Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Day 123 - The World On My Shoulders

15 Evening Star
~~~
I woke this morning at Ald'ruhn surrounded by clutter both worthless and valuable intent on delivering some of it to Mournhold in exchange for what is likely a piece of Lord Nerevar's broken blade. But the thought of traveling back to the dismal city ruled by another mad god of the Dunmer was sufficient reason to divert myself to a place only slightly less hated. Solstheim.

The island is a much quieter place since Hircine's little game was thwarted, so perhaps I don't hate it like I used to. Still, I do not think it is going to be warmer any time soon and I still do not enjoy my time there. However, it made for a good distraction today and kept me out of Almalexia's city for one day, so at least it has that going for it.

Still burdened with the artifacts I had hoped to be rid of at Mournhold's museum, I walked from my small Redoran manor to the north coast to see about securing passage aboard S'virr's smuggling vessel. As luck would have it, he was busy loading his ship with crates as I arrived. For a few Septims and an hour of helping his load his ship, I was back on my way to the icy land. The crates were labeled 'Foodstuff', but I am not sure what food I would want to eat that rattled and clanked as those crates did on the way over.

The little colony of Raven Rock has made much progress since I saw it last and everyone there seems fairly pleased to be there. The tradehouse I recommended be built had been completed, but no merchant has yet been found to take up residence.
When I spoke to Falco about any tasks he might have for me, he brightened and suggested that I go to the fort so that I could tell Carnius that the tradehouse is waiting for an occupant. Unsurprisingly, Carnius holds the deeds required for anyone to open a business at the colony and he has been less than helpful in finding a wayward merchant to open up the store. 

By the time I walked back from the fort to the colony it was already well into the early night, but Falco was still pacing fretfully as he always does. There was another problem. The ship that Carnius hired to replace the one that ran aground arrived at Raven Rock yesterday, but the captain refused to unload his goods or load the colony's ore until he received additional payment. Falco refused and the two men had been at an impasse all day today. Naturally Falco thought I could re-arrange this matter to his advantage.

The captain was a very boastful fellow with little to support his arrogance, the kind of man that seem to exclusively inhabit the worst inns and drinking halls of every major city in Cyrodil and never one to be a friend to Khajiit. After speaking to him for a few minutes I knew this was going to be no easy task unless I resulted to murder, which Falco helpfully warned me against prior.

His name was 'Baro Egnatius', a fact delivered with pride enough to propel his ship back home, though I saw nothing to be particularly boastful of. He told me that he would not accept what Elberoth was being paid and demanded more. The name sounded vaguely familiar, but I could not place it. Fortunately, Baro was the gregarious type, as many Imperials are. 

Elberoth was the Bosmer the undead Nord had been making a meal of several days ago. He was the captain of the first ship and according to Baro a "hell of a fighter", but offered little more than that. I decided to ask the only surviving member of Elberoth's unfortunate voyage.

Apronia outright laughed when I described the former captain as a skilled warrior. She said he had been a completely incompetent captain and spent more time describing his likely imaginative combat exploits than sailing the ship effectively. Perhaps he was in the middle of a tale when he ran it aground. According to her, he lasted for about three seconds against the Draugr, enabling her to scoop up his saber and defend herself, which explained the dead Draugr I found in front of her. Impressive, really.

She still had the blade under the considerable volume of her gown, but said she had no skill or use for the thing anymore and gave it to me. I was at a loss as to what I needed it for as well before a rather cruel idea grew within my mind.

Brandishing Elberoth's saber, I sauntered up to Baro and stuck the point of the sword just under his chin, loudly declaring that he was not the only captain to underestimate Shema: Khajiit and renowned scourge of  the coasts of  Vvardenfell. If he did not agree to Falco's demands, then I would have no choice but to run him through and sell his cargo to Falco myself!

Of course I had no intention of killing the man and I felt Falco's stare at my back as he had specifically told me not to kill anyone. But Baro's bravado collapsed like the facade it was and he started stammering that he was only joking, it was all a misunderstanding, and so on, that he would happily unload his cargo right now and load Raven Rock's ore for sale to the mainland. 

Falco had watched the whole exchange and was nearly laughing while thanking me for resolving another tiny crisis for his colony. My reward was a healthy one thousand Septims, making me wonder what Baro's demand was to make it so unreasonable.

I thought my day over then, but Falco had a more pressing matter than uncooperative captains on his hands. He had been reviewing the mine's logs and the numbers were not adding up. Falco suspected theft, specifically a miner named 'Uryn Maren'. I was given the key to the man's house and told to take a look around, but I found nothing that indicated he was stealing. He was obviously not at home and there was not yet an inn to be drinking at, so I assumed Uryn was still working in the mine.
He was, not with shovel or pick, but a canvas sack I watched him stuff rough-hewn chunks of stone embedded with ebony ore into. I waited until he entered a dead-end to confront him and he comically dropped the bag in shock, spilling all the ore he had been furtively hiding away. He readily admitted to stealing the ore before I even had a chance to open my mouth, babbling that Carnius had put him up to it, threatening to kill the man if he did not cooperate. This sounded unbelievable to me, even for Carnius, but Falco revealed that the true suspect the whole time was Carnius, not Uryn. Evidently relations between the two men have been dropping faster than I expected.

Carnius laughed off Uryn's confession as the fictional story of a madman and liar, but I have not the energy to walk back to the colony tonight. I will deliver Carnius's completely useless response to Falco tomorrow. Everything I have done today could have easily been done by far less adventurous individuals, yet it seems people delight in saving these petty problems just for me to solve.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Day 122 - The Smother Goddess

14 Evening Star
~~~
After spending months trying to rid Vvardenfell of Dagoth Ur's Blight storms, I found myself fighting to create a benign version of the mad man's "blessing" over the skies of Mournhold for another increasingly mad god.

