Saturday, December 28, 2013

Morrowind Day 72 - The Underground Rescue

25 Frost Fall
Occasionally I wonder how Morrowind has existed so long without me. There are days when it seems as if no one I know is capable of taking care of the smallest task without my intervention. When I spoke to Galsa this morning about my stronghold, she exclaimed that it was good to hear that the construction was proceeding as planned. I rather thought it was her responsibility to see that the place is built properly and to hand it over when it is ready. Apparently not! She assured me that the construction should be finished soon, but I do not know what basis she has for that claim, for it seems it is my place to inform her about the construction of House Redoran's own stronghold. Very strange.

As planned, I went back to the Sixth House cave I found yesterday, but I have learned my lesson from Red Mountain and stopped home briefly to drop my bonemold bow and steel spear in exchange for my Daedric weaponry. Heavy though they are, there is no reason not to bring your best when fighting your worst. Cheered by another bright purple morning, I set out for the cave with a small amount of trepidation. I was feeling more confident in my abilities prior to my exploration of Red Mountain, where it was shown quite clearly that, yes, I am skilled, but I still have a long way to go before I can directly challenge Dagoth Ur. The Sixth House cave could not have been any more difficult than that, but I suppose it is healthy to have your self-confidence shaken a little bit now and then.
It's not really a short walk to the cave and despite leaving Ald'ruhn early it was almost noon when I was standing in front of the cavern door. A quick (but careful!) exploration of the initial rooms showed that I had actually cleared them out yesterday. There was another door leading further underground and I made sure to use all of my protective enchantments before stepping through the door and down a small stone staircase to another door. 

The door led to another bone-white tunnel of stone and I was immediately attacked by a nearly naked Dunmer armed with a club. His end came quickly. A lumpy Corpus monster was placidly standing at the end of the tunnel and fell to my arrows.

If I had not heard the tell-tale muttering, I would have been surprised to find one of Dagoth Ur's kin (or so I have been told) within the cave. The Ash Vampire was stronger than the ones I have already fought and I was injured quite severely by the end of the my victorious combat. The creature had a very powerful ring on it, but I could not figure out what it is enchanted with. That will have to be for Galbedir to figure out.

I do make it a habit now to carry two sets of healing scrolls: one that heals gradually over a long period of time and one that heals more effectively, but only within a short period of time. I could deal with the pain well enough, so I used the gradual healing scroll and proceeded onward.
A little worrying was the Dunmer I encountered after retracing my steps from the corpse of the Ash Vampire. The man bore the blank stare of the naked cultists I have always been encountering in the Sixth House locations, but this one was armed with a steel stabbing sword and armored with a steel cuirass, greaves, and boots. None of that proved any sort of threat to me, but I suddenly had a vision of hundreds of similarly equipped mindless Dunmer swarming over Vvardenfell. Not a pleasant thought.

Exploring deeper, I found what I thought was another dreamer and drew an arrow on him. But something made me hesitate and when he turned around and saw me he collapsed to his knees, babbling that he was a prisoner.

The man's name is 'Hannat Zainsubani' and as soon as he told me I remembered his father, Hassour Zainsubani, asking me to find his son in, quote: "...the Daedric shrine of Mamaea". I must have either forgotten that I agreed to find his son or been waylaid in my task, but either way I am ashamed to have left Hannat in the cave for so long when I could have found him earlier. Hannat did not know this of course and I escorted him out of the cave, after which he promised that if I visited his father I would be richly rewarded. He assured me that he could make it to Ald'ruhn by himself, but given the number of blighted Nix Hounds wandering about I am still concerned. He provided me a code phrase to recite to his father, that he blossoms anew beneath tomorrow's sun...whatever that means.

I watched him jog away with a surprising amount of energy for someone held captive underground and went back inside the cave after he had jogged out of sight. The cavern was now pretty much empty of the Sixth House, but without a lava pit their corpses remained where they fell. I am sure the next time I come across the cave some enterprising smugglers will have taken up residence.

The only enemies left were found down a section of tunnel I had skipped earlier, but they were few and isolated, posing no trouble to me. I did have one last interesting encounter with a fully clothed and apparently sane Dunmer woman. I had been sneaking down a small tunnel and turned a corner to see her pacing in front of what I discovered after her death to be a shrine to Dagoth Ur. I do not know what gave me away, but she suddenly spun about and yelled, charging at me with a simple wooden staff. She was adorned in cheap leather armor and I can only assume she was some sort of religious pilgrim prior to whatever caused her to convert to worship within the Sixth House.

The shrine had an odd looking stone statue that I guess was supposed to be Dagoth Ur and next to it a stone trough full of equipment. Some of it was not worth carrying out, but three items caught my attention. The first was a very...unique looking purple helmet crafted from large insect shells. It is not enchanted, but I have never seen anything like it before, so I grabbed it.

I initially mistook the second item for an ornate pot, but the weight of the thing surprised me when I picked it up. It appears to be a Daedric jousting helmet, as odd as that sounds. It completely encases the head and neck behind a layer of armor and I can easily imagine my skull and neck collasping under the weight if I was stupid enough to try it on. The face of the helmet is literally that: a fearsome visage has been carved on to it, but what tools are capable of carving so finely on to something as tough as Daedric-infused plate armor? The helmet must be very old, maybe a relic from some Dwemer lord long ago.

The third item was far lighter and smaller than the first two and the most easily overlooked, for it looks like a chitin dagger. When I examined it closer I realized that the "blade" was a large, sharpened tooth and the rest of the dagger was bone. Grisly, but the magicka radiating from the weapon is incredibly strong, so off to Galbedir this will go as well.

I backtracked from the shrine to explore a small passage I had skipped on my way, but it only ended in an empty room with two half-buried skeletons in it. The skeletons were each firmly sunk into the stone floor and how they became as such is a mystery.

And with that I had explored the entire cave system and cleared it of the Sixth House, rescuing someone in the process. I used my amulet of Recall to pop back home and displayed the two helms on top of a stack of books to keep them from sliding off of the stools they were balanced on.
Find potentially priceless Daedric helmet, use it as a paperweight. What else am I going to do with it? I certainly cannot wear it and I doubt any of the merchants are in the market. If I took the helmet back to the Imperial City I could probably retire for life very comfortably, but alas, I am still stuck here. And then there's the ring I pulled off of the Ash Vampire's hand. What powers does it have? How much is it worth? But if it cannot help me survive my next battle, then it is ultimately interesting but useless. I wonder if I could give some of this stuff to the men-at-arms I am supposed to have at the stronghold.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Morrowind Day 71 - On Patrol

24 Frost Fall
As planned, I spoke with Galsa about my stronghold this morning. It was a good thing I did, for she apparently does not have much faith in the construction foreman and asked that I visit the construction site and check on the progress. The foreman is an orc named of Bugdul gro-Kharbush and is (surprisingly) an unknown quality to Galsa. I am sure the orc's fortune will greatly improve if he satisfactorily completes his first House Redoran task.

Walking to Bal Isra, the name of the stronghold's location, was not terribly difficult from Ald'ruhn. The weather was clear and the site is conveniently close to the town. I encountered nothing more dangerous than a few rats and cliff racers and made good time towards the stronghold's location.
Bugdul seemed affronted that I would think visiting the site personally was a requirement for quality work. Gruffly, he assured me that the work would be done on time and to report to Galsa that everything would be as she requires. It must have been too early in the day for the other workers, for I saw none, but the main 'keep' of the stronghold was already built in the Redoran style.
With nothing else planned, I decided to explore the surrounding area for smuggler hideouts, figuring that must lie somewhere in my future duties as a stead-holder for House Redoran. I came upon a small camp of Ashlanders, but they were friendly and gave me directions to a smugglers' hideout somewhat north of their camp.

