Sunday, March 31, 2013

Morrowind Day 42 - Escort Duty

26 Hearthfire
The former merchants had taken what compensation they saw fit, the bodies of their captors stripped bare of equipment and valuables, but left where they lay. I realized I would probably be returning to the fortresses at some point and spent an unpleasant morning dragging the corpses to the underground sewer system. With the sluice gate open, the slaughterfish undoubtedly consumed the bodies within hours, though I am not sure if they also eat the bones. No matter.

Having taken care of that, I used a Divine Intervention scroll to pop back at Fort Moonmoth and walked into Balmora. I spoke to the Argonnian Only-He-Stands-There about his illegal training that Ranis had noticed and his argument that any training he provided in the Restoration circle was a charitable benefit to the people was admittedly a decent one. It's not as if he was training people to throw fireballs or anything. But I pointed out that Ranis had been made aware and confided that her previous tasks always included the option of killing the person of interest. He considered this for a moment and handed me the Septims for "guild dues" without a word. Apparently Ranis has quite a reputation in Balmora.
Ranis did not even wait for me to open my mouth before she launched into a new set of orders for me. A mage by the name of Itermerel had requested that a guild member escort him to Pelagiad. Ranis had no interest or consideration for Itermerel other than for his academic work and informed me that, as usual, his well-being was secondary to the acquisition of his notes. I agreed to accompany him, welcoming the change from dungeon-delving and a chance to have a day without someone trying to kill me.

Before meeting Itermerel at the Eight Plates, I delivered the latest Propylon stone to Folms Mirel, who directed me to Rotheran, which held its own stone. The fortress is occupied by bandits and I am not looking forward to fighting yet another band of criminals just for a stone. I thanked him for the additional five hundred Septims and arrived back at the Balmora Mages Guild to meet with Itermerel.

Itermerel is an older Altmer with a pleasant enough personality, but something about him seemed a bit off as soon as I introduced myself. He said he was glad that his escort was to be a young Khajiit such as myself and the assignment became stranger from there. He insisted on walking behind me the whole time and all I heard was "Khajiit this and Khajiit that". If I did not know any better, I would say the man had a very odd infatuation. I dealt with his incessant questions during the entire walk, many of them about Elsweyr that I could not answer for having been born (I think) in Cyrodiil.

We came upon a rat scavenging alongside the road and I barely gave the creature a second glance. My first one was enough to assure me that it did not have the growths on its body and therefore was more likely to flee from us than anything else. Itermerel, on the other hand, gave a great cry: "Watch this Khajiit!" and charged at the rat, flinging two fireballs into the hapless vermin.  He repeated this on a harmless wild Guar and a second rat. Was I supposed to be impressed? Despite his enthusiasm for pointless slaughter, he still insisted on walking behind me, which with his constant assertion of his admiration for the "Khajiit people" quickly became uncomfortable.

It was the first time I seriously considered taking Ranis's second option and telling her a Kagouti gored him. But I managed to not kill the babbling idiot and when we finally stood in front of the Halfway Tavern, he had the nerve to invite me to dinner. I thanked him, refused, and asked him for a copy of his notes. He provided a ready-made copy and asked if I knew any Khajiit traveling to Hammerfell within the next month or so. I had no words. As soon as he turned his back, I quickly uttered the incantation for my last Divine Intervention scroll and mercifully exited his company. What a creepy fellow.

Ranis received my notes gravely, asking me if the mage still lived. She seemed surprised that I had not killed him, leading me to believe his "interest" is common knowledge within the circles he travels. My work for the Balmora Mages Guild is done. I have killed countless bandits, at least a dozen Daedra of various kinds, and I can kill a man while invisible. Why then am I nothing more than Ranis's thug? It may be that other Guilds have tasks more suited to my abilities, but no more for me. I will take my own affairs into higher priority from now on.

My most pressing affair is the Propylon Index. Whatever I choose to do after acquiring it will be made much easier by having the ability to materialize into nearly every region of Vvardenfell and Folms had assured me I was nearly done with the Stones. Unfortunately, Rotheran lies south of Dagon Fel, which is only reachable via long boat trips originating from Khuul or Sadrith Mora. The other route would be to travel from Ald'Ruhn and walk either north past Maar Gan or east, skirting the Red Mountain and following the foyodas to the coast.

I chose the latter due to my not having explored much of the east and teleported from the Guild to Ald'Ruhn, which was predictably in the middle of another dust storm. I got decent directions from the locals and set out early in the afternoon. Being so close to the Red Mountain, I expected a Blight storm or maddened creatures charging at me, but I encountered no such storm and saw no signs of life while I was outside. The dust storm was still in full strength and I kept close to the hillsides, figuring that if I followed one long enough it would either lead away to the north or into a foyoda at some point. It was in this way that I found the tomb.

The tomb was easily identified by the ritual carvings on the weather-worn door and I stepped inside without a second thought, assuming that it would pose no more danger than the ones I visited in the Bitter Coast region. My stupid assumption seemed true, initially: the entrance was guarded by two skeletal creations lavishly equipped with silver longswords and iron shields, but were no more skilled than their poorer counterparts.

