TES:D20

At the Whims of Fate
Bound and Gagged!

The party now find themselves crossing the bridge that has recently been discovered within the ruins of Nel Zurathol Dol. The intricate Dwemer metals and gears span the distance between the third floor level, leading to a landing on the far-side of the main room. They waste no time in crossing the bridge and walking down the long staircase on the opposite side that leads to a hallway nearly ten meters long. At the end of the hall is a circular Dwemer door, created of thick bronze metals and marked by the carvings and runes of the Dwemer. In the center of the door are three indents, each equal size and formed in a roughly triangular shape.

This doesn’t slow Borkalt down at all, who walks straight up to the door to examine it. After remembering that they had found three circular pendants with mushroom figures carved into them, his Orc brain correctly assumed that the slots in the door were made for the medallions. Taking the three amulets from the party, he proceeded to pop them into the slots one after another. Immediately after, the door began to creak and grind as hidden gears began lowering the entire circular door into the floor. Once it dropped to the point where sight was possible, Borkalt and the rest of the party found themselves staring down quite the collection of men and women who they could only assume as serving The Prophet, Helette Life-Singer. After a few seconds, both the party and the warriors within the room began to react to the opening doorway.

Seeing the immense number of bodies on the other side of the door, Dra’Jhad quickly touted the benefits of a strategic retreat to a better defended position. The rest of the party agreed and, doing their best to keep the enemy at bay, attempted to maneuver to the end of a hallway, at the top of one of the long staircases. Once the enemies began filling the hallway, mages opening portals to the Oblivion planes and releasing fungal hounds, Jethro and Borkalt took the lead. They moved toward the enemy and slowly began a back and forth battering. Many warriors fell to Jethro’s spear and Borkalt’s hammer, all while Dra’Jhad provided ample support.

Before too long, the party realized that there was a key wizard outside the hallway, in the main room where the Prophet resided. They did they best to avoid his paralysis and other mind spells, while watching in dismay as he buffed his allies. Eventually, the wizard began levitating and rose out of sight. Not long after, the doorway separating the hallway and the main chamber began to seal and fill with water. Deciding it was time to go all out, the party rushed forward toward the quickly closing doorway, through the water. Except for Dra’Jhad, who easily cast a water manipulation spell to make sure he didn’t get wet.

Luckily, with haste, all three members of the party passed through the closing doorway and into the main chamber. Although the numbers had been thinned by this point, they were still staring down at least two mages and a handful of warriors. In addition, archers flanked the Prophet and did they best to fire unceasingly into the fray. Determination kept the party going, through the taunts and threats the Prophet made, attempting to coerce the party into giving up.

It was at this point that the the wizard, who had still been out of the sight by the time the party made it into the main chamber, emerged from a cell to the right of the doorway. Holding the body of a ragged Argonian male, he threatened to deliver a swift death to the prisoner if the party continued pressing their assault. Although this hauled them for a few moments while they discussed amongst themselves, the party ultimately decided they knew nothing of this prisoner and continued the fight. The wizard, fully planning to follow through on his promise to kill the prisoner, brought a dagger to bear against the dark-scaled fellow. Luckily, the Argonian was able to escape to the far reaches of the main chamber.

Unfazed by the distraction, Borkalt and Jethro continued pressing the fight. Taking down the majority of the fighters, they were left with one of the original summoner mages, the archers, and the stronger wizard. The battle had definitely taken its toll on the party and it was with a growing desperation that they corned the wizard, deciding to take him out of the way before finishing the others. In a fit of desperation of his own, the wizard released a huge wave of paralytic energy that hit every member of the party. Although they were shackled and knocked prone, he too was affected by his paralysis and fell to the ground. With the four bodies now prone on the ground, the rest of the Prophet’s combat battalion wasted no time in attempting to overtake the party.

The archers fired mercilessly into the fallen body of Jethro, filling him full of arrowheads and leaving shafts sticking out of his body. Within the first volley, all thought was taken from him and his head lolled in unconsciousness. Dra’Jhad was the first to break the spell and decided he needed to take action against the wizard above everything else. Drawing his enchanted, silver sword, he pierced the body of the wizard, wounding him and bringing him within an inch of his life. Unfortunately, the wizard was the next awake and, fuming at the wounds left in his clothes and his body, used his entire force of wills and magicks to pin Dra’Jhad’s body to the wall, knocking the weapon from his hand. All the while, Borkalt struggled against his paralysis, but was unable to break through.

Again, the archers fired into Jethro, seeing his still breathing form. This time the arrows pierced deep, bringing him up the verge of death. Only seconds separated him from bleeding out onto the floor and ending his life eternally. Seeing that the battle was now swaying back in their favor, the Prophet spoke up and again suggested that the party drop their weapons and give themselves over to her will. Even promising their release if they complied.

Seeing that there really weren’t many other options, Dra’Jhad spoke for the party and agreed a surrender. With that, it wasn’t long before the remaining mage helped to take ragged strips of mycelial threads from his own body and bind the party about the hands, feet, and mouth. For Borkalt, they even went as far as double binding him. To ensure that Jethro wouldn’t pass before whatever the Prophet had in store for him, he was brought back to a modicum of life, just barely over the cusp of unconsciousness. Then, their bodies were dragged from their places and to the foot of the second story where the prophet rested. The fate of the party lay now within the hands of the wicked figure, decomposing constantly, only to be filled with new sprouts of fungal life.

