The night was not fraught by the nightmares I had been expecting and I awoke this morning feeling much better about the ordeal. Had I encountered those monsters during my first days on Vvardenfell I would certainly have been killed. I have come a long way since my arrival here and I am proud of what I have accomplished and survived so far, if occasionally terrified by it as well.
The morning was as most are: dreary and cloudy with the promise of little chance of seeing the sun at any point during the day. A dust storm kicked up soon after I left the cave, reducing visibility to almost nothing. Discouraged and feeling very much like a walking ash pile, I my journey finally came to an end at a dead-end, the foyoda abruptly terminating at a wall of impassable hills. A cold campfire showed that I was not the only one to find themselves at the impasse, but I could not remember passing any paths that might have led me around.
Among the clutter of scrolls I keep meaning to be rid of was one for a weak levitation spell, which proved just enough to propel me up and over the hills, where I was soon greeted by the coastline I have spent so much effort in reaching.
Rotheran fortress was just beyond the coast and I approached carefully, as more often than not these locations have been overrun by any manner of hostile creatures. I spotted two Dunmer walking on the roof as I approached, but they were quite friendly. The two of them were adventurers themselves and had come to Rotheran on the rumor that the Imperial Cult was offering a reward for the recovery of a valuable blade said to be held by a Sorcerer or great power either in or around the fortress.
They confessed to being quite confused, for Rotheran was left in a state even more unfinished than the previous fortresses I have been in. Instead of several levels of rooms as have been the norm, Rotheran never progressed past the initial construction of the first underground level and now exists only as a single large room, according to them. The two Dunmer had tried to approach the hut situated on the roof some distance away from the fortresses entrance, but was attacked by the man living inside and they retreated. Now they were trying to decide whether to descend into the fortress now or attempt to contact associates of theirs to help, but also divide the reward.
I was sure that the crazed man in the hut was Rols Ienith, the holder of the Propylon Stone I was seeking. When I mentioned that I also wanted to talk to the man in the hut, one of the adventurers, Tirasie Andalen, warned me that I would be assaulted immediately. That suited me just fine.
Just as they said, I was politely let into the hut when I made my desire to enter known, then viciously stabbed at by a middle-aged Dunmer male spouting nonsensical words. His enthusiasm was not matched by his skill and I quickly disarmed and killed the man. The Propylon Stone was in his pocket and the hut strewn with empty skooma bottles and smoking pipes. Either the man had been a cultist or a desperate sugar addict.
The pair was gone when I dragged the body outside, probably back to Dagon Fel to either give up or collect the friends they had mentioned. I had assumed at the time that they had descended into the fortress and was just about to use a scroll of Divine Intervention when a bloodied Khajiit suddenly stumbled outside from down below. Upon seeing me (no doubt somewhat bloodied myself), she hesitated, but the sound of footsteps traveling up the stairwell behind her evidently made the decision an easy one.
She ran towards me, yelling something in a language I did not understand and pointed behind her. With no idea what she was trying to tell me, I shoved her towards the hut and prepared to face her pursuer. After yesterday, I was ready for anything from a Daedroth to a hungry Kagouti. I was also ready for, though unexpecting, the run-of-the-mill Dunmer slaver, armed with nothing more than a short cheap-looking sword and a boiled leather cuirass.
Apparently he was not ready for a fully-armed, experienced Khajiit warrior and our short melee ended with my chasing him back into the interior of the fortress. I was not so foolish as to blindly charge down the stairs and into the waiting arms of my enemies and paused in the stairs to cast my invisibility spell.
The slavers were a stupid, cruel lot. The one I had been chasing was waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs, along with two others just as poorly equipped. I can only imagine their surprise when they suddenly found their throats opened and death quickly claiming them. I am finding that the glass paralysis daggers are especially useful, a slaver weapon fittingly used against slavers.
The fortress's hastily abandoned construction was serving as entertainment for the gang of slavers. The entire fortress consisted of nothing more than a large two-story square room, around which a spiraling ramp led around and into the center of the room on the ground floor. The slavers had blocked off the ramp at the ground level, tranforming whatever the room was supposed to be into a grisly arena. From the entrance two levels up, I could see several Argonian and Khajiit bodies, as well as a Dremora striding about and a huddle of slaves cringing away from it in the opposite corner, though the Dremora seemed to take little notice of them.
The invisibility spell had worn off by then, but with three slavers already dead, I judged that there could not be many more, as the largest part of the room was the arena itself. Just as I started to creep away from the stairs, an angry female voice started shouting upwards at me. I thought I had been spotted, but the woman was yelling at the three slavers who were quite unable to reply in kind. I tried to cast the invisibility spell again, but my luck had run out and the spell fizzled just as a well-dressed Dunmer male turned the corner ahead of me.
Similar to the sorcerer at Hlormaren, he was heavily armed and summoned a Bonewalker upon seeing me and unsheathed a two-handed sword from his back as the creature loped towards me. I have not been keeping a tally of how many Bonewalkers I have sent back to their plane by now, but it is enough that they fail to present much of a threat any longer. This one was no different.
The man was a different matter. I had hoped the sword was a relic of a past raid and not something he was practiced with, but unfortunately he was quite good with the massive blade. The battle was the classic sword versus spear, but it was my shoulder that decided the outcome. I maneuvered him with his back against the edge of the ramp and when his guard was down, I dropped my weapons and rushed him, heaving him over the side of the railing. The two-story fall into the arena only dazed the man, but the sword was at my feet and he was quickly overwhelmed by his slaves as they tore him apart.
