24 Frost Fall
As planned, I spoke with Galsa about my stronghold this morning. It was a good thing I did, for she apparently does not have much faith in the construction foreman and asked that I visit the construction site and check on the progress. The foreman is an orc named of Bugdul gro-Kharbush and is (surprisingly) an unknown quality to Galsa. I am sure the orc's fortune will greatly improve if he satisfactorily completes his first House Redoran task.
Walking to Bal Isra, the name of the stronghold's location, was not terribly difficult from Ald'ruhn. The weather was clear and the site is conveniently close to the town. I encountered nothing more dangerous than a few rats and cliff racers and made good time towards the stronghold's location.
Bugdul seemed affronted that I would think visiting the site personally was a requirement for quality work. Gruffly, he assured me that the work would be done on time and to report to Galsa that everything would be as she requires. It must have been too early in the day for the other workers, for I saw none, but the main 'keep' of the stronghold was already built in the Redoran style.
With nothing else planned, I decided to explore the surrounding area for smuggler hideouts, figuring that must lie somewhere in my future duties as a stead-holder for House Redoran. I came upon a small camp of Ashlanders, but they were friendly and gave me directions to a smugglers' hideout somewhat north of their camp.
While looking for the hideout I found a steep, but workable, path up the side of the hills that separated the dry ashlands from the plains watered by the coast. Standing astride the hills and looking in one directions displayed nothing but volcanic ash and rock and in the other direction...I had expected trees and grass, but saw only grey fog and dead trees. The effect was rather unsettling.
The cavern that the Ashlanders pointed out was farther south of Bal Isra and the earth outside the door bore the signs of much activity and traffic. I admit to feeling a bit overconfident as I walked through the door, after all, had I not survived several trips to Red Mountain? A rude rebuke of my arrogance awaited me behind the door in the form of a well-practiced Dunmer warrior heavily clad in armor. He was a surprisingly skilled opponent and fought with a well-worn grace that I suspect came from more honest employment somewhere in his past. Whatever his history, it was not enough to prepare him against a Khajiit with a (summoned) Daedric spear.
Counting him, there were only eight thieves in the cave, but each one was extravagantly equipped and as a result were far tougher foes than I had anticipated. The best equipped was a Dunmer armored in ebony plate and wielding an ebony broadsword. He was clearly the leader of the rich gang and would have certainly proved to be my toughest opponent had I not crept up on him invisibly, silently ending his life. They had no decent treasure other than their odd equipment choices, but I left that with them. By clearing out the smugglers' den, I have probably saved myself the trouble of having to do so later when I take ownership of the stronghold. A retainer of House Redoran allowing thieves to live right under her nose would certainly not make a positive impression on anybody.
I left the cavern and made my way back to the hillside path I had found earlier with the intent to explore the remainder of the area between Ald'ruhn, Maar Gan, and Gnisis. After wandering around and getting attacked by Nix Hounds every couple of minutes I found what looked like a Dunmer family's ancestral tomb. I am no ransacker of tombs, but my history with the tombs has led me to always suspect them of harboring thieves and smugglers instead of ancestors. While I normally am content to let those ruffians be, it is becoming obvious that the Sixth House has been able to resurrect itself largely due to the activities of smugglers, providing House Dagoth with the materials it needed, either knowingly or not. So once again I dove into a tomb, expecting to face everything and coming out with nothing. In this I was not to be disappointed.
Honestly, there is not much to say about the tomb itself other than that my suspicion of it harboring agents of the Sixth House was unfounded. Instead, I had to fight animated skeletons armed with silver two-handed swords, two of the strange floating ghosts with one skull and four skeletal arms, and finally one of the winged female Daedra.
In terms of my effort to survive being rewarded: it was not. The only items of any particular value worth carrying out were jeweled rings worn by the six docile skeletons of whatever family owned the tomb. I contented myself with the alchemical ingredients I was able to recover from my undead and Daedric enemies and left the family with their goods.
My continued exploration led to an encounter with more Ashlanders, but this new pair attacked me on sight and died just as quickly. I do wonder why I continue to be so readily attacked by common bandits. The equipment I have on me should indicate I am no merchant or slave-Khajiit to be harassed or robbed, yet so many have figuratively rushed on to the end of my increasingly deadly spears. Fools, the whole lot of them!
It was starting to grow dark when I found the distraught Imperial pacing along the road. I could hear him muttering to himself and it was clear that the man was no threat, at least to me. When I hailed him from atop a hill alongside the road, he nearly jumped out of his clothes, but quickly introduced himself as 'Lucan'. He claimed to be waiting for someone from Ald'ruhn who had promised to meet him to purchase some equipment. Why anyone would want to meet someone on a dirt road in the middle of nothing interesting is a mystery, but he asked if I would be willing to carry his wares into Ald'ruhn and deliver them to an orc staying at the 'Rat in the Pot'. I agreed since I was already going back there anyway. He handed me two silvered swords, a hefty silvered axe, and a simple steel-shod staff after insisting I swear an oath to Zenithar that I would not shirk from my promise. The relevation that I lived in Ald'ruhn calmed him somewhat, but I suppose some people are just more nervous than others.
The last discovery of the day was of another Sixth House base of some sort, though I did not have time to explore it thoroughly today. From outside it looked like an abandoned egg mine, but it certainly did not appear to be one as soon as you passed the door. For one thing, the entrance was of some sort of white bone-like rock that I have not seen before and two, there was a mostly naked cultist charging at me as soon as I entered.
Further in I fought a tentacle-faced man who seemed to be praying when I spotted him and past that pious creature were two small rooms serving as cages, one with another tentacle-faced man and the other with one of the faceless. By then I was feeling tired and a Sixth House shrine is no place to test one's luck and fatigue, so I used a Scroll of Leaguestep to recall back to my home in Ald'ruhn.
The orc in the 'Rat in the Pot' paid me one hundred Septims for the delivery of the weaponry. I was going to then call on Galsa about the progress of the stronghold, but by then it was late enough at night that it seemed that task could wait until tomorrow morning.
I need to clear out the Sixth House mine tomororw, for I definitely will not be able to rest knowing that they are operating so close to what is supposed to be my future base of operations (I hope!). Other than that, I do not have any pressing tasks, though the delay in being confirmed as Hortator for House Telvanni is really beginning to eat away at me. I do wonder if waiting for the completion of the stronghold is really necessary.