The first door I opened resulted in me being face-to-skull with a true monster: head hovering above the "body", four arms, and no legs. Whereas the skeletons were easy to understand as former people and the Daedra as creatures from the Outer Planes, this creature was simply the product of a deranged imagination, for nothing living could have had the body this thing had.
A true monstrosity
It was a powerful spellcaster, unfairly casting two spells at once using each pair of skeletal hands, and it moved very quickly. It continually sought to keep me in sight while maintaining its position out of meele range, but seemingly had no concept of a bow and arrows, which it made no attempt to dodge or shield itself from. Unfortunately, striking it with arrows meant being struck by its spells and the aggressive speed of the creature meant I could not temporarily disengage to cast an invisibility spell. Every time I ducked behind the door to avoid a spell, it advanced, until I dashed from behind the door into its bony arms, the skeletal claws raking against my armor.

In a panic, I dropped my spear and stabbed wildly at the floating skull portion with my sword, sparks of magicka erupting from the creature's body with each strike. Eventually I depleted the strength of its enchantment enough for it to collapse into a pile of bones and rotting cloth, but the attempt saw me greatly wounded and fatigued.

I kicked the remains into the room I had opened the door to and locked it behind me while I drank a few potions and collected my thoughts. The room itself was a small worship chamber with an ash pit and skeletal remains at the far end. No wealth was present. The hallway I had entered into continued further down and also had a ramp leading deeper into the tomb. I knew it was likely that I would find more of the monsters (I need a name for them) and I had to decide whether to retreat outside into the storm or continue my exploration.

Retreating was the wiser choice, but I had no safe haven to retreat to. Going back outside simply meant being stuck in the Ashlands during a storm as night fell. Not a great choice. There was no way I was going to spend the night locked in the room with an unknown number of hostile guardians roaming the tomb, so I really had only one option. Fully healed and refreshed, this time I made sure my protective enchantments were active before I opened the door and continued searching about. However, nothing else was present on the upper level of the tomb, so I continued down the ramp.

The silver arrows I had taken from the slavers at Hlormaren proved very useful against my new enemies. Given enough distance, I was able to shoot arrows which they would not dodge and avoid their slower spells. I "killed" one of the creatures by firing arrows down a hallway at the end of the ramp and lured two others from their assigned posts into the hallway where they met a similar end. For the strength of the guards I expected a great deal more wealth to be present, but the tomb was largely barren of treasure and I can only assume the potency of the tomb's protection is meant as a show of power rather than as something practical.

The tomb's largest room contained the only sign that anyone else had visited the place: a skeleton of a what was probably either a Nord or an Imperial was curled up at the bottom of the stairs leading to the Dunmer family's main ancestral pits. The remains were slightly perplexing: a steel full-helm and a wooden staff. Nothing else. I cannot imagine someone made it past the skeletal warriors and floating sentinels with only clothes, a steel helmet, and a wooden staff.
But there was nothing of value past the stairs either. The tomb's only benefit to me was as temporary shelter while on my way to Dagon Fel and the next Propylon stone. I was surprised to find that it was pitch black outside when I exited the tomb and though the storm has died down, I have decided to rest in the tomb for a few hours inside the room closest to the exit. The door is magically locked and I have piled against the door what little furnishings the tomb has. I left too late in the day to make it to Dagon Fel before night, but I should have no problems tomorrow.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Morrowind Day 41 - Slaver Fortress

25 Hearthfire
Another strange dream last night, this one slightly different than the others. The man with the golden mask was in it again, but this time was simply speaking to me, though I could not understand a word. His presence filled me with fear, but as usual I could not move at all. He only continued to talk and I had the impression he was smiling beneath the mask, but my fear gave way to suspicion and I was suddenly wary of his nonsensical words. Then I woke up. The dreams feel like they are growing worse, but I cannot pinpoint what about them makes it feel this way.

Ranis stopped me on my way out to ask me to have a word with an Argonian who has been making coin by providing training in casting from the Restoration school at the South Wall Cornerclub. Surprisingly, Ranis had no idea what this Argonian's name was, only that I was to convince him to stop his illegal service. I told her I would look into when I had the time, which did not happen to be today. It sounds simple, but I am a bit uneasy about becoming Ranis's personal enforcer.

Today's task seemed simple too: Go to fortress near Balmora, search through a pile of weak scrolls and useless sundries, find Propylon Stone, return to Caldera, done. But of course it was not anywhere near that simple.

The walk from Balmora to Hlormaren was predictably wet, dismal, and punctuated by attacks from Nix-Hounds and Kagouti, neither of which pose a threat to me any longer. I do remember the day I almost died to the Nix-Hounds outside of Ald'Ruhn while looking for that woman's missing seems a lifetime ago, though just coming up on only two months.

Hlormaren was built very similarly to other fortresses, all of which do not seem to have a great variance in construction technique or style, but do all serve as a very imposing monument to the now-deceased Dunmer nation. Like most of the others, there was no sign anyone was inhabiting the ruin, though this has never actually been the case. In fact, I nearly met my end while halfway through the front entrance.