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Within the Dwemer Ruins
Nel Zurathol Dol

 

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Standing atop the mountains, not far from the entrance to the Dwemer ruins of Nel Zurathol Dol, the party searches the bodies of the fallen who they have just slain. Among the dead is a wizard in black, velveteen robes with a strange insignia on his chest that resembles a budding mushroom with an intricate network of mycelial threads spreading out below. In addition to the usual loot to be expected, the party finds two notes on the wizard’s body. The first is a writ of passage that provides the identity of the strange wizard, identified as being the rank of Messenger and a member of the Mycelium. The writ is signed at the bottom by the Prophet, Hellette Life-Singer. The second note is simply dialogue between two parties regarding a finished project. The note is addressed an unnamed party but is signed by the supposed writer of the note, Fel-Sel.

 

Making a note of the information they collected, the party decide it’s now time to breach the ruins in search for the Jarrin root needed to cure Jethro of vampirism. Ascending the long staircase high up to the single, Dwemer door built into the side of the carved archway of stone, Dra’Jhad steps up and searches the area for life. Seeing a few blips and hoping to still take the inner group by surprise, Borkalt and Dra’Jhad work together to open the door, fling fury wide towards the two groups, and then closing the door again. The classic move is mostly successful, with one of the fury balls taking control of a small group of individuals, while the other goes wide.

 

Thus, the battle begins. Eventually, the door is thrown wide once more and the party rushes in. Inside, they encounter a huge chamber carved into the mountain, nearly fifty meters tall and half as wide. The room is separate into three floors, each nearly ten meters above or below the next. The single door opens onto the third floor, with a stone staircase leading down to the second and the first floors. Inside, the enemy awaits on all sides. Although surprised, they’re able to rally together and force a fight that has a few moments of unease. Through the struggle, Brokalt and Jethro both launch themselves from the third floor and onto enemies on the ground floor. Although both are successful to some degree, managing to maim or slaw their enemies, they do learn the impact gravity can have on a situation.

 

In the end, the party stands among a pile of corpses. A few close calls having been avoided thanks to swift thinking and healing on Jethro’s part, all is doing well. The search of the bodies turns up the usual loot, nothing out of the ordinary that would provide any further explanation to the notes found on the Messenger's body. Knowing that their goal is further within the ruins, the party takes time to explore the room, finding two locked doors leading off of the main chamber on opposite sides of the room. After a few minutes of careful searching, they find two large urns that a nearly six feet tall, standing atop another full foot of a stone pedestal. The urns are plugged by delicate crystals of what look similar to quartz and, after peering inside as best as they could, faint runes and mechanical gears seem to be held within the heavy metal walls.

 

The party also locates a small indentation in the stone floor of the ruins, near the center of the main room. Noticing that the two urns have designs that seem to fit together, they drag these massively heavy objects to the center space, pressing them together at the conjoining seams. When the urns are brought together, runes pulsing with a blue, glowing energy light up the urns and the crystals within. After a few seconds, similar runes which were noticeable before flash out along the floor of the main room and make a b-line towards the two, locked doors that lead out of the main chamber. As the runes encircle the doorway, a rumbling can be heard as the doors shift downward into an open position. Unfortunately, this seems to alert those already within the rooms of the foreign presence and a second battle commences as the party struggles to face the unexpected adversaries.

 

With the party standing in the middle of the room and the enemies pouring from the two doorways, encroaching them on all sides, Borkalt decides that the best defense is offense. He rushes the figures on the left, fighting heavy armored and light armored warriors with glee as Dra’Jhad, Jethro, and his summoned scamps assist. During the fight, a wizard similar in appearance to the Messenger outside is seen. During the battle, he stops a Bosmer archer by laying hands upon his frame. After a few seconds, a transformation sweeps his body as thin tendrils of white threads begin overtaking his form. Bones crunch and flesh tears until the shape has morphed into a bestial warrior, using bones and brute strength to form claws. Once finished, it rushes the party, with Borkalt in the lead, with unwarranted fury.

 

Surprised but unflinching, they continue to face the stream of enemies head on. Hammer blows slay and spear heads pierce, all while Dra’Jhad does his best not to be slain himself. At one point, our Khajiiti friend runs down an alley to recoup, creating the illusion of a crate around himself, effectively hiding from all. Before too long, the second wave of foes has been taken care of. Another eight or so warrior lay dead, in addition to three wizards of varying age and race, but all wearing the same velveteen robes embossed with the mycelial symbol that the Messenger also wore. Unsurprisingly, when the corpses are searched, similar writs are found on these three bodies. This time they’re identified as Guardians and all three wear a Dwemer designed amulet on a thin chain that shows the similar fungal symbol on their robe.

 

Once the enemies are taken care of, the party can take some time to explore the two new rooms. Both are similar to one another, so they decide to tackle the room of the right first. Most of room is on the first floor, although a narrow and steep staircase leads up to a second floor landing that holds a pedestal near the middle. Atop the pedestal is a pyramid that’s slightly smaller than the urns from the main room. They also seem to be covered with runes that currently are not aglow. Jethro goes to examine it and, with casual ease, pushes back the top of the pyramid on unseen hinges to show what looks to be a number puzzle below. Calling for the help of the rest of the party, they gather around the puzzle.

