Selene spent the entire half-day trip to Raven Rock vomiting into the sea. When land appeared on the horizon, she thanked Kynareth for small favors, but just because they were near land didn’t mean they were stopping. They continued on for another hour past miles of ash-covered shoreline. To the south, the Red Mountain puffed away, continually spewing smoke and ash into the gray sky. Occasionally they saw creatures like none Selene had ever seen floating above the ground or water. They were the size of a house, covered with a something like a tortoise shell that came to a long point at the back, no visible heads, and six long, blue tentacles that hung toward the ground. They bobbed and drifted, thrumming softly like a heartbeat while their underside pulsed with light.
“What on Nirn are those?” Brynjolf asked Gjalund.
“Netch,” the captain replied. “Gentle creatures, but they can be deadly if they’re attacked. They keep them as pets on the mainland. They also harvest their jelly for potions.”
“They’re beautiful,” Selene said.
Gjalund laughed. “Ha! Ugliest things I’ve ever seen, next to Rieklings.”
“What are Rieklings?”
“Savages. Half the size of a Nord and blue as the ocean. Nasty little scavengers that will gang up on you, fill you full of holes with their spears, and then steal all your household goods. If you stay on Solstheim long, I’m sure you’ll come across them.”
The Northern Maiden finally swung in to a small bay that was surrounded by a high, rock wall. “Well, here we are,” said the captain. “This is Raven Rock, pretty much the only real city on the island. Good luck. Maybe you can figure out why people are having memory lapses.”
As soon as the ship docked, Selene disembarked and lay facedown on the pier, relishing the stability of the cool wood beneath her body.
“What is this?” a voice demanded. “What is wrong with her?”
“My wife has been seasick,” Brynjolf said. “Please, just give her a moment.”
Selene finally picked herself up and dusted the ash from the dock off her armor as best she could. A well-dressed Dunmer stood next to Brynjolf, arms folded, eyeing her critically.
“My apologies. I’m pregnant, and traveling by ship was probably a bad idea.”
“Best wishes for your coming child, outlanders. Now, state your intentions.”
Well. Nothing like receiving a warm welcome when one comes to a new place. But Selene didn’t have the energy to be defiant at the moment, so she simply said, “We’re looking for someone named Miraak. Do you know where we can find him?”
The elf stroked his beard thoughtfully. “Miraak…I’m not sure that I do. Hmm.” He stared off into space for a moment before recovering and raising an eyebrow at Brynjolf. “You’ll do well to remember that Raven Rock is the sovereign territory of House Redoran. This is Morrowind, not Skyrim. You’ll be expected to abide by our laws.”
“Why are you so suspicious of outsiders?” Brynjolf asked him.
“I have to be,” he responded earnestly. “I am Adril Arano, Second Councilor and right hand of Councilor Morvayn. The security of Raven Rock is my primary concern.”
“Do you have problems with security?”
“We seem to have more than our fair share, and I refuse to let Councilor Morvayn down.”
“He’s the leader of Raven Rock?”
“So he’s like a jarl,” Selene guessed.
“Indeed,” Adril nodded.
“About Miraak. Do you know who he is?”
He furrowed his brow. “I’m…unsure. I swear I know the name, but I cannot place it. Wait…I’m not…the name has something to do with the Earth Stone, I think, but I’m not sure what.”
“The Earth Stone?”
“Yes, it’s a shrine on the north end of town. Many go there to receive its blessings. Do you have any other questions about Raven Rock?”
“Can you tell us where to find an inn?” Brynjolf asked.
“The Retching Netch is in the town square. You can get a room there.”
Selene chuckled. “Retching Netch? Well, I’ll feel right at home.”
“Remember, we’re watching you.”
As they headed toward the gate into town, Brynjolf grunted. “Hello, neighbors,” he quipped, mimicking Adril’s accent. “Welcome to Solstheim. Do enjoy your stay.”
“Let’s just hope the rest of the town is friendlier.”
“But I didn’t get that he was unfriendly. Something about him…he was afraid, especially when we mentioned Miraak.”
“You’re right. I can’t smell much except for ash and puke at this point, but I could definitely smell his fear.”
He wrapped an arm around her shoulder. “Let’s find this inn and get settled, maybe get you something to eat.”
