Sunday, February 1, 2015

Day 119 - Liches, Gods, and Ships

11 Evening Star
I greatly tire of this city and its myriad of problems no one else seems able or willing to fix. Almalexia's guards certainly have the equipment and training to clear out the sewers and King Helseth's Royal Guards have the numbers, but neither will make any move that could weaken them in comparison to the other.

Once again I was to go into the sewers and this time to travel nearly the same path as I did traveling to the shrine. This allowed me a walk largely unhindered by combat until my path diverged, but I would have much rather been exploring someplace new. My formerly trodden path diverged into a rough-hewn passageway where two of the "liches" I encountered at the shrine were waiting.

They are powerful spell-casters, but physical very weak, a single blow of my spear or a few arrows were enough to destroy the force holding their bodies together.
Further inside were more of these "liches", some of which summoned their own skeletal warriors to join in their assault against me. They were weak to arrows, so long as I aimed carefully enough to strike them in the head, but their numbers grew as I proceeded deeper into the ruins, culminating in an encounter with Barilzar himself, who I was certainly not warned about!

I had thought the 'Mazed Band' had simply kept its creator's name throughout the ages, but Barilzar was still "alive" as a lich himself, his raspy voice stating I could not be allowed to leave with the ring, which he regretted making to begin with. Any hope of a peaceful negotiation failed when a group of his lich warriors charged past him at me on his command, forcing me into a fighting retreat as I thinned their numbers by bow-shot.

Despite wielding a two-handed Daedric sword that I could barely lift, the undead mage was no warrior himself and obviously depending on his legion of liches and skeletons to guard the Band. Well-versed in fighting more heavily armed and armored opponents, I simply waited for him to unbalance himself with the un-wieldly weapon, then struck with my spear. It took more than a few strikes, but he fell, released from his own self-imposed penance. The 'Mazed Band' I had fought so hard for was nowhere to be found until I realized it was probably the simple, unmarked ring he had on his skeletal hand.
I returned to the Temple with some trepidation, for the wizard's warning kept repeating itself in my head. Fedris wanted nothing to do with the ring, instructing me to speak with the Archcanon. He in turn denied any responsibility for the ring and announced that I had "earned" the honor of speaking with the Goddess herself.
I was rather unimpressed by the so-called Goddess. She seemed tired and distracted, constantly referred to me as her "obedient servant", and only showed any sort of interest in me after she had Barilzar's ring. Her interest only extended as long as it took to wave one of her hands, announce she had bestowed her favor upon me, and then dismiss me from the room. Considering what I had to fight to  get the ring, I expected a bag of coins at the very least.

My brief encounter with Almalexia has me a bit unsettled. What was so terrible about the nondescript ring that he would willingly transform himself into a lich in an effort to ensure no one would claim it for themselves? No one I have asked seems to really know what it is supposed to do, but several people told me it was considered to be an evil artifact and one best left under the city. Of course, I was told this only after I handed it over to the distracted Goddess. I do have a suspicion that this is not the last I shall see of the mysterious ring.

An Imperial called to me as I exited the Temple and I turned to see a young man jogging towards me with a scroll in his hand. It was a summons from Carnius Magius in Fort Frostmoth to return in order to take care of some unspecified business regarding the colony of Raven Rock. Any reason to leave Mournhold was a welcome one, so I headed back to the Palace and had Effe-Tei send me back to Ebonheart. Once back on Vvardenfell I activated my Recall amulet and popped back into my small home in Ald'ruhn. 

There was no way around the long way to the coast, but I was pleased that there were no Blight storms raging above me, even when I was right against Red Mountain itself. I can only hope things will remain as peaceful as this, at least on Vvardenfell.
It was late afternoon when I reached Khuul and well into the night by the time we docked at Fort Frostmoth. I saw no reason to travel the frozen land in near-darkness, so I am staying at the fort until tomorrow. It is nice to be away from Mournhold, even if the alternative is Solstheim.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Day 118 - In the Unlikeliest of Places

10 Evening Star
Today a solemn oath to never set foot in another sewer system after leaving Mournhold. I spent nearly the entire day in the filthy depths of the city and have little to show for it.

The day started promising. Fedris was very pleased that the goblins' war-chiefs and trainers were dead and rewarded me with a staggering fifteen thousand Septims in the form of fifteen small gold ingots. He had nothing for me to do and suggested I see Gavis Drin, the Archcanon of the Temple. Fedris said that the Archcanon had been in consultation with Almalexia, so I anticipated a much more grueling task than I received.

The Archcanon did not bother himself with anything approaching politeness. Upon receiving me in his office he commented that I smelled like I was familiar with the sewer system, but that it was a good sign, for he required that I go deep into the ruins of Old Mournhold once again.

I should have walked out.

He explained that there was an ancient shrine known as the 'Shrine of the Dead' within Old Mournhold that used to allow the Dunmer to speak with their ancestors in order to receive counsel and grow wise. With much of Almalexia's attention drawn to the difficulties on  Vvardenfell the shrine grew corrupted and drew powerful undead to it that neither Almalexia nor King Helseth wanted to dedicate warriors to eliminate. The elimination was now up to me to accomplish.

But I was not alone! Assigned to me was an acolyte named Urvel who would perform the ritual required to 'cleanse' the shrine of its affliction. Once we both left the Archcanon's office he stammered that he was completely unsuited to combat and doubted his ability to survive the city's sewers. I readily agreed and offered to clear the way to the shrine if he would wait in the temple's basement where the entrance to the relevant sewer was located. Relieved, he wished me luck as I descended, once again, in to the city's sewers. 

Rather than Helseth's brutish goblins, I had only to contend with Bonewalkers, ghosts, and skeletons, all of whom I could have bested with my eyes closed. The ruins in this part of the sewers were much more interesting than under Godsreach and better preserved too. It must have been quite a place before it was destroyed.

The shrine's undead were in the form of clothed skeletons that had some very powerful magicka at their command. Fortunately they were unarmed aside from their spells and were content to remain at a distance while I answered their spells with arrows. The silvered arrows cracked and shattered their bones, eventually loosening the energies that held their bodies together. Once the three undead shrine guardians were dead I turned around and walked all the way back to the Temple's basement to fetch Urvel.

Despite there being no opposition against our trip back to the Shrine, Urvel insisted on halting at every corner and doorway so that I could go far ahead to make sure the way was clear. This being a sewer built upon the ruins of a city, we cam in frequent contact with corners and doors, making the unopposed walk take twice as long as the initial one I had to fight to complete.

At least he was able to perform his duty at the shrine quickly. It seemed all he did was wave his hands over the shrine, mutter some incantation, and walk back down the platform.
If I had any hope that Urvel would be more interested in leaving the sewers than imagining enemies around every corner it would have been quickly dashed. The man was just as terrified about absolutely nothing going back to the Temple as he was going away from it. By the time we were safely back in the Temple's basement it was well into the evening and Urvel simply stumbled off back to what I assume were his quarters with not a word of thanks to me. Nice guy.

