The two stood in silence for a moment.
"Do you know where I could find an Elder Scroll?"
"Krosis. No. I know little of what has passed below in the long years I have lived here. You are likely better informed than I," said Paarthurnax.
"Arngeir might know..."
"Trust your instincts, Dovahkiin. Your blood will show you the way."
"So, what do I do with the Elder Scroll when I find it?"
"Return it here, to the Tiid-Ahraan. Then...Kelle vomindok. Nothing is certain with such things. But I believe the Scroll's bond with the Tiid-Ahraan will you a...a seeing, a vision of the moment of its creation. Then you will feel...know...Dragonrend, in the power of its first expression. You will see them...wuth fadonne...my friends. Hakon One-Eye, Gormlaith Golden-Hilt, and Felldir the Old."
"Who are they?" asked Samuel.
"The first mortals that I taught the Thu'um, the first Tounges. The leaders of the rebellion against Alduin. They were mighty, in their day. Even to attempt to defeat Alduin...sahrot hunne. The Nords have had many heroes since, but not greater."
"I'll be going. I need to speak to Arngeir."
"Vonok, Dovahkiin. Farewell."
Arngeir was praying at an altar. "So," he said. "You spoke to Paarthurnax. Did he tell you want you wanted to know? Did he teach you the Dragonrend Shout?"
Samuel grimaced. "No, but he told me how to find out."
"So be it. If he believes it is necessary for you to learn this...we will bow to his wisdom."
"I need the Elder Scroll the ancient heroes used," said Samuel. "Do you know where I could it?"
Arngeir shook his head. "We have never concerned ourselves with the scrolls. The gods themselves would rightly fear to temper with such things. As for where to find it...hmm...such blasphemies have been in stock and trade of the mages at the College of Winterhold. They may be able to tell you something about the Elder Scroll you seek."
Winterhold is the area Ysgramor landed at when he discovered Skyrim and brought humans to Tamriel. His landing site, Hsaarik Head, is in Winterhold. Around the Second Era, or the First Era, or possibly even the Merethic Era, before which there is no recorded history, the Mage's College of Winterhold was built. It teaches students the arcane arts, including the five schools of magic (Destruction, Restoration, Conjuration, Alternation, Illusion), alchemy (making potions) and enchanting. The city itself was once great and proud, the capital of Skyrim. However, in 4E 122, the Great Collapse occurred. Most of Winterhold was swallowed by the sea, leaving behind only four intact buildings. (The Jarl's home, an inn, someone's house, and a general store.) No one is quite sure what caused it. The citizens of Winterhold think the mages did, as the College was left mostly intact. The mages themselves believe the eruption of Red Mountain, in Morrowind, caused it. However, the volcano erupted one hundred seventeen years before, in 4E 5. It is ruled by Jarl Korir.
The horse slowed to a stop on the cobblestone path. The Bridge of Winterhold stood at the end of the path. The bridge connected the College to the village. Samuel stepped off the horse and walked over the bridge. A High Elf was standing there before him. He almost walked past her when she spoke.
"Halt! Cross the bridge at your own peril! The way is dangerous, and the gate will not open. You shall not gain entry."
"I wanted to enter the College. Why are you out here?"
"My name is Faralda. I am here to assist those seeking the wisdom of the College. And in the process, my presence helps to deter those who might seek to do harm, so be it. The more important question is: why are you here?"
"I am seeking knowledge of an Elder Scroll," said Samuel.
"I see. Many here have attempted to unravel the secrets of the Scrolls. Few have succeeded. It would seem that College has what you seek. The question is now what can you offer the College? Not just anyone is allowed inside. Those wishing to enter must show some degree of skill with magic. A small test, if you will," said Faralda.
"I'm the Dragonborn. I could show you a Shout," said Samuel.
"A Shout? I would be most interested in seeing that."
Samuel looked at the snowy sky.
LOH VAH KOOR!
The clouds parted and it stopped snowing. The sun started to peek over the horizon. Samuel could see the Sea of Ghosts past the College.
