The Horror From Within the Mist
Written in honor of Teccam's Skyrim Character Build: The Undying
That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons, even death may die.
- H.P. Lovecraft
On behalf of my fallen colleagues, I hereby file the much desired report pertaining to our research expedition to Avanchnzel. I am aware that the untimely deaths of my scientific companions caused much dismay and contention within the scholarly community all over Skyrim and beyond. As to the exact cause of expiry, I am fairly certain. However, concerning the exact whereabouts of their bodies I am not. For the encroaching menace we had encountered within the steam gardens would not disclose that information.
And after all that had transpired, while I fled the premises I bore no intention of inquiry to that malign being, for my own survival was at stake and all evidence pointed to the fact that my demise was assured should I choose to linger within the mechanical depths of that ruinous, subterrene structure.
Moreover, I am left with a permanent mark on my body that will constitute prodigious despondence by means of cruel reminiscence for years to come - if not the remainder of my mortal life on Nirn.
It was on the 25th of Frostfall, 4E202, just after the Dragon Crisis had been resolved at the hands of the fabled Dovahkiin. I occupied an elegant house in the City of Markarth at the time, chiselled from the solid rock the entire town was built into. A product of magnificent masonry and craftsmanship. The Dwemer, in their heyday, knew how to construct dwellings with mathematical precision. Admittedly, I had exchanged the stone bed for a more comfortable variant fashioned from juniper tree wood and a goat hide mattress and pillow with a linen blanket. But otherwise, this was the home of my dreams.
I had always been an avid pupil in the ways of Dwemer architecture and technology, even at an early age.
I was born and raised in the Reach not far from Karthwasten. My parents, both of Redguard descent, earned their every Septim in the mining business while I was usually tasked with keeping our homestead in check as soon as I reached adolescence.
Soon, I would, in increasingly longer intervals, attend to digging for ore in my mother's stead when she got temporarily incapacitated as a result of her hazardous line of work or due to illness.
On one of the days in the mine, I coincidentally caused an entire wall to crumble to dust on the search for fresh, resource rich veins. What I would find, though, was rather queer to my youthful intellect.
Strange struts and pipes of a singular metal that gleamed like gold in the warm radiance of my torch wound themselves through an ever longer stretching tunnel. My curiosity got the best of me on that occasion, prompting me to explore the alien cave.
I marvelled at this hitherto unwitnessed architecture. Because soon, the dirt covered ground gave way for smooth, stone pavement.
At that point I realized that I was onto a grand discovery, so I resolved to trail back to the mining camp and inform the assigned foreman of my findings.
Unfortunately for me and all other indigents employed, by the Jarl's decree the excavation site was sealed. Only scholars, wizards and guardsmen permitted ingress.
Needless to say that this edict did not deter me from entering the cavern regardless. And so, I would sneak in as often as was feasible, conducting some research of my own.
I will refrain from digressing into too much detail. Suffice it to say, however, that this introduction to Dwemeri antiquity brought about the person that I am today. An esteemed and valued researcher on the field of studies of extinct, elven ancestry.
At length, and over the course of many a year, I slowly gained a certain reputation among my peers until finally, I was invited by the legendary Calcelmo himself to partake in a newly established programme.
Due to my unmistakable proficiency in that domain, he wanted me, next to two other outstanding individuals, to spearhead the freshly conceived operations.
Upon my initiation into this elite group, I figured it imperative to procure a home in Markarth that I could call my own, lest I wasted precious time traveling to Understone Keep for every assignment. Having earned some respectable coin prior to joining that particular venture, I was able to settle in the city. And it is from the confines of this very home that this report is written, for I dare not show myself publicly anymore. At least not with my burdensome attachment that so viscerally tells the tale of my folly.
Our squad of scientists would consist of three academics, always accompanied by two seasoned guards or sellswords when on duty. The withering ruins of the Deep Elves are invariably dangerous, after all. Next to devious animunculi we also had to be prepared for ancient traps along our way. And Calcelmo knew that we were useless to him should we perish, so he spared no expenses to keep us out of harm's way, assigning to us only the most experienced of warriors that he could find.
And for good reason. The three of us that would thenceforth work together were worth more than gold, invaluable in our respective spheres of knowledge.
For one, there was Vayniah, our very own Dunmer destruction witch and expert on antediluvian Dwemer artifacts with connexions to tonal architecture. She began her career as a sorceress at the frowned upon, myth-enshrouded College of Winterhold after she had discovered her magical acumen when she accidentally burned off the face of a rogue bandit in self-defense.