The Archcanon was a bit more appreciative, though not to the tune of thousands of Septims. Rather my reward was a valuable Ebony spear that had been "blessed" by Almalexia, though if it was I could not tell. It was strongly enchanted, but I cannot tell with what. A good enough reason to visit Balmora, if I can get away from this city for a few days.

He also said he had nothing more for me to do, but that Fedris had more tasks for anyone looking to make some coin. I suspect Fedris had those tasks this morning, but I was diverted to the Archcanon for some sort of evaluation.

Unsurprisingly, Fedris's latest task is for me to go back into the sewers after an artifact called 'Barilzar's Mazed Band', an ancient ring that Fedris said has lost all of its power. He said that Almalexia had a personal interest in recovering the ring, but that he did not know why. Her personal interest did not, of course, extend to sending her own guards into the sewers, so once again I am to go into the sewers.

I am thinking it may be better to simply live in the sewers and have a messenger run to the surface now and then to collect more work.

Thanks to Urvel, the relatively simple task of cleansing the 'Shrine of the Dead' took nearly the entire day. The Band will have to wait until tomorrow. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Day 117 - Backtracking and Sidetracking

9 Evening Star
Too much of my time at Mournhold has been spent running errands that seem increasingly petty even if the person I am doing them for thinks otherwise. This morning I woke up with a part of yesterday still pending completion: the "apprehension" of the Nord known as 'Hloggar the Bloody'.

Inquiries among the Royal Guards patrolling the city pointed me downwards into the city sewers once again, specifically an area known as the 'West Sewers' off of the main Godsreach sewage system. Adventuring in Mournhold is apparently never a dignified affair.

Nor a lucrative one. The ladder in Godsreach leading into the sewers deposited me among a large pile of crates and barrels, but all of them were rotten and empty. Goblins, my dear old foes from Cyrodiil, were plodding about aimlessly just ahead, but had not noticed my arrival. After two of them dropped with arrows in their necks a short, but fierce, melee with the survivors was ensured. The long reach of Hircine's pike gave their stubby blades no chance of landing a blow. It was the first time I had fought against anything I had encountered in Cyrodiil, making me feel oddly wistful for my simpler days as I wiped blood off of my spear and armor.
Some of the goblins were accompanied by what could be best described as the Nix-Hounds' stronger, larger cousin. Whatever they were, they moved fast and hit hard, and were a much greater danger than their handlers, though fortunately far fewer in number.

My quarry was in an unfinished, or perhaps recently excavated, part of the sewer system, hiding in a small cave of his own. He was just as brash as I expected him to be, boldly asking me what I was going to do about him being a part of the conspiracy I had uncovered. I simply told him I had been sent to kill him, but would rather not if he would like to make some sort of escape.
He appeared confused for a moment, that laughed and called me one of the "good guys", as if such a thing actually existed. With a cheery wave, he activated an amulet of Recall he must have hidden on his body and disappeared from Mournhold, hopefully for a long time.

With all three of the conspirators "executed" I returned to Tienius to bring him the unfortunate news that all three of them had already made their escape, leading me to suspect a leak of information from within his guards. I received no reward, but then I had also failed to do what he asked, so I suppose that is fair.

Naturally he had yet another thing for me to deal with, this time to track down the author of the 'Common Tongue' pamphlet so that I could 'peacefully' force them to stop printing such obvious lies about their glorious King. I fear I am growing ever more cynical by the hour so long as I stay in this city.

The guards were of no help this time other than to suggest I stop wasting their time and start wasting the time of someone who knows about books and letters. The bookstore in the Bazaar was the obvious next step. In turn, the bookseller pointed me towards the pawnbroker, disdainfully stating that a person of 'shady reputation' such as he would be more helpful.

Shady reputation or not, the pawnbroker, an Argonian amusingly named 'Ten-Tongues Meerhat', was very helpful. Ten-Tongues makes it a point to personally know everyone in Mournhold, if such a thing is possible, but the name connected to the 'Common Tongue', Trels Varis, is not known to him nor to anyone else he asked. He first heard the name within the Craftsmen's Hall, so that was my next stop in this increasingly exasperating job.

I discreetly searched the Hall while pretending to view the wall tapestries and a particular door caught my notice as being very conspicuous owning to the large sign hanging on it that simply said "KEEP OUT". When I asked blacksmith about it he said that behind the door was a closet where he kept his more valuable supplies. He could not look me in the eyes as he said this, so I suspected there was more behind the door than ingots and hammers and a locked door is more an invitation to a Khajiit than a hindrance.

He was not lying, the door did open to a closet with a shelf of raw Ebony, but he failed to mention the trapdoor. The hinges were well-oiled and the door opened with barely a sound. The ladder descended only about eight feet and the sound of papers and whispers floated upwards. Confident of what I would find, I quickly climbed down the ladder and was confronted by four very surprised Dunmer, all of which comically looked away, pretending not to see me, save for Trels himself.
Trels asked me why I was in his well-kept secret office and threatened that my death was an acceptable way to keep it a secret. I revealed that I was there to get him to stop printing lies about the King, but he stated that he only printed the truth and there was nothing I could do to prevent him from continuing to print it.

My suggestion that three thousand Septims would stop him was met with disbelief, then suspicion, but I had not come unprepared: three sacks of coins, each holding one thousand Septims, was withdrawn from my pack and dropped on to one of his tables. I then announced that any further publications of the 'Common Tongue' would be met with a blade instead of coins. Trels assured me that he and his co-workers would move out of Mournhold immediately and I climbed back up the ladder, promising to return to the hidden office in two days.

Tienius was pleased that I had avoided bloodshed and awarded me my money back, plus an extremely valuable (and as always: heavy) two-handed Daedric sword he called "King's Oath". It is a nice gesture, but I am at a loss to decide how to dispose of it.

He had also finally run out of things for me to do, but my work had caught the attention of Queen Barenziah and I was asked to speak with her for further work in the name of the monarchy of Morrowind.

I knew the woman to be of high renown and have paged through her biography once, but other than that she was a complete mystery to me. I was allowed in her chambers and she welcomed me with the poise and grace I suppose a Queen would have to have. Her request was not to work for the monarchy, but for me to work for the Temple so that she would better know what they were up to. I doubted they would allow someone who has already worked for the Royal Guard's Captain, but I agreed to try. The Queen warned me that Almalexia's steward, Fedris Hler, was more than he appeared to be and was rumored to have been an assassin before coming to the Temple.

