Sunday, October 26, 2014

Day 108 - Confidence Boosted

31 Sun's Dusk
More progress made again today! I am so close to completing the Skaal's Test of Loyalty and could have completed it today, but was distracted by other tasks made to me.

I had wisely completed my work with the Earth Stone late last night and therefore had no need to walk all the way to the west coast of the island. Instead, the Tree Stone was my next target and almost directly north of Fort Frostmoth.

On my way there I stopped to explore a small underground cave, but it proved to be as rewarding as the family tombs back on Vvardenfell: a few flasks of cheap elixir, some scattered coins, and a large collection of worthless sundries. Unlike the ancestral tombs of the Dunmer though, the cave was completely unoccupied.
The bears and wolves were oddly absent all morning and I found the Tree Stone easily and without any incident. Approaching it provided me with my next Test of Loyalty, this test was to find the stolen seeds of the First Tree. I was told the thief fled east and that that whomever held these seeds "controlled the trees", but what that actually meant was not made clear. Once I recovered the seeds I was to plant them so that the First Tree would grow once again.
I should have thought harder about what it meant to control trees on Solstheim, but it did not remain a mystery for long. A few minutes walk to the east of the stone brought me to a cluster of trees in which one of the blue goblins stood contently, surrounded by docile tree-women. He yelled something in his own language when he spotted me and with a wave of his arm sent his leafy soldiers loping towards me.
Mindful that they were thralls to the goblin I did not attack them, instead battering my way through the group with shield and shoulder in what was no doubt a very awkward looking and un-Khajiit stratagem. The thief of seeds was killed with a single thrust of my spear and four small green seeds fell from his hands as he collapsed.

I became aware that the sound of wooden legs crunching through the snow behind me had died down after I picked up the seeds and when I looked up the tree-women stared blankly back, evidently awaiting a command of some kind. I am not sure if the creatures can blink, but they never did so long as they were placidly gazing at me and the effect was rather unsettling.

I started to walk away and they made no move to follow or attack, choosing for some reason to remain with the fallen body of their former master.
Finding a place to plant the seeds was the easiest part of the whole episode. Just north of the Stone was a conspicuous circle of fine brown dirt surrounded by the short, tough grass of the Solstheim plain. I know little about gardening, but it seemed a  good place to plant the seeds.

My guess was correct, for when I walked back to the Stone it began to glow and produce small globes of white light. Only the Sun Stone was left to visit now and the day was still young. I felt that today I would finally be done with the Skaal's test.
The map placed the Sun Stone at the end of the river I have been following for the past couple of days, so I walked along the river bank and came across a small cave facing the water. My few experiences with caves on Solstheim encouraged me to keep walking, but this one showed the signs of recent habitation. The river at that point was too shallow to permit even the smallest boat, so smugglers seemed unlikely. My curiosity got the better of me and I cautiously pushed the heavy furs serving as the door aside as I descended into the frozen earth.

The only inhabitant was a Nord woman and contrary to everything my life has taught me to expect, was not hostile. She introduced herself as 'Kolfinna' and welcomed me to the cave that was her home. She and her husband shared the small living quarters until his recent death at the hands of his friend. The husband, charmingly named 'Gustav Two-Teeth' had been slain during an argument with another Nord called 'Sigvarr the Strong'. Kolfinna sought monetary compensation for the death of her husband, a Nord custom called 'wergild'.

She was scared to talk to Sigvarr herself and asked if I could have a word with the man. She did not wish the man dead, but she did want his family heirloom, a small gem called 'Pinetear'. If our conversation came to blows she was not adverse to my killing him, but her preference was for the man to live.

He frequently spent time hunting bears and wolves near a collection of stones called the 'Altar of Thrond' northwest of her riverside home, but she warned me that his favorite weapon, a two-handed hammer, was enchanted to inflict paralysis. I would have to rely on my greater agility and speed to put enough distance between us so that I could dispatch him with arrows, if it came to that.

So the Sun Stone was forced to wait while I wandered about trying to find Sigvarr. I surprised a group of smugglers camping along the river as I followed it north and I found it to be a bit refreshing to be fighting poorly-equipped Dunmer again for little to no reward.
I also found Louis Beauchamp's airship...what remains of it. The scattered wreckage and injuries the crew's corpses present suggest quite a hard landing, but the Captain survived the wrecking of the craft only to succumb to Solstheim's cold a few days later.
His journal suggests a trip beset by bad omens, the most telling being that of an Argonian crew-member that tried to intentionally crash the ship and had to be tossed overboard. They did find the burial cave where Louis's amulet should be but crashed during their attempted landing. It is encouraging to know that the amulet is close to the wreck, but no specific directions were given on how to get there. It is something I shall have to keep in mind for later. Louis would be interested to read the Captain's account, so I liberated that from the man's frozen hands and left him and his crew as I found them.

The 'Altar of Thrond' was atop a small hill near the wreck and looked every bit like an actual altar, which I did not expect. I was lucky to have stumbled upon it as I did, as from a distance it just looks like a collection of barren rocks.
Sigvarr was in a copse of trees near the Altar just as Kolfinna said he would be and warily waved to me as I approached. I got right to the point, announcing that I had been sent by Kolfinna to collect wergild for the death of her husband. He brashly declared that he did what had to be done and that, fearing for his life, had no choice but to kill Gustav.

