Adelaisa and I finally had to take our leaves of Orthus. Work called us ever onward and in opposite directions. Adelaisa was bound for Solitude and the warehouse there with some extra supplies and then on to High Rock. I had my own investigations in Raven Rock.
The ship to Solstheim was captained by a man named Gjalund. He regularly carried shipments over to Raven Rock, though the cargoes were getting lighter and more expensive with the pirate interference. He was much happier to take me over with the next shipment with news that prices for Raven Rock's colony would be coming down with his following trip. I think he cheated in our little dice game, as I have to tell Councilor Arano that prices are double this time, and he can tell him they'll be back to normal next trip.
On the trip over, I get a sense of how bad things are as the ash slowly starts to fall more often on the ship decks. At first it doesn't seem so bad, until I realize it has been doing this since the mountain erupted and the waters have slowly been poisoned over the last century. When we finally dock at Raven Rock the Councilor meets us on the jetty. I can tell he is concerned about the shipment and Gjalund quickly both confirms my impression and calms Adril telling him we have his shipment. After their usual exchange of pleasantries I am finally introduced as a representative from the Company, not here for trade matters but wanting to talk with anyone still connected to the mine operation. I am quickly pointed to a Crescius Caerellius, who turns out to be the surviving descendant of one of the men involved in the so called cave collapse. Adril leads me into town while Gjalund and his crew begin unloading supplies with the help of locals. We pass by the Carellius house but no one is home. Councilor Arano continues on to the council hall and I follow, a meeting with the head Councilor is always a good idea. Entering the building, Adril introduces me with the good news I bring and minimizes the temporary bad news, indicating his favorable view of me. I find Lleril Morvayn is a good looking dunmer, rather kind and proud of his house. He is very happy to hear I had a hand in dealing with the cause of the increasing cost of his supplies and also representing a chance the ebony mine might bring more trade and business to his town. I caution him that I'm only here to follow up on an old rumor and close the case with an official report but if there is anything I can do to open the mine, I will. While the Company has no direct stake in the mine, having ceded control to the town years ago, we're still interesting in new sources of goods and wealth new markets are always desirable.
Taking my leave of the political house, I head for the market, for rumors and the Inn. At the market I find the ever present local loan shark bully, vendors of many kinds and a surprising purveyor of East Empire trinkets. Making my way into the inn, I arrange for a room and store my excess things before returning to the common room for a drink and meal. The establishment owner has an entertaining tale explaining the name of his inn and his own local brew he is eager to share but few customers with little available coin in town. Before turning in, I ask him to pass on the word that I would like to meet the Caerellius decendent should he have time, then head to bed early after a long few days at sea.
The next morning over breakfast I find out that Crescius is easily found in the mine offices. Heading that way I easily find the man, following the sounds of an argument that sounds neither new nor likely to be resolved. The ancestor and his wife are quite wiling to fill me in on their story and suspicions. He also has a key from his great grandfather's things but, unable to explore the more treacherous and critter infested tunnels, has not found the gate supposedly installed after a cave in. When the upper tunnels played out the mine business was closed and no one else, it seems, even checked the "caved in" areas according to the old man's story. He says he can "smell" the ore still down there but is now far too old to find it. It doesn't make sense that a key for a gate, installed after a man "died in a cave in", would be found in the man's possessions. I'm willing to bet there is something to the claim that "something else was found" and Gracian was brought in to investigate. He was probably given a key to the gate installed before his death to keep other miners away. This key is his spare and he and the original are deeper in the mine.
I thank Crescius and his wife Aphia before suggesting they head home while I return to the Inn for my gear and tools of the trade. Before long, I am deep into the mine. The presence of spiders, in a man dug hole and sealed by doors and grates, is an recurring puzzle and I ponder again the oddity of critter living locations. Magical rock monsters, wild atronachs and other wizard influenced oddities would make more sense than a garden variety giant spider. Eventually I find the right shaft, blocked by boards nailed across the supports, that leads me to the suspicious gate. The Caerellius key works, and the lock turns, though not without a noisy protest due to age and neglect. Proceeding farther down the dark and dusty tunnels, I do not see any evidence of a cave in or collapse. Finally I turn a corner and Crescius is proven correct beyond his guessing. The mine shaft tunnel ends and I find myself in a nordic barrow. Advancing forward, far more silent and carefully now I return waking draugr to their permanent rest with well placed arrows.
A few twists, turns, ancient nordic puzzles and several more draugr later I reach the giant underground cavern that has been Gratian's resting place. Recovering and reading his journal fills in the unknown parts of the story and will certainly vindicate his descendant. Advancing through the large magical door with my latest bit of ancient loot I find and dispatch the ever predictable dragon priest. Persistent and powerful they may be, but sleeping for eons does nothing for your intelligence and puts you so far behind in battle tactics and martial theory, not to mention enchanting concepts.
Making my way up a staircase and more tunnels I enter another part of the barrow. A few voices, definitely non-draugr, indicate this part is inhabited by someone a little more recently born and likely never dead. A little eavesdropping identifies them as bandits, or reavers as the locals call them. I make a careful count as I dispatch them and try to gather any identifying tokens or trinkets for town guards before exiting the barrow chamber. Finding myself outside I realize that while the mine has been shut down and silent, this end of the barrow is very much less so. Several more reavers have taken up residence in the towers outside the barrow and I'm forced to shoot two quickly before advancing to cover. Lucky for me, the impromptu bridges and landings they've built did not take attacks from this side into consideration and I'm able to keep myself visible to only one door at a time. Moving quickly I dispatch a reaver, dash to cover, and dispatch another reaver before they are able to mount an effective defense. Searching the towers, I find little to identify the band. One note, naming one of the reavers, I decide might be useful and add it to my collection of evidence.
Looking down the coast, I can see Raven Rock in the distance and decide to walk down the shore instead of going back through the barrow. I stop by the Caerellius house and give them the good news, such as it is, about his great grandfather before heading to the Council building to make an initial report. The good news put Lleril in such good spirits we had a little celebratory party right there. Too bad it was just the two of us.
Llery stood up and dropped his robes as quickly as I shimmied out of my pants and top before I shoved him back into his chair and climbed into his lap. After a bit of the buck and ride he stood us up, spun us around and gave me a nice pounding while I braced myself on his chair.
After a few more hours of pleasure and a good nights sleep in my new best friend's bed I made my report to the local guards about the reaver's tower and barrow occupation. While they were happy to accompany me to their superior's offices, they were also more than eager to reward me themselves right there. After a divesting of clothing and armor as swift as the day before, one guard got me primed from behind with his hands while I did the same to his cohort in front of me.
Soon, they were both giving me a very uplifting performance and my double reward was happily and repeated received.