Assassin or not, Fedris either had not heard of my work for the Palace or he did not care, for he agreed to employ me in completing odd jobs for the Temple. I was picturing sweeping the steps or something equally mundane, but I was once again sent down into the sewers, this time to verify the rumors of an army of goblins being trained by King Helseth. Once I located their camp, I was also to eliminate the two goblin war-chiefs leading the tribes, as well as the two Altmer trainers, if I could find them.

This I had much less of a problem with compared to eliminating the King's conspirators. Goblins were an ever-present threat in Cyrodiil and their presence in large numbers always made for a rather bad day. Whatever his motives, I cannot see the King training an army of the creatures to lead towards anything good for Mournhold.

Asking around I was finally given the suggestion to look within the sewers of Godsreach, where the city's less reputable citizens reported seeing one or two of the nasty little monsters. It did not take me long to find a small camp of three goblins in the Godsreach sewers. They were surprisingly well-equipped, for goblins, each of them carrying a weak health restoration potion, but none of them were any more difficult than I expected.
The sewers ended at a section of wall that looked very different from the rest of the sewers. It was made up of very large stone blocks instead of the small, uneven bricks of the sewer. The thick metal door set into the stone screeched horribly as I forced it open and beyond lay the ruined city of Old Mournhold.

Old Mournhold could be called the 'original' copy of the city. I remember reading that long ago during the First Era, Mehrunes Dagon opened up portals to his plane of Oblivion, allowing his hordes of Daedra to quickly overwhelm the defenders of Mournhold. Two of the Tribunal, Almalexia and Sotha Sil, traveled to the besieged city and drove off the invaders, but not before the city lay in ruins. In time a new city was built atop the ruins of the old and the sewer wall may have been part of the original battlements from eras past. Now it was just a wet, leaky wall with a creaky door.

Beyond the wall lay the skeletons of adventurers long since dead, many of them crushed beneath rocks that had come loose from the ceiling above.
The door may have been a sally port, for the corpse-strewn corridor opened up to a giant plaza, just like the city above. Whatever it used to be, there were a dozen goblins using it as a campsite, eating hall, and toilet, all within a few feet of the other. Truly disgusting. The mouth of the corridor lay above the plaza, giving me a great vantage point to rain arrows upon them. The few that survived my barrage found themselves scrambling uphill into my spear. 
None of the goblins fit what I figured the war-chiefs would look like, so I proceeded through a door on the far side of the bloodied plaza. The door led me into a rough-hewn rock chamber with a waterfall that disappeared into the rock beneath me. Just beyond I found the first war-chief, a hulking brute of a goblin that surprised me by flinging a fireball at me. Fortunately the creature was relying on a weakly enchanted ring and the fire did little more than singe my fur. 
The second of them was further along the way and I dodged his fireball before spitting him on my spear. With both war-chiefs dead the goblin army was effectively leaderless and I had little doubt that a great battle would erupt among the goblins as they fought to decide upon their next chief. 

The two Altmer mercenaries were my next targets, but proved much easier to find. I slew the second war-chief in a small plaza with some half-ruined buildings on the far side and both trainers were staying in the same house. They well well-armed with Ebony weapons, but evidently neither had anything to be wary of and I was able to sneak up to them. The first Altmer died with a gurgling rasp as my simple steel dagger sliced across his throat and the second succumbed to close-range shot from my bow.

That was minutes ago. I have no idea how late in the evening it is, but it certainly feels like it has been a long day. I am bedding down in what might have been a room for one of the Altmers, but I think I will only take a short nap before making my way back up to the surface. It occurs to me that one of the scrolls that transports its user to the nearest Dunmer temple might have gotten me back to Mournhold, but I have no such thing. Something to keep in mind for tomorrow after I report back to Fedris.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Day 116 - New City, Same Mundane Tasks

8 Evening Star
Mournhold, the city of Light and Magic! Prior to my assignment to Vvardenfell I had never seen a city outside of Cyrodiil, so I was excited yesterday to be visiting Morrowind's capital. Today's adventures have dispelled that excitement entirely.

The first indication of what the day was going to bring was an Imperial named Geon Auline. The man was standing in front of his home beseeching people to help him with a simple task and they were all shying away from him. I do not know what possessed me, but I walked up to him and asked how simple a task his was.

He was overjoyed that someone had stopped to talk to him and assured me that the task really was as simple as walking a few houses over. Geon is a collector of some sort and had a series of daggers in his possession that required only one more to be complete, something he called a 'Droth' dagger, whatever that was. This dagger was in the possession of a recently widowed neighbor of his, but she refused to sell him her husband's dagger. My task was to acquire this dagger and bring it to him.

As it turned out, the task was easier done than said. The widow's husband had been a Legionnaire and I told her I had come to pay my respects, even though I never knew the man personally. She was suspicious of me until I told her about my time in the Auxiliaries, after which she was rather hospitable towards me. She showed me her late husband's Legionnaire equipment, including a silvered dagger she herself called a 'Droth' dagger. I offered to buy it from her and we settled on a price of six hundred Septims. A very simple task.

My Khajiit instinct for bargaining served me well, for Geon paid me eight hundred Septims for the silver dagger. He laid it alongside three other identical-looking daggers arrayed together on his table and was immensely satisfied by the arrangement. I still have no idea what a 'Droth' dagger even is, but I have made myself two hundred Septims richer for it anyway.
As I left Geon's house I heard another hopeful soul asking for assistance. The coins clinking in my pack lent me a charitable sort of curiosity, so I approached the Breton myself and asked if I could be of any assistance.

The Breton introduced himself as 'Ignatius', a very Breton sort of name, and his request was fairly simple as well: he needed scrap metal from the Dwemer ruins underneath Mournhold to repair his Dwemer golems. I was rather taken aback that anyone would have such a thing, but he only had the small spider-like ones and he used them against one another in an arena that was quite a popular spectacle. Unfortunately, the latest arena match disabled many of his little automatons and he lacked the parts to fix them. His request was that I bring him any scrap metal I come across and I readily agreed should I find any.

I thought to stop in the local armory to have my equipment repaired and even the blacksmith had a complaint for me, but not one that I can do anything about. His newest apprentice has apparently deserted his post for the life of an adventurer and I was asked to refer anyone looking for work to his shop. Simple enough and my equipment was quickly repaired.

And that was not all. When I left the armorer's a man was walking around Godsreach, also asking for help. I cannot recall any of my time on Vvardenfell or Solstheim when so many people in such a small area needed something from someone. It certainly does not speak well of the province if the capital city has so many troubled citizens.

Alvan Llarys was his name and he asked that I go to the Sadri family manor with him to discuss his issue. It sounded a little odd, but I agreed, rationalizing that I could easily kill the man if this was his idea of a clever ambush. The mood inside the manor was that of a family mourning their dead and Alvan quietly pointed me towards a woman muttering and pacing at the far end of the room. Nothing she said made any sense to me, but Alvan said that she had been acting normally until she spoke with an enchanter named 'Elbert Nermane' at the Craftsmen's Hall here in Godsreach.

