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Diary of a Dragonborn Chapter 3: College Guys Gone Wild

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In which our hero explores life in the dorms.
Previous: Chapter 2, Of Jesters and Snow


Well, not really. It's not a sty, per se - there aren't piles of trash lying around or anything. It's just that Winterhold the town consists of a couple of intact houses, a bunch of busted houses, and that's about it. There's a tavern, a store, the Jarl's place, and some other guy's house along the main road up to what I can only assume is the college. I pretty much ignore the town, because the college is what I'm here for.


I'm stopped at the front entrance by an elf. She tells me that I can't enter the college because the way is shut. Looks open to me, but whatever. I tell her that I basically want to murder people with magic, and she says that's fine, they can teach me here. But first I need to pass a simple test. I need to cast a firebolt spell at the ground.


Really? I thought people came here to learn magic. You know, like, people who don't already know magic? I'm supposed to go learn magic somewhere else before I can come learn it at the place that teaches it? I'm guessing you don't get a lot of students with that attitude. I wonder if the Bard's college requires you to be a professional bard with years of experience under your belt before you join. Anyway, she offers to teach me the spell for 30 gold, which I'm guessing is either a real steal or ruinously expensive. I hand her the gold, sit down, and prepare to spend hours learning how to conjure raw elemental fire and gain control enough to form it into a sphere.


And... nothing happens. She just sits there. I perform a self-examination only to find that I've already learned the spell. Apparently you learn spells just by handing over gold. Which begs the question - why is there an educational institution dedicated to the teaching of arcane arts, when all you need is half a second and a small sum of gold to learn earth-shattering spells? Actually, it makes sense. Here they teach you not to USE magic, but how NOT to use magic. Like, the ethics of using said earthshattering spells. And then they offer said spells for tiny amounts of gold to anyone who walks up to them and says they want to use ice and fire to destroy their opponents. My thoughts get a little twisted at this point, but I decide to just go with it and see what happens. I pull out my newly-learned firebolt spell and throw it on the ground. The elf lady says that I've passed, and she'll lead me across the bridge. She walks SLOWLY across the bridge, occasionally casting some sort of white bolt at what look like magical wells. I guess the way really WAS shut! These magical wells probably do horrible things to the uninitiated who try to cross without permission. The bridge is in terrible repair. I have a sudden premonition that somewhere in my future, this bridge will shatter, maybe under a dragon attack, or possibly some magical accident.


So I get to the college proper and see a woman arguing with another elf. This guy's bad news - he's wearing Thalmor gear. He has "bad guy" written all over his face. The only thing missing is a goatee. I'm certain we'll come into conflict in the future. Maybe he'll collapse the bridge.


Anyway, Mirabelle Ervine, a Breton, is apparently the second in command here. Her duties include running the college, officiating at important events, fielding questions and requests from other organizations, and other super-important things that take up all of her time and energy. She offers to personally tour the college's newest student around. Either she's not as important as she wants me to think, or she's bug-crazy with all her work and wants to get out and do something, anything, that doesn't involve paperwork.


She shows me around a bit, directs me to my room, and I feel right at home. The dorms are a little crowded and cold, and there are no bathrooms anywhere here. Come to think of it, the only bathroom I've seen so far was in a dinky little mine. There's a thought. Anyway, she gives me some new clothes and bids me put them on. I'm now a student, and ready to learn new spells!


I head into the lecture hall to talk to my first instructor, Tolfdir. He is teaching me and three other new students about wards today. As a practical demonstration, he shoves the knowledge of ward magic into my head and then tells me to stand opposite him. He's going to cast some sort of fire spell at me, and I pray to Ruptga that this works, and sure enough, it does! I've learned a magic that can protect me from all harm! BRING ON THE DRAGONS! I'll bet I can even take on a troll now, assuming I've got a small army to back me up.


So Tolfdir says that one example means the four of us are ready for some advanced fieldwork. I guess so? I now know a grand total of four spells, all of which are really weak, so... where are we going? To practice our firebolts on wolves? Use our wards in snowball throwing contests as protection? Tolfdir is all about safety, so wherever we're going it won't be too dangerous, we'll be just fine and oh... my... gods. The local nord ruin? A place full of undead shambling monstrosities? Look, dude, if I wanted to do that I could have gone back to Riverwood. The last wizard I associated with told me to go to a ruin full of undead too! What's with you people?