I guess I have been becoming a little arrogant about my victories as of late and I think it is completely reasonable, given what I have done. How many Khajiit can say she has killed a Golden Saint and be telling the truth? I would wager not many. But pride does typically go before the fall and it was a large amount of luck which prevented my fall from becoming permanent.

However it was that they knew I was coming, the guards at the inside of the entrance were ready for me. I had just started to step across the door's threshold when I was attacked by a Bosmer armed with a light shield and short sword. I met her with my own shield and sword and parried her initial blow. I was just about to strike when a massive hammer swung out from the corner of my vision and smashed into my chest, throwing me back through the door and onto the hard stone of the fortress exterior. I remember feeling outraged and surprised instead of afraid, but the blow had been exceptionally strong and breathing was a struggle.

Had the slavers (as I later learned they were) had any sort of discipline I would not be writing this journal entry. Instead of killing me while I remained helpless, the Bosmer and my assailant, an Orc, started arguing! I remember their conversation with an absurd amount of clarity: the Bosmer arguing that the Orc's surprise attack nearly took off her arm and the Orc sneering about what a loss that would have been and bragging about the distance I flew, which he naturally exaggerated. This gave me enough time to drink an Invisibility potion and crawl to the side of the Propylon chamber building. Their arguing and the potion's effect ceased at about the same time, but I was out of sight behind the far side of the chamber building when they turned their attention towards me.

I can only imagine their surprise if they thought me already dead and I expected that they would retreat inside the fortress and close the door. I would have, it's the only way in! Instead, they fanned out, the Bosmer circling about in one direction and the Orc, large even among his kind, hefted the massive hammer and stalked off in the opposite direction, towards the Propylon chamber I was hiding behind. I drank a health restoration potion and followed it with my last invisibility one. For whatever reason, the Orc fought vainly, which is to say he had no shirt on and little armor anywhere else. In melee this would count for less than most people think, but I had a bow, which his lack of armor could be made to count for a lot.

Still, he was an Orc, which meant the two arrows that smacked into his chest only seemed to get him angrier. His warcry was in a language I did not recognize, but it did serve to get the attention of his Bosmer companion, who started running in my direction, but the Orc was the more pressing matter. I was not foolish enough to pit myself against him and his hammer, but he was running at me quite quickly and I could not get a third arrow loosed. What I could do was drop my bow and recite the incantation to a scroll promising to summon a (weak) Flame Atrnoach. I cannot remember where or when I found the thing, but it has been in my pack for as long as I could remember and getting rid of it in a useful way seemed a fitting end.

The Orc's end was admittedly fitting, but also more brutal than I personally give to my opponents. The summoning was quick and he had no chance to halt his charge before the Atronach flung a fireball at him. Stripped to the waist as he was, the fireball's damage was grievous and he stumbled into the Atronach, whose flaming body did him no visible harm. Interesting point. The Atronach was not nearly as curious and began pummeling the Orc's body as he struggled to rise. I turned my attention to the Bosmer who was wavering with indecision as to whether to assist the quarrelsome Orc or attack me instead. I made that choice an easy one and attacked her, trusting the Atronach to keep the Orc busy.

She quickly fled back into the fort and the Orc had managed to ward off the Atronach's blows well enough to flee as well. Naturally, the Atronach's magic was spent just at that moment and it was whisked away back from whence it came, leaving the two slavers to myself again. The Orc's injuries looked severe, but he was moving well enough and I do not know why they failed to press the advantage they gained when the Atronach disappeared. Perhaps they were seeking to summon help from further within the fortress or thought I would retreat as well. They did not make it very far.
The slavers were well-armed and many, but like the rebels in the other fortress they lacked cohesion. I was able to stalk the corridors and kill them one by one, or rarely, in pairs. Many of them were armed with Glass daggers enchanted with a paralysis strike and I thought it odd until I realized the utility this would have for slavers.

The slaves were held in a room on the underground level and guarded by a scarred Nord wielding a very simple club, contrary to the generally decent weaponry wielded by his comrades. The key I took from his body unlocked the four prison cells and the slaves' shackles, of which there were seven trapped in three bare stone cells, three of them Khajiit and the rest Argonian. They individually told me the same story: they were aspiring merchants who managed to pool their money together for a small ship and goods and set out towards possibly the worst island to sail near: Vvardenfell. They wrecked their ship on a barren stretch of coast in the southeast and were ambushed by the slavers while trying to reach Suran. None of them were warriors of any skill and surrendered expecting to be robbed only of goods. But they were shackled enmasse and smuggled along the coast to Hla Oad before being incarcerated at Hlormaren. Collecting them in the main room, I surprised them by inviting each of them to strip the bodies and fortress of wealth before they traveled to Balmora.

They were very grateful, but insisted that they could not leave without two other Khajiit that had been taken to the roof and asked if I could free them as well. I had to go to the roof for the Stone anyway, so I agreed. They informed me that the door on the far side of the room led to the sewers, making this the first Dunmer fortress I have been in that had such a consideration. I had no desire to see it for myself and asked them to wait until I came back from the roof, which they agreed to do.