Later down the line, she left the arcane institution in favor of more intellectual and archeological pursuits when she stumbled upon the ruins of Nchuand-Zel during one of her assignments given to her by the Arch Mage.
Ever since, she wrote many volumes in respect to that fascinating, antique technology.
On the other hand there was Theodistair, an aged but eloquent Breton librarian who formerly taught bygone history to the immediate progenies of the resident parents in his home town somewhere in High Rock. His interest awoke when one day, he told the famous story of the Nerevarine to his students and lost himself in books about Morrowindian Dwemer lore later that evening.
As far as I can remember, he was on the precipice of cracking the enigmas that were the scriptures of 'The Egg of Time' and 'Divine Metaphysics' prior to his unfortunate demise. He was a pioneer on the field of Dwemer linguistics and history. In his time as an officially recognized member of our team, he brought many previously undocumented findings to the table, adding to innumerable libraries far and wide.
And lastly, of course, there was me, Seghtir. I was adroit mind who would be consulted if any questions at all arose about Dwemer architecture, craftsmanship or metalwork. As such, all of us were an intellectual force to be reckoned with. We spent countless nights brooding over old texts, strange apparatus, odd hieroglyphics or discussing hypotheses about Deep Elf culture. All that should, tragically and unbeknownst to us, change on that fateful day.
Typically, our group had the task of scouting out afore undiscovered ruins and make first assessments in regards to several different factors concerning the object in question, such as the general state of disrepair, the amount of still functioning combatants, overall percentage of accessible areas, number of traps and expected amount of knowledge to be gained from further inspection.
Afterward it was customary for us to erect a first, preliminary encampment for ourselves and following researchers based on our overall evaluation of the place. This was a vital step, especially if longer future expeditions had to be issued, either based on the magnitude of the object or the scientific value of its contents.
That 25th of Frostfall, we were sent, accompanied by two heavily armed mercenaries, to the heretofore inaccessible ruins of Avanchnzel. According to Calcelmo, something caused its gates to unlock and we should be the first to lay eyes on that unexploited area, examine all the chambers as far as we were able and report back either by letter or, if not otherwise avoidable, in person, within two weeks depending on our progress.
Avanchnzel lies southwest of Heartwood Mill, which itself lies to the west of Riften if one southwestwardly circumvents the lake wherein the island is situated atop which Goldenglow Estate stands.
The prospect of travel from the Reach to the Rift was highly cumbersome. Fortunately for us, a horse carriage had already been paid in advance by the knowledgeable Altmer to take us to the Rift Hold.
After about two days of fare on bumpy, worn down roads from Markarth to Riften, we decided that it was probably for the best if we rested in the local inn and waited for a new dawn to arise on the foggy horizon to begin our work. Vayniah, Theodistair and our two guardsmen were somewhat worn out from the long journey, having slept in various taverns in different states of dilapidation along our way.
When the day came, we made sure to rise early, lest dusk fell and impaired our ambitions. We were excellently prepared for our commission. Aside from the brigands, we had also thought of carrying along a collapsible tent, empty notebooks bound in leather to record our findings with, a few sleep rolls and in the town, we stocked up on provisions to be able to stay underground for an elongated period of time, keeping hunger and thirst at bay.
The rest of the way we traversed on foot, taking the before specified route southwestward of Riften, exiting the thinly spread woods to the lake's shore southwest of Riften, past the lake and mill. At noon, Vayniah, Theodistair and I finally arrived at the foot of the mountain that led to the fane.
It was a steep climb to the top of the hill upon which it was perched. The masonry that made up the former road of ascent was in severe disarray from neglect over the ages, the towering buildings the outer premises were composed of, littered with debris. But as is the case with all Dwemer habitats, in spite of its awe-inspiring age, the cyclopean structures firmly held fast against the test of time.
And for their antiquity, they were in a remarkably pristine condition. Especially the metal-embellished, winding walkways up to its entrance seemed to be largely untouched, saved from large scale degradation.
We did not possess a lot of information about that place. Only that it was speculated to be a former military production center and as such, the three of us hoped that it must have therefore contained one of the rarely seen animunculatories. These extremely specialized facilities, more often than not hidden deep in the hearts of the subterranean spaces, in ages past served to conceive of, and maintain, this now extinct civilization's weapons of war that had aided them in battle prior to their still unsolved disappearance.
Due to an apparent cave in, the only viable entrance into Avanchnzel was a black mound in the great hill that we reached by ascending the spiralling paths of marbly stone.
