Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Morrowind Day 110 - Cat Versus Dogs

2 Evening Star
My stay at Kolfinna's small river-side cave was short, but pleasant. I only slept for three hours, but she managed to cook up a better breakfast than I usually enjoy and wished me luck as I left, just as refreshed as if I had slept for a full night.

Last night I had completed the Skaal's ritual to prove to them that I was one to be trusted, but my first goal this morning was a visit to Fort Frostmoth to inquire about the colony that one of the Legionnaires had mentioned. Rumors at the fort were that there was to be a mining colony built on Solstheim courtesy of the East Empire Company, but the Company's Factor on the island, Carnius Magius has been either unable or unwilling to make much progress.

An Imperial colony on Solstheim would make my life a great deal easier, Company politics or not. I had spoken to him on my first day on the island, but thought his request that I join the Company was to be some low-paid clerk jotting down figures all day. The rumors of the difficulty he has been having with the colony made me think that I might be of more use to him than as a simple scribe and get the colony on its way at the same time.

Before speaking with Carnius I stopped at the armory to sell the silver daggers I won from the Nordic women the Skaal call 'Fryse Hags'. These women always ambush me by summoning a spirit then charging me with one of the silver daggers. The soldier manning the armory was happy to buy six of the daggers for the healthy sum of 1,500 Septims, making me quite a happy Khajiit.

Carnius made no mention of our previous encounter and restated his offer of employment with the Company. I accepted and was immediately ordered to report to the fort's dock to meet with three miners that required an escort to the colony's Ebony mine.
The three miners were all armed with short blades but admitted that none of them were warriors and were relieved to have an armed escort to the site of the future colony. They need not have been worried, the walk was short and uneventful save for a wolf the three of them would have had no trouble with.

Waiting for us at the site were the two torches I had spotted a few days ago and an Imperial who introduced himself as 'Falco Galnus', a Company man and the one in charge of the every-day responsibilities of the colony. Naturally he had a job for me, but it was a very simple one: find and bring four pieces of raw Ebony back to Carnius as proof to the Company's investors that the colony is worth their money.

This could not have been simpler, the veins of Ebony ore were on the surface along a rock right behind Falco. He could have gotten the four pieces himself with barely more effort than it took to tell me to do it. But I complied and pried four chunks of raw Ebony from the outcropping of rock behind him and walked back to the fort.
Carnius rewarded my meager effort with one hundred Septims and a piece of paper he called a 'stock certificate' which he claimed would somehow increase in value as the colony of Raven Rock became increasingly successful. Each employee of the Company here on Solstheim has one of these papers and can exchange it for coin at any time.

I was told to return in three days to receive more work from the Company and with nothing left to do at the fort I began the long walk back to the Skaal's village to report my success with the Stones. As a reward Tharsten Heart-Fang gave me a large mace that looked to have been carved from a block of ice. It also weighed about as much as a block of ice and I could barely lift the weapon at all, so I gratefully declined the offer stating that the weapon should stay with the Skaal, not with a Khajiit whose travels might take her very far from this place. This excuse was accepted with a nod and a smile, it is likely the Nord knew I could not wield it to begin with.

The Skaal chief also had another test for me, this one of wisdom which involved me investigating a crime that someone was accused of in the village. A well-liked warrior named 'Engar Ice-Mane' stood accused of stealing valuable furs from fellow villager 'Rigmor Halfhand'. I was to question the two of them and figure out if the accusation had merit.

I first spoke to the accused. Engar had not much to say in his own defense, but expressed surprise that Rigmor would accuse him so, as he had been a friend of Engar's and Engar's wife for a long time. As soon as he said "wife" I had an inkling of what I was going to be uncovering and I was not wrong.

Rather than speak to Rigmor next and hear his useless denials I sought Engar's wife, Risi Ice-Mane to see if I could cut to the heart of the matter. She confessed that she and Rigmor had, in her own words, "spent some time together", but she told me that she had thought their involvement with each other to be over. She asked that I speak to Rigmor on her husband's behalf.

Rigmor proved to be far less crafty than I anticipated. He spoke of Engar as an uncaring man who abandons his wife for weeks at a time so that he could hunt, but then spoke glowingly of how much better a husband he would be for Risi. Not a subtle man. When I confronted him about his brief affair he crumbled and admitted that the accusation was not true and that he thought Engar would have chosen immediate exile rather than death, with only the latter receiving any investigation at all.

He bore his guilt bravely and asked to be escorted to Tharsten for judgement. However, judgement was not Tharsten's to render, but mine. The chief explained that I could choose either exile for Rigmor or death by the spirit wolves of the Skaal. Exile would erase the man from existence so far as the Skaal were concerned and prevent the man's soul from being granted rest after he died. The wolves were actually spirits that would be summoned for this occasion and would kill Rigmor quite quickly. This was described as an 'honorable' death and one that would erase the stain his deceit had wrought upon him.

I had to choose immediately with no counsel and chose the wolves for Rigmor because that was what had awaited Engar if Rigmor's plan had succeeded. Tharsten commended my choice and praised the mercy I was showing the man by letting him die in combat. For this apparently wise decision, I was gifted again, but at least the wolf head helmet I was given is light enough for me to carry.
With my reputation among the Skaal boosted, I made a second attempt to purchase supplies from the village smith. This one was more successful and I even managed to bargain off the rest of the witches' silvered daggers off on the armorer, greatly enriching me and lightening my inventory considerably.

But Tharsten had yet another test for me. I had passed the Test of Loyalty and the Test of Wisdom, now I was to take on the Test of Strength, which admittedly is not something Khajiit are generally known for.

