known as Dar’Raza before he reaches Solstheim.

Return with word of your success, and Miraak shall be most pleased.’
‘Solstheim?’ I thought to myself. It was an island north of Vvardenfell and east of Skyrim. All I knew about it was that the Nords had given it to the Dunmer when the Red Mountain erupted on Vvardenfell, forcing many Dunmer to flee their homeland almost two hundred years ago. I had no idea what any of it meant and decided to march onwards to Riften. I followed Treva River which flowed from Lake Geir to Lake Honrich, where Riften sat on its eastern shore. On the way there, I dispatched two Bears and skinned their hides for Temba. Unfortunately, one Bear was able to bite me before I took it down and I contracted Bone Break Fever, which drained my Stamina substantially. I needed to make sure that my first stop in Riften would be the Temple of Mara to pray for healing.

September 25, 2015

Missing Rachel - Entry II: The Descent into Madness
Missing Rachel
Entry II: The Descent into Madness
Location: The Tunnels
Date: Friday, June 19th, 2015

I pulled out the photo I had taken from the house; the couple looked distant, like they didn’t want to be in the same picture. I wondered where the wife was. I was suddenly aware of the throbbing in my leg; I was in terrible shape and needed to find a way out of here. I shined the flashlight around me, looking for an exit when I noticed footprints in the dirt. It looked like there were more than one set of tracks, this tunnel had seen a lot of traffic. There was an old map of town pinned to the wall. Landmarks were circled from the industrial area near the river, various houses, and even the water tower near the old rail station. There were newspaper clippings from the local paper as well. All were about murders in town that happened over the last few years. Wait… there were photos… photos of our house! What the hell was that about?! Maybe I should have investigated the house more before I left but it was too late now. When I descended down the ladder, a trap door closed above me, locking in place. Rachel… where are you… please be safe.

I wanted to bolt out of there and straight home but I needed to find more information, to see what else was down here. I came across a work table covered in papers and dirt, and… a handgun. I hated guns… but I tucked the small handgun into my pocket anyway. There was a murderer on the loose and I needed to protect myself. The handgun’s weight was somehow reassuring. There was another ladder and when I climbed down, I was hit with the smell of stale and putrid air. When my eyes finally adjusted to the darkness, I couldn’t believe what I saw. What is this place? There was an old desk caked with grime and on it, stacks of washed out paper. Scrawled on the paper were faded names written in blue ink, scratched out with illegible notes written beside them. I could only make out a few letters.
None of it made any sense so I continued investigating the tunnels. A few feet away was a pile of… bones. They were half-dug into the ground and the remains looked very old. There was faded clothing in the pile that was buried partially under dirt. A few shirts looked familiar; they looked like the clothes the woman in the photo was wearing. Was this where that man’s wife was buried? Did he do this to her? Did that man murder his own wife?! I shuddered and moved on, wanting to erase the pile of bones from my sight. Next I found a homemade rack, slung together with poorly cut wood and rope; it was covered in dried blood. Somebody didn’t actually use that… did they? There were rusted hooks hanging from the cave’s ceiling nearby. The hooks were pitted and worn from heavy use, they looked like the kind you would find in an old-fashioned butcher’s shop. That man upstairs… did he do this?

On the walls near the rack were crudely made shelves that were holding cans of some kind of corrosive. The labels were worn and slick, but I could still read the warnings. Across from the rack was what looked like a cage, it was small but there was something coating the bottom, something wet. I didn't want to look closely at the cage but I couldn't help but notice the red hue of the wetness and the metallic smell of drying blood. This place kept getting worse and worse as I explored it. There was another ladder that descended deeper in the underground tunnels. My leg protested with pain but I forced myself to climb down, constantly thinking of Rachel and home to will my legs to move. Beneath me, there were some old boxes that looked like they had been untouched for years. Upon closer inspection, I saw that they were filled with old clothes… wait, I recognize these! These boxes had old clothes that I remembered throwing out after Rachel and I moved to town. What the hell are they doing here?

I passed a broken ladder as I entered the next section of the tunnels. There was a rope hanging in the middle of the alcove, it had been tied into a noose. I wondered who the noose was for, maybe that man planned on using it on himself or maybe it was used to bound someone's hands. I shuddered at the thought of being tied down here in these tunnels. I pushed that from my mind and focused on finding a way out. I wasn’t sure how sturdy the rope was but I decided to use it to descend down the broken ladder. I quickly removed it from the ceiling and re-tied it to the ladder. With the flashlight placed firmly between my teeth, I slid down the rope and as I did, I could feel the rope burning into my hands. When I reached the bottom, I could hear a faint hum and the smell of rusted metal. There were a bunch of old newspapers, wheat-pasted together, with a hastily written message: ‘KEEP OUT; DANGER DUE TO CAVE-IN!’

August 28, 2015

Worth Fighting For - Entry VII: In Defiance
Entry VII: In Defiance
Location: Manhattan Movie Theater
Date: Friday, October 17th, 2003

We didn’t rest long before we were on the move again. Chris, myself, Miguel, Charlie, Steven, Tony, Daniil, and Nikolay refreshed our supplies and then headed to the Manhattan Movie Theater. It was there that the Soviets grounded their fleet of helicopters. That fleet created a protective hold around the power plant. Chris hoped that grounding the air patrols would allow us to reach the power plant and strike the fatal blow. Phil, successful with his previous mission, was holding a barricaded position in front of the movie theater. He would keep the SAF busy while Chris sneaked the team into the vacant field behind the theater where the Red air fleet was kept.

We crept through dark alleys towards the movie theater, silently killing the few patrolling soldiers. We were only a few blocks away from the theater when we heard the fighting between Phil’s team and the Reds. Chris motioned up towards a fire escape on a nearby building. With the intelligence we received from Mr. Jones, Chris knew that we could climb up to the roof and make our way by rooftop to the back of the theater. Most of the SAF guards were down on the ground, so we should have little resistance taking this route.

We ascended the rickety fire escape as quietly as we could. It led us to the top floor of the building but no farther because the upper portion of the ladder was destroyed. Chris and I propped open the window and ushered Tony and Nikolay inside. Without a sound, they neutralized two Reds while the rest of the team swept the floor for any other enemies. When we reached the rooftop, Chris pulled out his high powered sniper rifle, it was similar to the one he used when we attacked the Brooklyn Harbor and he had already proved then that he was deftly suited to the weapon. Chris took point and scouted our path ahead. We would have to use wood planks to bridge the gaps between buildings, but it was doable, as long as you weren’t afraid of heights.

