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Friday, November 18, 2011

The Priest and the Wizard

I arrived in the town of Dawnstar just after the sun had set. The town welcomed me more warmly than they'd welcome the average college wizard, which is to say they didn't chase me into the hills.

Passing the barracks, I overheard a conversation. Something about bad dreams. Worse than bad. Nightmares.
The eyes of the soldier were bloodshot and sunken. He looked absolutely miserable.

A group of miners walked by, heading for their homes. They were trading dark humor about the sleep they wouldn't be having that night.

Everyone I passed, everyone in town, looked like they haven't slept in days.

Something unnatural was happening in Dawnstar.

Being a College initiate, Dawnstar's business wasn't my own. I only stopped in the town for some rest, a hot meal, and maybe a few cheap scrolls from the local wizard who would no doubt be serving the Jarl in his longhouse or whatever they call those shacks that are supposed to pass for a proper court.

I don't think the Jarl even knew I was in the building, but he was speaking to one of his toadies about the nightmares, which seemed to be the only thing anyone could talk about.

"I sent for a College wizard a week ago, but I never even got a reply. I don't know why I bothered. Bunch of milk-drinkers, if you ask me."

No fucking way I was going to let that go. Mostly because it was 100% true. Winterhold College is full of pussies that don't want anything to do with the rest of Skyrim. Granted, the rest of Skyrim wants nothing to do with them, either, but it doesn't help our image that we can't even lend aid to the nearest town.

The Jarl also mentioned that there's a priest of Mara staying at the local inn who's going to be taking care of what Winterhold couldn't.

I head straight to the Windpeak Inn, and aside from myself, there was only one other dude in the common room man enough to wear robes in public. The priest's name was Erandur, and after I explained why I was there he quickly enlisted my aid in dispelling the nightmares, although he wasn't very specific on how we're supposed to do this. Worse, he wanted to leave that very night.

"Shouldn't we wait until morning?"
"Is the college wizard afraid of the dark?"
"Shut up, dickhead. I haven't even had supper and they were cooking horker stew back at the inn. Where are we going, anyways?"
"Nightcaller Temple. It's that ruined, evil keep overlooking the town."

At that point I was beginning to think that I was going to have a bad night.

When the pack of enormous frost spiders attacked us just outside the temple entrance, I was sure of it.

The spiders, of course, were no match for wizard fire, and Erandur was pretty damn good with a mace.

"Hey. Why do priests always use maces?"
"What do you mean?"
"Swords are cooler. You guys should have swords."
"Yeah, that's true, but a sword can't be crafted to look like a holy symbol. I sorta get off on that: literally beating heathens to death with the symbol of Mara."
"Speaking of Mara, goddess of mercy, maybe you could heal me? I think I've been poisoned."
"Don't they teach restorative magic at your college?"
"Yeah, but..."
"I'm a priest of Mara. Not your fucking nurse. Heal yourself."

When we entered Nightcaller Temple, I wasn't very impressed. There was a small shrine for Mara, which Erandur explained he set up earlier, but that was about it.

"Is this really the place?" I asked, trying to keep the disappointment out of my voice, "What are we doing here?"
"We're going to destroy the Skull of Corruption." Erandur told me as he inspected the wall behind the shrine.
A small voice in the back of my head suggested that the Skull of Corruption would be a pretty sweet trophy to bring back to the college and impress the Arch-Mage with, but it didn't look like there was going to be much of anything in Nightcaller Temple, let alone a powerful magical artifact.

"So where is it?" I asked.
"Behind this wall," Erandur explained, as he weakened the enchantment on a very powerful, very subtle illusion that even my heightened wizard senses hadn't picked up. The wall was a magical facade; and behind it, a dark, yawning chasm.

"Come on," Erandur commanded me.
"How did you even know this was here?"
"That's not important. The Skull of Corruption is growing in power. We don't have much time."

"Hold on. I'm smelling evil magic here. That's evil magic mist."
"Keep walking. We're almost there."
"Is it safe to breathe this stuff in?"
"Short-term? Yes. Long-term? Maybe."

I followed Erandur (if that actually was his real name) down the steps and deeper into Nightcaller Temple.

It occurred to me that this so-called priest of Mara was hiding a lot from me. In fact, I wasn't even sure why he needed my help. He seemed to show me the same level of respect that most everyone else in Dawnstar had given me: none at all. And he could have handled those frost spiders all on his own.

Maybe the fact that I was a stranger, someone from out of town, is the reason he brought me with him.
I met him at the inn, didn't I? What better place to pick up some wizard that no one would miss?

In my left hand I let magical fire pulse and gather in my veins. In my right hand, I prepared a ward. Anyone who could pull off an illusion like that wall was no novice to the arcane.

I said, "You're not a priest of Mara, are you?"
Erandur continued descending the steps, never once looking back, "Not originally, no. I used to be a priest of Vaermina."

I almost missed the next step. Vaermina was the Daedric lord of Super Bad Shit. About as far from Mara as you can get.

Erandur continued, "These orcs busted in and tore the place apart. I think they were all on skooma. Scared the crap out of me, so I abandoned all my brothers and ran."

"What? And then you just decided to become a priest of Mara?"

"To make a long story short, yeah." He stopped, "We're here."


I looked ahead and there it was. The Skull of Corruption.

Surrounded, of course, by a magical barrier. Not a cheap one, either.

"How the hell are we supposed to get through that?" I asked.

"There's a ritual I can perform. It's going to take a while, though, and I need someone to watch my back while I destroy this piece of shit. Can you do that?"

"No problem."

Erandur began the ritual. The priest knew what he was doing.

In fact, I'm not even sure if the college Arch-Mage could pop this magic cherry on his own. Erandur had been holding back just what he was capable of. This was an incredibly dangerous man.
And what kind of a priest of Vaermina becomes a priest of Mara, anyways? Something about this whole situation didn't smell right.

An ugly thought occurred to me: Perhaps Erandur wasn't planning on destroying the Skull of Corruption at all. Maybe he was just breaking the barrier so he could have the skull for himself. With something powerful enough to drive an entire town to madness, the priest could make short work of me, especially a priest of Vaermina, who would know exactly how to best use the weapon.

Almost on reflex, I summoned magical fire into my hands. The flames tickled my fingers.

I've never killed a man with his back turned...

Actually, that's not true. I've set men on fire who were begging for their lives, but with Erandur I'd probably feel bad about it, especially if he really was trying to destroy something so evil that they decided to call it the Skull of Corruption.

But why did he hide so much from me? Was it because I'm a college wizard?

And what, exactly, would another wizard from the college do in my place? I thought of my peers, I thought about how paranoid they'd feel in the same situation, and I easily pictured them torching the priest without a moment's hesitation.

Which is why I let the magic drain from my hands and waited patiently for Erandur to finish.

I knew the Skull of Corruption was destroyed when I felt the paranoia lift from my mind (Apparently, the Skull of Corruption had been working on me ever since I entered the temple). That, and it was a fairly loud evacuation of Daedric magic from the mortal realm. When something like that goes, it creates one hell of a magical vacuum.

I don't even know what Erandur said to me after that. I guess he was excited about saving Dawnstar, maybe something about how wizards aren't all bad, and if I ever needed a favor, don't hesitate to ask, but I really didn't care. I was already walking out of the chamber and towards the stairs. Dawnstar was finally going to get some sleep, and so was I.

Since that night I haven't once met with the priest of Mara, and that's the way I'd like to keep it.

1 comment:

  1. EXCELLENT STORY ! I LOVED EVERY BIT OF IT ! Skyrim must be the only game where i can read other people adventure and feeling 100 % into it.Very well written too!