Saturday, June 22, 2013

Morrowind Day 53 - Jailbreak

6 Frost Fall
The day started with my full intention to devote it to duties for House Redoran as part of my larger plan to try and unite the Houses. Naturally, no one is going to listen to a Khajiit outlander, but one that is reasonably well-known in a Great House may be listened to. The threat of Dagoth Ur and the Sixth House is real. That the Houses would rather argue among themselves and ignore the larger problem is something that someone needs to correct and unfortunately that 'someone' seems to be myself. 

My life being what it is, I started the day fully anticipating being able to fulfill my goal. I ate a quick breakfast in Balmora, then visited Neminda in Ald'ruhn to deliver my report on the hapless trader Mathis Dalobar. She thanked me and immediately the inter-House arguing reared its head: my new task was to retrieve a valuable Redoran bonemold helm from a thieving member of House Hlaalu in Balmora. Neminda cautioned me not to strike the thief before being struck, lest he be able to declare a moral victory and smugly point out the murderous intent of House Redoran...or something like that. 

The Hlaalu thief was one Alvis Teri, last seen bragging, and wearing, his new acquisition at the Eight Plates eating house. So naturally I went back to the Mages Guild, teleported back to where I started from, and visited the Eight Plates. Alvis was easy to find, the Eight Plates is just one big room with a bar and tables and he was the only one in there wearing a full helm.
I know little of the five Great Houses (less of the hidden Sixth one), but of the three on Vvardenfell it is House Hlaalu that is looking after and for the money. Knowing this, I offered to buy the helmet from Alvis, who willingly parted with it for two hundred Septims. Perhaps a decent sum for him, but still a paltry one for me. There may have been a more "honorable" way of dealing with the situation, but I am valuing expediency in the execution of my House duties. Actions concerning the Nervarine prophecy or actions against the Sixth House are far more important, now that the choice is wholly mine.

Neminda was pleased and elevated me to the rank of 'Lawman' of House Redoran. Her next task involved an old acquaintance: Drulene Falen, the guar herder who I slew the mudcrabs for a while back. This time her guar were disappearing due to a more dangerous foe: bandits. According to Neminda, a group of bandits were holed up in an ancestral tomb near a the cluster of farms which Drulene's was a part of and they had been raiding the farmers for livestock and crops for some time now. The farmers have petitioned House Redoran for assistance and I am to be the official response. On my way out of Ald'ruhn I spied the couple who I reunited a long time ago. They were seated against the hillside and either ignorant of the danger or heedless of it, having a picnic. I was too far away for them to see me and I left them alone. I can only wonder when I will be braving Nix-Hounds for their sake again due to their recklessness.

Druelene was pleased to see me again and mentioned that she had seen guar tracks leading away from her farm to the south before rain washed them away. Obviously no fighter herself, she had no illusions about taking back her stolen property from armed men desperate enough to steal farm animals and was content to wait for a response from House Redoran, of which her family had been a part of several generations ago. Why not now? She never offered that story and I did not ask.
Her guar were barely fifty yards away, hidden just out of view by the rolling hills of the grassland and peacefully grazing outside of a small tomb. I expected the usual skeletons and bonewalkers, maybe even one of those floating things, but the tomb may have been completely abandoned. Other than the bandits, the only guardians were two starving rats which I put out of their misery.
The fight against the bandits is barely worth mentioning. As I guessed, they were desperate, poorly equipped, and not too bright. There were only two of them, neither of which had anything approaching armor, and only one with a respectable weapon: an Orcish battle axe, the acquisition of which must have been quite a tale. The other simply had a rusty iron dagger. Odd.

Drulene's reward for the return of her guar was more hackle-lo leaves to chew on. Neminda was less grateful: the only thing I got from her was more orders. These were much easier to handle though. While I was out rescuing animals, a local Redoran councilman named Athyn Sarethi had been assaulted in his home by assassins. By the time I had come back from Drulene's farm, the Ald'ruhn guards had barricaded the entrance to the manor and were preparing to storm the place. Neminda's orders were to go in alone and bring Athyn out so that the guards could storm the manor without worrying about him. She mentioned that as a councilman, Athyn technically had authority over me as a Redoran retainer, so his orders were to be obeyed.