It took a bit of weaving and winding around the rooftops to reach the movie theater but we eventually made it. Looking down from our position, we could see Phil and his team still battling with the Reds in front of the theater. Nikolay wanted to open fire but Chris had ordered us not to engage the enemy. We needed the element of surprise and firing now would just give away our position. We snaked around rooftop vents and debris until we could see the open field that housed the SAF air fleet. The guards were quite relaxed even though we all could hear the sounds of the battle raging in front of the movie theater. We scurried into position, making sure not to be seen or heard and then waited for the signal.

The loud boom of Chris’ sniper rifle ripped through the air and a Red standing next to a chopper fell to the ground, dead. We all joined in, aiming carefully so that we would hit our targets. Our barrage of gunfire couldn’t have lasted more than a few minutes. We easily eliminated the two dozen or so SAF soldiers in the now empty field. We climbed down the fire escape and I handed Chris a bag of C4. The rest of us stayed back, safe from the blast, and waited for Chris to plant the explosives and return to us. He led the team down an alley towards the side of the theater, then he pushed the detonator and sent the Soviet air fleet up in flames.

As we ran towards the front of the theater, we saw Phil and another soldier coming towards us. He informed Chris that the explosion caused the Reds to scamper back into the theater. Phil was going to lead his team and assault the front of the theater but recommended that we try and fight our way through the back. He introduced his companion as Katherine Cutter, or Kat for short, who was familiar with the layout of the theater and would be able to lead Chris to the upper levels so he could eliminate the officers who resided there. After quick introductions Kat led Chris and the rest of us to the back entrance of the theater while Phil rejoined his group for what we hoped was the final assault.

We sneaked in quietly and with Kat as our guide; we were able to make it to the upper levels of the theater without being noticed. Once there, we eliminated the remaining officers, reached the rooftop, and replaced their flag with ours. The Manhattan Movie Theater was now in the Resistance’s hands. Phil and his team made short work of the lingering Red soldiers while Chris and I searched for any intelligence that might be helpful. Isabella and her team made a surprise appearance and she conveyed her disappointment for being late to the party. She did have surveillance of the warehouse district and informed Chris that the SAF had added floodlights and electric fencing all around the perimeter. We now had no choice but to attack the power plant if we wanted any chance of rescuing the POWs.
Worth Fighting For
Location: Manhattan Power Plant
Date: Saturday, October 18th, 2003

With food, rest, and Isabella’s information; we were now prepared to attack the Manhattan Power Plant. Isabella had recommended that we focus on the transformer tower, destroying it would cut power to the warehouse district, allowing us to finally rescue the prisoners being held there. There were nine of us in total now, including Chris. Miguel had been one of the first to follow Chris, along with Billy who we lost in the last mission. Charlie was the first POW to lend aid to our cause with Steven and Tony following close behind. Daniil and Nikolay were SAF soldiers until they refused to slaughter innocents. They were to be executed but Chris rescued them in time and they have followed him since. Kat was the newest member who joined our team with Phil’s blessing. Though no one wanted to admit it, we needed a replacement for Billy and she had proven to be a capable fighter.

Our goal was to use the monorail tracks which ran above a portion of the power plant as our entry point. It was dark and the autumn air nipped at any skin that was exposed. We had to navigate down a side street and go under the monorail overpass before we could reach the maintenance ladder that would get us to the tracks. We encountered little resistance and quickly made our way to the tracks above us. Isabella and Phil were both leading their own teams on separate operations which occupied the majority of the Soviet forces in the area. After traversing along the tracks for some time, Chris split the team in two. He, myself, Tony, and Kat would locate the transformer tower while Miguel, Charlie, Steven, Daniil, and Nikolay blew up the power lines. Chris hoped that with both destroyed, it would be near impossible for the SAF to repair the damage. After a few quick orders from Chris we split up with Miguel leading his squad down a maintenance ladder and Chris leading us further down the tracks.

The monorail tracks ran parallel to the backside of the power plant, giving us an easy access point to our target, or so we thought. When we left the tracks and climbed down to ground level, we found that the entire plant was protected by an electric fence. Chris located the power source but the only way to diffuse the fence was to blow it up. There goes our element of surprise. We still had plenty of C4 left from our raid on the diner a few missions back and Chris wasn’t hesitant to use it. We scampered to cover while Chris blew up a hole in the fence, large enough to get us all through. An alarm began to sound but we realized that it was coming from the other side of the plant. Miguel and his squad must have attacked the main gate, which meant that we needed to move quickly.

It wasn’t hard to locate the transformer tower but we were surprised to see it so heavily guarded when the main gate of the power plant was being attacked. We all broke formation and found cover behind concrete pylons before returning fire. Kat yelled out that there was a civilian with the Reds. I peered down the sights of my gun and saw that she was right. A woman dressed in what looked like a power plant uniform was cowering near a large wall. I could see a tool bag nearby, with tools strewn across the ground. She must have been doing repairs to the transformer tower before we had arrived. Now the stakes had changed, we controlled our rate of fire and carefully chose our targets.

After we had eliminated the enemy and secured the area, Chris helped the woman to her feet and asked her to tell us what happened. She told us her name was Chelly Ouma and that she and her husband, Ryo, worked at the Manhattan Power Plant. The Reds captured them and had been using them to maintain the plant. She begged us to rescue her husband and the other prisoners who were being held in the Manhattan Warehouse District. Chris stated that their rescue was our next mission but before we could help them, we had to disable the transformer tower. She showed Chris where to plant the explosives to ensure that the tower would be destroyed. As we headed to a safe distance, Chelly grabbed a gun from a dead SAF soldier. We all gave her a skeptical look but she said she was quite familiar with the use of firearms and that there was no way we were going to stop her from joining us. There was no arguing with a woman with a gun so Chris detonated the explosives and we hurried to meet up with Miguel and the others.

We killed the remaining opposition as we ran through the power plant towards the main gate. There were only a handful of soldiers in the plant as most had left to either pursue Phil’s and Isabella’s teams or to fight off the assault from Miguel and company. His squad was already inside the plant and they were clearing the way for us to exit via the main gate. We kept moving and hurried towards safety. The alarms had been blaring the entire time and now the engines of Soviet transport trucks could be heard in the distance. We ran as fast as we could onto the main road and towards the monorail overpass. The Reds were gaining on us though and soon shots were being fired at our backs. Heavy reinforcements had arrived and now it seemed like the entire Soviet army was chasing us.

Miguel reached the maintenance ladder for the monorail tracks first and helped Nikolay and Daniil up. Charlie and Steven were next, followed by Chelly. I called out to Miguel and motioned to the tracks. He realized what I was trying to say and raced up the ladder. Once above us, he organized the others up on the tracks to lay down suppressing fire, buying the rest of us time to reach safety. But the Red reinforcements were too numerous and it was only a matter of time before we were overrun. As the others straggled in behind me, I helped Kat up the ladder. She hesitated a moment and told me she was afraid of heights, which I quickly responded that she should hate bullets more. I scampered up the ladder behind her and joined in the effort to suppress the Reds.

