I left the Balmora Mages Guild early in the morning, intent on completing my friend's task before starting on my own. I had always passed through the Guild, having supplied myself with whatever I had needed at Balmora, or occasionally Caldera. It occurred to me that the Guild in Morrowind's largest city would be the best place to shop, so I visited briefly, talking with the other guild members and inquiring about wares and training. My travels seem to always elicit interest from the Mage Guild members, though I think this is due to most of them never leaving its walls.
Either I was not talking to the right people or the selection at the Vivec Guild is worse than Balmora's. The resident Alchemist, Craetia, did not have the wide range of ingredients I was expecting, nor did she have a large budget to purchase mine. Hints dropped during our small talk suggested that Trebonius, the Arch-Mage of the Guild, keeps the Vivec Guild's purse-strings pretty tight, limiting the Guild's ability to win business from the Telvanni canton's numerous non-guild practitioners.
The closet of my contacts was Huleeya, an Argonian whom I was told would be in the Black Shalk Cornerclub, whether due to habit or instruction, I don't know. The club was located on the the lower level of the canton and I was it was open to anyone wanting a little refreshment. Being the only establishment of its type in the Foreign canton, I expected it would be a busy place. However, the club was nearly empty when I arrived and the mood quite ugly. My contact was instantly recognizable, him being the only Argonian in the place, but the three Dunmer arguing with him were not known to me.
Seeing me enter, he called me over, treating me as though I was a cherished friend instead of a complete stranger. He scolded me for showing up late without letting him know first, then said he had to finish his conversation with the three "gentlemen" he had just met. The three gentlemen took the opportunity to close ranks in front of us and the owner of the club was taking great strides in not looking in our direction. The three were not heavily armed, but Huleeya whispered to me as we all waited for someone to do something. He revealed that he was an open operative of the Morag Tong, a guild of assassins that operate legally in Morrowind via semi-judicial writs of execution Legal or no, I definitely do not want to be affiliated with a group of assassins, but my present circumstance left me little choice. Quickly, he told me that while he could kill all three of the men with no problem, they were all House Hlaalu retainers and he had no desire to be the reason for any bad blood between his Guild and the House. In addition, killing the men outside of a Morag Tong writ, even in self-defense, is a distasteful act within his organization and he wished to avoid bloodshed if possible.
Avoiding bloodshed was far easier than Huleeya had anticipated. Being House Hlaalu men, they were all willing to let myself and Huleeya leave the club peacefully in exchange for some coin. They got their insults in as we left, never knowing how close to death they had come due to their prejudice.
Huleeya was on good terms with Jobasha and led me to his shop before telling me what he knew of Dagoth Ur and the Nerevarine Cult. He was able to provide a great deal of information, but knew nothing about the mysterious 'Sixth Cult' or why the townspeople I've encountered were acting so strange. He did mention that House Dagoth was the sixth Great House, so it is likely the Sixth Cult is affiliated with the fallen House in some way. Revolutionaries or secret retainers perhaps.
He was most helpful with my questions regarding the cult of the Nerevarine and the beliefs of the Ashlander tribes. According to him, the Ashlanders believe that Lord Nerevarine will return as an incarnation, ending the persecution of the Ashland tribes and driving out the foreigners and 'unclean' Dunmer from their native land. Reincarnation or not, that seems a large order for an individual.
He gave me a sheaf of papers with his notes on them to deliver to my friend and I bade him farewell and luck with the Dunmer, which got me a lopsided grin and a wink. I have a suspicion that the three Dunmer may be disappearing quite soon.
My second contact was a Khajiit named Addhiranirr, the style of the name noting her as being native to Elsweyr, unlike myself. My friend had told me to look within St.Olm's canton, but had no more information than that to provide. But I remembered the skittish Khajiit I had encountered in the sewers, though I did not remember her name. My memory served me well, for when I entered the canton, a very well-dressed Imperial asked me if I had seen her, as "your type seems to stick together". Insulted, I told him I had never heard of her and walked past him. She was still where I had last left her: in a corner of one of the sewer's corridors, opposite the obvious Daedric cultist hideout.
After identifying myself as working for our mutual friend, she sheepishly admitted she was indeed Addhiranirr, but asked if I could do her a favor before she answered my questions. I anticipated this and readily agreed. To my delight, the favor was to get rid of the rude Imperial two floors above us, who was working for the Census and seeking to arrest her for 'misunderstandings'. She did not care much about how I planned on accomplishing this, but my luck had been good so far, so I took a small chance.
I found him still wandering the canton and hailed him, pretending to be very eager to be a good (Khajiit) Imperial citizen, telling him that I heard the thief, the shaver-of-fur (I made that up, quite proud of it), had caught a boat at Ebonheart towards the mainland. He thanked me and told me I was a prime example of the better sort of my people. So rude.