There were only two individuals on the roof: an archer and a mage, the latter whose equipment seemed to identify her as the slavers' leader. The archer was well-armed like the rest, but seemed ill at ease with his steel-backed bow and failed to hit me with any of the silver arrows he carelessly let fly in my direction. He decided to draw his sword too late as I approached him and he found he had not quite enough room to swing his longsword as I stabbed at him with my shorter, more nimble sword. The archer actually had two swords on him, both silver longswords. Those, plus the silver arrows, support my theory that their equipment was mostly loot they were not practiced with using.

The only foe other than the Orc that gave me any trouble was the mage, leader of the slavers and possessor of the Propylon Stone I had come to fetch. She had been on the far side of the roof when I was fighting the archer, but had failed to see me. Unfortunately my invisibility spell would not last long enough to approach her without being noticed too early; my only option was to try to weaken her as much as possible at a distance before closing in.

The arrow I flung in front of her face certainly got her attention and she spun around, waving her arms and running towards me. I thought she had mistaken me for one of her slavers at first, but the bonewalker that materialized in front of her made that assumption unlikely and made my plan to hit her with arrows suddenly not feasible.
She must have been a powerful mage, for the creature was stronger than the Bonewalkers I had run into in Vivec and each of its strikes made me feel like I needed a nap. But concentrating on the Bonewalker would leave the more dangerous mage available to concentrate on her spells, so I endured its attacks and kept my attention focused on the mage. She was a difficult opponent, in no small part due to the surprise of finding she was wearing heavy Ebony armor underneath her robe, which I reduced to tatters in my attempts to get past the cuirass.

In a move that puzzles me as I recollect it now, she sprang away from me and ran for the dome on the roof of the fortress and I used that opportunity to send the Bonewalker back to where ever the things come from. Free from combat for the moment, I quickly drank a restorative potion for health and magicka and cast my Invisibility spell as I crept towards the dome. My hunch proved correct: she burst out of the dome, shouting and waving a cumbersome-looking Dwemer spear and stopped short when she failed to see me or the expected Bonewalker.

Powerful mage or no, an experienced warrior would not have stood there peering around for an enemy she could not see. The sudden gushing of blood from the slash into the side of her neck was the only indication that I had been behind her, but the nameless slaver's paralysis-enchanted dagger did its job faithfully and she died unable to move or make a noise. Fitting.

What I mistook for a spear was another of the Dwemer people's strange concept as to what a halberd should look like and the weapon was of no utility to me. I left it near her body and remembering that the remaining two slaves were inside, knocked on the door, still ready to skewer anything that might leap out of course. I heard shuffling and whispering behind the door and after a few moments a young female Khajiit opened the door hesitantly  Seeing me, she yelp and fled back into the dome and I pushed my way past the half-closed door to find myself facing a very brave and very foolish male Khajiit brandishing a wooden stool.

I laughed harder than I have in a long, long time. The scene was just so ridiculous. There I was: splattered with the blood of a dozen foes, wielding weapons and wearing armor superior to that of many in the Imperial Legion and my final opponent was a half-dressed Khajiit wielding a piece of furniture. Nothing I said would convince them I was a friend until I invited them to walk outside and witness the remains of their former master, after which they became a great deal less hostile, especially once they learned their friends were waiting down below.

The female was Dahnara and the male S'Vandra, siblings and traders who had supplied the caravan, and indirectly the slavers, with most of the better weaponry and armor I had encountered. They were greatly cheered by my offer to reclaim their wares from the former owners, having thought themselves destitute after I freed them. They were able to readily point out the Propylon Stone from one of the shelves and Dahnara went as far as to fetch it, shyly handing me the hunk of rock with her thanks. I let them know I intended to stay in the dome for the night and they left to join the others in the fortress.

Ever cautious, I closed the door behind them, dragged several chests in front of it, then locked it magically. I have no doubt that even a concentrated effort on their part would only see them all dead, but I have no desire to see such an outcome. I will spend the night alone in the Dome and they will probably spend the night looting the fortress, which they are all welcome to. Money has not a lot of meaning when you are stuck on Vvardenfell.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Morrowind Day 40 - Paranoia of the Telvanni

24 Hearthfire
The remaining accommodation available to me at the Gateway Inn when I stumbled in last night might have been someone's nap-time hideaway: just a cot, a small table, and a flimsy privacy screen, all of which set me back ten Septims. Situated right above the bar, I was guaranteed a lullaby of harsh noises and harsher voices, but I have certainly slept in worse places. Hospitality is not to be expected from the Telvanni and generally not to be found within their towns. I would have been better off spending the night at the nearby Imperial fort.

I purchased "Hospitality Papers" from a Telvanni as I was leaving the inn. While it sounded like a scam, I know that there are papers that the Telvanni require foreigners to acquire before they will do business with you, so for twenty-five Septims I took the chance that the Dunmer selling them was genuine.