When the five of us carefully entered the cave, we were, at first, disappointed to find it devoid of any traces of Dwemer occupation. In fact, our group had to travel some distance across the narrow, naturally formed corridors before they would disembogue into the ruins proper, shewing first signs of the Deep Elve's preceding settling by bent and burst pipes and a few chandeliers with those unmistakable, glowing crystals that were common in and around such locales.
The cavernous appearance stretched along for a couple more meters before we were finally reassured of the place's genuineness when dirt and filth were replaced by precisely chipped, smooth rock. And albeit we had no means of tracking back to whence we came due to the architectural givens of the cave, namely, a drop at the very beginning, we figured we'd find our way out sooner or later.
Apart from seriously compromised machinery, probably due to tectonic shifts that also caused the actual entrance to be thoroughly blocked off, we also found a few arachnoidal animunculi, better known as 'Dwarven Spiders', lying on the ground, inert and with several parts missing.
I paid it no mind then, but who could have divined the prophetic import of the broken things?
At this point, we finally found ourselves amidst the so familiar design principles we recognized as being Dwemeri.
A light fog greeted us as we set foot within the enclosed spaces of a forsaken place. A place so lost to time and history, nature herself began to erase the traces leading to the hollowed-out earth and reclaim what was rightfully hers.
The dispersing clouds announced our advent and we did not have to travel far in order to notice the utter salinity of this location's features.
Within the first few minutes, we came across a brightly lit set of bridges, after we let our guards shove open a heavy metal gate, leading to different zones within the decaying dwelling.
We did not ponder overlong and swiftly decided to head up a bridge to our left to scout for an area to set up camp in. Sure enough, after we had been going several meters, a large chamber revealed itself to us. It was mostly empty, except for an inactive Dwemer Sphere Guardian, and sported a big, cross-shaped table in a room directly adjacent to it.
Theodistair suggested we erect our tent there, using the intact table to leave our notes and instruments on.
However, upon closer examination, we made our first, great discovery. On said table lay as of today quite unique sketches and schematics that were atypical in comparison to anything found so far. Depicted on these parchments were vitruvian images of men, mer and beast, next to which a sheet of paper shewing a humanoid being with mechanical arms and legs as substitutes. Were the Dwemer on the verge of creating fusion betwixt technology and flesh? What struck me as remarkably odd, in any case, was the relatively intact condition of the documents. If they had truly been lying around for ages, it is indeed wondrous how they have not partly disintegrated yet. It felt as if they had been drawn mere days ago which was as much irritating as it was impossible.
Stashing away our first big find in my robe, we finalized our camp and shortly thereafter, Vayniah proposed we inspect the ruins from there and at the end of each work day, collect all of our acquired material to discuss it together. And so we did.
But what we should find defied even the cruelty of the Deep Elves themselves by a thousandfold.
In the next two days we would explore the underground abode, taking apart each room on the lookout for anything extraordinary. However, as much of a relief as it was, it struck me as very unusual how we never encountered any opposing forces within the desolate, crumbling walls of the sophisticated habitats. All we ever stumbled upon were incapacitated Dwemer contraptions, bereaved of a good number of their parts. Sphere Guardians with their arms or heads missing. Arachnids drained of oil and robbed of their soul gems and legs. Ballistas, even, with their ammunition spent.
As avid explorers and researchers, our group was wont to having to defend ourselves against those mechanical monsters. To find absolutely every single one of them neutralized was altogether unprecedented and to an extent concerning.
Due to the everlasting nature of Dwemeri craftsmanship, it was hence to be suspected that someone, or something, must have trod these halls before us. And although we were equipped for combat, the thought of the perpetrator still being around there somewhere sent chills down my spine. For they seemed to be capable of dispatching a considerable amount of these sturdy machines all by themselves. But we had no idea what we were dealing with, in the end.
We meticulously viewed the halls and chambers of Avanchnzel and found ourselves quite often traversing dimly lit corridors. But even with our limited sight was it utterly stunning how well preserved most of it truly was. Before long, and after a series of singularly dark tunnels, in one of which I almost tripped on a destroyed Dwemer spider, our fate should, for the first time, be foreshadowed.
We entered a narrow passageway housing a compromised pipe to the right, continually venting steam in a hot, opaque stream amongst the decaying walls. There it was where I fancied I espied a thing.
From in betwixt the ardent vapors I saw a pair of glowy dots sway undulatingly to and fro, presumably off in the distance. They were quite tiny and I failed to recognize any observable features in their direct vicinity. Involuntarily, I looked around in search for similar phenomena. But when I turned my head towards the steam cloud again, the dots were gone.