Selene’s stomach, which had been turning somersaults all day, began to growl at Brynjolf’s comment. “Aye. Food sounds good.”
Raven Rock was the most colorless city Selene had ever seen. Everything was gray, except for a large plant that looked sort of like a purple nirnroot. There weren’t a lot of straight lines or right angles in the city. Most of the buildings were low, domed ovals constructed as though the stones were draped over the foundations. The street was made of stone, but most of it was covered with ash, which had been trampled underfoot and battered by the weather for so long that it had the consistency of sand. A well stood in the center of the town square and was surrounded by a forge, an alchemist, and a couple of other nondescript vendors, all set up outside with tables and crates instead of an actual shop. The inn was to the right, and they walked toward the door.
“Brynjolf!” a voice rang out behind them. They turned around to see the blacksmith waving his arms.
Brynjolf’s face lit up. “Glover!” He hurried across the square and grabbed the smith up in a warm embrace. “I’m glad to see you, my friend! Selene, this is Glover Mallory, Delvin’s baby brother. He used to work the forge in the Flagon. Glover, this is my wife, Selene.”
“Wife!” Glover repeated as he reached out to shake Selene’s hand. “How did you manage to snag the perpetual bachelor?”
“Turns out it wasn’t as perpetual as he thought. Good to meet you, Glover.” When she shook his hand, she got a good look at him. He looked like Delvin, but he was younger and better looking, with sandy hair and beard cut short and the solid musculature of a smith. There was a gleam in his eye, though, that belied the notion that he hadn’t always been the upstanding merchant he was now.
“How did you end up here?” Brynjolf asked him. “Last I heard, you were working with some smith in Helgen. We had given you up for dead after it was destroyed.”
“Nah, I was long gone by then. Aye, the smith was a Dunmer named Vanryth. I learned a lot from him, including how to craft and repair bonemold armor. Not a lot of use for that in Skyrim, so after Vanryth moved on to greener pastures, I decided to pack up, move out here, and put those lessons to the test. So how’s my brother? Still spending his nights at the Ragged Flagon trying to win Vex’s heart?”
“He’s well, and yes, he is.”
“What about the others? Mercer?”
“Mercer’s dead, and that’s a long story. Let’s have a drink later so we can catch up, and I’ll tell you all about it. Selene here is Guildmaster now.”
“Really?” Glover said, impressed. “Is that where the new armor came from? You made some significant changes, I see.”
Brynjolf shook his head. “No, Guild armor hasn’t changed. This is special.”
Glover reached out and touched Brynjolf’s sleeve, rubbing the enchanted leather between his fingers. “What is that treated with? Crushed soul gems?”
“Void salts,” Selene said.
“No kidding. That’s amazing stuff.” He stepped back and looked up at Selene. “Well, I gotta tell you, Guildmaster, there’s not much in Raven Rock to steal. The mine closed down long ago, and the whole damn place is dryer than a bone. No work, no coin, no loot. Doesn’t affect me much because most of my work comes from the Raven Rock guard, but pickings are slim for the others. Sometimes I don’t know how they even survive.”
“We’re not actually here looking for work.”
“Well, if you change your mind, the Raven Rock branch of the Guild has a problem.”
“There’s a whole branch here?”
Glover looked abashed. “Oh, all right, it’s really my problem.”
“A fellow Breton who went by the name Esmond Tyne showed up on my doorstep about a fortnight ago. He mentioned the Shadowmark on my door, and I thought he was one of us.”
“He stole something from you?”
“Right out from under my nose. Can you believe it? There was certainly no honor with that thief.”
“What did he steal?”
“My formula for improved bonemold. Took me years to perfect. Serves me right for writing it down. Should have kept it in my head.”
“Any idea where he might have gone?” Brynjolf asked.
“He mentioned some nonsense about trying to fence goods to the Rieklings at Castle Karstaag. Those little fellas love trinkets, but they normally just ambush you and take them. I told Esmond he was crazy to think about actually selling anything to them, but he wouldn’t listen. I bet he’s either dead or hiding out up there.”
“I’m not sure where we’re going,” said Selene, “but if we get up there, we’ll get your formula back for you.”