Chris and Tony were the last ones to the ladder. A Soviet bullet grazed Tony in the leg, staggering him for a moment. Chris stopped and was about to help when Tony quickly got to his feet and yelled at Chris to get to safety. Chris was reaching the ladder when I heard Charlie shout for them to hurry. I looked down the road just in time to see a Soviet tank pull to a stop. Its turret slowly began to aim at us. We had to fall back down the tracks or we would all be killed. I grabbed Chris’ arm and hoisted him up. Chris turned around quickly and reached his hand down to Tony but no one was on the ladder. Tony looked at us and gave a small shrug; it was too late for him. With the injury to his leg he would never be able to climb the ladder in time. He gave a salute to Chris before he turned and began walking towards the Reds. Chris pulled me and we began to run but I looked back for a moment to see Tony firing at fifty SAF soldiers. Tony Ramos, the lone freedom fighter standing in defiance and making the ultimate sacrifice. Suddenly, there was an earsplitting din and a burst of heat as I felt molten air and debris fly by me… then there was only darkness.

July 24, 2015

The Thief in the Snow - Entry XIV: The Throat of the World
The Thief in the Snow
Entry XIV: The Throat of the World
Location: Whiterun Plains, Whiterun Hold
Date: Morndas, 25th of Last Seed, 4E 201

The sky was clear and the sun shone brightly when I left Whiterun and headed east to answer my summons to High Hrothgar. My destination was Ivarstead in the Rift, which was a village that sat at the base of the Seven Thousand Steps. I traveled upon the main stone road which was the same one I had used when I came from Riverwood. As I walked along the wide road, I came across a sickly man. His skin appeared to be rotting with dark encrustations all over his body and his eyes were sullen. I stopped him and asked if there was anything I could do but he only reproached me for ‘ogling the grotesque.’ I told him that I was merely concerned and meant no offense. When he realized that my empathy was genuine, he explained his situation. He informed me that he was one of the Afflicted and suffered from a plague. He would have been dead from the plague a year ago if not for the protection from Peryite, the Daedric Prince of Pestilence. He continued that he was leaving Skyrim for fear that Peryite would remove his favor. When I inquired why Peryite would do such a thing, he told me that the Afflicted Shepherd had lost his way and Peryite was bound to punishment him. I was about to question him more when he waved his hands and cut me off. As he sprinted down the road, he told me to seek Kesh if I wanted to know more but he was leaving Skyrim as quickly as possible.

I continued my journey down the road when I came across signs of a bandit attack nearby. I had heard from the guards in Whiterun that bandits had set up a camp nearby and were ambushing travelers heading to and from Whiterun. I followed the trail up the hill, near the side of the road, and discovered White River Watch. There, I spied three Bandits looking over their stolen wares. I stealthily crept closer to the Bandits until I was inside their camp. Quickly, I drew my daggers and attacked. Their cries of surprise were all the action they could take, as I cut them down in one fluid motion.

On the road once more, I came across another Standing Stone lying on top of a hill, where a Necromancer was trying to re-animate a Skeleton. My stumbling in on the act startled the Necromancer into hostility. He cast a few spells as his newly formed Skeleton companion attacked me with a Steel Warhammer. I could not block the weapon with my daggers so I evaded the blow and prepared to counter. The combination of being attacked by spells and the Skeleton was overwhelming. I failed to dodge a heavy blow from the warhammer and it resulted in the bones of my right leg being crushed. Crippled now, I drew the Imperial Bow that Hadvar had gifted me and fired an arrow at the Skeleton. Its impact shattered the bones into pieces and I could hear a pained cry rise out of the Necromancer. He was attacking me from behind the Standing Stone, peeking out to cast a spell before ducking behind the Stone once more. The wound on my leg made it impossible for me to avoid the cracks of lightning he shot at me and the jolting current made it difficult to steady my bow. I inhaled deeply and waited for the right moment, my timing could not be off.

The Necromancer lept out from behind his cover and without hesitating for a moment I yelled, “Fus!”

The powerful Shout barreled into the Necromancer, knocking him squarely in the chest. The force was so unrelenting that it thrust him over the hillside and into the White River below. The fall was so great that nothing could have survived, and by some miracle the Necromancer did survive his fall, the violent water of the White River would have surely drowned him. I quickly healed my wound with both paws and when I was feeling able, I placed the bow on my back and walked eastward towards Ivarstead.

I was still in Whiterun Hold when I came across Valtheim Towers. One tower was firmly planted on my side of the White River and another tower sat upon the north bank of the river. An expansive bridge stretched out over the cascading waters, connecting the two towers. This was the very place Avenicci had told me about where bandits had taken hold. I could only guess that the Bandits I had slain earlier were a part of this larger group. I remembered my promise to Avenicci and sneaked towards the Towers to dispatch of the Bandit Chief that led these vile people.

Unfortunately, it was broad daylight and there was little shrubbery for me to hide behind. A Bandit high on the bridge saw me slinking along the road and sounded an alarm. Soon there were Bandits pouring out of the towers. Three rushed down the stairs and stampeded towards me while another three Bandits stood on the bridge, pelting me with arrows. I sprinted towards the south tower, intending to use it as a shield from the Archers. I drew my bow quickly and fired two arrows, one into each knee of a charging Bandit. He fell to the road in agony, I left him there crippled for I was still trying to avoid the Archers high above me.

I raced forward towards the other two Bandits. I was finally in the shadow of the tower, safe from the Archers rain of metal. A Bandit was now in front of me, she took a sweeping blow with her war axe but I dove under it before she could plant it in my gut. I had no time to attack her for as soon as I evaded her attack, the third Bandit swung his weapon at me. I held up my bow in defense, I had no time to determine what kind of weapon he held and hoped that it was no warhammer. His sword glanced off my bow and I regained my footing before deflecting another sword. ‘Two!’ I screamed in my head. I knew I had to finish this dual-wielding Bandit quickly for there was still a Bandit behind me and the Archers above. He cried out, the screech pulling me out of my thoughts, as he charged straight for me. I half-drew my bow, I knew I did not have the room nor the time to draw it back fully, and let loose an arrow into the Bandit’s foot. This time, his cry was not one of the heat of battle but one of pain. As he stumbled forward, I took an arrow in my paw and thrust it into his chest, using the Bandit’s own falling momentum against him. For safety's sake I fired another arrow into his back he fell to the ground.

The last standing Bandit thundered towards me, war axe held high above her head. I slid backwards, landing on my back and fired a single shot straight up, it met her chin and did not stop until it hit the top of her skull. She collapsed in a heap on top of me and I struggled to push her aside. I stood up as I heard the Bandits above screaming for news from their comrades. Little did they know, their comrades were all dead… then I heard it, the sound of anguish from the first Bandit I had encountered. He was still alive, writhing in pain on the road. I steadied my bow and placed an arrow into his neck, ending his agony.

