Sunday, December 16, 2012

Morrowind Day 29 - Beneath a Red Sky

13 Hearthfire
You never know how a day that begins in Morrowind will end. Today started pleasantly enough at the familiar Balmora Mages Guild and ends in the forlorn wastes of the Ashlands. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I reviewed my notes for the next Propylon stone over breakfast. The next stone somehow ended up as an offering at the small outpost of Maar Gan, which is situated against the west side of the Red Mountain. I wonder how the stone came to be an offering, for no devout pilgrim would offer up what he thought was a useless stone, yet someone knowing what the stone was would probably try to sell it to a mage. Maybe I'm underestimating the pilgrims' faith. Either way, I faced the task of pilfering the Falasmaryon Index from a presumably well-staffed Tribunal shrine. I remember hoping I could just buy the Index from one of the priests, which only shows how little interaction I've had with the Temple so far.

Before leaving, I left the ring I had found at the tomb near Gnisis with Galbedir to see if she could figure out what it did. Masalinie sent me to Ald'Ruhn and I decided to walk to Maar Gan, assuming the trip would be somewhat hazardous, but mostly boring, the daylight limiting the amount of predators in the Ashlands. What I had not counted on was what Heem-La at the Ald'Ruhn guild called a "Blight Storm", the weather of nightmares.

The sky was the same blood-red sheet of lightning as it was when I was inside the Ghostgate, but I suffered none of the ill effects I had before. The guards were still patrolling the town and people were going about their business, their faces protected with full helmets or wraps of cloth. The dust limited visibility even worse than the usual dust storms, but the Ald'Ruhn Caravaner refused to take the silt strider out. As he explained, the storm was dangerous not only due to the visibility issues, but Blight storms have a peculiar way of bringing out Vvardenfell's worst creatures, some of them enough to seriously wound or kill a silt strider. So I was stuck on my original plan and started walking, very slowly and cautiously, north to Maar Gan.
Ald'Ruhn during the storm
I should not even have bothered. The red sky conspired with the dust to render it even more opaque than usual and I was reduced at times to crawling on my hands and knees along what passed for a road, lest I tumble down the side of a cliff or blunder into one of the many large rocks that dot the Ashlands. The Caravaner was right about the creatures, though his warnings about "the most dangerous ones" strike me as rather exaggerated: all I ran into were crazed Nix Hounds and hungry Kagouti. I think he just did not want to go anywhere in the storm, which certainly seemed the saner decision. Between the red sky and the constant threat of attack in a storm where visibility was barely five feet my nerves were on edge by the time I glimpsed the Maar Gan silt strider, though physically I managed no worse for wear.

Maar Gan is less of a town and more of a cluster of buildings surrounding a lonely temple. It seemed an odd location to build a temple, but I learned from one of the residents that Maar Gan was built on the site where Vivec, thousands of years ago, taunted the Daedric Prince Mehrunes Dagon into throwing a rock at himself instead of his followers.The shrine contains the actual stone...or so I'm led to believe. Pilgrims travel to Maar Gan in order to re-enact this historical event by taunting a captive Dremora held permanently in the shrine. Blessed by a powerful defensive spell prior to the ritual, the pilgrims cannot be harmed and the Dremora cannot be harmed. While I obviously bear no affection for Dremora of any kind, this seems a very unfair and pointless arrangement.

Before snatching the Propylon stone I visited the few services the place offers.The local blacksmith had a steel longbow in terrible condition that I was able to buy for a steep discount. It will be good practice for my repairing skills, as well as a better weapon than my short bow.

I came across a small memorial to a warrior named Ravila Neryon, who fell while she was attempting to cleanse a local egg mine of the Blight. The date of her death was not given, but the memorial's decorations looked fairly new and given that they were also undamaged I assume her body was not recovered.
An unusually talkative Dunmer woman struck up a conversation with me as I was admiring the memorial and confided that she thinks she'll be having a lot more memorials to dust in the coming months, as monsters have been managing to get through the Ghostfence and attack pilgrims and even the town itself once or twice. House Redoran has been soliciting volunteer fighters to defend Maar Gan and the response has been surprisingly good, but in the Dunmer's opinion, it would take a concentrated effort by all of the great Houses to eradicate the threat for good. Her opinion on the chances of that cooperation happening was not optimistic.

When I mentioned I had walked from Ald'Ruhn, she cautioned me that the Blight storms can turn animals into monsters, but I hadn't encountered anything unusual. She had heard that people can become afflicted by being outside in the storms as well, though she admitted there has been no verified cases of that happening.

I visited the shrine and realized that it would be nearly impossible to just snatch the stone and run. I had expected the shrine to be similar to the little shrines dotted in the cantons of Vivec, but this was a large room with a permanent staff and regular foot traffic in the form of patrolling guards, visiting pilgrims, and the captive Dremora. I spoke to one of the staff about the stone, but he denied any responsibility, telling me to speak to the priest in charge.
The priest was of no help, insisting that the stone was a valuable gift from a pilgrim and could not be sold for any price. I resisted telling him that the stone was of no value unless it was put to the use it was made for. Eventually he grew tired of my inept negotiation and snapped at me that he hoped my business would be concluded soon. With that, he retired through a door in the back of the shrine and an idea came to mind.

Of the many worthless items I frequently come across, empty soul gems of the "petty" and "common" classification are frequently found. I've been holding on to a few of each with the idea that if I come across a soul trapping scroll, I could sell a charged gem to Galbedir. The "petty" variety, as the Dunmer refer to it as, looks pretty similar to the Propylon stone. Without the priest at his station, the only permanent staff at the shrine was the guard and the Dremora, the latter of which would probably be amused by the whole thing. All I had to do was stay out of the guard's sight and wait for a moment when the stream of pilgrims slowed down so that I could swap the stone for the soul gem.

I didn't have to wait long and I quickly stuffed the Propylon stone in my bag, gently placed the soul gem on the donation plate, and walked out of the shrine.
Close enough
The Caravaner in Maar Gan was made of sterner stuff than his compatriot and had no issues with taking me back to Ald'Ruhn with the storm still raging. Erranil, the Altmer guild guide, commented on my need for a bath, disapproving of the amount of dust I was trailing into the guild. Not my fault I have fur.

It was about four or five in the afternoon when I found myself back in Caldera's Mages Guild. Folms paid me another five hundred Septims for the stone and pointed me towards my next target: the Valenvaryon stone, held by a "wise woman" of one of the nomadic Ashlander tribes. He was only able to tell me that their camp was close to the fortress of Valenvaryon itself, east of Gnisis, the stone possibly having come into the tribe's possession through a raid on the ruined fortress.

I'm not sure why I felt it would be quicker to reach the camp from Ald'Ruhn rather than Gnisis, but I teleported back to the Ald'Ruhn Mages Guild (with Erranil's disapproval, I'm sure) and started walking, as before, north. The storm had died while I was in Caldera though and the comparatively clear sky of Vvardenfell was a welcome sight, though one that did not last long.

I had left Ald'Ruhn too late in the day to make it to Maar Gan before night set and the horrors of the Ashlands woke to greet me. I encountered no Nix Hounds or Kagouti this time, but did run into what used to be a man of Breton or Imperial origin, who was moaning and drooling uncontrollably as he staggered towards me, arms outstretched. His clothing was worn to nearly nothing and his skin was a sickly gray pallor seemingly stretched over his frame. I knew there was no helping the man recover from whatever ailed him and gave the help I could, skewering him with my spear and sending him to a merciful sleep. Rats and scribs, normally not hostile creatures, attacked me and all of the hostile creatures had the beginnings of the same growths that I saw on the Nix Hound several days ago. Symptoms of the Blight storm disease? I'll have to remember to look into it later.

I was hiking along the peaks of the Ashland valleys to avoid more combat and even with my Khajiit vision, managed to trip and tumble right down the side of a hill...into a camp of bandits. Not tumble a distance away from the bandits, no: I stopped rolling maybe two feet away from their camp fire. To say I surprised them would certainly be an understatement. Covered in red and grey dust, I wonder what their first thoughts were as to what creature I was. Whatever their guess, I was a deadly one, fatally striking the closest of the three in the neck with my claws, a weapon I disdain to use, especially against people. I flung her body away from the campsite in a surge of adrenaline and the other two backed away, flinging spells and arrows at me.

