Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Morrowind Day 4 - Visions of Hell

19 Last Seed
It has not even been a week since I first set foot on Vvardenfell, but I feel like I've been here for months. Events have moved far quicker than I anticipated and while I did write that I was excited about the possibilities that my assignment held, I can now honestly write that, only a few days later, I feel only dread.

The morning started simple enough. I woke early, well before the sunrise, but still was enveloped in another ash storm as soon as I left The Rat in the Pot. I was determined to find Falanu's husband, dead or alive and wound up wrapping strips of cloth on my face, mimicking the guards' full helms. The cloth, naturally, fell off quite quickly. 

I did find her husband, one Drerel Indaren, wedged in the middle of a rock formation, sound asleep. My failure to locate him last night was due to the large blanket he had secured around himself to keep the ash off. When I first spied the blanket, I thought to pick it up for a few septims, thinking it had blown there. As I approached to get a better look, I was surprised to see arms and legs sticking out from underneath it. Fearing the worst, I gave the blanket a gentle jab with my spear and was rewarded with a yelp and ineffectual flailing of limbs against the rocks. 

When he regained his composure, I asked if he was Falanu's husband and he became very excited, saying that he had crammed himself into the rocks to escape the nix-hounds and spent the night fearing his wife had been torn to shreds by the nix-hounds. I tactfully neglected to mention I was the one almost torn to shreds, but he implored me to lead him back to his wife, which I proudly did. Their reunion was emotional, for Dunmer, and Falanu gave me a copy of their favorite book, which they had been planning on reading before their ashland picnic had been brought to a sudden end. I didn't comment on their odd vacationing decision and left the two happily together. The book is the second chapter of "Dance in the Fire" and it seems interesting, but I'd like to find Chapter One first.

I was planning on resuming my small quest to find my last remaining Imperial contact, but then I met Viatrix.

Even thinking back on it now makes my hands shake and my fur stand on end, but I'll record what happened next to the best of my understanding...which isn't much.

Viatrix asked me, in the sort of tone that implies the question has a foregone conclusion, to escort her to an Imperial shrine by a place she called Ghostgate. I thought it harmless enough and still retain my pride as an Imperial Auxiliary to see escorting an Imperial citizen to her place of worship as a worthy task. So I agreed. She was very annoying, complaining every time she tripped or stumbled and whining that we were going too slow. I put up with it well enough I suppose and the trip was initially worth it when our path brought us past one of Morrowind's Daedric shrines, now all ruins. I have heard from several people here that the Daedric ruins are home to demonic creatures and crazed worshipers, but often hold treasure well worth the risk. This ruin seemed abandoned though, I couldn't see any creatures prowling about, save for Viatrix, whom I wanted to throw down the side of the hill we were plodding upwards on.

The cobblestone path wound into the side of the mountain and we walked into a still, dirty fog that tasted of copper. After a foggy, foul-tasting walk that only sounded like an eternity, we stood before the strangely majestic Ghostgate Fortress.
Holding back the horror
Viatrix didn't spare time to admire the view, insisting that we continue through the fortress and into the Red Mountain beyond. I remember thinking only of the joy I'd experience once I left her at the shrine. Too true.

The procedure for passing through the fortress is ridiculously simple. In front sits a button, which opens the first portcullis and allows access to a second button between the two gates, which opens the second portcullis, allowing access into the Red Mountain. Some mechanism automatically closes each gate after a few moments. It doesn't seem very secure and there is no way for the  garrison to engage enemies trapped between the two gates, should they have some way to disengage the buttons from within. I was later to learn that the gates only existed to allow pilgrims to the shrine, the true gate was the Ghostfence, a magical barrier that ran through the fortress and around the entire Red Mountain, jailing the abominations that resided within.

I remember standing just outside the interior gate, looking up the incline that branched off, one direction towards the shrine and the other, I assume now, to a horrible and certain death.
Immediately inside the Ghostfence
What happened next, I'm not even sure of, let alone how to explain by simple writing. Viatrix was behind me, impatient as always and insisted that we continue up the incline and to the right, where the shrine of Pride was. Eager to be rid of her, I started to walk upwards.