There was no chance to test them out though; the dawn was just rising as I left the inn and the shops were still closed. The Imperial fort was a polite distance away from town, but I saw no one outside, not even a Telvanni guard. When I arrived at the fort, Wolverine Hall, I asked for directions to the Mages Guild and was pointed towards a tower along the curtain wall. One would assume that meant the Mages Guild is in the tower, simple enough. But no, the Imperial Chapel was in the tower and the Fighters Guild was under the tower. The Mages Guild was under a different tower only reachable by going through the first tower, then along the inside of the wall, then up the spiral stairs to the second, formerly unreachable tower.

I doubt it is to keep out Telvanni sightseers.

The enchanter there, Dabrenne Mornardl, was interested in buying a few of the more mundane pieces of equipment I had taken from the Dunmer fortress, so I exchanged a minor ring and staff for some Septims and teleported back to the friendly faces at Balmora to sell some things. I think I heard Ajira ask what I had to sell her before the teleportation spell fully popped me into existence, but that could just be my imagination. I did sell her three vials of Skooma and the rest of my enchanted finds to Galbedir, further weighing myself down with coin.

A trip to the Caldera guild was also called for to deliver the Propylon stone to Folms. As always, he paid me five hundred Septims for the stone and sent me off in search of another, this one for the haunted fort of Berandas, where I nearly died to the two feminine Daedra. The stone was held by a mage living near Gnisis, so I guessed the retrieval would be fairly easy. After all, you cannot have monsters running around your home if you are in town, right? Wrong again...

The quickest way to Gnisis is found by teleporting to Ald'Ruhn, then taking the Silt Strider to the town. I did not tarry in Ald'Ruhn or its Guild (not much there really!) and wound up in Gnisis at about one in the afternoon, according to a helpful Gnisis guard.

The "tower" shares the same squat architecture as a lot of Vvardenfell's architecture, but I know enough now to expect several of the levels to be below ground. The people of Gnisis could not give me much information on the building or the inhabitant, other than to say the mage had lost a lot of his retainers in the previous years. According to one towns-person, the apprentices and servants simply left and no one knows why. Perhaps the mage was formerly Telvanni and renounced the House? That's the only theory I have, but the Telvanni do not seem the type to let a former Telvanni live out his days peacefully.
Knocking on the door failed the attention of anyone inside, so I let myself in. The tower was very quiet and the bedrooms on the initial level, which I took for servant quarters, were deserted and had not been occupied for quite some time. There was a jail cell on a lower level, but this too was empty and unused. One of the bedrooms had a single inhabitant, but it was a large rat, which I left alone.

The tower was built along the lines of a single, large ramp that the entryway deposits you into the middle of. Following the ramp lower brings you to the jail cell and following it higher would lead me to the mage, if he was in the tower at all. The ramp ended at an ornate door very similar to the ones I saw in the burial tombs. Always one to be cautious, I removed my helmet and held my ear against the door. The thick construction served to prevent noise from coming through, but listening at the hinge probably saved my life. At the time, I could not tell what was making the noise, but there was a growl-like noise behind the door, as well as the sound of something walking about. I guessed correctly  that it was not the mage, but after using my defensive magics and opening the door, I found I was still unprepared.

The noise was a Daedroth, dutifully guarding the entrance into the mage's quarters. If the creature had been walking about, I would have had a better chance. If it had been not directly facing the door when I opened it, I would certainly have had a better chance. As it was, I opened the door to find myself about ten feet away from a very alert, and suddenly entertained, Daedroth.
Whichever of the Nine Divines was watching over me has my thanks. I cannot recollect why I thought it would be a good idea against a Daedra, but I used my Silence spell against the Daedroth, though I now realize the chance of it working was very slim. I must have been very lucky, for the spell did hold and the Daedroth was temporarily unable to shape its magicka against me. This probably saved me a fireball to the face. After realizing what happened, the Daedroth charged through the door, jaw and claws reaching for me and still a very dangerous opponent.

But the Daedroth are the thugs of the Daedra world: some brain, but mostly brawn. They are very strong physically and capable spellcasters, but they do not seem to go much for strategy. My silence spell only lasts for a few seconds, but the Daedroth never abandoned its attempt to claw my throat out, even though its spells would have been accessible early into the fight and far more effective. As it was, I certainly have experience in meele with larger, stronger opponents and I hampered its freedom of movement by keeping the creature pinned in the doorway. Constricted, the Daedroth's lack of mobility coupled with its long arms spelled out a quick end.
The room it was guarding was mostly empty with a ramp on the far side leading further upwards. I started to hear an odd clanking noise as I crept across the room and a Dwemer construct swept down the ramp, balancing its on a large sphere that served as its lower body. Turning towards me, it pointed an arm that ended in some kind of crossbow at me and started firing heavy (and valuable!) Dwemer bolts.

The construct was powerful, but slow and while I certainly could not dodge the crossbow bolts, it was easy to dodge its aiming mechanism and I used the thing for my own target practice, though the arrows seemed to bounce off of it. I finally closed the distance and disabled it with my spear. In numbers this thing must have been quite a foe, but on its own, not much.