Their haste, and the night, lent nothing to their accuracy once I moved out of the light of the fire. Neither of them had any method of augmenting their night vision and I spent at least an hour stalking the two of them through the ashland as they fled. To their credit they didn't split up, but I do wish the last one hadn't begged for her life. It's the first death I've felt genuinely guilty about in quite some time, but had I let her live, what assurance did I have that she wouldn't have returned to cut my throat in the night? I hope she finds peace in whatever awaits us.
Another uneasy, restless night in the Ashlands. The best I can hope for is an hour or two of half-sleep before moving on to Maar Gan and eventually the tribal camp. Once I track down all the Propylon stones I'll be able to fling myself to every corner of Vvardenfell, greatly extending my ability to explore this land and find out more about what is occurring here.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Morrowind Day 28 - Propylon Progress

12 Hearthfire
I woke up this morning in an unusually optimistic mood. I've accomplished a lot more than I thought possible and I'm resolved to continue to push myself further. If someone had told me a year ago that I'd be in Morrowind, pretty much on my own and doing whatever I felt like doing, I'd have told that person they were mad. Why would an orphaned Khajiit barely accepted into the most-ignored branch of the Imperial military be in Morrowind?

I still don't have an answer to that question, but my skills have reached heights far higher than they would have back in Cyrodiil and the creatures I've vanquished a far cry from the bears and desperate bandits I previously fought. I find myself looking forward to what the next day brings and what I'll encounter or learn.

I'm enjoying being in Morrowind.

Using a scroll of Almsivi Intervention in the Six Fishes shifted me to the Temple Canton just under the rock the Temple calls "Baar Dau". I don't know a whole lot about it, other than that Vivec (the god), stopped its fall upon Vivec (the city) a long time ago. I assume it is still only Vivec that keeps the rock from crashing into the city, though the Temple is confident enough to construct something inside, judging by the scaffolding ringing around it. Khajiit I may be, but I would not  feel comfortable being that high in something that should not be in the air in the first place.
The disquieting sight of Baar  Dau
A lot of my time wasted today because of Folms's confusing directions. He said that the propylon index for the fortress of Marandus would be in a "storage area" in St. Olm's Temple. The Foreign Quarter canton has a storage area. The St. Olm's Temple canton has a storage area. It seemed simple.

Yesterday I had searched the St. Olm's storage rooms with no luck, but did find a locked door that my meager lockpicking skills could not open. Today, after a good night's rest, I was able to magically unlock the door, hoping that the stone would lay beyond. There was no stone, just a confusing series of events leading to no payoff. The door opened into a short hallway which turned to the right and into another storage chamber...with three Bonewalkers.
I fought an aggressive retreat, keeping them at bay and giving ground in an effort to trap the shambling group in the doorway. That plan didn't work very well, they simply pushed past one another in their desire to rend the flesh from my bones. I managed to kill one of them as the group worked their way through and killed another through another doorway into the first room of the storage area. I dealt with the third creature more conventionally in the middle of the first room, but had taken several blows from their claws by then and was suffering a persistent headache that  was making it difficult to think clearly. I pressed forwards through the storage room the creatures had chased me out of, only to be startled by another Bonewalker. Fortunately, they are not particularly difficult alone. I made a quick search of the crates in the room I had cleared, but only found plates, spoons, and other worthless sundries.

Through the room and down some stairs were a few atypical stone tombs, but nothing of value. Stairs leading up were the only way forward, but they led only to a shrine...and a dead end. That was it. What was the reason for the four Bonewalker guardians? Social status for the entombed? I'll never know why things occur in Morrowind they way they do. Overall, the entire episode led to empty hands, a dozen fewer arrows, and a splitting headache.

Discouraged, I decided to reverse my approach, working from the top of the canton instead of from the bottom. By the time I got to the plaza the headache had dulled along with my thinking and I could not remember why I had walked to the Plaza. Helpfully, a Dunmer recoiled from me when I walked by him, demanding that I keep my distance, lest I infect him too. When I asked him with what, he spat out some Dunmer word I didn't understand and pointed to the Temple, back pedaling from me the entire time.

The Temple is rather large, but is only staffed by a single soft-spoken Dunmer, Vaval Selas, who isn't even officially part of the Temple, but was hired as a sort of merchant custodian in charge of selling simple healing wares and maintaining the property. He instantly knew what was wrong with me when I stumbled in and provided me a chair while he prepared a potion. There was a small mirror nearby and I was curious to know what the Dunmer in the Plaza had seen.

I had not been infected for more than an hour by this time, but I looked terrible. The whites of my eyes had turned a bloodshot dull orange and seemed to me to vibrate in tempo with the pounding of my head. One (or more) of the Bonewalkers had infected me with Witbane, a disease affecting the functioning of the mind. Though it is not fatal, it is debilitating and makes you act very stupidly, such as my forgetting why I had come to the canton's Plaza. In time, I would have lost my ability to cast any sort of spell and in severe cases victims have lost the power of speech, though this is rare.

Fortunately, my case was quite light and recent enough to be quickly dispelled with a simple potion. Vaval asked no questions of me, but I told him how I had contracted the disease anyway, thinking he could shed some light on my quest. He expressed surprise and gratitude at my story, thanking me for cleaning out the storage rooms, but had no better idea of why the creatures were there than I did. I described the Propylon Stone and he had seen something like that in one of the back rooms awhile ago, but the rooms had become infested with rats (courtesy of a pregnant rat hiding in a delivery crate) and he was no fighter. I agreed to kill the rats in exchange for his permission to perform a search for the Stone.

The rats were...rats. Not much to write about. The Propylon Stone was on the floor in one of the small storage closets, looking like nothing more than an oblong, worthless piece of stone. I thanked Vaval and purchased some potions on my way out, leaving him to his peaceful solitude once again.
Judging by my stomach it was late in the afternoon when I left the Temple and I walked from the St.Olm's Temple canton to the Foreign Quarter, enjoying the cool Morrowind evening. I teleported from the Vivec Mages Guild back to Caldera and handed Folms the Propylon Stone, receiving a generous five hundred Septims for the task. My next target is the Propylon Stone for the fortress of Falasmaryon, Folms guess is that the stone is sitting on a donation plate somewhere in Maar Gan.

It was too late in the day to start out for Maar Gan, so I spent several hours in the Caldera Mages Guild training in various Alteration spells. When it got late I teleported over to comfortable Balmora and collapsed into an empty bunk. Tomorrow will be a long day of travel to Maar Gar, I'm hoping the stone is more easily found than today's was.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Morrowind Day 27 - A Mystery Solved

11 Hearthfire
Waking up in Okur's shack is certainly a step up from the Ashlands and I was served breakfast on top of it. Okur was very grateful for my assistance and we spoke over breakfast about her Cultist training and responsibilities. She is part of a program implemented by Kaye to reach isolated communities and spread the  influence of the Imperial Cult (and by extension I suppose, Kaye). Okur tackles her duty with devotion, but has doubts as to its success. According to her, the wilderness of Vvardenfell are saturated with agents working for the dominant criminal syndicate in Morrowind: the Camonna Tong.

Hla Oad is no exception to their attention, Okur knows of at least two people working for the organization as smugglers for illicit coastal deliveries from the mainland. For her part, she keeps her eyes open and her mouth shut and they don't give her any trouble. She also has suspicions that the Imperial Thieves Guild is trying to encroach on their business, but without much success. She certainly injects a bit more character into the town, but Hla Oad is never going to win me over.

After reporting my success with Okur's ghost, he gave me several scrolls that had been donated to the Imperial Cult. But I've exhausted Kaye of tasks for him to give me and he "regrettably" informed me that I could not rise in rank until my skills with Restoration magic and blunt weapons increased. As I do not use blunt weapons or Restoration magic, I suppose my brief employment with the Imperial Cult has come to an end. I was getting a bit tired of it anyway.

I opted to walk across the water from Ebonheart to Vivec and spent the rest of the morning touring the Mages Guilds, looking for cheap spells and potions to buy and talking to everyone about the Dunmer fortress portals. My conversations at Sadrith Mora's guild led me to Folms Mirel in the Caldera guild, whom has made a study of the portals and the method for controlling them.