 

Jehtro decides to brute force attempt is the way to approach the puzzle, after no answers are forthright. So, laying his hands on the 1-9 numbers that seem to act as answers to the puzzle, he chooses four from random. This seems to be the wrong choice to the puzzle, as the door closes shut quickly and concealed jets in the room begin pumping water in at a high velocity. Dra’Jhad immediately begins working his powers of water manipulation to ensure that the party will be able to stand atop of the water, just in case. At the same time, Jethro tries a few more numbers, each being wrong and opening successive jets that begin filling the room faster than before. By the time Jethro chooses the number seven, the answer to the puzzle, the water has filled nearly the entire ten meters of the bottom floor. Luckily, the party needs not worry about what may have happened next, as drains in the walls open and begin draining the room before the door opens once more. The pyramid atop the pedestal also sinks down to the floor, the top closing and seeming to lock in place.

 

This leaves the one remaining pedestal and pyramid combo in the opposite room. This time, the party is prepared and Dra’Jhad quickly answers the word puzzle provided. This time, without the worry of death by drowning, they watch as pyramid sinks to become level with the floor. Once it reaches that point, runes of power again extend outside of the room and lead toward a large central column that stretched to the top of the main chamber. Composed of intertwining Dwemer metals, the pillar seems to unfold like a flower to form a bridge that spans from the third floor entrance the party originally came in through, all the way to the other side of the main room, where a third floor landing without any other means of accent leads deeper into the ruins. Preparing themselves, the party climb back up to the third floor and then make their way across the bridge.

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Accent!

 

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Fully prepared and with the assistance of Willem, the Bosmer warrior the party rescued from the Pale Pass, the group departs from Markarth and towards the ruins of Nel Zurathol Dol first thing in the morning. They leave from Markarth through the front gates and then follow a winding path that leads back behind Markarth before beginning the mountainous accent into the Draudach Mountains. After a few hours of travel, they reach an ill-used path that leads off the main trail and deeper into the mountainous region. Here, Willem informs them that this path will take them straight to the ruins. He suggests haste, as the path can be treacherous and he wouldn't advise traversing it in the dark. Then, as agreed before setting out, he left the party and made his way back toward Markarth.

 

Taking Willem's words at face value, the party wastes no time continuing up the path towards the ruins. Although steep, the path itself seems not to be of much difficulty to the party, as it has seemingly been well used. It's hours later, as the sun reached its peak and began its setting course, when the party encounter their first obstacle. Through Dra'Jhad’s vigilant checks for life, the group notices a single Nord warrior. He slinks forward, using the stealth he has acquired through his feline grace to his advantage, and notices the path has been blocked by a measly construction of wood debris and stones. A lone Nord stands with his back to the party on the edge of the path, looking out over the chasm below him.

 

With haste, the party descends upon the single warrior. In the end, it's Borkalt's hammer that deals the final blow, sending the body spiraling down the cliffside, dead before he neared the valley floor. It's with their first encounter behind them that they decide to proceed forward with a little more caution. This pays off, as it's not long before they locate the second obstacle constructed across the mountain path. This one seems to be made of larger blocks of wood and boulders, creating a fortification slightly more significant than the first. Guarding this checkpoint are two warrior, a balding Nord warrior and an aged archer of possible Breton descent.

 

Wanting to take advantage of the fact that the party still seemed to be unnoticed by whatever authority is running these blockades, Dra'Jhad formulates a plan. Using the greater tools his illusionary magic has to control, he creates the form of a beautiful female breton. To the greater surprise of the entire party, the illusionary image takes the form of their fallen comrade, Alluria. The party pushes through and, using the image to disorientate the guards, they attack. A swift battle ensues and it isn’t long before one of the warriors are thrown from the cliffs and the other is slain on the mountain path. Stopping only long enough to loot their bodies, and to appreciate the frozen image of Alluria which no longer moves now that concentration has been broken, before moving upward and onwards.

 

It doesn’t take long for the party to discover the third and final barrier blocking their accent. This one also stretches most of the length of the mountain path, but it much more of a fortification than the last two. Saplings, timber, and stone have been stacked strategically to make a sound wall nearly eight feet tall. Behind the wall is a scaffolding to allow easy line of sight from an elevated position. After taking a moment to detect the life forces of the four figures from hiding, Dra’Jhad leaves the final battle up to the group while he recoups.

 

The battle doesn’t take long as Borkalt and Jethro take the lead. In addition, the scamp companion from the plane of Oblivion bursts into existence throughout the battle, casting devastating magicks to counterpoint the fierce hammer and spear work. The first few warriors fall quickly and the archer, who was originally atop the scaffolding and taking shots down at those fighting, saw the carnage unfolding and attempted to flee down the path. Luckily, Borkalt was able to intercept him and end his life with his aptly named Life-Ender warhammer. The last to fall was the gnarled wizard in dark, velvet robes embroidered in the center with a fungal emblem showing the budding mushroom and a network of fibrous mycelial threads.

