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.

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