Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Morrowind Day 34 - Training Day

18 Hearthfire
Today was the most relaxing day I have had since arriving at Morrowind and therefore also the shortest journal entry so far. I woke in an a good mood this morning, feeling as though I have surpassed what I thought to be my limits. Everything I have done so far, no matter how distasteful or violent, has been far beyond what I thought possible of myself. Things seem easier now and my life more satisfying, if still more dangerous than it was before Morrowind. I am adapting well, my senses and instincts becoming more aligned with the what Morrowind seems to demand.

To that end, I spent all of today in Balmora, training and talking to people. With the exception of Ajira I would not call them friends, but certainly associates with goals compatible with my own. Ra'Virr probably seems as trustworthy as a Scamp to most people, but he has dealt fairly with me. Cynically, I might as well admit I may be a supplier of a large percentage of his Moon Sugar and Skooma stock. Ajira is readily willing to purchase both as well, but she has a nose for alchemy ingredients before anything else, Khajiit though she is.

I breakfasted with Ajira at the Mages Guild, but she was too preoccupied with some formula she was working on to be very sociable and I left her still muttering and drawing symbols on her napkin. I doubt she noticed my leaving.

For the past two days I have been obsessing over the Dreugh weapons I had acquired, but this morning I can only regard them with puzzlement. I have been trained in the use of the short stabbing sword, shield, and spear. Why I thought it would be a good idea to start using a staff and, of all things, a club, is unknown to me. My armor is less of a mystery though, the Admantium was too inflexible and damaged to be of further use, while the Dreugh armor provides just as much protection, while also allowing me a greater range of movement.

To that end, I wound up spending most of the day with Rithleen, training with my new armor and shield. Her price was reasonable and her skills better than her dour attitude would suggest. Even after spending nearly ten hours together, she might have said a dozen words. Despite that, she is an effective teacher and taught me how better to fight in my new armor. The Auxiliaries trained in either light or heavy armor, but also issued Imperial chain when we were going out to fight bandits.. Medium armor, such as chain, is called such due to it being a compromise between the agility of leather and the protectiveness of plate. It never was popular in the little band I typically fought alongside, since anyone receiving it normally wore leather and the additional weight was unwelcome. Having received no training in fighting with it, those of us uncomfortably clad in chain would typically hang back and let the heavily-armored of us do the fighting. 

I never understood the wisdom behind that policy, but I would request the rusty, mistreated armor whenever I could, figuring I would get used to it. The additional weight strengthened me and the increased protection stopped more than a few arrows. My learning was of the "as you go" variety, so Rithleen's professional criticisms were a great help. 

We parted well into the evening and I walked back to the Mages Guild in high spirit. Ranis met me just inside the Guild and asked if I would be willing to handle a "small task" for her. The small task is really two tasks: first, to track down a rogue magician named Llarar Bereloth and either convince him to join the guild, or kill him. Her second task was for me to visit a Guild member, Manwe, in order to collect guild dues owed for three months. This is interesting, as the Mages Guild does not charge for its membership. There must be something else going on between Ranis and Manwe, but that's a relationship probably best left undisturbed: the acceptable alternative to collecting the money is to kill Manwe. Ranis seems to be quite a vengeful woman.

And that was the day. Tomorrow I'll visit the Mages Guilds and work on my magical training, an area I am really weak in. It is only thanks to the Temple that I can do much of anything at all and while the practice I have been getting in Morrowind has helped, much like Rithleen's training, I feel a professional opinion would certainly go a long way towards the furthering of my education and ultimately, survival.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Morrowind Day 33 - Taking Care of Business

17 Hearthfire
Having climbed onto (into?) the Khuul silt strider at just after midnight, I arrived at Ald'Ruhn fairly late: seven in the morning, according to the Ald'Ruhn Caravaner. I had gotten a few hours of sleep during the trip, but the constant jostling ensured it wasn't very restful, though the movement did not wake me in the slightest.

My headache was still terribly painful and on a whim I drank a concoction designed to cure the  most common diseases, hoping that it would at least reduce the pain. To my relief, the headache went away entirely after the drinking the ten Septim potion. Whatever affliction I had contracted was cured, though I have no idea what I had. While I was paging through his catalog of spells, Orrent Geontene at the Mages Guild suggested Witbane, but I guess it doesn't matter so long as whatever it was is gone. I purchased a Silence and Slowfall spell from him, both rather weak. The spell of silencing would only give me five seconds of reprieve, but against a mage that may be enough of an advantage. Similarly, the Slowfall spell only lasts ten seconds, but ten seconds is a long time to fall.