Its defeat left the path to the Telvanni wizard bare and I was expecting quite a fight...and again was surprised. He was more annoyed that I had killed off the Daedroth he summoned and the construct he bought in an effort to keep the people of Gnisis from realizing the tower was occupied only by him. He feared that they would chase him out and reclaim the property after they discovered all his retainers had left, though he would not say why they did.

I informed him that the town was well aware he was the only occupant of the tower but feared him too much to make any move towards evicting him and hearing that his name still inspired fear in the locals cheered him greatly. A true Telvanni...I guess.

Having stabilized his view of the future, he was generous towards my request for the Propylon stone, inviting me to take it if I could find it among the shelves of his laboratory. A few minutes of searching found it wedged between bottles of imported brandy, most of them uncorked and in various levels of fill. Ever polite to powerful mages, I bade him thanks and goodbye and received a grunt and nod in response as I walked down the ramp and eventually back to the Gnisis caravaner to hire a ride back to Ald'Ruhn.

The strider lumbered into Ald'Ruhn late into the evening and I paid the guild guide for teleportation to Caldera, where Folms was, as usual, loitering about. Am I the only one in the guild that does actual work? Whatever occupies his time, he had the money and location of the next stone ready for me. He has now tasked me with locating the Andasreth Index, which he has heard is in the possession of a Dunmer bandit taking refuge at the coastal Dunmer fortress Hlormaren, west of Balmora. 

That the fortress lies close to Balmora is certainly good news and hopefully something I can take care of quickly. I do hope that Folms is running out of stones for me to fetch.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Morrowind Day 39 - The Madman of Tel Fyr

23 Hearthfire
I had another dream last night, this one containing the same Dunmer with the golden mask. Rather than showing me to a party, he stated that he had delivered me from my 'enemies' and suddenly I saw my own body on a stone slab, as if I had died, surrounded by marble and expensive furnishings. In the dream, I (or someone) touched my body and I seemed to wake and start to rise off the stone. But then the room we were in disappeared and a white light blinded me...then I woke up.

It was not as disturbing as the first dream, but I still could not fall back asleep. I left the Mages Guild just after midnight this morning and ate a quick breakfast at the Eight Plates, which never seems to close. Rather than accept another job from Ranis, I decided to make the journey to the Telvanni tower of Tel Fyr to steal the Propylon Stone, hopefully avoiding the wizard residing within. As always, Morrowind took my expectations and laughed at them.

If the dream was not bad enough, I ran into another sleep-walking acolyte of the Sixth House outside the Eight Plates. This one was pushier than most, demanding that I serve Dagoth Ur and claiming that the Sixth House has risen again, bringing Dagoth Ur his glory. While he was raving and shouting at about two in the morning, he made no physical threats against me, so I left him alone. What the guards wound up doing with him to quiet him down is their own business.

I managed a pretty good pace initially, reaching Lake Nabia (again!) after an hour or so of walking, but a Blight storm started to redden the sky and I was engulfed in choking dust and screaming wind coincidentally near Punabi. I doubt I would have been welcome either there or at Sulipund and I walked past them, still peering into the red haze for shelter. Lava pools started to appear as I headed further east and I kept them in sight to use as navigational aids. It is in this way that I found the unnamed Dwemer fortress.

The ruined Dwemer fortress was built into the the hillside adjacent to a giant telescope as they commonly are and I saw no signs of habitation outside. But experience taught me well enough to know that this was no indication of what I would find inside and I used one of my weaker enchanted rings to summon a barrier around me to deflect and soften blows.

My precaution paid off. I was attacked by an Imperial woman as soon as I slipped through the heavy iron doors and she got in several good slashes with her sword against my bare arms before I  could bring my own weapon to bear. Immediately I recognized that something about the woman was a little 'off' and the unique grating sound of her voice identified her as a vampire, though evidently a young one. The battle was a short one: She fought with her back to an open pit in the entrance chamber and I drove her into it, thinking it a refuse pit that I could use to collect myself for a few moments. She fell into it with a snarl and I readied myself, prepared to attack her when she climbed out. But she never did.

Distracted by the immediacy of combat, I had not really looked at the room I was in. It was only then that I realized that what I took for a refuse pit was...probably a refuse pit at some point, but more importantly was where Dwemer architects had exposed a pit of lava maybe eight feet below the giant grate that I mistook for a solid floor. The heat and stink of the molten rock crept into my senses as the rush of combat wore off and I carefully skirted the opening as I moved deeper into the ruins.

A second Imperial vampire, this one a male, charged at me from the end of a hallway and I had no time to draw my bow before we became engaged, but his chitin armor was little use against my spear. I suppose the poor quality of his armor might mark him as a young Vampire, but he proved less of an opponent than his unfortunate comrade at the entrance.

