The Elder Scrolls

The Great Collapse – Volume I

Content of the article: "The Great Collapse – Volume I"

13th of Frostfall, 4E122

The sky was overcast. That didn't necessarily say much, for the sky over Winterhold was often overcast, and overcast could mean a lot of things. A wispy white cover of clouds could be overcast; a grey carpet of wool-like clouds could be overcast, a rainy day could be overcast. But today was different, everyone agreed. Heavy clouds dark as charcoal spread out from horizon to horizon, and though it was the middle of the day, only the most adamant rays of sunlight penetrated the thick cover. Every citizen who crossed eachother in the street for gossip, or huddled inside the taverns and inns agreed fervently that today was particularly cold and dark, and they all stole anxious glances further out to sea, out to the vast, dark expanse of the Sea of Ghosts where leaden clouds billowed forth threateningly, the sound of distant thunder rumbling through the bulbous dark masses.

Belas Othren stood leaning on the College battlements looking at the oncoming storm. He knew they were loaded with nothing but rain and thunder, but nevertheless they reminded him of the Ash Clouds of home. He had been only a small child when the Red Mountain had erupted and red storms had rolled in over Morrowind, burying the land in ash. His family had fled to Skyrim then by way of Solstheim and had finally settled in Winterhold, where the strength of the College had shielded them from prejudice and hostility. He looked down upon the smooth bulwark that rested beneath his hands, and for a moment of silliness he almost wanted to caress the stonework, but instead shook his head with a smile. The College had been good to him though.
"You should come inside Master, you'll catch a cold."
Belas turned around to find Vandus Philida, one of his apprentices, standing behind him. The boy was not the most talented of his class, nor the most handsome, but his kindly manners and genunine affection for teachers and classmates made him everyone's favourite, and even Belas, who prided himself on harsh fairness, couldn't help but dote on him. He took one last look towards the ominous clouds, and followed the boy inside.

14th of Frostfall, 4E122

Svanrig looked wistfully out to sea as the fishing boats congregated towards the harbor. The storm, which had lasted all day and the day before showed no sign of relenting and jarl Valdimar had invoked a landlock; forbidden any boats setting out to sea until the dangerous weather had passed.
Svanrig sighed deeply. His father, Skjorvar, had promised to take him sailing today, and he had been looking forward to it so. Svanrig was not a good sailor; in truth he was a very bad one. He had trouble steering in rough seas and often lost his grip on the helm; the knots he tied were either too loose or too complicated to ever unwind again; and he had trouble keeping his balance on the boat and had fallen in more times than he could count, much to his father's chagrin.
But he had insisted his father teach him. Skjorvar Snoweye was local legend in Winterhold. He'd made his fortune as a fisherman, and by now owned more than half of the vessels that were streaming into the harbor. He was a great sailor, the salt water was in his blood everyone said, and Svanrig had lived most of his life feeling the need to apologize to the world for not being as great a sailor as his father. And so, in spite his father's wishes to make a merchant of him, in spite of his numerous failiures, he had insisted on learning. But today, he would learn nothing, as the ships returned to the harbour.

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14th of Frostfall, 4E122
Sea of Ghosts, north of Dawnstar

The roar of the waves absorbed the sound of retching admirably. The two bretons were both leaned over railing of the ship, looking frightfully close to tipping over as they vomited violently into the unruly seas. Rolf, first mate of the Whitecrest, looked at the couple with pity. Gerard Hurier and his wife Sabine were not of 'sea-going stock', as it were. They had already been looking queasy the moment they stepped onto the boat in the Solitude Harbor, but now after two days at sea being violently rocked by a storm, they were almost permanently bowed over the side of the ship.
Rolf would have advised them to stay on land, but the ships captain and owner, Anders Cruel-Sea had insisted they needed the fare. Regardless, Hurier himself would never have taken no for an answer. He had important business with the College in Winterhold, he said, and with the roads whacked by winter storms and the mountain passes burried by blizzards, going by ship was the only way.
Whatever time the Huriers did not spend bowed over the railing, they spent with their infant child. A tiny, yet unnamned boy who was tucked away safely in the captain's cabin which had been graciously bestowed upon the couple (whose generous fare demanded more than a meager sailor's cabin) by captain Cruel-Sea.
Some of the other sailors had grumpled that having an unnamed babe aboard was bad luck, but Captain Cruel-Sea was not given to superstition and had silenced the complaints – that is, silenced them to the point where they were no longer repeated within his earshot.

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The journey to Winterhold was only supposed to be a matter of a few days. Ordinarily, with smooth seas and strong winds, the trip could be made in just short of a week. But this week was anything but ordinary and on the third day of their journey a man had woken Rolf in the middle of the night and told him the captain wanted him on deck. He had rosen groggily and made his way to the deck. The Sea of Ghosts, unshelted from the winds of Atmora was deadly cold and in spite of his thick furs Rolf shivered as he joined the captain by the steering wheel. Captain Cruel-Sea stood looking southwards from the stern, staring into the dark night with his jaw clenched.
"Sir?" Rolf probed.
Captain Cruel-Sea did not turn as he answered: "This cursed storm. Only a madman would try to sail through it. It's still only a'brewing. It will get worse."
Rolf agreed. He had seen his share of bad weather during his many years of sailing, but he had been having the same inkling; this one would be very bad. He did not say anything, however, waiting for the captain to continue. I wanted to make port in Dawnstar. Wait out the storm. Maybe even bring on some new cargo or passengers. We could even make a profit off it."
"Then why don't we, captain?" Rolf asked.
The captain pointed out across the sea, into the wall of darkness that met them. "That's Dawnstar there. Or maybe it is. Gods know."
It was a moment before Rolf understood; "There's no light. The lighthouse is dark."
"The lighthouse is dark," the captain repeated bitterly. "The bloody bastards let the lighthouse go dark. I won't risk trying to make port now. Not in this darkness, not in this storm. Those bastards…" he grunted through his gritted teeth. "Damn it," he swore. "Damn them all to Oblivion and damn their damned lighthouse, I hope it crashes down on their damned heads."
Rolf remained silent, he knew better than to say anything when the captain was in a mood such as this.
The captain bit his lip angrily, so much so that he looked about to draw blood. "We won't try to make port. I won't risk it."
"You wanted my advice?" Rolf asked.
"Yes, but I'm afraid I've already made up my mind" the captain replied. Rolf knew that he had. He needn't say anything.
"We continue, we sail for Winterhold," the captain said as he looked out into the darkness.

Unbeknownst to the captain, his wish had partly come true already. The lighthouse of Dawnstar had stood for centuries; a beacon of safety in a sea that knew storms like no other, a proud symbol of the city's history and significance. But for centuries it had stood in the spray of the ocean, in the rage of the wind, and the pounding of the waves. And for centuries, it seemed, the sea had been gathering its strength, awaiting the day it would take its revenge for all those souls it might have claimed if not for this light. And in that storm of storms, the storm that would be remembered for millenia to come, the sea had finally won and the ancient, battered lighthouse of Dawnstar had crashed down on the heads of the two men who had been dutifully keeping it lit through the dark.

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