Elbert nearly had a fit when I asked him about the strange woman, but calmed down when I assured him I did not want him to visit her. No longer panicking, he shed some light on the poor woman's condition, explaining that she had found some Dwemer objects that she had wanted him to teach her to enchant. 

Eventually she asked him to visit her to continue helping with the objects and when he arrived at the manor he found the things were everywhere. On her urging he stepped closer to examine one, but it suddenly gave him a very bad shock and he ran out of the manor, the woman laughing behind him the whole time. That was the last he saw of her, for he admitted something about her scared him.

Alvan stopped me just outside the manor, very worried. He had stepped outside for some fresh air when he suddenly heard a scream from inside. An Ordinator had arrived on the family's request to guard the woman against herself while I was speaking with Elbert, but Alvan found that the door had been locked and no one was answering his knocking.

A simple Opening spell unlocked the door, but no one was home. The body of the Ordinator lay in the room, but no one else was present. Alvan rushed back outside to summon the guards while I examined the room for the exit the group had obviously taken.
I found a trapdoor emitting a foul smell in a small closet and opened it to reveal the city's sewer, explaining the particular odor I was smelling. Just inside the sewer lay the body of a woman that had been present the first time I visited the manor, but there were no indications as to why someone felt she had to die.

Further inside the sewers I found another trapdoor leading deeper into the complex, but a crate was resting on top of it and was too heavy for me to move. I found that turning a wheel in the room let water into the depression in the floor where the trapdoor lay, so I let enough water inside to float the crate off the trapdoor. After casting my water breathing spell I dove into the frigid pool and swam deeper into the city's sewer system.

The trapdoor led to a small chamber with another wheel-valve and trapdoor. The wheel thankfully drained the room of water, leaving me very cold and wet, but the second trapdoor opened up to a dry cavern.

Surrounded by cold, indifferent earth, I crept down the cavern and found the first of the devices Elbert warned me about. Mindful of his description of receiving a shock, I sneaked around it, but there were many more ahead of me to deal with.
I managed to avoid the enchanted Dwemer pots or whatever they were, but then I came to a long corridor in which the things were stuck into the walls, making it impossible to avoid triggering their hostile enchantments. 

Very careful experimentation revealed that they shot fireballs at anything nearby, so I simply ran as fast as I could down the dirt hall, fire exploding behind me. I am sure it made for a very adventurous sort of scene, but I was only wondering why I had bothered helping Alvan to begin with.

The lady that everyone had been troubled by was waiting for me in a large room at the end of my fiery gauntlet. She screamed that she had rid herself of the others and would rid herself of me too, so that nobody but her would have "it"...whatever that was. 

We were a fair distance apart and she picked up a Daedric bow and a sheaf of arrows I had not noticed laying on the ground next to her. Before I could react I was dodging surprisingly expensive Ebony-tipped arrows inexpertly shot in my direction. Poor of a shot though she was, even a glancing hit from such a powerful weapon would cause me grievous harm, so I dispensed with my usual strategy of creeping into melee range.

I was confident that my skill with a bow was greater than hers, even if I had a simple Bonemold bow and steel arrows against her Daedric war-bow and Ebony arrows. Her full suit of volcanic glass and steel armor made my task even more difficult, but eventually I managed a lucky shot right into her throat, ending the poor lady's madness forever. I left her weapons and armor with her and dashed back through the corridor of fire traps.
When I finally stepped outside the manor into Godsreach I found Alvan nervously waiting for me. He said that the guards had come and removed the Ordinator's body, but refused to descend into the sewers, not that I can blame them. I told him of my dangerous trek through the sewers, ending with the unfortunate death of his friend. He took the news well, only commenting that she was likely too far gone to save. I never learned her name, nor what "it" was, but this sad story is over.

One of the larger buildings in Godsreach is a nearly empty museum that the curator tells me is the 'Museum of Artifacts'. The goal is a lofty one and there are many pedestals to display artifacts upon, but right now there is only a single artifact: a largely useless weapon called 'Stendarr's Hammer'. The hammer was massive, larger even than the Sixth House's massive bell hammers and I was told it took four men to lift it on to the display pedestal. I am promised a decent price for any artifacts I sell to the museum and I was given a list of ones the curator is interested in. I believe I have two already: the Fang of Haynekhtnamet, which I found in a Sixth House base and the Boots of Blinding Speed, which were given to me by someone with a unique sense of humor. But I do not have them with me and their sale will have to wait.

My last order of business was to find out who the "H" was who contracted with the Dark Brotherhood to kill me. I suspect it is King Helseth himself, but only because there is no one else whose name begins with an 'H' that would have any reason to want to see me dead. Why the King would is a mystery, but one I am intent on solving.

Naturally the King himself is unavailable to be spoken with by just anybody, but his Captain of the Royal Guard, Tienius Delitian, is. I chose to approach him with the contract I found on the body of the Dark Brotherhood assassin and the Captain did more to confirm my suspicions than any amount of searching I could have done.

He outright admitted that the King, for some reason, saw me as a threat and issued the contract against me. Tienius then rushed to tell me that the best way to solve this little misunderstanding was to prove my "loyalty" to the throne. I suspected he merely saw an easy way to take care of some of his own problems and I was absolutely right.

In order to prove my loyalty to King Helseth I first had to speak to the people of Mournhold to determine how they felt about King Llethan's death. Most of the people I spoke with were hesitant to talk ill of the new King, but several spoke more openly about their belief that King Llethan's death was not a natural one. I was given a pamphlet called 'The Common Tongue' that described several suspicious deaths of Helseth's rivals in the West and accused him of being responsible for the deaths of over a hundred people.

Tienius was pleased to receive the pamphlet, though I cannot say how he has failed to find one until now, they are all over the Great Bazaar. His next task was for me to find someone in the Temple that could act as an informant. Tension between the Court and the Temple has been rising recently and Tienius lacks someone to give him inside information, as it were. I thought it unlikely that anyone would trust me enough, but I agreed to give it a try.

As it turned out, I did not need someone to trust me, I just needed to be someone that looked like they would listen. I was allowed to speak with everyone at the Temple and as I was talking with a Dunmer who I shall not name here, I noticed that she seemed sad. When I asked her if there was anything I could do for her, words suddenly rushed out of her. She was doubtful of Almalexia's benevolence now, whereas before she celebrated the return of the Tribunal among mortals, she now felt that there was a cloud over Almalexia's head. She described the demi-god's words as "dark and bitter" and feared what the future held for the Temple.

