18 Frost Fall
I examined the public notice declaring my new criminal status over breakfast and noticed that the warning described me as a male. Quite amusing and potentially helpful if everyone is now looking for a male Khajiit named Kerra.
I anticipated that the business with House Hlaalu would stretch over several days and I was resolved to take care of as much as possible today. I need not have worried about time, as the day would show, but I was in a hurry this morning as I teleported to Vivec to talk with Hlaalu councilman Crassius Curio about being named Hlaalu Horatator
Several members of the Mages Guild warned me that Vivec would be dangerous for me now that I was wanted by the Temple. However, Vivec was largely emptied of Ordinators, perhaps they were away battling the Sixth House or some other foe. Whatever the case, I encountered no trouble in traveling from the Mages Guild within the Foreign Quarter to the House Hlaalu canton.
Crassius Curio is certainly a strange fellow. He greeted me as if we were old friends despite never having seen me before and winked at me when I asked him if he was Crassius. He claimed my voice sounded like music to his ears when I said it, which only served to further confuse me as to whether he was the man I was seeking.
He was though and provided me a list of Hlaalu councilors, cautioning that the most powerful of the lot, Orvas Dren, would never accept a Khajiit as Hortator, and the weakest council members, Nevena and Velanda, would not go against Orvas Dren. Sounds somewhat similar to the issues I faced among the Ashland tribes. As for Crassius he only asked for one thousand Septims in exchange for him "overlooking" Orvas's disapproval. Proper, for Hlaalu.
Surprisingly, Crassius revealed that Orvas Dren is the head of the the Camonna Tong crime syndicate and not at all a member of House Hlaalu. He simply exerts so much influence into "business matters" that House Hlaalu has made him something of an honorary member. I have heard many people say that House Hlaalu is the most welcoming House for outlander employment, but that hardly seems likely with a the leader of the Camonna Tong being able to influence the Hlalau council as much as he did. Even more surprising was Crassius's admittance that Orvas Dren has also been making deals with the Sixth House, though he could not go into details.
A smuggling syndicate allying with the Sixth House does not bode well for neither Morrowind or the Empire as a whole. The Empire's influence in Morrowind barely extends outside of the major settlements and goods and people are regularly smuggled in and out of Vvardenfell with no trouble at all. If the Sixth House is already expanding to the mainland, I have a far larger fight on my hands than I suspected. Note to self: be sure to peek into caves found by the coast more often.
Crassius gave me directions to Nevena and Velanda, both outside of Vivec and suggested I visit Yngling Half-Troll and Dram Bero, both of which are living in Vivec. Dram Bero had gone into hiding some time before my arrival, but Crassius felt I would be able to track him down. As for Yngling Half-Troll, Crassius was dismissive, stating that if I had to kill the man no one else on the Council would even care. Touching.
Dram Bero's hiding place was not nearly as secret as he had probably hoped for. A commoner wandering around the Foreign Quarter mentioned that the man had been seen in the St. Olms canton, the same as Yngling Half-Troll.
The conspicuously "abandoned" house in the expensive plaza of St. Olms warranted a look and the door was actually unlocked. The inside was covered in dust and spiders, truly appearing to be abandoned. But a dwelling in such an expensive place would never be left abandoned for long, so I continued to search around. A (locked...) basement door led me to a much cleaner and larger set of rooms, one a dining room with expensive settings perfectly arranged. This was the not-so-secret hideaway of councilman Dram Bero.
He was mildly irritated to find that he would now have to find a new hiding place, but agreed to vote that I become Hlaalu Hortator. His reasoning was that if I was clever enough to find him, then I obviously had wits enough to become the Hortator. What he considers to be an adequate test of wits is rather alarming, but it was also one of the easiest votes I have gotten so far.
Fortunately Yngling Half-Troll's home was also in the St. Olm's Plaza and he was making no attempt to hide. He also made no attempt at being subtle about what it would take to gain his vote. As I have done with everyone else, I told him the short version of my recent events and asked for his vote for Hortator. He remarked that it was a touching story, but unless I had two thousand Septims he was not going to do a thing. I could see why killing him would not upset anyone else. Unwilling to spill blood unnecessarily, I handed over the money and bought the greedy man's vote. Next on my list was Orvas Dren and I had a feeling that a purse of money would not as convincing for him.
His plantation was north of Vivec, closer to Pelagiad actually, and the walk there was quick. I was struck by the sheer quantity of slaves there; if a typical plantation employs five slaves, then Dren must have at least thirty or forty. They are kept well in line by very well-equipped guards, many in full (and expensive) heavy Dwemer armor. Predictably, a free and armed Khajiit such as myself met with no welcome there, one guard going so far as to guarantee I would not be leaving the plantation as a free "cat" ever again. I should have kept the Ash Vampire's head on my spear to demonstrate how foolish such statements are to me at this point.