While looking for the hideout I found a steep, but workable, path up the side of the hills that separated the dry ashlands from the plains watered by the coast. Standing astride the hills and looking in one directions displayed nothing but volcanic ash and rock and in the other direction...I had expected trees and grass, but saw only grey fog and dead trees. The effect was rather unsettling.
The cavern that the Ashlanders pointed out was farther south of Bal Isra and the earth outside the door bore the signs of much activity and traffic. I admit to feeling a bit overconfident as I walked through the door, after all, had I not survived several trips to Red Mountain? A rude rebuke of my arrogance awaited me behind the door in the form of a well-practiced Dunmer warrior heavily clad in armor. He was a surprisingly skilled opponent and fought with a well-worn grace that I suspect came from more honest employment somewhere in his past. Whatever his history, it was not enough to prepare him against a Khajiit with a (summoned) Daedric spear.

Counting him, there were only eight thieves in the cave, but each one was extravagantly equipped and as a result were far tougher foes than I had anticipated. The best equipped was a Dunmer armored in ebony plate and wielding an ebony broadsword. He was clearly the leader of the rich gang and would have certainly proved to be my toughest opponent had I not crept up on him invisibly, silently ending his life. They had no decent treasure other than their odd equipment choices, but I left that with them. By clearing out the smugglers' den, I have probably saved myself the trouble of having to do so later when I take ownership of the stronghold. A retainer of House Redoran allowing thieves to live right under her nose would certainly not make a positive impression on anybody.

I left the cavern and made my way back to the hillside path I had found earlier with the intent to explore the remainder of the area between Ald'ruhn, Maar Gan, and Gnisis. After wandering around and getting attacked by Nix Hounds every couple of minutes I found what looked like a Dunmer family's ancestral tomb. I am no ransacker of tombs, but my history with the tombs has led me to always suspect them of harboring thieves and smugglers instead of ancestors. While I normally am content to let those ruffians be, it is becoming obvious that the Sixth House has been able to resurrect itself largely due to the activities of smugglers, providing House Dagoth with the materials it needed, either knowingly or not. So once again I dove into a tomb, expecting to face everything and coming out with nothing. In this I was not to be disappointed.

Honestly, there is not much to say about the tomb itself other than that my suspicion of it harboring agents of the Sixth House was unfounded. Instead, I had to fight animated skeletons armed with silver two-handed swords, two of the strange floating ghosts with one skull and four skeletal arms, and finally one of the winged female Daedra.
In terms of my effort to survive being rewarded: it was not. The only items of any particular value worth carrying out were jeweled rings worn by the six docile skeletons of whatever family owned the tomb. I contented myself with the alchemical ingredients I was able to recover from my undead and Daedric enemies and left the family with their goods.

My continued exploration led to an encounter with more Ashlanders, but this new pair attacked me on sight and died just as quickly. I do wonder why I continue to be so readily attacked by common bandits. The equipment I have on me should indicate I am no merchant or slave-Khajiit to be harassed or robbed, yet so many have figuratively rushed on to the end of my increasingly deadly spears. Fools, the whole lot of them!
It was starting to grow dark when I found the distraught Imperial pacing along the road. I could hear him muttering to himself and it was clear that the man was no threat, at least to me. When I hailed him from atop a hill alongside the road, he nearly jumped out of his clothes, but quickly introduced himself as 'Lucan'. He claimed to be waiting for someone from Ald'ruhn who had promised to meet him to purchase some equipment. Why anyone would want to meet someone on a dirt road in the middle of nothing interesting is a mystery, but he asked if I would be willing to carry his wares into Ald'ruhn and deliver them to an orc staying at the 'Rat in the Pot'. I agreed since I was already going back there anyway. He handed me two silvered swords, a hefty silvered axe, and a simple steel-shod staff after insisting I swear an oath to Zenithar that I would not shirk from my promise. The relevation that I lived in Ald'ruhn calmed him somewhat, but I suppose some people are just more nervous than others.

The last discovery of the day was of another Sixth House base of some sort, though I did not have time to explore it thoroughly today. From outside it looked like an abandoned egg mine, but it certainly did not appear to be one as soon as you passed the door. For one thing, the entrance was of some sort of white bone-like rock that I have not seen before and two, there was a mostly naked cultist charging at me as soon as I entered.
Further in I fought a tentacle-faced man who seemed to be praying when I spotted him and past that pious creature were two small rooms serving as cages, one with another tentacle-faced man and the other with one of the faceless. By then I was feeling tired and a Sixth House shrine is no place to test one's luck and fatigue, so I used a Scroll of Leaguestep to recall back to my home in Ald'ruhn.

The orc in the 'Rat in the Pot' paid me one hundred Septims for the delivery of the weaponry. I was going to then call on Galsa about the progress of the stronghold, but by then it was late enough at night that it seemed that task could wait until tomorrow morning.

I need to clear out the Sixth House mine tomororw, for I definitely will not be able to rest knowing that they are operating so close to what is supposed to be my future base of operations (I hope!). Other than that, I do not have any pressing tasks, though the delay in being confirmed as Hortator for House Telvanni is really beginning to eat away at me. I do wonder if waiting for the completion of the stronghold is really necessary.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Morrowind Day 70 - The Second Training Day

23 Frost Fall
Another somewhat relaxing and productive day today. I spent nearly all of it at the fletcher's in Vivec being taught how to better use my bow in inclement weather. Aradraen recommended the lighter native arrows of bonemold and corkbulb for outside of Red Mountain and the heavier steel and silvered arrows for within. I am sure this suggestion at least partially came about due to her massive inventory of native arrows, but it is an economical one as well, so long as continue to purchase my arrows from her. Bonemold and corkbulb are rather hard to find otherwise, but seem about as effective as regular steel arrows at a third less the cost.

A week has not yet passed from when I was told the construction on my little stronghold was going to start, but I do feel that the completion of it is instrumental to my success with House Telvanni. I suppose it would not hurt to visit Galsa and inquire about the progress that is hopefully being made. If there is nothing for me to do in relation to the fortress, I do think another trip to Red Mountain is in order tomorrow or perhaps more time spent in Telvanni territory on the east coast of Vvardenfell.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Morrowind Day 69 - Training Day

22 Frost Fall
My performance at Red Mountain was pretty good, but it also revealed that some of the skills I had to rely on are lacking, primarily my marksmanship and spell-casting. My first thought was to visit the Ald'ruhn Fighters Guild to see about training with my bow, then spend the rest of the day at the Mages Guild to work on my Alteration spell-casting, which I am far less skilled with compared to Illusion.

The visit to the Fighters Guild turned out to be a wasted trip. I could find no one able or willing to accept money in exchange for lessons with the bow and the only thing I got from them was necessary (and expensive) repairs to my equipment. The Ald'ruhn Mages Guild was no more useful for Edwinna has structured the Guild for research and scholarship rather than spell-casting. As a result few members of the Guild there are proficient enough to train others, though all of them are much more traveled than members from other Guilds. Useful for Edwinna's obsession with the Dwemer, but not very useful for me!

So it was back to Balmora yet again. I spent the morning with Marayn practicing my Alteration spells and Ajira for Alchemy, though neither were able to tell me who in Balmora would be willing to teach me how to use my bow better. On a hunch I visited the South Wall Cornerclub, the openly secret Thieves Guild headquarters, but no one there would train me either...understandably I suppose.