Hoping to avoid having to fight him, I explained that even so, Kolfinna considered him to be her husband's friend and that his death deeply wounded her due to from whom it came. I spoke of the admiration I had for the Nords' bonds of brotherhood and how surprised I was to hear that such a warrior as Sigvarr had slain his friend over a petty argument. This was all untrue, of course, I had no such admiration and never really thought about anything of the sort to begin with. But it was surprisingly effective.

Sigvarr handed me the gem Pinetear, saying that he hoped its possession would help ease Kolfinna's pain and that he would carry the guilt of what he had done with him for the rest of his life. Having said that, he walked away and I started the walk back to Kolfinna's cave.

She was pleased to receive the gem and even more so that Sigvarr still lived. As a reward she is letting me stay in her small cave whenever I wish, which is rather more accepting than I expected, and I was given a key to her late husband's chest, but it contained Nordic fur armor that neither fit nor was worth much. Still, it is a good deed done and I am glad I took the time to help.

I finally reached the Sun Stone ironically long after the sun had set. Its quest was just as brief as the others: Go west and free the Sun from the Halls of Penumbra. It sounds like it will be similar to the Wind Stone's task, but I had no time left in the day, so the Sun Stone's will have to wait for tomorrow.
However, there was enough time for one piece of business: the airship Captain's journal. I Recalled back to Ald'ruhn and sought out the mage Louis so that he would learn what became of his ship. He was distraught to hear that the ship was a wreck and the entire crew perished, but he pressed a sack of coins into my hand and urged me to seek out his Amulet myself, which I will likely do when I have the time.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Day 107 - Progress Once Again

30 Sun's Dusk
After spending several days flailing about, I can say that after today I may actually be successfully adapting to Solstheim's unique challenges.

A refreshing sleep and a healthy breakfast at my manor did wonders for my injuries and outlook. I managed quite a number of health restoration potions and even two of the more difficult magicka restoration elixirs out of the ingredients I have been collecting from Solstheim. With that taken care of I purchased a dozen more armorer hammers from my manor's small tradehouse, intent on finally not being caught on the island without something that I suddenly needed.

Better prepared and well-rested, I walked once again to the village of Khuul to await my ride. I did have to wait this time, but only for an hour while S'virr finished loading his small boat with "merchandise". The trip seemed to go quicker than usual and we landed at Fort Frostmoth while it was still early in the afternoon.

The Earth Stone was awaiting the completion of its strange task and according to my notes it ordered that I search northeast of it for a cavern called the 'Cave of Hidden Music' so that I might learn the 'Song of the Earth'. The Stone is quite a distance from the fort and I fought off attacks from a half-dozen wolves, two nearly naked Nords, and a Nord witch while on my way there. 

Along the coast I came upon two lit torches stuck in the beach for no greatly apparent reason. I doubt the hostile barbarians I have been killing have a reason to place the torches and the Skaal are entirely too far away to have done so. A curiosity, but likely an unimportant one.
The Earth Stone's cave was difficult to find, largely due to my mindset that a cave is something built into a mountain. On Solstheim, most of the caves seem to be built along a gentle slope and then burrowed into the frozen earth, with a large stone house serving as both the entrance and a large portion of the cavern itself. I am too used to Vvardenfell's doors set into mountains and spent a lot of time today wandering near the hills when my goal was built on a plain. By the time I found the 'Cave of Hidden Music' it had grown dark and begun to snow.
Like all of Solstheim's burial locations, this one was infested with the Nord's particular breed of undead warrior, but they were dispersed and slain one at a time. I found what I was supposed to find in a second chamber of the cave, but it took me a few minutes to figure out what it was I had actually found.
An odd droning noise had been periodically sounding while I had been in the cave and this room held the reason for all the noise. Every couple of seconds a blast of air would rush through a series of hollow stone fixtures hanging from the ceiling and blow over a second series of three stone fixtures just beneath them. This creates a droning noise in three pitches that can be heard throughout the entire cave. This was the object of the Earth Stone's request, but it was not clear how I was to learn the 'Song of the Earth'.

Only by accident did I discover what it was I needed to do. I was setting my equipment down in front of the stones so that I could climb behind them when I accidentally smacked one of them with my spear as I turned around. This caused a blast of air to come shooting up from the floor, rather than the ceiling, producing a different note. After a moment's pause in the 'song' the rhythm began again from the fixtures in the ceiling, but now I had an idea of what was expected of me.

Striking each of the floor stones produced a note identical to the ones produced from the ceiling, but in a different order. The rightmost fixture on the ceiling produced a deep sound, but the rightmost floor fixture produced a high sound when struck. I completely lack an ear for music, but after a few tries I managed to reproduce the order of sounds coming from the ceiling and then repeated the process when the ceiling fixtures started producing a different set of sounds. 

And it was in this way that I learned the 'Song of the Earth', but I am not sure what use this is for me. I really need to find time to catch up on the Skaal's legends and give my little quest some context.

It was late into the night when I exited the 'Cave of Hidden Music', but I was on the far side of the island, so skipping the Earth Stone in favor of heading for Fort Frostmoth meant just as much of a walk. I made my way back to the Stone, fighting off at least a dozen wolves who seem a great deal more numerous and hostile after the night falls. 