He calls the portals 'propylons' for some reason and they can be activated via 'propylon index' stones, which fit into a slot on each of the portals. He knows where all the index stones are in a rough sense, but collecting them all involves more travel (and danger) than he is willing to shoulder. His proposition is for me to collect the stones and return them to him and once he has all the index stones, he will use them to enchant another stone to let me teleport from the Caldera Mages Guild to any of  the fortresses. They are scattered across Vvardenfell, making this an excellent alternative to boats and I readily agreed to the task.

The first stone was ridiculously easy: It was next door, for sale at the Caldera pawn shop. Five hundred Septims were sufficent for the broker to part with the gem-inlaid stone and Folms urged me to find the rest as quickly as possible. He said he had heard the second stone was shipped to St. Olm's temple in Vivec, but couldn't offer better directions than "somewhere in the canton in a storage area". Emelia, the Guild Guide, wished me luck before sending me off to Vivec.

Rather than walk across several cantons to St. Olm's, I paid one of the gondoliers at the Foreign Quarter to float me to the Hlaalu canton and from there to St. Olm's. My first stop was the St. Olm sewers, figuring that the most obscure storage areas would be located there. All I found though was another guarded Daedric shrine, which I avoided, and a nervous Khajiit who called herself Addhiranirr, refusing to talk any further.

I worked my way up the canton, searching through the canal works and encountering another grumpy Khajiit, this one named J'Dhannar, who told me to stop bothering him. I did find a storage area in that level, but I searched the area for quite some time with no luck. By the time I decided to give it a rest it already felt late in the evening. I hadn't bet on it being as late as it was though, when I stepped outside it was pitch black out. Rather than make my way back to the Mages Guild, I used a Divine Intervention scroll to shift over to the Ebonheart Chapel and from there the Six Fishes Inn, where I took a room. The search for the propylon index will have to be continued tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Morrowind Day 26 - A Simple Murderous Day

10 Hearthfire
Sometimes good ideas are what occur to you long after they're needed. Waking up at the Mages Guild in Vivec, I was not relishing the walk to Ebonheart for what felt like the hundredth time, when I realized I could just use one of my Divine Intervention scrolls to pop over there. With no Imperial temple in Vivec, the closest shrine to Vivec is located in the Ebonheart Chapel. Likewise, I imagine using an Almisvi Intervention scroll in Ebonheart will send me to a temple in Vivec.

And that's what I did, blinking into existence in front of the Ebonheart Chapel moments after finishing a more than usual leisurely breakfast in Vivec. Kaye was glad to see me and surprised that I had not only returned so quickly, but also with my presentation of Linus's amulet and belt.  Kaye's reward for my perilous adventure was the staff itself, plus a shirt that would temporarily increase my endurance, though not restore it.

I had little use for either item, my skills in combat don't lend well to the wide, clumsy swings of a staff and the shirt's enchantment was not sufficient enough to pique my interest. I donated both items to the Cult. Hopefully the next recipient of the items will have better luck than Linus did.

Kaye's next request was for me to go back to one of the dismal fishing villages: Hla Oad. A devout Argonian Cultist by the name of Okur was having visitations from the spirit of a murdered woman and Okur needed someone more combat-orientated than herself to assist her with putting the spirit to rest. Kaye only knew a little about the Argonian, saying she was one of the few in Morrowind with the Sight, which I guess is a way of saying she can be bothered by the spirits of dead people. He vouched for her trustworthiness though and I gather by his delight in my acceptance that this task had been passed around for quite some time. Not a surprise, for I doubt Hla Oad is a prime location for adventurers seeking glory and fame.

I broke my own promise again never to get back on a boat, but the walk from Ebonheart to Hla Oad did not seem worth the eventual destination and additional time, though I really do need to start walking about more often. The boat docked at the village just as dusk was setting in and I wasted no time in finding Okur, hoping to not have to spend the night in one of the squalid straw huts that passed for housing.

The locals have a wary appreciation for Okur, she seems to split her time between acting as a spirit medium and a healer of the various fishing-related injuries the village typically sees. Being an Argonian in a backwater village, the respect is reserved and in some cases grudgingly dispensed. I was directed to her hut and received the full story. The spirit was of a woman named Julielle Aumine and she met a violent end at the hands of smugglers when she managed to stumble upon their hideout. Her spirit cannot rest until her family heirloom is recovered from the murderers and returned to her husband. Revenge, of course, was also part of the requirement, but that was going to occur anyway.

Okur really did have whatever the Gift is, she was able to give me the number of smugglers I'd be facing, their names, a rough idea of their equipment, and the location of their base, which was distressingly close to the village. Morrowind may be an Imperial province, but it is becoming increasingly clear to me that the Imperial presence on Vvardenfell is a lot shakier than it looks. In any other province, a cache of murderers holed up less than two hundred yards from a village would have the wrath of the Legion called down upon them. On Vvardenfell justice is dependent on a bureaucratic Redguard, a poor Argonian living in a shaky straw shack, and a Khajiit trying to make a few more Septims.
The hideout was nestled against the hillside a short walk from town and I took my usual defensive precautions before entering, but I almost need not have bothered. With justice depending on such a mismatched trio, it is only fitting that my opponents were all one bottle away from death by inebriation.

Two of the smugglers, a Redguard and a Dunmer, were guarding the entrance and attacked me immediately...and drunkenly. The Dunmer's spells flew wide, one of them nearly hitting his comrade, and the Redguard lacked the aggressive finesse attributed to their unique combat style, retaining only the aggression in his inebriation. Both fell quickly, the Dunmer quite literally after tripping over his robes. The other two were further into the cave, only the Imperial put up any sort of challenge and even that was only due to the uncontrolled maniacal swinging of his claymore. Julielle's amulet was on the body of the second Dunmer, a nondescript trinket save for an inscription too worn to make out. Their sleeping area was completely strewn with nearly empty bottles and coins, artifacts of the celebration of their most recent heist.
Okur received the amulet somberly, promising to see that Julielle's husband received it. Her promise suggests an assumption on her part that I care about the issue more than I do, but like I wrote earlier, I suspect that this task has been waiting for quite some time now. Okur had nothing else to offer me and being as poor as she was I didn't think of asking her for anything, but she did offer me a filling, if simple, dinner and a clean bedroll on the floor for the night, both of which I accepted.

I know that I am ultimately doing some small bit of good in fighting smugglers and bandits, but I have never sought out combat solely for the sake of killing another person and the ease at which I have been doing so while in Morrowind is starting to weigh on me. I was never a great warrior in Cyrodiil and this seemingly new ability of mine makes me feel like I'm walking in someone else's fur. Perhaps I'm just feeling guilty. I don't know. I think I have had my fill of the Imperial Cult for awhile. Maybe tomorrow I'll start gathering information on those chambers at the Dunmer fortresses. Someone at the Mages Guild might have an idea. Otherwise I might check in with my friend at Balmora and see if there is anything to do. Or maybe I should travel to the northeast corner of Vvardenfell.

The possibilities, as yet, remain endless.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Morrowind Day 25 - Vampires

9 Hearthfire
The scuttling of a sleepless mudcrab woke me a few hours after I stopped to rest near the water. Judging by how long the sun took to come up, it was probably one or two in the morning, but that was just as well. Sleeping too long in the Ashlands doesn't strike me as an idea good for one's health.

The wind had died down, leaving the dust on the ground where it belonged and enabling me to see far better. Near to my campsite was an ancestral tomb guarded by a patrolling skeleton dutifully clutching a rotting, ancient spear in its hands. The weapon nearly broke when I blocked a thrust with my shield and I sent the skeleton off to a much deserved final rest.

I was hoping to the tomb was a small one that I could clear out and use as shelter, but as luck would have it, I had walked right into a den of Vampires. The tomb looked the same as any other one I have been in, but when I opened the door, prepared to fight off a Scamp or ancestral spirit, a shirtless Imperial attacked me. I thought him a bandit at first, but Imperials do not normally have fangs, nor do they spend more time trying to bite you than stab. This Vampire, whomever he used to be, was obviously young and his hunger was strong enough to make an afterthought of the dagger he was wielding. He kept trying to grapple and bite me, but I used the doorway to limit his movements and he soon expired, my spear having been run through his unadorned chest and into his heart.

The corpse started turning into dust almost immediately, another sign that he was recently turned, or so I've read. The dust is understandably very rare and magical, making Vampire hunting a profitable, but extremely dangerous, vocation.