I stopped at Fort Moonmoth to speak with the head of the garrison, Larrius Varro. This was the man who I had been told was looking for me. Our conversation was short: he told a thinly-disguised 'story' about a magistrate (himself) who wanted to get rid of some bad people (Camonna Tong members). He basically requested that I go to the Council Club by the Silt Strider platform and murder the occupants inside. I care little for the Camonna Tong syndicate and have no doubt unknowingly slain a decent number of them already, but I am no bloodthirsty mercenary and I have larger problems and more dangerous enemies than them to worry about. Larrius hinted just as subtly that there would be a reward for such a deed, but I am passing on this one, at least for now. I will certainly reconsider should I encounter evidence that the Camonna Tong is working with the Sixth House.

On my way back to Balmora I was approached by a Sixth House madman, raving about the coming of Dagoth Ur. I wish there was something I could do for these people.

And that was it for the day, making this my shortest journal entry yet! I do need to find someone willing to teach me more about the bow and I fear only a trip to the fletcher's in Vivec will provide me with that. Traveling to that massive city always occupies most of my day and given the progress I have been making so far, I am loathe to spend more time wandering the cantons.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Morrowind Day 68 - The Failed Assault on Red Mountain

21 Frost Fall
The sky was unusually purple this morning, a nice change from the typical red or orange one sees in Ald'ruhn when the sky is not blocked by clouds. The weather was not only purple, but clear, making a nice change from the dust storms increasingly plaguing the town.

I stopped at the general store in Caldera to restore my stock of silvered arrows before entering Red Mountain. The trader, an Imperial named Verick Gemain, was the same man from whom I bought my very useful (especially today!) amulet of Recall. No one could fault Verick for a lack of variety in his shop: he carries everything from enchanted Dwemer war hammers to simple cups, plates, and everything in-between. This includes silvered and glass arrows, though the latter are too expensive to justify my wildly random skill at the bow. I have had days where every arrow strikes with fatal intent and others when it seems I could not hit the broad side of a Kagouti. It is very frustrating.

The walk from Caldera to Ghostgate is far simpler than it sounds, but I have noticed that the normally docile rats and cliff racers are increasingly becoming hostile, probably suffering the growing effects of living near Red Mountain. While I have only seen simple beasts affected by the Blight disease in this way, it is only a matter of time before the citizens of towns built near the Ghostfence start succumbing to Dagoth Ur's curse.
The view of the Ghostfence just outside of Caldera
The weather miraculously remained clear (and purple) all the way to Ghostgate, where the purple color faded away to clear sky. I activated whatever system it was that raised the first portcullis of Ghostgate and stepped through. The 'switch' arrangement still strikes me as incredibly insecure. Apparently to make the point more obvious, I was attacked by one of the faceless minions of the Sixth House as soon as I crossed the second gate. There was not even enough time to close the gate behind me before the creature started clawing at me, but the faceless creatures are not terribly difficult to overcome. I thought about leaving the body inside of the gate to prove my point, but that meant actually touching it, so I left it where it fell.
The expected Blight storm kicked up as I was trudging up the path, on top of which was another Sixth House creature, this time one of the tentacle-faced men. Dodging spells while walking uphill in a Blight storm is certainly an exhausting activity, but the creatures have a poor ability to track sideways movement and walking up the path at an angle made it much easier to predict and dodge its spells. Once in melee range it fell quickly to my simple iron spear.

I encountered far more enemies today than yesterday and I suspect, however remote the fear may be, that Dagoth Ur knows I was here and has bolstered his garrison, so to speak. Finding out where all these creatures truly originate from would be a massive blow against Dagoth Ur, but I fear that is a little beyond my capability right now to find out.
As planned, I walked along the same path that led me to Dwemer ruin yesterday, only this time I carefully went by it, hoping to explore as far as north as the northern stretch of the Ghostfence. Like most of my plans, this was not a realized goal today.

The terrain inside Red Mountain at the entrance of Ghostgate is not particularly dangerous or even noteworthy, but this changed soon after I passed the ruins as the path I was following became narrower and the landscape more broken. I very nearly tumbled down a sudden drop which loomed ahead of me, but whether the fall was five feet or fifty, I could not tell due to the storm. I carefully inched my way along the edge, finding (much to my surprise) a rope bridge.

Keeping to what seemed to be an old road past the bridge, I came upon a Daedric shrine nested above the path on a ledge. I am still not clear what the connection is between the Sixth House and the Daedra, if any, but I decided to peek inside a bit. The Daedric shrines do tend to be small on the inside, so I did not anticipate having to spend a lot of time there.
The shrine did seem to be fairly small: The path I was following branched up the small hill to a stairway leading to an observation platform of some kind. A Flame Atronach and one of the spidery Daedra was wandering around the platform, for some reason tolerant of each other's existence. Neither assisted the other against me and they attacked me separately, neither providing much of a challenge, though the spidery Daedra's spells did a fair amount of damage to my equipment. I really should find out what all these creatures I am fighting are named.

To my great surprise, the Blight storm completely stopped for about a minute as soon as the dispatched the last of the two Daedra. The timing makes me think even further that Dagoth Ur does know my location, at least when I am within Red Mountain. The storm did resume, but not before I met Llavelea Nelvani.
I was too busy admiring the rare view of Vvardenfell from the clear sky of Red Mountain to notice her inching closer to me, but when I did I cursed myself for being so stupid. She was fully armored in steel plate and armed with a well-used, but cared for steel long sword. I was not so surprised as to not be ready to fight, but her sword was sheathed and she immediately stepped backwards, assuring me that she meant no harm.

If anyone ever reads this, I am sure they could forgive my suspicion, given the circumstances. The tiny Daedric shrines in the sewers of Vivec were all typically guarded by a 'strong-arm' posted outside and I assumed she was similarly employed. She claimed to be a Temple crusader and had been preparing to descend into the shrine to eliminate its inhabitants when the Atronach and other Daedra suddenly popped into existence behind her. She managed to hide behind a broken column and was just about to attack them when I arrived. The story sounded pretty thin, but she said the episode had made her re-think her luck today and that she would be leaving for Ghostgate in a few minutes.

She sat down to catch her breath and told me I was welcome to the shrine if I had come to loot it. I only shrugged and said I was trying to make a map of Red Mountain, to which she shook her head, declaring it a folly and certain death. The irony of her statement would end up being a cruel one.

The shrine was about as small as I expected it to be and staffed by several Storm Atronachs, which was not expected, but easily dealt with. The cultists were a small bunch, only three and all of which I killed suddenly and silently. Perhaps I have an assassin somewhere in my bloodline, else they were simply overconfident in their Atronach guards. One of the cultists had a strongly enchanted pair of gloves, but I could not tell what they were enchanted with. I took them on the chance that they might be valuable.

I left the shrine expecting that Llavelea would have already started to make her way back to Ghostgate, but the Dunmer woman had not been given the chance. When I stepped outside (Blight storm still raging), I was greeted by the Dunmer's corpse, her steel armor torn and peeled away as if it had been paper. One of the winged half-woman Daedra had just begun to tear into the body when I exited the shrine. It's preoccupation gave me a slight advantage, but I was foolish for the second time today and charged the creature without checking my surroundings. I had just begun to attack with my spear when another one of the spidery Daedra emerged behind the winged woman, flinging spells at me.

Fortunately the spells 'only' damaged my equipment further. Were they designed to damage me I would have been hard pressed to win the melee against the female Daedra, but I was able to activate the enchantment on my spear to summon a Daedric copy and quickly overcame the creature. The spidery Daedra lasted only moments after that, for they do not seem to be particularly good fighters compared to most of their brethren.