There were still at least three more Bandits on the bridge. I darted into the tower and up the wooden stairs, there was no reason for stealth here, they knew I was coming when they realized their comrades were dead. When I reached the bridge, there were indeed three Bandits there. Because the pathway was so narrow, the three could not fire at once. I took cover in the doorway of the tower, peeking out between the barrage of arrows. I heard a Bandit cry out as I saw him lose his footing and tumble over the edge of the bridge into the gushing river below. Only two bandits remained, I collected myself and then walked onto the bridge. My stride was in tune with my shots, every footfall saw another arrow take flight, and I did not stop until both Bandits were lying dead on the bridge.

I sighed in relief when I saw the last Bandit crumple on the bridge. I was about to turn back and descend to the road when I felt a gush of wind against my face as an arrow whizzed past my cheek. In shock, I almost staggered right off of the bridge but regained my balance before I tumbled over the edge. I scanned the other side of the bridge and saw a lone Bandit standing on the opposite cliff. With all the energy I could muster in my legs, I bounded across the bridge towards the northern tower. I could only hope that my luck would hold out and no arrow would find itself in my flesh for there was no room to dodge on the bridge. Into the tower I raced and practically slid down the stairs until I reached the outside, bow tense and ready to attack. When I reached the cliff where I had seen the Bandit, he was no longer there. I whirled around, my keen eyes searching for any glint of metal that would reveal his position to me. ‘There!’ I saw a flash in the sunlight behind the trees and fired two arrows without any hesitation. The Bandit cursed me before he slumped down, dead.

I neared the corpse and discovered a note on his body that revealed his true identity, he was the Bandit Chief that had organize the attacks on travelers. I took it and what ever items I could carry with the plan of selling them when I could and saving the letter for Avenicci. As I crossed the bridge and returned to the main road, I examined my Imperial Bow to see what kind of damage it had taken. Amazingly, blocking the Bandit’s sword had barely scratched it. I chuckled to myself, ‘I really must thank Hadvar now.’ I continued east, following the White River, hoping that the rest of my journey would be uneventful.

I followed the White River until it met the Darkwater River, there I changed course and followed this new river south to Lake Geir which was located just outside of Ivarstead. The sun was setting as I trekked along the Darkwater River and came across five Imperial Soldiers escorting a Stormcloak Prisoner. I was about to stop and let them pass when a Troll attacked from the riverbank. ‘Trolls.’ I moaned as I drew my bow. They were foul, nasty creatures. Having three beady eyes instead of two, they were monstrous in size and strength. They were hairy, had sharp claws and fangs, and attacked anything that disturbed them. They also could regenerate their health so killing one was especially difficult.

The Stormcloak Prisoner tried to run but the Troll used its great arms to smash the Prisoner into the ground. The Imperial Soldiers attacked the Troll and I also joined in the action. Carefully placing my shots as to not hit the Soldiers, our combined effort eliminated the beast but not before it killed a Soldier. With the Prisoner dead, the remaining Soldiers thanked me for my assistance and then journeyed west, I assumed back to Whiterun.

I took to the riverbank and continued south along the shores, the gushing water murmuring quietly as the sun began to set. It was not as wide as the White River and the flowing water was not as violent. I easily navigated along the shoreline, unearthing what I believed to be the Troll’s den underneath a rock formation. Inside I found a dead Hunter and multiple human-like skeletons. The sight made me shutter and I hurried along the riverbank towards Lake Geir.
Location: Ivarstead, The Rift
Date: Tirdas, 26th of Last Seed, 4E 201

It was twilight when I entered the Rift, the first hold that was squarely aligned with the Stormcloaks. I wondered how I would fair here, I could not use my title of thane to unlock city gates now and being a Khajiit would hinder me even further. Nords hated outsiders and while I had grown on the citizens of Whiterun, the city was diverse in its inhabitants. Here, strong Nord convictions held fast. For some unknown reason, my mind jumped back to Fralia Gray-Mane. I was surprised that she had confided in me and asked for my assistance giving that she was a Stormcloak supporter. Maybe a few in the Rift would treat me the same way. I could only hope as I entered the sleepy village of Ivarstead.

As I walked down the dirt street, I tried to glance up at the Throat of the World but could not see it for it was still too dark. Masser and Secunda were hidden behind the clouds and the air was quiet. I saw Vilemyr Inn was open and entered, hoping to find a bed for the night. I was greeted by Lynly Star-Sung, who quizzed if I was a pilgrim to High Hrothgar. I nodded and she sang a song just for me. Afterwards, I tipped her and spoke with Wilhelm, the barkeep. He gave me a Bounty Letter from the Jarl of the Rift, stating that there was a reward for anyone who could slay the Dragon at Autumnwatch. He also told me about the nearby Nordic Tomb, Shroud Hearth Barrow, and how it was haunted. I thanked him for the information, paid for a bed, and had a restless night in anticipation of what was to come.

I only slept for a few hours, just enough that when I awoke the sun had begun to rise. I decided to walk around Ivarstead before ascending the Seven Thousand Steps to High Hrothgar. When I exited the inn, I glanced up and my mouth fell open from the sight that was before me. The Throat of the World was like nothing I had ever seen. It was the highest mountain in all of Tamriel and an awe-inspiring sight. The snow at the peak of the mountain was rumored to never melt and there were many tales of events centered on this place. The Nords believed that Men were born on the mountain when the sky breathed onto the land. There was also legend that a great battle took place between the ancient Nord heroes of old and Alduin, the World Eater and Nordic god of Destruction. Their victory over Alduin led to the end of the Dragon War and Alduin being lost in time. Tiber Septim, the man who would become Talos of the Nine Divines, was summoned to High Hrothgar. According to the tale, when he arrived the Greybeards spoke his name and the world shook. They then prophesied that he would be the chosen one who would defeat the Second Aldmeri Dominion, uniting all of Tamriel under one empire.

I could not fathom that I, a lowly Khajiit, had been summoned by the Greybeards just like Tiber Septim had been. To think I was going to stand in the same place that this great man turned Divine once stood was overwhelming. The Septim line of Emperors had ruled over Tamriel for all of the Third Era. From Tiber Septim uniting Tamriel to Martin Septim who sacrificed himself to save Tamriel during the Oblivion Crisis. I could scarcely imagine why the Greybeards would summon me when I paled so much in comparison.