She also stated that King Helseth was not and would never be accepted by the Temple and that a violent confrontation between the Court and Temple was inevitable. I thanked her for speaking openly with me and she agreed to contact me should anything important occur.

I was hoping that was the end of Tienius little loyalty tests, but he had another job for me. After thanking me and frowning a lot over my news from the Temple, he confessed that he had doubts regarding the loyalty of some of his Royal Guards. The new King does not seem to be an inspiration kind of person. 

As before, I was asked to bring people into my confidence so that I could determine where the disloyalty among the Guards lay. It was suggested that I pretend to be from House Hlaalu and looking to join the Guards, laughable as that was to me. But Tienius felt that would be enough of an opening for a fool to reveal himself to me, so that is what I pretended to be.

One guard, Ivulen Irano, suggested that I speak with Aleri Aren about my Hlaalu connections, but not to mention either himself or Aleri to Tienius. Not very subtle. When I spoke to Aleri she denied any knowledge of why my being Hlaalu would mean anything to her and promised to have a word with Ivulen about it. Even more suspicious! Following a hunch, I went to the guards' quarters and looked around a bit. Sure enough, there was a note penned by Aleri which specified when she, Ivulen, and another guard named Milvela were stationed together in the throne room. I decided this was incriminating enough to give to Tienius.

And that was still not enough! Yet another task was waiting for me when I returned! It is a wonder the city has not already collapsed upon itself with no Khajiit rushing to and fro solving all of these stupid problems. But if this is what I have to do in order to confront Helseth, then I will put up with Tienius's petty jobs.

Again another similar job to the last, this time to uncover disloyalty among the Hlaalu nobles residing in Mournhold.  Tienius asked me to visit the late King's widow's home in Godsreach, Llethan Manor, to see if I could uncover some evidence of a conspiracy to overthrow Helseth. Given what I had been learning of the man I thought this entirely possible.

The manor was unguarded and the object of my quest in plain sight. This too was a letter, penned by a person named 'Bedal Alen' to a 'Forven Berano'. It explicitly stated that the Dunmer assassins, the Morag Tong, would be contracted for an attempt on King Helseth's life and that if they failed, Forven himself would have to become the assassin. And this letter was not hidden at all! I am glad people seem to be a great deal stupider in Mournhold. 

Tienius wrote three official writs of execution for Forven, Bedal, and a Nord called 'Hloggar the Bloody'. To make a long, boring story much shorter I tracked the first two of the three down and told them to leave Mournhold forever, lest death stalk them. The pair nearly wept with relief and left the city immediately. I do not mind helping Tienius prop up his crooked King, it is of no great concern of mine either way, but I will not murder for him. He wanted these people gone and so they are. Should I be questioned, I shall only say that someone must have warned them prior to my coming, for they had already fled. I need only find Hloggar now, but the night was already old when I started on this venture, so he will have to wait until tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Day 115 - To Mournhold!

7 Evening Star
I woke this morning at Thirsk at complete loss as to how I was going to spend the day. The only thing I possibly had to do was some menial task related to Raven Rock's construction, so I walked down along the river towards the fort. Surprisingly, there was a message waiting for me there from Arvs Raram, the Master-at-Arms at my Redoran manor. The message was short and urged me to visit as soon as I could, for something important had come up.

The 'something important' was an Ebony dart that one of the ladies of the manor found embedded in the door of the manor-house. My largely Dunmer garrison all suspected that it was a sign that an elite cadre of assassins, the Dark Brotherhood, had a contract on my life. Arvs urged me to speak with a guard to see if the Imperials have had any luck in tracking this elusive group down.

One of the Redoran guards at Ald'ruhn recollected that she had heard an Imperial in Ebonheart named Apellus Matius was working, unsuccessfully, to eliminate the Dark Brotherhood groups in Morrowind. Being my only lead, I was forced to follow it. I returned to the manor to pick up some supplies and walked back to Ald'ruhn so that I could be sent to the Mages Guild in Vivec, then suffered a long, warm, and humid walk down the coast to Ebonheart. 

Apellus assured me that the Dark Brotherhood does not actively operate on Vvardenfell, but that he suspects they operate out of the capital city of Morrowind province, Mournhold. Travel to and from the city was stopped due to the Blight coming from Red Mountain and even with Dagoth Ur gone the city remains shut, except by magical means. Apellus directed me to Asciene Rane about securing a way onto the mainland.

I was expecting something like the rooms of the Mages Guilds, but Asciene sent me to a small room in the Palace with only one other occupant who was, surprisingly, an Argonian named 'Effe-Tei'. Unsurprisingly he was able to send me back to Ebonheart, but I wanted to explore the city first.

Effe-Tei warned me to be careful about who I talked to and what I said. The previous king had recently died and the present king, Helseth, was rather suspected of having a hand in the death. Confusing the matter, Almalexia leads her own Temple guards, the 'Hands of Almalexia', which is causing friction between the two houses of government as they battle for influence. He offered to send me back to Ebonheart, but his warning did not deter me from wanting to explore the city.

I met a man outside the palace willing to serve as a hired blade for 250 Septims, but I was, and remain, confident that I can handle any threat here on the mainland. Continuing to wander, I walked through the gate leading out of the walled palace section of Mournhold and into a large plaza.
With no clue where to go, I simply picked another gate at random and ended up in Mournhold's marketplace and in front of a small portable stage. There were shops behind the stage and I moved around it to inspect the displayed merchandise of an armorer, but a Dunmer behind the stage called out to me as I passed by.
The man was the leader of the little acting troupe and one of his actors seemed to be missing. Bizarrely, he claimed I looked just like his missing actor, which was an obvious lie. Nevertheless, I was asked to play the vacant role and agreed, guessing that I had a few days to study whatever play they were performing. I actually only had two minutes to memorize my lines from a play called "The Horror of Castle Xyr"

I managed to memorize my lines from the first three pages of the play before everyone started rushing to their places to begin the show. I was sure I was about to make a fool of myself, but the play did not last even up to the amount of lines I was ready for. As I was waiting for my next line, a Dunmer in the audience suddenly jumped up on stage with a Daedric sword and attacked me!
He was not a particularly skilled assassin and I dealt with him quickly. The play was obviously ruined, so I returned to the man who conned me into taking the part. He introduced himself as 'Meryn' and admitted that he knew that an assassin was waiting for his lead actor, the man I replaced, to appear on stage. Meryn's actor had recently been caught in an indecent situation with the daughter of a Telvanni, which makes my situation even more ridiculous, unless the assassin thought the daughter had a taste for female Khajiit. Anyway, Meryn paid me two thousand Septims for saving his actor's life and wished me well. A very strange situation, but I am certainly growing used to 'strange'.