"Amazing!" said Faralda. "I think you'll be a superb addition to the College. Welcome, Apprentice. Talk to Mirabelle Ervine, our Master-Wizard. Go ahead."
Samuel walked across the bridge. The sides had chunks missing from the Great Collapse. He looked down below and saw piles of debris from the College and Winterhold. At the end of the bridge was an iron gate with the College's insignia on it. (An sun shape with an eye in the center.) The gate swung open by itself, and Samuel entered the courtyard.
The largest door, straight ahead, had a sign above that read HALL OF THE ELEMENTS. A woman who looked about thirty was sitting a bench reading. Samuel walked over to her.
"Are you Mirabelle Ervine?" he asked.
"That I am," she said in a stuffy British accent. "Welcome to the College of Winterhold. I'll begin the tour."
Samuel held up his hand. "I just need to go in the library. Dragonborn stuff. I'll continue my education here another time."
Mirabelle looked disgruntled. "Very well. We are honored to have you here, Dragonborn. The library is in the Hall of the Elements, first door on your right."
Samuel nodded and went inside.
He pushed open the door to the library, or as the sign said, The Arcaneum. The room circular with cabinets lining the walls. Samuel tried to open one, but it was locked. The center of room had a small table and several chairs, with bookshelves on either side of them. An Orc sat on a desk opposite Samuel. He walked over the Orc. He wore a small name tag that read: Urag gro-Shob.
"Hello," said Samuel.
"Welcome to the Arcaneum, of which I am in charge. It might as well be my own little plane of Oblivion."
Samuel smiled. "Nice introduction. I was wondering if you had an Elder Scroll I could look at. Kind of important I do. And possibly borrow it for a few days?"
Urag laughed. "You think if I even had one, I would let you see it? It would be placed under the highest security. The greatest thief in the world wouldn't be able to lay a finger on it!"
Samuel held up his hands. "Calm down, Mr...can I call you Urag?"
"It's a long 'a', not a short. And you can call me Mr. Gro-Shob."
"Alright. So, Urag, do you at least have some books about the Elder Scrolls?"
"Mr. Gro-Shob would be happy to help. I'll bring out everything we have on them. It's not much."
Urag went over to over to one of the cabinets lining the walls. "C...D...E. Here we go."
He pulled out two books and laid them on the desk. One was green, and bore the title "Ruminations on the Elder Scrolls, by Septimus Signus". The other was a pale orange, and read "The Nature of the Elder Scrolls, by Ennodius Papius.
Samuel picked up the green one and opened it. It read:
Imagine living beneath the waves with a strong-sighted blessing of the most excellent fabric. Holding the fabric over your gills, you would begin to breathe-drink its warp and weft. Though the plantmatter fibers imbue your soul--
Samuel closed the book and took to Urag. "Have you read this one?"
Urag chuckled. "Aye, that's the work of Septimus Signus. He's the world's master on the nature of Elder Scrolls, but...well. He kind of...went mad. He's been gone for a long while. Too long."
"He's dead?" asked Samuel.
"Oh no. I hope not. But even I haven't seen him in years, and we were close. He became obsessed with the Dwemer, or dwarves. Took off north in the ice fields saying he had found some old Dwemer artifact. Haven't seen him since. He made a small living space out of an iceberg up north, if you want to try and find him."
Samuel thanked him and left the Arcaneum.
Samuel hopped from ice block to ice block. Eventually, he came to a huge iceberg with a small boat tied up near it. At the bottom was a wooden trapdoor. Samuel lifted it up and descended down a rickety ladder.
A small path led from the ladder and curved around the width of the iceberg, and sloping down to the floor. Inside was a large bronze box, a shelf full of books and soul gems opposite the box, and a small sleeping bag. An old man in blue mage's robes was studying the the box.
"Are you...Septimus Signus?" asked Samuel.
"When the top level was built, heh heh, no more could be placed," said Septimus. "It was, and is, the maximal apex."
"Riiiight," said Samuel. "I heard you, uh, know about...Elder Scrolls?"
