Perhaps you will prove clever enough to uncover the secrets hidden here. If so... welcome.
This was a place of madness. Hermaeus Mora, the Lord of Secrets. He who keeps the Forbidden Knowledge. If Mephala is the Teacher of Secrets, Mora is the Hoarder of them. And this cursed place... this was his library.
I took stock of my surroundings, checked my armor and weapons, silently reached out to my patrons. At first, silence. I was fully equipped, having seemingly been transported with all my gear, but if my Daedric and Aedric masters could speak to me, they were silent. But then I heard a whisper, barely audible over the rustle of pages swirling in the wind.
"Be cautious, Piss Pig. The Scryer would be pleased to make you part of his collection. Be... cautious..."
And then Wojtek's voice too was silenced.
Advancing carefully, I placed my footfalls deliberately and kept close watch to my sides. This served me well as, crossing a bridge liberally plastered with a papier-mache crust, and oily tentacle rose from the waters by my side. Cracking like a whip, it descended towards me with lightning speed. I leapt back, avoiding the strike, then I dashed forward before it could wind up for another slap.
Perhaps you are a fool... or a coward. If so, you are in peril. Escape now before Apocrypha claims you forever.
Beyond the bridge, I ascended a set of stairs to an altar of sorts, strewn with books. Most of them were charred, waterlogged, or otherwise ruined, but one was still intact. A treatise on the Dunmer of Morrowind. I flipped through it, wondering if it contained some clue to this place, but the contents were entirely mundane. Past this dais, I entered a labyrinth of sorts. All around I was hemmed in by obsidian arches, their centers filled in with a blackened iron mesh just large enough for me to perhaps fit an arm through. I explored this place carefully, looking for a way forward. Here and there, I found more books, but each one seemed as irrelevant as the last.
While the whole place was lit in a sickly glow emanating from the sky, long tentacles dangled bright globes to offer yet more illumination. Of these, one seemed more centrally located and hung lower. I reached towards the globe and, at my touch, watched it retract as the entire tentacle folded into its self and collapsed into a fleshy bulb. To my left, I heard a rumble, and turned to see a portion of the wall mesh parting, allowing me to pass underneath.
A pillar of bronze broke up the palette of dark stone and cream paper. Blue energies surged within, and I approached it with care. Mora's warning about the peril of fools was firm in my mind, and I had no desire to test it.
As I drew closer, I started to feel a pull. It started with Wojtek's piercing, tickling my clitoris as it gently tugged towards the pillar, but soon the sense spread to my belly and then crawled up my chest until I could feel a pull at the base of my antlers. While subtle, it was an insistent pull, as if it was reaching out to the centers of my magical power. At last I reached it, and tentative reached out to the glowing orb.
With a gasp, I felt power flow into my body. I felt tension in my throat, as if I needed to scream, but I stayed silent. What I'm sure was just seconds stretched on into a hazy, fuzzy eternity. At last, I pulled back, released, still feeling my entire body tingling. And then I heard voices.
"Beware, daughter, I cannot help you here."
"Beware, student, I cannot help you here."
BEWARE, FOR YOU ARE THE PREY
I answered them, not just in my mind but aloud, "Thank you all. I hear you, and I will heed your warning."
No response came, beyond a sense of no longer being alone. I might face a solitary challenge, but at least I was not unwatched.
I continued deeper into the labyrinth, dodging grasping tentacles and seeking out more orbs to open blocked paths. At length, I found myself confronted with a spectral presence. I could just barely make out a ghostly female form amongst the floating rags, silently considering me.
Only when I tried to move past her did she at last speak.
"Your power," she whispered, "give me your power."
And then, like double vision after a hit to the head, she split into three. Grasping, icy hands pushed towards me, and I swung my sword to drive them back. Twice, three times, they reached for me, but each time they fended me off. At last, I was able to position myself such that I could make a clean swing in counterattack rather than just protecting myself, and the specter vanished in a roiling swirl of blue mist and fog. The remaining two enemies wavered, visibly weakened by the loss of their sister, and only lunged at me once more before fading into the book-lined walls and vanishing.
Still, I knew I was not alone. I could feel eyes upon me, eyes that I was certain belonged to these creatures. With even more attention to my flanks, I pressed deeper into the maze. One more set of curling corridors and a final orb later, I found myself in a spacious room. I was not, however, alone. Gurgling at me in an unknown and perhaps unknowable tongue, a giant creature with a grotesque, fishlike body challenged me - but he was not my sole opponent. For there was also something more sinister yet in this place. A floating orb of eyes and tentacles, very intent on my presence and practically overflowing with malice.
"Now, little one, show me if you are clever, or if you are a fool," it growled.
As if emerging from the very air around me, slimy green coils wrapped around me, pulling at me and trying to pin me in place. I hacked with my sword, momentarily gaining some breathing room, but that only bought me a momentary respite. Soon the stinking, squirming mass had all but enveloped me, pulling me to my knees and wrapping tighter and tighter around my body.
