620. Skyreach 2 – Reaching for the stars

620 (a). Skyreach 2 - Reaching for the stars

Back home in Cyrodill we were taught that the Nedes were our most ancient ancestors, yet we know so little about them. Most think of them as little more then primitive, uncivilized tribes; an unfortunate influence perhaps of the conceited Mer historians. Indeed, even the most renowned of Cyrodillic schools is want to teach more of Nord, Ayleid and Dwemer history then our own.

620 (d). Skyreach 2 - Reaching for the stars

As soon as I entered the ornate heavy doors of Skyreach it becomes clear that the skill and craftsmanship of the Nedes is woefully under-appreciated today. The artistry in their stonework and masonry alone clearly shows that the Nedes were much more than just primitive sky-worshippers. Their architecture tells of a proud and powerful culture, not worshipping, but reaching for the stars.

620 (b). Skyreach 2 - Reaching for the stars620 (c). Skyreach 2 - Reaching for the stars

Alas that Yokudan invaders, tomb raiders, and time have caused so much damage to the city of Skyreach that much of its former beauty is now forever lost. And now the Celestial cultists and their beasts roam the ruins in great numbers, further desecrating and trampling our heritage in search of ‘the blood of Nirn’.

620 (e). Skyreach 2 - Reaching for the stars620 (f). Skyreach 2 - Reaching for the stars

It would not sit well upon my conscience if I did not at least attempt to scatter the cultists from these ruins, and the best way to achieve this is to challenge and overcome their biggest and their best. Where better to start then with a mantikora so powerful that the Scaled Court are afraid of it and have to contain it behind a magical barrier. The panic amongst the cultists as I begin to disrupt their spell-casting speaks of how formidable a beast Akranos the Unleashed is. I wonder if this huge creature is but an abnormality amongst the mantikora, or a consequence of too much nirncrux. Or perhaps it is because of the unnatural genesis of the mantikora, they will all eventually mature to be unmanageable monsters. Indeed, if these creatures really are as potentially intelligent as Regent Cassipia claimed, why would they subject themselves to the will of far lessor species.

620 (g). Skyreach 2 - Reaching for the stars

I encounter a Breton mage atop a stair case within the Hold who was practising summoning Illusory Serpents. Only it turns out that the Illusory serpents hit just as stiffly as physical serpents, and together with the impressive destruction magics of Valana the Dreamweaver, prove a difficult challenge. I am glad for my shield and armour, for I did not wish to learn whether the poison upon the illusory serpents fangs was equally somatic.

620 (h). Skyreach 2 - Reaching for the stars620 (i). Skyreach 2 - Reaching for the stars

Eventually I was to discover where the Scaled Court had began excavating beneath the hold to unearth the Nirncrux they so crave. Unsurprising they employed the Iron Orcs and their nirncrux enchanted trolls to do the hard digging for them. The Orc taskmaster Zagrakh is my obvious target but he had a secret weapon I was not expecting in the form of an enormous troll he called Rakmath the Breaker, physically an equal to any of the giant trolls I battled at The Valley of Scars.

620 (j). Skyreach 2 - Reaching for the stars

Finally I emerge from the caves beneath the Skyreach Pass bridge where I encounter what looks like a rather large but dead wamasu being fed upon by hoarvers. As I approach however the wamasu rouses with a jolt, instantly killing its parasites. It seems there is no other way past this beast but through it.


619. Skyreach 1 – Blood of Nirn

619 (a). Skyreach 1 - Blood of Nirn

The skyline of Northern Craglorn is dominated by the soaring towers of the ancient Nedic city of Skyreach. Despite having read that much of what now remains of the city is beneath the Dragontail mountains, I decide to wait till first light to make my approach to the entrance of Skyreach Hold.

As I approach an elf scholar named Nendirume warns that the Scaled Court has taken over the ruined city. She suspects that they are searching deep inside the Hold for “the blood of Nirn”, or nirncrux as it is known to the sane, sober and rational. She asks that if am going anyway, perhaps I could help her by investigating exactly what the cultists are up to.

The Celestial Serpent’s cultists are indeed numerous inside the Hold and I am forced to fight my way through many of them before I stumble upon a conversation between a well armed Argonian, and the mirage of a human the lizard calls Exarch Arnoth.  Before I am noticed the projection confirms that they have found what they were looking for, a source of raw nirncrux element deeper inside the hold.

619 (h). Skyreach 1 - Blood of Nirn

Is it not ironic that here, where once the Nedes built their towers so high to reach for the power of the Celestials, the Celestial’s agents now dig so deep to unearth the power of the Nedes?


618. Crossing the line

618 (a). Crossing the line

Even with the deaths of the Iron Orcs responsible for enchanting, equipping, and training the trolls, the threat of a savage troll army overrunning all of Craglorn is not yet over. It seems to end this potential peril once and for all we must cut the head off the snake as it were, and in this serpentine case that would be the Ophidian Exarch of Undulating Destruction; or Braadoth to his parents.

That rather too grandiose title was awarded to the Iron Orc chieftain by the Scaled Court; who knew that the way to an Orc’s heart would be through his ego?  Well the Orc shaman Agganor for one, for it was he, whilst ruthlessly overthrowing his predecessor, who managed to convince the tribal leader to ally with the Celestial Serpent’s cult and build for them a barbarous army.

