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Harlwystyr's Notes on Shornhelm, Through the Realms of Tamriel

Started by Harlwystyr
Post #140246

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Daggerfall Covenant
Chapter I: Introduction
Chapter II: Wayrest
Chapter III: Daggerfall
Chapter IV: Shornhelm
Chapter V: Evermore
Chapter VI: Farrun
Chapter VII: Jehenna


I continued my journey to Shornhelm up along the northern road in Glenumbra to Rivenspire. Although my previous travels were quite pleasant, this one seemed the complete opposite. The Daughter of Waves, which took me across the Iliac Bay, seemed now a distant memory; with the gentle transportation at sea being replaced with an ever increasingly uncomfortable road.

A few villages and inns along the road served my needs solicitously, I must admit - kind Lodren, the proprietor of the Soaring Dragon Inn, took particular pains to see to my comfort. The journey was broken by one rather stunning interlude, as well.

As misty dawn was breaking along the eastern shore of Glenumbra, and Lodren was assuring me that it was a common sight at this time of the day in the region, a sailor suddenly barged in the doors and reported a strange sounds and sights in the deep, his rambling blurred beyond detail.

The local fishermen grew reverent and awestruck, falling to their knees and mumbled hastened prayers to Stendarr. I could waste no time on such reactions, so puzzled were I by the situation.

There was little conversation about the strange sight later. Glenumbra began to fade along with the vegetation of the land, which was slowly became dominated by jagged rocks and dead trees by; I was surprised at the sudden shift in vegetation, but then again, I'm no experienced gardener, and I will spare you the details of the horrible weather and the toll it took on my stomach.

I at last reached the southern regions of the kingdom of Shornhelm and stopped over at a quiet border town called Merbrugh. This town well fit my preconceptions of the communities of High Rock.

The smell of cows and pigs was everywhere, emanating from the scattered barns, fields and farms that sat in the surrounding landscape. Without offending the locals, I can say that even the people smelled of animals. The hammering of the blacksmith rang from the town's outskirts, as is typical; so not to imperil the town with a potential fire. Perhaps fifty cottages crowded close around the center of the town, and the land beyond the outskirts rose quickly into a rocky hills.

At least the town boasted a hospitable inn, the Boar and Huntsman. Young Malene, the barmaid, was exceptionally helpful in introducing an old traveller to the wonders of her homeland. (Though most of the wonders did not compare in any way to Malene herself.)

Having had enough of the sea to last me for many years, I politely turned down an offer from a travelling fisherman to take me along on his daily voyage along the coast to the west, beyond the mountains. Despite of this, he took the time to explain that the salmon run at the western coast of High Rock was at its peak. I finally consented to the ride and was pleasantly impressed. Once we got there, the long-hulled fishing boat - more reminiscent of a small galleon than an actual fishing boat, strangely enough - proved quite seaworthy, and the salmon run was a thing of rare beauty.

Silvery fish leapt clear of the waves on all sides of us. We found ourselves in the midst of a large school, and the fisherman and his sons were hard-pressed to haul in the nets. In less than an hour, his boat laden with the catch, the fisherman turned back towards the harbour. As soon as we docked, the huge crane next to the smokehouse was lowered into the hold, and the catch was lifted ashore. It was a most exhilaratng experience, though the smell of fish wafted from my robes for the remainder of the journey.

The majority of the next day was spent on travelling back to Merbrugh, and the evening with recovering in the Boar and Huntsman, I encountered a breeder of horse - one Ector, of Gallomore, who had come to make a delivery before heading to the capital of Shornhelm itself. Ector was delivering a dozen fine steeds to the king and offered me a place on the back of one of them for the journey overland. I agreed and bid a fond farewell to fair Malene.

We set out the following day upon the only road in Shornhelm leading to Gallomore and Shornhelm, the Northern Road. This thoroughfare was a splendid example of engineering, paved with smooth white stone and running straight as the path of an arrow into the center of the kingdom. Ector's company was entertaining. His horses were splendid creatures: browns and grays, strong enough to pull a plow, but fleet enough to carry a lancer into battle. He told me they were representative of a breed that is unique to the kingdom, which long ago came with the introduction of the much sturdier horses used in Skyrim.