Not sure what else to do, I dragged Llavelea's remains behind a column on the platform and covered it with debris from the shrine. Another adventurer claimed by Vvardenfell.

I continued down the road past the shrine and started to encounter Sixth House creatures in groups for the first time, making combat a much more unpleasant ordeal. I fought two battles against two creatures at the same time, but either by coincidence or plan my third encounter was with four Sixth House minions: one of the hulking brutes, a faceless Sixth House servant, and two of the tentacle-faced men. The faceless one and the brute quickly came within range of my spear as the two spell-casters flung lightning at me.
I could have likely been the victor of this combat as well, but I had already been feeling tired and worn from the day's stress and decided that my time at Red Mountain today was at a close. I retreated from combat and activated my Recall amulet.

I repaired my equipment as best I could and I may return to Red Mountain again tomorrow, though as it seems my arrival is now expected and planned for I might try to find something else to do for awhile. It is too soon to check on the construction of the Redoran stronghold, but perhaps I could spend a few days working on my magecraft.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Morrowind Day 67 - To Red Mountain

20 Frost Fall
I spent an unusually restless night at the Balmora Mages Guild. It feels as if the question of how to increase my standing within Morrowind has brought the responsibility of being the Nerevarine fully on my shoulders, all at once. I rejected the possibility of increasing my rank in the Mages Guild or House Redoran, neither would be impressive to a Telvanni.

Before falling asleep I had decided on traveling to Ghostgate and making a foray into Dagoth Ur's realm. It seemed like a fair trade for all the harassment I have been dealt on his behalf, at least while I was safely in the Mages Guild bunk. It felt like a much less wise decision when it came time to actually go there, but I reminded myself of my successes against the Sixth House, reasoning that I was at least up to the task of a brief walk inside the Ghostfence.

As expected, there are no maps and few individuals with any knowledge of what lies within Dagoth Ur's realm. My previous 'visit' to the Shrine of Pride with the Imperial had scared me a lot more than I would like to admit, but that was...a month ago now, maybe more? I cannot remember when it was, but I am now far more experienced and have several victories against the Sixth House, so I was quite confident that at the very least I would not be fleeing Red Mountain with my tail between my legs, as the Imperials say.

The quickest way to Ghostgate was via Caldera and I hoped to stock up on healing supplies at the Guild there, but no one had much of use for sale. I wound up visiting the local merchants to complete my shopping, for the Caldera branch of the Mages Guild has always been embarrassingly low on goods every time I visit. One of the tradesmen, Verick, had a very useful amulet enchanted to cast the Recall spell upon activation. He was only asking two hundred Septims for such a useful item and I was able to bargain him down to one hundred and seventy-five. Saving me from the trouble of tracking down and carrying hard-to-find Recall potions is worth any amount of Septims to me.

The walk from Caldera to Ghostgate was foggy, but uneventful. I skipped entering Ghostgate before I found a reason to put off my raid for another day. Unfortunately, the fog persisted in following me and visibility inside the Ghostfence was poor, even before Red Mountain delivered up the most powerful Blight storm I have suffered so far.
I got my first sense of what to expect as soon as I passed through the second gate of the Ghostgate. Immediately inside the fence was a deranged man infected with Corpus. The Blight had turned the man's mind to madness and he could only scream and try to claw out my eyes. Given that he was unarmed and I had a spear, his sad fate should come as no surprise. It was during the very short combat that the Blight storm came upon me.
As before, the storm coated everything in a garish red, making it very difficult to distinguish much of anything more than five feet ahead of me. On a hunch I stumbled up the path to the Shrine of Pride, only to find that the pushy Imperial I had escorted never made it back out.
I backtracked away from the shrine and proceeded past it into land I thought un-explored and un-mapped, though I soon found that is not actually the case, surprisingly. The raging storm did help to silhouette creatures along the path and I killed two of the hulking Sixth House beasts with arrows in this way.
After walking a short distance down the main path I found what I thought would be an abandoned mine. The entryway was empty of life and only had a bucket, a piece of raw glass, and a pile of bones, leading me to believe the mine had been abandoned. To my surprise I met an Imperial guard in the next corridor and he assured me the mine was in full operation under the Empire's protection. He warned me not to try stealing any of the glass and that the penalty for such an act was instant death. I assured him I was not there to pilfer the mine and expressed my surprise that there were people working inside the Ghostfence. He simply shrugged and pointed out that Ghostgate was a few minutes walk from the mine and that the whole mine traveled as one group when they needed to visit Ghostgate for supplies. The mine was garrisoned by a dozen Imperial soldiers, archers, and mages, but none of the Red Mountain creatures ever attacked the mine and everyone seemed confident that would remain the case.

I left the mine and the main path, taking a branching path to the west. The poor visibility meant that even did not know what was in front of me until spells started zapping me from within the gloom. The storm was worse than any other I have experienced, but I found its effects on me to be greatly diminished since my first visit to Red Mountain and if it were not for the constant dust, I do not think my combat ability would have been hampered. As it was, I could only do my best in dodging the spells until the creature, be is the tentacle-faced men or the stone-faced women, ran out of magicka energy and charged me. Inevitably the melee combat was very short, though I was struck quite often by the spells and quickly depleted my stock of health restoration potions.
The path split and I followed it south towards the Ghostfence. The path ended at an egg mine right against the Fence. The mine was more what I expected: abandoned and blighted. The only signs of former life was the body of a miner, its skin stretched and dry from the heat of Red Mountain, and the more recent body of some sort of explorer, well equipped but evidently no match for the blighted Kwama that swarmed the mine. I do wonder how the adventurer made it through Red Mountain and yet succumbed to simple Kwama. Very strange.

Doubling back the way I came, I elected to continue north past the 'main' path I entered Red Mountain by. This led me to a Dwemer fortress whose ruined fortifications bore the marks of a violent struggle rather than the neglect the ruins outside the Ghostfence exhibit.

Contrary to all the other Dwemer ruins I have visited, this one was quite small and only contained two rooms. Within the rooms however were a collection of Sixth House elite: the floating tentacle-faced monstrosities and an Ash Vampire whose appearance was very similar to the one I decapitated in the underground lava cavern so many days ago. The battles were quicker though and as I knew what to expect, a lot less hazardous to my health this time around.
The Ash Vampire had been wearing an amulet letting off a lot of magicka energy, so I took it with me but as of right now have no idea what it does. For all I know it could transform the wearer into an Ash Vampire, so it safely is stored in the bottom of my pack.

There was another dead adventurer inside the Dwemer ruins, the raw Ebony and strange Daedric blade on the body suggesting a measure of success was met before the person died. I did not feel like carrying the considerable weight of the Ebony with me, but I did take the blade. I have never seen a design like it: shorter than an Imperial stabbing sword, longer than a dagger, with a single-edge blade and a sharp point. It is a very light (for a Daedric blade) and nimble weapon, but I do not know how to employ it properly. Another item for my growing collection I suppose.

The Ash Vampire met a quick demise owning to the Daedric spear I conjured and to the fact that the creature's attention was not on me at all. Oddly, the hulking beast was studying a parchment, a drawing of some sort of Dwemer armor that I have never seen. Next to it was a small booklet written in Dwemer though the title was understandable as 'Kagnerac's Journal', whomever that was. I took the journal and the drawing, though both items are useless to me, I being unable to read ancient Dwemer.

And that was it for the Dwemer ruin. There was a good deal of valuable equipment in the ruins: an Ebony broadsword, Glass armored boots, several high-quality alchemy tools, but I need neither the equipment or the money I would earn selling them. It felt late in the evening by the time I had cleared out the monsters and examined the area. Not looking forward to stumbling around Red Mountain in the dark, I used my new Recall amulet and zapped myself back to my home in Ald'ruhn.

