Saturday, April 25, 2015

Day 126 - The End of an Era

18 Evening Star
~~~
This morning I reluctantly left the Balmora Mages Guild to Vivec, then to Ebonheart, and finally to Mournhold to talk to Yagak gro-Gluk about the reforging of Lord Nerevar's blade.
The blade was finished, but the design looked like a sketch a child might have drawn. The hilt of the sword has two small, useless blades jutting out from the ends and the blade itself was absurdly top-heavy, the height of the blade being nearly three times as wide as the base. If that wasn't bad enough, the primary side of the sword was uneven, with bits sticking out, possibly intended to catch an enemy's blade or cause them to laugh uncontrollably. Lord Nerevar must have been a very skilled warrior to utilize such a terribly designed weapon.
The sword was supposed to blaze with an unquenchable fire, but Yagak grumbled that if I wanted a Dwemer enchantment then I needed to talk to a Dwemer. This posed several problems, the greatest which was that no Dwemer existed in Tamriel save for the crippled Yagrum housed in Divayth Fyr's underground cavern. I feared I would have to make a very long trip back to the lonesome man, but Yagak said that a Dwemer spirit was said to inhabit the ruin of Bamz-Amschend beneath Mournhold and that he suspected this spirit would be able to set the sword permanently alight.

I wondered at the possibility of a Dwemer spirit just wandering around beneath me and why something like that would not be news of a greater significance save to place some fire upon my ungainly sword. It was not any stranger a request  than I have become accustomed to, so down below I went again.

Somehow the Dwemer guardians managed to fix themselves or new ones had been created, for I faced just as many hostile machines during my second trip to the ruins as I did during my first. The massive, unadorned hallways worked more to my advantage than theirs, allowing me to pick off several of them with arrows.
Yagak only mentioned that the spirit was somewhere in the ruins, not where in the ruins I should look. The dark over-sized corridors made me feel slightly disorientated, as though the ruins were not large, but I very small. It was an odd sensation and very unpleasant. I found myself rushing into each room as I came to them, just to stop the feeling that I was shrinking.

When I entered the room with the giant man-shaped machine, a voice called out seemingly from all around me, asking why I had disturbed "his" rest. I felt more relieved to be speaking with someone at all in the ruin than I was disturbed and simply replied that I had come in search of a Dwemer mystic to enchant a weapon of mine.

The voice laughed and declared that he was no mystic, but a simple soldier who had some skill at the anvil. He grumbled that no one ever seemed satisfied with a plain, effective weapon, but agreed to enchant the sword with fire in exchange for a bottle of something he called 'Pyroil Tar', which I could find deeper within the ruins.

It took one of the sacks of explosives to descend further underground, but when I came upon a large Daedric ruin I suspected I was in the right place. It was mostly flooded, which allowed me to shoot the Dremora inhabitants with little risk to myself. Sitting atop one of their ashy remains, for some reason, was a flask of thick, dark liquid, which I assumed was the Tar.

I returned to the room where I the spirit seemed to reside and he confirmed that the vial was of the Pyroil Tar. I laid the vial and the sword on a table and watched as the vial was invisibly grabbed and emptied over the blade, then a nearby cloth floated over and rubbed the oil into the steel. After a short Dwemer incantation the sword burst into flames and my invisible blacksmith mystic invited me to take the blade, complaining again that people these days did not appreciate a good plain weapon. I cannot say I cared much for the sword before or after the enchantment.
Almalexia was almost beside herself when I showed her the immolated blade of Lord Nerevar. Everything she said made me increasingly wary of her motives, especially the declaration that "our" time had finally come. Come for what? I had a suspicion "our" time was really "her" time. The final obstacle that stood in "our" way was her fellow demi-God, Sotha Sil.

She said that her he had grown unstable as of late and in the few times she spoke with him, he ranted about the fall of the Tribunal and the return of the Dunmer to ancestral worship. Due to his ravings and the attack upon the city by what she called his "Fabricants", he was deemed a threat, one that she declared I must end. The sword she called 'Trueflame' had the power to kill a god if it was wielded with noble intent, according to her and I was to dispatch Sotha Sil if he could not be reasoned with.

Of course I was given no actual choice in this. As soon as she finished her ringing declaration of war on her former friend I was teleported to his home, the Clockwork City.

It was poorly named. The so-called city had much more in common with Dunmer tombs and Dwemer citadels than any city I have seen. The Dwemer influence was especially obvious, with gears and levers and pipes which shot out gouts of steam adorning every wall of the place. Even the doors were devices: massive stone slabs lifted up and out of the way by a combination of levers, gears, and the occasional jet of steam.