The Stone behaved just as the others did: once I approached it the Stone began to glow and started shedding green sparks of light. The Earth Stone's quest was completed.
The sky was very clear and I estimated it to be close to midnight by the time I had finished with the Earth Stone. There is no safe place west of the river to sleep, so I had no choice but to make my way back to the fort, fighting wolves and bears along the way.

I learned at the fort that it was just past three in the morning, so my rest tonight will be quite short, but I am more eager to finish the Skaal's quest than I am to sleep late into the morning. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Day 106 - Further Lessons Learned

29 Sun's Dusk
Life continues to impart lessons upon me in a very painful way. I woke this morning full of confidence that I could make a lot of progress today and I am going to bed only further convinced that sinking Solstheim to the bottom of the sea would only be an improvement.

The morning started as they have been as of late: on a pile of bear furs in a tiny wooden room in a house staffed entirelly with drunken Nords. I cannot begin to imagine how a Khajiit straight out of Elsweyr would have dealt with it.

The Wind Stone was my first task of the day and the only one that did not cause me any grief. I passed the Beast Stone while on my way and the Stone is still emitting light and the Good Beast was placidly gnawing on some berries nearby. I wonder how long he (or she) is planning on staying there.
Further up the river I came across a couple clearly enamored with one another. Both were Nords, the man was fully armored in the typical way of this island and the woman seemed content to wear heavy fur clothing. Both were staring at each other, apparently to the exclusion of anything around them. Neither of them seemed much of a threat, so I approached and cautiously asked what they were doing.
The man replied that he and the woman shared a love that his wife would never understand and the woman merely asked me to gaze upon the man's masculine visage. The meeting between the three of us seemed rather surreal considering how dangerous the wilderness has been for me, but the couple simply wished me a safe day and I moved on, leaving the two of them behind.

Naturally it started to snow as I grew close to the Wind Stone and soon I was stumbling through a blizzard that suddenly whipped up and reduced my vision to barely an arm's length ahead of me. Truly the Blight Storm of Solstheim. The storm eased a bit when I judged myself very close to the Stone and I merely had to contend with a heavy snowfall by the time I actually reached it.
The Wind Stone reacted to its demand being met in the same way the Beast Stone did. Approaching the Stone caused it to glow and begin emitting small baubles of light and I had to satisfy myself with that reward.

I began this meandering quest from the Stone closest to the Skaal's village and the Stones made a sort of circle around the entire island. Visiting the Wind Stone after the Beast Stone put me on a westward path which eventually curled around Fort Frostmoth and to the southeast peninsula where the Sun Stone sat. With the exception of the Tree Stone, all of the Stones on my map are marked either along or at the end of rivers and the Tree Stone sits between two of them anyway. I have not seen any fish in the running water I have peered into, but the waterways were apparently important enough to someone in the past. Perhaps it was possible to use small boats at one point. It would certainly be preferable to walking around this place.

The Water Stone was next and was marked as sitting near a small river on the west coast, near some large hills. A crude road snaked past the Wind Stone and I followed it heading west hoping against all expectations that it would lead directly to the Water Stone. It did not.

What it did lead to was very mysterious. The road died out at the foot of a large hill which had a cavern built into it at the very top, if the furs covering the entrance is any indication. A huge snow-white wolf was prowling at the entrance, but my Daedric weaponry made short work of it.
Attempting to move the furs aside brought forth a loud yell from within the cave, asking me what the name of the wolf the Nords called 'Hrothmund's Bane' was. I had no idea and I did not want to risk the ire of whatever Nord was inside challenging me, so I yelled back that I did not know the wolf's name and that I was therefore leaving. As I turned around the voice smugly informed me that I was allowed to come back and try again, if I wanted.

While circling around the hill I was charged by two of the blue pig-riding goblins. The melee very quickly turned into my scramble up a steep hillside while the two stout warriors tried goading their mounts up the hill. The amulet of levitation that I brought with me was of little actual help, for there was nowhere to levitate to that they would not be able to reach me at.
Recklessness was the order of the day and I charged back down the hill, managing to knock one of the goblins off his mount as I hurdled past. The goblin proved to be a lot less threatening once dismounted and he expired before his confused mount and mounted partner could turn on me. The furry pigs are fair warriors on their own and I took quite a few jabs of its tusks before I pinned it into the snow with my spear, leaving only mounted goblin left. He had failed to take advantage of my distraction with the pig creature, apparently unsure as to whether he should flee or attack. By the time he made up his mind it his would-be advantage had been lost and he and his mount fell quickly.

The Water Stone was much easier to find than the Wind Stone had been, as it appropriately faced the water. Its task was an easy one, but strange: I first had to seek an island west of the stone and seek something called the 'Swimmer' who would lead me to the 'Water of Life'. The Stone was already on the shore and the only thing west of it was a collection of large rocks jutting out from the shore, so I headed there, not sure as to what I was looking for.
I certainly would never have guessed my guide was to be a black-furred version of the fat crawling things that seem to infest Solstheim's waterways. Like the Good Beast, it seemed content to crawl about its small isle until it saw me, at which point it made a barking noise and jumped into the sea. It was obvious I was to follow, but swimming in the icy waters would have been the death of me. I had two choices: Water Walk behind it or attempt to follow it via the coastline. I chose to Water Walk and hopefully have enough magicka to get me back to the coast at the end of the creature's journey.
My hope of not getting wet was dashed when our trip ended in what seemed like the middle of the sea. I could only barely make out the outline of a metal door set into the water below, making a dive into the ocean a very unwelcome requirement. 

