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.