A local guard suggested I search the sewers for the Dark Brotherhood if I had a death wish, but as unbelievable as it may sound I felt confident enough about my chances against a group of assassins. Assuming there would be a large number of them, I stopped at a tradehouse in the marketplace and purchased several dozen steel-tipped arrows and a simple long bow.

As soon as I stepped back outside I was being yelled at by a Dunmer, evidently a magic-user of some sort. He was yelling loud enough for the entire marketplace to hear him and announced himself as "Ovis Velas, the great, renowned, respected, and feared wizard". Rather foolishly he declared his ambition to "bring the city to its knees" and then stated he would demonstrate his power immediately on one of Mournhold's own. Of course, he then turned directly towards me, called me an "ugly Khajiit" and attacked. The attack lasted all of about three seconds. Two to pull the spear from the sheath on my back and one to drive it into his chest. The great wizard Ovis Velas was quickly the late, great wizard.
There was a key on the man's body and a thankful bystander helpfully pointed out that there was a manor owned by Mournhold's Velas family in a residential area of the city called 'Godsreach'. I felt my assault against the Dark Brotherhood would go better without another Velas family member flinging magic at my back, so I put off my exploration of the sewers to deal with this unexpected threat.

The key opened the front door to the manor a guard in Godsreach pointed out to me, but inside there was only one Dunmer. Much like his brother, this one started to loudly address me before I could even open my mouth. He made quite the incredulous claim: Ovis Velas was his very unskilled brother who was only trying to pretend to be him, Gavis Velas, for some reason or another. Gavis said he understood my situation in having to defend myself and politely asked that I understand his in avenging the death of his foolish brother...right before he summoned two giant Ogrims into the room.

With no room to maneuver I was sure to be crushed into paste by the hulking Daedra if I played defensively. Instead, I recklessly tried a repeat of my attack on his unfortunate brother, charging straight at him with no regards to the massive scaled hands grasping for me on either side. Flat feet must run in the Velas family, for he was entirely too slow to dodge out of my way or perhaps could not due to the bulk of his summoned minions. The pointed tip of Hircine's oddly shaped spear caught him in the chest and I bore him to the floor, withdrawing only to drive it into his throat. The melee could not have lasted more than six seconds.

As he died his summoned help disappeared in puffs of acrid smoke, including two behind me that I never even knew had been there. Had I not attacked him immediately I would have surely been torn to pieces. He had nothing interesting on him, so I locked the door to the manor behind me as I left. Eventually someone will find the body, but I will probably be long gone from this place by then.
My foray into the sewers should have been more interesting than it was. I met a Khajiit near the marketplace's trapdoor, but she refused to speak with me. Probably Thieves Guild. The other was a Dunmer woman who asked that I keep an eye out for the ghost of her dead husband who had been murdered by a gang operating out of the sewers.

Save for those two the only other inhabitants of the sewers were a few irresponsible summonings, mostly skeletons, and the Dark Brotherhood itself. The latter proved to be something of a disappointment. I was expecting a highly-dangerous assault against a den of experienced assassins and what I found was a small collection of poorly armed individuals occupying two decrepit buildings living more like beggars than elite killers.  

There was at least two dozen Brotherhood members living under the sewers, but most of them were only armed with daggers and short swords. The assassin at the play was better armed than this rabble. The approach to their little compound was long and open from where I had come from, letting me pick off the ones outside with arrows while giving those inside the buildings no warning of my approach. Inside the smaller building were eight assassins, all of them armed with silvered stabbing swords and none of them a match for me and Hircine's spear.
The larger building held fewer assassins, but one of them proved to be a difficult opponent and the source of a valuable piece of information. He had a small scroll in his pocket that specifically named me as a contracted target of the Dark Brotherhood, on the request (and presumably payment) of someone only referred to as "H". Very mysterious and I am not sure I even know anyone whose name begins with an H. Mournhold's new king, King Helseth, comes to mind, but there is no reason why he should want me dead. 

By then it was well into the evening and I had no idea where an inn was, so I distastefully re-entered the Velas manor and am spending the night in the former master's bedroom. I have certainly slept in worse places, but I do not think I will want to be staying here tomorrow.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Day 114 - Under Hircine's Eyes

6 Evening Star
It is a mark of how strange my life has become that today's events do not register as anything but 'slightly unusual'. I suppose I expected it after learning of the Giant's kidnapping, but being woken up by a group of werewolves clutching each of your limbs is quite a startling experience.

It was also a short one, for there was a sudden flash of  red light and I instantly found myself standing in what looked like one of Vvardenfell's Daedric shrines. Still disorientated, I spent a few moments looking around before realizing that I was not alone.
My education on the Daedric Lords is rather spotty, but the man who stood before the only door in the room I instantly recognized as Hircine himself. The Prince appeared before me with the spotted skin of a fawn and wearing only a loincloth, foot wraps, and the large skull of an unfortunate deer. As I approached he summoned a short halberd into his hands, which he idly twirled about as he explained the rules of the Game I had come to anticipate being a part of.

The rules were simple: Behind the door was a series of arenas that the Lord had already sent the other "champions", Captain Carius, Tharsten Heart-Fang, and the Giant Karstaag, through. These arenas were staffed by Hircine's favorite werewolves and I had no doubt they were going to be dangerous opponents, especially given my complete lack of preparation for Hircine's Hunt.

As he disappeared to some deeper part of the place, he warned me that only one of "his" champions would survive the Hunt, implying that I would need to kill the others to proceed. I was dismayed at the thought of having to kill Captain Carius, but curiously felt no such regret for Tharsten, which would prove to be rather observant, as I was to find out.

The Imperial Captain was waiting just inside the first arena and was very happy to see me. He was the first to be summoned to Hircine's arena and fought the werewolves prowling about until he was wounded and forced to fortify a small corner of a wall with rubble while he awaited a friendly face. He offered to join me in fighting our way through Hircine's minions, but the man was obviously pained and I did not think he would survive whatever lay ahead of us.

He agreed to remain in his corner while I worked my way through the werewolf-infested maze. The maze was small, but that worked against me, making it difficult to isolate each werewolf I came across. Several times I would launch an arrow at an unsuspecting enemy, only to have three of them come charging at me, alarmed at the arrow strike on their brethren. I would surely have been overwhelmed had it not been for my silvered spear.
I came across a worn chest towards the center of the circular maze and retrieved a glowing medallion from it. This had the unpleasant effect of turning all of the werewolf ice statues I had been walking by into real werewolves and making my battle back to the Captain just as harrowing as the battle from.

Together the Captain and I worked our way to the center of the maze where we came upon a shimmering gate that only I, the holder of the medallion, could pass through. He said he would guard the gate as I proceeded further into Hircine's arena and that he was sure he could find his own way out. He warned me against both Karstaag and Tharsten, the latter of whose motives he was suspicious of. 