The guards stationed at the manor entrance let me pass when I told them Neminda had sent me and I could see Athyn and the manor's dead guardsman from inside the entraceway. The man nearly died of fright when he heard me coming, but he relaxed when he saw me. Evidently Khajiit assassins are not very common in this part of the Empire. It is a good thing they are not, for I could have done a much better job than the two assassins which came running at me from further inside the house. I pushed the councilman towards the door and heard him running up the short flight of stairs as I prepared to meet the assassins.

I expected better than what I got. The men were armed predictably: chitin daggers and short swords enchanted with paralysis and poison. Neither wore armor, though good assassins don't need it if they do their jobs correctly. These two did not and their weapons barely scratched my Dreugh armor as mine effortlessly cleaved into them. The battle probably lasted less than a minute. I emerged from the manor bloody, but none of it was my own. Athyn thanked me and assured me he would remember my deed when it came time to pay the favor back. 

Neminda was just as pleased, for the bandit problem was the last item on her list of outstanding duties and the slaying of the assassins made her look even better, I assume, to those higher up in the House. I now need to find one of those higher-ups to sponsor me if I am to pursue further duties within House Redoran. This is probably what Athyn was referring to.

I had business elsewhere though. I cleaned myself up and teleported to the Vivec Mages Guild in order to visit my friend at the ever-ominous Temple canton. On my way through the cantons of Vivec, I wound up passing through the Redoran compound and visited Faral Retheran, the House Redoran steward of Vivec. She had a task for Balmora. Something about a slandering Hlaalu. I am beginning to notice a pattern here. I agreed to look into the matter and moved on.

A gondolier ferried me to the Temple canton for a few gold pieces and I entered the library, looking for my contact. However, she was nowhere to be found and I resorted to prowling about the priests' private quarters, looking for her room. Helpfully, each door has a small metal plate next to it with the name of the occupant. My friend's quarters was locked, but not very securely. I unlocked the door with a quiet word of magic and slipped inside. So far I had not been seen by an Ordinator and I definitely wanted to avoid becoming involved with them.

The room was sparsely furnished and probably typical of the rooms for the lower caste of the Temple. The only hint that anything was amiss was a note left on the dresser for one "Amaya", the code word that my friend told me she would use to indicate she was in trouble. The letter continued on to say that she was in the Ministry of Truth delivering documents and to be sure to remember to bring two Divine Intervention scrolls she had "forgotten" to bring with her. She said that the guard at the Ministry of Truth, Alvela Saram, would help me sneak into the Ministry. As the Ministry of Justice is really the huge floating rock above the Temple canton, my friend was considerate enough to leave a few Levitation potions in her room.

So at eight in the evening, Levitation potions and scrolls of Divine Intervention handy, I drank one of the potions and floated uneasily up to the scaffolding ringing the rock. There was one guard on duty outside and she asked if I was there to visit anyone. When I told her I was trying to visit my friend, she gave me a key to the three entrances into the rock. She was sympathetic towards the Dissident Priests, but cautioned me against committing violence against anyone inside the ministry. She seemed relieved to hear my plan largely consisted of not being noticed.

I was expecting the inside of the Ministry to be luxurious and opulent, but the inside was a network a rough-hewn rock tunnels into which thick wooden doors were set, very much like any number of the smuggler dens and mines I have found myself in. One might expect sneaking a prisoner out of the Ministry of Justice a riveting tale, but in reality I simply made sure my Invisibility never wore off and magically unlocked any doors I encountered. There were Ordinators patrolling the tunnels, but only singly and never in any sort of coordination.
Behind one of the locked doors was the prisoner holding area, more a pit than anything else. Opening the door removed my invisibility, but I was lucky enough to walk through at just the right moment when the Ordinators were looking the other way. After I was invisible again, I sneaked down to the holding area and starting trying the cell doors. They were all locked, but gave up easily to my unlocking spell. There were three doors and the first two I tried housed common thieves, neither of which had any inclination of leaving cell. The third door held my friend, who was a great deal more eager to leave.

We did not spend much time talking. I gave her a Divine Intervention scroll and told her of our mutual friend's recall back to the Imperial City. She seems to think her imprisonment and his leaving to be connected, but I am not so sure. Before activating the scroll, she told me to look for a woman on the docks of Ebonheart and tell her I wanted to go fishing. This woman would deliver me to a secret monastery of the Dissident Priests, where the lost prophecies of the Nerevarine are kept. With that, she activated the scroll and disappeared. 