He directed me towards the lake where the shaman Korst Wind-Eye would meet me. I had a pretty good idea of what the test involved when I got close enough to the lake to notice a huge pillar of fire shooting up out of it.
Korst was warily watching the flame and waved me over as I approached. He said that the chief suspected the flame was due to a powerful Draugr wizard that was buried under the lake, but Korst feared that the flame was the herald of something called the 'Bloodmoon Prophecy', which I have never heard of before. He would not say much about it, only that the Prophecy would mean that wolves would walk like men and devour the inhabitants of Solstheim. Quite a grim business, but I had a very cold swim ahead of me underneath a column of fire.

Once I was underwater and under the flame, I could see that there was a mound of earth at the bottom of the lake and a shimmering magical shield covering an entrance. This was the Draugr wizard's home and one he evidently sought to keep dry. The barrier permitted no water to pass through, but I had no such difficulties.

Save for its location there is not much to say about the place. The usual undead Nords and skeletal wolves patrolled the place, but attacked singly and were easily killed.

Far more interesting was the Draugr Lord himself, a former wizard named Aesliip and his story was quite a sad one, if true. 

He had been a powerful sorcerer among the Skaal in his time, many centuries ago. But he grew too curious for their liking and was cast out, exiled forever from his own people. Undeterred, he continued his research and discovered that Daedra had somehow formed or collected or traveled to this cave so that they might rise up from the lake in secret and ambush the Skaal, wiping them from existence. 

Aesliip returned to his people to warn them, but he had been exiled and his words may not have even been heard at all. So he returned to this ancient cavern and erected a barrier that would keep the Daedra from leaving the underwater cavern. This he did for many years, but eventually he grew old and knew the Daedra would run free as soon as he died.

So he used the knowledge he had to transform himself into Draugr, but without losing his mind and his powers. He asked for me to join him in venturing further into the cave to defeat the Daedra and finally end their threat to Solstheim. I was moved by his story of sacrifice and agreed to accompany the Draugr wizard. 

It was good of me to do so. The man may not have been a giant in his day, but his transformation gifted him a great deal of strength. Our opponents were all very powerful Frost Daedras, but a punch or kick from him sent them reeling.
Together we defeated all of the Daedra and he was relieved of his undeath, finally finding the peace he had spent so much time maintaining for an island that had just about forgotten him entirely. He granted me his ring, but I cannot tell what it is enchanted with.

Korst was pleased to see me return and was surprised that I had not killed Aesliip, but after I explained he doubled his thanks and called me a true Skaal, asking me to go on ahead and report to Tharsten what had occurred.

The walk from the lake was a quick one and I had just started speaking to the chief when one of the village warriors burst into the Hall, yelling that they village was under attack by werewolves.

I have heard tales of lycanthropy while in Cyrodiil, but never encountered anyone afflicted by it. I do not know much about the disease itself, save for that it is seen as a "blessing" from the Daedric Prince Hircine. I have heard stories of werewolves, but also of werebears and wereboars and even werecrocodiles, though the latter seems too strange and unwieldy to be true. The one thing they all are said to have in common is a weakness to silvered weapons, such as the spear I have been carrying around with me for the past month alongside the Daedric one.

I ran out of the Hall and nearly right into the claws of a werewolf.
It was a powerful opponent, but curiously not very agile in combat. The rumors of being weak to silver might be true: for the werewolf became reluctant to come very close so long as I kept poking at it with the spear. While I was busy with my opponent, the Skaal village was fighting back the wave of werewolves quite well and by the time my own had been dispatched, they had accounted for three of the creatures themselves. 

Rather than help them eliminate the rapidly declining invasion force, I went back into the Hall only to find the same situation as what befell the Imperial fort: Tharsten was gone and the Hall's guards were dead. Three werewolves were still sniffing about when I entered the Hall and quickly it became a game of Khajiit-versus-dogs, with my spear and agility winning the day.

Korst Wind-Eye was waiting for me outside after I had made sure the Hall was clear of invaders. He thanked me once again for protecting the Skaal and delivered some very unfortunate news: his magic indicated that I had been infected by one of the werewolves. Left alone, the disease will turn me into a were-something, likely mindless and hungering after flesh. 

The shaman certainly appeared confused as to why his news was not greeted with dismay on my part. To be honest, I am not concerned. As he said, I have three days to find a cure and I am far more curious as to how I became infected since I am supposed to be immune to disease thanks to Dagoth Ur's "blessing". It is no matter I suppose, so long as I find a cure before three days pass.

Until I am cured I am not allowed to stay at the village for fear of infecting others. I decided to visit Thirsk to get some rest, but when I arrived I found that they had fared little better than the Skaal had.
The sole survivor, a young Nord named 'Svenja', told me of a great black creature that suddenly stormed the Hall and slew everyone after a short, but vicious battle. I thought it might have been a werewolf, but Svenja is convinced that the monster is a creature the Nord call the 'Udyrfrykte'. The melting of the lake's ice due to the great flames likely melted this Udyrfrykte's icy prison, freeing it to cause death and mayhem on Solstheim. Svenja pleaded with me to defeat the monster before others were killed. She offered to turn over the Hall itself to me should I return with a trophy of my hopefully successful combat against whatever the monster was.

Infected as I was, I accepted the task so that the Hall would remain open, under my watch or someone else's. The Nords of Thirsk had been oddly accepting in their own way and my little room upstairs had eased my requirement to travel back to the Fort to rest at the end of the day. Simply leaving the place wrecked as it was would have been unjust and ungrateful.

But by then it was already well into the morning of 3 Evening Star. I have fought almost continuously since waking up at Kolfinna's yesterday, but a quick nap will have to suffice. The murderer of Thirsk awaits me, as does the cure for my transformation disease. More and more the island is becoming a strange reflection of its larger sibling and I do wonder who will be standing in for Dagoth Ur this time around.

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