It's been a long time since I've written, but seemingly I've been away for quite some time.
After I reached Dawnstar I decided to rest from my adventures for a few days at least before heading onward to Solitude. I bought a room at the local inn and spent some time helping the miners. The Jarl was old and sour, and had a deep hatred for the Empire, however the townsfolk were more accomodating and friendly.
While there I heard rumours of shared dreams, nightmares that many of the locals were having. I didn't believe it until I started having them too; a dark tower with only the faintest light of balefire to give sight, and a skull, evil with a powerful presence. I decided to look into it, as I was loath to leave just yet, and came across a Priest of Mara named Erandur. It was strange, as I had never seen him before, and it was as if he only appeared when I started looking for him. He told me that the nightmares were being caused by the Daedric Lord Vaermina, emanating from a shrine nearby called Nightcaller Temple. He said an artefact inside was responsible and that it needed to be shut off. He asked me to help him, and so I agreed; though there was something off about him, I really wanted a good night's sleep.
At Nightcaller Temple Erandur told me of how the temple was once a shrine to Vaermina but it was attacked by Orc Barbarians. He said that in their plight the cultists realised a substance called the Miasma which put everyone inside the temple into an ever-lasting sleep. He theorised however that over time the gas would disperse and the effects would slowly wear off, and so we should be careful. Inside we came across a spiral tower, the same tower that was in my dreams, and looking down there was the skull. It stood atop a staff that was emanating a blue light. Erandur called it the Skull of Corruption, and said that its reactivation must indicate that some of the Cultists have reawoken. It was at this point he also confessed to once being a cultist of Vaermina but escaped before the Miasma. Guess I as right about him then. Still, he has told me when he could have further kept his secret, so I decided to continue on to see what would happen.
True enough, there were both cultists and Orcs starting to wake up, and in their confusion attacked on sight. Erandur proved an able fighter, and we managed to fight our way through most of the tower until we came across a sort of magical gateway. Erandur tried some magic to open it, however he deduced that the only way past would be to enter a controlled state of unconscoius akin to the Miasma; he called it the Dreamstride and said that unlike the Miasma you would be able to control reality within the Dreamstride. He said the only way to enter the Dreamstride was to drink a special potion called Vaermina's Torpor, and he was unsure if there would be any left at the shrine after so long.
We decided to check around and after some more fighting we found a bottle. Erandur claimed that he would be immune to its effects due to his time serving Vaermina and that I would have to drink it. Like all things on this quest, I was unsure, but decided to go with the punches. It was a blue-purple liquid with little to no taste. Upon drinking it there was a blinding light, as if the sun itself was rising before my eyes. Upon being able to see again, things had changed. There were many more cultists now, however these ones were not attacking me. Everything also seemed very vibrant but yet blurry. It was strange, almost like I was dreaming. As I surveyed m new surroundings, two cultists approached me, and addressed me as Brother Casimir. I tried to explain I was not this Brother Casimir, however no sound came from my voice. The two cultists however continued to speak with me as if I had answered their call. They said that the Orc invasion had begun and it was time to release the Miasma. They told me to do it, and though I didn't move, I could feel a presence ushering me onward. I proceeded ahead, guided by this presence, until I came to a lever on the side of a brazier...and then I woke up.
Awaking from this dream was unlike anything I had felt before, and indeed I was not in the same place where I had taken the Torpor. In fact, I was standing in the exact spot where I was in the dream before I awoke. I could see the lever I had pulled to release the Miasma, however there was a cup also with a Soul Gem inside. Beyond that was the magical barrier and on the other side I could see Erandur. He suddenly noticed that I was there and started pointing to the brazier. Guessing that he didn't want to put us into a long dark sleep, I took the Soul Gem from the cup and the barrier dissipated. Erandur approached me and said I had been gone a long time; though the dream felt like minutes, it had apparently been days. And right when I thought this whole experience couldn't get any more strange.
Down another staircase, we finally came to the main chamber, and the Skull of Corruption. It was only now I noticed two elves standing next to it, and as they approached I recognised them as the two cultists who spoke to me in the Dreamstride. They spoke to Erandur like they were all old friends, and it was only then that I began to understand; Erandur was Brother Casimir. Their names were Veren and Thorek, and they were more surprised than I when Erandur revealed he planned to destroy the Skull, not just disable it. They were of course greatly opposed, being that they were still devoted to Vaermina. And just like that, they attacked. Roaring fire and crackling lightning filled the room as Veren and Thorek displayed their abilities as mages. Thankfully they weren't the only ones magically gifted and Erandur managed to hold off their spells while flanked them. Attacking from the rear I ran my sword through Thorek and in his distraction at his friend's death Veren failed to see Erandur come at him and cut him with his blade. These elves seemed like good men, just blindly devoted to a seemingly evil deity. And yet as I thought this another voice entered my head. It spoke of Erandur, and told me that he would kill me once I helped him destroy the Skull, and though I didn't believe it, seemingly without control I struck him down. The voice released me then from its control and I realised that it must have been Vaermina herself, protecting her heirloom. And protect it she did, as I had neither the means no any idea how to destroy the Skull. She offered it to me to keep safe, and since there was nothing else I could do, I decided to take it. Good lives were lost, but at least Dawnstar's nightmares would lift.
I left Nightcaller Temple with a heay heart, and immediately boarded a small boat to Solitude, not eager to stay near the memories of what just happened. Whatever the reason for the act, killing makes a man weary.