The underwater door opened to a water-filled tunnel, but I had enough energy to use my water-breathing spell, ruining my plan to walk back to the coastline after all this. The tunnel eventually led to a small alcove with a lonely skeleton and a collection of potions. I dispatched the skeleton without any trouble and spotted an ornate silver flask sitting among  the plain vials of some spoiled elixir. I guessed correctly that it was the 'Water of Life' that the stone sent me to collect.

Swimming out of the cave, I immediately headed towards the closet shore, some distance away from the Stone. I encountered nothing along the coastline though and thanks to Azura's gift covered the distance fairly quickly.
Approaching the stone resulted in bubbles floating out and up along the Stone, popping as they began to drift away. And so the Water Stone was satisfied.

Three stones remained and the next was to be the Earth Stone, almost directly south of the Water Stone. The land turned from snow back to tough grass and tall trees and my foes changed from pig-riding goblins to bands of hostile Nords. I spied three of them making camp across a small river and tried to sneak by them, but I was spotted and all three jumped into the water, swimming towards me. I cannot understand why they did something so stupid, but not one of them made it to my side of the riverbank and the arrow-filled bodies drifted gently with the current and eventually out to sea.
When I reached the Earth Stone I was told to travel northeast and seek the 'Cave of the Hidden Music' so that I might learn the 'Song of the Earth'. If experience is any guide, the cave will be full of undead Nords and wolves, nothing I felt I was up to dealing with at the end of the day.

Instead I Recalled back to Ald'ruhn once again, this time to purchase alchemy ingredients so that I can grind my own potions of healing and restoration when I am on Solstheim. If it were not so hostile a place I would say the island is begging for some sort of settlement, but I fear such an enterprise is doomed to fail in the face of the difficult environment. 

Tomorrow I hope to complete my business with the Stones, but that may be reaching for a bit too much. At the very least I expect to complete the rituals for the Earth and Tree Stones, leaving but one Stone for the next day. This task has been very difficult and dangerous, but also invaluable for teaching me what to expect from the island.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Day 105 - Nord Cultists

28 Sun's Dusk
Today was something of an embarrassment for me. Too much of it was spent correcting mistakes I made during the previous days and too little of it was spent moving forwards with any one of my many tasks on Solstheim.

I replaced breakfast with a splash of water on my face this morning, eager to see my small home in Ald'ruhn again and re-equip myself for this dangerous island. My enchanted amulet, certainly the most prized possession I have, made the trip back to Vvardenfell a quick one.

The spear and dagger enchanted to summon their Daedric counterparts were on the top of my list, but I also wanted to bring the actual Daedric weapons sitting in my manor to the north.. I thought initially to bring the Daedric bow as well, but archery has been the only aspect of combat with which I have not been having issues, so it remains my stronghold.

It was gratifying to see a clear sky when I left the house, perhaps my theory that the Blight storms need to lose their power gradually has some truth to it. Before starting my walk to the manor I stopped at the Fighter's Guild to purchase as armorer's hammers. I have no great skill in repair, so I bought as many as I considered reasonably, assuming that I would wear out many of them to little effect.

From the manor I took my Daedric spear, dagger, and a rare short slashing blade favored by the Bosmer, as well as a few more armoring hammers and an amulet enchanted to help me blend in to my environment. No Blight storm harassed me on the walk to Khuul and I reached the village just before noon. Fortunately S'virr was already there, saving me the trouble of having to either loiter at the village or attempt a walk across the sea.

The boat trip was just as grueling as the first time was and I set foot on the island well after dark, still with a long walk to Thirshk to survive. On my way there I had several interesting encounters.

The first of these was with a Nord who kept to the high standards set by the Ashlander bandits of Vvardenfell by immediately charging me with a dagger in her hand as soon as she saw me. My Daedric slashing blade made very short work of the woman whose dagger was silvered and probably of local manufacture. She might have been one of the 'snow witches' the soldiers have been warning me about.
Further on I came upon something even stranger. I heard the sound of many people chanting in some strange language as I worked my way towards the river and I crested a hill to see a very odd sight: Cavorting among the trees were a group of Nords, some of them without clothes, several wolves, and one of the plant-creatures. The clothed Nords were armed and armored and the four of them seemed to be on the watch for anything that would disturb whatever this was. The naked ones clenched daggers in their hands, but paid no attention to anything but spinning and jumping and occasionally yelling at the sky. The wolves and the plant-creature did nothing at all, but cooperatively remained within the group of Nords as they jumped and twirled around them.
As how these things usually go, one of the Nords spotted me and the entire group, Nords, wolves, and the plant-creature, sprang at me. I was some distance away however and managed to kill all of the wolves with arrows before they reached me. The naked cultists were next to tumble to the ground riddled with arrows, but by then the plant-creature and the Nord guards were on me. My decision to bring the Daedric spear was an excellent one and they fell quickly, the plant-creature three times.
I could find no hint as to what the group was doing or why. More curious is how the Nords managed to survive the cold without wearing anything, for I found no discarded clothes to suggest their state had been a recent one. I know I am cold all the time on this island, it makes me almost long for the hot, choking stink of the Dwemer ruins.