Vampires were the responsibility of a special branch of the Imperial Legion in Cyrodiil and I assume also the responsibility of the Imperial Legion here in Morrowind. But the Imperial Legion's reach does not seem to extend far outside the Imperial settlements and I was quite some distance away from any settlement, let alone an Imperial outpost. Had there been any elder Vampire in the tomb, I'm quite certain I would not be writing this journal entry, but the truth was far sadder.

The initial Vampire had been guarding a small chamber lined with pedestals and urns, with only one other door leading on, nothing unusual for a Dunmer tomb. Aware of what to expect, I activated the Armor of God belt and used up a Shield scroll before opening the door. A Vampire who was once a Dunmer male attacked me, also with a dagger and fell quickly, just as undressed and undisciplined as his companion.

Sadly, the third Vampire was a former Khajiit and a slave at that, the manacle still attached to her wrist. I killed her swiftly, but can't help hoping that she had escaped her slavery and enjoyed some freedom before she was turned. Slavery is a vile, antiquated practice, but what can one Khajiit do against the culture of an entire people? At least she was fully clothed.

There was only one other Vampire in the tomb, a former Redguard whom was walking around aimlessly in the last room, a large ceremonial chamber, and she was just as undressed as her two male companions. Very odd and just as dead as the rest of them. The tomb itself has nothing of value, but the dust from the four corpses more than made up for it. I'd normally be encouraged by such a rewarding skirmish, but even after I buried the Khajiit's final remains by the water, I can't help but feel sorrow over the direction her life had taken her.

With a heavy heart I resumed my trek across Mount Kand in search of the staff. Luck is a fickle thing and a dust storm reduced my visibility to barely in front of my face as I was trudging up a hill. I managed to find the entrance to the Atronach cave again and was about to enter to wait out the storm, but I was feeling a bit paranoid and climbed on to the ridge above the cave to ensure I was not being stalked by something, where much to my surprise the dust-blasted skeleton of Linus Iulus was, half-sunken into the ground through years of dust storms. The object of my quest was near the corpse, the staff covered by a thick layer of loose dust accumulated over the years. A belt and amulet, both obviously enchanted, were also on the corpse, and I took both items as well. How and why he fell will, like so many other things, remain forever a mystery and I left his remains where I found them, another unfortunate soul claimed by Morrowind.

I used a scroll of Almsivi Intervention to send myself back to Molag Mar, where the storm was still raging and decided to walk along the coast back to Ebonheart. After all, what kind of Scout could I call myself if I kept sailing everywhere?

I came across another Dunmer fortress between Molag Mar and Suran, but stopped only long enough to confirm that this one also had a magical chamber. What the connection is between these fortresses is something I need to discover, if only for my own curiosity.
A man in Suran approached me by the gate as I entered the town, ranting about Lord Dagoth's return and how he will wake from the Red Mountain and reclaim Morrowind as his own. Same spiel I got from the madman in Pelagiad. I pushed past him with no trouble.

While we bartered on the price for arrows, a merchant named Ralds mentioned that he had seen his neighbor outside past midnight, ranting and raving about nonsense, but when the morning comes, the neighbor has no recollection of doing any such thing. It sounds very similar to the madmen I've encountered and I wonder if maybe what they're saying is at least partially correct. I will have to keep it in mind.

I wound up bartering away the rest of my Imperial chain armor for one hundred steel arrows. After the combat the armor has seen and the somewhat inept repairs I've made, it was on its way to becoming useless soon. The lack of weight is also nice.

After that I cheated on my goal to walk from Molag Mar to Ebonheart. I had been planning on staying overnight at Suran, only to find that there were no available rooms to rent for the night. The prospect of spending another night in the wilderness made the decision to take the silt strider to Vivec an easy one.

Tomorrow I'll report back to Kaye. No doubt he'll have some other task to assign to me.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Morrowind Day 24 - The Deadlands

8 Hearthfire
Spending the night on a boat presents two sides of the same brackish coin: on one side, the typical Vvardenfell coastal is barren of any comforts, but on the other, the gentle rocking can assist one to sleep, should she be in the right frame of mind.

Unfortunately, I was not in the right frame of mind to be rocked to sleep and spent a restless, uncomfortable night. Even the boat owner was able to find lodging at the local Temple, trusting me not to sail away to pursue a life on the seas.
The canton town felt even less welcoming than the Telvanni Canton in Vivec, so I hopped off the boat and made my way out of Molag Mar, hoping to find the staff and be back in civilization before dinner. There wasn't much to distract me from my task. Molag Mar sits right in the Ashlands, a barren land that looks as if it should be devoid of life, but there are several hardy plants that seem to thrive here, as well as some of Vvardenfell's most dangerous beasts. I left the town and started along the marked road up toward Mount Kand.

Even the soil of the Ashlands battles against the unprepared, such as myself. Unaccustomed to the rocky volcanic soil, the pads of my feet began to ache until I ruined Bivale's gift, cutting the belt in half to make crude, but effective, foot wraps. Every creature I came across that would ordinarily have ignored me or run away instead proved hostile and I slew a good number of rats, nix hounds, and even scribs. The strangest foe today has to be the Alit, which is accurately described as a giant head with two legs stuck where the ears might have been. Deceptively fast, the first Alit I encountered almost ate my sword and I would have counted myself lucky had that been the only thing it consumed. As it was, luck was with me and I avoided losing an arm due to slipping in panic and tumbling down the side of a hill. The Alit was brighter and loped the long way around the hill at me, but by that time I had composed myself and the beast's giant mount was no match for the longer reach of my spear.
The path up towards Mount Kand reminded me unpleasantly of the path I painfully crawled up outside of Ghostgate, though only trepidation greeted me on my way up. The path turned to the left at the crest and I was surprised to see the common wooden door of an egg mine set into the side of the mountain. The door was quite worn, but I could see no signs of habitation outside of the cave. My desire to get out of the open and somewhere more secure drove me inside, a mistake that I'll be a lot more careful about not making in the future.

The door did not lead to a mine, but a rough cavern, whether it was hewn or natural, I couldn't tell. Large crystals jutted out from the floor and walls, capturing the fluorescence of the mushrooms growing around them, lighting the cave in dull purples and blues.

Alert as I was, the gentle shifting of the colors managed to disguise the Daedroth's approach and the first sign of the creature's presence was a powerful electric shock painfully coursing through my limbs. The shock jerked me against the stone wall, my helmet saving me from a concussion (or worse). My knowledge of Daedra and their minions is only slightly better than average, but the slavering crocodile-looking creature was known to me as a servant of Molag Bal, Harvester of Souls. Fearsome looking as they were, Daedroth were counted among the weaker of the Daedra, equipped with strong spells and strength, but barely above animal intelligence.

This one was unable to follow through on its successful ambush and strode towards me, flinging spells of poison and fire almost as an afterthought, its eagerness to close to melee range causing the spells to fly wide. Glad as I was for the creature's poor aim, they were very strong fighters and I thought about retreating out of the cave completely. But I've come a long way in nearly a month on Vvardenfell and rewards only comes to those willing to take risks. And as every Khajiit knows, agility and wit can always win against brute strength. The creature fell easier than the winged monsters from Berandas, but still proved to be a challenging opponent. I carved the heart of the creature from its chest, Daedra hearts are well-prized by alchemists and there is no point in being squeamish about such a thing.

Flush with victory, I continued down the corridor and turned a corner only to come face-to-face with two Daedroth milling around in front of a small hut, evidently occupied. They were slow to react and I ran back, not to set up an ambush of my own, but to retreat out of the cave. The single Daedroth was challenging enough, two of them, plus the occupant of the hut, would likely prove too much for me to handle alone.

I spent the rest of the morning wandering around Mount Kand, periodically activating Kaye's ring in an effort to find the Staff. If it weren't for the hardy plants and animals, I would rename this place the Deadlands. The "soil" is composed of ash, rock, and small glassy shards of previous volcanic eruptions which do their best to slice into my feet, even with the belt wrapped around them. The wind whipping around the plain is no relief, flinging ash and small pebbles against my face.