The Ald'Ruhn alchemist, Anarenen, did not have a lot of money to spend on my ingrediants and he would only accept two Daedra Hearts for a total of three hundred Septims. I knew my usual customer would be willing to reach into the Guild's budget a little deeper and Ajira did not disappoint. She bought seven of my nine bottles of Skooma in exchange for 760 Septims and a high-quality mortar & pestle. She also mentioned that Ra'Virr and Nalcarya of White Haven would be interested in what goods I had remaining. Before visiting them, I checked on Galbedir to see if she had succeeded in identifying the ring I had found near Gnisis.

She had, and when I asked her about she started babbling so fast as to be nearly incomprehensible and I got her to slow down after a she stopped to take a breath. According to the excitable Elf, the ring "just had to be" an artifact by the name of Denstagmer's Ring, based on the three elemental shields enchanted to provide constant protection when the ring is worn. She could not tell me who Denstagmer was, nor why the ring was in an ash urn. I think she is mistaken and so does Ranis, whom Galbedir had spoken to in an effort to receive permission to utilize enough of the Guild's budget to purchase the ring from me. Say what you will about the Mages Guild's internal bickering, they are a more honest group than most. She had gotten no money from Ranis and I refused to sell the ring, partly due to thinking she was mistaken  about what she thought she was buying, but also because the ring is valuable to me. A constant shielding from elemental attacks is extremely useful, especially for an adventurer with fur.

I placated her by purchasing a dozen scrolls, most of them of healing, others of protection or teleportation. The healing scrolls were a lot more expensive than potions would have been. I really need to work on my alchemy and given that I purchased a high-quality pestle today, I have no excuse not to. I asked Galbedir if she knew of anyone interested in Dwemer coins, as I was still carrying around a small pouch of the small, heavy things and it turns out that she was, which surprised me. She paid 500 Septims for all of the coins, making it so that we broke even between our mutual purchases.

I still had a great deal of physical equipment to sell and I wanted to find out about receiving training with the Dreugh club or staff, so I visited the Balmora Fighters Guild next door. On my way out Ranis spoke to me about Galbedir and the ring, sharing my opinion that such a rare artifact would not be found in Morrowind at all and congratulated me on my find of the powerful, though generic, enchanted ring.

The members of the Fighters Guild are a brusque bunch, though not unfriendly. Their resident Smith, a Redguard named Wayn, had quite a collection of weapons for sale. I traded my Admantium shield, a long bow, and all my iron-tipped arrows in exchange for one hundred silver arrows, one hundred steel-tipped arrows, and astonishingly: two thousand Septims. After the exchange he told me he had received a special commission from an unnamed client for a full suit of Admantium and was now only missing the helm. I wished him luck, for I have never seen one either. He commented favorably on the Dreugh armor, noting that it is an uncommon choice, most adventurers wearing either Imperial chain or Bonemold and suggested I visit Meldor the Armorer across the street to buy a Dreugh shield.

He offered a discount on training if I brought him the Admantium helmet and through that conversation I learned that he occasionally serves as an instructor to the local Legion at Fort Moonmoth. He offered to teach me how to use the club and staff more effectively, but his price is steep.

Ra'Virr was not as loose with the purse strings as Ajira had been, but still bought my last two bottles of Skooma for a total of 600 Septims, but Nalcarya had no qualms about spending money. She bought all of the potions I wanted to be rid of and all of the alchemical ingredients I wanted to sell, spending over three thousand Septims without a hint of hesitation on vampire dust, daedra hearts, and three handfuls of gemstones. I wonder how many of the gems will end up on her person instead of in her potions.

Having emptied my inventory of armor and ingredients, I entered Meldor's shop and exchanged two Glass daggers for the Dreugh shield, which is evidently designed to resemble a spiky, chitinous fist. Wide at the top, it tapers down slightly, but instead of coming to a point as an Imperial shield might, it simply tops as if the shield had been cut width-wise in half, and two large tusks are inserted into the bottom. A sideways blow from the shield would likely find a foe's head stuck to it. Fearsome, but at the same time a little silly looking.

My last bit of business was the Propylon stone I had purchased from the Ashlanders. Folms received it with the same showering of coin and sputtering of orders that he had the previous stones and marked the next stone, the Indoranyon Index, as the property of a Divayth Fyr, a Telvanni wizard residing in Tel Fyr. Having to deal with a Telvanni, and a wizard at that, fills me with no great cheer. I may take a small break from Index Stones for awhile.