The remainder of my walk to the mead hall of Thirsk was surprisingly without event. I was welcomed as heartily as I ever have been and my bedroll was still available. My first task tomorrow must be to re-visit the Wind Stone, complete the ritual, and move on to the next one. I shall also start to look into the fate of the mage's lost airship. I feel a great deal more confident with my new assortment of equipment and hope to make a great deal of progress tomorrow so that I can make up for the complete lack of today's.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Day 104 - Rethinking My Strategy

27 Sun's Dusk
This island continues to be a sobering lesson in humility and preparation. The equipment I brought with me is wholly inadequate and I am beginning to worry that I am as well. Today was far more difficult than any I have ever had on Vvardenfell.

The day started with a sudden drunken assault by the seemingly ever-drunk 'Erich the Unworthy'. Angry that I had talked to the Redguard, he accused me of trying to steal "his missionary" and declared his intention to, as he said, teach me some manners.

One of those manners was probably not to stab one of your Nord hosts in the throat with a dagger, but he did not have the chance to teach me that, for he of course was that Nord. The dagger was the artifact gifted to me by Mehrunes Dagon, which led to his death being instantanous as whatever enchantments held within the weapon worked their magic. His death was not at all unwelcomed by the other Nords of Thirsk who described him as a good warrior, but a poor man, especially if drunk...which was almost always.
My intention is to complete the Skaal's ritual as quickly as I can, for it appears that my success, and survival, on Solstheim may come to depend on learning their ways...much as it was with the Ashlanders. Their map provided a crude but effective set of directions for finding all of their Standing Stones and the Stone marked as the 'Beast Stone' appeared to be the closest, right on the north shore of the partially frozen lake near Thirsk.

With no description of what the stones looked like, I was forced to peer at every tall stone around the lake. The thick cold fog blanketing the island did not help either. Eventually I came to a very tall stone all on its own with the scars of having been hewn from a larger piece of rock very evident. As I approached, the cracks in the stone began to glow until the rough shape of a wolf's head was apparent. Words started to glow above it and they were surprisingly readable, telling me to travel south and ease the suffering of the "Good Beast". 

The Good Beast wound up being a giant white bear and its suffering was five of the blue goblins hacking away at it. As I watched, it caught one of them with a swipe of its giant paw and flung the creature into a tree, evidently killing it. The dead goblin's fellow warriors seemed to take no notice of its death, but two of them turned on me after I shot one of them in the back. Between myself and the bear, the remaining four goblins were quickly dispatched.
The bear somehow also suffered an arrow strike, though the arrow was a crude wooden thing with a stone head, so at least that was not my fault. It let me remove the arrow and then quite happily patted me on the head with a paw the size of my face. Certainly a new experience for me.

It padded around behind me as I tried to figure out what to do next until I decided to return to the stone. I had a feeling that the Beast and the Beast Stone needed to be joined together and my hunch was correct. Once the Good Beast and I reached the stone it stood up on its hind legs and placed both of its front paws on the stone. The entire Stone began to glow and little orbs of light occasionally seeped from within the stone and rose up into the sky. I could only assume that my involvement with the Stone was now over.
Overall the task had been rather easy. I was confident that I could complete the Skaal's test within a few days. The next Standing Stone I visited was the Wind Stone and it did a very complete job at shattering any confidence I had that I would be completing the quest any time soon.

The Wind Stone sits right at the joining of Solstheim's two rivers and was easier to find than the Beast Stone. Just as with the previous stone, approaching the Wind Stone first revealed a symbol and stepping closer revealed instructions. For the Wind Stone I was to head southeast of the lake and find a burial cavern called 'Glenschul's Tomb' so that I could free the Wind from the Greedy Man's bag...which made no sense to me. Perhaps I should educate myself on the Skaal's history a bit more when I get the chance.

After some wandering I found the cavern very close to Thirsk, wedged between two small hills. What greeted me inside was both horrible and educational. The undead infested this burial cavern, but they were not the enchanted bones most of the burial guards on Vvardenfell are. The monsters I faced were closer to life and far more powerful.

Most numerous were what might have been men at one point, given the tattered breeches and shirts, but some foul magic warped them into hideous creatures, black, leathery skin stretched tight over their bones and skull with red spots of light for eyes. These skin-skeletons were very quick to swarm upon me and it is due to them that I am thinking of fetching my overly heavy Daedric spear from my stronghold. 

They had with them a creature that served to be a mockery of Solstheim's wolves, being just a skeleton with a bit of flesh hanging off of them. They, however, were easily defeated as opposed to their undead masters.

I somehow managed to clear the cavern at great cost to my health and the condition of my armor. There seems no place to bring my equipment to for repair, nor anywhere to purchase supplies to effect my own barely effective repairs and I shall have to bring some from home. I am surprised that S'virr is not smuggling these required pieces of equipment, but perhaps the Fort's needs consume all of what he can bring.

The bag of the Greedy Man was a simple inflated canvas sack sitting in front of a skeleton encased in ice. Mindful that I was to free the Wind, I opened the bag and was immediately blown off my feet by a mighty gust. The gust of wind also blew out all the oil lamps that had been lighting the cavern which would have made getting back out quite the adventure if any of the tomb's undead had been still standing about.

It was still early in the afternoon when I left the cavern, but the fight against the blackened creatures left me exhausted, hurt, and with damaged equipment. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I sought my bedroll long before dark. The sky is still a bright grey haze outside as I write this, but I am preparing to curl up on the floor and sleep. Not for the first time I suspect I am not particularly well prepared for this island. 