Then again, maybe my newfound mastery of destruction and restoration magics will aid me in this fight. The rest of the class heads off for Saarthal, but I decide to explore the college, my new home, a bit more first. I find several new friends:
--Savos Aren, the Dunmer Archmage. He's a nice enough guy, personable and friendly for the head of the college. I'm sure he won't die horribly at the hands of an evil Thalmor mage.
--Mirabelle Ervine, Breton wizard. She's the second in command here and also a friendly sort, if a bit more standoffish than Savos Aren.
--Colette Marence, another Breton. She's obsessed with Restoration magic and how it's a perfectly valid school of magic. I've always thought so, but her vehement insistence sounds more like she's trying to convince herself.
--Drevis Neloren, instructor in the arts of Illusion. He's not too bright. Walks up to me and asks me if I can see him, then tells me I shouldn't be able to hear him, and then asks me to put on a pair of gloves and "cleanse" the magical wells around here. Sure, dude. I'll get right on cleaning your magical bidets.
--Faralda, the gate guard. An Altmer, but not really a bad sort for all that, and a trainer in destruction magic.
--Phinis Gestor, another Breton. This guy seems obsessed with conjuration magic, and he may or may not be a necromancer in disguise and may or may not have sacrificed four previous students to an evil deity. I decide to steer clear of him.
--Sergius Turrianus. With a name like that, he must be an Imperial. He's all about enchanting magical weapons and armor. He's playing up the whole "grumpy old man" gig but he's coming across as more of just an asshole. Wants me to wander the breadth of Skyrim looking for people who want stuff enchanted by him. Yeah, dude, no.
--Tolfdir is the Alteration trainer and is on his way to the nord ruin.
--Ancano. He's Altmer, and Thalmor. Nothing more needs be said.
--Urag gro-Shub: An orc. And a wizard. Not a common occurrence, I'd wager. He's the local librarian, and takes his job very seriously. He seems nice and all, but then quietly and casually mentions that he will have me torn apart by atronachs (whatever those are) if I damage any books. Gotcha, dude. Message received. He then asks me to wander the breadth of Skyrim looking for books for his collection. Sure, right after I'm done with Sergius's request, after I finish cleaning the magic wells around here.


Enough of that guff. The college is truly bustling with important people and nifty sights, but I've got a nordic ruin to plunder! I wander off in the direction of Saarthal, only to find another couple of trolls in my way. THIS time, I'm ready for them. I've got my firebolt spell and my ward, and I'm sure I won't completely lose! Actually, the fight goes pretty well at first... then I run out of magic. I quickly whip out my warhammer and spend the next month playing cat and mouse with a couple of furry killing machines. I would have been better off sticking with the iron armor and hammer in the first place. Maybe magic isn't meant for combat; it's more subtle, see? The hidden power that moves the universe and all that. Gotta be, because currently a big hunk of metal on a stick is a better tool in combat than the raw fury of pure elemental fire.


So I get to Saarthal, and there are the three students and Tolfdir. We're all just kind of standing around. I don't know if we're waiting for someone else to arrive or what, so I start chatting with my fellow students. The Dunmer girl seems a little on edge, quick to jump to conclusions and apparently holds a grudge. The Khajiit is all about ambition and power, he's like an alpha-jock of the magical world and I can't say I care for him. My fellow Nord student is quite happy to see me, tells me that he's anxious to learn all about magic in general and Saarthal in particular, then tells me that we shouldn't be here, desecrating the graves of his ancestors. I really don't know which direction this guy is going to take... is he going to wait until we're inside and then stab us all in the back as heretics, or is he going to dive headfirst in to an archaeological frenzy of discovery? Find out in our next episode of UNDER SAARTHAL!


No, really, after a few minutes, the three students enter the ruin, leaving Tolfdir and me out in the cold. He asks if I'm ready, and tells me to be safe, then heads on inside, and I follow. Inside, he gives a short lecture on the history of the place and then gives us each assignments, tells us to have fun and be safe, and then treks off on his own. I'm relieved to see no undead about, so I figure the mages must have already taken care of any problems that may arise. I head off to find Arniel Gane, and he puts me to work searching for enchanted items.


I find a few paltry enchanted rings, nothing spectacular, and then I locate what can only be a magical necklace. Nifty! The instant I pick it up, a cage drops down and isolates me in this little cubby. Phooey. I should have known better. Tolfdir wanders up and asks what happened. He seems unaware that he's speaking to me through a cage door, and asks what all the noise is about. After looking at him silently for a moment, I point, wordlessly, to the cage door. He asks how it happened, and I show him the necklace. He tells me to use it.


Use it? How, exactly? Should I, like, cast a spell on it? Drop it on the ground, throw it against a wall, hand it to you? What's going on here? I'm sure not gonna put it on. For all I know it'll constrict around my neck and choke me to death. After a few minutes of fruitless knocking about, I don the necklace, and suddenly a beam of light emerges from the wall to me! After shrieking like a little girl and curling into a fetal position for a moment, I ask Tolfdir what to do, and he tells me to cast a spell on the wall. I ready my trusty firebolt, say a prayer, and cast it... and the wall disintegrates and the cage door opens up again. Whew! I'm safe, and I'm outta here. I'd give you the necklace, Tolfdir, but after looking at it a little more it seems as though it will reduce the cost of casting magic spells a bit, so... it's mine now.