With that concluded, I spent the remainder of the day in Balmora, visiting various people. The Argonian, Nine-Toes, is in the process of drawing a map of the entire province, a task which he gladly accepted my help with. I was able to accurately describe the walk from Molag Mar to Khuul and the Ashlander Camp, which he illustrated on a giant piece of parchment. I'll be sure to set aside time for him when I'm in Balmora as my journey continues to take me into unknown lands. We spoke briefly of my looking for a teacher to train with the staff and club and he offered to teach me what he knew, which was Illusion magic and sneaking about. I confessed that I was the worst sneak-about Khajiit in Tamriel, which he thought amusing. He suggested I visit our friend Rithleen about physical training.

Rithleen was not much help. She described herself as a "mere courier" and professed to not know much about the current events of Morrowind. Dressed in full Bonemold armor, she looked more than just a courier, but I did not press her for details. When asked, she replied that she would be happy to teach me the ways of the sword, shield, or Bonemold armor, not one of which interested me.

I walked around Balmora for a little while, enjoying not the certainty of not having to fight something for the first time in several days. Returning to Nine-Toes just after a quick lunch at the Eight Plates, I paid him for eight hours of Illusion training and we worked well into the night practicing my spells and criticizing my incantations. The sun had long set by the time we had finished, but I felt I had made good progress. I thanked him and promised to return next time with information for his map.

Now I'm lying in my usual bunk in the Mages Guild, cleaner and more refreshed than I've been in several days. I plan on spending a few more days in Balmora while I work on improving my skills.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Morrowind Day 32 - The Vampire Clan

16 Hearthfire
Another day in Morrowind, another day engaged in desperate, terrifying combat with foes the likes of which most people live entire lives never encountering. I did not sign up for the Auxillaries with anything approaching excitement and I had always felt that its only positive influence on my life had been to save me from a life of vagrancy and an early death.

But sitting in this boat, the pain in my head sending me wavering between consciousness and sleep, my mind seems to drift with the possibilities and choices I've made. Unknowingly, I stepped into what might have been one of the most dangerous locations in Morrowind, if not the entire Empire, and I live now to record my foolishness for my own posterity.

The Ashland camp wakes well before the dawn, the clan breakfasting in the dark and dispersing into the wastes to pursue whatever responsibilities they each have. The wise woman (whose name I was never offered) woke me at dawn and bade me be on my way. I suspect that the abrupt dismissal lies less in hostility and more in that having an armed Khajiit among them is an uncomfortable thing. I guess a Dunmer in Elsweyr would receive a similar reception...as would I, probably.

The morning seemed like it was going to be simple enough: the walk from the camp back to Khuul or Maar Gan isn't difficult and the weather was as clear as it gets in Morrowind, robbing the Ashland of a lot of its hazard. Instead of tracking along the coast and through the Daedric ruins again, I hiked inland towards the small mountains of the Foyada, intending to walk along the hills until I could find a passage into the Foyada towards Maar Gan.

The ruins of a Dwemer fortress was set into the hillside and the militancy of the place was obvious even in its current state. The crumbled remains of fortifications reached out haphazardly from the fort and the dried husks of silt striders long away from this world littered what may have been the courtyard. I was in no great hurry to return to Caldera, so I decided to take a look around, expecting nothing worse than what I encountered in the nearby Daedric ruin.
Almost immediately inside of the ruins a young Imperial man paced back and forth, mumbling. I thought him a mage at first, for what other profession talks to themselves so often? But the truth of his vocation and the ruins was far more sinister. While watching him, I noticed two heavy looking bracelets on each of his arms. I waited until his back was turned and then approached, rationalizing that I could kill the man faster than he could cast a spell at close range.

But my greeting went seemingly unheard and when I finally resorted to physically grabbing the man and spinning him around to face me, I realized that the man was no longer in control of his mind. The mumbling nonsense never stopped and he gazed at me through dull, uncomprehending eyes. The bracelets were enchanted, but only with minor spells, enough apparently to rob the man of his wits. I left him and continued my exploration, unwilling to kill someone who posed no threat to me.

I encountered my first threat in a room of his (it's?) own, a large Nord with an iron battle axe, but the speed of his attacks and the glowing of his eyes marked him as the most vile of creatures: a vampire. It was just a week ago that I had encountered the sorry band of vampires and their Khajiit slave and the memory was fresh enough to give my blows added strength. But this vampire must have been more mature than the first ones were, he was far more coherent and quite skilled with the axe, no mindless blood-sucking husk. The valuable dust his body dissolved into at his death was well-earned.