The sword had to have been the blade the two adventurers had been keen on acquiring, for it was very finely made and from what I could tell, powerfully enchanted. It was also very heavy and like the halberds, simply not a weapon made for Khajiit to use. I left it where the late Dunmer slaver had dropped it and proceeded down the ramp, gradually spiraling around the arena towards the ground floor.
Apparently there were more slavers than I suspected and a small battle was raging between the slaves and the slavers. The Dremora had disappeared with the death of the sorcerer and the slaves, all of them Khajiit and Argonian, had no issues with fighting dirty. I watched an Argonian that had his wrists shackled together smack a Dunmer in the side of the head, then fatally bite through the man's jugular. The Khajiit practice of clawing out their opponents' eyes seemed quite tame after that.
The surviving slaves kept their distance from me, as I obviously was not a slaver, but well-armed nonetheless. One of the Khajiit stepped forwarded and said something to me, but again I could not understand the language. They must have hailed from quite far away. Eventually, he gave up on trying to talk and merely pointed into the arena. I suspected a trap, but he was gesturing towards a frightened Dunmer woman who had remained in the arena, her wrists and ankles shackled.
Her name was Adusamsi, a native of Vvardenfell and a member of the Imperial Cult. She had been captured by the slavers some time ago (she was not sure how long) and scheduled to participate in the arena in what were usually very one-sided matches. The robe the sorcerer had been wearing was originally hers, as was a ring enchanted with a Divine Intervention trigger which he had worn. The robe was damaged by the slaves' enthusiasm for revenge and the hand that had held the ring was broken almost beyond recognition, the ring having been forced off in the process.
I helped her look and found a key to the slaves' shackles while searching the body, which I threw to an Argonian who did not have her wrists bound. Adusamsi found the ring herself behind a decorative column and slipped it on her finger, disappearing almost immediately to. As for the slaves, they freed themselves and left as a group, one Argonian I had not seen earlier loitering behind long enough to ask if I was in the Twin Lamps. She seemed surprised to hear that I had no idea who they were and asked me why I was there if not by their guidance. She suggested I join them, but did not tell me who they were, so that might be difficult.
Divine Intervention brought me to Ald'ruhn, which suited me perfectly. Via the Guild Guide, I dropped yet another Propylon Stone into Folms' waiting hands and was given another location for another stone, this one for fortress Falensarano. The stone was last seen in possession of an outlander named Huunen, near a Daedric shrine called Maelkashishi, somewhere to the west of Maar Gan. Folms thinks Huunen is already dead, but Vvardenfell is full of surprises.
Despite how it sounds, the battle in the fortress was really over quickly and it was only two in the afternoon when I popped into the Balmora Mages Guild, selling a few pieces of glass and Dreugh wax to an appreciative Ajira. My business was not with the guild today though and I visited my friend in Balmora to see if he needed my help with anything.
I was not surprised to find out that he did. A former Ashlander-turned-Merchant named Hassour Zainsubani was living in Ald'ruhn and my friend needed the man's advice in how to talk diplomatically with the Ashland tribes. I was given one hundred Septims and the advice that Ashlanders view the exchange of gifts quite a serious thing and that I acquire something to gift the man with before I try to approach him for help.
The man was well known in Ald'ruhn and I was advised that the man was an avid reader and an amateur poet. Knowing this, I stopped at the bookseller and after searching around a bit, purchased a copy of "The Five Far Stars", a collection of poetry seemingly related to an eruption of the Red Mountain and the ashland tribes' resistance to the rising of Dagoth Ur. At least, I think that is what the book was getting at.
Hassour appreciated my selection and in return offered a gift of information. He instructed me on the best way to approach an Ashland tribal camp, the practice of martial challenges, and the Nerevarine Cult. The Urshilaku are the prominent tribe among the cult, their leader is the 'Warrior-Protector' of the Nerevarine Cult as a whole, whatever that may entail. He took the time to summarize his knowledge on to several scrolls, all the better for my friend's requirements.
Before parting, he had a request of his own: that I find his son, Hannat, who had left to explore what Hassour called an "underground complex" named Mamaea, likely a Daedric shrine of some sort, due west of the Red Mountain near Gnisis. I agreed to look for his son, though I cautioned him that my business likely was not going to bring me in that area for some time.
When I brought the notes to my friend in Balmora, he promoted me within his organization and revealed what I have been working towards so far. The Nerevarine Prophecy is of course not new to me, but apparently the Emperor believes I am able to fulfill the prophecy and become the Nerevarine. As I am Khajiit, this is quite a belief the Emperor has! My friend had his doubts as well. Initially he admitted that he thought I was supposed to become an impostor Nerevarine for whatever end, but he has started to suspect I may be the genuine article, as it were.
He gave me the decoded version of the package I received when I arrived on Vvardenfell and it seems that the letter was written about someone else. Every place my name appears is preceded by blotch of ink, destroying whatever name the author originally intended. The origin story is still the same: that I have been released from prison on the Emperor's orders to become the Nerevarine impostor. Of course, I was not released from any prison, but woken up in the early morning in the Auxiliary barracks to board a ship to parts mostly unknown to me.
The whole thing would be a great deal more amusing if the stakes were not so high.
My new orders are to find the Urshilaku camp and have the wise-woman test me against their version of the Nerevarine prophecy. I doubt they will accept a Khajiit as the savior of Vvardenfell and the journey will take me back into the inhospitable wastes of the North, somewhere near Khuul. That being as it is, I may find myself helping Hassour sooner than I expected and I have been told that supplies have been set aside for me in Fort Moonmoth, so I may stop there tomorrow morning.
Honestly, the entire ordeal has just happened so suddenly that I am not quite sure what to think. For now, I will continue to take each day as it comes.