I formed a confabulation, explaining it away as a mirage but somehow, I was unable to shrug off the feeling of being watched.
From that point forward, I retained an eerie sense of being under perpetual supervision. As we traversed the tenebrious inner workings of the structure, it was as if there was always something visible within the corner of my eye. But each time I turned around to check, I was met with the thoroughly confused gaze of either Vayniah or Theodistair who were then prompted to ask me if I was alright.
I could not place it, but something was off. I just did not know what it was.
Every time we went around a corner, I could tell that someone, or something, must have been there just a second ago, notwithstanding the fœtid reek of undeath that lingered about these spots, never mistaken for anything else by those who had once come face to face with those perversions of unnatural corruption.
Each time I took a closer look at an object of interest or tinkered with an apparatus, I sensed a breath on my neck only to turn around in fright to discover that there was, seemingly, never anything there in the first place.
And whenever I opened a door, I could have sworn to have heard very faint, almost inaudible, steps somewhere behind or ahead of me.
It was absolutely maddening and by my altered countenance, my colleagues began to worry and express their concerns in respect to my well-being.
For a time, I even genuinely believed that maybe, all that work away from the sun was getting to me, inducing paranoia against things that did not exist.
At length, our group of five arrived at a place we had hoped to find within the bowels of Avanchnzel all along - the animunculatory.
On first impression, we weren't aware when we entered it. But as soon as we discovered the copious amounts of shelves and leftover crafting ingredients, we knew we had stumbled upon a greatly sought after gem of Deep Elf society.
It was intensely elating for us to have found such an abundance of spare animunculus parts. The storage compartments were filled to the brim with legs, arms and gyros and struts, gears of metal, among other items of interest.
Notwithstanding the prodigious excitement this provoked, when I went to survey the array of pieces, I noticed a truly unsettling detail about them that made the blood freeze solid within my veins. For you see, by the appalling lack of dust and rubble on and around either of the aforementioned parts, I could deduct that all of them had to have been moved there fairly recently.
And just like that, it all suddenly came together. The slain machines. The missing mechanical limbs. It all began to add up. Someone was there besides us. And they have spent their time collecting all of those scraps.
I was just about to voice my dread and suspicion to alert my compatriots of the probability of the presence of someone else within the depths of the ruins. With shaking breath I inhaled, ready to speak a word of warning, when my efforts were foiled by a nearby pipe on the ceiling bursting impetuously.
The deafening noise of the explosion made my ears ring and the blastwave sent me stumbling back a few steps.
The broken pipe released a ginormous steam cloud that would soon devour the entire area, engulfing it in a warm, uncomfortably moist mist.
As I properly regained my senses, I espied my four companions stumble around aimlessly. But to our luck, all was still vaguely discernible.
I had just recovered from the initial shock when I saw them again - those contemptible, luminous, red baubled that levitated about forebodingly within the fumes. Watching me. Watching us. Horror encroached, my brain frantically beckoning me to flee, but I couldn't. For a reason unbeknownst to me, I harbored an irresistible urge to trail those two orbs in the nebulous vapors.
All of a sudden, they vanished. Thereupon one of the guards could be heard, crying out in pain. I was quick to locate him wading through the thick cloud but when I arrived, I could only watch him as his lifeless body collapsed.
Festering fear flooded my mind and I cried out for help. As the remainder of our party gathered around the corpse, the density of the surrounding fog decreased by a small amount, revealing two telling bite marks on the sellsword's carotid artery. I knew what this meant precisely. And I knew that we were in trouble.
The density decreased further, so much that the outlines of all other members became clearly visible. In my helplessness, I looked around to await the reaction of my fellows when I got paralyzed, mute with terror.
For in spite of the mercenary's death, myself included, I still counted five people circumjacent to the body.
From within the mist, a hooded, tall and slender, humanoid shadow with crimson eyes emerged and concealed its true identity.
Soon, the others would notice that something was dreadfully off. However, before any of us could react, the stranger moved towards our other guard with incredible speed, throwing him back several meters on impact.
He was quick to stand up and retaliate, some fierce swings of his steel sword connecting with his target. Ultimately to no avail, as our enemy appeared to be minorly annoyed by this assault rather than wounded. The mercenary coated the elusive form in a volley of attacks but it seemed to have no real effect.
In the next moment, I observed a long, slim, black blade appear from out of the silhouette. In a heartbeat and with one swift, precise motion, the guard got decapitated.