Still, I had come all this way, I might as well see what the old hermits wanted with me. As I walked around Ivarstead, I met Temba Wide-Arm, who was operating the local mill. A log had fallen from the saw and I scurried over to help her before any serious damage could be done. She thanked me and asked if I would mind doing her another favor. I nodded and she continued to tell me that the bears had been tearing up the trees nearby, making the trees impossible to sell. She told me she would pay me if I brought her ten Bear Pelts and I agreed to hunt them down for her.

I walked further along the road until I came to a stop at the small bridge that marked the beginning of the Seven Thousand Steps to High Hrothgar. A Nord saw me and bounded over, waving to get my attention. He introduced himself as Klimmek and asked if I was on my way up the mountain. I answered him and told him that was indeed my intent. He asked me to deliver some goods to High Hrothgar, he usually did it, but was unable to this time. I told him I would be glad to and asked him if he traveled the Seven Thousand Steps often. I was amazed to hear that he went nearly once a week up to High Hrothgar to bring food and other items to the Greybeards. I told him it was my first time up the mountain and asked if he had any advice. Klimmek smiled and told me not to worry. All I had to do was watch my footing, be on the lookout for Ice Wolves and the occasional Frost Troll. My guttural moan surprised him and I explained how I had already faced one Troll on my journey to Ivarstead. He wished me safe travels and told me that he would buy me a drink at Vilemyr Inn upon my return. I thanked him and started across the small wooden bridge. I paused for a moment, staring up at the Throat of the World, still in awe of what had brought me here and in dread of what was to come.

June 26, 2015

Missing Rachel - Entry I: Waking Into the Nightmare
Missing Rachel
Entry I: Waking Into the Nightmare
Location: The House
Date: Friday, June 19th, 2015

Ughh… I let out a long groan. My head, oh my head, it feels like someone tried to bash it in. And why is it so dark? I groped around in the darkness trying to get my bearings when I felt something by my feet. My hands slipped over a metal tube and depressed a button. A beam of light illuminated from one end of the metal cylinder. I moved the flashlight back and forth, sweeping the area with light, trying to find out where I was. I didn’t recognize the house I found myself in. As my eyes scanned the room for clues, I saw a crumpled mass lying in the corner of the room. I kept staring and staring until I realized what it was… a person… covered in blood. I scrambled to my feet, revolted by the sight of the dead body and almost dropped the flashlight. That was when I saw that my hands were covered in blood. Was it my blood or his?

I needed to get out of the room, out of this house, and figure out what the hell was going on. As I reached the door, I came across a desk tucked into the corner opposite of the body. I wanted to leave but I also had to find out what was going on and who that man is… was. I didn’t want to snoop but I opened the desk drawers anyway, finding pens and receipts. Then, in the back I found a blurry photo that showed a store of some kind. I don’t know why but it looked so familiar. I scurried out of the room and into the hall. I was hit with the smell of fresh blood and it was sickening. I shined the flashlight down the hallway and saw the red liquid smeared across the right side wall. There was a trail of blood leading into the room I had just left and as I followed the trail with my eyes, I glanced down at myself, my boots and pants were stained with blood. Oh man, I had to get out of there.

I didn’t notice until I was running down the stairs that I was limping. How I hurt my leg, I didn’t know, but the searing pain told me that it was a new injury. What the hell was going on?! The last thing I could recall was coming home and seeing Rachel. I was angry, she looked afraid. A sharp pain flashed across my eyes, argh my head. I shook it to try and clear the pain away but to no avail. I didn’t know what was going on but I knew I had to find a way out of here. Downstairs looked just like the upstairs, average sans the blood and dead body. I heard a strange scratching sound and tried to locate the source. What I found was a thin, grey mouse who was struck in a trap. It looked frantic but exhausted, just like how I felt. I carefully freed the mouse and it scampered away. Why was I wasting energy on a mouse? Maybe I thought he was like me and could use a little help right about now.

I headed down another hall and came across a collection of rusty tools. Shovels, pickaxes, all of them looked like they had seen a lot of use and were caked in damp-smelling dirt. Why weren’t these in a shed? I moved farther down the hall and found a picture of a couple hanging crookedly on the wall. I went to grab it so I could take a closer look but I knocked the frame off the wall and it crashed to the floor. The sound startled me and I whipped around to see if the din had caused anything to stir in the house. When I realized I was alone, I looked back at the wall where the picture had hung and saw what could only be described as a button. Strange, why would someone have something like this hidden behind a picture? I couldn’t resist the temptation and slowly pushed the button. At first, I didn’t think anything had happened until I heard a faraway metal click.

I limped down the hallway towards where I thought the sound had originated. I passed a bookcase filled with books on hunting and local history, it seemed like the owner of the house really knew the area. I entered the dining room and saw an old table covered in dirty dishes for two. Two? There was only one body. Dozens of beer cans and other liquor bottles were intermingled amongst the dishes and lying on the floor. The smell of rotting food was turning my stomach and I quickly moved away from the dining room table. There was a black-and-white photo of a man and woman set on a serving cart. It looked like the man upstairs and his wife, maybe? If she was his wife, where is she now? There was no reason for me to keep the photo but I took it anyway, folding it neatly and placing it into my pocket. I hoped the photo might help me find some answers.

I went into the bathroom and got the first real glimpse of my current state. I looked like hell, my clothes were dirty and torn, my boots were covered in mud and blood, and there was a trail of blood running from the back of my head down my shirt. After I absorbed the shock of my appearance, I noticed how spotless the bathroom was. I wondered if the man’s wife was the one that did the cleaning or was it him. There was a photo developing tray lying on the floor near the bathtub. There were leftover negatives sticking out but they were pretty blurry. I saw what looked like treetops in one photo. I exited the bathroom and headed towards the front door. I thought I had finally reached freedom from the nightmare house but only found it blocked by a wall of stacked furniture. In my current state, there was no way I could move the blockage myself so I turned around and tried to pry open a window. They had all been sealed shut by nails, both from the inside and outside. With no other option, I walked towards the kitchen.

There I found sheets of paper strewn across the small kitchen table. It looked like there were a series of names written down in blue ink but the paper was too smudged to read. The only thing I could make out was a few scattered notes.
--keycard-- --ocker--
--last one-- I promise--
It didn’t make much sense to me at the time. I spotted a door that led to the downstairs basement. It was damp and smelled like mildew. I spied a box lying in the middle of the room, it looked heavy but there were marks on the floor, like it had been moved before. I heaved the box forward, and it finally gave way. Underneath where the box used to sit, was a ladder that led to an underground chamber. The dank smell that rose from the passage was even worse now. I didn’t want to climb down the ladder into the unknown darkness but I couldn’t stay in this house any longer either. I had no choice, the front door was barricaded shut and I was unable to pry any of the windows open. If I wanted to escape and figure out what had happened to me, I’d have to go down that ladder. More importantly, it was the only chance I had of seeing Rachel again. I took a deep breath and began to descend into the darkness.