Tomorrow I will re-visit the Wind Stone, then see if my amulet can Recall me back home from this far away so that I can return with stronger weapons and more equipment, as it seems there is nothing this island offers to aid an adventurer.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Day 103 - Not For the Faint of Heart

26 Sun's Dusk
Solstheim certainly has a way of making me feel unwelcome, though I gather that is a feeling the island does not reserve solely for Khajiit. On my first day on Vvardenfell I raided a smugglers' cavern and pocketed a few Septims. My first full day on Solstheim had me fighting Imperial Legion rebels armed with Paralysis-enchanted weapons, returning from that duty to find Fort Frostmoth sacked, then having to walk the entire length of the island, braving attacks by bears, wolves, and small blue goblins, only so that I could speak to a tribe of isolated Nords.

Quite a welcome.

I was more excited to begin my adventure here than I thought I would be and after a hurried breakfast Blindly striking out for the mage's mystery airship seemed an easy way to a quick death, so I called upon the representative of the East Empire Company, Carnius Magius. My thinking was that I could become acquainted with the island while earning a little coin, but the man was rather...difficult to deal with.

He claimed to be short-handed and willing to sign up pretty much any one, but stated that I would be merely put to simple manual labor for the duration of my contract with the Company. Clearly news of my deeds on Vvardenfell have not reached this place yet. Of course I rejected his offer and sought out the Commander of the fort, Captain Carius.
The Captain was easier to talk to than the Company man. His full name is Falx Carius and he optimistically described the fort's garrison having the ability to be the best in the Empire. He ironically finished the statement by admitting that the Imperial Legionnaires had been getting a little "edgy", in his own words and he asked if I could find out why this was. According to the Captain, most of the soldiers were at Fort Frostmoth due to offences done elsewhere, but had been conducting their duties reasonably well nonetheless, until recently.

He felt that someone at the Fort was creating discontent among the troops and suggested that I try interviewing a few of the soldiers. Why he felt that they would speak to a Khajiit that was unknown to them, I do not know. The solution to this problem proved embarrassingly simple.

While packing for my trip here, I chose the lightest of my weapons and kept my usual armor. A few potions, most of them restoratives of health and magicka, were also brought with well as a flask of brandy imported from Cyrodiil. My plan was to sell it on the island, as I assumed it was worth more here than on Vvardenfell. I assumed correctly.

The very first soldier I approached, a man looking to be of no particular standing, instantly spied the flask hanging from my belt. He nearly begged me to give it to him, so I let him have the drink. In between gulps of brandy, he told me that the entire fort was "dry", no alcohol of any sort was permitted to be drunk, other than the local Nordic mead which the Imperial garrison to a man refuses to drink.

This policy was a recent one and no doubt the cause of the low morale the Captain had noticed. The man loyally pointed out that it seemed an odd thing for the Captain to decide upon, for he was reasonable and just otherwise.

When I spoke to the Captain about his policy, he was taken aback. While he knew about the lack of alcohol, it was not of his doing and he had thought it simply a temporary matter awaiting one of the large shipments the single-masted Imperial merchant vessels infrequently brought. The local Imperial Cult priest, a man named Antonius Nuncius, had been preaching the evils of "drink" for some time, making him my next suspect in this rather strange mystery.

The same anonymous man I had given my brandy to proved additionally helpful. He gave me directions both to the Imperial Cult shrine and the priest's office, but told me I was wasting my time, since the priest thought the Captain's policy an unfair one and assured the soldiers that he understood that they needed the simple pleasures of life...a very different man than how the Captain described him.

A visit to his office was my first priority. The priest was not in, but I was able to let myself in to look around a bit. Subtlety was not Antonius's strong point. His entire desk rattled with the unmistakable sound of glass bottles and some quick work with my few remaining lockpicks revealed enough alcohol to put even a Nord under the table. Clearly the man lacked the will to practice what he preached! 

When I spoke to him at the shrine he started off very smug, wondering why the Captain would do such a senseless thing. His demeanor changed very quickly once I handed him one of the bottles from his desk. He may have lacked foresight, but he had enough sense not to be angry about it. Antonius admitted that he had been intercepting all the alcohol deliveries and hiding them in his office so that he could blame the lack of drink on the Captain. He hoped that when the fort's morale got low enough he could write to his superiors for worry of his own safety and be assigned elsewhere.

The Captain was more amused than angry. Antonius needed only to have asked for reassignment and he would have found himself off of the island he was so desperate to leave. As punishment, the wayward priest is now a very permanent part of the Frostmoth garrison, for better or worse.

My second task was immediately assigned to me: find out where the weapons of Fort Frostmoth were disappearing to. This was not surprising given that many of the garrison chose to be here as an alternative to prison. Two of the garrison's best were already working to discover who was smuggling the weapons and I was asked to choose one of them to work with. After speaking with both of them I chose an Imperial named Gaea Artoria who the Captain described as his toughest, most capable warrior. The other guard, Saenus Lusius, was better known for his craftiness and guile, but I think I supply enough guile and craft on my own.

Gaea readily agreed to assist me and told me that she heard that there were small boats docking in a bay close to the fort. She suspected there was a cave of some sort there that was being used to store the stolen goods prior to shipping them. I had no leads of my own so I agreed to take the walk.