The total inventory of my raid into Red Mountain is the unreadable journal, the abandoned plans for the Dwemer armor, the Daedric blade, some loose Dwemer coins, and a healthy respect for the difficulties journeying into Red Mountain presents. Despite today being the most difficult day I have had in a long time, I am eager to return to Red Mountain and put my skills to the test again. Tomorrow I will return to Ghostgate via Caldera and walk the same path at Red Mountain that I walked today, aiming to explore the west side past the ruin.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Morrowind Day 66 - Solidifying My Position

19 Frost Fall
I spoke with Athyn about the best way to approach the Telvanni, Being an outlander as well as a Khajiit, I figured this would be no easy task. Athyn agreed that the Telvanni councilors would be 'reluctant', as he diplomatically put it, to confirm a 'slave race' as Hortator of their aloof House. He recommended two things. First that I talk to a Master Aryon in Tel Vos, whom Athyn judges as the most open-minded and after I mentioned it, that I go forward with the construction of the offered Redoran stronghold. He claims the Telvanni would be more willing to negotiate with me if I came from a position of greater strength and permanency.

So it was back to Ebonheart for me, though first to Balmora to stock up on potions, then to Vivec for the walk across the water into the small Imperial town. One would expect the town to be a bit more accessible, being the seat of Imperial authority on Vvardenfell, but you either walk or take a boat. I am surprised there is no Imperial Mages Guild in the Imperial town, but the place is quite cramped. Perhaps they ran out of room.

The trip to Ebonheart, be it over water or land, was uneventful as it usually is. I was not troubled by any guards during my very brief stay in Vivec and predictably encountered no trouble in the Imperial capital either. Finding the Duke of Ebonheart was quite a chore though. I expected him to be in the main chamber of the fort, but he was on the second floor, a fact which occurred to no one I asked to tell me of.
The Duke's adviser, Llaalam Dredil, asked that I deliver a letter for him as soon as I entered the second floor. I was anticipating a journey across Vvardenfell, but he only needed the letter delivered to an employee of the East Empire Trading Company there in Ebonheart. I do not know why he needed a heavily armed Khajiit to do this as opposed to...anyone on the street, but I agreed to the task, figuring it to be quick. The letter was addressed to a Khajiit, J'Zhirr and was neither sealed or encoded. It spoke of price increases on the various goods the Company dealt in. Notably, the price of 'D. Artifacts', which must have been Dwemer artifacts, has increased by thirty-five percent. Perhaps I should be spending more time in the ruins after all.

I spoke to the Duke after receiving the letter and he was very cordial. I was careful not to mention his late brother, for I do not know how widespread the knowledge of my involvement is. When I asked him about the construction contract for the Redoran stronghold, he gave one to me for free, thanking me for the services I have done his House as Nerevarine. It was in that way that I learned, much to my chagrin, that the Duke holds double-duty as the Grandmaster of House Hlaalu. It is curious that he referred to me by the Ashlander title of 'Nerevarine' instead of 'Hortator', but his gratitude is certainly appreciated at a time when I am being silently (and apparently ineptly) persecuted by the Temple.

The construction contract contained a lot of details that had not occurred to me. One, other people may be residing at my future fortress and the contract limited such people to no more than fifty individuals within at least four hundred feet of my residence. Two, I was entitled to my own soldiery of no more than ten men-at-arms, though I wonder what the reaction of the Dunmer will be when seeing a member of the 'slave race' commanding soldiers on their land. I have a strong feeling I will have to resort to hiring outlander mercenaries, if I hire any at all.

With no other business at the castle, I walked down to the harbor to deliver the letter. J'Zhirr was easy to find and gave me a letter to give back to Llaalam. I suppose I have had worse jobs. J'Zhirr's letter was an affirmation that Llaalam would be paid ten thousand Septims for 'services rendered', as J'Zhirr put it. Despite such a sum, I was only paid seventy-five Septims for the delivery of J'Zhirr's reply, but then I did not have to do much either. Seventy-five Septims two months ago would have been a pretty good reward, but today is barely worth a mention.

The only way back to Ald'ruhn was via the Vivec Mages Guild, so again a nice boring walk to the cantons, then a trek upwards within the Foreign Quarter, and finally into the Guild. From there I teleported to the Ald'ruhn guildhall and found Galsa Gindu, the Redoran estate manger, within the Redoran apartments in Under-Skar. I handed over the required funds with the contract and she briskly informed me that the stronghold would be built in 'Bal Isra', somewhere halfway between Ald'ruhn and Maar Gan. I hope it is an easy walk. Galsa estimated that construction would begin in a few days and asked that I return to her in a week.

Having done that, I had the rare luxury of having nothing much else to do. It was well into late afternoon when I left Under-Skar, so I did not feel like starting with anything new. I bought some healing scrolls at the Mages Guild and was told that Ajira had left word for me to visit the Balmora Mages Guild as soon as I could.

Ajira nervously greeted me when I popped into the Guild and told me that a high-ranking Imperial solider had come alone to the Guild, looking for me. The man's name is Larrius Varro, commander of the Fort Moonmoth garrison. He has a reputation as a man who enjoys cutting through bureaucracy of the Imperial variety and rumor has it that he has embarked on a personal crusade against corruption, though whose is a question no one is answering. I assured Ajira that I was not in trouble and she seemed relieved, though greatly so when I told her the man would not be coming back to the Guild.

Currying anyone's good favor at this point seems like a wise idea, so I will speak with him tomorrow. It does not seem that I will be in the bargaining position Athyn recommended for quite some time unless I find some other way to boost my reputation and prowess with the Dunmer people.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Morrowind Day 65 - Buying Into House Hlaalu

18 Frost Fall
I examined the public notice declaring my new criminal status over breakfast and noticed that the warning described me as a male. Quite amusing and potentially helpful if everyone is now looking for a male Khajiit named Kerra.

I anticipated that the business with House Hlaalu would stretch over several days and I was resolved to take care of as much as possible today. I need not have worried about time, as the day would show, but I was in a hurry this morning as I teleported to Vivec to talk with Hlaalu councilman Crassius Curio about being named Hlaalu Horatator

Several members of the Mages Guild warned me that Vivec would be dangerous for me now that I was wanted by the Temple. However, Vivec was largely emptied of Ordinators, perhaps they were away battling the Sixth House or some other foe. Whatever the case, I encountered no trouble in traveling from the Mages Guild within the Foreign Quarter to the House Hlaalu canton.

Crassius Curio is certainly a strange fellow. He greeted me as if we were old friends despite never having seen me before and winked at me when I asked him if he was Crassius. He claimed my voice sounded like music to his ears when I said it, which only served to further confuse me as to whether he was the man I was seeking.

He was though and provided me a list of Hlaalu councilors, cautioning that the most powerful of the lot, Orvas Dren, would never accept a Khajiit as Hortator, and the weakest council members, Nevena and Velanda, would not go against Orvas Dren. Sounds somewhat similar to the issues I faced among the Ashland tribes. As for Crassius he only asked for one thousand Septims in exchange for him "overlooking" Orvas's disapproval. Proper, for Hlaalu.

Surprisingly, Crassius revealed that Orvas Dren is the head of the the Camonna Tong crime syndicate and not at all a member of House Hlaalu. He simply exerts so much influence into "business matters" that House Hlaalu has made him something of an honorary member. I have heard many people say that House Hlaalu is the most welcoming House for outlander employment, but that hardly seems likely with a the leader of the Camonna Tong being able to influence the Hlalau council as much as he did. Even more surprising was Crassius's admittance that Orvas Dren has also been making deals with the Sixth House, though he could not go into details. 

