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 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.

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