"Elder Scrolls! Indeed!" said Septimus. "The Empire. They absconded with them. Or so they think. The ones they saw. The ones they taught they saw. I know of one. Forgotten. Sequestered. But I cannot go to it, not poor Septimus, for I...I haven arisen beyond its grasp."
"So...where is the Scroll?"
"Here. Well, as in this plane of existence. Mundus. Nirn. Tamriel. Skyrim. Nearby, relatively speaking."
Samuel sighed. "Can you help me get the Elder Scroll, or not?"
"One block lifts the other. Septimus will give you what you want, but you must bring him something in return."
"What do you want?"
Septimus pointed to the bronze box. "You see this masterwork of the Dwemer. Deep inside their greatest knowings. Septimus is clever among men, but he is an idiot child compared to the dullest of the Dwemer. Lucky then they left behind their own way of reading the Elder Scrolls, as reading them gives blindness, or even...madness! But Septimus feels fine! In the depths of Blackreach, one yet lies. Have you heard of Blackreach? 'Cast upon where Dwemer cites slept, the yearning spire hidden learnings kept.'"
"Where is this...'Blackreach'" asked Samuel.
"Under deep. Below the dark. The hidden keep. Tower Mzark. Alftand. The point of puncture, upon first entry, of the tapping. Delve into its depths, and Blackreach lies just beyond. But not all can enter there. Only Septimus knows the hidden key to loose the lock to jump beneath the deadly rock."
"Can I have the...hidden key?" asked Samuel.
"Two things I have for you," said Septimus, ignoring him. "Two shapes. One edged, one round. The round one, for tuning. Dwemer music is soft and subtle, and needed to open the cleverest gates. The edged lexicon, for inscribing. To us, a hunk of metal. To the Dwemer, a full library, full of knowings. But...empty. Find Mzark and its Sky-Dome. The machinations there will read the scroll and lay the lore upon the cube. Trust Septimus. He knows you can know."
Samuel decided Dawnstar was as close to Alftand as he could get. Dawnstar is the Hold capital of the Pale, and is a port village. An ancient Dark Brotherhood Sanctuary, now abandoned, is close to the town. Jarl Skald the Elder rules it. Dawnstar is also currently plagued by nightmares.
He walked along the road until he came upon a small canyon. Dwemer city entrances and towers were scattered across it. A small path led to a rope bridge and footholds to climb up the canyon.
After getting to the top, Samuel saw a small campfire and two tents. Someone had been here. Recently.
He found a bronze Dwemer door half-buried in the rocks. He pushed it open and entered the ruins.
The stone Dwemer tunnel was now covered in ice. Samuel carefully walked across the icy floor, trying not to slip. After a while, he heard two people talking, Khajiit, by the sound of their accents.
"Sulla, let's just get out of here. Hasn't there been enough death?"
"Oh of course you want me to leave, Umana. Just waiting for me to turn my back! So you can have all the glory for yourself!"
The two drew the swords and fought, Umana being the victor. Samuel tried to move, but slipped, making a large crash.
"Who's there?" said Umana. "You won't take my treasure!"
She walked around and saw Samuel lying on his back. "Hah! Found you!"
Samuel looked up and drew his sword. He parried Umana's attack and stabbed through her hide armor.
Further down, there was less ice and more ancient Dwarven stone. On a shelf, he saw some Dwarven armor and boots. He pulled of his steel equipment and put on the Dwarven boots and breastplate, along with some bronze leggings.
Samuel continued down the tunnels, the floor sloping downward. Suddenly, a small bronze ball rolled out in front of him.
It shifted until a humanoid shape poked out of the sphere, having a sharp spear on one hand. It rolled toward Samuel.
He blocked its spear attacks with his shield. YOL! His Fire Breath Shout melted the sphere so it was stuck the floor. He sliced the spear off and ripped the body from the oozing puddle of bronze.
Later on, a small bronze ball dropped from the ceiling. Legs poked out of it until it resembled a spider. It crawled over to him and jumped onto his chest, drilling a hole through his armor with its teeth. Samuel pushed it off and crushed it under his foot.