May 22, 2015

Worth Fighting For - Entry VI: Bent but not Broken
Worth Fighting For
Entry VI: Bent but not Broken
Location: Manhattan Rebel Base
Date: Wednesday, October 15th, 2003

It had been weeks since the Resistance freed Brooklyn from the clutches of the Soviet Armed Forces and we now found ourselves back where it all began, Manhattan. Troy Stone, Chris’ brother, and his trusted fighters were still in Brooklyn, making sure that the Reds didn’t retake the ground we fought so hard to free. The short respite we received once we all arrived back in Manhattan had allowed us to recover both physically and mentally. Charlie Raider's injuries she sustained at the Brooklyn Harbor had fully healed and she was back with the team. She was practically chomping at the bit to get back into action. Daniil Goldobin and Nikolay Tarasov, the two ex-Russian soldiers Chris had saved from execution by the hands of the SAF, were now fully accepted amongst the other resistance fighters. Phil Bagzton used our break from action to train Tony Ramos, who had few fighting skills but a will to help, so that he would be prepared the next time the team was deployed. Billy Hurst, Miguel Bishop, and Steven Ryan also spent the downtime honing their skills, especially with explosives.

The respite also allowed us to grieve the loss of Manny Perez who died so our mission in Brooklyn could succeed. He was one of the POWs that Phil rescued when Chris and I were trying to escape the Reds at the Brooklyn Harbor. Charlie, Tony, and Steven took Manny’s loss especially hard since they were also prisoners of the SAF along with him. But some of us didn’t have time to grieve too long. Chris and Isabella were already hard at work devising a plan to take control of key areas in Manhattan. Questions and doubts were also creeping up in our leadership. I first noticed it a few days ago at one of our briefings. Chris, Isabella, and Phil were all examining intelligence reports I brought in from our advisor, Mr. Jones. Phil was the first to voice concern, stating that Mr. Jones intelligence always seemed too good to be true. He was effective but maybe he was too affective. Chris asked Isabella if she knew what Mr. Jones had done before we were invaded by Russia. She could only answer that she met Mr. Jones right before the attacks when he sought Warning Against Reds! out and shared vital information with her.

We didn’t have time to discuss the topic further because the intelligence that Mr. Jones had provided was time sensitive. We were making an impact in Manhattan but the Reds had increased their presence on the island and it was time for us to strike back. There were three locations that we needed to focus our efforts on. The main objective was the power plant but it was heavily guarded by both ground troops and a fleet of helicopters. There was a warehouse district near the power plant that served as a prisoner of war camp. There was also a forward operations base here, where troop movement was coordinated from. Lastly, the Reds’ choppers were grounded near a movie theater for refueling and maintenance. Chris didn’t hesitate a moment when he declared that we must move on the warehouse district first. The POWs should be our top priority and we would be able to cripple enemy troop movement if we took out the forward operations base as well. While we needed the time off from action, we were all prepared to follow Chris into battle once more.
Location: Manhattan Warehouse District
Date: Thursday, October 16th, 2003

We arrived at the warehouse district just as night fell. There was no moon out and we would use the darkness to our advantage. Chris’ entire team was with him for this mission. Myself, Billy, Miguel, Charlie, Steven, Tony, Daniil, and Nikolay were all poised to accomplish our mission. Phil was leading his own group on a parallel mission a few boroughs over. Chris’ plan was simple; he wanted to blow up the two bridges that the Reds used to transport all their large artillery. We had already succeeded in blowing up the Brooklyn Bridge, so these smaller structures wouldn’t be an obstacle. But the attack on the bridges was to be a diversion. While I led a squad consisting of Charlie, and Steven to one location, Miguel would be leading Tony and Daniil to the other bridge. Chris would be taking Billy and Nikolay into the warehouse district to try and locate where the prisoners were being held.

The three of us headed east towards the first bridge and met little resistance. Only a few soldiers were out on patrol and Charlie stealthily took them out. We quickly reached our destination and planted the C4 on the bridge. After we reached a safe distance, we detonated the explosives and waited to hear the echo of another explosion in the distance. It was only moments later when we heard the successful boom from Miguel's squad. Everything was going according to plan and we pushed forward to our rendezvous point with Chris. But everything wasn’t going according to plan. As we approached the outside perimeter of the warehouse district, we could hear the sporadic din of gunfire. I alertly scanned the area to try and locate the source of the sound when I spotted Miguel and his squad. He gave me a concerned look when we both realized that it wasn’t either of our teams that were under attack but it must be Chris’ squad.

We hurriedly called out a strategic plan. I ordered Charlie and Steven to hang back, making sure that the rest of us weren’t flanked. I joined Miguel as he sent Tony and Daniil down a left alley. We moved cautiously forward, inching closer to the sounds of battle, until we finally saw the backs of Soviet soldiers. We opened fire, aiming carefully as to not hit Chris and the others who were just beyond the wall of Reds. They went down quickly and Miguel and I rushed to Chris while Tony and Daniil covered our position. Chris was hunched down on the ground and covered in blood. My heart skipped a beat as I thought he was wounded but when I approached him,

I saw the blood was from another source. He was checking the pulse of Billy, who was lying on the ground, but Chris only shook his head. I checked on Nikolay who was sitting on the ground with his back against one of the warehouse buildings. He too was covered in blood but he waved his hand at me and motioned that he was fine. I helped him to his feet while Miguel and Chris picked up Billy’s body.

We had to hurry back to the rendezvous point where Charlie and Steven were waiting for us. We weren’t safe here and it would only be moments before Red reinforcements arrived at our position. We weaved our way through the alleyways meeting no resistance until we reached the perimeter. I held up my gun in the air so that Charlie and Steven knew we were friendlies. They rushed to help Chris and Miguel with Billy’s body. Once they realized that their friend was dead, Steven hung his head and Charlie uttered a sound that could only be described as a growl of disgust. Everyone took a moment to process the loss of Billy before regrouping into the sewers.

I was in the middle of asking Steven and Nikolay to take Billy’s body back to the base when I saw out of the corner of my eye, Chris grabbing his gun and marching back towards the warehouse district. I motioned for them to take care of Billy before I ran towards Chris and grabbed his arm. I demanded to know what he was thinking; we had lost one of our fighters and had lost the element of surprise. Billy’s death had hit Chris hard, after all, Billy and Miguel were the first resistance fighters to follow Chris. He shook off my grip and told me that we had enough soldiers to take over the district. I watched as Chris charged forward, hesitating for a moment until Miguel gave me a nudge on the back. I looked at him and he simply told me that this was for Billy. I nodded back and waved to the others to join us. Chris was our leader and we would follow him no matter what.