The sun was just at its peak when I found the second cave and I was only marginally smarter in how I approached it. Entering only after my Invisibility spell succeeded (three attempts), I stepped into what was almost certainly a natural hollowing of the earth, given how long I had to walk along the tunnel before I came to a chamber containing a Flame Atronach and a pool of lava. After the Daedroth, the Atronach seemed too easy and I continued along the tunnel on the opposite end of the small chamber.

Curiously, I came to a second chamber which might have been a pool of water at some point, but the occupying Frost Atronach had frozen it into a sheet of ice. The Atronach, again, fell surprisingly easily. The last chamber was another pool of water, this time with bolts of lightning flying from it, due to the Storm Atronach meandering about. It fared no better than its cousins did. I find it curious that the cavern should only have three rooms, each with an Atronach of different element. Perhaps it served a mage long gone to store the Atronachs there. I suppose I'll never know.

I rested for a while just outside the cavern door, washing my lunch down with a cheap endurance restoration potion to fortify myself for the searching I still had to do. The landscape is largely unchanging, just valleys and swells of grey rock and dust, with the occasional dead-looking tree or tough plant poking through the ground. I spent the rest of the daylight hours pacing around Mount Kand, but couldn't find any sign of the late Linus or his staff.
I started worrying about shelter as it grew increasingly dark. All I had to do was trip over something in the dark and break a bone falling into a ravine. The only shelter I had come across all day was the two caves, one with Daedroth and one presumably still empty. But my search had carried me in a pretty wide circle and in the dusk I couldn't be sure I would find my way back to the Atronach cave.

Night comes swiftly to the Ashlands and I thought I had found shelter in the form of an abandoned house, only to realize as I got closer that it was the dessicated husk of a silt strider that I had mistaken for a dwelling in the Ald'Ruhn style.
I wound up not finding the Atronach cave, nor could I bring myself to somehow burrow into the silt strider corpse, so I'm laying down along the shore of a small lake to rest for a little bit before resuming my search early tomorrow morning.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Morrowind Day 23 - No Place to Rest Your Head

7 Hearthfire
The morning started the same they always seems to: wake up, eat a quick breakfast, and start off on my journey to where ever I am going. My travel pack was close to bursting though, so my first stops were at the merchants of Ald'Ruhn. I sold off a good quantity of supplies I had previously thought to be required, but had not used them since, so away they went.

While bartering with them, several of the merchants asked if I was looking to earn some coin on the side. I had rebuffed the first and second, but after Bivale asked me, I mentioned that two other merchants had asked similar of me. She sighed and revealed that a rich, young nobleman had purchased many fine goods after the death of his family, but was now late in paying the Ald'Ruhn merchants. The coins Bivale offered was to have me act as a go-between for the merchants and the young man in an effort to either collect the payment owed or retrieve and return the merchandise. 

Bivale did give me a good amount of money for my own wares yesterday, so I agreed to help. I must admit the possibility of getting in good relations with several merchants through such a simple task was also a factor. She gave me a list of individuals whom she knew was owned money by the nobleman, a Ienas Sarandas. 

Rather than talk to each merchant and likely get the same story, I asked a guard for directions to Ienas's house to speak with him directly. A dejected voice answered my knocking on the door and bade me to enter. I found a young Dunmer bent over his table, the smell of alcohol radiating from him and the empty bottles scattered around his chair. He immediately set upon a spiel of his misfortune and bad luck, ending with the fact of being so poor as to be unable to buy another bottle of drink. 

I had been carrying a flask of Flin with the intention of selling it at some point, but I offered it to the man and he gratefully accepted, complimenting me on my generosity and quality of the vintage. Then he broke down, sobbing about how he ruined his life and squandered his family's money. He had sold off most of his furnishings and all his family heirlooms in an effort to make ends meet, but his desires outpaced his budget and he had little left, save for the simple furnishings in his home and the clothes on his back.

The clothes on his back lasted for all of about five minutes. After confessing to his gambling problem and realizing he had no hope of continuing his present lifestyle, he stripped the offending clothes from his body and asked that I return them with his apologies. As for the man himself, he declared he would start a simpler life and dedicate himself to the Temple. I'm just glad he didn't owe anyone his pants.

My fiendish plan to earn the merchants' goodwill worked perfectly. They were all grateful for the items returned, but also for the change in Ienas, who was actually quite popular around town, which explains the amount of credit he was able to leverage. They thanked me for "saving" him, but he was his own salvation. Himself and a bottle of Flin.

No one in the Ald'Ruhn Mages Guild could tell me anything about the magical portals at the two Dunmer fortresses, so I teleported to Balmora, was immediately propositioned by Ajira in some money-making scheme of hers and compromised by selling her a bunch of potions that I couldn't see myself using soon. But no one in the Balmora guild knew anything either, nor in the Vivec guild, which was surprising. 

With little to do and unwilling to keep bouncing from one guild to another, I made the Walk again between Vivec and Ebonheart in order to report the witch's death to Kaye. He was unusually cordial and seemed glad to see me return, fretting about how difficult the assignments are getting. I hadn't the heart to tell him how quickly the witch was taken care of and he handed me a simple ring that would enable me to shoot flames from my fingers. This would undoubtedly burn the fur right off my hands and I'll be selling it as soon as I can.

For my next job, Kaye has tasked me with tracking down an Imperial Cult possession: The Silver Staff of Shaming. An Imperial Cultist, Linus Iulus, disappeared some years ago near Molag Mar with one of the staffs of Shame. The Imperial Cult Oracle had a vision of the staff and now needs it retrieved. According to Kaye, the Oracle was responsible for sending Linus out to Molag Mar to execute a traitor, but the man never returned and the Oracle has been feeling guilty about his apparent demise. 

Unfortunately, her guilt is clouding her crystal ball (or whatever she uses) and Kaye could only tell me that the staff was either to the west or east of the Mount of Fear, another name for Mount Kand. Kaye apologetically gave me a ring to help detect enchanted items and wished me luck.

I know I swore not to take boats anymore, but I wound up sailing out of Ebonheart to Tel Branora, which I skipped visiting, sailing immediately to Molag Mar, which I arrived at late in the evening. The  entire outpost is built exactly like a Vivec canton, only without a roof on the top level. The local tavern, Saint Veloth's Hostel, offers no accommodations at all. It is assumed that if you're at Molag Mar, it's either at the service of the Temple or for a pilgrimage and that such services will be found with them. 

As I neither work for the Temple nor am on a pilgrimage, I paid ten Septims to sleep on the boat. Ah, the simple joys of adventuring.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Morrowind Day 22 - A Calm Day

6th Hearthfire
Spent a fitful night in the magical chamber of Berandas, waking up exhausted, but no longer bleeding. I dragged myself out of the Berandas chamber of Swirling Colors and continued plodding towards Ald'Ruhn.

Travelling along the coast, I came across another Dunmer fortress tucked among the hills, but this one did not appear to be in nearly as bad of shape as Berandas, being much larger and built-up.
I cautiously entered the smaller of the two buildings and confirmed my suspicions. This fortress had a similar chamber of magic as Berandas does, though still no clue as to the purpose. Transportation perhaps? I should ask around the Mages Guild when I reach civilization again.

The reckless, foolish part of me wanted to explore the fortress, but the pitiful remains of my equipment prevented me from undertaking anything that might result in further damage.

The giant rats that seem to be everywhere are normally skittish creatures, but I was attacked by three of them today, all of the showing strange growths on their bodies. The dreaded Nix Hounds have always been stupidly hostile, but the one I slew today also appeared to be very sick.

It seems other people were having troubles of their own with unusually aggressive animals. I was flagged down on the road by a Dunmer woman named Drulene Falen. She owned a small farm just off the side of the road, hidden by the swells of the West Gash plain. She explained that she had lost several of her Guar to hostile mudcrabs already and another was just dragged off this morning by the determined creatures. She was fretting about losing her farm and moving back to her hometown on the mainland.

I agreed to help her, from one immigrant to another I suppose. The mudcrabs managed to somehow drag the guar up the steep hills separating the West Gash plains from the humidity of the Bitter Coast  and when I finally managed to climb the hills myself, the humidity and stench of swamp welcomed me back. The mudcrabs were easy to find and instead of pretending to be a rock as they usually do, both of them advanced on me, snapping their pincers. Brave, but only foolishly. The guar was already dead, but Drulene offered me some hackle-lo leaves for my efforts. A simple reward for a simple task.