The room he was living in turned out to be a treasure trove of valuable equipment. Crates and heavy Dwemer barrels were clustered in one corner of the room and nearly every single container held items of great value. One barrel contained a good handful of gemstones and the crates held enough equipment to outfit a small company of soldiers.

One crate held missile weapons and ammo, ancient Dwemer crossbows sharing space with silver arrows, bolts, and most surprising: throwing stars. The crossbows betrayed no hint of their age in either look or function, but were no less cumbersome than their more modern Imperial cousins, so I left them in the crate. The silver arrows, of course, came with me.

A second crate held equipment even more valuable: an Ebony short sword (taken!), a glass staff, Ebony armored boots, a helmet made of shaped Dreugh chitin, and a pair of huge Daedric greaves. Just as at the tomb a few days ago, the equipment was as valuable as it was simultaneously useless: being unable to use or sell it. I could not even lift the Daedric greaves out of the crate and am very glad I found them in a crate instead of whatever foe could have worn them. I left most of inventory where I found it, taking only the arrows, ebony short sword, and Dreugh helmet, the latter which matched the dark hue of my clothing perfectly. The helm also had a steep taper sweeping towards the back, which was far more comfortable on my ears than the Dragonscale helm. As an aside, only the Imperial Dragonscale cuirass contains scales, and stylized steel ones at that. The helmet is a simple steel open helm with a little decoration and not nearly as valuable as it sounds.

There were two other vampires on  the upper floor of the fortress, but neither were as skilled as the first one I encountered and both fell quickly.

On the lower level of the the ruin I surprised another vampire, this one armored entirely in Ebony and armed with a cruel-looking mace of Ebony. She received my full and complement of offensive Illusionary spells, for whatever small good they did. The encumbrance of her heavy armor proved a disadvantage against my spear and I was able to strike her between the armor plating several times. Had I been more heavily armed or armored, she would have had a great advantage, but a nimble Khajiit is a dangerous thing indeed! Despite that, a few of her blows found their mark and my armor and body were worse for wear by the time she fell. I used up the last of my health and magicka restoratives as I collected the vampire's dust before continuing deeper into the fortress. I have no doubt that the seemingly random pile of Ebony armor in the middle of the hallway will confuse and delight the next adventurer that passes through.
As I approached the end of the hallway, I started to hear a strange noise, something between the heavy clanking of armor and  the light clinking of crystal. Both guesses were correct. I peered around the corner and spied an Imperial woman of indeterminable age pacing back and forth between the hissing Dwemer machinery that lined the walls. The odd noise was the nearly full suit of rare Glass armor she wore, but even with the noise of her armor and the odd machines in the room, it is a wonder that she failed to hear her comrade's fateful struggle in the hallway.

Ducking back into the hallway, I realized I was in no good condition to fight the woman. My armor was damaged and had only received my passably competent attention, now requiring the skills of a professional armorer in order to restore it to fully serviceable condition. My weaponry fared better, being easier to repair, but I also had the Ebony short sword and a plain glass dagger I took from a vampire.

The tomb of Ibar-Dad was my saving grace. The scrolls I took from the tomb were spells of shielding and concealment, which I hoped would be enough of an edge to offset my material inferiority. Two of the scrolls were of Alteration, each designed to construct a temporary barrier around me that would slow and absorb my opponent's attacks. One was from the Illusion school and contained my favorite spell: Chameleon, which I hoped would allow me to get the first hit in before she knew I was there. I also activated the enchantments on the Armor of God belt I received in Vivec. The simple Sanctuary and Shielding enchantments would give me a slight edge and everything against this foe would certainly count.

I was not wrong. Whomever she was or used to be, she was easily my most dangerous opponent I have ever faced, including the Golden Saint. Even with all my enchantments and protective magics, I was barely the victor. The lighter weight of her armor allowed it to cover more of her body compared to the heavy Ebony plates and the volcanic glass, when struck, did a great job of deflecting my spear point. Every strike of her sword sent a biting cold into my limbs, making me slower and less agile. The battle was not going in my favor.

But my luck has not yet deserted me. Vampire though she was, she still slipped slightly as she lunged at me with her sword and I was positioned just right to thrust my spear at her unarmored throat. She dodged and I caught her on the side of the neck. Joking aside, even vampires need blood to live and she bled to death in less than a minute, never saying anything to me, but clearly in disbelief over what had happened to her. I have no idea how old she was, possibly hundreds of years, only to die from a lucky thrust of a spear point from a curious Khajiit. Such was her fate.