The menacing shape mockingly gazed at us. Vayniah had had enough by that time and hurled forth an assortment of fire balls, lightning bolts and ice needles at our foe. To our chagrin, her magic appeared to bother it even less. The Dunmer's continuous offense did not cause even so much as a sliver of inconvenience to this adversary. So, it slowly walked over to her, unhindered. Menacingly, the pair of unblinking eyes closed in on Vayniah, albeit she fired off each and every destruction spell within her repertoire.
The remaining vapors were set ablaze with versicolor beams and gay particles of polychromatic pulchritude when out of nowhere, her assault ceased and she was knocked unconscious by the pernicious entity.
Theodistair cried and yelled and ran for his life in response to such overwhelming opposition before he was hit by a curious spell. He tripped and fell, never to move again.
Then, I turned my head to meet the beast that had been preying on us, still stunned from this mind fracturing combat. The tall, hooded figure inched closer and all I remember from that encounter is an armored fist that connected to my face before consciousness forsook me.
The next thing that I can recall is that I awoke to the grating noise of moving gears and tormented screams. I opened my eyes and surveyed the environment as best I could, for I was chained to a table of some sort. I realized that I must have been held hostage in an assembly hall. To my left there were again shelves overflowing with parts but also a grand platform with rotating cogs on its sides in front of me.
Normally, animunculi such as Centurions got assembled on these. But now, it appeared as if I found myself subject to assembly.
After a while, I heard someone approach my position. Cold sweat perspired from my forehead and palms, my in- and exhaling got increasingly difficult and my unrelenting heartbeat reigned supreme over my quivering body. My spirit was subdued by unabridged apprehension.
The steps stopped. From my point of view, I could not see him. Yet, he uttered these words in a deep and raspy voice:
"Thou'rt awake. Excellent. Thou shalt make for an adequate specimen. Unlike thy peers. Consider thyself fortunate. Belike thou becom'st the first of thy kind.".
That was all he said. Following his speech I picked up on a metallic noise somewhere behind me while the detestable stench of undead flesh assailed my nostrils.
Without forewarning, an unbelievable, searing pain in my left arm tortured me irredeemably. I felt that I was but a hand's breadth from becoming unwound.
Thereafter came an alien numbness right afore even greater agony was inflicted on my shoulder, sending me off to the land of dream yet another time.
I cannot say for certain as to what processes took place during my spiritual absence, but when I next came to, my whole body felt as if in contention with itself.
For a brief moment I had forgotten what nightmare I was trapped in. But after a few seconds, the harsh reality came crashing down on me when I was pulled from my discombobulated day dreams by the ear splitting noise of the gears around me.
I attempted to move anew but found myself still enshackled. To my surprise, only my left arm seemed to have been spared that treatment.
Still somewhat hazy, I scrutinized my limb. In the blink of an eye, my initial drowsiness got dispelled, forwhy I laid eyes upon a thing of utmost repugnance.
I examined the arm from hand to shoulder to find out that what was once flesh and blood had now been replaced by foul invention! A mechanical substitute, crafted from Dwemeri metalwork, had taken its place!
Terrified and shattered beyond conjecture, I feverishly tugged at the chains that bound me to that place. To my astonishment, this new limb, intricate in design and gleaming in the light of the enchantingly teal torches, was capable of tearing apart my bounds.
I was free again.
I had only one thing in mind: flight. I needed to get away from that place as fast as possible.
I got up from the assembly platform, still reeling from the most recent incarceration.
On the other great, white stone pedestal I imagined I saw a pair of dark grey arms protruding out from behind the spherical part of one of the Dwemer sentries.
Vayniah. Perhaps she was still alive!
I covered my mouth in mutilating grief when I saw that I had not been the first victim to these detestable experiments. For her undressed upper body had somehow been fused with that spherical construct.
Underneath her body, there was a large pool of coagulated blood, telling of her grueling demise. I was just about to turn away when her eyes widened and she extended her hand out to me, aspirating "K i l l m e", as strongly as she could before she drew her last breath and expired.
My heart was infested with incomprehensible dread that was pumped hither and thither, filling me with spreading anxiety. I only turned and ran. As I did, I passed by the defiled carcasses of our guards. One of them had their head and torso replaced by cold machinery, the other had only been chopped apart, its disembodied extremities lying on the ground beside it.
I fled up the stairs, sliding forward on the blood that merged with the tiny fractals of the flooring, through the dark corridors, paying my surroundings no mind. All I desired was to get away. Through my inadvertence I bumped into a hideously malformed Theodistair.