A smuggling syndicate allying with the Sixth House does not bode well for neither Morrowind or the Empire as a whole. The Empire's influence in Morrowind barely extends outside of the major settlements and goods and people are regularly smuggled in and out of Vvardenfell with no trouble at all. If the Sixth House is already expanding to the mainland, I have a far larger fight on my hands than I suspected. Note to self: be sure to peek into caves found by the coast more often.

Crassius gave me directions to Nevena and Velanda, both outside of Vivec and suggested I visit Yngling Half-Troll and Dram Bero, both of which are living in Vivec. Dram Bero had gone into hiding some time before my arrival, but Crassius felt I would be able to track him down. As for Yngling Half-Troll, Crassius was dismissive, stating that if I had to kill the man no one else on the Council would even care. Touching.

Dram Bero's hiding place was not nearly as secret as he had probably hoped for. A commoner wandering around the Foreign Quarter mentioned that the man had been seen in the St. Olms canton, the same as Yngling Half-Troll.

The conspicuously "abandoned" house in the expensive plaza of St. Olms warranted a look and the door was actually unlocked. The inside was covered in dust and spiders, truly appearing to be abandoned. But a dwelling in such an expensive place would never be left abandoned for long, so I continued to search around. A (locked...) basement door led me to a much cleaner and larger set of rooms, one a dining room with expensive settings perfectly arranged. This was the not-so-secret hideaway of councilman Dram Bero.

He was mildly irritated to find that he would now have to find a new hiding place, but agreed to vote that I become Hlaalu Hortator. His reasoning was that if I was clever enough to find him, then I obviously had wits enough to become the Hortator. What he considers to be an adequate test of wits is rather alarming, but it was also one of the easiest votes I have gotten so far.

Fortunately Yngling Half-Troll's home was also in the St. Olm's Plaza and he was making no attempt to hide. He also made no attempt at being subtle about what it would take to gain his vote. As I have done with everyone else, I told him the short version of my recent events and asked for his vote for Hortator. He remarked that it was a touching story, but unless I had two thousand Septims he was not going to do a thing. I could see why killing him would not upset anyone else. Unwilling to spill blood unnecessarily, I handed over the money and bought the greedy man's vote. Next on my list was Orvas Dren and I had a feeling that a purse of money would not as convincing for him.

His plantation was north of Vivec, closer to Pelagiad actually, and the walk there was quick. I was struck by the sheer quantity of slaves there; if a typical plantation employs five slaves, then Dren must have at least thirty or forty. They are kept well in line by very well-equipped guards, many in full (and expensive) heavy Dwemer armor. Predictably, a free and armed Khajiit such as myself met with no welcome there, one guard going so far as to guarantee I would not be leaving the plantation as a free "cat" ever again. I should have kept the Ash Vampire's head on my spear to demonstrate how foolish such statements are to me at this point.
I was directed to Dren's villa in the corner of the area and found that entry into the building was not restricted. Inside however there was a guard patrolling the building, but for some reason he was half-dressed, completely lacking anything for his upper body. To make his dress seem even odder, he openly wielded a Daedric longsword and shield. If he tripped and fell the sword would likely have cut him in half!
To each their own, I suppose
The guard did nothing to stop me or even acknowledge my presence. Visitors to the villa entered into a small dining room with stairs to a basement and a hallway down which the guard was disappearing into as I entered. Of course I tried the basement door, but it was locked beyond my physical or magicka abilities to open it. I chanced walking down the hallway instead and encountered the half-naked guard returning the other way. He rudely shoved his shoulder into mine as he passed, but did nothing else.

Orvas Dren was in an upstairs bedroom off of the hallway, fully adorned in Orcish plate. He was surprisingly cordial to me...for about fifteen seconds. I explained that I was visiting him in the hopes of being named Hortator for House Hlaalu and showed him the Ring of the Hortator I had received after being named Hortator of House Redoran. He asked why I sought to become Hortator for the Dunmer people and I replied with what I thought was a simple enough answer: "To defeat Dagoth Ur and bring peace to Morrowind".

The rumors about Orvas Dren were true: he had allied with the Sixth House, claiming Dagoth Ur made him a better offer: a Morrowind with no outlanders in it and no Tribunnal "traitors" ruling it. Having said that, he pushed me and I toppled back down the stairs, giving him enough time to arm himself with an Ebony spear that had been laying against the wall.

I fell back into the hallway right at the feet of the shirtless guard, but his surprise was enough for me to drive my short steel tanto into his unarmored chest, killing him instantly. Ironic that the man would be so extravagantly equipped, only to die to such a cheap, simple weapon.

Having taken care of his guard, I hefted my own steel spear and activated the enchantment that summoned an ethereal Daedric spear in its place, a much more convenient solution than carrying around my actual Daedric spear. We met on the stairwell, spear against spear, and he had the initial advantage of height. Agility has always been my advantage though and footing was precarious on the steep wooden stairs. He was also much more heavily armored, the sum of all these things conspired to keep him off-balance and unable to put a lot of strength behind his spear.

With me far less encumbered and better balanced, his height advantage failed to make up for his lack of grace and he eventually lost his footing, crashing into the stairs and tumbling past me. I pounced on him as he lay sprawled in the hallway and buried the same stabbing tanto that killed his guard into the back of his unarmored neck, thus ending the reign of the powerful Orvas Dren.

I could not hear anyone else in the Villa, nor any sounds that the house was about to be reinforced so I assumed the brief combat had gone unnoticed by the guards outside. Still, I was not about to simply walk out the way I came in and drank a cheap 'Rising Force' potion to levitate myself over the plantation wall behind the Villa. I have no idea how long it took everyone to realize Orvas was dead, but the news had somehow traveled there by the time I arrived at Velanda's small plantation. She expressed her condolences at the "untimely death" of Orvas Dren and agreed to vote in favor of naming me Hlaalu Horatator.
Nevana was even more at a loss than Velanda. Her plantation was north of Vivec, close to Suran. Her reaction to Orvas's death was confusion and dismay. She hurriedly agreed that I would be a great Hortator and asked if I needed anything official from her. She seemed relieved to hear I only needed her vote on the council. How someone with so little personal strength became councilwoman, I will never know. 

I was eager to be done with this near-farce and was knocking on the door of Curio Manor already well into the night. The councilman was still awake, claiming he was "staying up just for you". The man is obviously something of an eccentric, but he must do something right, for I do not believe Orvas Dren would have suffered fools gladly. 

He gave me the belt, calling me a pumpkin and expressing how grand it looked around my "supple little waist". We Khajiit always hear rumors of liaisons between us and others, usually Imperials, but I have always discounted such things as silly gossip. While I have little experience among my own kind or others, it did sound as if councilman Crassius was angling for a liaison of his own. Such foolish behavior and quite embarrassing for him. He asked me to visit again, but I do not think I will be doing that any time in the near future. 

And with the end of this violent and confusing day I am now Hortator of House Hlaalu as well as House Redoran. Only House Telvanni remains, but I do feel as though I need a break from the business of the Great Houses. The need to combat Dagoth Ur and his Sixth House is great and they have the luxury of not requiring rest, so I must push onwards nonetheless.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Morrowind Day 64 - Hortator of House Redoran

17 Frost Fall
I woke at 6am at the Erabenimsun Camp, but decided staying for breakfast would not be a good idea, for obvious reasons. An Almsivi Intervention scroll dropped me off at Molag Mar, from which I walked to Telasero fortress to use the Propylon chamber to teleport me to Caldera.