Her two slaves, an Orc and a Bosmer, had made no attempt during the combat to help her and did not acknowledge me in any way as I searched , so I removed their shackles, but their condition failed to improve. I hope they come to their senses, else they will starve to death. Should they awaken, the cynic in me thinks it likely that they will kill each other fighting over the treasure I left behind.

The vampire's chambers had several chests and barrels, one of which contained a cuirass made from Dreugh chitin. Given the rarity of each, my new helm and the cuirass likely came into the vampires' possession at the same time and given the state of my Admantium armor, I swapped the ruined Admantium for the Dreugh armor with no regret. The Admantuim had been expensive, but trying to use it any further was starting to become dangerous. My repairs were simple measures that were not holding up to the rigors of Morrowind and the next blow the armor received might have been its last. I placed the Dragonscale helm and the Admantium breastplate on a empty shelf for the next soul that wanders into this place.
A second shelf held some interesting equipment, though nothing very valuable: a silver staff with an enchantment I couldn't identify, a club and staff made from Dreugh remains, and a simple long bow. I took the Dreugh equipment, figuring it to be more valuable than the rest. The Dwemer barrels contained a handful of emeralds, plus a large flask of what looks like blood. The flask has a gold cage around it, built from the neck of the flask. Very ornate and it helps guard against the container becoming damaged, which is good, since I stuffed that in my satchel as well.

I had entered the ruins early in the morning, but it was already dark when I stepped outside again, much to my surprise. I pushed on towards the foyoda, hoping to reach Khuul without any further adventures. Much to my displeasure, it began to rain quite heavily and I was soon drenched, but also somewhat refreshed. I found the path through the hills and into the gorge that I took previously, but decided to head towards the shore instead, hoping to find an egg mine or cavern to take shelter from the weather.

The foyoda empties directly into the ocean and evidently was used by smugglers to beach their ships and unload their goods. That time was over though, for the small natural dock was now fully occupied by the wreck of a large Imperial vessel, which lay on its side, the prow of the ship partially sunken into the volcanic grit of the Ashland. It seemed like a decent enough shelter for the night and I quietly dispatched the solo rodent sentinel guarding the craft with a well-placed arrow before cautiously sliding down the hill.
There wasn't much in the ship, just a few bottles of Skooma and a golden Soul Gem, both in what remained of the captain's cabin. The cargo hold held only crates of kwama eggs long past their prime, filling the lower decks with a rather unique odor. There was no surviving bedding in either the holds or the captain's cabin, so I left the ship and resumed my journey towards Khuul.

The walk was uneventful, but I began to suffer from a terrible headache, which several hours later has not yet abated. I examined the Dreugh weapons in more detail and I do like the staff. I may take some training at the Fighter's Guild in its use.

I reached Khuul well after midnight and an Argonian scampered away as I walked towards the docks, yelling at me to see a priest about my disease. It's good to see the citizens of Khuul are still just as unfriendly as the first time I ended up here. I don't know what he's talking about, other than the headache, I feel perfectly fine. I'll see a priest if it does not go away in a few days. Unfortunately, with no place to rest in Khuul I'm forced to either take a boat or a silt strider to more civilized areas, else I'm back to walking the wastes.

The silt strider is the quicker of the two choices, so I'm finishing this entry enroute to Ald'ruhn, where I plan on spending the next few days training at the Guilds and resting, the latter of which sounds very good right now.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Morrowind Day 31 - The Ashland Tribe

15 Hearthfire
I woke this morning quite comfortably in the hammock of one of my defeated foes and had breakfast while tinkering with the alchemical equipment they had left behind. The equipment was a full complement of any alchemist's workshop, but too bulky to carry with me, at least right now. I may return for it if I ever find a place to call my own.

The cavern bordered a Daedric ruin which I had to work my way through in order to continue along the coast towards the Ashlander camp. I normally would have skirted around the edge of the site, but perhaps I was still smarting from all the wealth I had left behind and I cast a few defensive spells and marched right through.  In hindsight this was a foolish idea given the condition of my armor and weapons after the battle with the Daedroth and the Golden Saint.

Almost immediately I was set upon by two Clannfear, but my skills must be improving more than I thought, since I dispatched both of them with little harm to myself and claimed their valuable hearts for myself. I passed by the door of the ruins and though I tried to resist, my curiosity got the better of me and I entered the shrine.

