The scuttling of a sleepless mudcrab woke me a few hours after I stopped to rest near the water. Judging by how long the sun took to come up, it was probably one or two in the morning, but that was just as well. Sleeping too long in the Ashlands doesn't strike me as an idea good for one's health.
The wind had died down, leaving the dust on the ground where it belonged and enabling me to see far better. Near to my campsite was an ancestral tomb guarded by a patrolling skeleton dutifully clutching a rotting, ancient spear in its hands. The weapon nearly broke when I blocked a thrust with my shield and I sent the skeleton off to a much deserved final rest.
I was hoping to the tomb was a small one that I could clear out and use as shelter, but as luck would have it, I had walked right into a den of Vampires. The tomb looked the same as any other one I have been in, but when I opened the door, prepared to fight off a Scamp or ancestral spirit, a shirtless Imperial attacked me. I thought him a bandit at first, but Imperials do not normally have fangs, nor do they spend more time trying to bite you than stab. This Vampire, whomever he used to be, was obviously young and his hunger was strong enough to make an afterthought of the dagger he was wielding. He kept trying to grapple and bite me, but I used the doorway to limit his movements and he soon expired, my spear having been run through his unadorned chest and into his heart.
The corpse started turning into dust almost immediately, another sign that he was recently turned, or so I've read. The dust is understandably very rare and magical, making Vampire hunting a profitable, but extremely dangerous, vocation.
Vampires were the responsibility of a special branch of the Imperial Legion in Cyrodiil and I assume also the responsibility of the Imperial Legion here in Morrowind. But the Imperial Legion's reach does not seem to extend far outside the Imperial settlements and I was quite some distance away from any settlement, let alone an Imperial outpost. Had there been any elder Vampire in the tomb, I'm quite certain I would not be writing this journal entry, but the truth was far sadder.
The initial Vampire had been guarding a small chamber lined with pedestals and urns, with only one other door leading on, nothing unusual for a Dunmer tomb. Aware of what to expect, I activated the Armor of God belt and used up a Shield scroll before opening the door. A Vampire who was once a Dunmer male attacked me, also with a dagger and fell quickly, just as undressed and undisciplined as his companion.
Sadly, the third Vampire was a former Khajiit and a slave at that, the manacle still attached to her wrist. I killed her swiftly, but can't help hoping that she had escaped her slavery and enjoyed some freedom before she was turned. Slavery is a vile, antiquated practice, but what can one Khajiit do against the culture of an entire people? At least she was fully clothed.
There was only one other Vampire in the tomb, a former Redguard whom was walking around aimlessly in the last room, a large ceremonial chamber, and she was just as undressed as her two male companions. Very odd and just as dead as the rest of them. The tomb itself has nothing of value, but the dust from the four corpses more than made up for it. I'd normally be encouraged by such a rewarding skirmish, but even after I buried the Khajiit's final remains by the water, I can't help but feel sorrow over the direction her life had taken her.
With a heavy heart I resumed my trek across Mount Kand in search of the staff. Luck is a fickle thing and a dust storm reduced my visibility to barely in front of my face as I was trudging up a hill. I managed to find the entrance to the Atronach cave again and was about to enter to wait out the storm, but I was feeling a bit paranoid and climbed on to the ridge above the cave to ensure I was not being stalked by something, where much to my surprise the dust-blasted skeleton of Linus Iulus was, half-sunken into the ground through years of dust storms. The object of my quest was near the corpse, the staff covered by a thick layer of loose dust accumulated over the years. A belt and amulet, both obviously enchanted, were also on the corpse, and I took both items as well. How and why he fell will, like so many other things, remain forever a mystery and I left his remains where I found them, another unfortunate soul claimed by Morrowind.
I used a scroll of Almsivi Intervention to send myself back to Molag Mar, where the storm was still raging and decided to walk along the coast back to Ebonheart. After all, what kind of Scout could I call myself if I kept sailing everywhere?
I came across another Dunmer fortress between Molag Mar and Suran, but stopped only long enough to confirm that this one also had a magical chamber. What the connection is between these fortresses is something I need to discover, if only for my own curiosity.
A man in Suran approached me by the gate as I entered the town, ranting about Lord Dagoth's return and how he will wake from the Red Mountain and reclaim Morrowind as his own. Same spiel I got from the madman in Pelagiad. I pushed past him with no trouble.
While we bartered on the price for arrows, a merchant named Ralds mentioned that he had seen his neighbor outside past midnight, ranting and raving about nonsense, but when the morning comes, the neighbor has no recollection of doing any such thing. It sounds very similar to the madmen I've encountered and I wonder if maybe what they're saying is at least partially correct. I will have to keep it in mind.
I wound up bartering away the rest of my Imperial chain armor for one hundred steel arrows. After the combat the armor has seen and the somewhat inept repairs I've made, it was on its way to becoming useless soon. The lack of weight is also nice.
After that I cheated on my goal to walk from Molag Mar to Ebonheart. I had been planning on staying overnight at Suran, only to find that there were no available rooms to rent for the night. The prospect of spending another night in the wilderness made the decision to take the silt strider to Vivec an easy one.
Tomorrow I'll report back to Kaye. No doubt he'll have some other task to assign to me.