From there I teleported to the Ald'ruhn Mages Guild and stopped at my house briefly to deposit a few valuables that I simply could not leave behind, such as a Daedric club I had won off of a Dremora. Useless to me as a weapon, but a potent symbol of my prowess, should it ever come into question.

While taking a rare moment to rest, I pondered who in House Redoran would be able to point me in the right direction towards being named Redoran Hortator. I had prevented the assassination of council-member Athyn Sarethi, so I figured he would be most willing to answer my questions.

He was very helpful, providing not only his thoughts on being named the Redoran Hortator, but also of Hlaalu and Telvanni, pointing me towards Crassius Curio in Vivec and Orvas Dren for House Hlaalu and Master Aryon of Tel Vos for House Telvanni.

For House Redoran, he promised to recommend that I be named Redoran Hortator if only I would rescue his imprisoned son from Redoran Archmaster Bolvyn Venim. Apparently Bolvyn has claimed that the Athyn's son, Varvur Sarethi, has delivered to him a dishonorable slight and claimed 'private justice', whatever that is. Athyn is not fooled however, for he knows that Bolvyn has kidnapped his son to curtail his influence over the council, of which Bolvyn's has been wavering as of late. If I can return his son to him Athyn will work on the other council members on my behalf, smoothing the path in front of me as it were. He cautioned me to avoid violence within Venim Manor or the other council members would never support me. There is always a catch.

I had expected that the manor would be under tight security, but petitioners are common to all of the councilmen and access to the manors and their persons are pretty open. The extensiveness of the manor was certainly unexpected though for I gave no thought to the idea that the Dunmer would dig under Under-Skar and Venim Manor was large enough to almost be a small town on its own.

Unfortunately for Bolvyn this lack of security seems to have made his guards a little less than diligent, for I found a note stating where Varvur was, with the key sitting right on top of it! I did not have enough time to snatch the key before the guard came back, so I pretended to be lost and headed back the way I came. As soon as I was out of sight I used my Invisibility spell and sneaked back to the key, timing my pace to arrive there when the guard's routine patrol placed her as far away as possible. I quickly swapped the key with one I had forgotten to throw away and hurried to the tapestry the note had said the door laid behind.

Finding the man proved hazardous enough, but I thought that getting him out would be even more so. This was not the case, for the 'private justice' that Bolvyn had claimed against Varvur meant that he could not afford to harm him in any way, lest he bring the wrath of the Council upon him. With that protecting us, we were able to simply walk out of the manor without any opposition from the guards. Fortunately, we left soon enough to avoid meeting Bolvyn, an awkwardness I was glad to dodge.

Athyn was true to his word. With his son returned, he not only agreed to sponsor me for Redoran Hortator, but also told me that he had some House tasks that I could help him with, if I wanted to advance further within the House. I passed on that for now, becoming Hortator is certainly time-consuming enough!

He did not believe that the other council members would disagree with him in choosing me, but that Bolvyn would never accept a Khajiit as Hortator. Athyn's suggestion was to secure the nomination from the entire council, then challenge Bolvyn to a formal duel. With the rest of the council in my favor, he would likely see the duel as a way to remove me. 

According to the Redoran Red Book of 3E 426, the council is composed of the Redoran Archmaster, Lord Bolvyn Venim, Master Lord Miner Arobar, Master Lord Hlaren Ramoran, Mistress Lady Brara Morvayn, Master Lord Athyn Sarethi, and Master Lord Garisa Llethri. Lots of 'Lords' and 'Masters' in that list, but with the exception of Bolvyn, each accepted me as Redoran Hortator, largely on Athyn's urgings. The Lady Brara was a bit different: she recognize the Moon-and-Star ring and stated she would have accepted me as Hortator on that alone.

While stumbling through the very large Redoran Council apartments, I walked into a room and was immediately accosted by a Dunmer woman who told me that I must be the Khajiit she had heard about and that she was cleared to build me a small dwelling, courtesy of House Redoran, if I brought her a construction permit from a Duke Dren in Ebonheart, plus five thousand Septims for construction costs. This is the first I have heard about me being able to build anything at all on Vvardenfell and I will keep it in mind if I ever find myself in Ebonheart with some free time.

With the rest of the council naming me Redoran Hortator, I visited the Redoran Archmaster in his manor. He never let me spoke, sneering that I had 'beguiled' and 'deceived' (somehow) the rest of the council, but that he would stop my "foolish ambition" within the Arena at Vivec, essentially challenging me to a duel instead. I accepted, of course.

I left the manor and stopped at my own home. The Archmaster had been clad in full ebony armor when I met him, but had no weapons on him. Unsure of what I was to face, I re-equipped myself with my Daedric weaponry, including four Daedric arrows, and teleported to the Vivec Mages Guild.

I have no expectations of anyone else ever reading this journal, so I can say without any arrogance that I was not apprehensive about my duel. I have fought battles against the demonic creatures of the Sixth House alone underneath mountains while flanked by choking lava. One Dunmer lord, well-armored and armed as he may be (he wielded a Daedric dai-katana, a real rarity!) simply failed to produce any worry.

We met at opposite ends of the large Arena, but he brought only his sword, leaving me free to fire four of the powerful Daedric arrows at him. Two missed, but my third shot impacted his breastplate with a ear-splitting *crack*, momentarily pausing his charge as he gazed down with (presumably) amazement at the jagged gash in his armor. The arrow had been powerful enough to crack open a seam on his breastplate and while I did try to fire my last arrow into the gap in his armor, I completely missed.

The rest of the combat was he and I continually circling each other, watching and waiting for the other to slip. I confess entirely to take several painful hits from the two-handed sword and I only managed to hit him once...but it was once enough. I drove the spear through the gap, the spear's edges screeching against his armor and yanked it out once I felt the spear tip strike the back of his breastplate. He collapsed to his knees, blood flowing out of his mouth as he looked up at me in disbelief. With a gurgle, the Archmaster of House Redoran fell flat on his face, dead.
I took his sword, but left him with his armor and the three Daedric arrows I recovered. 

I made my way back to Athyn, who formally named me Redoran Hortator and gave me a ring to prove my status. He also gave me a sealed package that he said came from a contact high within the Temple's organization. He also gave me a public notice declaring that I was an Imperial spy and an enemy of the Temple. He warned that the Ordinators would mark me for either arrest or death and to avoid Vivec for quite some time. 

The sealed package is from the Temple's High Archcanon. Should I succeed in being named both Nerevarine and Hortator of all three Houses, the package instructs me to speak with the High Fane in Vivec, Danso Indules, to facilitate a meeting between myself and essentially the Tribunal Temple to discuss how best to collaborate against the Sixth House.

By that time it was late in the evening and I took the rare opportunity to retire to my own home for the night. The Daedric Dai-katana rests alongside the bow and spear now and I've gratefully shouldered the far lighter bonemold bow and chitin spear I have grown used to. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Morrowind Day 63 - Persuading the Erabenimsun

16 Frost Fall
It has been some time since I spent the night at the Balmora Mages Guild and my presence was greatly welcomed by all present. Ajira's disbelief at my replacing the valuable Daedric equipment with simple chitin caused everyone a great deal of amusement. She slyly asked where I had left them, but I professed to not have remembered and I am sure the wily Khajiit's agents will be out searching the wasteland for them soon enough. Galbedir was a great help in identifying the various enchanted things I had found, but predictably many are not of much use. Ranis hinted at there being some tasks needing accomplishment, but becoming the Nerevarine far outweighs any other consideration.