Upon impact, I tumbled to the cold stone floor and beheld what used to be my colleague, once stout and stalwart, now a crooked shadow of his former self. His legs had been exchanged in favor of sturdy metal appendages that looked like inverted Sphere Guardian arms with feet fused to them composed of arachnid legs. Half his face was coated in a shiny, gold like plating and out of his right eye socket jutted a soul gem of blue-purple lustre.
From his weeping wounds flowed sanguine drippings that slowly solidified on the gelid material, lending credit to his bent gait and inhuman shambling.
I arrested his attention and he inhaled to speak only to cough up various pungent liquids, one of which not dissimilar to oil.
"H e l p m e", he then spoke under the greatest of difficulty before vomiting his internal contents, or what was left of them, onto the floor.
The sickening splashing noise reverberated off the walls and crept into my ears, provoking a profound nausea. But even that pestilential stench was not enough to distract me from the diabolic delinquency that followed my every step.
From the maze-like aqueducts and tenebrous, winding tunnels behind me, the shrill screech of an upset, vampiric madman foretold this adversary's oncoming pursuit.
My heart pounded ever faster, to the point at which I believed it might collapse from overexertion. Theodistair, presumably having grasped the gravity of the situation, picked me up by my collar and hurled me away from the noise's source, telling me to go while he assumed a defensive position, if quite frail, in one of the door frames, awaiting merciful oblivion.
With reluctance, I acquiesced in grim taciturnity, silently saluting my friend and leaving the broken, twisted Breton to his fate. At the second I turned, I received one last glimpse at those sparkling, blazing eyes betwixt the age old fumes and shades of the ruins. Then I made off.
I can't tell how long it truly took me to exit Avanchnzel. I remember running through a set of dimly lit hallways in serious disrepair, illuminated only by these glimmering gems, when I heard the portentous sounds of a lopsided battle in the background. In my delirious solicitation of egress I sought abscondence from that hemophile maniac who had turned me into his lurid plaything.
I almost fell victim to cruel Dwemer efficacy during my mad dash. I forgot that this people was, similar to the Ayleids, infamous for their formidable traps and almost got sliced into bite-sized chunks by callously rotating blades that sprouted up from an incline near the end of that unsanctified dungeon.
At last, however, I managed to reach a lift at the end of the hallway, the dire machination of sharp, swirling swords still in view.
Under cumbersome breathing, my sides and lungs stinging, burning from the complete exhaustion afore, I laid the one hand that was still of flesh and blood on the lever in the center of the small, cylindrical compartment. I pulled it with trouble and under great effort as the dreaded figure emerged from the impenetrable dankness of the ruins, passing by the vile trap unhindered, blocking the blades with his body, even. He prepared to lunge forward in a final attempt to capture me.
At the very last second, the lift went up with raucously clanking gears and cogs and I espied the pale, afflicted, malnourished likeness of an insane Altmer dæmon, stretching forth his bloodthirsty talons for my blood and body.
Due to my severe fatigue and drained stamina and life force, I have no clear recollection of the chain of events which ultimately brought me hither. I do remember ending up in Riften somehow, making every effort to conceal that left arm of mine by use of some leftover cloth I must have come upon somewhere along the way.
I left all of our group's belongings where they were and I fancy I paid the horse carriage a more than adequate sum to get me back to Markarth again - as far from that blasted place as possible. There, I told the guards to report my tale, or what I was able to consciously recall of it during that moment, to Understone Keep before I headed off to my abode to rest.
On the very next day, the Jarl's officials insisted on a call to the house and demanded I explain myself. This report shall serve as the much desired documentation of the unforgettable events that had transpired.
I can not know if anyone will believe my story. But my strongest piece of evidence for its truth remains irrevocably, invariably attached to my body regardless.
In the two days that it took to formulate this epistle, I still felt watched from time to time. Maybe it was but my fractured, traumatized mind playing tricks on me. But I could have sworn that I saw a haggard, famished Altmer yesterday, wandering the streets of the city, a thousand kinds of mould tainting the air in his wake.
I don't feel safe, even within my own home. And I believe none who live here should either. For there has already been a report of one curiously bloodless citizen.
You can regard my musings as the confabulated phantasm of a man who had been working under the earth for far too long. But I know what I saw. And I most certainly know what I've become.
Most notably, however, did I find upon my return the vitruvian parchments still tucked away in my garments, always reminding me of what I had once been.