Per the plan, I was not to activate my own scroll for five minutes after her departure, as to not raise suspicion about ending up together at Ebonheart. Rather than do that though, I drank my last Recall potion. Better to spend the night at home than in an inn. Once I was home, I immediately barricaded the door with all the spare furniture in the room and laid down in my hammock to write this.

I will immediately pursue the lost prophecies tomorrow, but I cannot lose sight of House Redoran, whose favor I may need to call upon in the days ahead.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Morrowind Day 52- An End and a Beginning

5 Frost Fall
Yesterday I spoke about morning routines. Ironic, given that I was woken up outside of my routine the next day. No dream this time, but a live, in-my-new-house faceless horror jolting me out of my rest in a rush of adrenaline and terror. My spear and armor was on the other side of the room, but I have always kept my short sword, and now dagger, within reach when I sleep. Frightening as the creature was, it was no more capable than its brethren and I dispatched it quickly. The magical lock on my door had been dispelled, so now I need a stronger version of it, which necessitates a stronger unlocking spell as well.
I was certainly not going back to sleep after that little episode and 5 Frost Fall started at two in the morning for me. I felt feverish, itchy, and generally unwell and was about to put my symptoms down to fatigue and nerves, before I idly scratched at my arms, unexpectedly drawing blood. Pale, wet welts were rising all over my arms and I had bled one simply by brushing a claw over it. A hurried check revealed more of them on my legs and a few small ones on my chest and judging by the itching, on my back as well. I had contracted Corpus. The death curse of Dagoth Gares must have been more potent than I gave it credit for, though I could have contracted Corpus from any one of the many unfortunates that I have slain in the past few days.

I am oddly proud to say I greeted the realization calmly, reasoning that I had no choice but to deliver my final report to my friend in Balmora, then make a one-way trip to Tel Fyr to become an inmate for the rest of my maddened days. At the very least, I would become the first Khajiit to become infected with Corpus, so far as I know. Hardly a comfort.

To my surprise, my friend had foreseen the possibility of me contracting Corpus and had been busying making inquiries of his own while I was battling for my life underneath the swamps of Gnaar Mok. A local Telvanni-in-hiding pointed coincidentally pointed out Divayth Fyr at Tel Fyr as my best chance of finding a cure, which is where my friend immediately sent me to, laden with gold, potions, and a Dwemer piece as a sort of bribe. My friend retained enough humor to wryly remark on the irony of two Imperial agents trading Dwemer artifacts between one another, but was unconcerned with the consequences. My fate, he said, was far more important. It was an embarrassing thing to hear, for me, but a pleasant one.

Of course, I knew the way to Tel Fyr, already having been there for the Propylon Stone and nearly bashing my brains out on the ceiling due to an overly-powerful levitation scroll. So with the Dwemer vase-like thing in the bottom of my pack, I teleported to the Wolverine Hall Mages Guild and walked across the water to the shore of Tel Fyr.

I was smart enough this time to measure out my levitation and managed not to smash my skull into the ceiling, drawing a remark from one of Divayth Fyr's daughters on the upper level that I seemed to be learning. Divayth Fyr was just as cordial as the first time we met and he expressed great interest in the Dwemer piece. I offered it as a gift and he laughed, accepting it and asking what favor I needed from him this time.

He was surprised to hear that I had contracted Corpus and demanded that I subject myself to a quick inspection. He poked and prodded my misshapen lumps with small metal tools, satisfying his curiosity and declaring me infected. He called for the daughter upstairs to lead me into the Corprusarium, but I stopped him and mentioned that it is believed that I may fulfill the Nervarine Prophecies. According to him, Corpus makes you immune to all other disease and he had always wondered if the Nerevarine was wandering around in his basement, a deformed, immortal creature. He remarked that if I was to fulfill them, then it meant being cured of Corpus, a goal of his so far unrealized, as his "cure" has been disappointingly fatal to all of his patients. His comment that all Corpus victims had delusions did nothing for my self-confidence.

The thought of gradually losing my mind and body and being stuck underground in Tel Fyr forever made the choice an easy one. Either I was going to drop dead upon drinking the potion or I would be cured and one step closer to becoming the Nervarine. 

Naturally, there was a catch: Divayth Fyr would only give me the potion after I retrieved a pair of boots from within the Corprusarium, currently held by what I assumed was a caretaker named Yagrum Bagarn. Even in matters of life-or-death, people have no hesitation about asking me to perform menial tasks for them.

