Feb 09, 2022
9 mins read
On a cold and snowy day late in the autumn, a mysterious stranger wandered into the town of Winterhold, dressed as a wizard.
"Ha ha! Look at that poncy milk-drinker!" Said a man with the most ridiculous hat in Skyrim.
"Hmph." Said Skavild, otherwise ignoring the small mocking crowd of fellow Nords. Dressing as a wizard was not popular among the Nords, especially not the ones of Winterhold, but the idea had not been his. He was being forced to attend magic lessons at the Mages' College by a cruel Thalmor officer who had refused to let him assassinate her some months before, and instead imprisoned him as a library assistant.
The entrance exam was easy. Skavild had a magic scroll up his sleeve. Mirabelle Ervine, the Master-Wizard, had a large bosom. Skavild was pleased enough with that.
But Eldaline's contact at the college really was very rude. Ancano had barely spoken two words two him all week, and both of them had been unprintable. True, Skavild couldn't actually do any magic, and pulling strings to get Skavild admitted to the college had probably tarnished Ancano's reputation a little, but manners cost nothing.
Skavild had been a good student at school. But the College of Winterhold was something different.
"You hit me with a bloody lightning bolt, you old fool!" He cried.
"Calm down, down down!" Shouted Tolfdir, the Alteration Master. But Skavild couldn't understand wards, no matter how hard he tried. Nor could he understand circles, clouds, storms, bolts, cloaks, or balls. By which I mean fireballs.
After some days of this nonsense, Skavild had had enough. But he was an intelligent Nord, so he began to think tactically. His plan was to go and punch Ancano in the face. Then he would be thrown out of the College, and could go back to Solitude, and there would be no more of this magic rubbish.
There was no answer.
"Ancaaaaa-no." Said Skavild. "Open the door. I've got something for you."
And there was no answer, so Skavild went in.
"Hello, Skavild." Said Eldaline. "This is Ancano's room, you know."
"I know." Said Skavild. "What are you doing in it?"
"Trying to get through this dreadful book about clouds." Said Eldaline.
"A book about clouds sounds very nice."
"You'd think that, wouldn't you?" She said. "But it is by Ancano the Miserable, who can make clouds both unpleasant and boring."
"What I mean is," Said Skavild. "Why are you in Winterhold and not in Solitude?"
"There's been a terrible accident, and the Ambassador suggested I come here to stay out of the way for a while. Do you remember Sybille Stentor, the court wizard who was always plotting my death and poisoning my soup?"
"What do you mean 'remember' and 'was'?"
"And you remember how, after that fun we had with the Dawnguard, I kept the bow of Auri-El, so I could practice my archery?"
"Ye-es." Said Skavild.
"Well, I was showing it to Sybille Stentor, and it just went off in my hands. How was I supposed to know she was a vampire?"
"Everybody knew she was a vampire!"
"Well, that is why I am here, anyway." Said Eldaline. "Really, it was a horrible mess and I was very sorry."
"You're right about this book, though." Said Skavild. "What a load of drivel."
"Oh, I don't know." Said Eldaline, staring at the space behind Skavild with wild eyes. "Perhaps it is just too complicated for you."
"But you just said... He's behind me, isn't he?" Said Skavild.
"There is still a little cloud in your hair, Skavild." Eldaline said, later that day. "Just a little one."
"I'm not talking to you." Said Skavild.
"Look, I have told you before." Said Eldaline. "When insulting people, always face the door. Aren't you looking forward to your field trip to Saarthal?"
"What field trip to Saarthal?"
"The one you volunteered for tomorrow." She said.
"I didn't volunteer for any... stop signing me up for things!"
"You will have a lovely time."
"Why aren't you coming?" Said Skavild. "The place is probably crawling with draugr."
"I don't doubt it. But I haven't been invited. Some nonsense about Ancano's level of access to college research applying to me too. I'm sure you can look after yourself. Just clonk the draugr with your staff if they get too close. Or you could even learn a spell."
"You could try to tag along secretly." Said Skavild. "You're good at dungeon-delving."
"Well, thank you, Skavild. I accept your offer. I shall wear a brilliant disguise." Said Eldaline.
Later that day, Skavild sneaked down to the alchemy laboratory, to see if he could make himself too sick to go on the field trip. But the Big Bumper Book of Poisonous Plants was in use, and being read by a hooded figure.