He came to a huge bronze door like the one outside. Septimus had said this was the entrance to the Alftand Animonculory, whatever that was. He opened it and stepped inside. A large room greeted him, with piles of rocks and debris scattered everywhere. A tunnel was covered by rocks, probably from a cave-in. Small stone steps stood to his right. A Dwarven Spider crawled out of a hole in the wall. Samuel stabbed his sword into its robotic brain, killing it. Another bronze person/orb thing rolled toward him. Samuel sliced its body from the sphere and pulled its spear off, leaving it flailing on the floor.
A small ramp led up to another area. Samuel walked up and felt his foot push down on a pressure pad. A pair of blades rose out of the floor and spun incredibly fast. Samuel made himself fall backward so he wouldn't be made into Chopped Legendary Hero with a side of fries.
When the blades dropped away, he used the Whirlwind Sprint Shout to launch himself over the ramp. A metal gate stood before him, a lever to open just behind it.
He shoved himself against the gate and squeezed him arm through it. His fingertips could just barely pushed down the lever, and the bars slid beneath the floor. Samuel walked a few yard before looking down.
He was at least three hundred feet above a huge drop, with a corkscrew ramp going to the bottom.
About halfway down, he saw a creature walking ahead of him.
It was very pale and about four feet tall. It had long ears like and elf, but it couldn't be an elf. Elves have eyes and don't have slits for noses, and they definitely don't have fangs. And elves talk, not make weird grunting noises. This was a Falmer.
Well, it can't see me, said Samuel. But it can probably hear me.
He exhaled, and the Falmer's ears twitched. It made a sniffing noise, and looked at Samuel. Or, it would have, if it had eyes. It took out a dagger and waddled toward him, growling. Samuel swiped to his side, trying to parry the attack, but it, and swung at his head, denting his steel helmet. Samuel pulled it off and smacked the Falmer with it, making fall off the ramp and down to the cavern floor below.
Samuel made it to the end of the ramp, and saw a horrible sight.
At least half a dozen Falmer had made a camp here, milling around and entering small huts. A Frostbite Spider was crawling around as well. Samuel realized it wouldn't be long before they heard him. He decided to make the best of it.
He killed the Frostbite Spider. He grabbed his bow and fired an arrow into a Falmer's chest, killing it. The other give ran toward him.
Samuel put away his sword, and a flame spell in each hand. He raised his hands and smashed them into the ground, creating a small explosion around him. The spell lingered, making flames dance around his body. He sliced down every Falmer that came at him, and burned their huts to the ground. The fire around him died.
A tunnel entrance stood to left. Samuel walked down it, dispatching some more Falmer. He found a door, probably what Septimus had said was the Alftand Cathedral. Inside was a larger room, about the size of the Dragonsreach throne room. A balcony with steps leading up to it overlooked a raised platform, with a gate blocking it.
Samuel walked up to the balcony and saw a lever. He pulled it and the gate opened. He ran over to it and climbed up to the platform. A bronze Dwarven statue stood before him. Samuel walked over to it to get a better look. When he got close, it started clicking and its arms started shaking. It wasn't a statue. It was a fearsome Dwarven Centurion, the guardians of the ruins. It smacked Samuel in the chest and sent him sprawling. The Centurion opened its mouth and a gust of frost spewed out. Samuel rolled to the side to avoid it. He slid under its legs and jumped onto its back, clinging to its neck. The Centurion tried to get him off but it couldn't
Dwarven Centurions are strong, but they don't have the best AI. It punched itself in the face, hoping to get Samuel. He used a flame spell to burn a hole through its chest, revealing the power source inside: a Dwarven Dynamo Core. Samuel jumped off its back and fired an arrow into the Core. The arrow plunged through it and came out the other side of the hole, taking the Core with it. The Centurion shuddered, and fell over.
Samuel looked at a pedestal at the center of the platform. It had a circular impression it...like something was supposed to fit in it. Samuel took out the sphere Septimus gave him, and placed it in the impression. The sphere spun around, and the floor shifted, revealing a staircase. Samuel walked down and saw a bronze door. He had found the entrance to Blackreach.