“I’d be much obliged. Also, if you see someone named Crescius Caerellius, he’s been stealing from me too.”
Selene raised an eyebrow. “For a former thief, you seem to be quite an easy target.”
“Now, don’t look at me like that. I’m all alone out here with nobody to watch my back. And I’m rusty, to boot.”
She chuckled. This guy was just as lovable as his big brother. “Well, what did he steal?”
“It’s a pickaxe—”
“You’re making all this fuss over a pickaxe?”
“It’s not just any pickaxe. I’m talking about an Ancient Nordic Pickaxe. It’s very rare, and it’s the only tool tough enough to crack stalhrim.”
“What’s stalhrim?” asked Brynjolf. “Is it a type of ore?”
“Calling stalhrim an ore is like calling my forge a campfire. Some folks say it’s enchanted ice, but I think there’s more to it than that. It’s rare, too. I can’t say I’ve come across more than a chunk or two in my whole lifetime. So. What brings you two to Solstheim if you’re not looking for work?”
“We’re looking for someone named Miraak.”
Glover furrowed his brow and scratched his chin. “Hmm. I don’t know anybody—wait. No…maybe. I don’t know how I know that name.”
“Is that a yes or a no?” Selene asked.
“I…I’m not sure. I, uh, I don’t want to talk about this.”
“No problem,” Brynjolf assured him. “We’re getting a room at the Retching Netch. Come by after you close up the forge, and I’ll buy you a drink.”
“Sure thing. Nice meeting you, Selene.”
“You, too, Glover.”
As they walked away, Selene said, “He’s adorable.”
“He was quite popular with the ladies. Vex said it was because he always seemed just a bit helpless. It was endearing, she said.”
“That’s exactly it. I’m sure he’s not helpless, but he made me just want to hug him and tell him it would be okay.”
“I think he does it on purpose.”
“Well, if he does, it works.”
“Should I be jealous?”
Selene glared at him. “You have to be kidding.”
“I am,” he assured her with a chuckle. “Glover was never much of a thief. He was good at it, and an even better con artist, but I don’t think he liked it.”
“Did his reaction to Miraak’s name remind you of anybody?”
Brynjolf nodded. “The Second Councilor did the same thing. Either they’re covering for Miraak or he’s got them bloody well terrified.”
“But they weren’t lying. I could have smelled a lie. I think they’re really confused about whether they know him.”
“Then I want to find out why.” He opened the door for Selene, and they went into the inn.
The bulk of the Retching Netch was underground. The surface level was U-shaped and only had a few tables and chairs, some vats, and a cooking pot. A wide staircase led down into the inn proper, where a handful of people sat around, drinking and eating dinner. The setup was foreign to Selene, almost like a rabbit warren, with several hallways radiating from a central room. All the doorways were arched, and all the stone, like that on the outside of the building, seemed was molded rather than stacked. It gave her a safe, cozy feeling, almost as though they were covered with a big, gray blanket.
She and Brynjolf walked up to the bar where the innkeeper was speaking with a woman, who called him Geldis. When she walked away, he smiled at them.
“Welcome to the Retching Netch Cornerclub, home to the finest sujamma that will ever grace your lips. If you’d like to try it, I’ll give you a free sample.”
“Sure,” said Brynjolf.
“None for me,” Selene told him. “I’m pregnant.”
Geldis smiled. “Ah, best wishes! It’s tea for you, then, my lady.” He brought Brynjolf a sample of the sujamma, and he ordered a whole bottle. Geldis brought their drinks and stood by, wiping the counter. “What brings you to Raven Rock?”
“We’re looking for someone called Miraak.”
Geldis made a face. “Sounds familiar, but…I know the name, but I can’t place—perhaps something to do with the Earth Stone.”
They had dinner, then asked if they could rent a room.
“Of course,” Geldis said. “Ten Septims, and it’s yours for a day.”
“We’ll pay you for a week.” Selene handed him a bag of coin, and he showed them to their room.
The room was large, but the bed was only big enough for one of them. “I’m afraid that’s all we have,” he apologized.
“No problem,” said Brynjolf. “We’ll make do.” When the innkeeper left, Brynjolf went to sit at a table in the corner with his sujamma. “This stuff is potent! You, my love, get some rest.”