The most distasteful thing to encounter when fighting vampires are the slaves whom they keep to feed on. The ones here were mostly Khajiit and had enough of their senses so that I was able to converse lightly with them, though they spoke of events that I think occurred before their enslavement and had little understanding of their current predicament. All of the slaves I talked to declared themselves 'cattle' of the 'Berne Clan' and nothing else. Their minds were just as dulled as the ones in the other den, just in a different way. I left them alone as I proceeded further, angry at seeing so many Khajiit like that.

Two Vampires were guarding a room they were using as a sort of vault, shelves and chests full of equipment stacked against all four walls. I never will make the mistake of assuming Vampires are stupid, but the younger ones seem afflicted with a blinding aggression and I was able to lure both of them into a doorway, where they divided their attention between killing me and continually jostling past one another in an effort to kill me. The second Vampire nearly tripped over the corpse after I slew the first one and she joined her crumpled friend in the doorway.

The vault was a massive collection of equipment, most of it mundane, but some quite valuable. A pair of Daedric armored boots were precariously set on shelf alongside a Dreugh cuirass, but the rest were steel or leather armors and not particularly useful. As usual, I could not actually carry the boots with me, but I am beginning to take pride in not taking such things: my skills are well enough that my silver spear and sword are more than adequate.

 The huge Dwemer chests held more armor and weapons, most of which could have been purchased at any shop, but again there were a few valuable pieces: armored boots of volcanic Glass, a few Dwemer weapons, and the most valuable (to me): four throwing stars of Ebony crystal, sharper than any steel weapon and each more valuable than an entire suit of steel armor. I took them not to use, but to hopefully display alongside the two Daedric arrows once I find a secure home.
The room beyond the vault contained an older Vampire, either unaware or uncaring of the combat in the previous room. I say she was older because she seemed more capable, casting several Conjuration spells, one of which placed a Daedric Cuirass upon her. She summoned several hostile spirits that were similar to the few I had encountered the the Dunmer burial tombs, but kept use of her steel short sword. I ignored the ghosts and concentrated on the unarmored parts of her body. Her style was rough and unpracticed, more accustomed to spells than sword. Interestingly, the summoned Daedric Cuirass remained on her body even after death, though her ghosts had obediently disappeared. Whatever energy was sustaining its existence also maintained its position and could not be removed from the body, no matter what I tried.

The Vampires had only inhabited the rooms closest to the entrance, for when I entered the lower level I found no Vampires, but I still was not alone. Garrisoned on the lower level were several giant Dwemer constructions, each far larger than any race and all armed with weaponry somehow fused into their arms. Constructed entirely of Dwemer metal, they were incredibly tough to destroy, but not very dangerous. The many years of neglect appears to have taken their toll and I imagine in their prime they were far quicker, quiet, and more dangerous compared to the squeaking and squealing of their cumbersome metal limbs today. Their blows were delivered slowly with great strength, but they lacked the cunning of a thinking enemy and their attacks were easily predicted and dodged. If they were effective at one aspect of combat it was in damaging my spear and sword during my attempts to damage them. Attacking their joints seem to have the best effect.

The room with the giant telescope contained the last Vampire, this one larger and stronger than the others. He had his back turned to me when I entered the room, evidently poring over a book he had laid out on the table. I made no noise that I could hear, but he suddenly spun around and ran at me, maybe hoping to dash me to the ground before I could react.

For whatever reason, my first reaction was to cast my Blindness spell, despite it never having worked well previously. To my amazement, I not only cast it successfully, but it struck the Vampire and blinded him momentarily. I positioned myself to receive his attack once the spell wore off as he howled and swung his arms wildly (he wielded no weapon) in an attempt to find me. It would have be comical if the situation was not as deadly. I drank a potion of Invisibility just as it appeared he was regaining his vision and moved towards his desk, throwing a glass dagger past him and into the hallway to distract him. He spun towards the clattering and assumed I had run away, just as I had hoped. Amazingly, he returned to his book with a smug grin.

The grin did not last long. I drove my spear into his back as soon as he resumed reading and he gave an inhuman roar as he spun to attack me. He seemed to give no thought to the spear lodged in his back and eagerly clawed at my throat...and then collapsed in a heap. His struggling attacks had caught the spear's shaft against a Dwemer construct and when he moved again, the spear head slashed sideways through his spine. I made sure he died quickly. Other than the telescope, the room contained nothing of much interest and I steeled myself for my next task.

With their sadistic caretakers dead, the 'cattle' slaves would suffer slow, painful deaths as they starved or thirsted without sustenance. I knew of no way to help them recover their enchantment, nor did I think it would simply wear off. I killed each one of them, nearly all Khajiit, instantly and painlessly and buried them outside the fortress. I dumped the vampires into a lava pit, ensuring no trace of them remained.
The Vampires' final sleep
The storm was still raging when I left the ruins and I continued onward towards Tel Fyr, following a narrow snaking lake of lava to keep my bearings straight. I encountered a wild guar peacefully munching on some spiny ashland grass, not seeming to notice or care about the storm raging around it. The guar eyed me as if to gauge the likelihood of its lunch being interrupted, but I left it alone. After the death at the ruins, this little episode seemed not quite real.
I had no further adventures between the ruins and the Telvanni tower of Tel Fyr and the storm died down just as I was walking from the shore to the small island housing the tower.