The rumor proved to be correct and it was Gaea who spotted the cave entrance behind a slab of rock cleverly placed to give the illusion of one large, unbroken boulder. The cavern itself was simply made, but the inhabitants were a different story. I was expecting a few disgruntled Imperial Legion soldiers armed with the standard-issue equipment, but each of the five smugglers had armed themselves with weapons enchanted with Paralysis. Fortunately Gaea proved every bit the warrior the Captain promised that she was and between her blade and my bow the smugglers stood no chance.
We were both quite shocked to see the fort in ruins upon our return. While we were not gone long, Fort Frostmoth was attacked during our absence, rendering great damage to the fortifications and effecting the apparent kidnapping of Captain Falx Carius. Gaea rushed off to help in whatever way she saw fit and I questioned whomever would pause long enough to speak with me.

From what I was told the fort was taken completely by surprise and the attackers were "wolf creatures". Based on the somewhat shady past the garrison as a whole has, I must assume that the attackers were not some sort of animal, but more likely Nords dressed in wolf skins, as is the custom here. Why they would attack the fort, I do not know. 

My would-be companion Sacnus Lusius took temporary charge of the fort in the Captain's absence, but he did not know why Nords would attack either. Unable to spare any men, he charged me with the task of traveling to the far north of the island to speak with the leader of a Nordic village there to see if they have any information regarding the attack.

The village is that of the 'Skaal', which is something like a conservative sect of Nords that keep very close to nature or at least that's what I think I was told. I was given a skull of a long-dead Skaal warrior to give to the village leader as gift, though I cannot say giving me the skull of a Khajiit would place the giver in a positive light. But nevertheless off I went, skull in bag.

The fort was still in sight when I was attacked by a tree. Or rather what I thought was a tree. The first indication that the thing was not, in fact, a tree was a powerful swipe of very long claws raking across my armor. What I was facing looked like an Imperial woman mixed with a tree. Whatever it was, the creature was a difficult opponent, both fast and strong. When I finally struck it down I bent over to examine it, only for it to screech and go for my throat and once again I was in combat. And again, I struck it down only for it to jump back up. Only after the third time it fell did it remain still.
Such was my introduction to the unique fauna of Solstheim. The cold greenery gradually changed to the gray of snow and ice as I worked my way north along a occasionally frozen river. Even Solstheim's native animals proved hostile and I was assaulted by no less than three tusked, furry pigs and two bears.
The barren cold of the snow and ice produces a loneliness that did not really exist on Vvardenfell. No matter where I was I never felt so completely alone as I did while trekking along the frozen river. There are no sounds of civilization and barely any signs of it. No roads, no signposts, no bridges, and no paths. Just complete silence, the darkness of night, and the sound of my own steps crunching the snow underfoot. There was a certain beauty to it, but I greatly prefer the warmer, more populated island of Vvardenfell.

I was attacked by two small blue goblin-like creatures while I was circling around a partially frozen lake. The creatures were wielding a rather crude blade fashioned from what is likely scrap iron into something resembling a cleaver. For them it was a long blade, for me it was a oversize dagger and I left the weapons with their deceased owners.

The sky had been dark for a long time when I finally stumbled into the village of the Skaal people. They were not hostile, but neither were they friendly. Anyone I tried speaking to simply told me that they would not talk to me before I spoke with the Chief of the village, Tharsten Heart-Fang. The exchange reminds me very strongly of my first encounter with the Ashlander tribes.
The Skaal Greathall
Tharsten was blunt in declaring his dislike for the Imperial fort, boasting that the soldiers there did not know how to truly live in Solstheim and  that may very well be true. His people were certainly "closer" to the land and from what little I was able to glean from our conversation, I gather than wolves are especially revered by the Skaal, at least in this village.

But he also had no information about the attack on Fort Frostmoth. After I described what I had been told about the attack, he surmised that the creatures were not of Solstheim, but refused to say anything further on the subject. He clearly wanted me out of his Hall, but I presented the Skaal skull to him stating that it was an attempt by the Imperials to mend relations.

He laughed and said that the Imperials should learn to leave things where they lie, probably an unintentionally ironic statement given that I am Khajiit. However, after the presentation of my gift I was permitted to atone for the defiling of the land that the construction of the fort had wrought. Tharsten called the connection the Skaal had with the land as a "Oneness" and declared that I would have to acquire this "Oneness" before the Skaal would accept me. I was told to speak with the shaman about how to do this. More and more this is becoming similar to my trials with the Ashlanders.

The shaman, Korst Wind-Eye, told me that I have to visit each of six stones, the Standing Stones, and complete a ritual at each one. The stones represent the six virtues of the Skaal's primary deity, the All-Maker. Once I have completed all six rituals, I will have achieved the "Oneness" the Skaal prize so highly.

They were willing to give me a chance, but not a bed. There was no place to sleep at all in the village and a villager suggested I head south towards a Hall called 'Thirshk'. So it was back into the cold night for me.

Thirshk was not very far, but I was attacked by another blue goblin creature, this one riding one of the tusked pigs that have been attacking me today. Quite an ingenious thing really and the first time I have ever fought cavalry, though that may be stretching the definition a bit. The goblin fought with a long blade that he fashioned the skin of a wolf's head to as a hilt and preferred to stab at me as his mount raced around me in circles. The spear, however, has always been an effective deterrent against mounted foes and it served me very well in this case. I kept his blade to possibly trade for something more useful later.