A second task came upon me quite strangely. I encountered a finely dressed Argonian named Rasha further down the road who asked if I was heading to Ald'Ruhn. After I told him I would be passing by, he asked me to deliver several shirts of his to a clothier there. I agreed to deliver the shirts since I was going there anyway and found out then that the delivery included the shirt he was wearing. I left the shirtless Argonian on the road as I stuffed the shirts into my pack.

The clothier, Bivale Teneran, gave me a belt she called the "Belt of Iron Will". She claimed it would increase my chances of successfully casting spells, but the belt I received in Vivec has so far turned out to be quite useful. It would be rude to sell the belt to someone in Ald'Ruhn, so I'm carrying it with me for the time being. Bivale did give me a fair amount of coin for the amulets and and mundane rings I had gathered. which I put to use purchasing supplies to repair my armor with.

The repair of my armor was as time-consuming as it was miraculous. The condition of my armor is by no means perfect, but the repairs managed to put it back into 'serviceable' category  The repair of the Admantium was far more complex than the Imperial chain armor supplementing it and I took my time, not wanting to permanently damage the nearly irreplaceable armor. 

It wasn't late by my usual standards when I completed my repairs, but it was late enough that starting anything new would simply drag into the next day. With that in mind, I've retired to the Ald Skar Inn earlier than usual and I'm planning on greatly enjoying the additional rest.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Morrowind Day 21 - Taking Berandas

5th Hearthfire
I woke a little earlier than usual and walked out into another dark and foggy morning. Given my late start, I ate my breakfast as I walked along the river, intent on reaching a south-bound road to Caldera at some point. The constant overcast and rain made for a very dark morning, but the wilderness has ceased to be a cause for great concern and the lack of light has never bothered a Khajiit.

While walking along the river, I noticed the odd stone arch formation that the publican at the Tradehouse had mentioned yesterday. He had said it was along the coast, so I thought he meant along the coast of the sea, but I suppose he could have meant along the river. Sure enough, an ornate door was set into the side of the hill just below the arch on the opposite side of the river. A quick water walking spell (I'm getting better at this!) and I was inside the smugglers' hideout.

Whether or not I was mistaken about the publican's directions, the former ancestral tomb had been ransacked by some sort of banditry, who then themselves seems to have been overwhelmed by Daedra from  within the lower levels. The skeleton impaled against the ash pit just inside the tomb could either have been the works of smugglers or Daedra, but either way marked this tomb as no longer a family's ancestral home.
What few other remains I found indicate the smugglers, if that's what they were, met a violent end. Behind one locked door was a storage closet with a skeleton curled up in the corner and numerous skulls and bones laying about, all of them looking to be fairly recent additions.

The skeleton on the ash pile had been fixed there by a simple steel longsword, so that at least was done (probably) by the smugglers. The tomb continued downwards along a spiraling ramp, along which I encountered several Scamps and at the bottom a Clannfear, nothing I couldn't handle.The ramp ended at a small room with an altar, which had a single urn of ashes set upon it. My Khajiit blood must have sensed the ring, because I normally would not have disturbed the remains, but something drove me to sift the urn around and as I rolled the ashes around in the urn I gradually uncovered an enchanted ring. I took it, figuring the smugglers hid it there, and the magicka emitting from the ring is very strong, though I can't tell what it does and I won't wear it until I do. If the smugglers hid the ring there, then they were agents of their own destruction, the strength of the enchantment may have lured the Daedra to the tomb. There were two small chests near the altar, but they contained nothing of value.
I left the tomb in much the same condition as I entered it and climbed up the steep, muddy slope of the river and continued south. Not more than two minutes of walking and I found the remains of the smugglers. These remains, however, were alive, wet, and crouched around a dismal fire. None of them were visibly armed, but one of them happened to look my way and gave a shout and suddenly I had three Dunmer running at me. What is it about this place that makes people so reckless with their lives? Three against one are good odds for the majority, but again, I'm fully armed, armored, and trained to kill...Cyrodiil bears, mostly, but Morrowind has been a great teacher.

All three were magicka users and loosed ranged spells of various colors at me, all of which I managed to dodge. Rather than encircle me, all three of them charged my front, as if I wasn't holding a spear. With no armor and only daggers to back up their spells, they became easy prey once they exhausted their spell casting endurance, which happened rather quickly. If they were part of the tomb's smuggling group, nothing on them showed it and I left their bodies where they fell. The Kwama will find them before long.

Just behind them was a building unlike any I had yet seen on Vvardenfell. Squat and wide, it looked like the uglier cousin of Imperial fortress architecture. It also seemed abandoned, the stone wall crumbling in several places and the stairs quickly on their way to become a pile of rubble. I don't understand the reasoning behind building stone walls that someone could simply jump over and the architecture, from the outside, seems to make no sense. There are two stone buildings "within" the fortress: a very large stone building and a very small one. The large one contained two magical, and very colorful, portals that didn't seem to do anything.

The smaller one was the actual entrance into the fortress, housing a landing that descended into the actual structure. Judging by the exterior, I was expecting that the fort would have been ransacked long ago. What I found was very different.
Welcome to Berandas
Whether or not the remains were of the fortress's inhabitants or if they were squatting was impossible to tell, but the two impaled skeletons on the landing certainly served as a powerful warning. I admit I almost turned around right there, but the skeletons were very old and I incorrectly assumed the place would be abandoned by now.

Much like the tomb, the fortress was infested by Daedra, but unlike the tomb, also by more powerful Dremora warriors. It hasn't been long since my first fight with a Dremora in the sewers of Vivec, but I must be more powerful than I was, dispatching the demonic warriors were a challenge, but a welcome one after the eggmine of Khuul and the depressing meele by the campfire. The warriors were well-armed, all of them with Dwemer weapons, none of which I could further burden myself with.

I found a skeleton slumped against the wall in one of the larger rooms, the cause of death being the two very rare Daedric arrows embedded in its rib cage  With my aim, I'll definitely not be using them as weapons, but I could not pass up grabbing them anyway.
The second level of the fort existed only as a rough cavern, with a few furnishings scattered about. On this level I found the reason for the degradation of the fort, as well as almost meeting my death.

The cavern had been intended to be the unfinished third level of the fortress, but the original inhabitants only got so far as to roughly hew out a corridor and several rooms. More Dremora and Scamps awaited me and I dealt successfully with them, but I was growing tired and my armor was starting to become worn. Drawn to the smell and sight of what I thought was a campfire, I entered an alcove and was greeted by a rather gruesome sight.
Staying with the day's trend of "weapons through bodies", the skeleton was stuck to a large stalactite by a spear through the chest and a dagger through a hand. In the poor light I took the weapons for iron or steel, assuming the constant heat of the fire beneath them had blackened the metal. After (reluctantly) extinguishing the flame I pulled the spear free and caught unawares by the weight, fell off the brazier I was balancing on as the head of the weapon crashed against the bowl. I would have been luckier if the blade had chopped into the brazier, but the flat of the weapon rang off the edge and I might as well have rolled a gong after me and announced my presence to the rest of the denizens prowling about.

A hideous shrieking from somewhere further into the cavern was the response to my announcement and I hefted my new spear in an effort to determine what it was before the source of the noise found me. It was far heavier than any other spear I've used, but when I peered at the head of the spear, I realized what a rare find I was holding.

The spear head was probably three times the size of any spear I've yet seen and was cruelly barbed, designed not only to kill an opponent but to cause the maximum amount of pain while doing it. The faintly glowing markings engraved along the ebony were very similar to the dagger my long-gone Demon Tanto had summoned and I'm not sure how long I stood there (stupidly) gaping at the Daedric spear. Smaller weapons, such as daggers and short swords, are a bit more typical, usually owned by mater thieves and assassins. Weapons larger than that are normally found in extremely well-guarded museums and private collections. The price I could fetch for the spear could get me a private residence next door to the Imperial Palace...but the spear is probably too valuable to sell in Vvardenfell and unfortunately too heavy to carry with me right now.

The dagger was also Daedric, but I elected to leave it with the spear for now, since I was growing increasingly concerned about the constant shrieking deeper within the cave: It didn't seem to be getting any closer, but it wasn't getting any quieter either.

I left the alcove with my valuable treasures behind and proceeded straight down the hallway, but that was a dead end and I encountered only a single Dremora. The shrieking intensified as the sounds of our combat rang along the stone corridors. The Dremora was kind enough to leave a Dwemer halberd, but nothing compares favorably against Daedric, unless you happen to be particularly superstitious.