As the Bosmer diplomat Little Leaf predicted, we found the shaman Agganor, Ordooth the Corruptor, a huge nirncrux-infused troll, and Exarch Braadoth himself, inside an ancient Nordic stronghold set into the foothills of the Dragontail mountains. With our slaying of Exarch Braadoth and his lieutenants, the Scaled Court’s plans for a troll army, and the questionable process with which it was to be constructed, hopefully died with them.

618 (g). Crossing the line

So were we right to punish the Iron Orc’s so harshly for the crime of falling for the deceptions and lies of the Celestial Serpent? Did not the Scaled Court play upon the Iron Orc’s troubled history and their resentment towards the men of Hammerfell. When our diplomacy had failed, was it indeed unethical of us to violently punish them when they themselves were but victims of manipulation? Also I can’t help thinking is there really so much difference between what the Iron Orcs were doing here at the Valley of Scars, and what the legendary horse breeders of the Aswala Stables did when they breed and trained their fearsome war steeds? Or even the Lizards of the Black Marshes who have a reputation for breeding the most uncannily fearless and ferocious Guar, pound-for-pound a match for any war-beast. Perhaps the only difference is that Argonians or Redguard don’t tend to feed their beasts upon the flesh of man or mer… as far as I am aware.

And therein lies the crux, for when they choose to waylay travellers upon the road and feed them to their trolls they crossed that line into evil, and I found no evidence that their heinous atrocity was part of any bargain with the Scaled Court. This most evil misdeed was theirs, and theirs alone.

618 (j). Crossing the line

So how do we punish evil, what does it fear most? Not our ethics, for when has fighting the unethical with ethics ever triumphed? With vengeance perhaps, an eye for an eye? No, for does not their outcast God teach them that such deaths of twisted merit offers a pathway to the everlasting? It is only by the indignant retribution of the righteous that such evil can be punished, both eyes for an eye. And once overcome to stop it rising again we must shred its ego like leaves in the autumn wind until it is nothing but its own conscience, for what evil fears most is its own reflection.


617. The diplomat’s blade

For the Bosmer diplomat Little Leaf, success is overcoming her adversaries without fighting, but she is quickly coming to the realization that diplomacy is simply not a language these Iron Orcs understand… Now violence however.

With the troll trainer slain in his hold we search next the Valley of Scars for the rune-scriber and the armourer, to try and convince them to put an end to this troll army. Runescriber Kulth seeks to bolster the strength of the trolls by carving nirncrux enchanted runes into their flesh, whilst Armorer Uthik adds nirncrux dust to the beasts armour she forges to make it tougher.

Unsurprisingly neither Orc responds well to Little Leaf’s diplomatic approach. Despite what the Bosmer diplomat believes however violence does not necessarily equal failure, through the soldier’s eyes it is just another form of diplomacy.


616. The Valley of Scars

616 (a). The Valley of Scars

To the wayfarer passing by on the road from High Rock to the heartlands, the Orc settlement at the Valley of Scars in Upper Craglorn might look much like any other Orsimer stronghold from Wrothgar to Skyrim. Set against the foothills of the Dragontail Mountains, which together with the valley walls provides the camp with its natural fortifications, a river runs like a vein through its heart offering the settlement plenty of agrarian potential.

616 (b). The Valley of Scars

If the wayfarer were to linger a little however, they might notice the considerable amounts of nirncrux being mined and excavated. It is unusual because the crimson stone in its natural state is known to be too brittle to create weapons, armour, or to build anything durable. When pounded down into dust however it possesses many properties which the Iron Orc’s use for nefarious purpose. From creating potions to enchanting runes and the imbuing armour. It was even used by the the Scaled Court in the spawning pools of the Serpent’s Nest to create the fearsome Mantikora.

The next thing the wayfarer might note, even above the constant clang of pickaxe upon stone echoing across the valley, is the bellowing and growling of trolls. Whether their grisly clamour is beget from temper or torment is difficult to tell. The Orsimer have always sought to make use of powerful and hardy creatures as war beasts, but the particularly feral nature of the troll makes them almost impossible to fully tame as they have the Welma or the Echatere.

616 (f). The Valley of Scars

Finally the wayfarer might observe that every member of this tribe is armed and set ready for conflict. Indeed, this seems more a garrison then a settlement. Separated from their cousins to the North, the Iron Orcs have always been an isolated society, even developing their own language. Their often brutal culture has been chiselled by this isolation and the rugged land about. Their ancestors were believed to be originally a primitive society of stone worshippers, but after savage war broke out with their more progressive Nedic neighbours, and faced with annihilation, the Orcs were forced to mine their cherished stone for iron. This only led them to become ever more isolated, withdrawn, and resentful of the outside world.

Their onerous history however is not enough to explain just how far this tribe has now descended into depravity. For before I entered this Valley of Scars I encountered a group of travelling merchants waylaid upon the roadside. They claimed that the Iron Orcs had attacked them and dragged off a number of their comrades. It is not long before I discover their fate as I find a huge pit littered with the bones of human, feline, lizard and mer. It is in this shameful crater where Gulzog the Butcher feeds his trolls.

616 (i). The Valley of Scars

This wayfarer has seen enough, and shall endeavour to put an end to this most wicked practice once and for all.

616 (j). The Valley of Scars