 

To the surprise of all, the fallen wizard corpse began shaking in death and then rose to fight once again. Surprised but not slowed, Borkalt and Jethro together are able to bring an end to the strange figure. Borkalt decides that it may be safer that the corpse should have no head, so he decapitates him and lands a boot on his chest. This shoots forth strands of mycelial threads and a mass of fungal materthat seems to be intertwined with human tissue. Unsure of what this means other than great caution should be used moving forward, they search the corpses and get ready to move along.

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Preparing in the City

With vigor, the party decides that the cure of Jethro's vampirism is at the top of their list. Now that Cielia has left the night before, they must find a new contact in hopes of learning the location of the Jarrin Root in the area. Jethro takes the lead and speaks with the innkeeper and learns of the branch of the Mage's College located in the old, abandoned building in town. He makes this his first stop and makes a quick stop.

Upon arriving and being shown into the house serving as the local branch of the College, Jethro is introduced to the female Argonian currently heading this branch of the College. Upon learning that Jethro was and still is part of the party that lost the Mace of Molag Bal at the Pale Pass, she decides it's time to explain the full situation. She informs Jethro that their leader Nelssarre, the Altmer mage who helped them at the Pale Pass, had repurposed the College of Winterhold for their purpose. After collecting like-minded individuals together, they founded the Council of Red Mountain, a group dedicated to collecting Daedric, Aedric, and other artifacts of great power. Due to the waking of a Dwemer beast deep within Red Mountain, the Council hopes to repair the broken object used to lull the beast into a slumber. 

She goes on to explain that there is a group opposing them directly that goes by the Children of Stur-Mer, which is the ancient name of the best, or just the Children. Their goal, as far as they understand, is to stop the Council from collecting the artifacts and allowing the beast, Stur-Mer, to awaken from his slumber. Although they don't have the location of the next artifact just yet, she lets Jethro know that if they ever choose to help, the Council would happily accept. 

Taking this knowledge back to the party, Borkalt and Dra'Jhad decide that, for now, they'll continue to focus on the immediate goal of curing Jethro's vampirism. Remembering that they had escorted an elderly Nord and her Bosmer companion partway to Markarth, the party searches out the location of Malithia, who had before let them know of her interest in ancient Dwemer artifacts. Asking around, they're quickly directed to her shop, hidden within the turning pathways of Dryside. 

Upon entering and making themselves known, Malithia happily welcomes the party and calls upon Willem to step up and say hello. With his usual stoicness, he only nods hello before going back to what he was doing. The party makes their needs known and Malithia is happy to help. She directs them to ruins to the north of Markarth that go by the name of Nel Zurathol Dol. Although she hasn't been to the area in almost five years, the rumors say that these ruins once held a great supply of rare herbs and medicines, including Jarrin Root. Although not willing to lead the party all the way to the ruins herself, for there is a supposed bandit presence in the area, Willem agrees guide bring the party to the final stretch that will lead to the ruins. Due to the length of the journey, the party spends the rest of that day preparing for the trip and leave bright and early the next morning. 

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Tragedy Comes in Twos

Finally reaching their destination, Markarth greets the party with open arms. Their goals upon reaching the city are two fold. Jethro seeks a cure for his vampirism. Following the rumors of the Priest of Arkay in Falkreath, he hopes to locate Jarrin Root, a key ingredient in the potion needed to cure himself. On the other side, Alluria is in search of her lost family. Rumor has it that her sister may still reside somewhere within the city, even after the 10+ years following her supposed demise. 

Hoping to hit two birds with one stone, the party seeks out someone who might hold knowledge of both the city and any possible Jarrin Root locations. They spend a good fifteen to twenty minutes traversing the maze-like city before finally finding themselves outside the doors of shop that seems to serve as both an alchemical and magical location. The party enters and, much to the surprise of Alluria, find themselves face to face with a pale Breton with dark ringlets of black hair. After a breif moment of awe, Alluria reunited with her sister Cielia, much to the pleasure of all involved. Following the warm meeting, they learn that Cielia survived the bandit attack which took the lives of their parents, but not without a price. Showing her throat, a scar is visible across the entire length, leaving Cielia with a voice that only reaches a whisper.

This seems not to have held back the elder sister, for she pronounces herself a master in both Alchemy and Enchanting, as well as being well versed in the art of Conjuration. Taking advantage of her talents, the party not only purchases items of great magical power, but also agrees to training in the arts of conjuration later in the evening. The conversation winds to and end and, after expressing that she knows little of the Dwarven ruins around Markarth, she explains to the party that there are likely those in town who would know more about the location of the Jarrin Root.

The party then leaves Cielia's office in search of other merchants which may help better equip them for the journey ahead. In addition, they realize the day is quickly turning to night and they must procure rooms before the evening fully sets. So, after a little searching, the party stumble into the shop run by the elderly female Orc blacksmith, Sharshar. Borkalt, falling thoroughly for the complexity of the female orc smith, uses all the persuasive powers his drunken state allows and seemingly woos the blacksmith. He makes a quick arrangement for a better crossbow to be built, once she receives her needed ebony shipment in a few days time. Finished, an open invitation is left regarding rooms and possible nighttime activities. 