The Corprusarium was every bit the morose, frightening place that I thought it to be. The head warden, an Argonian, cautioned me that hurting the "inmates" was forbidden and that I was expected to endure their attacks without retaliations, if need be. Failure to abide by that and other rules would result in my incarceration or death.

Surprisingly, I need not have worried. The inmates were the same mountains of maddened flesh I have been encountering in the Sixth House bases, but the ones in the Corprusarium were mostly content to leave me alone. Rather than encountering the mindless hostile rage I have grown to expect, these creatures seemed sad and lost, I observed the least physically-transformed of them moaning and tearing at his hair, confused or upset at his fate. Having said that, they were all quick to take a swipe at me if I came too close, but they were no real threat.

One of Divayth Fyr's daughters, Uuspe Fyr, served as caretaker to the creatures within the Corprusarium and asked that I retrieve a guarskin drum lying around somewhere. According to her the Corpus-infected creatures are calmed by the music and she offered to play as to ease my time underground. Her companion is a story all his own.
His name was Yagrum Bagarn, possibly the only remaining dwarf of the Dwemer civilization in the entire world. According to him, Divayth Fyr took him in after the disappearance of the Dwemer race and Yagrum Bagarn's subsequent contracting of Corpus. He was offered Divayth Fyr's cure and it did not kill him. Rather, it halted the Corpus, but failed also failed to heal it, leaving Yagrum physically incapacitated, but mentally sound. He handed over the broken Dwemer boots willingly, asking me to apologize to Divayth Fyr on his behalf, for he could not repair them. Had I not been in a race against my own Corpus infection and not been in the depths of the Corprusarium I think I would have enjoyed learning more of his history, but I thanked him for the boots and rushed out of the gloomy place.

Divayth Fyr's only condition for giving me the Corpus cure, other than giving him the boots, was that I drink it immediately in front of him, no doubt so he could take notes on my demise. With no other choice I agreed and swallowed the entire contents of the potion before I could get second thoughts. After a few moments, I felt only a tingling sensation, but nothing indicating imminent death. Divayth Fyr suddenly grabbed my arm and held it up to my face.

"Look! Look! It's working!"

And to my amazement, I watched as one of the wet, pale fleshy nodules shrunk and disappeared into my arm, leaving no sensation or hint that anything was ever amiss. A quick examination found that all of the lumps had disappeared, my head was no longer hurting, and I felt better than I have been in quite some time. When I exclaimed my surprise and joy at being cured of the disease, Divayth Fyr laughed at me. I was not cured exactly, rather his "cure" only sought to remove the negative aspects of the disease and leave what he saw as positives. In short: I will not go mad, nor will my body be painfully warped, but I am no longer susceptible to disease of any kind, nor will I age any longer.

The last part is especially troubling. To not grow older, to not die naturally...this is something we all deal with eventually. But if Divayth Fyr is to be believed, he is four thousand years old and doing fine...other than the business of having cloned his own "daughters" from his own flesh.

I guess I will just be taking this one day at a time, as I always have. Still, to know that everyone you meet will be long dead while you linger on in life is an odd thing.

But I had other business to attend to as well, so I bid Divayth Fyr farewell and gulped down a Recall potion to whisk me back home. I wasted no time and was back in Balmora within half an hour of being cured. My friend had quite a bit of news for me: He has been recalled back to the Imperial City and will no longer be the leader of our organization. Rather, he promoted me an additional rank, making me the highest ranking member of the group in Vvardenfell. This generally means I am the leader now, but my friend explained that all of us are under direct orders from the Imperial City anyway, so I need not do very much.

His last words of advice before he walked out of his former home is worrying:

"The days of the Empire are almost over. Forget about the Imperial City and think locally. Worry about the Sixth House and Dagoth Ur. Unite the Great Houses and resolve their squabbles with the Ashlanders. The rest of the political nonsense will amount to nothing if the rise of Dagoth Ur is not stopped."

His last order was to see our mutual friend in Vivec about the (formerly?) lost Ashlander Nerevarine prophecies and as to the rest, is all up to me now. 

It was just after dinner when my friend left for the long trip back to Cyrodiil. I spent the remainder of the evening at the Mages Guild training with my Illusion spells. If I am to become the Nerevarine, and it seems like I am, then I think I will be relying more on deception than strength in the days ahead.

Quite a day: Cured of the incurable disease, granted immortality, and promoted to the leading rank of the most secretive Imperial order. It is too much to take in all at once, it all still seems impossible to believe even as I write this. 