The god's hostile creations were the only inhabitants of the broken, flooded city, but there were fewer of them than I expected. Evidence of a previous struggle unfolded as I descended. First was a door apparently blown clear off it's lever via some sort of explosion, though it appeared the destruction was recent, as there was still small fires burning all around it.
Beyond that was a round room with a device set into the ceiling which spun a collection of saw blades around a platform. At the far end of the platform was the only other door in the room, but the remains of Fabricants and the skeletal pieces of people littering the room suggested that it was not easy to get to. I had to discard all of my armor and weapons save for my spear and the glass dagger the King had given me to ensure I was fast and nimble enough not to be chopped into pieces.

I found a machine that created the fast, thin Fabricants, but the machine's doors closed during the creation, so I could not tell what was actually occurring. It also functioned as a sort of guardhouse since the only way further into the city was through the machine itself. Manipulating levers on the side of the thing allowed both doors to be open once a Fabricant was created and I rushed past the confused creature and proceeded deeper inside.
What I thought was the final obstacle between me and the mad God was a pit of lava over which a bridge was lowered from the ceiling after I pushed a lever. Not much of an obstacle, really. What awaited me in the next room was a much larger (and final) obstacle that hit far harder.

The room was domed, with gears spinning wildly on the walls to no apparent purpose. At the other set of doors were two huge mechanical men, one in a state of disrepair and missing an arm. Its brother however was in perfect working order.
It hit like a pack of Kagouti and could fire bolts of lightning, making it very dangerous at any distance. The thing also had no obvious weaknesses and all I had was my spear and dagger, the latter which was utterly useless in the fight. The only advantage I had was the speed my lack of armor provided me, but as always for a Khajiit, it proved enough.

My metal opponent did have one slight problem: it was not quick. This would not have been an issue if  I had been pursued by both machines in the small room, but on its own it was simply too cumbersome to fight me effectively, so long as I stayed closed. A swing of its giant arms would have crushed every bone in my body, but it took the machine a few seconds to actually draw back and swing, letting me duck underneath and strike from behind. Initially I aimed to damage its torso, but switched to jabbing at its aged knee joints so as to cripple it.

That worked much better than I expected, for one when of its knees collapsed it became unable to stand and crashed to the floor. I guessed that a stab to the back of the head would end it like everything else, so I dug my spear into the cables at the rear of its neck and it stopped struggling. I suppose I killed it, but I have no way or concern to be certain of that.
In the final room was Sotha Sil...what remained of him. His body was like nothing I had seen before: part man, part machine, and wholly connected into his "city" via cables running out of his back to various holes and devices set into the ceiling. The effect was similar to a hunter mounting an animal to his wall, which proved oddly prescient when Almalexia appeared behind me with a loud popping noise and the metallic tang of magicka.
She was wearing a mask I had not seen before and immediately revealed her role in everything. I was to meet my death in Sotha Sil's Clockwork City, probably at the hands of the late god's mechanical bodyguard, so that Almalexia could point at Sotha Sil as the murderer of the Nerevarine. Thus martyred, she could mask her murder of Sotha Sil as an act of justice for my death, returning to Mournhold as the savior of Morrowind.

She admitted that when she returned to her own city she would tell everyone that I proclaimed my devotion to her with my dying breath so that she would be hailed as the one "true" God of the Dunmer. Naturally being the only God meant that Vivec would have to disappear as well and she scoffed at the suggestion that he might not be so easy to kill as her former friend had been. She called him a poet and a fool, declaring that his time would be soon to come. Having said that, she drew her sword, companion to my 'Trueflame' now abandoned in the saw-blade room, and attacked.
She was quick, far quicker than Sotha Sil's bodyguard, and just as dangerous at range with her spells and up close with her blue-flamed sword. I knew I had no chance against her in a straight fight with just my spear and dagger, so a certain amount of trickery would have to be involved. 

I did not expect Almalexia to actually try killing me, but I did suspect that something was not right with her story about Sotha Sil, so I was not entirely unprepared for her ambush. Two scrolls to summon Golden Saints distracted her while I hid behind a column studded with Sotha Sil's cables and cast an improved Invisibility spell courtesy of Estirdalin.

The Golden Saints did their best, but Almalexia was barely winded after she dispatched them to where ever they came from. Just as she started to turn around an invisible Khajiit pounced, locked her arms underneath her, and slit her throat, ironically with the dagger her paranoid rival had gifted to her would-be victim.
For all her lust for approval and affection from the Dunmer, she died in a city bereft of people, steps away from her the brother-God that she murdered so that she might once again bask in the glories of her past. She was undone by her own delusions of grandeur and her dismissal of a Khajiit that had already accomplished what the Tribunal never could.

