Sunday, March 16, 2014

Morrowind Day 82 - The Sixth House Outpost

5 Sun's Dusk
Today was the first morning since arriving at Vvardenfell that I have woken up in a ship. The first time I woke up sharing a closet in the cargo hold with a Dunmer, today I have the cramped cabin of the former Captain. I am moving up in the world, however slowly.

My plan this morning was to stop at Hlormaren to make sure it had not been taken over by smugglers, slavers, the Sixth House, or any number of other nefarious groups. I wasted no time visiting Hla Oad and enjoyed the relative lack of humidity the early morning let me experience.

I chose to walk along the small islands just off the coast rather than walking directly to the fortress. This led me through a Daedric ruin just to the west of Hlormaren, but I encountered little resistance to my passing through and did not take the time to explore the interior. There was another ruin on what could be considered an island just north of the one I passed through and it was on the way to Hlormaren, so I made a brief stop there as well. Again, nothing in the way of hostilities and nothing noteworthy on my way by.

What was noteworthy was the small Dwemer fortress sitting alongside the second ruin. I had not been aware that the Dwemer built in this part of Vvardenfell, but it was certainly there, now being slowly flooded by the swamp resting just outside the entrance. I suppose the Dwemer might have constructed this as a sort of outpost against raids from the mainland, but my guesses will not come to much. I was tempted to stop in and see what I could find, but the swamp was audibly trickling inside the ruin and I suspected opening the door might wash me inside, covering me in swampy water. So I passed it by.
The cave I came across on my resumed way to Hlormaren, I did not pass by. So far I have been encountering the Sixth House more often in abandoned caves and mines than anywhere else outside Ghostfence. So while it may sound backwards, caves are currently my highest priority.

The Sixth House is never subtle about its presence. Right inside the cave were a large amount of red candles, wall markings, idols, and one of the ever-smiling (or grimacing?) Sixth House magic-users barely visible in the gloom the candles did nothing to dispel.
A few silvered arrows from my short bow took care of it and other than a few crazed Dunmer and one Blighted man, I was free to explore the cave unmolested. I found more of the crude shrines with glistening white chunks of flesh tied to them, as well as an altar with a series of large bells and what must have been the bell hammer, though I am not sure what creature could have lifted it. A few of the red statues were scattered around, good enough reason to believe the sailor acquired his from this place. 
Like most of the Sixth House bases, this one had a small collection of treasure stashed away in the ever-present stone troughs the cult seems to be manufacturing somewhere within Red Mountain. Most of the 'treasure' consisted of the cast-offs from the maddened, naked Dunmer who had given themselves over to Dagoth Ur. Naked and only sometimes wielding a weapon, they never fail to charge directly at me, screaming for Dagoth Ur's protection. So far he has not answered their calls to any discernible effect. I sifted through the shirts and trousers, finding only a few scrolls worth carrying out to sell. 

The sailor on Grytewake had no visible sores or any other sign of his conversion and I do wonder how many secret cultists Dagoth Ur has in Morrowind. A horde, ready to rise up and destroy the Imperial Legions? A select group of individuals to act as elite agents behind the scenes of the war looming on the horizon? There are always more questions than there are answers.

With that occupying my mind I left the cave and trudged through the swampland towards Gnaar Mok, Hla Oad's slightly less hostile sister-village...which is not  saying much. As luck would have it, I found a second cave before reaching the town.
This time no red candles, flesh-decorated shrines, or spell-slinging cultists greeted me upon entry. All I got was a wet tunnel of bare rock. The tunnel opened into a room with wooden scaffolding leading further into the cave as well as upwards via stairs to a second tunnel. Patrolling the upper part of the woodwork was a woman with a cheap looking bow who immediately started firing arrows at me. What if I was a new customer of theirs? The first two arrows bounced off my breastplate and her third missed completely. For whatever reason, she charged down the stairs, dagger in hand, intent on somehow stabbing me to death. The encounter is even more odd considering that the crates scattered about the room contained, among other things, two Dwemer axes. The lady might not have been trained in the use of an axe, but I am sure she would have been much better off with one compared to the pitiful knife she had.

The upper portion of the cave led me to their sleeping quarters where a second Dunmer futilely attacked me. To my surprise, a Redguard woman was tied up on a pile of empty sacks. She asked if I was here to rescue her and was very confused when I burst out laughing. She laughed politely when I explained the coincidence between today and yesterday, then asked if I could escort her outside, clearly not seeing any humor in the event.

She thanked me when we went outside, assuring me of her desire to return to Hammerfell but regretting that she had nothing to reward me with. I told her reward was not my concern and wished her a safe trip home. Should I fail my duty here, the Redguards' province will still not be far enough from Dagoth Ur's influence.

I did return to the smugglers' cave to look for valuable things, but again found only scrolls. There were ten scrolls powerfully enchanted with a version of the Alteration 'Unlock' spell, an odd collection given the seemingly random nature of a smuggler's usual inventory. Perhaps they had a heist they were planning or a client whose request they were filling. I will never know.

The residents of Gnaar Mok were wary of me, but I was helpfully directed to a nearby abandoned fishing shack to spend the night in. The local noble, a Hlaalu named Almse Arenim, has been seeking renters for the place, but locals are afraid the place is haunted by the ghost of the former resident and she has had no luck. The villager who suggested the shack assured me that spending one night there would not raise the noble's ire, so I figured I would give the place a look at the very least.

It did not have much to offer other than solitude and the rotting stench of the swamp, but that was better than spending another night in the cabin on Grytewake. It was late in the night when I entered the shack, but I still managed to spend time practicing my alchemy, a task of mine long overdue. I had some success with my more expensive ingredients and the scroll I keep to jot down recipes has a few more entries on it now.

And today is now over. Gnisis will likely be my next stop tomorrow. I have only been away from home for two days and the prospect of returning to a 'civilized' town is appealing to me. I must be growing soft somehow.

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