573. Never tell a warrior the odds

573 (a). Never tell a warrior the odds

As I cross the malignant streets of Elinhir I spy what appears to be a portal aglow in a particularly dilapidated corner of the city. Back at the Crossroads Tavern in Belkarth, many a caravan driver and wayfarer had warned of rifts appearing across Craglorn, but this was the first I had encountered. At my approach six figures emerge from the fulgent light, their eyes ablaze with the purple glow of magicka, their faces twisted by delirium.

573 (b). Never tell a warrior the odds

The scholar might measure six on one as somewhat unfavourable odds, but to the warrior one on six is a noble challenge. Besides, the true risk would be to leave this rift unclosed, for more of these spell-fiends could swift overrun the city and I may never make it through to the Apex Tower.

573 (c). Never tell a warrior the odds573 (d). Never tell a warrior the odds

My shield crushed the skull of the final spell-fiend just in time for me to see the broiling flames and turbulent squall of atronachs stepping through the luminous portal. Soon they were joined by an enormous flesh atronach that damn near took my head off my shoulders with an arcing swing of its brutish clubbed arm.

The atronachs that have been attacking the region of late were thought to have been summoned by Craglorn mages to defend against the Dark Anchors of the insidious Planemeld, only to turn against their masters when the constellations disappeared from the sky. But these that are arriving through the rift appear to have ingressed from another realm entirely, and the atronachs patrolling the streets of Elinhir seem very much still under the influence of the Blackcaster Mages.

When the gods lash out at Tamriel, they scourge us with a whip of many tails.

573 (g). Never tell a warrior the odds

S.K

572. The Apprentice’s Tower

572 (a). The Apprentice’s Tower

During the strangle of Elinhir, a rogue member of the Blackcaster Mages Guild led a small group of citizens to seek sanctuary in the sewers beneath the city, unbeknownst that just a feet from their shelter a far more sinister ritual was being enacted by the Lost Aspect.

The city itself will be forever lost if the leader of the Blackcaster mages is not overcome, but the Apex Tower in which she skulks is warded by macabre Nedic totems cloistered in the towers of her apprentices.

I battle my way through the wounded city streets until I arrive in a town square before the westernmost tower. Here I begin to skirmish with a seemingly unending tide of spell-fiend and atronach; eventually I am grudgingly forced to seek my own refuge within the tower itself.

I am surprised by how meagre the protection for the archaic tower is within. Perhaps the apprentice had too much confidence in her ambush, or maybe it is that she welcomes the rouse of battle herself. Either way, whether it be complacency or hubris, she appeared somewhat confounded when I swiftly put down her zombies, and equally perplexed when I sunk my blade deep into her gut.

S.K

571. The shadows of Elinhir

For the mage, knowledge is reason. Being without it feels like living in a windowless room without candles, with the darkness filled by all their fears, self-doubts, and angst. But to light a candle is to cast a shadow… and oft what hides in the shadows is far more terrifying then what was undiscovered in the dark.

571 (a). The shadows of Elinhir

Elinhir, the City of the Mages, is thought to be the oldest still standing city in all Craglorn. Yet whether it retains that distinction for much longer, or ends up just another of the unremembered ruins that cover this rugged region may well depend upon our deeds this day.

571 (b). The shadows of Elinhir571 (c). The shadows of Elinhir

Many years ago the mage Blackcaster and his followers came to Elinhir, drawn by the ancient Nedic towers that dominated her skyline. Blackcaster seemed to sense the latent power interred in the then-empty Apex Towers, but understood it not. The struggling settlement, being little more then a refuge for the displaced and the disenchanted, lived under constant menace from the clans of Iron Orcs in the mountains. So the Blackcaster offered them his protection in exchange for a home for himself and his followers. The mistrustful leaders of Elinhir declined and bid him depart. However, soon a fierce clan of Orcs threatened to lay siege to the city, only for Blackcaster and his mages to drive them away, and then they were welcomed into the city as saviours.