Beyond the gate was another arena, very similar to the one the Captain was still occupying. The Skaal chieftain was apparently waiting for me just inside the gate. He seemed glad to see me as well, but spoke more of Karstaag's lead over him than our cooperation or survival. Nevertheless, the man was stronger than the Captain and unharmed, so I agreed to fight with him to the next gate. Either he would fall to the werewolves or be weakened, for his speech made me certain he would turn on me soon.

Suspicious though he was, Tharsten proved to be a strong warrior and killed four werewolves to my six. But when we found a chest similar to the one from the previous room, he pushed me aside and ran ahead, grabbing the key with a triumphant shout. Curiously, he turned to face me and bragged that the honor of defeating Hircine would fall upon him and revealed that he was in possession of something he called "Hircine's Ring", which had been passed along his family's generations.

With this ring on his finger he felt that the glory of Hircine's Hunt was his birthright and refused any argument against this belief. Eventually he tired of my attempts to persuade him to cooperate and stated that my death during the Hunt would be honored by the Skaal for ten generations. Having said that, he twisted a silver ring on his finger and suddenly became a werewolf!
I was very surprised, but Tharsten gave me little time to think upon this new development. He was in front of me with one leap and a furious melee ensured. My first reaction was the one that probably saved my life: lacking the distance between us to bring my spear to bear, I carelessly shoved my weight against him in an effort to put some space between us. Amazingly this worked and put him off balance for a few moments, which is all I needed.

Standing between two narrow stones, my flanks were secure and he could not get past me. His only option was to strike head-on against the silvered point of my spear. After slaying over a dozen werewolves in Hircine's game, Tharsten proved to be not much of a challenge after all. Perhaps if he had elected to fight me in his human form he would have stood a better chance.

The ring disappeared with a small popping noise, but the key to the next gate remained, so I moved further into the arena, alone.
The next room was not a maze, but a wide open arena in which Karstaag was prowling about. Before today I had never seen a Giant of any kind and I hope to never need to battle with one again. Karstaag was a large, white-furred, horned creature standing at least twice my height, if not more. He moved surprisingly quick for his size, his hands were large enough to envelop and crush me, and his arms likely strong enough to throw me across the room or dash me against the frozen walls.
This match did not seem weighted in my favor.

Our combat turned into a dangerous game of catch: me dashing behind pillars and pieces of rubble to fire arrows and he lumbering after me, throwing the rubble aside and collapsing the pillars. Eventually the trail of blood he was leaving in his wake grew thicker from the increasing number of arrows jutting from his body and he gradually slowed down. When he paused for a moment I rushed forwards with my spear and drove it into his neck with all my strength.

He simply stared down at me and sighed before falling forwards towards me, dead. I barely had enough time to dive out of his way and none at all to retrieve my weapon. The spear shattered with a sharp crack as Karstaag fell upon it and I was left with my bow and short sword, my Daedric spear still at Thirsk.

There was a gate at the far end of the room, but Hircine himself stood before it. I readied myself for what I feared would be a very short battle, but he only asked me a question: What is the hunter's greatest strength: speed, strength, or guile? 

My first instinct was speed, for my own had saved me more times than I could count, but the Daedric Prince would not ask a question merely for his curiosity, so I thought about it a bit. Speed may be my advantage in a fight, but it was guile which ultimately brought down Dagoth Ur, so I decided that would be my answer. 

I had already fought two rooms full of werewolves and one Frost Giant, but I now had to face Hircine and minus my favored weapon at that. I gave him my answer and the battle was on. 

I do not know what difference my answer would have made, but I Hircine fought me as he appeared before me: vaguely man-shaped, with a deer skull helmet (or head, I suppose), and a short pike. Armed only with my Daedric bow and a silvered short sword I picked up from somewhere, I quickly ran away and sought some obstacle to hide behind so that I could safely fire arrows at my opponent.

I cannot say how long our battle lasted. It was one of my most difficult battles, if not the most difficult, that I have ever fought. My encounter with Dagoth Ur is the closest comparison, but I went into that fight well-equipped and rested. I entered this one exhausted from the struggles I had already had, my rest had been interrupted by Hircine's kidnapping, and I lacked the weapon I was most familiar with.

Fighting an enemy armed with a spear when you only have a short blade is a poor idea, but I had always been the one with the spear in that pairing up until today. I was forced to commit to hit-and-run attacks with my bow, but fortunately I had also brought with me to Solstheim three very rare Daedric arrows, all of which I employed against Hircine after exhausting my silvered arrows, none of which seemed to cause him any worry.

Two missed, but the third struck him in the left eyehole of his helm, rending a horrible scream from him that echoed about our frozen chamber. It seemed more in rage than pain, but he dropped his spear in an effort to remove the arrow and I quickly dashed towards him and forced my silvered blade into the right eyehole, admittedly wincing as I did so. I would never perform such a cruel strike against a mortal foe, but I felt a Daedric Prince who delighted in murdering hapless Nords and kidnapping Khajiit could be made to suffer a bit.

Even this was not enough to kill him, but being stabbed five times with his own spear was enough to end Hircine's mortal visitation.
The glowing medallion on his body opened the gate leading out and away from his arena and when I stepped outside I found I was completely surrounded by a wall of ice. I started to walk towards it, intent on seeing if the wall could be scaled, but I took no more than two steps before a bright flash blinded me and a thundering explosion slammed into my chest.

When I could see and breathe again the wall had collapsed in front of me and the underground arena behind me had fallen in on itself. The voice of Hircine sounded in my head, a congratulations on my victory and a promise of his that the Hunt would return again one day. Be that as it may, I hope I am not around to take part in it again.

I was in an area of Solstheim I had not visited before, but the shore was at my back, so I had to be on the western half of the island. After I found the northern shore I knew almost exactly where I had been and confidently and tiredly walked back to the Skaal's village.

Korst somehow knew what had happened before I said anything. He recognized Hircine's spear and told me that it was an extremely rare honor that any mortal should be carrying it, but I was too tired to feel honored, I guess. He asked after the late chieftain and I had not the heart to tell him about Tharsten's betrayal...though I suppose a Skaal might not see what he did as such. Either way, I told Korst that Tharsten fell while bravely fighting a horde of Hircine's best hunters and the shaman was satisfied with that answer. 

I rested in the village for an hour, repairing my equipment as best I could, but I was concerned that Captain Falx had not escaped the collapse and set off along the river, passing by Thirsk on my way south. The weather steadily cleared as I got closer to the southern shore and by the time I reached the coast the sun was bright and the skies were clear, cheering me considerably.
The Imperial Captain had survived his part of the Hunt as well. The troops of Fort Frostmoth were happy to have him back and repairs were finally beginning to the wrecked fort. I was directed to the Captain's chambers where he was recovering and he greeted me with a very surprising hug, something Khajiit certainly are not accustomed to, even among ourselves.