Almalexia's reaction to the 'End of Times' cult was a bit extreme: concerned that the people of Mournhold is losing faith in her, she demanded that I descend into the Dwemer ruin where the creatures swarmed out of. It was not to find her missing Ordinators, but for me to find a weather-controlling machine that could bring an ash storm to the city. Once the storm descended, her people would look to her for relief, I imagine I would be told to stop the machine, and Almalexia would bask in the grateful worship.

At least, that's what I think her plan is. I have not been in Mournhold long, but she has grown increasingly distraught every time I see her, occasionally muttering about her "loyal subjects" having turned away from her.

But her apparently instability still left me with no choice in the matter: it was back underground once again. 

Yesterday's battle between the city's invaders and the ruin's guardians ended with no clear victor. The ruined machines of both sides littered the chamber with only two Dwemer spider guardians left "alive". As I watched, they dutifully proceeded with what must have been their original purpose: tidying up the place. The two spiders worked tirelessly to place the bodies and parts of bodies of both sides into neat piles, stopping only when two silvered arrows thudded into their shells from above.
Other than scrap metal there was nothing of any value on the battlefield, so I left their remains in peace and began my search for the Dwemer's weather-controlling machine. While I have not been inside a large number of Dwemer ruins, this complex felt very oppressive and foreboding and I was on edge the entire time, despite there being almost no surviving mechanicals to worry about.

No, this ruin was a great deal different than the ones on Vvardenfell in that there were plenty of remains of its Dwemer inhabitants scattered around...in ashes. Piles of ashes dotted the entire ruins, complete with whatever equipment the former owner had been wearing. However their end came about it was apparently quite sudden, for it appears that many of them were simply occupied in their daily tasks when the Dwemer race came to an abrupt end.

The nature of the ruins did not help my feeling of being watched either. With no volcano to build around, the Dwemer were free to construct this stronghold in the way they preferred to: large square rooms and large straight halls. Very bland, but it gave me the sensation of somehow being very small.

I did find a sheet of parchment with plans for something that greatly resembled Louis's wrecked airship, but the scroll looked as though it would crumble into dust if I even looked at it too hard, so I had to leave it alone. Scattered around were tightly bound bags of what clearly smelled like blasting powder which I used to clear passages through sections that had collapsed.

Further inside I found a partially-constructed...something that resembled a massive suit of armor. Perhaps it was to be the latest in Dwemer war machine designs, but its engineers lay in ashes at its feet, a slumbering giant fortunately never to be awoken.
The weather-controlling machine was deep in the ruins, but like the rest of the place, almost completely unguarded. The only controls seemed to be three levers set in front of the only place Almalexia's powered coherer fit. 