The small woodlands of Rivenspire made for easy travelling. The road climbed steeply from the south, but within a mile had levelled out across the distance. For several days we travelled thus.

Each night brought us to a small town, occasionally little more than a traveller's inn, but the accommodations were always comfortable and the prices reasonable. This, I was learning, seems to be a hallmark of the business establishments run by the people of Rivenspire.

The fourth day of the journey, as we approached the halfway point, was marked by a surprising incident. As we approached Gallomore, we were met by a company of angry men, bearing pitchforks and a few swords and long bows. The group was in high dudgeon, as it seems a band of goblins had descended from the western region and had wrought depredations among the cattle and sheep.

The townsmen were led by a huntsman who had located the trail of the monsters; they wanted to commandeer our horses to aid them in the chase. Ector offered to rent them the steeds, whereupon they threatened to take them and leave his body for the ravens. Some judicious negotiating followed, as the militia captain stated his emergency justification, and Ector explained that the steeds were intended for the stables of the king himself. Eventually, an arrangement was reached, a reasonably low price was arrived at, and we set off on the trail of the goblins.

The goblins had fled back west, towards their own dominions, and the townsfolk pursued them through increasingly rugged country. Finally we caught them - a trio of the ugly beasts. They were surprised in the evening as they prepared a simple camp. All three were slain by the archers before the rest of the mob could get close, but that didn't stop the others from charging in and savaging the bodies with malicious glee. Finally, the blood frenzy seemed to pass from these formerly peaceful men, and we returned to Gallomore. I was considerably sobered by the observation of the ferocity of the people of Rivenspire when battling a hatred enemy. I vowed to treat their traditions with respect as long as I remained within their lands.

That night, Gallomore was the scene of wild celebration. The heads of the goblins had been returned to the town and were mounted on sturdy poles to be reviled by all. Kegs of dark ale were rolled out, bonfires climbed into the sky, and maidens took part in a bizarre ritual where they swung great, clublike sticks at the heads in an effort to knock them from the stakes. One Arlana, a petite lass and the daughter of the mayor, knocked two of the heads free, and followed her triumph by consuming ale at a rate that put even this old traveller to shame. (Had it not been for the pressing nature of Ector's business, and my dependence upon his transportation, I would have remained in Gallomore for several days. In a few short hours, I observed these people passing from battle frenzy to festive revelry. In later years, these hours had always symbolised for me the dual nature of the people of Shornhelm. And of course, there was Arlana...)

The last week of the journey passed quickly. Ector pointed out the steep path leading north-west into the land that remained visible to us for several days, naming it as plagued by vampires. As if this wasn't enough, he also explained that it was the wildest area for some distance, the haunt of bears, boars, and other wild game being incredibly high. Were I more of a huntsman, I'm sure I would have been tempted to venture there. As it was, I contended myself with my destination of Shornhelm.

On the night of our journey we stayed at a cozy inn in Reyfort, where I met the local lord (of the same name). After many tall drinks, Lord Reyfort shared a legend of Rivenspire that I knew not whether to take seriously. I include it here with that cautionary note.

The legend tells of an ancient fortress below the sea to the east that has long been abandoned. It is a castle made of skulls, erected some time after the founding of the kingdom to commemorate a great victory of a despised foe. In those days (and still, as evidenced by the episode with the goblins) the people of Rivenspire would take the heads of those who had fallen in war.

In time, enough enemy skulls had been gathered that the king, Adaloch, had them raised into a mighty pile. So taken was he with the proof of his enemies' downfall that Adaloch moved his court into the castle of skulls. He led expeditions against the lands of his foes, or against the holdings of recalcitrant lords, in order to add skulls to his collection.

But the place reeked so heavily of death that he slowly went mad, as did all of the retainers and courtesans who attended him. At the last, gibbering and drooling, they destroyed themselves in a suicidal orgy of combat within the gruesome walls.

Lord Reyfort claims that the castle of skulls is real and that the Divines punished Adaloch by raising the sea to swallow his castle whole. According to the legend, it is buried deep below the waves, guarded by the spirits of those who died there (and perhaps by darker things as well). Of course, no one alive can verify the existence of the place, but all hold the tale to be truth.