One day at a time.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Morrowind Day 51 - Assault on Ilnuibi

4 Frost Fall
Habits are hard to break, especially those that surround your morning routine. Despite not getting any sleep yesterday, I still woke up at my usual time this morning: just before the Guild's communal breakfast.

I could have simply paid Masalinie to teleport me over to Ald'ruhn, but I do not want to become like the other members of the Mages Guild: knowledgeable and strong in the ways of magic, yet unwilling to walk out the front door. I always will be a Scout of the Imperial Auxiliaries and I decided to walk from Balmora to Ald'ruhn, just to keep myself in shape for doing such things.

Naturally, this meant it started to rain as soon as I left the town.

Other than being wet, the walk from Balmora to Fort Buckmoth was uneventful. As always, I took the opportunity to shoot some arrows at wild rats and scribs to keep up on my practice, but I saw nothing out of the ordinary.

Word of my arrival preceded me. The Champion of the garrison, Raesa Pullia, had been waiting for me and immediately launched into an explanation of what had happened. She had sent a doubled patrol to what she thought was a simple smuggler hideout, but the dozen troopers encountered far worse. They initially made good progress into the cavern unopposed, but came under attack by cultists and the corpus monsters I have become more accustomed to. The troopers, experienced as they were, were not as accustomed and attempted to retreat. Apparently they got lost and ambushed by a man-creature calling itself Dagoth Gares, whom killed all the remaining troopers save for the one that stumbled back to the fort. Infected with corpus, the unfortunate man could only rant about the Sixth House and Dagoth Ur before expiring. 

Raesa confessed to being shaken by the whole ordeal and the morale of the garrison was quite low following the trooper's gruesome death. She asked that I go to Gnaar Mok and investigate the cave, if possible killing this Dagoth Gares and his followers. I felt up to the task, after all, it would not be the first Sixth House base I have destroyed.

So it was back into the reeking swamps for me as I walked to the fishing village. I accidentally got a small preview of what I would be finding when I stumbled upon a small cave. Thinking it might be Ilnuibi, I entered cautiously and was immediately attacked by one of the faceless creatures. It was obvious that the cave was not the one I was seeking, for it only had four large alcoves and was impossible to get lost in. The fourth alcove was joined to the entrance via a small stone outcropping along a pool of lava, which I wound up throwing a corpus-infected man into. There was little treasure to be found and only four creatures in the entire cave, one of which was a cultist.
The villagers at Gnaar Mok were suspiciously unaware of everything. They were able to tell me where Ilnuibi was, but referred to it as a smuggling hideaway. Questions about the Imperial Legion patrol were met with silence and the whole thing left me uneasy. I had assumed the Sixth House's reach would extend from the Red Mountain, rotting the island from within, but it appears there are pockets of Sixth House loyalists along the coast as well. This is worrying.
Ilnuibi is just north of Gnaar Mok, which makes the villagers professed ignorance even more unbelievable. The inside of the cave opened against a small waterfall of seawater leaking in from above, making the descent in armor a treacherous and very wet task. A long corridor spanned before me and at the end, a faceless denizen a good distance away. It started to run towards me, but the entire corridor was flooded, so his progress was slow, giving me plenty of shots with the bow. It fell dead after covering less than half the distance to me. 

I found the first of the dead Legionnaires at the end of the corridor. I had expected the patrol to be armed typical of the Legion, but the soldier had a large two-handed Dwemer battle axe still clutched in his hands. To his respect I let him keep it. The corridor continued onwards, all of it flooded and I felled several of the faceless and one of the stone-faced creatures with my arrows. The cave might have been a mine of some sort in the past, for at the end of the corridor sat a thick wooden door...not something you usually see underground.

Immediately past the door was another dead soldier, this one on her stomach and just as richly armed with an enchanted two-handed sword and an Orcish cuirass. Unlike the first, she was on relatively dry ground and seemed unharmed. When I flipped her around I nearly lost Ajira's breakfast. Her face had been brutally clawed away, leaving just a gaping, gore-filled hole. I do not remember what happened after that, just that I came to my senses at another worn, wooden door with no recollection of how I got there.