The six of us reentered the warehouse district not under the guise of stealth but in open defiance. The Reds had already swarmed the area and were surprised to see that we were attacking them again. Gunfire broke out amongst the buildings and we all scatter to find cover. The fight was frantic and the Reds were moving to flank our position. I scurried across the alleyway that was separating me from Chris; I had to convince him this was madness. I had to scream at the top of my lungs so that he heard me over the whizzing of bullets but I made sure he heard me. I demanded that he think this through, I knew Billy meant a lot but we were in over our heads and needed to retreat before we all died. I told him that we had our people to look after, that the POWs were still relying on us to save them and that we wouldn’t be able to if we were all dead.

Something I said broke through and Chris came to his senses. He ordered us to retreat back into the sewers so we could regroup. The team drew back intermittently; making sure that no one was left behind or cut off by the enemy. We eventually reached the outer perimeter just as Steven and Nikolay returned from escorting Billy’s body back to the base. They provided cover for us while we all escaped into the sewers. This was the first true defeat we had suffered as a team since the invasion started. The team was clearly rattled but after collecting his thoughts, Chris admitted that he led us into battle out of anger over Billy’s death. He vowed that we would return to the warehouse district to free the prisoners the Soviets were holding and that we would persevere against our enemy.

April 24, 2015

The Thief in the Snow - Entry XIII: By the Divines
The Thief in the Snow
Entry XIII: By the Divines
Location: Whiterun, Whiterun Hold
Date: Sundas, 24th of Last Seed, 4E 201

My return to Whiterun had been uneventful with nothing significant to report. I was unhindered by weather, as it was clear most of the way south. I followed the main road from Solitude to Rorikstead before turning east and crossing the Whiterun Plains. When I arrived at the city gates, it was already dark and I sprinted directly to the Bannered Mare. Before I was able to reach my destination, a Courier ambled towards me with a letter in his hand. I took it and thanked him before I read the letter. I was surprised to see it was from Jarl Siddgeir of Falkreath. He had heard of my exploits in Whiterun, slaying the Dragon and all, and extended an invitation to come to Falkreath Hold whenever I had the opportunity. Falkreath was the hold just south of Whiterun and I actually had been there once before, when I was in Helgen. I had to meet the Greybeards first but I made a mental note to visit the Jarl soon. For now, it was to the Bannered Mare for information and hopefully to meet a friend.

The inn was bustling as usual with citizens from every district in Whiterun. Hulda was behind the bar and greeted me, telling me to pull up a seat by the fire. I told her that I had actually come to speak to her. She pointed at a free barstool and I sat down, as I did I asked her about the strange tree I had seen at Sleeping Tree Camp. She nodded that she knew of the place but had no idea what the tree was. She did mention the Gildergreen, the giant tree that stood in the Wind District and was the center of Whiterun. The tree was sacred to worshipers of Kynareth and many used to make a pilgrimage to Whiterun. Hulda informed me that the tree had been sickly for some time and that I should speak to Priestess Danica Pure-Spring at the Temple of Kynareth if I needed to know more. I thanked her and left my seat at the bar.

As I was getting up, an older Nord waved me over to his table. He was richly dressed and had an air of sophistication around him. He introduced himself as Olfrid Battle-Born, the patron of the Battle-Born Clan. He invited me to join him and as I did, he thanked him for helping his grandson. I thought to myself a moment, ‘Yes, Lars was having problems with a bully.’ I told him I was happy to help but he still bought me a drink in gratitude. I inquired about his family and the feud between them and the Gray-Mane Clan. He scoffed at this, saying that they were jealous of his family’s success, due to the large farm just outside of Whiterun that had made the Battle-Borns quite wealthy. I asked him why he and his family did not just settle things but he remarked that while he disliked the Gray-Manes, they were still one of the most respectable families in all of Skyrim. We talked for a spell about the Civil War and the Great War before it. He was truly loyal to the Empire and spoke highly of Emperor Mede II. After some time, he excused himself and thanked me again for my company and for aiding his grandson.

I was about to leave when I spotted Ysolda entering through the door. ‘She is here!’ I exclaimed in my head, I had hoped I would see her here so I could give her the Mammoth Tusk I had procured on my journey. She saw me and waved me over to her table.

I greeted her with a wide grin on my face, “This one will never believe what Dar’Raza has found.”

I held out the Mammoth Tusk for her to see. It was so large I had a hard time holding it up.

“Thank you!” Ysolda exclaimed as she motioned for me to set the Tusk on the table. She gave me an overjoyed smile, “This should turn that old cat’s gaze. Maybe I will be able to become a caravaneer myself, one day.”

“Dar’Raza met Ma’dran outside of Solitude.” I stated, still pleased that I was able to help her. “Ma’dran will be very impressed to see this Mammoth Tusk when this one presents it to Ma’dran.”

Ysolda shook my paw, delighted that would soon be able to work with the Khajiit Caravans, “I hope he does, I cannot wait to learn from him.” With amazement in her voice, she asked, “How did you ever find one?”

My lips curled into a grin yet again, revealing my large white fangs, “Dar’Raza stumbled upon a lone Mammoth in the Whiterun Plains. It took many arrows but Dar’Raza was able to kill the beast and harvest the Tusk for Ysolda.”

She clasped her hands together exuberantly “Amazing Dar’Raza! You must be the best hunter in Whiterun, maybe even in all of Skyrim. Even Elrindir and Anoriath at the Drunken Huntsman have been unable to kill a Mammoth.” Ysolda paused to pull out a piece of parchment before she continued, “As promised, let me show you a thing or two about bargaining. Do not want some shifty merchant giving you a raw trade.”

“Many thanks, friend.” I replied as I looked at the paper.

After almost an hour of talking about bartering techniques, I bid Ysolda farewell and returned home for the night. Lydia was pleased to see me; I believe she doubted my surviving the journey to Solitude. I related the tales of my travels from the Mammoth to meeting Hadvar and everything in between. I informed her that I would be leaving early in the morning for High Hrothgar and that she was tasked with keeping an eye on Breezehome while I was gone. She told me I had nothing to worry about and that I should focus on my own safety. We both laughed and I bid her a good night. I, myself, was amazed at what I had been through already. I could not imagine what the next week would bring.
Location: Whiterun, Whiterun Hold
Date: Morndas, 25th of Last Seed, 4E 201

The next morning I awoke very early for I had to make preparations before leaving for High Hrothgar. I planned to visit Dragonsreach to see Avenicci about adding more furniture to my house. The rickety bed was not comfortable and I was tired of the place looking like it was owned by a pauper. I had earned quite a hefty amount of Septims from all the goods I had collected and still had more to sell. I stopped at Belethor’s General Goods to sell the rest of the goods I had on me, it was the first time I had been in that shop. I had met Belethor’s assistant, Sigurd, before when he was chopping firewood for Adrianne at Warmaiden’s. I had also heard some interesting remarks about Belethor from the guards; I think one even called him a ‘sleazy little man.’ Nevertheless, I entered his store and sold my goods. He kept making remarks about how much he loved gold, so much that he would sell his sister if he had one. I kept my mouth shut but the Breton was starting to grate on my nerves. I finished selling my last item just in time as he started in on asking me if I had any relatives I would like to sell. I bid him a good morning and left as quickly as I could.