He seemed a bit embarrassed by his show of gratitude and covered it by suggesting I see Carnius Magius about some trouble the East Empire Company was having at the mine. I wished him health and went to speak to the shifty Company man. As expected, he knew nothing, but demanded that I go to site of the new town, Raven Rock, and see what the problem was.

Construction had been proceeding while I was away saving Solstheim from the ravages of Hircine's werewolves. Nothing was completed yet, but several buildings were well on their way.

After this morning's fight the problem at Raven Rock was laughable: a drunk Skaal was brawling with any workers that tried to do any work. A rather exasperated Falco asked me to deal with the Nord, but without killing the man. He and the workers had taken to calling the man 'Hroldar the Strange' and I easily spotted the furious looking Hroldar pacing in front of a half-completed building. He shouted at me, stating that the construction would incur the wrath of Nature and he was the guardian of Solstheim, or something like that.

I had little patience to deal with such foolery and grabbed the man by the throat with one hand while I sent my right crashing into his chin. I think I nearly broke my hand, but the man stumbled backwards and cried out that he had (already) enough. He accepted my demands to leave Raven Rock and thus ended a very short and strange episode of the day.

Falco has some very deep pockets, for he gave me a thousand Septims just for punching a Nord, though I suppose keeping his schedule is worth any amount to him. He asked me to let Carnius know that the construction was resuming.

Contrary to Falco, Carnius was actually disappointed that I did not kill the man, stating that the "natives" need to learn to respect Imperial steel. Quite a bold statement for a man living inside a wrecked fortress following a raid an Imperial garrison could not prevent. He had no further tasks for me today, so I decided to take my rest at Thirsk.

It has been a very long day and I evidently have accomplished a task approaching equality with striking down Dagoth Ur, but it does not feel much like that. Against the mad God I had allies, a plan, and a long road towards my eventual confrontation and victory. Here my foe was unknown until only a few hours before meeting him, I had no allies for most of it, and the conclusion of the Bloodmoon Prophecy ended before I barely knew it had begun.

I just feel confused and tired, but Hircine's spear is mine now for whatever good or evil it may bring me. It is enchanted, though I do not know with what. The future, as it always has been, is cloudy and I do not know what it holds for me. I hope I will be able to dedicate some relatively peaceful days towards the construction of Raven Rock, then perhaps I shall return to Vvardenfell for good.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Day 113 - Nobody Home

5 Evening Star
This morning I was ready to assault a castle filled with small, hostile enemies so that I could talk to a "Frost Giant" to find out why hundreds of animals were washing up dead on the shore. It was going to be one of my stranger days, but as usual my expectations did not match the reality of what the day held for me.

The castle called 'Karstaag' was not exactly what I expected. Told it was a Frost Giant's adobe, I envisioned a castle built of giant blocks of ice and snow. Instead I got a single giant block of ice that the Giant must have carved a home out of. I had also expected a teeming mass of Rieklings garrisoning the castle, but found only two of them outside, each upon its tusked steed.
The advantage was theirs on the flat terrain surrounding the castle and I had no inclination to stand and fight two of them at the same time. Following Korst's advice I fled to the coast and sought the secret underwater entrance. It was easy to find and the swim was fortunately a short one. I surfaced at the end of a long corridor guarded by a single Riekling, but when he saw me he held up his hands and proclaimed that he was not an enemy.

The little creature called himself 'Krish' and he was in a bit of trouble himself. The Giant, also named 'Karstaag', had disappeared a few days ago under circumstances similar to that of Captain Carius and Chief Tharsten: a sudden attack by werewolves and the equally sudden absence of the local leader...though how the werewolves would abduct a Giant is certainly something to ponder.

With the castle's master gone, Krish attempted to overthrow what few loyal Rieklings remained, but his hired Grahl creatures turned on him and his party before they made it into the castle. Krish was the only survivor and could neither sneak his way past the Grahl, nor swim out the way I came in. His only asset was that he possessed an enchantment granted by Karstaag that allowed him to magically unlock the sealed door into the castle's main Hall. His suggestion was to speak with the Riekling that had temporarily taken charge, one named 'Dulk'.

A deal was struck: I would slay the Grahl and he would let me into the castle so that I could speak to the supposed leader of the loyal Riekling garrison. There were eight of the monstrous creatures lumbering about the icy corridors, but they were slow and the corridors long and straight. Each of the eight took upwards of twenty-five arrows each to weaken enough to dispatch with my spear, but eventually they all lay dead and I retrieved the Riekling rebel.
He was true to his word and led me to a staircase of ice leading upwards that I otherwise would have probably missed finding. The stairs led to a very large banquet hall with a massive table that could have comfortably seated forty Rieklings. Four of them attacked us without any attempt at figuring out why a Khajiit and a Riekling were together to begin with and they had no chance, even with Krish running away before the fight began.

Dulk proved to be a great deal smarter than his four ex-comrades and immediately asked why I was standing in front of him with the "evil", as he called him, Krish. I told him I did not care either way about the troubles of the castle, only that I had come to discuss the mystery of the dead horkers with the master of the castle, the Giant Karstaag.

The dutiful Riekling confirmed Krish's story: a few days ago a pack of werewolves assaulted the castle and somehow abducted the Frost Giant during the turmoil. Dulk remained confident that his master would be returning shortly and intended to remain at the castle doing what he could until that occurred. At that point the two Rieklings started arguing about who should be the new master of the castle and I decided it was time for me to go.

With the confirmation and method of Karstaag's disappearance Korst finally felt ready to divulge what the 'Bloodmoon Prophecy' actually was. This prophecy dictates that a "demon god" will walk upon the land of Solstheim accompanied by his "Hounds", no doubt the werewolves. This god, known in the prophecy as "The Hunter" is preceded by three nights, each with a different portent of his coming.

The first sign is "Fire From the Eye of Glass", which would be the magical fire burning atop the lake just beyond the village. The second sign is the "Tide of Woe" as seen by all of the dead animals washing up on the shore. The third sign is the reddening of the moon, but it being overcast all day and night, this is not something that is yet provable.

Korst was rightfully worried and gifted me a sword he said would be a great help against the coming trouble. Its a sword I can neither lift nor use and as such is completely worthless to me, as many of the Skaal's gifts have been. Clearly they do not have much business with Khajiit.

The next step of this strange event is something Korst called "The Hunter's Game". This game is simple enough: the Hunter's Hounds capture strong warriors and make them run a violent gauntlet, with the victor facing the Hunter himself and likely a quick death. Korst could not tell me if the Hunter had claimed all the participants he wanted, nor who the next would be.

Given my life's luck I will not be surprised to find that I am on the Hunter's list. Time will tell.