Through that door was one of the grimacing stone-faced creatures who, instead of casting spells, started clawing at me. Its hands were dry though, but the soldier's fate lent me strength enough to impale the creature straight through and into the cavern wall. Its shriek as it clutched at through its stomach (if it had one) felt as if it had pierced straight through my skull.
I was just about to yank the spear back out when I heard the laughter and startlingly soft, deep voice. "The Sixth House greets you Lord Nerevar, or Kerra, as you call yourself..." and into the corridor walked a tall, robed figure...with no face. It had a mouth, but might have been one of the faceless creatures at one point, for the hollow in the skull was present, but this creature had a tentacle-like protrusion growing out of the hole. Yet after he greeted me, he smiled, an effect that made him look oddly normal. This was Dagoth Gares.

I felt unprotected without my spear, but I felt that if I tried to extract it, he/it would stop talking and start attacking. The fate of the troopers aside, this was also the first opportunity I had to gather intelligence from a Sixth House follower, so I cautiously drew the strangely shaped Daedric dagger and we had what could almost pass for a pleasant conversation.

He had much to say. He apologized for the hostile reception, but professed regret that, until I declare my friendship with Dagoth Ur, the servants of the Sixth House would treat me as an enemy. Among all of Dagoth Gares declarations, this initial one is the most curious and the first sign that Dagoth Ur is attempting to avoid a conflict with either myself or whomever he believes me to be.

When asked about Dagoth Ur himself, I was told that he is awaiting me under the Red Mountain, with a hand extended in friendship in honor of the camaraderie we shared long ago. Should I seek out Dagoth Ur, I need only renew that ancient friendship to receive his alliance in "setting  the world aright", to quote Dagoth Gares. I wonder in what shape the world was in when Lord Nerevar walked in and setting the world right meant infecting people with body and mind warping disease.

I pressed Dagoth Gares to go into more detail as to what Dagoth Ur's "friendship" would mean. In response, he relayed a message evidently dictated from Dagoth Ur himself:

"Once we were friends and brothers, Lord Nerevar, in peace and in war. Yet beneath Red Mountain you struck me down as I guarded the treasure you bound me by oath to defend. But, remembering our old friendship, I would forgive you and raise you high in my service."

The message, delivered in Dagoth Gares's calm voice, I remember exactly. It raises a lot more questions than it answers: Did Lord Nerevar attack Dagoth Ur underneath Red Mountain? What treasures and what oath? And why does he think I am Lord Nerevar? So much time has passed since then, surely he must know that everyone he knew has aged and died long ago. I came to Ilnuibi seeking answers and wound up coming out of it with more questions.

As Dagoth Gares continued to talk, the fur on the back of my neck started to rise. It used to do that back in the Auxiliaries right before ambushes and I used to be in demand for long patrols just for that purpose. The smooth-talking monster was going to do something soon, I just did not know what. Figuring that there is little sense in letting your enemy strike first, I launched myself at him with my dagger, catching him in mid-sentence. His misshapen face clearly showed surprise, interesting proof that Dagoth Ur's higher minions are allowed a greater amount of intelligence and initiative.

Perhaps he was feeling overconfident, for he had let me strike first and in close quarters. Faced with my dagger, he was hard-pressed to cast the spells he depended on and resorted, unskillfully, to fighting me bare-handed. As he collapsed on to the stone ground, he smiled and pointed at me:

"Even as my Master wills, you shall come to him, in his flesh, and of his flesh"

Then with a rattling gasp, he died and no spell came of his decree, other than a vague itchiness. The men and women of Fort Buckmoth have been avenged. I finally retrieved my spear and searched the body. The only thing of interest I found was an amulet and a note evidently penned by Dagoth Ur himself, a message which Dagoth Gares had faithfully delivered pretty much word for word. The amulet was not magical, but it did bear an odd mark on it, so I took it to show to my friend. Perhaps he will know more about it.
Beyond the corpse were troughs similar to the ones in Telasero, but these only contained clothing and miscellaneous items not worth the trouble of carrying. After satisfying my curiosity, I drank a potion of Recall and was whisked away to my home in Ald'ruhn. I expect my sleep tonight will not come easy, but I am also no rookie to combat. If needed, Ienas has left some fine liquors here, but Khajiit are not exactly known for holding their alcohol. 

This itching is quite an annoyance, but probably nothing that a bath will not fix. Tomorrow: a return to Fort Buckmoth, then reporting back to my friend in Balmora.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Morrowind Days 49 & 50 - Legacy of the Urshilaku

2 Frost Fall, 3 Frost Fall
Neminda promoted me to the rank of Oathman when I saw her in the morning. She immediately gave me a new task: travel to Maar Gan and find out what happened to the Redoran trader, Mathis Dalobar, who was late in returning to Ald'ruhn. Maar Gan is halfway between Ald'ruhn and the Urshilaku's camp, so I accepted, intending to satisfy both responsibilities in the same day.