“All right.” She slipped out of her armor and into a nightdress, then lay down on the bed. As usual lately, she drifted off to sleep rather quickly. Tonight, though, she didn’t dream of the hunt.
There is stone, and it must be shaped. She chips the stone, sweeping away bits with her hand. She must remember. She must reclaim. A voice speaks to her, slow, deliberate, gentle. Soothing.
“Here in my shrine
That you have forgotten.
Here do you toil
That you might remember.
Here you reclaim
Far from yourself.
Your eyes once were blinded.
Your hands once were idle.
Now through me do you see.
Now through you do I speak.
And when the world shall listen,
And when the world shall see,
And when the world remembers,
That world will cease to be.
A hand struck Selene’s face sharply, and she awoke with a start. “What the—” she began, but she realized she wasn’t in the bed at the inn. She was on the beach under a starlit sky, still in her nightdress and standing knee-deep in a pool of water with a hammer and chisel in her hands. She had been chipping at an arch being constructed around a large, glowing monolith. Brynjolf had his hands on her shoulders and was staring into her eyes with worry in his. When she focused on him, he relaxed and sighed with great relief, taking her into his arms.
“Brynjolf, what happened?”
“You drifted off to sleep, and a while later, you got up and walked out of the room. I asked where you were going, but you didn’t answer. Nothing I tried could even get you to look at me. You were in some kind of trance. I finally tried slapping you, and that seemed to work. I’m so sorry about that.”
“But how did I get out here?”
“You walked. All I could do was follow and do my best to keep you from getting hurt. Gods, Selene. Then you picked up a hammer and chisel and started chipping away at that rock, and you were chanting—” He pointed to people around him who were still working and chanting—Glover Mallory among them—and looked back at her. “You were chanting like them. Something about, ‘Here at his shrine that they have forgotten.’ You said when the world remembered, it would cease to be.”
“Love, I don’t remember any of that. But the thought of Miraak makes me very uncomfortable now, even more so than before, as though I have a terrible secret. I guess this is why people have vague memories of him and don’t want to talk about it.”
A Dunmer in brightly colored mage robes walked up to them. “Well, she seems fine now,” he said in a high-pitched, pompous voice.
“Selene, this is Neloth. He’s been watching.”
“How long has this been going on?” she asked him.
“Oh, for quite some time. They come out at night in droves.”
“What are they building?”
“I’m sure I don’t know. They really don’t have much to say about it. But I’m very interested to find out what happens when they finish.”
“Do you know anything about Miraak?”
Just like all the others, he furrowed his brow and stroked his chin. “Miraak, Miraak…it sounds familiar, yet I can’t quite place—oh, wait, I recall! But that makes very little sense. Miraak has been dead for thousands of years. Perhaps it has some relation to what’s going on here. If not, there are ruins of an ancient temple toward the center of the island. If you want answers, you might check there.”
The Second Councilor walked by with an armload of rock, droning, “Here in his shrine.”
“Neloth, why haven’t you tried to stop this?” Brynjolf demanded.
“Stop it? Whatever for? Doing so would interfere with whatever is going on, and I want to see how it turns out!”
Selene tugged on Brynjolf’s arm. “Let’s get out of here. I’m not even wearing any shoes.”
As they started toward town, a familiar warm breeze blew across her shoulders, and a tiny whirlwind blew up before her. It hovered for a moment and then started to move. “I’m following that,” she resolved.
“But what about your bare feet?” She didn’t respond, and Brynjolf said, “Selene, don’t do this to me again!”
“I’m not in a trance, love. I just—we have to go up here.” She chased the gentle twister around some rocks and up a narrow hill until she found a shrine of Kynareth. Selene smiled joyfully and sat down next to the shrine. “Do you have any coin on you?”
Brynjolf placed a few coins on the altar and sat down next to her. She took his hand. “We’re safe here,” she whispered as she leaned her head back and closed her eyes.
They slept on the ground next to the shrine, and when the sun came up they made their way down the hill to the beach, where she saw some netch floating above the water. Selene went to the shore and watched them bobbing, their underbellies pulsing with blue light, and thrumming softly in communication with each other. There were three of them, possibly a mother, father, and baby. She laid a hand on her abdomen and smiled.