The hall was full of drunken Nords, all of them welcoming me to drink their mead with them which was claimed to  come all the way from Skyrim. I passed on the offer and rented a bed for the night, which turned out to be a pile of animal skins on the floor. My sleeping accommodations as of late appear to be getting worse and worse. 

Next door to my little room is a Redguard from the Imperial Cult who claims to have been waiting for someone to escort her back to Fort Frostmoth. I certainly do have to head back to the Fort soon and possibly even to Vvardenfell to collect more of my equipment, but I also want begin the Skaal ritual as soon as I can. The crude map I was provided with puts one of the Standing Stones, the 'Beast Stone', near the lake close by. I will try to visit it tomorrow and escort the woman back when I decide to visit the Frostmoth again.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Day 102 - To Solstheim

25 Sun's Dusk
Today was not a particularly eventful day. I made up my mind last night to (unfortunately) take the boat from Khuul to the island of Solstheim. The walk to Khuul was also the best opportunity I would have to re-visit the shrine of Mehrunes Dagon and see what reward the Daedric Prince would offer for the rusty, blunted dagger I found in the tomb he sent me to.

I was still greeted by a Blight storm when I left my Ald'ruhn home. I can only hope that the late Dagoth Ur's magic is eventually spent and these storms die off completely. What else can I do about it now?
Perhaps the magic is already diminishing, for the size of the storm was much less than I expected it to be. It had disappeared completely by the time I was halfway to Khuul even though I was still very close to Ghostfence. 

The ruin housing Mehrunes Dagon's shrine is Vvardenfell's closest landmark to Solstheim and the island can just barely be seen across the water on a clear day, such as today was. I would have been tempted to try walking across the water just to spare myself another boat ride if the thought of running out of magicka in the middle of the sea were not so terrifying, 
Opposition inside of the shrine was slim: a Dremora of some kind and a Daedroth. Once I had the ruin all to myself I wielded the dagger and stepped towards the shrine, not sure what I was supposed to do next. The Daedric Prince's voice suddenly erupted from the statue's head, crowing about all the pain and blood I would be spreading across the land with the Prince's gift. As soon as he said this, I felt a slight electrical shock in my hand.

The decrepit dagger I had been holding just moments before had been turned into something resembling a silvered Daedric dagger. The Prince spoke no more and I decided not to tell him that his dreams of pain and blood were not to be realized, for I was more likely to stash this dagger at the bottom of a chest than to wield it. Repairing Daedric equipment is simply too expensive and I am skilled enough in the use of cheaper weapons to make them just as effective anyway.

I was concerned about sinking into the middle of the sea while walking to Solstheim, but had no such concern for walking along the coast back to Khuul. It was quicker than hiking back across the land and I feel a little stupid for not having thought of walking to Mehrunes Dagon via the water in the first place.

According to the nervous mage at Ald'ruhn, my contact for a trip to Solstheim was, surprisingly, a Khajiit named S'virr. He is in the business of ferrying passengers and small amounts of goods to the frozen island, mostly on behalf of the Empire's garrison there, but I have no doubt the Khajiit is smuggling on the side as well. For a relatively extravagant fee of thirty Septims he was willing to let me join him on his next trip, which was coincidentally going to be occurring half an hour after I met him. His destination is always the Imperial garrison of Fort Frostmoth, entry and exit point for the settlers and adventurers steadily picking away at the island.

To be fair, sitting on the crate proved to be more comfortable than any silt strider and the waters were placid the whole way there. While it looked to me as though I could have walked there from the ruin, the currents flowing between the two islands forces S'virr to first sail away from his destination, only to turn around somewhere east of the island in the middle of the sea so that he can catch a current that encircles the island. I shall never understand the ways of the sea.
As a result, it was deep into the night when I finally stepped off of his boat and on to Solstheim. Fort Frostmoth loomed directly ahead of me, but I spent a few moments speaking with some settlers waiting near the docks. One of the settlers was 'Basks-In-The-Sun', an Argonian and S'virr's business partner. He described the place as "the jewel of absolutely nowhere", rather similar to how Morrowind as a whole was regarded way back in the Auxiliaries. Possibly a good omen, possibly a bad one. 'Basks-In-The-Sun' offered a trip back to Vvardenfell, as well as one to a small village called 'Raven Rock' where a mine was under construction. 

One of the settlers helpfully provided two names for me to start with: Carnius Magius, overseer of the Imperial colony on the island and the similarly named Captain Carius, Commander of the Imperial garrison. Neither sounded likely to be able to help me with the lost airship that brought me here.

The fort is very similar to Fort Moonmoth outside of Balmora. A Khajiit just inside offered to sell me leggings made from bear hide that he modified for use by Khajiit and Argonian adventurers. He recommended them as protection against the cold as much as against the hostility of the beasts and monsters that wandered in the wilderness. I was more intent on finding some place to sleep than I was for shopping so I declined his offer for now.

My sleeping arrangement wound up being a small cot in the corner of the Imperial Cult's barracks area. A far cry from my own home and certainly from my own manor, but I do believe I have slept in far worse places than this.

An unexplored land lies before me and I have no knowledge or expectation of this place. It is an exciting feeling and I am very much looking forward to my time here, cold though it may be.