My confusion as to why the levers were installed for the user to face away from the machine was quickly satisfied. I expected something on the weather-controller itself would indicate what weather was being somehow generated, but true to the Dwemer's love of doing everything grandly, the entire wall of the massive room rotated to display a stone-cut of the weather the user selected. The noise was deafening, but I eventually pulled the right combination of levers to rotate a picture of an exploding volcano in front of me. This had to be the ash storm Almalexia was looking forward to.
I used a Scroll of Divine Intervention to bring myself in front of the Imperial Cult shrine, saving myself the drudgery of walking back out and immediately confirming that there was an ash storm over Mournhold.
If Almalexia was hoping for a crowd of worshippers to congregate at the Temple's doors, then she must have been disappointed. The few people that spoke to me while I walked from the palace's courtyard to the Temple merely commented on the "strange weather" and wished me a good day if they were not a High Ordinator or told me to keep out of trouble if they were. No one, not even her own guards, seemed to think that Almalexia was a solution to this new problem, if they even thought of the storm as a problem at all.

The goddess herself was rather magnanimous when I returned with the unnecessary news of my success, crooning that I had done well in serving "my goddess", of which she certainly was not, then immediately threatening me to keep my mouth shut about the machine. She stated that the storm would remain until she had decided the people of Mournhold had learned their lesson. She crowed that no other God had displayed such dominion over earth and sky and I almost replied with "Dagoth Ur", but caught myself.

After basking in her own glow for a few minutes, Almalexia graced me with yet another job I was supposed to be happy with having to complete and this one was a bit grim at that. One of her High Ordinators apparently started seeing through her facade and deserted his post, raving like a madman himself in Godsreach about Almalexia's pending mortality or lack of godhood or something equally distasteful to her.

I thought to save the Ordinator, Salos Valor, from a near-certain death by suggesting he leave the city, but I never had the chance. Something about me immediately enraged him and he attacked me as soon as I started speaking, calling me "her favorite". 

The High Ordinators only admit the best warriors and mages and Salos Valor had been the best among their ranks. The battle turned out to be somewhat of a farce though, with me running away as quickly as possible while discarding my armor and he following me with incoherent words of rage. Eventually I was able to scamper up the side of a house and shoot the poor man full of silvered arrows in full view of a wary, ashy crowd. Hardly a dignified end for Salos, but it was no more dignified than being chopped in two by his scimitar. 

I may have only been gone for half an hour, but Almalexia's demeanor was completely different when I returned. Her dismissive arrogance was gone and replaced with something far more uncomfortable. After basically murdering her former High Ordinator for her, Almalexia was all welcomes, declaring that only the Nerevarine could have accomplished all that I have for her, then declared that I was her long-dead lover, Lord Nerevar, come to reclaim our places as rulers of Morrowind.

This was all starting to sound familiar, with the exception of the part about being her mate. I preferred Dagoth Ur's cordial hatred to Almalexia's sudden outburst of affection.

Almalexia told me of two blades, 'Hopesfire' and 'Trueflame', one of which was given to her as a gift during her wedding to Lord Nerevar, the other to the Lord himself. Nerevar's blade was 'Trueflame', but while Almalexia kept her own blade safe, the same could not be said for Lord Nerevar's, which is now in pieces. She said that 'Trueflame' had been broken during the Battle of Red Mountain, but she had one pieces, which she gave to me and the remaining two pieces somehow managed to find themselves back in Mournhold, an amazing coincidence.

It was late in the day, but I thought I would be staying in Godsreach anyway, so I visited Torasa's museum in hopes that she would have some advice on how best to begin my search.

She did better than provide advice: she told me she had pieces of a Dwemer shield that did not seem to fit together and suggested that a piece of the blade might be hidden within it. However, she asked for a donation to  the museum before she would hand it over and not a cash donation, but a donation of two artifacts.

I had none on me (why would I?), but after reading through a book she provided me I realized I had a few back in Ald'ruhn. My handy amulet sent me effortlessly back to the Redoran town and I gathered up the 'Boots of Blinding Speed' and what must be the 'Fang of Haynekhtnamet' I had found in a Sixth House trough long ago. I am hoping these two humble-looking items will be enough to convince Torasa to part with her Dwemer shield. If not, I suppose I could always complain to Almalexia and have her murdered. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Day 121 - Excitement in Mournhold (Finally!)