I can only imagine King Helseth was her next target, followed by Vivec. The battle between her Ordinators and the King's Royal Guardsmen would have been quite a struggle and one that would have likely seen Imperial Legionnaires become involved before long. The more I think about it, the more I am certain that Almalexia was doomed to fail, if not by my hand then probably by Vivec's at the request of the Emperor. A very difficult situation, no matter how you look at it.

Despite her attempted murder of me, I cannot bring myself to extinguish all the pity from my heart. She fell victim to fear of her own mortality, something I am personally afraid is not a concern of mine any longer. 

Almalexia's death left me in a bit of a quandary: I had no way to get back to Mournhold. She had managed to get into Sotha Sil's room somehow so I searched her body hoping to find some way back. The ring I had pulled from the lich's fingers some time ago was on her own hand, so I took it as a matter of course, not realizing it was my key in getting back home.

I must have paced around the room for hours before it occurred to me to try the ring on. As soon as I set the ring on my finger there was a flash of light and I was suddenly standing outside the Temple. A familiar figure shimmered into sight before me.
Azura, the Daedric Prince of Dawn and Dusk, stood before me once again, though the people walking around us did not seem to notice. The visitation was apparently for me and me alone.

She assured me that Sotha Sil's death likely came as a relief to him, tired that he was of the life he had been leading, or not, as it were. Azura confirmed my belief: Almalexia's death was fated, the result of godhood set upon a trio of mortals unprepared for the responsibilities and burdens their power had given them. I wondered about Vivec and as if reading my mind, Azura continued on. His time, according to her, is growing short and it was her hope that I remain in Morrowind as the Nerevarine, champion of a people who continually treated me as something to be kicked aside at best.

I delivered what I expected would be unbelievable news to King Helseth, but he believed my whole story and rewarded my "service" to the throne with a full suit of Royal Guardsman armor, which I especially appreciated due to not having any armor at the time.

Tonight I will stay in Mournhold and tomorrow I shall visit Vivec and deliver the news of his former comrades' deaths, though I suppose it is possible that he already knows through some divine method. Then I suppose it's back to Solstheim to continue my work with the East Empire Company.

Another God dead at my hands.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Day 125 - Training Day

17 Evening Star
~~~
A very rare, peaceful day today. I had planned yesterday on going back to Solstheim this morning, but when I woke I found I could not bring myself to return once again to Vivec, then to Ebonheart, and finally to the island.

I spent the day instead in Balmora, selling what goods I had on me and training with Estirdalin to improve my skill with my Illusion and Alternation spells. After many hours of practice, she finally admitted that I had grown to be about as good as she was and that she doubted she could be of any useful assistance to me.

Lord Nerevar's blade should be done tomorrow and I shall find out what I am to do with it then. I do hope my involvement with Almalexia is drawing to a close, for something about her is making me increasingly wary.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Day 124 - Forging the Blade of Lord Nerevar

16 Evening Star
~~~
Between my rest at Fort Frostmoth and the short walk back to Raven Rock, Carnius somehow managed to arrange for Uryn Maren's untimely and convenient death. Falco discovered his body in the storehouse he was temporarily being held in, but felt there was no need for an investigation into the man's death. With the death of the blackmailed miner, there is also no way to prove any of Falco's (or Uryn's) allegations against Carnius and the matter, for now, has been closed.

There was nothing for me to do at the colony, so I had to make the seemingly long trip from Ald'ruhn to Ebonheart, then magically to Mournhold. My recall amulet was sufficient to bring me back to Ald'ruhn, but I then had to go through the mind-numbing routine of bouncing from the Ald'ruhn Mages Guild to Vivec's, then walk across the water from the Foreign Quarter canton to the harbor town of Ebonheart.
The ash storm was still raging through Mournhold, but other than a few exclamations at the strangeness of the weather no one seemed to notice or care and no one at all mentioned Almalexia as being able to quell the storm.

Torasa was happy to receive more artifacts for her museum and equally as happy to trade two of my more unique items for the Dwemer shield I suspected contained one of the pieces I needed for Nerevar's blade. Bols at the Craftsmen's Hall gave the shield's "spike" a good yank and handed it to me. He paid two hundred Septims for the Dwemer shield and we were both happy.

But I was also a bit confused. I was seeking three pieces of the blade, was given one and found another. I had no clues to point me to the third piece at all. On a hunch I decided to see if Queen Barenziah had any suggestions, for she seemed to have a finger on the pulse of the city, as the saying goes. 

To my surprise, she told me that the King's champion, Karrod, had in his possession an old Dwemer dagger that she suspected might be the final piece I needed. However, Karrod is completely mute, either unable or unwilling to speak at all. Acquiring the final part of the blade would mean dealing with the paranoid King himself.