The following day we finished the ride to Shornhelm, none too soon for my tastes. I would almost have preferred to travel by boat to Northpoint, for the saddle sores stung for another week.

The fortress of Shornhelm (or is it Sharnhelm?) was visible for most of that day's journey. As we drew closer, I could make out the details of the great hall and the surrounding palisade. The fortress' location, atop a steep knoll, seemed to be naturally formed for defence. These improvements wrought by the people of Rivenspire made the place virtually impregnable.

The road winding up to the castle was steep and passed under the palisade wall for much of its length. Thus attackers would be subjected to a nearly constant stream of oil and arrows should they try for an assault on the gatehouse. And the sides of the knoll were so steep that no other approach seemed even vaguely feasible.

I feared that I had arrived at an ill time, for I learned upon entering the castle that the king was secluded in a foul mood, and would thus not consider an audience. Instead I was directed to one of his nobles, a Lord Erlgardin, who would see to my needs.

While I waited to meet the lord, I spent several days in the town, but found the place somewhat disappointing. Perhaps I was expecting some of the splendours of Wayrest or Daggerfall. What I found was somewhat of a farming town, not unlike Merbrugh to the south, except that the capital was larger and more prosperous.

The inns, as always, were fine. The Knight's Rest, run by a grizzled old huntsman named Duncan, had a solidly male clientele, and the conversation was earthly. The Night's Wish, on the other hand, was a quieter place with soft-spoken barmaids and savoury food. It was run by a stout matron named Bess, whom I recalled from Daggerfall. There she worked in an establishment of a somewhat more ribald nature, but here she seemed to enjoy the more pastoral life of Rivenspire.

Of particular fascination was the local temple of Kynareth, which lies near the castle, across a large commons field from the town. The massive oak trees surrounding this sacred place stood in a nearly symmetrical ring, although they had sprouted naturally there. Within this grove, a leafy canopy shaded the ground, but the widely spaced trunks allowed a pleasant breeze to whisper through. A soft cushion of grass layered the ground, and subtle shades of columbine brightened the shadows. In several places I noticed priests sitting and meditating in what seemed perfect harmony. Impressive.

By the church was also a pool of still water; nearly clear, but clouded by a faint, milky tint. I sensed something powerful and sacred here and then realised that the surrounding area had been sanctified. I could almost feel the nearness of the God of Air, and she was highly loved by the people of Rivenspire; certainly. I knew why they held her in such reverence, even if my own path draws me closer to Magnus and Julianos. But then, I am just a mage.

Finally I was able to meet with the lord. I found Lord Erlgardin to be a older man, obviously a former warrior, who carried his few years heavily. Wrinkles creased his face, and gray streaks ran through his hair. His manner was listless, albeit polite. During the audience, I caught glimpse of the king, if only for a second.

The monarch, I was told, had been treating his courtiers rather brusquely as of later, in a manner that struck me as unusual after observing the usual enthusiasm with which the people of Rivenspire treat those they care for.

But then, this king treated everyone brusquely, even this old man who had honoured his kingdom with a visit. Lord Erlgardin gave me a cursory review of the kingdom's long and colourful history: his ancestors' who had helped build the kingdom, the great knights of the land who protected the realm, the mysterious (hah) sorcerers who served the kingdom as a whole, and so on. The only time real feeling entered his voice was when he discussed the majestic mountains, which is the jewel of the realm, apparently. He seemed to feel real reverence for them and spoke with fondness of their majesty and grandeur. When I asked if he could take the time to guide me to them, he grew wistful again, and then rudely refused.

After this unpleasant interview, I resolved to terminate my visit to Rivenspire by visiting the city of Northpoint. When I finally arrived, I spent the night at the Crow’s Foot Inn, which was crowded by sailors intent on talking about pirates, ghosts, and mysterious fogs. The next day, there happened to be a trading galleon from Wayrest in the harbour, and I had heard a crewman mention its next port of destination - Evermore - I induced the captain to ferry me across the along the western coast to my antepenultimate stop in High Rock.

- From the Journals of Harlwystyr the Wanderer, Through the Realms of Tamriel, published in 2E 188.
This post was last modified: February 9th 2014, 07:50 AM by Harlwystyr
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