Blackreach was the biggest thing Samuel had ever seen. It's nearly one thousand feet deep, and takes up one third of Skyrim. It was the capital of the Dwemer Empire, before they disappeared.
He was standing on a platform. A small house stood near the platform. On the platform, a huge Dwarven crossbow was mounted down. A sphere/person was rolling around in front of the house.
Samuel crept over to the crossbow to find an arrow notched inside it. He aimed to crossbow at the sphere and fired the arrow. It crumbled into dust before it hit the automaton.
I probably shouldn't try to use arrows that are several thousand years old, thought Samuel.
The sphere turned toward him and rolled up the platform. Samuel drew his sword and sliced at the sphere. As he was fighting, a lone Falmer was walking along the path. Samuel lured the sphere over it, staying quiet near the creature. The Falmer's ears twitched as it heard the bronze sphere roll over stone. It took out a dagger and waddled over to the sphere, slicing at it. Samuel took this opportunity to run into the house he saw earlier. He bolted the door shut and collapsed, feeling very tired. He saw a sleeping bag in the corner. He crawled over to it and tucked himself inside.
Samuel awoke the next day, or so he assumed. The passage of time of time in Blackreach seemed different. He could spend a day walking on the surface and be incredibly tired, but in Blackreach, he could walk for the day and feel like he'd only walked for a few minutes. He hadn't even realized how exhausted he was until he got in the house.
He stepped out and found a Falmer curled up in ball next to the door.
"Were you trying to get inside last night?" wondered Samuel.
He drew his sword and stabbed the sleeping Falmer in the back. He continued down the path toward a huge pillar rising up to the cavern roof, the Great Lift of Blackreach. Samuel walked for a few hours, slipping into the shadows whenever he saw a Dwarven automaton or Falmer. The pale elves had taken control of Blackreach, it seemed, and there wasn't enough spheres or spiders to take care of them.
Eventually, he saw a river trickle in from the walls. A bridge was built over the river, leading into the Great Lift. Three dormant Dwarven Centurions stood guard around a lever. Samuel tiptoed past and grabbed the lever. He pulled back and it made a loud creaking sound. The Centurions came to life as the floor lifted up, leaving them behind. A huge bronze hand grabbed the edge, and would have pulled it down, but the platform sped up the shaft, separating the hand from the body.
The elevator rose higher and higher. Samuel thought he saw sunlight poking through at the end of the shaft. His eyes had grown so used to the dark, it almost blinded him. The elevator slowed to a stop and a pair of golden doors slid open. Samuel stepped out, but the elevator stayed put. He walked into the room, and a pedestal rose up from the floor, with three arms, like that of an arcade crane game, made a triangle around the top. Samuel pulled out the lexicon Septimus gave him from his pack. He placed the lexicon on the pedestal and the arms pulled it inside. It whirred around it rose up again, glowing blue. A tube descended down from the ceiling, carried by bronze supports. It slowed to a stop four feet above the floor. The tube slid open and a roll of paper was inside. Samuel picked it up.
The Elder Scroll was magnificent, with the top and bottom sides having special golden handles, with jewels embedded in it. Samuel grabbed the handles and pulled the Scroll open, and he instantly regretted it.
His vision went black, and he fell to the floor. He could almost hear his heart throbbing in his chest. After a few minutes, his vision slowly returned, but it was very blurry. He slowly rose to his feet and stowed the Scroll in his pack. The elevator started to rise up. Samuel dashed over. His sword and scabbard slipped away from his waist, and fell to the floor. Samuel didn't have any time to recover it. About three Dwarven automatons dropped from the wall, ceiling, and rose from the floor. They all moved toward Samuel. He ran over the elevator platform and tried to force the doors shut, but they wouldn't budge. Samuel shouted FUS RO DAH! to buy him some time. Once the Dwarven machines regrouped at the elevator doors, the platform was out of reach. The only evidence Samuel had been there was a glowing blue cube and a steel sword laying on the ground.