Telvanni architecture always looks to owe more to being grown than built and Tel Fyr was no exception to the rule. It spirals up from the ground and actually sprouts branches and trunks at odd intervals, large mushrooms growing on top of some. Living quarters are carved out from the inside of the mushroom-tree and I expected the inside to be what living inside of a tree must look like.

I could not have been more wrong. Contrary to my expectation, the tower was open to visitors, so I knocked on the door and was greeted by a young Dunmer woman who asked if I was sick. Confused, I told her I was seeking a stone from Tel Fyr and she shrugged and said I was welcome to search for it. The architecture of the building was a very bright to my eyes and very gold, the combination unlike the inside of any tree I have seen.
The woman returned to whatever she was doing before my arrival and paid me no more attention. She was quite friendly though and cheerfully answered all of my questions. She introduced herself as 'one' of Divayth Fyr's wives, which was surprising, as I had not heard that the Dunmer subscribed to the practice of multiple spouses. She did not know about the Propylon Stone and suggested it might be below in what she called the 'Corprusarium', which she described as a haven of sorts for people and creatures afflicted by the Blight. Apparently Divayth Fyr enjoyed letting would-be thieves into the Corprusarium, with the understandable expectation that many of them would not be making it back out. Rather barbaric.

Another Dunmer woman, one of his other wives I suppose, informed me that 'Lord Fyr' was in his study and only reachable via a flywell. I had never heard the term before, but a flywell is really just a hole in the ceilings above, allowing one to levitate to the various upper levels via one common path. Very useful, if you can fly.

Which I normally cannot. But I had snatched a scroll which seemed to promise levitation a few days ago from the bandit cave and confidently stood below the flywell, recited the incantation, and brushed the ash off my hands as the scroll disintegrated. I expected to gently float upwards, but the scroll's magic sent me flying up three floors and dashed me against the ceiling. Had I not had my helmet on, I may have been knocked out at the very least, if not killed. The magic in the mysterious scroll was far more powerful than I anticipated and was certainly not written with flywells in mind. A painful, though harmless lesson in the risks of using scrolls you do not fully understand.

A second woman had witnessed my embarrassing ascent and sarcastically asked me if that had been my first time. It had, but I did not answer her jibe and asked for directions to Divayth, which she silently pointed out, her attitude a marked difference from the woman downstairs.

Divayth had his backed turned to the entrance of his chamber, his attention focused on something on the table in front of him, but my own was focused on his armor. With the exception of the helm, the man was (and still is) entirely armored with Daedric-infused plate. Value aside, the sum of the armor's weight must have been incredible and the man himself did not appear very strong, so the armor was not only rare on its own, but powerfully enchanted to either reduce the burden or increase the wearer's capacity to bear it. I remember thinking I would have to fight him in order to get the Propylon Stone, but I would quickly have been destroyed. I have fought Golden Saints, Dremora, and Daedroth, but Divayth would have been a foe all his own.
Divayth Fyr
But my expectation was completely wrong. Divayth may be the most approachable Dunmer on Vvardenfell and perhaps not coincidentally, the most mad. Hearing me walking in, he turned around and greeted me jubilantly, catching me completely off-guard. He asked if I was infected with 'the divine disease', or if I came to plunder the Corprusarium or leer at his daughters...the last question being very odd for several reasons. I would wager not many Khajiit, male or female, came to his tower at all, and none just to look at the women.

He professed interest and amazement with the Blight disease and he works continuously to find out why the afflicted seem not to age, though their sanity rots and their body warps into hideous, unthinking monsters. He called the affliction both a curse and a blessing and has made it his life's ambition to separate the two. But immortality would be in itself a blessing and a curse, at least in my opinion, and I wonder what drives his ambition.

His speech grew stranger from there. He declared that the woman the he referred to as his 'daughters' were neither his wives nor his daughters, but the results of an experiment with flesh taken from a Corpus victim. He claims all of the women were grown in a jar from a combination of his own flesh and that harvested from a victim of the Blight. This is of course utter nonsense for people cannot be born in jars! The women must be very patient House retainers or private caretakers of some sort, perhaps making sure Divayth pauses his studies eat now and then. He seems the type.

Being over a thousand year sold, it may be that time is starting to play tricks on his mind. Whatever the case, the man is quite friendly and exceptionally skilled, definitely not what I expected when I came to visit the Telvanni wizard. When I asked him about the Propylon Stone he invited me to take it, declaring that he was thinking of tossing it into the Corprusarium for the 'guests' housed within to play with. I thanked him, pocketed the stone, and left him to his work. 

The Divine Intervention scroll dropped me just outside of the Imperial fort 'Wolverine Hall' near Sadrith Mora and I walked through the deserted-looking Telvanni town to the Gateway Inn, where I rented a room. I could have stayed at the Mages Guild for free, but I am conscious of becoming insulated into the Guild like many of the others, most of who never seem to go outside, instead just teleporting from one guildhall to another, lost in their own little worlds.