I sauntered up the steps to the Wind District and then to Dragonsreach. I knew Avenicci would already be hard at work, he was not the most likable person but he was a hard working one. I was able to find him in between duties and ordered bedroom furnishings that my back thanked me for. I also had enough to buy dining room and loft decorations, living room furnishings, and even an alchemy laboratory so I did not have to use Farengar’s or Arcadia’s anymore. I shook Avenicci’s hand with enthusiasm, much to his surprise, Breezehome was now fully furnished and I felt ecstatic that I had a home I could be proud of. Before I left, Avenicci asked me for a favor, apparently the guards had been having problems with bandits in the area, near Valtheim Towers. He insisted that if the Bandit Leader was slain, the others would abandon the area and leave. The Whiterun guards were already overwhelmed with protecting Whiterun and its charges, that they were spread too thin to deal with the situation. I told him to calm down and to worry not for I would eliminate the bandits for him. As I started to leave, he thanked me and told me he was happy I was here.

I turned around and replied jokingly, “It is what thanes are for.”

I stopped by to see how Farengar was doing before leaving Dragonsreach. He told me how he was able to go out to the Western Watchtower and examine the Dragon skeleton; he regretted that he could not see it while it was still alive, but that the trip had proved fortuitous. While he spoke, I was browsing his library for he had many books on Skyrim’s history. He noticed this and asked me if I could read. I scoffed at him and he apologized. I informed him that I loved to read and that I enjoyed collecting books from all over Tamriel. He offered the use of his library to me, telling me I could borrow however many I would like to. I could not believe his generosity, Farengar was always somewhat aloof to the situation that I was taken aback by the offer. I thanked him but he only nodded at me as he returned to his work. I took this opportunity and skimmed through the many books he owned.

One titled ‘Lost Legends of Skyrim’ mentioned a forbidden legend about an Archmage named Gauldur who was reportedly murdered by his three sons. His sons had stolen their father’s amulet and divided it amongst themselves before they were hunted down by High King Harald’s men. The book mentioned that one of the son’s was rumored to have perished in Folgunthur, the Foot of Solitude. I wondered if this was the Nordic Tomb I had discovered in the Hjaalmarch Marshes, the one with the campsite near it. I made a note that when I returned to the area that I would investigate the ruins to see if I could unearth any information on Gauldur’s Amulet. I thumbed through a few more books; one mentioned the Reachmen hero Red Eagle and his great sword. Another spoke of the legend that was Alduin the Dragon. I wished to read more but for now, I had to make my way to High Hrothgar. Before leaving Dragonsreach, I stopped at the Jarl’s map of Skyrim which had flags indicating the locations of known Stormcloak and Imperial camps. He was missing the Haafingar Stormcloak Camp and I called Avenicci over to the table. I pointed out its location and told him I had just seen it days ago and that the Imperial Legion in Solitude was well aware of its presence. He thanked me for the information and I departed the palace.

In the Wind District, I saw a priestess near the Gildergreen. I approached her and introduced myself and she told me her name was Danica. I told her the information Hulda had related to me and she nodded with a heavy sigh that everything Hulda had said was true. The Gildergreen was sick and may even be dying. I asked her if she knew why and she replied that the Gildergreen was actually grafted from another ancient tree, the Eldergleam. This tree was said to be the oldest tree in all of Tamriel and that it was blessed by the goddess Kynareth. Danica thought that if someone was able to retrieve the sap of the Eldergleam, that it may be used to restore the Gildergreen in Whiterun. I told her that I would gladly collect this sap but she informed me that it was no simple task. Because the Eldergleam was so ancient, predating metal itself, only one weapon could possibly cut its bark. Nettlebane, as the weapon was called, was stolen by a Hagraven and was protected by it and its coven at Orphan Rock. I paused for a moment, I had never come across a Hagraven before and did not know what I was getting myself into, maybe it was best to leave this task to the Whiterun guards.

As we spoke, an older woman exited the nearby Temple of Kynareth. Danica informed me that this woman was Fralia Gray-Mane, one of the patriarchs of the great family. Danica said Fralia made an offering to Kynareth almost every day, praying for her missing son’s safety. Danica whispered to me that Fralia still believed her son, Thorald, was alive and was kidnapped by the Battle-Borns. Almost all in Whiterun assumed Fralia’s missing son was already dead but the devoted mother would not give up on the hope that Thorald was still alive somewhere. Fralia saw us and approached, greeting the Priestess warmly but giving me an icy glare. Danica formally introduced us, first Fralia than I as thane. The codgy woman’s face transformed from frigidness to warmth as she realized I was in a position of power. She grabbed me by the arm and whisked me towards the steps Dragonsreach. I helplessly glanced back at Danica only to see her smile amusedly at me as she waved goodbye.

When she had me all to herself, Fralia began to speak. She told me much the same as Danica had, that she believed her son had been kidnapped and wished for me to help. She asked that I meet her in her home so we could discuss it more in private. She was about to continue speaking when she suddenly stopped and peered at the Gildergreen. Fralia began to ramble on about the tree and how it was such a sad sight to behold. She told me about Kynareth or Kyne, as the Nords called the Divine. Many in Whiterun Hold worshipped Kynareth for she was the deity of the heavens, the winds, the elements, and the unseen spirits of the air. She was also known as the patron of sailors and travelers and was invoked for good fortune in daily life. Kynareth was heavily associated with nature and healing, and many came to the Temple of Kynareth because of sickness. I told her that in Elsweyr, Kynareth was known as Khenarthi. She looked at me surprised and then remarked how Men, Mer, and Beastfolk seemed to worship the same deities.

Glancing back at the Gildergreen, Fralia murmured that it would take a miracle from Kyne to restore the wilting tree. The old woman spoke with such reverence that I could not help but see the Gildergreen in the same light as so many in Whiterun did. I knew then that when I returned from High Hrothgar, I would find a way to retrieve Nettlebane and collect the Eldergleam Sap so that I could restore this sacred tree. With such a monumental journey ahead of me, I bid Fralia farewell, promising that I would speak to her when I returned to Whiterun.

I entered the Temple of Kynareth and made an offering at her Shrine, “Come to me, Khenarthi, for without you, I might not know the mysteries of the world, and so blind and in terror, I might consume and profane the abundance of your beautiful treasures.”