An ash storm started to pick up as I was leaving town and completely engulfed me in minutes. I thought about turning back and waiting until it died down, but that could have been a wait of hours or of days. This was not my first dust storm I have had to travel in and I wound up just trudging through the grit.
Maar Gan, barely visible
I was a bit concerned that someone might link me to the disappearence of the Propylon Stone I had swiped from the Temple, but not only was I not recognized, the stone itself seemed to have been completely forgotten. Maybe the Temple assumed one of its acolytes accidentally lost it. The local armorer had a surprising supply of silvered arrows, all of which I purchased. He had no concrete information on the disappearance of Mathis Dalobar, only commenting that there had been a bad ash storm a few days back which the trader had likely been caught up in.

A few villagers did tell me that they saw Mathis just outside of town as the storm gathered strength and that he had run into a nearby tomb to escape. Why he did not simply run for the town, they could not say. I found the tomb after spending hours stumbling around in my own ash storm, but I could begrudgingly approve of his decision to head for the nearest shelter by then. 

The tomb opened to a stairway, at the bottom of which was another door and the lost trader. The man was smart enough not to proceed any further than that, allowing whatever guardians the tomb had to peacefully await the intruder who would be coming through the second door. Mathis was unharmed and relieved to see me, stating that he had been stuck at the foot of the stairs for three days, as he had been unable to open the tomb's door once he closed it behind him. I had no problems re-opening the door and he requested that I escort him to the Maar Gan shrine.

Now that I knew where to go, the walk from the tomb to Maar Gan only took a few minutes. Mathis lamented at the loss of his guar with all his merchandise, but thanked me for saving his life. By then it was already late in the afternoon and the storm was still raging, but I decided to continue onward towards the Urshilaku camp. Other than a group of bandits uselessly firing chitin arrows at me, I had no issues with the journey further north. The storm had died by the time I reached the coast and I cautiously waded into the shallows to get some of the dust out of my fur.
The Urshilaku were polite in their own way. I approached them in what I think was a respectful manner and told them I was seeking information on the Nerevarine prophecies. The ones I talked to acknowledged my interest, but dismissed me as an outlander who had no business with such things. I wound up with an audience with Zabamund, the champion of Sul-Matuul, in order to get his permission to approach Sul-Matuul. A failure to do this could mean having to fight Sul-Matuul, which would not get me anywhere.

Zabamund was more blunt than the others. He demanded a reason as to why I should be allowed to talk to Sul-Matuul and their wise-woman, Nibani Maesa. Remembering what Hassour told me, I offered a tribute of money and received Zabamund's permission to see Sul-Matuul with my questions.

Sul-Matuul was more accepting of my questions. When I asked to be tested against the Nerevarine prophecies, he told me that no outlander could ever be tested, but if I was made Clanfriend, an honorary member of the tribe I suppose, I could then be tested. He offered an initiation rite, which if I passed, he would personally adopt me into the clan and introduce me to the wise-woman. I really had no choice and accepted the rite.

It was less than what I expected. He called it a 'harrowing', but I call it 'what I do almost every day': I was to go to the tribe's burial cavern and fetch a chitin bow that had belonged to Sul-Matuul's father. Before I left he cautioned me that the tribe's ancestor spirits were guarding the cavern and would attempt to kill me. I resisted the urge to tell how how many Dremora and Golden Saints I have fought and defeated.

Apparently the Urshilaku mummify their warriors and the sight is quite startling. Even the eyes are preserved: grey, dry, and eternally staring in contemplation. Walking by them managed to put me on edge just as badly as my first encounter with the blighted monsters in the Ashlands, but they were harmless.
The guardians were almost entirely animated skeletons armed with silver longswords and cheap iron shields, nothing I could not handle so long as I was not facing more than two at a time. I found several bodies of long-deceased and partially mummified adventurers, all of them in mismatched equipment of varying quality. Whether they came as a group or individually was impossible to tell and I wonder if they too were testing themselves against the Nerevarine prophecy. It is far more likely that they were all simple robbers.