The bar is the next location along the way and the party wastes no time reaching the inn. Borkalt takes up a spot at the bar and immediately challenges the entire room to a brawl. Dra'Jhad has his back and begins creating fireworks and setting up bets. At first, there's no reply for, although there are a few burly miners in the bar, none can equal the height and mass of Borkalt's eight foot, refrigerator-like frame. Then, when all seem unwilling to fight, I lone Redguard miner steps up and casually accepts the brawl. He provides two three conditions: that the fight must be with hands and unaided by magick or weapons, that the first will be until one of the two are knocked unconscious, and that the minmum bet between the Redguard and Borkalt would be 1000 gold. Borkalt happily agrees and, along with the rest of the party, heads outside the inn. 

By this time, it's late evening and the marketplace is dwindling down for the night. Still, with the help of Dra'Jhad drawing a crowd and taking bets, a small gathering of people have gathered to watch. A few bets are placed and one well dressed man places a strong bet on Borkalt to win, drawing the eyes of the entire crowd as he approaches Dra'Jhad. Finally, with all bets placed and the appropriate amount of smack talked between the two competitors, the brawl begins.

Borkalt and the Redguard miner, who they learn is named Storthor from the well-dressed Nord-like fellow, begin in earnest. Punches are thrown and, although Borkalt has nearly two feet on the dark-skinned fellow, begins to quickly find out that the man is much more of a warrior than he originally let on. Soon, the battle goes from fists to grapples and both warriors are struggling on the group. Fists pound faces or nearly miss and, as the battle nears the end, Borkalt finds himself restricted and choked out on the ground. In a wage of pure anger, he's able to toss Storthor and bring the battle back to the standing position. A few more moves are thrown before the Redguard seems to redirect Borkalt's final charge. This leaves Borkalt open and, in one final move, Storthor missile kicks Borkalt's lights out. 

Jethro is quick on the draw and uses his healing powers to ensure both Borkalt and the Redguard are brought back to top shape. Humbly, Borkalt exchanges the gold with the Redguard and bids him farewell. He then spends the rest of the night getting as drunk as possible before passing out. While this is going on, Alluria, Jethro, and Dra'Jhad remain in the marketplace. In a sudden burst from the small crowd, a figure darts towards Alluria and the party is tossed deep into misery as daggers pierce her neck and kidneys. Death greets her before any reactions can be made. Then, just as quickly, the lone killer is taken into custody by the guards of Markarth, but not before he points towards the party with his bloodied dagger, letting them know that they're next. Then, he's taken away without a word, Alluria's body left bleeding out on the ground.

In shock, Dra'Jhad decides he's done for the night and returns to the inn. Before doing so, he stops by the corpse and discreetly takes the important items, as he is wont to do. With that done, he quickly gets food, drink, and then retires to his room. Jethro, on the other hand, decides he needs to take care of the body before anyone else. Not seeing Dra'Jhad pocket the key items, he travels to the temple of Dibella to prepare for disposal of the body. The priests there quickly agree and, within minutes, Jethro passes two female priestesses carrying the covered form of Alluria up towards the temple. While this is taking place, Jethro decides to meet up with Cielia and explain the situation.

He does so and it goes as well as one could expect. Although thoroughly depressed at the loss of her sister, Cielia firms herself saying that she lost her sister once, she could do so again. That said, she can no longer stay within Markarth with all the powerfully negative memories building here. Apologizing for not being able to take care of the training requested, she provides the remaining items the party purchased from her and then takes her leave of Markarth. In the end, Jethro returns to the inn and informs Borkalt of the situation, who had not witnessed the killing. Although currently spending the evening with his elderly Orc matron, the news strikes him hard and he spends the rest of the evening drinking to her memory with Jethro. In the morning, the party decides they must continue on with their original quest to cure Jethro of vampirism. Now, a new fire burns within them. 

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Markarth In Sight

The party presses onward after departing from Rorikstead and continuing on the path towards Markarth. The road is well guarded this close to both Solitude and Markarth, and their trip is without incident. That is, until they arrive at the doors of Karthwasten proper. Arriving just before dusk, the party is confronted by a lone guard advising them that the town's borders are currently closed. Tired, the party plead, threaten, and cajole the lone guard into letting them stay for the evening. Although he originally suggests the party stay in a cave to the west, closer to Markarth, the party is eventually able to wheedle out the details of why they can't access the town. 

Due to some misguided magicks, it seems that the dead which had been buried around the town have been returning from death as animated corpses. Although they don't seem to be doing anything but standing and groaning, their presence is causing some disturbance for the relatives of the dead. At this point, the guard once again encourages the party to move onward and leave the handling of this situation to the townsfolk. His request falls on deaf ears as the party, via Dra'Jhad and Borkalt, convince the guard to let them in and deal with the dead in the appropriate manner. The guard eventually caves to the coercion and agrees to let the party within the city. 

By this time, night is almost upon the party and they waste no time handling the situation. With what one could call gusto, they proceed to smash and cleave through the once dead bodies, returning them to death. It doesn't take long for the massed dead to be beaten back and, upon finishing, the party is approached by the lone guard once more. He quickly informs them that, although they're appreciative of the "assistance" the part offered, not everyone in town is pleased with how the situation was handled. He strongly suggests the party moves onward and stay in the aforementioned cave. After reading between the lines and realizing just what might happen if they stay, the party agrees and spend the few hours searching for the cave. 