13 Evening Star
~~~
Events seem to be approaching a rapid conclusion in Mournhold, though it appears that unknown third actor is the one instigating all of today's excitement.

But the morning started in Thirsk, not Mournhold. With not much to do I decided to visit the colony and see if there was anything for me to help with. Other than a band of poorly-equipped raiders, the walk there was surprisingly peaceful.
It seems like a great deal of progress is being made at Raven Rock, with a few houses completed and already lived-in. Falco was as morose and nervous as I have ever seen him, but when he saw me approach he appeared to be somewhat relieved.

He told me that I had arrived at a crossroads of a sort because Carnius had started to directly act against him, attempting to divert the construction of the colony towards an end Falco was not entirely sure of. Whatever Carnius's reasons were, Falco said that Carnius would likely ask me to aid him when I next spoke with him, but urged me to consider supporting him instead.

I knew both men about equally well, which is to say not almost not at all, but something in Carnius's nature made me reluctant to even approach the man about this matter and Falco had been honest with me so far, so I assured him that he could count on my support against Carnius in the future. He laughed and slapped me on the shoulder, then immediately drew his hand away.

To cover up his obvious embarrassment he asked me to talk with the few residents of Raven Rock and ask them whether he should commission the construction of a smithy or a general trader's shop. With only four people to ask, this was a quickly completed task. Apronia in particular was very insistent upon the trader's, voicing her concern that her single dress was falling apart after her own adventure several days ago. The final tally came to three votes for the trader, one for the smithy, making my decision a rather easy one. Falco promised that the construction would start immediately and said he would have a dress for Apronia delivered from the mainland within a day or two. Apparently there may be something between the two of them and I wish them the best of luck if so.

Falco had one final request of me for the day: to go to the Fort and tell Carnius of his decision. He apologized for shouldering me with the task of speaking with such a disagreeable man, but at least I there was a small boat at the colony to ferry people and supplies back to the fort. I swore to never travel on a boat ever again, but I figure one that stays within sight of a shore is acceptable.

Carnius told me he did not care what was built at the colony, told me to go away, and just about threw a bag of coins at my head as I turned to walk out. I would say the money is welcome, but I am rapidly running out of supplies that I need to purchase anyway. Mostly just arrows and the occasional healing elixir, neither of which are expensive.

With the trader's shop under construction I had no more tasks pending on the island, so it was back to Mournhold via my Recall amulet, then teleportation from the Ald'ruhn Mages Guild to Vivec, and humid walk down the road to Ebonheart.

As soon as I walked into the Palace courtyard in Mournhold, a guard ran up to me and exclaimed that the grand Plaza was under attack by "constructs" and that the Royal Guards were summoning every armed citizen to the Plaza grounds. She urged me to make haste towards the plaza, for she feared the guardsmen and High Ordinators stationed there would soon be overwhelmed. Having apparently no choice, I rushed to the city's defense.
My first impression of Mournhold's invaders were of giant insects, one a light grey color and very fast, the other almost black and slower, but much stronger than the first. The nameless guard who sent me to the Plaza was correct in the city's defenders being outnumbered, but the Royal Guard and High Ordinators had little trouble with dispatching twice their number of enemies. I myself accounted for one of the black creatures.

Upon closer inspection it was obvious that the creatures were more mechanical than animal, hence 'constructs'. Whose constructs is a mystery that everyone in the city is very eager to have solved.

A High Ordinator grabbed me and told me that I needed to go to the Temple and inform Fedris of the successful defense of the city. Again, it appears I had no choice in the matter. 

Fedris was already well-informed of the attacks, but was pleased that I had come to see him, for naturally he had a task for me. The constructs had crawled out of a hole that appeared beneath the plaza's Memorial statue, utterly destroying it. Three High Ordinators had ventured into the hole, but none had yet returned. Fedris asked me to descend into the hole and determine what progress the Ordinators had made.
A ladder was helpfully left behind, allowing me to climb down beneath Mournhold with no fear of a broken leg or some other calamity resulting from having to jump down into it. It was easy to walk along the tunnel the constructs had bored out of the earth, but I sped up as I began to hear sounds of battle. I thought the Ordinators had become engaged with more of the mechanicals, but the tunnel ended in the wall of a large room in which Dwemer guardians fought a losing battle against more of Mournhold's invaders. There was no sign of the High Ordinators.

