The remaining accommodation available to me at the Gateway Inn when I stumbled in last night might have been someone's nap-time hideaway: just a cot, a small table, and a flimsy privacy screen, all of which set me back ten Septims. Situated right above the bar, I was guaranteed a lullaby of harsh noises and harsher voices, but I have certainly slept in worse places. Hospitality is not to be expected from the Telvanni and generally not to be found within their towns. I would have been better off spending the night at the nearby Imperial fort.
I purchased "Hospitality Papers" from a Telvanni as I was leaving the inn. While it sounded like a scam, I know that there are papers that the Telvanni require foreigners to acquire before they will do business with you, so for twenty-five Septims I took the chance that the Dunmer selling them was genuine.
There was no chance to test them out though; the dawn was just rising as I left the inn and the shops were still closed. The Imperial fort was a polite distance away from town, but I saw no one outside, not even a Telvanni guard. When I arrived at the fort, Wolverine Hall, I asked for directions to the Mages Guild and was pointed towards a tower along the curtain wall. One would assume that meant the Mages Guild is in the tower, simple enough. But no, the Imperial Chapel was in the tower and the Fighters Guild was under the tower. The Mages Guild was under a different tower only reachable by going through the first tower, then along the inside of the wall, then up the spiral stairs to the second, formerly unreachable tower.
I doubt it is to keep out Telvanni sightseers.
The enchanter there, Dabrenne Mornardl, was interested in buying a few of the more mundane pieces of equipment I had taken from the Dunmer fortress, so I exchanged a minor ring and staff for some Septims and teleported back to the friendly faces at Balmora to sell some things. I think I heard Ajira ask what I had to sell her before the teleportation spell fully popped me into existence, but that could just be my imagination. I did sell her three vials of Skooma and the rest of my enchanted finds to Galbedir, further weighing myself down with coin.
A trip to the Caldera guild was also called for to deliver the Propylon stone to Folms. As always, he paid me five hundred Septims for the stone and sent me off in search of another, this one for the haunted fort of Berandas, where I nearly died to the two feminine Daedra. The stone was held by a mage living near Gnisis, so I guessed the retrieval would be fairly easy. After all, you cannot have monsters running around your home if you are in town, right? Wrong again...
The quickest way to Gnisis is found by teleporting to Ald'Ruhn, then taking the Silt Strider to the town. I did not tarry in Ald'Ruhn or its Guild (not much there really!) and wound up in Gnisis at about one in the afternoon, according to a helpful Gnisis guard.
The "tower" shares the same squat architecture as a lot of Vvardenfell's architecture, but I know enough now to expect several of the levels to be below ground. The people of Gnisis could not give me much information on the building or the inhabitant, other than to say the mage had lost a lot of his retainers in the previous years. According to one towns-person, the apprentices and servants simply left and no one knows why. Perhaps the mage was formerly Telvanni and renounced the House? That's the only theory I have, but the Telvanni do not seem the type to let a former Telvanni live out his days peacefully.
Knocking on the door failed the attention of anyone inside, so I let myself in. The tower was very quiet and the bedrooms on the initial level, which I took for servant quarters, were deserted and had not been occupied for quite some time. There was a jail cell on a lower level, but this too was empty and unused. One of the bedrooms had a single inhabitant, but it was a large rat, which I left alone.
The tower was built along the lines of a single, large ramp that the entryway deposits you into the middle of. Following the ramp lower brings you to the jail cell and following it higher would lead me to the mage, if he was in the tower at all. The ramp ended at an ornate door very similar to the ones I saw in the burial tombs. Always one to be cautious, I removed my helmet and held my ear against the door. The thick construction served to prevent noise from coming through, but listening at the hinge probably saved my life. At the time, I could not tell what was making the noise, but there was a growl-like noise behind the door, as well as the sound of something walking about. I guessed correctly that it was not the mage, but after using my defensive magics and opening the door, I found I was still unprepared.
The noise was a Daedroth, dutifully guarding the entrance into the mage's quarters. If the creature had been walking about, I would have had a better chance. If it had been not directly facing the door when I opened it, I would certainly have had a better chance. As it was, I opened the door to find myself about ten feet away from a very alert, and suddenly entertained, Daedroth.
Whichever of the Nine Divines was watching over me has my thanks. I cannot recollect why I thought it would be a good idea against a Daedra, but I used my Silence spell against the Daedroth, though I now realize the chance of it working was very slim. I must have been very lucky, for the spell did hold and the Daedroth was temporarily unable to shape its magicka against me. This probably saved me a fireball to the face. After realizing what happened, the Daedroth charged through the door, jaw and claws reaching for me and still a very dangerous opponent.
But the Daedroth are the thugs of the Daedra world: some brain, but mostly brawn. They are very strong physically and capable spellcasters, but they do not seem to go much for strategy. My silence spell only lasts for a few seconds, but the Daedroth never abandoned its attempt to claw my throat out, even though its spells would have been accessible early into the fight and far more effective. As it was, I certainly have experience in meele with larger, stronger opponents and I hampered its freedom of movement by keeping the creature pinned in the doorway. Constricted, the Daedroth's lack of mobility coupled with its long arms spelled out a quick end.
The room it was guarding was mostly empty with a ramp on the far side leading further upwards. I started to hear an odd clanking noise as I crept across the room and a Dwemer construct swept down the ramp, balancing its on a large sphere that served as its lower body. Turning towards me, it pointed an arm that ended in some kind of crossbow at me and started firing heavy (and valuable!) Dwemer bolts.
The construct was powerful, but slow and while I certainly could not dodge the crossbow bolts, it was easy to dodge its aiming mechanism and I used the thing for my own target practice, though the arrows seemed to bounce off of it. I finally closed the distance and disabled it with my spear. In numbers this thing must have been quite a foe, but on its own, not much.
Its defeat left the path to the Telvanni wizard bare and I was expecting quite a fight...and again was surprised. He was more annoyed that I had killed off the Daedroth he summoned and the construct he bought in an effort to keep the people of Gnisis from realizing the tower was occupied only by him. He feared that they would chase him out and reclaim the property after they discovered all his retainers had left, though he would not say why they did.
I informed him that the town was well aware he was the only occupant of the tower but feared him too much to make any move towards evicting him and hearing that his name still inspired fear in the locals cheered him greatly. A true Telvanni...I guess.
Having stabilized his view of the future, he was generous towards my request for the Propylon stone, inviting me to take it if I could find it among the shelves of his laboratory. A few minutes of searching found it wedged between bottles of imported brandy, most of them uncorked and in various levels of fill. Ever polite to powerful mages, I bade him thanks and goodbye and received a grunt and nod in response as I walked down the ramp and eventually back to the Gnisis caravaner to hire a ride back to Ald'Ruhn.
The strider lumbered into Ald'Ruhn late into the evening and I paid the guild guide for teleportation to Caldera, where Folms was, as usual, loitering about. Am I the only one in the guild that does actual work? Whatever occupies his time, he had the money and location of the next stone ready for me. He has now tasked me with locating the Andasreth Index, which he has heard is in the possession of a Dunmer bandit taking refuge at the coastal Dunmer fortress Hlormaren, west of Balmora.
That the fortress lies close to Balmora is certainly good news and hopefully something I can take care of quickly. I do hope that Folms is running out of stones for me to fetch.