It doesn't take long and they locate the cave structure off the main road on the way toward Markarth. The party rests there for the evening, Jethro taking this time to stock up on fresh blood and to make sure he's fully fed before entering the town. He's successful in his endeavor and, come morning, the party sets out for Markarth. Fresh faced, they arrive well before noontime, marveling at the immense gates that serve as entrance to the city itself. In addition to the general traffic a large capital city would produce, Dra'Jhad runs into a caravan of traveling Khajiits and is quick to strike up a conversation and negotiations for any extras laying about his person.

Once everyone has finished taking in their surroundings and has wrapped up their dealings with the local Khajiiti caravan, they proceed into the city proper. 

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In the Wake of Battle

After taking care of the group of bandits going by The Raiders, the party inspects the rest of the cave structures and locates Jonuley, the Imperial Ambassador. They find him sickly and pale, locked behind thick iron bars. With a key looted off the corpse of the Orc leader, they're able to breach the chamber which has help Jonuley up to this point. With the combined efforts of Jethro, Alluria, and Sventhor, Jonuley is pulled from the poison induced slumber and paralysis.

Thankful to be rescued, Jonuley explains to the party that he was sent from the Imperial City in Cyrodiil as an ambassador to Skyrim. He was originally heading to Solitude when they were ambushed in Rorikstead by the group of bandits. Although weakened, he goes on to tell that the attack was too precise to be anything but planned. Unsure of where they would have collected, Jonuley is only left to assume someone within the inner circle of Cyrodiil or Skyrim seems to be plotting his demise. With this fear in mind, he requests one more good deed from the party. He asks that they ferry him back down the side of the mountains and return him to Rorikstead. They agree, but not before Jonuley has a chance to offer up his enchanted rings as thanks.

Leaving the ruined encampment behind, the party, plus Sventhor and Jonuley, slowly make their way back down the side of the mountain and through the plains. Their journey is mostly uneventful and they soon find themselves arriving in Rorikstead. Having traveled all through the night to rescue the ambassador in a timely fashion, it's early morning by the time they find themselves back among the company of others. Before they draw close to the town, the smell of roasting meat reaches out to our party of weary travelers. It's not until they get close enough and find the streets empty of corpses that they realize the burning bonfire is a funeral pyre.

Seeming unfazed, Jonuley quickly approaches the town residents to begin collecting any info he can about the events which happened. Sventhor thanks the party and takes this moment to make their leave. Unsure of what to do next, most of the party decides to rest for the night at the local inn. Those who don't spend their time drinking or hunting until true morning comes. 

When everyone has rested and the party is beginning to take their leave of Rorikstead, they decide to ask the town about a possible reward for slaying the Raiders. Surprised, the towns persons they speak to let them know that the reward had been provided to the Imperial Ambassador for his service and to help him on his quest. He had left in the wee hours of the morning while the majority of the party was still resting. 

Disgruntled but not willing to follow Jonuley and Sventhor all the way to Solitude, the party decides to let go of any additional reward. After finishing up any last business left in the town, they depart northward for a few miles before heading west towards Karthwasten and, eventually, Markarth.

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Pierce the Keep!

 

 

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The party finds themselves outside the gates of the protected fort of Sundered Redoubt the Raiders are currently calling home. Together, they gather outside the heavy portcullis that separates the main base and the outside portion of their base. A quick examination of the gate shows an iron door built into the heavy bars, acting as an entryway while the portcullis is closed. Having already picked the key off one of the corpses from earlier, they decided to proceed onward.

 

Dra’Jhad fails after attempting to detect the life forces inside the walls two times. Decided something else may be lurking behind the walls, they decide to play it safe. Taking a move from their usual playbook, Bokralt approaches the door and uses the key to unlock the mechanism. Dra’Jhad gets ready and, in an instant, Borkalt throws open the door while Dra’Jhad shoots out red balls of fury towards the handful of foes inside the camp known as Sundered Redoubt. Thus begins the second portion of the fight to free the Imperial Ambassador, Jonuley.

 

Inside the walls of the compound are more huts constructed from local lumber, rocks, and animal pelts. There seems to be a higher population inside the walls, most of which are deep in drink and slow to react as the party begins laying out the enemies one by one. Even as reinforcements step out from the huts to join the fight, the entire encounter is over in a matter of minutes. Surprisingly, they’re able to take care of the foes in the first sector without alerting any of the others in the other section of the base, which is separated by a stone wall and an iron gate.

 

It’s due to their quickness that the party is able to listen to an exchange between two Raiders while hiding in the shadows. They learn that suspicions are high that something is happening, even through the drunken stupor of most of in the inhabitants. While the particular interchange between the Raiders is shrugged off by the lone guard as nothings, the party wastes no time and decides to act quickly and decisively. They sweep in, taking out one the two Raiders they had seen, plus a third which had been sleeping inside a tent out of sight. They also made quick business of the guard, who had originally attempted to run, likely to grab reinforcements. Luckily, Borkalt is quick to act, chasing the man and taking him out before he can spread the word.

 

This leaves one lone Raider, who questions the party about the death of his friend Ragnar. They indulge his fancies and tell him that his friend is indeed dead, at their hands. They also waste no time assuring the Raider that he will be next. Solemnly, he asks simply for a quick and merciful death. He’s accepted that it’s his time to die and he just wishes to leave the world as a warrior. Unfortunately, there are other motives at hand inside of the party.