I saw no reason to join in the vicious melee below me, so I ran back to the ladder, noting that the head of Almalexia's statue had fallen the farthest, unreachable now under a torrent of frigid water. Something about it was very disquieting.
Fedris was unnerved that the creatures were not of Dwemer origin, for now there was a third side that no one had any information about. Evidently unsure of his next course of action, he acted like an Imperial soldier and passed the problem upwards, telling me to speak with Almalexia about the ruins I found.

I found her to be somewhat...disturbed, I suppose. She seemed to care little about the attack on Mournhold and much about a cult she had heard about called the 'End of Times'. All of the known cultists were found dead via strong poison and she feared that the cult would spread throughout the city, driving more cultists to their apparent suicide. She provided me the name of the leader, 'Eno Romari' and asked that I bring him to her alive, not dead. She suggested I speak with a young Dunmer named 'Meralyn Othan', whose brother died as a result of being a part of the cult. She was to be found in the Great Bazaar. 

Meralyn was sad and confused as to how her brother got involved with the cult to begin with. She described it as "destructive, heretical, and frightening...", but then told me Eno Romari was usually to be found standing in front of the Winged Guar in Godsreach. I do wonder how dangerous the cult can be if Almalexia felt that having an Ordinator drag the man to jail was overreaching her power. Meralyn stated the man was usually preaching to passer-bys and drunks, hardly sounding like the leader of some murderous cult.
Eno Romari was quite calm and pleasant for an apparently deranged cult leader. He described the 'End of Times' as an organization dedicated to relieving the suffering of those troubled by these times we are living in.

Talking to him for only a few minutes made it obvious why Almalexia was so eager to silence the man, dead cultists or not. Eno unabashedly stated that the cornerstone of  the 'End of Times' was the belief that the Tribunal has lost its power, heralding doom upon the province of Morrowind. Eno called the loss of the Tribunal the 'Passing of the Three', yet Vivec, Almalexia, and presumably Sotha Sil have not been lost. He dismissed that objection, stating that a "new era" was beginning and that the deaths of the cultists were simply individuals who chose to be reborn when the gates of Oblivion open and Daedra assault the land.

He seemed very earnest in his belief of the world's destruction, but I suppose cult leaders would have to be. Eno assured me that the dead simply "went on ahead" to be ready to battle the Daedra once the battle between the world of Men and the plane of Oblivion began. When exactly this was all going to occur, he could not say. Of course. Mindful of the Lady's instructions, I left the man alone and went back to the Temple.

Predictably, Almalexia did not take the insult to her power very well. In fact, the very notion that her power was waning seemed to have set something off inside of her. She fumed in silence for a few moments after my report, then declared that the city needed a lesson in her power and I was assist with this lesson immediately. 

She did not ask, she demanded that I descend into the ruins where I witnessed the battle and find a Dwemer device called the 'Karstangz-Beharn', which she explained could be translated as 'Weather Witch'. If it was still working the device could be use to control the weather over Mournhold, but Almalexia was not interested in sun or rain. She wanted the Ash Storms of the late Dagoth Ur, which her power had kept from crossing the channel between Vvardenfell and the mainland.

The 'Weather Witch' would let me create an Ash Storm over the city, which Almalexia would then drive away, showing the people of the city that she was still a God to be feared and respected. Those were her words. But they do not seem the words of a caring God. Galsa Andrano's concerns increasingly seem well-founded, but I do not have much choice in the matter. I must go beneath the city once again, but at least it is not the sewers this time.

With her parting words she handed me a Dwemer object that she said I would have to use to awaken the machine. How to do this was not explained, but I am confident I can work that out.

Tomorrow though. It has been a very long, very exciting day and I am in no condition to fight off hordes of Dwemer guardians and whatever creatures swarmed into the city today.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Day 120 - Back to Snowy Lands

12 Evening Star
~~~
It is with more relief than I anticipated that I find myself back on Solstheim today. I may have grumbled about the cold island in the past, but after the sewers of Mournhold I am ready to celebrate any reason to be back outside again.