Almost immediately I was set upon by a Dremoa wielding a Dwarven halberd, but he may have been the weaker of his kind, for he cast no spells and relied only on his bladework, which even against my sword and shield was not sufficient to save his life. Another Daedric heart plopped into my pack. Thanks to the mysteries of the alloy, the halberd was not much heavier than my spear, but still suffered the balance issues all pole-axe weapons have. The natural stance of a Khajiit (and Argonian) is woefully inadequate to utilize the advantage of the weapon and I left it near the corpse. In the hands of say, an Orc or a Nord, a well-placed strike from a halberd could cleave a smaller foe in two.
The inside of the shrine was not spacious and the short hallway led only to a small alcove, where a few bedrolls and chests lay in the corner, all rotten and long unused. The locks on the chests were decayed enough for me to smash them off, but the chests only contained the signs of long gone (or dead) smugglers: lockpicks, a few Septims, and some packets of Moon Sugar. Nothing of value was gained, other than some confidence in my growing abilities.

The weather had turned far more agreeable when I exited the shrine and I carefully made my way along the coast, following the rough directions I had given. After a short distance I came across a collection of buildings that looked like they were built from silt strider shells (possible?) and the inhabitants were all armed with either a sword or spear, as well as a bow and full quiver. I correctly guessed them to be the tribe I was seeking and not wanting to be peppered with arrows, made a loud, clumsy approach before I reached their village.
The Ashland camp
They seemed unconcerned by my approach, but many of them rudely refused to talk to me. Finally, one Ashlander directed me to the wise woman of the camp "if I insisted on talking so much". The wise woman was as willing to talk just as much as her tribesmen were not. She was unwilling to discuss the Nerevarine prophecy, but gave me quite a bit of information on the Blight, Dagoth Ur, and even advised me on the dream I had, telling me that this was a communication of Dagoth Ur's and to disregard everything to do with it. I find it odd that Dagoth Ur would have an interest in me, but perhaps it is an affliction that occurs at random, Blight upon the wind perhaps. This may explain the strange behavior of the citizens in Suran and elsewhere.

While I would not say the woman was friendly, she was cordial and more importantly, willing to sell the Propylon stone for only twenty-five Septims. She said that a hunter had found the stone in some nearby ruins, probably one of the two nearby Dunmer fortresses. She had an impressive set of high-quality alchemical equipment and we soon fell into small talk, comparing notes about various ingredients.

The sun was still high, but it was late enough in the day that I could not accomplish much of use before darkness set. I contemplated going back to Ibar-Dad and spending the night there, but the wise woman must have been reading my mind, for she finished our conversation by suggesting I spend the night in a temporarily vacant hut, which they call yurts, extracting a promise out of me to return to her with any gems, which are difficult for the Ashland tribes to come across and required for the more potent alchemy recipes. 

Tomorrow I begin the return journey back to Caldera, another step towards receiving the Propylon Index completed.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Morrowind Day 30 - Junk Treasure

14 Hearthfire
I have been on Vvardenfell for quite some time and have witnessed acts of kindness and acts of cruelty, but never before today has a harsher blow been struck against me.

Much to my surprise, I woke late in the morning at the Ashland campsite, having planned only to nap for an hour or two. Despite the length of time, the sleep was not refreshing and my morning started slowly as I worked the stiffness out of my legs before resuming the trek to the Ashlander camp.

There were not a lot of creatures out this morning and the Ashlands were fairly quiet and peaceful. I encountered a self-proclaimed pilgrim calling himself Fonus Rathryon who asked for an escort to a shrine near Gnisis. I did not trust him however, for he stated himself as lost, yet offered very precise directions to where he had to go, precisely the sort of thing a group of bandits would do to lure travelers into an ambush. I  told him I was heading from Gnisis and had not the time to escort him to his destination. He seemed to accept the excuse and was still standing on the trail when I looked back, waiting for someone else to come by.

Another Blight Storm started while I was outside, but familiarity breeds contempt, as the saying goes. I find that I no longer worry under the red sky, though the physical symptoms of the weather are still just as hazardous. With the storm came the creatures and I dispatched several hostile Kagouti and Nix Hounds, all with the growths on their bodies.

The storm was short-lived and receded just as I reached the end of the foyada, which gave way to the welcome sight of Vvardenfell's north coast. I cautiously washed my equipment and self of dust and took a moment to rest and get my bearings. Thirty yards from the shore was a door set into a small swell of the land, at the time I assumed it was an abandoned egg mine. Still on the search for a place to call my own, I figured I had enough time to look around before I'd have to continue to the campsite to get there before dark.

However, I was not the first to find the cave. Fortunately there was a dead Scamp just inside, putting me on alert and showing that the current denizens were either careless or believed themselves strong enough to not need caution.