 

Stepping forward and falsely promising a quick death, Jethro bares his fangs and sinks his teeth deeply into the Nord’s flesh. In a scene that’s anything but merciful, Jethro drains both the life energy and the blood from the Raider. He struggles at first, but his weakened form is quickly overpowered and he falls limply to the ground, forming a pool of blood. The wound in his neck is jagged and torn, leaving Jethro’s face looking like something out of a slasher story. Abashedly, he quickly wipes away what he can from his body before continuing onwards, hearing the sounds of battle from deeper within as Borkalt meets with the next line of foes.

 

This time two handed warriors in heavy armor and strong tactics are their foes, creating a stronger defense that seems to stall the party in place. Thinking quickly, they use the environment to their advantage and hope to widdle the enemy down before moving what looks to be the end of the fort. At the same time, Dra’Jhad steps up and with the accuracy only the most critical moment can allow, is able to cast a strong fury over two foes simultaneously. Although the part can now count the two massive warrior as helpers for now, they also hear the tearing sound as a portal to Oblivion is ripped into the world.

 

From around the corner they can see the shape of a Flame Atronach, which wastes no time shooting balls of fire forward. This adds a new element to the encounter as the party slays the first atronach, but is surprised by the form of another atronach summoned in response. They quickly learn that the mage not only controls flame atronachs, but also has dominion over frost and shock atronachs. Going all out, the party rushes the last portion of the fort and eventually are able to maneuver their way to the summoner. They take his life and force the onslaught from the atronachs to cease. During the chaos of the fight, they also watch as a well armoured and lithe figure slips inside a cave entrance which seems to be where the main path leads into.

 

Soon, the party are standing outside the entrance of the cave, the only ones left alive being those with the party. Surprisingly, Svenngor the guard is still alive and looks longingly towards the entrance of the cave and the possibility of completing his personal goal. Wasting no time with the corpses of the slain, they move straight into the low light of the cave and towards what they hope is the end of the encounter.

 

Stepping inside, the party quickly finds that the cool, damp, cave is a natural formation, with a massive chamber nearly fifteen meters cubed. Standing near the center of the room is a stone dias with two tiers of steps leading up to a platform. Stone fingers reach out at four angles, with torches burning and filling the chamber with their flickering light and acrid smoke. Off to one side of the cavern is the lithe figure they saw earlier, likely the second in command.

 

Standing atop the dias is an Orc in heavy ebony armor and wielding a warhammer also made of ebony. As the party steps into the cave, he makes a quick movement and seems to tie a bottle to his belt with a length of cordage. At the same time, he speaks to the party and calls them out. Letting them know he’s holding their “friend” captive, he also mentions that he’s been poisoned and that the only relief is the bottle hanging at his hip. He then readies himself atop the dais, both him and his second in command in the dark leather armor waiting for the party to make the first move.

 

Borkalt wastes no time and immediately rushes the dias, to the slight dismay of Jethro. Although not able to draw close enough to immediately attack, he’s able to maneuver himself halfway up stairs. At the same time, Alluria lets loose her lightning towards the Orc, although his armor seems to resonate with a strange energy that slightly displaces the shocking power. The second-in-command also steps up and begins throwing knives at the party, hitting Borkalt and barely missing the others. In response, Dra’Jhad uses his telekinetic powers to send the throwing knife that missed him flying back towards the wielder, landing a solid blow.

 

Realizing things are not going as smoothly as they could, the Orc Raider steps down on a hidden switch atop the dias and sends arcing lightning current along hidden wires resting on the steps. It catches Borkalt and the party watches as his body becomes rigid with shock. As it winds down, he is shaken but not finished and quickly moves to end the battle. During the confusion of the shock, the second in command also takes a moment to toss out a poison bomb, hitting most of the rest of the group in a poison haze.

 

The battle continues with each side dealing blows on the other. Eventually, the second in command falls to the combined efforts of Alluria’s lightning, Dra’Jhads controlling spells, and Svenngor’s mace. Jethro and Borkalt continue the relentless onslaught against the Orc leader until he finally stumbles and falls to the ground due to the paralyzing light Dra’Jhad lances his way. The Orc Raider is close to death but not dead. Alluria takes advantage of the situation, stepping up and with no fanfare, buries her newly acquired glass war axe into the spine of the Orc. He twitches once, twice, thrice, and then lays dead. The party now stands amongst the remains of the dead, quickly and quietly collecting the valuables from the corpses.

 

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Fight for the Ambassador

Wasting no time, the party and the single lone guard, Svenngor, begin the journey after the mysterious group known as The Raiders; a so-called collective of criminal groups brought together under a mighty Orc. They travel west of Rorikstead, through the plains while climbing steadily as they approach the outskirts of the Sundered Hills. Before long, evening turns to night and they arrive at the base of the hills. The rocks now protrude from the surrounding and a steep, switchback path hidden behind a pair of heavy boulders is the only way up the steep cliff side.

Using caution, the group proceeded up the switchback trail that climbs for a long while. Eventually, they near the top and can feel a strong wind blowing over the hilltop. Light also cascades over the side of the hill and the party attempts to silently draw close. They succeed and follow a stone path forward until spying two lone Raiders, their backs turned, arguing about ten meters away. After drawing as close as they think close, Dra'Jhad begins prepping the group for battle.

