Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Morrowind Day 88 - Scouring Sheogorad

11 Sun's Dusk
Arriving somewhere new follows a typical routine: find a bed, visit the local trader, then explore the surrounding area for smugglers and cultists. The island of Sheogorad is more difficult than most to navigate, but you cannot turn a corner without spotting an abandoned mine or shrine. Clearly I will be spending more time here than I anticipated.

I left Dagon Fel and proceeded south along the coast, hoping to complete a walk around the entire island today and finishing the exploration of the island's interior tomorrow. Naturally, this was not how I wound up spending the day.

The first tomb was so close to the town that I must have walked right by it yesterday when I arrived on the island. Being so close to the shore, I assumed the tomb was a small one, but it wound up being far larger than I anticipated...and far more worth my time.

My first clue that this tomb was a little different was the guardian right at the entrance. I used to expect a simple skeleton or ghost, now I am more likely to encounter a well-armed, but clumsy, skeleton or perhaps a weaker form of the Bonewalker. This tomb had one of the four-armed floating skull creatures waiting for me as I stepped inside and it seemingly took great pleasure in firing spells at me from the bottom of the stairway it was guarding. It did seem to have trouble actually going up the stairs so I waited for the creature to exhaust its magical energy, then fired arrows at it until whatever force held it together evaporated.
Further inside I fought two more of the things as they wandered about a large chamber lined with urns. One of the urns had a red candle lit next to it and a tapestry with a vaguely familiar symbol hung over it. Signs of Sixth House activity? Maybe, but merely using a red candle is no sign of being in league with Dagoth Ur. Either way, the dead were not talking to me, so I have no way to find out.
There were more signs of the Sixth House scattered in the tomb. A second smaller urn room contained a second urn illuminated by a red candle and a tapestry depicting someone or something similar to how Dagoth Ur has appeared in my nightmares.
The last room of the tomb was guarded by claymore-wielding skeletons rather than the floating skull creatures I found elsewhere and they were easily tricked into crowding themselves around the doorway, making it difficult for them to attack me.
The unusually strong guard stationed in the tomb was likely due to the equally unusual body on display at the far end of the room. Dunmer normally cremate their dead, hence the need for urns, but this tomb had a skeleton laid out on an altar, complete with arms and armor. I suppose it is possible that the skeleton is not of the man (or woman) the altar was built to honor, but this seems unlikely given the normal Dunmer practices.
I examined the equipment, but most of it was mundane or not usable by a Khajiit. An elaborate ring placed next to the corpse caught my eye and a cursory glance was enough to know it was powerfully enchanted, so I took it to show Galbedir later. My apology to the former warrior if he misses it. This makes for the second powerful ring I have found within the week and the third overall, not counting the numerous rings people have gifted to me. Galbedir will be envious, but if she wants rings of her own she can risk her life as I do every day.

The weather was surprisingly clear when I stepped outside and I wish I could have taken the time to enjoy it at a more leisurely pace. As it was, my pace was far from leisurely, for I still had hoped to circle the entire island today. Naturally, I had barely walked for two minutes before I came upon another door set into the hillside just outside a Dwemer ruin.
Had I been in a less remote area I would have passed the cave by as simply another hideout for smugglers and thieves. But the reach of the Imperial Legion stops far short of Sheogorad and what I have already found on the island suggests the Sixth House is strongly establishing themselves on the island.

The experience inside the cave was what I have come to expect from smugglers: one sentry at the entrance and the rest huddled around a campfire among empty bottles and sugar pouches. I caught the Redguard slouching against a crate when I stepped inside, but she recovered quickly from her surprise and sought to drive me out of the cave using the long reach of her two-handed sword. She was good enough to slip past my spear during the opening moves of our combat, so I was forced to rely on my woefully short sword.

Our positions became reversed after I let a blow glance off the side of my armor, allowing me to slide along the blade and crowd her against the cavern wall. She was experienced enough to realize her two-handed weapon was now a disadvantage, but she had nothing on her save for a small knife. Versus my (now) comparatively large sword, she did not stand a chance.

The rest of the smugglers had somehow not noticed our struggle and the remaining three thieves each were occupying a private hollow of their own, allowing me to dispatch them one by one. Though poorly organized and clearly not expecting hostile company, they were well-armed and individually skilled in their chosen schools of fighting. One Dunmer had three volcanic glass daggers on him which will go for a very fair price.

Again I found several crates of the red Sixth House statues. Where are they coming from? Are they in this cave on their way to the mainland or are they being brought in from somewhere? And why? I have found only a few of them within the actual Sixth House outposts, yet a smuggler's inventory might have a dozen or more of the things. It is all very mysterious.

I left the cave satisfied that I could now finally get to the day's task at hand and complete my patrol of the island's shore, but once again my curiosity got the better of me. Not more than twenty seconds away from the previous cave was another one built in front of a crossroads leading to Rotheran fortress. I really want to walk by it and proceed along as planned, but I reasoned that this cave could be a Sixth House base after all, so in I went. Perhaps I was a Dwemer in a previous life.

My impression of the place was immediately soured by the score of Nix-Hounds that charged at me as I tried to creep down the tunnel entrance, but they fell with not a scratch done to me. This band of smugglers were somewhat more cautious than the previous group, for all their doors and chests were locked. The first door I magically unlocked silently opened to the backs of two smugglers unaware of my presence.
Nothing is unfair when your survival is at stake and killed the first smuggler with a single stab of my sword to the neck just quick enough to retain the element of surprise against the second. Pushing her into the campfire was certainly not sporting of me, but the lady had been trying to reach a wooden chest in the corner of the cavern and I ensured she died a quick death after her shirt burst into flames.

It was very fortunate to me that the Dunmer never reached the chest, for it contained a Daedric longsword, a weapon that would turn even an unskilled adversary into a dangerous foe...so long as they did not accidentally lop off one of their own limbs with the heavy blade. After I had killed all the smugglers, I wound up finding an exceptionally rare Daedic dai-katana as well, but valuable as they were, the swords suffered from the same disadvantages all of the Daedra-enhanced arms share: too valuable to sell and too heavy for me to carry. 

So if anyone reads this: head for a small cave at a crossroads outside the ruined fortress of Rotheran. You will be rich for life, provided your back is strong enough...not that anyone else will be reading this.

The remaining four smugglers were also paired up, but this lulled them into a sense of security I successfully used to my advantage. Each pair was roused out of their mental slumber by what I hope was a blood-chilling scream of a Khajiit warrior charging with her summoned Daedric spear. Against such a potent force, who would stand a chance? Probably an Orc or a Nord, but they were mostly Dunmer, with one Redguard and one Imperial among them, curiously all female.

I found more red statues within the 'regular' smuggling inventory, but the caves I have explored today are so close together that this barely hints at any further direction to take. It was disappointingly late in the evening when I left the cave, but my disappointment at putting off my goals (once again!) was soothed by the incredible view of the sky.
I really need to get my priorities straight. Tombs and caves were infrequent enough on the mainland that I managed to get things accomplished, but that seems impossible here on Sheogorad. Another night spent at the 'End of the World' tavern and another night with little to show for having spent the day, save for worn equipment and dried blood. I must make more progress tomorrow.

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