I was directed to Dren's villa in the corner of the area and found that entry into the building was not restricted. Inside however there was a guard patrolling the building, but for some reason he was half-dressed, completely lacking anything for his upper body. To make his dress seem even odder, he openly wielded a Daedric longsword and shield. If he tripped and fell the sword would likely have cut him in half!
|To each their own, I suppose|
The guard did nothing to stop me or even acknowledge my presence. Visitors to the villa entered into a small dining room with stairs to a basement and a hallway down which the guard was disappearing into as I entered. Of course I tried the basement door, but it was locked beyond my physical or magicka abilities to open it. I chanced walking down the hallway instead and encountered the half-naked guard returning the other way. He rudely shoved his shoulder into mine as he passed, but did nothing else.
Orvas Dren was in an upstairs bedroom off of the hallway, fully adorned in Orcish plate. He was surprisingly cordial to me...for about fifteen seconds. I explained that I was visiting him in the hopes of being named Hortator for House Hlaalu and showed him the Ring of the Hortator I had received after being named Hortator of House Redoran. He asked why I sought to become Hortator for the Dunmer people and I replied with what I thought was a simple enough answer: "To defeat Dagoth Ur and bring peace to Morrowind".
The rumors about Orvas Dren were true: he had allied with the Sixth House, claiming Dagoth Ur made him a better offer: a Morrowind with no outlanders in it and no Tribunnal "traitors" ruling it. Having said that, he pushed me and I toppled back down the stairs, giving him enough time to arm himself with an Ebony spear that had been laying against the wall.
I fell back into the hallway right at the feet of the shirtless guard, but his surprise was enough for me to drive my short steel tanto into his unarmored chest, killing him instantly. Ironic that the man would be so extravagantly equipped, only to die to such a cheap, simple weapon.
Having taken care of his guard, I hefted my own steel spear and activated the enchantment that summoned an ethereal Daedric spear in its place, a much more convenient solution than carrying around my actual Daedric spear. We met on the stairwell, spear against spear, and he had the initial advantage of height. Agility has always been my advantage though and footing was precarious on the steep wooden stairs. He was also much more heavily armored, the sum of all these things conspired to keep him off-balance and unable to put a lot of strength behind his spear.
With me far less encumbered and better balanced, his height advantage failed to make up for his lack of grace and he eventually lost his footing, crashing into the stairs and tumbling past me. I pounced on him as he lay sprawled in the hallway and buried the same stabbing tanto that killed his guard into the back of his unarmored neck, thus ending the reign of the powerful Orvas Dren.
I could not hear anyone else in the Villa, nor any sounds that the house was about to be reinforced so I assumed the brief combat had gone unnoticed by the guards outside. Still, I was not about to simply walk out the way I came in and drank a cheap 'Rising Force' potion to levitate myself over the plantation wall behind the Villa. I have no idea how long it took everyone to realize Orvas was dead, but the news had somehow traveled there by the time I arrived at Velanda's small plantation. She expressed her condolences at the "untimely death" of Orvas Dren and agreed to vote in favor of naming me Hlaalu Horatator.
Nevana was even more at a loss than Velanda. Her plantation was north of Vivec, close to Suran. Her reaction to Orvas's death was confusion and dismay. She hurriedly agreed that I would be a great Hortator and asked if I needed anything official from her. She seemed relieved to hear I only needed her vote on the council. How someone with so little personal strength became councilwoman, I will never know.
I was eager to be done with this near-farce and was knocking on the door of Curio Manor already well into the night. The councilman was still awake, claiming he was "staying up just for you". The man is obviously something of an eccentric, but he must do something right, for I do not believe Orvas Dren would have suffered fools gladly.
He gave me the belt, calling me a pumpkin and expressing how grand it looked around my "supple little waist". We Khajiit always hear rumors of liaisons between us and others, usually Imperials, but I have always discounted such things as silly gossip. While I have little experience among my own kind or others, it did sound as if councilman Crassius was angling for a liaison of his own. Such foolish behavior and quite embarrassing for him. He asked me to visit again, but I do not think I will be doing that any time in the near future.
And with the end of this violent and confusing day I am now Hortator of House Hlaalu as well as House Redoran. Only House Telvanni remains, but I do feel as though I need a break from the business of the Great Houses. The need to combat Dagoth Ur and his Sixth House is great and they have the luxury of not requiring rest, so I must push onwards nonetheless.