The cavern was divided into several levels, each accessible by a central stone spire that rose up towards the ceiling. I explored each level thouroughly, but only within the final level did I find what I was searching for. The bow was levitating against the ceiling and guarded by a tough ghost typical of Dunmer burial sites in a room at the furtherest end of the highest chamber. The ghost was fairly difficult, striking me with a wide variety of spells and darting out of the way of my attacks, but it was more frustrating than damaging. When I finally managed to drive it into a corner and defeat it, the bow clattered on to the ground behind me. On my way out I spotted a burial totem eerily similar to the ones I saw in the Sixth House base.
It had been growing darker when I entered the burial cavern, so I was very surprised to see it growing lighter when I exited. I managed to spend an entire, sleepless night fighting the Urshilaku's ancestral spirits without realizing how much time had passed. 

With realization came fatigue. I anticipated handing the bow to Sul-Matuul, but he gifted it to me as part of naming me Clanfriend, an adopted member of the clan. Having thus been initiated into the tribe, I was allowed to finally speak with the wise woman.

In the pattern I was beginning to recognize, the wise-woman, Nibani Maesa, treated me indifferently, scoffing at my title of Clanfriend as a transient thing. Nevertheless, she willingly discussed the Nerevarine prophecy with me and the possibility of my being the Nerevarine. What she told me is far too much to write here. I did write a summary of notes to give to my friend in Balmora, which I will also record here for my own use. These are the words of the prophecy called "Seven Visions of Seven Trials of the Incarnate." I wrote them down as she spoke them to me.

seven trials :
What he puts his hand to, that shall be done.
What is left undone, that shall be done.

first trial :
On a certain day to uncertain parents
Incarnate moon and star reborn.

second trial :
Neither blight nor age can harm him.
The Curse-of-Flesh before him flies.

third trial :
In caverns dark Azura's eye sees
And makes to shine the moon and star.

fourth trial :
A stranger's voice unites the Houses.
Three Halls call him Hortator.

fifth trial :
A stranger's hand unites the Velothi.
Four Tribes call him Nerevarine.

sixth trial :
He honors blood of the tribe unmourned.
He eats their sin, and is reborn.

seventh trial :
His mercy frees the cursed false gods,
Binds the broken, redeems the mad.

one destiny :
He speaks the law for Veloth's people.

He speaks for their land, and names them great.

Nibani herself did not understand some of the prophecy, but she confirmed what my friend was hoping: I was not the Nerevarine, but nor was anyone else right now. I could, however, become the Nerevarine by undergoing the trials. She recommended I track down the lost writings of the Prophecy  said to be held by the splinter faction of the Temple, the Dissident Priests. Perhaps my contact in Vivec will be able to help me with that.

But I was thoroughly exhausted and in no condition to be dashing off to Vivec on the heels of another mystery. Instead I parted with Nibani and used a scroll of Divine Intervention to pop back into Gnisis after I left the wise-woman's tent.

A short walk to Berandas's Propylon chamber sent me to Folms in Caldera and then to the Balmora Mages Guild. My friend was taken aback by the news that I really could be the Nerevarine, evidently he had been betting on only having me pretend to be. From what the wise-woman said though, pretending to be the Nerevarine would only serve to make a person either look mad or a fool. He promised to follow up with our mutual contact in Vivec about the lost text and meanwhile assigned me to look into the disappearance of an Imperial Legion patrol.

The patrol originated from the Fort Buckmoth garrison, just outside of Ald'ruhn. They had been sent to Gnaar Mok to eliminate a smuggling ring based within a cave the villagers call Ilunibi. But the twelve-strong patrol was just about wiped out, with only one survivor managing to retreat back to Fort Buckmoth. Before expiring from corpus disease, the trooper claimed the patrol had been fighting and winning against monsters and Sixth House cultists until a deformed magic-user appeared during a melee and struck the rest of the patrol dead with a single gesture. The surviving trooper was wounded during his retreat and contracted corpus, which may have damaged his recollection of the events.

Either way, my friend asked that I infiltrate the cave, destroy the Sixth House base and report back on this priest of theirs. My contact at Fort Buckmoth is Raesa Pullia, a very Imperial-sounding name and she has more details for me. 

According to Ajira, it was nine in the morning when I stumbled blearily back into the Guild. I had no intention of speaking with Raesa today, I am simply too tired. Instead I have spent almost the entire day resting and practicing my magicka skills with the guild members. Tomorrow I will visit Fort Buckmoth and decide on my next course of action.