The latter proved not to be the case. I heard the woman shouting at what I thought were employees after I had only taken a few steps past the corpse. I succeeded at making myself invisible after three attempts and rushed forwards to see if I could spot the woman before the cheap spell wore off. She was arguing (foolishly) with another Scamp she had evidently just summoned, thrusting a mining pick at the sullen creature and ordering it to dig alongside the rest of them. To summon even two creatures simultaneously was a feat of strength and skill, but it sounded like there was quite a few more Scamps than two. I guessed her for a member of the Mages Guild and was just about to approach her when she started shouting and raving at her Scamps.

Quite a talkative one she was too. It was the frenzied yelling about the "fools at the Mages Guild" and "killing the whole lot of the idiots" that tipped me off that the woman certainly would not greet me as a fellow Guild member.

Never one to give an enemy a fair chance, I sneaked back to the entrance, activated the armor enchantments on my belt, renewed the invisibility spell, and rushed back to my initial vantage point, bow in hand. The first volley of arrows caught her unawares, but in my excitement three of the four arrows flew wide and the arrow that did not found its mark poorly, only grazing the irate mage.

I expected a barrage of spells to be flung at me, but she fled off of the wooden platform she was standing on and out of sight down a ramp, giving me no choice but to follow. The wooden platform was really a small tower built into the excavation pit, but I while I could see pickaxes and refuse around the base of the tower, I saw no mage and no Scamps. I contemplated retreating back to the entrance of the cave and recasting my protective spells, but Scamps are cowardly, weak creatures and it seemed the mage was limited to summoning them, so I wasn't very worried about her either.

The bottom of the pit only had three exits: two doors and the ramp I had just come down. One door was open, but only led to a lake. The water should have been still, but evidently someone or something had dove into the lake and out of sight. The second door was locked and I took a moment to reactivate my protective enchantments before magically unlocking it. As soon as I pushed it open a whole bunch of Scamps ran out of the room, past me, and through the door leading to the lake. A multitude of splashes followed and here I was thinking they could not swim.

The angry mage used the distraction to her best advantage, hitting me with a spell that began to rapidly sap me of energy. Spells that fatigue are rarely strong enough to put someone to sleep and usually do not last very long. Panicking can sap more energy than the actual spell and I calmly stepped backwards out of the doorway and leaned against the raw stone wall as the spell wore off.

I guess she thought I had run away up the tower, for she charged out of the room, dagger in hand. She must have been quite surprised to receive a shield to the face, which I followed up with my sword between her ribs, another depressingly quick combat over and done with. Or so I thought, but I'm getting ahead of myself again.

The room seemed to serve as a workshop and bedroom, several tables loaded with books and alchemy equipment lined one side and two cots and a few smaller tables on the other. The alchemy equipment would have proved useful to me, but the calcinator and alembic, while of decent quality, were too heavy and bulky to take with me. This point was driven home a little later.

There was a small journal written by "Elante" who may have been the mage that I killed. Most of it was unhelpful, just rants about the Mages Guild and a second mage named Badama, whom Elante blamed for her project's failures. The writing became a lot more useful towards then end as she described the project I had interrupted. Elante seemed to think that this cave led to a tomb of great treasure and had been using the Scamps as slave labor. The Scamp at the entrance of the cave had been killed by Elante after it tried to escape and the journal did detail the remaining Scamps' attempts to hurl themselves into the lake once it had been uncovered. The journal ended there, with no information as to where this "Badama" was now. It seemed I had no choice but to follow the Scamps if I wanted to satiate my curiosity. Elante had been kind enough to leave several flasks of Water Breathing on one of the tables.

The Scamps weren't as smart. The lake was the opening to an underwater tunnel and all of the Scamps had drowned while trying to swim through it. Good riddance. I had no issues, courtesy of the flasks and the tunnel ended at another lake, this one occupied by the debris from a collapsed Daedric shrine.and the corpse of either Badama or Elante, floating gently among the ruins.

Had it not been for the dead mage, I might have made the same mistake she had, for stalking around the the lake was a Daedroth, waiting for me to surface. I did not have enough magicka to cast my own water breathing spell and I wasn't sure what would happen if I uncorked a water breathing potion while in the water, so I surfaced, bracing myself for the attack. I expected the Daedroth to expend its spells first, as they normally do, but this one was content to leer at me as it waited, probably having expended all of its magicka against the late mage.