However, Addhiranirr found the short exchange to be very amusing and regretted that she could not be much help. She knew nothing of the Nerevarine Cult or the Ashlanders, claiming that the Nerevarine legend was a "fuzzy tale for little kittens". I am apt to agree, but unlike Huleeya she knew a great deal about the Sixth House, because it impacted her business.
She said that she heard that a lot of the long established smugglers are suddenly working only for the Sixth House and she personally knew two smugglers, both long-time business people of Morrowind, who had accepted Sixth House contracts...then disappeared. After they vanished, she watched their people and confirmed that they were smuggling something, but she could not determine what, nor could she find out where her contacts had gone. Those who were working for the Sixth House and still visible were very quiet about their activities, which was atypical of the smugglers she was working with. She had hid in the canton sewers partially to elude the Imperial agent I misled, but also in an effort to escape the notice of the Sixth House. She said she was concerned for the Imperial Thieves Guild, as she noticed members quietly disappearing as well.
More than that, she could not say. She only knew that the Sixth House was involved in smuggling in a very big way, but did not know what goods they were actually moving. As I thanked her and prepared to go, she mentioned that she had seen a heavily armed guard outside of what used to be a storage area, hinting that if I was to go clean it out, I would be doing her a big favor and netting a fair profit for myself. I told her I would look into it and moved on.
True to her word, the sewer corridor opposite the one Addhiranirr was in was guarded by a Dunmer woman clad in full steel plate. She had not seen or heard me and a plan soon came to mind.
The arrow deflected harmlessly off the side of her armor just as I had planned and she yelled, charging at what she must have thought was a desperate thief or sugar-fiend. I stepped back into the tunnel connecting the corridors of the sewer and waited, spell at the ready.
My timing was perfect. I cast the paralysis spell just as she turned the corner and thanks to the training I undertook, the spell succeeded, freezing her in mid-step, though only for a few seconds...which was all I needed with my stabbing sword. Thanks to my sneakiness, her equipment was undamaged, but steel armor is not very valuable for its weight, so I rolled it and her into the depths of Vivec's waste.
I dealt with the inside of the shrine similarly, though making sure to have several protective spells active before I entered. I thought I would be able to enter the shrine under the guise of my invisibility spell, but the act of opening the door dispelled it. I'm sure I Looked quite foolish, standing there inside the shrine, flat-footed as I two Dunmer unsheathed their blades and charged.
Fortunately, I was able to cast the invisibility spell before they got too closed and I dashed behind their shrine as they assumed a back-to-back stance, warily circling the room together. What happened next was almost comical, had it not meant their deaths, of whom anyone's is not something I find amusing. The pair may have been father and daughter (was the woman outside a wife and mother?), so different was their age. The older Dunmer was wearing bonemold armor and wielding a very rare Daedric sword, while the younger woman had an ugly geometrical Dwemer stabbing sword.
My invisibility spell does not last long and if they both attacked me, I'd be in trouble, so I had to make sure to eliminate one of them while I still held the advantage. I judged the man to be more dangerous and quickly crept into their path, positioning myself so that the man would pass by me. The paralysis spell worked a second time, silently locking the man in place as his partner/daughter continued to pace the shrine alone, unaware that she was no longer accompanied.
The man must have been furious at the injustice: the Daedric sword had to have been acquired at great risk and to face his end unable to wield it against his enemy had to have been frustrating, to say the least. As always, his death was instant and painless, and I caught the corpse as he collapsed, lying it on the floor as not to alarm the woman, whom was still unaware of her imminent fate.
She continued to circle the shrine, now on the opposite side of the body. I had no time to move it out of the way, so I hid behind a pillar and waited for her. After two invisibility spells and two paralysis spells, I did not have enough energy to cast a third paralysis spell, nor enough time to drink a restoration potion, so I used her moment of shocked realization to spring my trap and struck her twice with my spear before she could respond. The battle was mercifully short, fighting a woman whose father may have been lying dead at her feet did not sit well with me, even if they were cultists.
The Daedric sword was a very valuable and rare find, but too heavy to carry around with me and too valuable to sell. I dumped the bodies into the sewer and stored their weapons in a chest I found in the back of the shrine.
The chest was in a fairly well-furnished bedroom, complete with armories, two beds, and several chests. The chests contained nothing of much value, save for what I stored inside one of them, but the beds are comfortable and I will be spending the night here. This would not be a bad place to call my own, a little out of the way, but not too much that I could not return here when I desired to. I will give it some thought before going to sleep tonight. Tomorrow I'll talk to my last contact and return the notes to my friend, after which I'll review my plan for acquiring the next Propylon Stone.