Occasionally I wonder how Morrowind has existed so long without me. There are days when it seems as if no one I know is capable of taking care of the smallest task without my intervention. When I spoke to Galsa this morning about my stronghold, she exclaimed that it was good to hear that the construction was proceeding as planned. I rather thought it was her responsibility to see that the place is built properly and to hand it over when it is ready. Apparently not! She assured me that the construction should be finished soon, but I do not know what basis she has for that claim, for it seems it is my place to inform her about the construction of House Redoran's own stronghold. Very strange.
As planned, I went back to the Sixth House cave I found yesterday, but I have learned my lesson from Red Mountain and stopped home briefly to drop my bonemold bow and steel spear in exchange for my Daedric weaponry. Heavy though they are, there is no reason not to bring your best when fighting your worst. Cheered by another bright purple morning, I set out for the cave with a small amount of trepidation. I was feeling more confident in my abilities prior to my exploration of Red Mountain, where it was shown quite clearly that, yes, I am skilled, but I still have a long way to go before I can directly challenge Dagoth Ur. The Sixth House cave could not have been any more difficult than that, but I suppose it is healthy to have your self-confidence shaken a little bit now and then.
It's not really a short walk to the cave and despite leaving Ald'ruhn early it was almost noon when I was standing in front of the cavern door. A quick (but careful!) exploration of the initial rooms showed that I had actually cleared them out yesterday. There was another door leading further underground and I made sure to use all of my protective enchantments before stepping through the door and down a small stone staircase to another door.
The door led to another bone-white tunnel of stone and I was immediately attacked by a nearly naked Dunmer armed with a club. His end came quickly. A lumpy Corpus monster was placidly standing at the end of the tunnel and fell to my arrows.
If I had not heard the tell-tale muttering, I would have been surprised to find one of Dagoth Ur's kin (or so I have been told) within the cave. The Ash Vampire was stronger than the ones I have already fought and I was injured quite severely by the end of the my victorious combat. The creature had a very powerful ring on it, but I could not figure out what it is enchanted with. That will have to be for Galbedir to figure out.
I do make it a habit now to carry two sets of healing scrolls: one that heals gradually over a long period of time and one that heals more effectively, but only within a short period of time. I could deal with the pain well enough, so I used the gradual healing scroll and proceeded onward.
A little worrying was the Dunmer I encountered after retracing my steps from the corpse of the Ash Vampire. The man bore the blank stare of the naked cultists I have always been encountering in the Sixth House locations, but this one was armed with a steel stabbing sword and armored with a steel cuirass, greaves, and boots. None of that proved any sort of threat to me, but I suddenly had a vision of hundreds of similarly equipped mindless Dunmer swarming over Vvardenfell. Not a pleasant thought.
Exploring deeper, I found what I thought was another dreamer and drew an arrow on him. But something made me hesitate and when he turned around and saw me he collapsed to his knees, babbling that he was a prisoner.
The man's name is 'Hannat Zainsubani' and as soon as he told me I remembered his father, Hassour Zainsubani, asking me to find his son in, quote: "...the Daedric shrine of Mamaea". I must have either forgotten that I agreed to find his son or been waylaid in my task, but either way I am ashamed to have left Hannat in the cave for so long when I could have found him earlier. Hannat did not know this of course and I escorted him out of the cave, after which he promised that if I visited his father I would be richly rewarded. He assured me that he could make it to Ald'ruhn by himself, but given the number of blighted Nix Hounds wandering about I am still concerned. He provided me a code phrase to recite to his father, that he blossoms anew beneath tomorrow's sun...whatever that means.
I watched him jog away with a surprising amount of energy for someone held captive underground and went back inside the cave after he had jogged out of sight. The cavern was now pretty much empty of the Sixth House, but without a lava pit their corpses remained where they fell. I am sure the next time I come across the cave some enterprising smugglers will have taken up residence.
The only enemies left were found down a section of tunnel I had skipped earlier, but they were few and isolated, posing no trouble to me. I did have one last interesting encounter with a fully clothed and apparently sane Dunmer woman. I had been sneaking down a small tunnel and turned a corner to see her pacing in front of what I discovered after her death to be a shrine to Dagoth Ur. I do not know what gave me away, but she suddenly spun about and yelled, charging at me with a simple wooden staff. She was adorned in cheap leather armor and I can only assume she was some sort of religious pilgrim prior to whatever caused her to convert to worship within the Sixth House.
The shrine had an odd looking stone statue that I guess was supposed to be Dagoth Ur and next to it a stone trough full of equipment. Some of it was not worth carrying out, but three items caught my attention. The first was a very...unique looking purple helmet crafted from large insect shells. It is not enchanted, but I have never seen anything like it before, so I grabbed it.
I initially mistook the second item for an ornate pot, but the weight of the thing surprised me when I picked it up. It appears to be a Daedric jousting helmet, as odd as that sounds. It completely encases the head and neck behind a layer of armor and I can easily imagine my skull and neck collasping under the weight if I was stupid enough to try it on. The face of the helmet is literally that: a fearsome visage has been carved on to it, but what tools are capable of carving so finely on to something as tough as Daedric-infused plate armor? The helmet must be very old, maybe a relic from some Dwemer lord long ago.
The third item was far lighter and smaller than the first two and the most easily overlooked, for it looks like a chitin dagger. When I examined it closer I realized that the "blade" was a large, sharpened tooth and the rest of the dagger was bone. Grisly, but the magicka radiating from the weapon is incredibly strong, so off to Galbedir this will go as well.
I backtracked from the shrine to explore a small passage I had skipped on my way, but it only ended in an empty room with two half-buried skeletons in it. The skeletons were each firmly sunk into the stone floor and how they became as such is a mystery.
And with that I had explored the entire cave system and cleared it of the Sixth House, rescuing someone in the process. I used my amulet of Recall to pop back home and displayed the two helms on top of a stack of books to keep them from sliding off of the stools they were balanced on.
Find potentially priceless Daedric helmet, use it as a paperweight. What else am I going to do with it? I certainly cannot wear it and I doubt any of the merchants are in the market. If I took the helmet back to the Imperial City I could probably retire for life very comfortably, but alas, I am still stuck here. And then there's the ring I pulled off of the Ash Vampire's hand. What powers does it have? How much is it worth? But if it cannot help me survive my next battle, then it is ultimately interesting but useless. I wonder if I could give some of this stuff to the men-at-arms I am supposed to have at the stronghold.