The shrieking creatures were deep within a large pit, off of a side corridor, almost two floors lower than the rest of the rooms. They were unlike anything I had seen before: half-bird, half-woman, the monsters had the torsos and heads of women, but legs of a bird, wings similar to that of a bat and long, barbed tails that somewhat resembled a scorpion's. Obviously they were Daedra, but not of any kind I'm familiar with.
Even from a distance these creatures were obviously formidable and I managed to enter their "lair" undetected thanks to my invisibility spell, but it only lasts for 15 seconds and the two of them were actively patrolling the pit. With only a few seconds left before my spell expired, I elected to attack rather than attempt to renew the spell. Still invisible, I lunged at the closed creature with my spear, but it (she?) somehow detected me anyway and hopped away, shrieking.

What followed was the most harrowing experience (so far) of my life. The creatures were much quicker than I anticipated and attacked with their tails, their wings, and even their mouths, lunging forward to snap at me with a mouth full of fangs. They were also a lot more intelligent, with one of them always at my flank or back and I don't know how much time I spent just trying not to die.

Their wings and teeth weren't very damaging to my armor, but the barbs on their tails cut into the Adamantium surprisingly well. It wasn't long before my the armor on my arms were nearly useless, courtesy of near misses on attempts at my neck. Very aware that I was going to die at this rate, I charged one of the creatures, desperate to take one out of the fight. It slashed at my legs as I closed in, doing grievous harm to the armor, but fortunately not crippling me as intended. My berserk attack  succeeded in spitting the creature with my spear, but it collapsed with an awful screech and wretched the weapon out of my hands, leaving me with no choice but to engage it's companion with my woefully short sword and shield.

Rather than draw out a combat I was fighting at a disadvantage, I risked everything, charging at the remaining creature, swinging both sword and shield at it until it collapsed in a bloody heap. There was a corpse of a Dunmer Legionnaire in the chamber who, oddly, appeared unharmed but had been dead for some time, the dry heat of the lava pits turning his flesh into leather. He had on him a pair of heavy boots that radiated more magicka than anything I had ever felt before, including the ring from the smugglers' tomb, so I took them, figuring that was my reward for what I had accomplished.

I managed to stumble out of Berandas and am now taking refuge in the portal chamber on top the fortress. I have no idea what time it is, other than that it must be very early in the morning. My armor is nearly destroyed, there is very little of my fur that isn't matted with blood, my spear is damaged, but repairable, and I am utterly exhausted. I've locked the portal chamber with my spell and piled all the furniture against the door. I'll continue my journey south whenever I happen to wake up.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Morrowind Day 20 - The Witch of Khuul

4th Hearthfire
Woke up at the Six Fishes at my normal time this morning and braved the placid, slow seas of Morrowind once again, this time on my way to Khuul to see about the witch Kaye assigned me to.

Trips via boat are already hardly worth mentioning at this point. A boat from Ebonheart to Hla Oad: five hours. Hla Oad to Gnaar Mok: four hours. Gnaar Mok to Khuul: seven hours. Sixteen hours on small, nearly flat-bottomed skiffs, with a polite, but quiet Dunmer my only company on every leg of the journey.

I write this now: Today is the last day Kerra steps upon any sea-going vessel of any kind. If I have to somewhere unreachable by magicka, I'm walking.

A Khajiit immediately offered to send me to the Imperial Fort of Frostmoth on Solstheim as I stepped on to the docks of Khuul. I'm not sure why any Khajiit would want to go there, we're hardly the type for cold living. He had a bit to say about the local egg mine, Asha-Ahhe. He had heard rumors that the miners were hearing mysterious voices and seeing ghosts. I had no desire to spend the night at Khuul, wasting another day on sea travel, so I purchased the location of the mine from him for a few Septims, determined to take care of the issue tonight.

I stopped in the local tradehouse to see if I could find out more about the mine, but the inhabitants are a droll lot. A Khajiit by the enviable name of Shotherra suggested that if I was looking for civilization, I'd do better to walk along the coast to the west, where House Redoran funds a small outpost with an inn. I do wonder how places like Hla Oad, Gnaar Mok, and Khuul remain in existence since most of the people I talk to in these places seem only to want to leave.

The mine was a little bit of a walk from the dismal village, but close enough that anything potentially hostile kept its distance, so the walk was without incident. I expected the miners to share the same disregard for visitors as the villagers, but they were surprisingly affable even before I revealed why I was there. The oldest among them told me he had tried to find the source of the voices they kept hearing, but did not get very far before his nerve failed him. He felt there was an evil presence there and refused to go back there for any reason.

I never found out what the evil presence was, but I did find two Dunmer and a Nord, the three of which did they meager best to kill me. Or rather one Dunmer and the Nord tried to kill me. I heard them talking among themselves as I was making my way towards the lake and with the help of my Invisibility spell managed to get one shot off with my bow. The "witch" wasn't hard to pick out of the trio, as she was the only female there. If she wasn't, the expensive clothing she was wearing would have marked her as my target anyway. I shot her to dispel what protective spells she might have woven about herself, but she had none and the arrow bit into her side.

She yelped, but I had already dropped the bow and was leaping at her as my spell fizzled out. I stabbed her as she was attempting to summon something from the Outer Planes and the force of the blow combined with my physical momentum knocked her off the small ledge the three of them were occupying. The shock of hitting the ground below probably finished her off if my attack did not and that was it for the infamous Witch of Khuul.

The other Dunmer retreated further into the cave, but predictably the Nord drew his sword and charged. As Auxiliaries we're taught that a trained spear-carrier can handle any type of adversary, but I've always been more comfortable going sword-and-shield against foes stronger than myself. It doesn't sound like it makes sense, but I don't see the wisdom in going after a Nord or Orc with a staff of wood topped with an iron point. Granted, my equipment is now several levels above the Imperial standard-issue, but old habits, especially ones centered around survival, die hard.

But an egg mine is not a place experienced fighters (or witches) choose to hide out in and a Nord showing the signs of skooma addiction makes for a strong, but clumsy enemy. He kept his armor in about as good a shape as his body and my sword found little resistance. His sword was done in the Nordic style and possibly hailed from Skyrim judging by the intricate lettering along the blade. It was the only thing of his that did not look like he picked it out of a trash barrel and I left the family heirloom with his body. Should the miners see fit to loot his corpse, let that be on their hands.

The other Dunmer's fate is not nearly as dramatic, though perhaps more fitting. In his retreat, he managed to blunder into the Kwama Queen's nesting area and was killed by her Kwama Warrior guards. The egg miners were not pleased by this, as the Warriors will be more aggressive for awhile, posing a threat to the miners whom the Warriors usually ignore.
I carefully crept by the corridor leading towards the Kwama Queen's chamber and found the lake where the "evil presence"  was said to reside. I was expecting something like a ghost or skeleton, some left-over from the witch's experiments, but the small lake area was quiet and rather peaceful. 

The miners were relieved to hear that the witch was dead. In their minds, she seemed a mighty sorceress, bent on twisting their souls and bodies to her own means. In reality, she was an Imperial Cult reject and never got a spell off, dying on the damp stone of the cave, just like the smugglers I've dispatched.

It was already late in the evening, so I used a scroll of Divine Intervention to move myself to Fort Darius in Gnisis. I didn't visit the Fort and instead went straight for the Tradehouse for some much needed sleep. The publican, Fenas Madach, told me I looked the "adventuring type" and confided that two guests of his the previous day had mentioned a cave along the coast they were using for smuggling. Maybe I'll look into it. Maybe I won't.

It's now about two in the morning and I'm barely keeping my eyes open any longer. I have to go back to Caldera at some point and return Nedhelas's basement key to him. I also want to speak to someone at the Mages Guild about learning some useful traveling spells. I also need to find a place to actually live. So much to do, never enough time, it seems, to do any of it.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Morrowind Day 18 & 19 - A very long day

2nd Hearthfire, 3rd Hearthfire
The past two days have been busier than usual and given that I worked through the night, today's journal entry will span both today and yesterday. Note to self: don't make this a habit!