I made sure to purchase a few Water Walking potions from Ajira before teleporting back to Wolverine Hall, it would hardly do for the "high-born Telvanni" lady to show up at the Zainab camp soaking wet! After a short walk across the water I reunited with "my" slave, Falura. Savile had made sure the girl was fed and ready before I met them and we set off across the water towards Zainab camp.

The girl would not divulge any information as to her background or circumstances, but did seem eager to start a new life with the Ashland tribe. She in turn never stopped asking me questions about my own history, but I was not much more prepared to answer either. I have never felt ashamed of my past, but there is also not a whole lot to tell. Born and left an orphan on the Temple steps, worked there to pay for my boarding and education, then got kicked out and wandering into the Auxiliaries. Not very exciting. 

She talked during the entire walk to the camp, mostly of what she imagined her future with the Zainab tribe would be. She wound up drawing several Nix Hounds to us by the constant noise and she was in no way at all a warrior. If I ever thought it difficult to face a single opponent in front of me, then facing a single opponent in front of me with a frightened Dunmer clutching my back is even worse. Fortunately Falura's dress remained unharmed throughout the ordeal.

Falura's first look at her new husband proved a favorable one. She peeked into the ashkhan's tent in gross violation of protocol and gushed that the man inside was "distinguished looking" with a face that showed he liked to laugh. I will have to take her word for it, as I did not detect anything of the sort. She assured me she would be happy with such a man, but I merely shrugged and announced our presence outside of the tent. Kaushad commanded us to enter and the first thing he asked when we stepped inside was if Falura was his "Telvanni bride". Not willing to outright lie to the man, I merely asked that he satisfy his curiosity by speaking to the woman. Her responses were perfect and he was satisfied with his high-born lady, even if he complained that her hips were not quite as generous as he had hoped.

And with that I was named Zainab Nerevarine and given the 'Thong of Zainab', an amulet charged with an enchantment to let me sense all the creatures around me. Potentially useful when I was first starting out on Vvardenfell, but not so much now. I bid the new couple farewell and left the tent, Falura calling out to visit again soon.

My final Ashland tribe was the Erabenimsun. Nibani had described them as being little more than brutes and advised that I discount their ashkhan entirely in favor of dealing with the wise woman. Their camp was far to the south of the Zainab camp and deep within the true ashland of dust and lava. I planned to follow the coast south until I reached the ashland, then hunt for their camp further inland.
Early afternoon, leaving Zainab Camp
The trip between camps was surprisingly uneventful, but any notion  that the final Nerevarine tasks would be easy were immediately dismissed when I entered the camp. As I have been doing, I approached one of the lower tribespeople wandering outside to get direction to the wise-woman and the ashkhan. The first woman I approached rebuffed me when I told her of the Nerevarine prophecies, saying that I 'made her tired' and to go away. Okay then.

My second attempt was more successful. A young herder advised me that the Prophecy is seen as foolish superstition by the ashkhan and that it would be much better to speak directly with the wise-woman. 

Judging by her advice I was well warned to avoid talking to the ashkhan or the high-ranking personages of the tribe. The wise-woman, Manirai, bluntly told me that I would never be named Nerevarine  unless I killed the ashkhan and his war-loving gulakhans. Should I do that, Manirai would then have me convince the peaceful son of the previous ashkhan to step into the vacancy.

She had clearly been planning for me or something equally as desperate, for she had the battle plan all laid out already: Two of the gulakhans, Ashu-Ahhe and Ranabi would be along tonight in their tents, while the ashkhan Ulath-Pal and Ahaz would be together in the ashkhan's tent, forcing an engagement against both at the same time.

And so began my night of...well, not murder exactly. The first gulakhan I approached was Ashu-Ahhe, who let me in his tent after I customarily announced myself. However, once I stepped inside, he sneered and told me that now he would have to burn his tent due to the filth "the khajiit" had brought in with "it". It was kind to give me a more personal reason to kill him. Other than the man's rudeness there was nothing special about him. In combat he was powerful, but slow, like an Ogrim with slightly more intelligence. Against a Khajiit armed with a Daedric dagger (courtesy of an enchanted stabbing tanto I had found), he had little chance. Unfortunately, our fight meant that the whole camp was alerted to what had happened and I expected to step outside to an armed mob.

I stepped outside to nothing. The tribesmen that were outside took special care to avoid looking at me and I suspect they knew this was a reckoning a long time coming. 

The mage Ranabi was next and he was ready for a fight. He foolishly declared that I must die due to killing one of the tribe and I stabbed him while he was busy stating the obvious. He had several enchantments that negated what could have been a fatal blow, but it put him off balance and the initiative in my favor. He relied heavily on his magicka, but the confines of the tent and the agility of my attacks kept him on the defensive. He fell with the steel tanto in his throat. He had a robe that looked oddly familiar to me, but I could not place where I had seen it before. It was powerfully enchanted, so I stuffed it in my pack.

I made sure to use all of my enchanted items and all of my spells before entering the ashkhan's tent. I am not accustomed to fighting more than one opponent at a time. The fiercest enemy I have yet faced was the Ash Vampire underneath fortress Kogoruhn, but we faced each other alone. Charging into the tent against two powerful and ready warriors would not turn out well for me.

Deception was in order. The last spell I cast on myself before sliding into the tent was Invisibility. Had I been either Ulath-Pal or Ahaz I would have spread out as soon as I realized my assailant was invisible, but these two backed against the wall, giving me time enough to use my first ever summoning scroll. They were both surprised to see a Flame Atronach suddenly flash into being and start attacking them. I had no great expectations for the Atronach on its own, but the distraction provided me enough time for me to summon a Daedric dagger from my steel one and quickly dispatch Ahaz.

Ulath-Pal was far more difficult. His glass axe was clearly enchanted and delivered hideous wounds on the Atronach, which quickly fled back to whatever Plane it had come from. His victorious combat against the Atronach had weakened him, but in a tribe where might evidently made right, the ashkhan was still a formidable foe. In the end, my simple poisonous chitin spear overcame his glass war-axe, as I was able to hold the spear half-haft and issue six strikes for every one of his. The poison wore him down and I mercifully ended his life with a dagger thrust to the throat when he became unable to lift the axe any longer.

And in that way did the Erabenimsun tribe's leadership change hands. I took an amulet off of Ahaz and Ulath-Pal's axe, this time completely expecting a crowd outside of the tent. But there were less people out than before, so I returned to the wise-woman. She insisted that Han-Ammu, the son of the ashkhan previous to Ulath-Pal, would have to be persuaded to become the ashkhan of the Erabenimsun. She warned me that Han-Ammu was a peaceful man and as a result not comfortable with taking leadership of the normally violent Erabenimsun tribe.

It was not as difficult as I thought it would be. He seemed adamant about refusing to lead the tribe, but I told him of what I had gone through, my discovery of the Sixth House, and my battles with the denizens under Red Mountain. I explained that I had certainly not asked to become Nerevarine, but the responsibility was thrust upon me and I sought only to do right for the people of Vvardenfell. I showed him the weapons I had been given in the Cavern of the Incarnate and assured him that with his tribe's heirlooms, he too could lead the tribe through the difficult times ahead. 

He agreed to become Ashkhan of the Erabenimsun and named me Erabenimsun Nerevarine, thereby completing my task to be named Nerevarine among the ashland tribes. He promised to work to reverse the violent reputation of the Erabenimsun and advised that I talk to the wise-woman to receive the 'Seizing of the Erabenimsun', a heirloom that would prove I was named Nerevarine.

I have now passed the Fifth Trial and been named Nerevarine by the four tribes. I have yet to be named Hortator by the three Great Houses and I think it will be best to start with the one I am a member of. Tomorrow I shall start whatever process is required to be named Redoran Hortator.