"Barnacles." It said. "I mean, Hello."
"Barnacles to you, too." Said Skavild. "Perhaps you can help me with something."
"Go ahead." said the figure, unhooding itself and revealing an Altmer man. He began to tend to a small, glowing plant. He looked a little familiar, and Skavild couldn't think why.
"I'm looking for a poison that won't kill me, but will make me too ill to visit the Saarthal excavation site tomorrow."
"Saarthal?" Said the Altmer. In that case, you might be able to help me with something. My name is Lylinar."
"Skavild. Pleased to meet you, Elf. But first, the poison. Then we'll talk business."
"I have a proposition for you, then." Said Lylinar. "If you go to Saarthal, and come back and tell me what you find there, I will make you ill for every field trip after that."
"Done." Said Skavild. "But I won't enjoy it. All this magic's not for me."
"It's not for everyone." Said Lylinar.
"Hey." Said Skavild. "I need to ask, though. How do I know you're not one of those Thalmor who are always trying to steal research from the college?"
"I'm not sure." Said Lylinar. "I suppose I could promise you I'm not. I don't like the Thalmor. My eldest sister spoke out against them a hundred years ago and was never seen again."
"Hm." Said Skavild. "I'm not sure how convincing that is."
"I'm actually a pirate." Said Lylinar.
"Will this take a long time to explain?" Said Skavild.
"Probably." Said Lylinar.
"Then I'll just believe that you're not a Thalmor research-thief." Said Skavild. "It's less effort."
"Thank you. Please, be careful when you turn around with that staff on your back. There are a lot of fragile jars on the shelves."
"I'm really sorry." Said Skavild. "I promise, I'll do you a nice report tomorrow, to make up for the jars."
"Please, don't worry about it." Said Lylinar. "Just be careful next time you turn around. Those dried roots behind you are very rare, and very delicate."
"Whoops." Said Skavild. "I'm very sorry, I shouldn't wear this staff indoors."
"Please just go away and come back tomorrow." Said Lylinar.
Skavild and Eldaline made their way towards the ruins of Saarthal. It wasn't far from the college, and Eldaline's legs were cold. Skavild's chest was cold.
"Your chest is cold because you said that Nords aren't milk drinkers who wear cloaks." Said Eldaline.
"Well, your legs are cold because you asked Breylana the Dunmer for fashion advice." Said Skavild.
"She says this is how students dress nowadays. I must say, it is not as I expected."
"Perhaps it is how students dress, when they're not a hundred and thirty-five years old." Said Skavild.
"Is that you, Second Archivist Eldaline?" Said Tolfdir.
"Yes." Said Eldaline. "Hello, Alteration Master Tolfdir. Skavild asked me to come, as he is very frightened of the draugr and cannot do any spells, and is only forty-five years old. Is it all right if I come into Saarthal with you?"
"But... Mirabelle, the Master-Wizard, made it very clear to me that neither you nor Ancano..." Tolfdir began, looking pained.
"I quite understand. I will wait outside." Said Eldaline, going in. "Ooh, look, Skavild, it is very dark in here. But you can still see ancient blade marks on the walls. Isn't this exciting?"
"Eldaline, we've found a door that won't open." Said Skavild. "Can you see if there's a spell keeping it locked?"
"Hmm." Said Eldaline.
"No," She said. "It falls down if you hit it with a fireball, so it's just an ordinary door."
"Oh." Said Skavild.
"See." Said Eldaline.
As the smoke and debris cleared, she shouted: "Get ready to clonk draugr over the head with that staff I gave you!"
"How are you enjoying your staff, Skavild? I bet you wish you could shoot people with lightning."
"Well, you look like a cake." Said Skavild.
Eldaline and Skavild got through the puzzle door the same way as they always did, which was by spinning the statues in quite an arbitrary way and blaming each other when it almost worked but then didn't.
A strange humming and an overworldly light came from the next chamber.
"What in the world can that be?" Said Tolfdir.
"Do you mean the huge glowing orb, or the sinister skeletal figure sitting in front of it?"
Ancient bones creaking as the cobwebs fell from them, the figure slowly rose from its chair. It opened its mouth and a single word boomed from its rotten skull.
To be continued.