I woke at the Vivec Mages Guild late, at 8am and grabbed a mobile breakfast before walking out into a dreary overcast morning. I wonder what it would take for the sun to shine on Morrowind once in a while.
A typical morning in Vivec
Aurane was glad to receive her Roland's Tears and exchanged a rare fate potion for them. I never put much stock into the fate potions myself, but drinking one was said to somehow link you to the Gods, increasing your chances of succeeding at anything...until it wore off. I can't see how a potion that relies on beings so capricious can always be said to have positive results, but I'll hang on to it until I can barter it for something more predictable.

With nothing else to do in Vivec, I decided to take care of some unfinished business back in Balmora. Ajira greeted me cheerfully when I popped into existence in her "lab" and I bartered the remaining gems I had taken from Arkngthand to her in exchange for various restorative vials.
I also reported my progress on the task my friend had given me and he seemed pleased, but said he would need more time to digest the material I had given him. He gave me some scrolls of Divine Intervention which would teleport me to the nearest Imperial Shrine and promoted me in his organization. What benefits, if any, come with my promotion remain to be seen. So I have some free time from my semi-official obligations for the time being and plan on making the most of it. 

By "most of it" I mean, "wander around Balmora wondering what to do". Working for Ranis at the Mages Guild was an option, but both Ajira & Sharn had recommended speaking with Edwinna at the Ald'ruhn Guild instead. I was about to teleport over to Ald'ruhn before Ygfa suddenly came to mind for some reason. The Nord had mentioned I would be a decent recruit for the more militant side of the Imperial Cult and I thought it would be a nice change from the Mages Guild, so I teleported back to Vivec, much to Ajira's amusement.

The walk to Ebonheart was much like the walk anywhere has been lately: cold, damp, and boring. I need to find more reasons to spread my travels around, so far I've been stuck on the Bitter Coast. I had been hoping that joining the Imperial Cult would widen the scope of my journey, but it did not, as further events would prove.
A few inquiries pointed me towards Ruccia Conician, head of the Morrowind chapter for the Imperial Cult.  She was quite relaxed about my joining, accepting my fifty Septim 'donation' and welcoming me to the organization. She recommended I speak with Lalatia Varian within the Ebonheart Chapel about duties. We spoke about my history and what I was looking She in turn directed me to Kaye, a Redguard in charge of the shrine sergeants of the Imperial Cult.

My first task was to track down an Altmer, Caryarel, who had been a patient at the local infirmary up until a few days ago, when both he and a valuable limeware bowl disappeared from the Chapel. Kaye had no information as to his whereabouts and suggested I speak to the local Altmer living in Ebonheart. This simple task would in some ways wind up being my most trying so far.

An Altmer by the name of Fainertil was able to point me to the fishing village of Gnaar Mok when I asked him if he had heard of Caryarel. The combination of his Altmer skin and the brutish iron armor favored by the Nords made it easy to mistake him for an Orc until he spoke. While certainly not unheard of, it an Altmer wearing heavy armor, especially Nordic iron, was a rare sight and I wonder what his business in Ebonheart was.
An easy mistake to make
I took the boat from Vivec to the fishing village of Hla Oad, but the trip took seven hours, owing to having to sail against Vvardenfell's counter-clockwise coastal currents. It's due to those currents that this journal entry spans two days, since I spent most of those seven hours dozing. The young shipmaster was surprised that I was willing to sleep on the small craft, but shrugged and mumbled her consent. The Dunmer as a whole are not to be sought for their skills in idle conversation.

She gently shook me awake when we finally reached the village and I was startled to see that the overcast afternoon had slipped into an overcast evening. My aquatic guide told me she figured it was about ten in the evening, which proved correct. I had no desire to spend the evening in the village and I wasn't tired anyway, so I hired a second shipmaster to take me to Gnaar Mok immediately.

The second leg of my trip was mercifully shorter and I finally arrived at the village at two in the morning. I hadn't napped on the trip over, but I wasn't tired yet either, so I walked around the town for a few minutes, getting my bearings and trying to locate my prey. Caryarel turned out to be easy to find, being the only Altmer in town. A limeware bowl is a large thing and certainly nothing he would be carrying on him, but I didn't know which house was his. A stranger poking around everyone's  houses would certainly raise some ire, so I had to settle on more subtle methods. A Khajiit who called himself Wadarkhu pointed me to Caryarel's home after my "gift" of one hundred Septims, saying something about not liking independent competitors anyway.

By four in the morning I was ready to put my plan in effect. Wasn't a big plan: wait until Caryarel wasn't facing his house, then try my unlocking spell to gain entry and hopefully recover the bowl before he noticed what had happened. Sometimes the simple plans are best, because it worked beautifully. 

Luck must have been with me, for he never saw me press my palm to the lock and slip into his house. The bowl was secreted in a worn barrel in the corner of his modest dwelling and I delicately lifted it out. With luck he won't notice it's gone for quite some time and he'll probably blame one of his fellow residents. Now that I had the bowl, leaving was going to be a bit trickier. I had no desire to kill the man, so I had to leave the hut before he decided to come back. In the end I simply trusted fate and sneaked back out as quickly as possible. Fate again was on my side (without drinking the potion!): he was preoccupied on the far side of the village and never saw me lock the door as I left.

I was not looking forward to the boat trip home, but then I remembered the scrolls I was given when my "friend" promoted me. I ducked behind Caryarel's shack, unfurled one of the scrolls and after a moment of disorientation found myself in the Buckmoth Legion Fort at Ald'ruhn, far to the east of Gnaar Mok. A short walk to the Ald'ruhn Mages Guild and I was making the journey from Vivec back to Ebonheart yet again.

Kaye was pleased that I had not killed the Altmer thief and gave me two hundred Septims, plus another three scrolls of Divine Intervention. He also promoted me one rank and I am now a Novice in the Imperial Cult. He was also quick to assign me another task, this time in the much more civilized town of Caldera. A Bosmer had been complaining to the Cult that his house, which he recently moved into, was haunted by a malevolent spirit that kept chasing him out.

By now it was eight in the morning and I hadn't slept since three in the afternoon the previous day, but I was still feeling pretty good. I am growing tired of walking between Ebonheart and Vivec though. If I had more confidence in my water walking spell I could probably jog across the bay to the city. As usual, the weather was grey and wet.
Does the sun ever shine on Vvardenfell?
I exchanged pleasantries with the members of the Caldera Mages Guild on my way out and managed to run into the Bosmer, Nedhelas, all by myself. He was embarrassingly grateful for my assistance despite having received none yet and gave me the key to his basement, where he said the spirit seems to live.

The house was quite nice by the standards of most I've seen so far on Vvardenfell and the Bosmer had apparently tried to solve his problem by piling crates over the basement's trapdoor. After several minutes of exertion I was able to open the trapdoor and descend down into the basement.

There was something odd about how the "basement" looked and the long descending stairway right after the ladder made it seem even odder. The mystery wasn't a long-lived one, I was greeted by an armed skeleton as soon as I opened the door at the end of the stairs. It was quickly dispatched and I took a moment to examine the crates stacked in the corners of the room, but they contained mundane sundries and utensils. The door opposite the one I entered from opened to a small ancestral shrine, from which streamed an angry (I assume) ghost. It was no different than the few spirits I had fought already and it passed on without much fuss.

Nedhelas was still full of gratitude for myself, the Imperial Cult, and the Empire. I managed to get away from him before he started naming thanks to any Gods he could think of. It was starting to get late by now and I was actually growing tired, so I teleported back to Vivec and walked, again, back to Ebonheart, a trip quickly wearing out its welcome.
Closest thing to a sunny day so far
I stumbled into the Ebonheart Chapel at about dinner time and Kaye immediately set upon me another task before I even said anything to him. I've been asked to track down a Dunmer cultist who fled an Imperial Cult raid on a Daedric shrine she had been inhabiting. For whatever reason, she is thought to be hiding in an egg mine near Khuul . Kaye handed me a sack of Septims for my expenses and bade me be on my way. He said not a word about Nedhelas and I was too tired to even bring it up.

Ten Septims later at the Six Fishes got me the bed I'm barely staying conscious in and it's only six in the evening. Hopefully I'll wake up at my normal time tomorrow morning so that I can get an early start towards Khuul. It will be the farthest north I've traveled so far, which is pretty exciting. I'm getting tired of Vivec and the rest of the Bitter Coast.