571 (d). The shadows of Elinhir571 (e). The shadows of Elinhir

For hundreds of years the city flourished under the protection of the Blackcaster Mages Guild. Generations of the mages however failed to unlock the secrets of the Apex Towers; there is nothing more maddening to men of knowledge then the obstinate unknown. But then one day a man approached and promised to unveil the elusive secrets of Nedic magics in exchange for the location of the Celestial Mage’s Apex Stone that was hidden beneath the city. The Blackcaster’s leaders imprudently agreed.

571 (f). The shadows of Elinhir

The ancient knowledge imparted afflicted the Blackcaster Mages with an insatiable thirst for power, and they turned upon the cities inhabitants, hunting every other mage to harvest their magicka as a vampire harvests blood. Everyone else either fled or died to the atronachs that overran the city streets unchallenged.

571 (g). The shadows of Elinhir

Now Elinhir teeters on the brink of ruination, its one-time protectors have drained it’s life and the city burns and crumbles about them. The surviving mages think they were betrayed, but they were not, for The Serpent kept his end of the bargain by lighting them a candle… but oft what hides in the shadows is far more terrifying then what was undiscovered in the dark.

571 (h). The shadows of Elinhir

S.K

570. The Mage’s gamble

570. The Mage's gamble

The Aspects of the Celestial Mage reunite for the first time since the Serpent divided them, but there is still one missing. The Lost One is fully under the Serpent’s influence and they tell me she may now be more powerful than the four them combined. In order to stop her, or at least prevent her corruption from growing further, they must join with her so that they may divide the Lost One from within. For this they require a distraction, and of course this is where I come in.

This would appear to be a huge gamble, for if it fails we shall be delivering the Aspects straight into the Serpent’s venomous maw. Even on this material realm it would seem an impossible fight a mere mortal cannot hope to survive, and I wonder perhaps if I am meant to. For these Celestials, for whom a generation of Mer is but a moment, surely cannot esteem a mortal’s life to be of any worth. Yet for the sake of Craglorn I must travel to the fallen city of Elinhir and find the Apex Stone hidden beneath; I can only pray that this proves to be but a gamble, and not a gambit.

S.K

569. Hircine’s Haunt

569 (a). Hircine's Haunt

Following the Seeker’s Sight I discover that the second aspect of the Celestial Mage has taken up refuge deep in a cave known as Hircine’s Haunt. I need not ask the locals, caravan drivers, or tavern patrons for bruit or rumour about what to expect, what better name could disciples of the Huntsman choose to call their den.

Since the fall of the constellations more and more of central Craglorn has become overrun by the Greycloak mercenaries. They openly pillage unchallenged upon the central wastelands, and their dedication to their daedric prince Hircine is thought to rival that of even the great lycanthropic packs of the Reach.

569 (d). Hircine's Haunt569 (e). Hircine's Haunt

Growing up in Cyrodill, lycanthropy was very much decried as a curse. If fact when I first joined the Legions, recruits were told if they were unlucky enough to became afflicted, they should surrender themselves to their superiors before they infected their friends and comrades… or worse, fed upon them.

569 (f). Hircine's Haunt

The first time I encountered werewolves in packs was at the gates of Aldcroft in Glenumbra. It was further north in the city of Camlorn that I was to witness first hand the brutal devastation an organized pack could cause. That city’s liberation was a bloody affair indeed. I know not to this day whether the followers of Faolchu the Reborn chose to accept Hircine’s gift, or were conscripted to it, but they seemed to willingly fully discard their human form.

At the village of Kerbol’s Hollow in Bangkorai however, it was very much thought of as a curse, yet one they attempted, in their own way, to live with. I have heard tale that Arkay’s priests are capable of performing a ritual to purge ones body of the affliction, but in truth I cannot recall ever meeting one who has recovered to tell the tale.

569 (i). Hircine's Haunt

Whatever their viewpoint, whether gift or curse, blessing or bane, there is only one certainty for those unfortunate recipients of Hircine’s gift, the promise of an eternity roaming the savage Hunting Grounds upon their death.

569 (j). Hircine's Haunt

S.K