Tolfdir and I wander through the tunnel a bit, and then everything goes white. Tolfdir stands, stock-still, paralyzed, or... I've entered a time warp! The necklace! That damnable cursed thing is going to be the death of me! No, wait, it's another elf! The Thalmor! He'll be the death of me! After looking at his robes, he's not Thalmor after all, but just Altmer. Elves! They'll be the death of me! Uh, he just wants to talk. About my future. He tosses some cryptic shit my way about judgement being passed and not being passed and passing judgements and I don't know what all, after the first self-contradictory statement I stopped listening. Just because you speak in riddles does not mean you're smart. After a minute or so of ignoring his bleating, he apparently gets pissed that I'm not listening to him and disappears, ending the time warp and... draugr! They'll be the death of me! THEY'RE COMING OUT OF THE WALLS! Tolfdir starts blasting away with his magic, and I start blasting away with my magic, and the draugr die, and Tolfdir keeps blasting away... at ME... for a second or two. Tolfdir! You'll be the death of me!


No, wait, get a grip. Not everything in the entire universe is out to kill me. Just MOST things in the universe. I steady my nerves by drinking about twenty gallons of Alto Wine, then continue on with Tolfdir until we reach a room full of coffins. I'm sure THIS won't be dangerous! No sir, no draugr here! Except for those few who jump out at us. Tolfdir is no help, stuck behind a grate, and I'm sure my magic alone isn't up to the task. So I expend the last of my magical resources on useless fireballs (who would have thought that long-dead things could dodge so well?) and then pull out my warhammer... and dispatch the damnable zombies posthaste. You mean... all this time, I've been afraid of draugr, and here they are, easier to kill than the average bandit? Powerful, ruthless, relentless caricatures of their previous existence, animated by unholy energy, wielding sharpened blades and wicked axes at the invading foe, and they're about as tough as the average mine's front door guard? YIPPEE! I've found my new calling! TOMB RAIDER!


No, not really. I'm sticking with this magic thing for now. Tolfdir tells me that he'll stay here and examine this burial chamber, and I should continue onward. I'm down with that. Me and my big metal stick will go ahead and clean out the rest of this ruin. It isn't actually that easy - some of the draugr here are tougher than others - but I make it through pretty much intact. There are some secret, well-hidden, almost invisible traps that are triggered by easily seen, giant foot plates that look completely different from the rest of the floor, so I'm not sure who's fooling who here. Tolfdir catches up again, and we enter a big room, filled with a big blue, floaty, metal thing that apparently radiates magical energy. And another draugr. This one's going DOWN! Except, not. The fucker is immune to my warhammer and just laughs at me when I cast a firebolt at him. I'm down on health and Tolfdir, rather than helping me, is shooting lightning at the big blue ball. Wait, I get it, the draugr is being powered by the blue battery ball thing, and Tolfdir is helping me by getting rid of its immunities. I whack at it for a while, alternately casting spells and pummeling with my hammer, and the dead thing goes down. I pick up a magical staff on a table that casts lightning bolts, and there's a little note here, something about the Galdur Amulet. I should check that out some time. Make a note of it in my journal, along with the other things I should check out, like find books for an Orcish librarian and cleaning some wizard's sewage system.


Anyway, Tolfdir tells me to head on out and back to the archmage to inform him of the presence of the big glowing blue ball thing. On my way out, I enter a moss and fern-covered room, and the very floor seems to be huffing and chanting at me. After wandering about for a bit, I realize that it's this wall covered in scratches that's chanting at me. It doesn't seem to want to talk, though, just chant. I'm strangely attracted to the wall - I examine it for a bit, and then my vision goes dark, and one set of scratches etches itself into my mind. I don't know what just happened, but it's pretty cool. The chanting has stopped, and the world is back to normal. A little shaken, I head back outside.


As I stand at the door to Saarthal, I reflect on my recent past, and realize that I've use magic, what, a half-dozen times? And, my firebolt has never been quite as effective as my warhammer, and the ward not as effective is good iron armor. As a student mage, this is unacceptable. I decide to keep closer track of the times my Warhammer has gotten me through a tough situation, and times Magic has gotten me through a tough situation. If magic doesn't take the lead pretty soon, maybe I should rethink this whole mage thing.


MAGIC: 2 (I'm counting casting a spell at the ground to gain entrance to the college, AND casting a spell at a wall to get out of a trap)


Next: Chapter 4, How Did They Move That Big Blue Ball?
Start at Chapter 1


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