The creature seemed in no hurry, so I took a moment to renew the protective enchantments and reviewed the surrounding area. I could see a chest and a potion set upon a large stone block behind the Daedroth, but little else. The Daedroth did not seem as skilled as his brethren in the Ashland caves and I realized he was a summoned Daedra when he expired in a flash of light and electrically charged air as my spear pierced his heart. The dead mage must have not been skilled enough to summon a stronger Daedroth and weak enough to lose control over the one she did manage to find, losing her life to the irritated creature after it turned on her. I felt a bit cheated, Daedra hearts are quite valuable as alchemy ingredients.
As is usual for Morrowind, the chest contained almost nothing of interest, the exception being a large, Daedric-looking key, which I took. The key shared space inside the chest with several books and mundane jewelry, which I left to molder. A second pathway ran from the lake's shore and to a very large ornate door, which I thought would lead deeper into the Daedric-looking ruins.
The key from the chest fit into the lock set into the center of the door and it swung open ponderously, but the deadly guardian within sprung at me before the door was fully open, catching me completely by surprise.

Golden Saints are under the command of Sheogorath, the Daedric Prince of Madness and in Elsweyr is known as the Skooma Cat, child of Anu the Everything. Not having been raised in Elsweyr, I don't know much more than that, but Golden Saints are among the most skilled and dangerous opponents any adventurer might face. Certainly I never expected to see one in my lifetime, reasoning that if I did, my remaining lifetime would be measured in minutes...if I was lucky.

And I was, of course, or I would not be writing this journal entry. The Golden Saint was armed with a very valuable Glass longsword and shield and was very adept at wielding both. I might have gotten one out of every eight strikes past its (her?) guard and she got far more than that past mine. By the time it fell, my armor was heavily damaged from the heavy strikes of the glass sword and I felt like I was going to pass out. The glass equipment was valuable, but cumbersome, and I left it on the Saint's body, though I later moved the sword and shield inside the tomb.
The door did not lead into a Daedric shrine as I expected, but a richly decorated tomb for a long-dead warrior or king. At the time I barely noticed any of the treasures, instead stumbling into the tomb and crashing to the ground, managing to drink one weak health restoration potion before unconsciousness claimed me.

I don't know how long I laid in the tomb between the two corpses, but my blood had dried into my fur by the time I woke, though the bleeding had stopped and I felt well enough to take my first real look at what my combat had won for me.

The tomb was full of treasure! Enough that had I been able to cart all of it away I could retire to any province a rich Khajiit and never have to risk my life ever again. But this is Morrowind and she delights in cruel taunts. There were several chests and urns in the tomb, some magical scrolls of decent strength, which I took, and others with gold and gemstones, also taken.

The real treasure was the Daedric battle axe, staff, full helm, and shield, the collection worth a villa in Cyrodiil at the very least. Like the spear at Berandas, each weighed far more than their size suggested, the helm liable to shatter my skull or collarbone were I able to fit my Khajiit head inside of it. The battle axe and shield were similarily out of the question: with two hands I could just barely shift either upon the tomb's altar, picking them up would have been out of the question on my best days, of which this one was not. The staff alone proved light enough to wield, but I have no use for a staff and it is very cumbersome to carry, so it too remains in the tomb. There was also a large silver and white shield hanging over the altar, but it was too high for me to reach.

Eight skulls adorned the tomb, each with a silver dagger plunged into their foreheads. The daggers seemed in fine condition, but the first dagger I removed summoned a spirit similar to the ones Dunmer use to guard their ancestral tombs. Weak as I was, a spirit was just no match after the Golden Saint, but the daggers were not worth the aggravation and I left the remaining seven where they were.

And that was the inventory of the tomb's treasure. I probably carried out less than five percent of the total wealth, but most of the equipment is worthless without any ability to ship the rest of the treasure to an Imperial province where the merchants are richer. The tomb contains enough value to enable me to retire from this life forever, but Morrowind is not the place to sell such things. The Golden Saint's glass sword and shield could  be sold with some effort, but I contented myself with the Septims and gemstones, I do not have the time to seek a buyer for the equipment. Let it be my offering to the tomb's owner in exchange for his diamonds and rubies.

I left the key in the tomb and magically locked the tomb's door behind me as I stumbled into the lake, quaffing a Water Breathing potion and sinking gratefully into the lake, a brownish-pink haze trailing behind me as the blood washed out of my fur and armor. I surfaced back at the excavation camp no less exhausted and claimed the one of the mages' hammocks as my own.

I have no way of knowing what time of day it is and right now I don't care. I've magically locked the flimsy gate leading to the workshop and am about to settle in for a good night's, or day's, sleep.