Then I felt a hot, burning pain shoot across my body. I realized it was the greatsword I'd found with Gratian Caerellius' remains. The pain intensified, but even as I screamed in agony I could feel the tentacles' grasp loosening on my limbs.
"Impossible! The Bloodskaal are extinguished!" The orb rasped.
Then I fell flat on my face, and I realized the tentacles grip was gone. No longer pressed against my chest, the searing pain from the greatsword faded quickly, and I rolled to my feet before my enemies could react. By good fortune, I came to my feet within reach of the orb and I swung without hesitation. The sword cut cleanly into the monster, and it feel to the ground in a heap of deflating flesh and rolling eyeballs.
I wasted no time in confronting the other monster, charging as I swung the sword in a low arc. Only then, as it passed before me in the moment before impact, I realized that the sword had changed. Its symmetry was gone now, warped into a shape something akin to a long, flat fang, and as it cut through the fish-creature's flesh, a long tentacle lingered behind, tearing and ripping at the wound.
The fight was not yet won, however, as the giant was too strong to fell with a single blow. But thanks to my well-fitted and lightweight armor, I had the fleetness of foot to stay one step ahead of his attacks. Perhaps realizing that he couldn't catch me with his hands, the monster stepped back a few paces and then, with a roar, vomited golden bile towards me. I leapt away, but some spatter struck my armor, sizzling where it landed on metal.
We danced back and forth, him never quite able to hit me, and I never quite able to close the distance to strike, until at last I found my position again. Stepping past a kick, I was at last under his guard and I swung upward, letting my blade kiss the creature's belly. He howled but still did not fall until I followed up with a horizontal slash to his back leg. The blade parted its knee like a peeled fruit and it collapsed into the murky pool. In two steps I had mounted its back, then I quickly drove the sword into its throat. Twice more it thrashed, and then the fish-creature lay still.
"You must think yourself clever, mortal," Mora's voice groaned. "But I see within. You did not win by a clever ruse, you won by luck. And luck is the province of fools. Savor your survival today, for when you next visit me, this will be a place of nothing but peril for you."
In spite of this warning, however, no further monsters appeared to stop me. I crossed the chamber unopposed, and as I approached the raised cage on the far side, stone steps extended to allow me to approach. Within, I saw an enormous tome... and a robed man.
"I have watched your and I have analyzed your actions," he said, in a detached voice. "The Master compels me to grant you fitting recompence for your perseverance. Knowing your way of thinking, I believe this is a suitable reward."
A curious sensation washed over me then - it was both akin to, and very different from, the power I'd felt when I stood astride the word wall in Shroud Hearth Barrow.
"Who are you?" I asked.
Scoffing, he waved a hand dismissively through the air. "I am an archivist. I am not important."
"And your master? Is that Hermaeus Mora?"
"This is Apocrypha," he coldly answered, "there is only one Master here."
The tingle of power was fading now, settling into the background, but I had a sense that something new existed within me. A key, perhaps, but I knew not what it unlocked. As for the archivist, he seemed to have nothing more to say. After a moment of consideration, I approached the great tome. Opening it, my mind reeled at the strange, swirling script within. As I struggled to discern any meaning, spots within started to grow with green light, and orbs of unknown energy rose from within.
I could feel it calling me, and after a moment's hesitation I reached out to touch the orb. It flared brightly, and I sensed that something had changed. I imagined myself in battle then, fighting back to back with Jenassa against a horde of enemies. Hearing her gasp, I turned to see an enemy about to strike her down. I spun, whipping my sword around, and it passed harmlessly through Jenassa while cleaving the enemy warrior in half.
"Yes..." Mora cooed. "Never again will you fear for your friends when in pitched battle. A secret technique befitting one who lives by her luck."
My vision blurred then, and when my sight returned I was back in the ancient ruin, standing before the lectern where I'd found the old book. I felt stronger, invigorated, and I felt that the key still sat within me, unturned. And the sword... the sword on my back squirmed gentle against it. Evidently, it's transformation had persisted through the step between worlds. Though I wondered if this was a boon, or cause for regret.
Behind The Scenes
While this blog was on hiaitus because of the latency issues, I continued reviewing the Nexus and fleshing out the build where I could. I'm now at 1,597 mods installed, with a number of additional mods downloaded and ready to add as soon as I finish this playthrough (those being mods that I can't safely tack onto the end of my load order, or that need extensive patching). It seems like every day, new and valuable resources are making their way onto the Nexus. It's really a great time to be modding Skyrim. My sojourn into FO4 also reminded me how lucky we are to have the high quality tools we have in this game, to say nothing of things like Engine Fixes that address deep seated issues. Just imagine in Fallout 4 could overcome the 128 settlement limit with native code created by the community.
You may notice some issues with the images loading. I'm still getting occasional upload issues, and while I'm doing my best to ensure everything comes out looking right, it may be a little bit before there are no missing or corrupted images. Sorry about that!