Oddly, the guards begin moving away from the party, their voices dropping to whispers. By this time, the fighters of the party have begun sneaking towards them and are caught off guard by the fleeing enemies. Then Borkalt runs forward, nearly knocking their guard friend off the cliff, and all is clear as three archers step out from a stone staircase that had been out of site. They fire and the full battle commences. Much damage is deal from the many blows from Borkalt, Jethro, and Svenngor the guard. Corpses are flung and skulls caved in. Helping all the while are Dra'Jhad and Alluria. Fury and dazzling lights coming from our furry friend, while our Breton warrior lashes out with sizzling conduits of pure lightning. 

After taking care of the the advance guard and the archers, the party finds a small clearing between the peaks holding another group of Raiders. Three small huts made of collected lumber and pelts are used as cover while a new stage of fighting breaks up. A new character joins the fight as a drunken mage steps from one of the huts and begins casting wicked Alteration spells, managing to paralyze Jethro. Luckily, he's able to break through the grasp of the spell and the remainder of the enemies are slain. This leaves the party outside the stone walls of what looks to be a large fortress. 

They take only a moment to heal their wounds and collect the plunder from their first victory. Realizing many more foes lie within the walls, they restrengthen their defenses and plan to storm the entrance. An iron portcullis currently blocks the only entry point visible, although the bars themselves look to have a strange structure and pattern built into the bottom-right side. 

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A Few Stops

The morning comes quickly in Whiterun Hold. The party awakes in the camp that once held Dreet-Dar Coldblood, his body grown stiff a few meters away where they had dragged it. Taking care of their morning business, the party decides to continue on their way to Rorikstead. They set out and aren't on the road for but thirty minutes before passing their first landmark. 

Seeing a dirt path leading down to a rock overhang protruding over an open cave mouth, the party decides to check it out. When they arrive, blood and claw marks are etched into the mouth of the cave. They decide to enter and after walking down the stone chasm that led to the main chamber, they found themselves face to face with three werewolves. Managing to stay relatively hidden near the rock walls, they watched as a larger and more ferocious werewolf tore into the two smaller beasts. 

After a flurry of claws and maws, the larger werewolf tore through the closest of the smaller creatures. Just as the large second, smaller werewolf was about to be tackled by the large killer, it let loose a roar that fell over everyone in the area. Suddenly, great fear filled the hearts of everyone except Alluria, who was currently standing calmly amongst the chaos. Changing form and dropping into the shape of an armored, Nord women with long, brown hair, the larger werewolf began running. The rest of the party also began heading towards the end of the cave, before each in turn were able to break through the effects. 

Wasting no time, the Nord warrior descended upon the remaining werewolf. The party assisted and they were able to slay the fell beast. This did not spell the end of the encounter, though. With money on the line, for Borkalt and Dra'Jhad had placed bets on which werewolf would win, Borkalt took a swing at the Nord champion. Jethro decided to help and, together, they attempted to fight. Surprised, the Nord warrior reacted with her own attacks, managing to deal solid blows against Borkalt.

Surprised by her strength, Borkalt lowered his weapons and attempted a truce. Luckily, she agreed and spoke to them. Introducing herself as Threki, she explains she is part of the Companions and was hired to take out the inhabitants of this cave. After warning them that such actions against the Companions in the future would result in punishment, she walked out of the cave. Not before laying a hand on Dra'Jhad's shoulder, who had helped her directly in the initial fight, and welcome him to visit Jorrvaskr. 

A quick discussion later, the party decided not to delve deeper into the ruins. Making their way outside and back to the main road, they continued on their way to Rorikstead. The road swept through the hilly plains and highlands, with the mountains growing first farther away and then nearer as they continued northward. While they were just drawing within sight of the town, the sounds of shouts and cries of battle reached their ears.

Coming into view as they rounded a small hill, a battle opened below them that were centered around a carriage which had been turned on its side. Attempting to use the buildings of the town to their advantage, a small gathering of guards are fighting hard to hold off against a force nearly four times larger. The group is made up of a smattering of different raiders, with a heavy armoured Nord woman with a mace leading the group. 

Sprinting towards the battle, Borkalt leads the charge and manages to slay a few raiders before the rest of the party arrives as backup. It's a quick battle, but only two of the four guards remain when the final crushing blows are dealt to the large, Nord woman leading the raiders. Nearly fifteen corpses lay scattered around the town and the party is quick to begin their looting.

While this is going on, Dra'Jhad is able to chase down and charm on of the raiders who had tried to flee. Under the guise of a colleague, he was able to learn that almost two score raiders had descended upon a noble's carriage. They managed to kidnap the noble, an Imperial representative named Jonuley who was sent on a goodwill mission from the Imperial City. He was traveling to Solitude when the raiders learned of his presence and decided to try ransoming him. Gaining all the information he need and with Borkalt arriving to check on the situation, Dra'Jhad gave a signal and Borkalt was quick to take down the last surviving raider in the area.

Dra'Jhad quickly explained the situation to the party and the two remaining guards. While one of the guards felt all was hopeless and decided to storm away from the party in a rage, the sole remaining guard agreed to come with the party. Unsure of what might happen if they were to wait, they agreed to leave immediately to save Jonuley. The guard agreed and they began preparations to go. 

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