How do I activate this Dwarven mechanism?
I am on a quest where I must retrieve a sword from the ruins of Mzinchaleft. Well, it's been a long (waaaay too long) and perilous journey, but I finally found the sword and everything will be worth the trouble because of all the loot....but I can't get to it because of this thingy:
Obviously, I missed something but I have no idea what it is. There is a room full of loot that's off-limits until I can figure this thing out! How do I activate this?
That mechanism leads to blackreach (a huge underground area) there are other ways in but I forget which way I took my first time. I did the quest for septimus north of the college of winterhold and that lead me into blackreach. Don't worry you will eventually get in
One critical addition to the answers here: Spugsley asked how to get into the chamber of loot that is in the vicinity of this mechanism, closed off with the dwarven spear-like bars. Opening the chamber is NOT related to this mechanism, there is a switch on a pillar to the right of the chamber that lowers the bars and gives access to the loot. I overlooked this switch for a while too and thought it had to be related to the weird dwarven mechanism :-)
Well, you need a special key (and this isn't the only mechanism). In any case, since you don't have it, there should be a lift directly to Skyrim nearby, and you can unlock the route back permanently once you get outside. So it won't be such a long slog, and in any case enemies should stay dead even if you quick travel. The guy* you're looking for is in his outpost on an island north of the College of Winterhold.
* Septimus Signus, significant because he wrote several books related to the Elder Scrolls and is part of the main quest line.