He began our conversation by almost apologizing for the Dark Brotherhood's attempt on my life. According to him, he had received information which turned out to be incorrect which named me as a threat to the throne of Morrowind. Why it was thought that I would desire the throne still remains a mystery. Brushing off my questions, he then asked me to go to the Winged Guar cornerclub to meet with a royal informant, an Orc, actually.

All the very conspicuous informer would tell me is that he heard rumors of a plot to see Queen Barenziah dead and what remains of the Dark Brotherhood in Morrowind was contracted to carry out the task. Once he heard the news, King Helseth immediately sent me to wait just outside of the Queen's chambers to ambush the assassins. It only occurred to me afterwards that I was never told when the assassination would take place, so presumably King Helseth did not know either.

Anyway, I returned to the Queen's chambers to find the door to her bedroom magically sealed and turned around to leave just in time to watch three Brotherhood assassins charge out of the door I was going to leave by. They were very enthusiastic, but not terribly skilled. They should have used their three-to-one advantage to surround me, but they bunched up in front of me instead, getting in each other's way and allowing me to circle around them to place myself in the doorway.
I doubt the three were even true Brotherhood assassins. They fought more like the cheap muscle you might find at the worst tavern in any large city, but I did appreciate their kindness in using very valuable short blades they clearly had no practice or skill with.

The Queen was very nonchalant about it, simply stating that the situation seemed to be taken care of. My suspicion grew when King Helseth hand-waved the whole incident away by describing it as "...not as great of a threat as it seemed." Once again the King of Morrowind has set assassins against me and once again they have failed. It was so inept and obvious that I could not even be mad about it. I just wanted my Dwemer blade piece so I could finish my business in Mournhold and continue on with my life, preferably without anyone I have dealt with lately.

Trying to kill me was not enough amusement for Helseth, no, he then told me I was to fight his champion, Karrod, which did manage to surprise me. I felt there was no need to fight the man at all, but the King insisted and Karrod was unable to protest, so the fight was arranged within a few minutes time to be fought immediately in the throne room.

It was not to be to the death, but I felt that my only chance of securing the piece of the blade without resorting to murder was to win the combat, so I fought as if my life depended on it. Karrod seemed surprised at the ferocity of my attack, for why would a Khajiit fight so desperately just to amuse the King? I was able to gain advantage in the initial stages of our little combat and I pressed it as much as I could. Karrod fought with a Dwemer long blade, but the actual blade of the weapon seemed to not fit with the design of the hilt.

After I managed to pin the Redguard against one of the throne room's columns, he nodded and surrendered the entire sword to me, stating that his father had given him the sword to pass along to whomever bested him in combat. The content of the statement was just as surprising as the delivery of it, for all thought the man deaf or mute, but he wound up being neither.

King Helseth also surrendered a weapon into my possession as a token of his favor, a volcanic glass shard carved into a dagger and unwieldy named by Helseth as the 'Dagger of Symmachus', which he said had belonged to his farther. He asked that I learn as much as I can about the attack on the city and of whatever plans Almalexia might be constructing, but save for that he had nothing further for me to do.
The Craftsmen Hall seemed like a good place to find a master smith, but Bols refused the task, insisting that it was beyond his skill. His assistant, a dour Orsimer named 'Yagak gro-Gluk' gruffly asked if he could examine the pieces and a few moments declared that he would be able to reforge the sword, if I so desired. I gratefully handed the pieces over to him and was told to return in two days as he turned to the forge and began re-creating one of Morrowind's most revered weapons. It is a pity the weapon is a sword though, I do not think I will personally be using it. Perhaps the museum will accept it.

I contemplated returning to Solstheim, but the thought of running back and forth on more petty errands for the East Empire Company was not an encouraging one. Instead, I used my amulet to pop back to home in Ald'ruhn and after a brief walk and a small fee, found myself back in the familiar basement of the Balmora Mage's Guild. 

Ajira immediately charged me, asking if I had anything to sell or trade and Galbedir accosted me in the common room with much the same questions. Though I have not been in Balmora in quite some time, everyone seemed pleased to see me again, if somewhat nervous owing to my status as the Nerevarine. I assured them that my title was not asked for nor had it gone to my head and everyone seemed a bit more relaxed. As for me, I have spent the rest of the evening in Estirdalin's patient company, learning more about the usage of Illusion spells.

I will spend a day or so here in Balmora, relaxing and studying my oft-neglected spells and potions. It is the most peaceful day I have had in some time and I plan on enjoying it as much as possible, for I fear the days ahead will be a great deal less so.

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.