Carnius, with all of his usual charm, asked me to go back to Raven Rock to inquire about a shipping manifest on a ship scheduled to arrive at the young colony. Carnius suspected that supplies were being skimmed off the top as it were and wanted to compare the ship's manifest against his own.

Falco laughed when I told him I was there to find a ship. He pointed towards the shore and asked where a ship of that size would dock. I had been envisioning something quite small actually, but he said that the ships also carried supplies for the fort and normally unloaded their cargo there. Given the dangers present in Solstheim's wilderness, Falco constantly had trouble finding people willing to carry the cargo from the fort to the colony.

However, he had no knowledge of any expected supply ships and suggested I ask around the growing town to see if anyone had heard or seen anything. One of the construction works, a Dunmer named 'Gamin Girith' said that he had seen navigation lights out on the water two nights ago, but fearing that it was a band of raiders, he did not investigate any closer. He pointed me towards the northwest and away I went.

The weather was terrible, with wind and snow conspiring to keep me from seeing more than a few feet in front of me. The rapid pattering of their paws were the only warning I got before the wolves were upon me, but they were no difficulty.
The unexpected undead Nords were a bit more difficult. Two came charging out of the fog as I approached the northwest shore and I managed to slow one down with an arrow before they got too close and dispatched the other with my spear before the wounded one fully recovered. I have never fought Draugr on the surface before, so I assumed something must have drawn them to the area.. I was correct: the "something" was the wrecked remains of the ship Gamin had seen two days ago, along with half-eaten body of a Bosmer.
A woman's voice called out into the fog from behind the wreck asking if it was safe to come out. I was tempted to point out that she would never receive a negative answer to that question, but I assured her I had killed the undead and that it was okay for her to come out of her hiding place.

The voice belonged to an Imperial named 'Apronia' who had booked passage on the cargo ship the night before it left. She appeared to be unarmed and helpless, but the dead Draugr laying before her suggested otherwise. Whatever the case, she asked that I escort her to Raven Rock, but never once explained why she wanted to be there in the first place, only mentioning that she hoped the people at the colony were "nice and liked to chat". What purpose she will serve there is a mystery to me.

Falco was pleased that at least one person survived the wreck and subsequent Draugr attack, but lamented the loss of the pick axes that were onboard the ship. The wreck was fairly close, so I offered to go back to retrieve his equipment. No Draugr awaited me upon my return and the pick axes were cumbersome, but not difficult to carry. Falco paid me an amazing 500 Septims per axe, three thousand in total. People seem very willing to give me large sums of money lately and I still have very little reason to spend most of it.

Carnius was predictably less pleased and less generous than his counterpart. He was angry at me for the ship having been wrecked and threw a bag of coins at me that I later counted out as three hundred. He told me to go away, for just looking at me reminded him of the money he lost with the wreck of the ship. His personality certainly did not start as very good, but it seems to be getting more difficult to deal with him as the construction of the colony progresses. I would think he would be pleased with the recent successes, but for whatever reason that does not seem to be the case.

The day was still young so I followed the river north, intending to visit Thirsk and see if my position as leader had been usurped yet. On the way there I passed the Sun Stone, still alight with the magic I had awoken in it days ago.
I met a Nord dressed in bearskin armor pacing nervously in front of one of the many burial barrows that dot the island. Seeing me pass by, he waved and shouted for my attention, which piqued my curiosity, for most Nords would have nothing to do with a Khajiit, especially in what could be considered an extension of their home province.

The Nord introduced himself as simply 'Ingmar' and asked if I could keep a secret, as if he had never met a Khajiit before...which now that I think upon it, could certainly have been the case. His request was a strange one: He had been sent to the barrow to slay a Draugr that lay within, but his first attempt sent him scurrying back outside. The task was beyond the man's courage to accomplish, but he felt that returning to the village without proof of the Draugr's slaying was worse than death at the creature's hands. The man was more clever than he was brave, for my arrival inspired him to come up with a plan.

His plan was not a great one: I was to enter the barrow first, draw the Draugr's attention, after which Ingmar would enter the barrow and kill the creature while it was distracted. I am not sure why I agreed. I suppose I did not want the man's death on my conscience.
So I went into the barrow first and engaged the Draugr only with my oft-unused shield. While I was deciding on whether or not to kill the thing myself Ingmar stepped inside and cleaved the monster's skull in two with a blow from behind.

He was extremely pleased to have killed it so quickly and bubbled that if I ever visited the village he would greet me as a brother Nord. As for a reward, he admitted he had nothing, but that anything I found in the barrow was mine to keep. I found ten Septims.

The rest of the walk to the Mead Hall proceeded without incident. The mead I had asked Svenja to order had not arrived yet, so there was little to do there other than rest in the chief's room, which was surprisingly still mine. I am not sure where I shall be at the end of tomorrow, but I do hope I am coming to a close with my business at Mournhold.


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.