I remember walking past a cluster of rock spires when the air seemed to vibrate and thicken. My immediate thought was some sort of earthquake, but then the red haze descended and the sky...changed.
A howling scream rose up and it took me a few panicked seconds to realize it was the wind, whipping the black clouds around at incredible speed, sheets of red lightning coursing between them. The scariest part was that the air was completely still on the ground...a dead stillness. 
The haze, the screaming, probably the storm got even worse as we continued to walk up the slope. Viatrix seemed unaffected and unaware of the unnatural weather and responded to my glance with a haughty comment that she could be going faster, if it wasn't for me. Of the two of us, only I was experiencing a land turned to nightmare.
Aptly named
We did make it to the shrine, but by this time I had a terrible headache and could barely hear her for the tortured howling between my ears. She said something to me and I stared back at her, unsure as to what she said. An annoyed, or more annoyed than usual, expression crossed her face and she handed me a purse. She pushed past me and knelt at the shrine in prayer and I didn't wait to see if she wanted an escort back down. I took a few steps away and when she didn't turn around, I did and ran as fast as I could back down the slope towards Ghostgate, nearly tumbling down in my haste. By the time I exited through the exterior gate my headache had gone and the weather was the placid overcast haze I've been growing depressingly used to already.

It would have been better if she had shown some sign of noticing what had happened, but either she was used to what had happened or it was something else other than the weather...something that happened to me. 

I calmed myself down enough to visit the Ghostgate Fortress. The garrison consists half of the Temple's religious police, the Ordinators, whom reside in one tower, and the other half is of the Buoyant Armigers, a similar force, but answerable only to Vivec, one of the three God-Kings of the Tribunal Temple. The Armigers are much friendlier than the Ordinators and I bought several restorative potions from the apothecary in their tower.

There is an actual Tribunal Temple spanning the two organizations' towers and the priestess was rather chatty, selling me an Illusion spell that would help mask my movement in combat, disorientating my enemies. She spoke of a Dunmer who lived underneath the Red Mountain, calling himself Dagoth Ur. According to her, he tried to betray the Tribunal, but they fought against him until he was constricted from leaving Red Mountain. In a bid to conquer Morrowind, he conjured up the Blight through some unknown means and the Tribunal erected the Ghostfence to hold it back. She assured me that the Ghostfence was strong enough to withstand Dagoth Ur for thousands of years to come and after experiencing what I assume is Dagoth Ur's hospitality I am very glad to hear that and hope he eventually rots there.

I left Ghostgate later in the evening than I wanted, but I definitely am not staying at Ghostgate knowing one side of the fortress lies bare to the Blight and Red Mountain. The trip was nerve-wracking, I constantly had the sensation of something creeping up at me whenever my back was turned toward the Red Mountain. The sun had long set by the time I glimpsed the comforting Imperial walls of Caldera. It's my luck then, that a women should jump out of the darkness, nearly scaring me out of my wits. I almost skewered her, but she must have seen my expression and backed away quickly, hands in front of her. Her name was Aeta Wave-Breaker and she asked my help in tracking down a bandit who had stolen her family heirlooms. Dro'Zhirr was his name, obviously a Khajiit, though that doesn't matter. I told her I'd look into it tomorrow morning and walked through the naked gate of Caldera, seeking nothing but the bed I am sitting in now. 
The unguarded gate of Caldera
I should have taken the time to see my contact in Caldera to explain what I had experienced, but that can wait until the morning. Right now the candle is burning low and hopefully I'm tired enough that whatever dreams I suffer tonight will pass by with nary a trace. Tomorrow I should make an effort at recovering Aeta's heirlooms as I promised, but I really should be practicing my magicka skills. Whatever I do, I'm keeping my distance from the Red Mountain.

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