Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Morrowind Day 63 - Persuading the Erabenimsun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Morrowind Day 62 - A Khajiit Slave Owner

15 Frost Fall
The Zainab wise-woman, Sonummu Zabamat, was amused to hear of Kaushad's second request. She stated what I already suspected: No Telvanni would ever marry an Ashlander. Sonummu's plan to work around that issue was to go to the Telvanni tower/town of Tel Aruhn where a friend of hers, Savile Imayn, managed the slave trading there. Savile would likely have a Dunmer girl who could pose as a high-born Telvanni lady and all I needed to do was purchase the slave girl and bring her back to the Zainab grounds.

I found the plan distasteful for several reasons, the primary one being that I am a Khajiit in Morrowind and have seen enough of my own enslaved that the thought of buying someone else is rather abhorrent. My other objection was far more practical: there is a lot of water between Tel Aruhn and I doubted the girl would be able to walk atop it as I can. I could use scrolls to get me to Wolverine Hall near Sadrith Mora, but I would have to escort the girl, if I found one, back to the camp, probably partially via boat. Still, I never really had a choice.

The Divine Intervention scroll brought me to the door of the Imperial Chapel in Wolverine Hall and I hopped off the parapet onto the water below. The walk was a short one and the Telvanni mushroom town had many services that did not mind doing business with an outlander. I bought a great deal of repair equipment for my chitin weapons and spent most of the morning heating resin and replacing the chitin barbs that make up my spear. 

Savile Imayn was easy to find and started greeting me as soon as she saw me heading towards her...which was still quite some distance away. She was an enthusiastic seller and promised that she had the perfect slave for me. I almost asked her how many Khajiit usually came to her to buy slaves, but I held my tongue. She rattled off a list of names and the crimes they had committed to warrant their slavery, but while one was Khajiit, none of them were the female Dunmer that I was told to purchase. I asked about the Khajiit male and Savile shrugged and told me I was probably only interested in freeing him, which was my right if I bought him. That was my intent, so I gave her the money and met the slave in a nearby underground cell. He made quite a rude suggestion upon seeing me but I ignored him and unlocked his shackles, leaving him free to go whenever he pleased.

Somewhat dejected and lost as to where to go next, I asked Savile if she knew where I could find a female Dunmer that would be able and willing to pose as a high-born Telvanni lady so that she could marry the haughty Zainab ashkhan. I expected to be told that, yes, there is a lady matching your description but she is on the other side of Morrowind. However luck was with me: Savile had "acquired" a young Dunmer lady from a family who sold her to cover their debts. The act seemed deplorable, but Savile assured me that people sold into slavery were treated well and contractually limited to desirable, safe lives. I wondered about the validity of such a statement, but Savile was willing to help me make the arrangement work.

The arrangement was only to find specific items of clothing for the lady to wear, for naturally a high-born lady would only have the very best. Also naturally: Tel Aruhn had no such clothing. Savile recommended Tel Mora, a Telvanni town very close to the Ahemmusa tribal camp. She assured me that the trip via boat was safe and quick, but that was simply not happening for me. I thanked her and prepared for a long walk back to the northern coast.

The trek was certainly interesting. Along the coast there is an abandoned Dunmer fortress of very unusual or perhaps unfinished construction. A sole Altmer cultist was guarding the entrance, along with a simple ghost and somewhat less simple Daedroth.
A note was stuck on the doorway with a dagger, warning someone named 'Telvon' not to enter due to some sort of enchantment within the fortress. Of course, I now had to find out what sort of enchantment this unknown person had encountered, but the only clue he or she gave was that the only way they were able to get out is due to a Recall spell they had cast just outside. Reasoning that there had to be some other way out if cultists had occupied the place, I opened the door and stepped through.

...only to discover once I was inside that behind me was a featureless wall of stone where the door had been. Strange. The interior of the fortress was almost entirely unfinished and it appeared that cultists had been using the fortress as a shrine for a long time, going so far as to drag stones from Daedric ruins into the fortress to form a crude sort of mini-fortress within the fortress.
The cultists all fell quickly, most of them to my bow and there was nothing interesting to take other than a ring strongly enchanted with a Restoration spell I was unable to identify. Predictably the other side of the fortress had a door that opened up exactly outside the door I had entered by. I admit I cannot see the utility in this arrangement other than as a trap, but the fortress is remote enough that I doubt it was ever effective at all. Quite a mystery.

I arrived at Tel Mora just as the sun fell below the horizon and immediately sought out the clothier Savile had instructed me to. Enough time had been wasted at the Dunmer fortress that I felt no desire to wander Tel Mora, even if the clothier described it as the most outlander-friendly Telvanni town in Morrowind.  My last scroll of Divine Intervention fortunately zapped me back to Wolverine Hall and I was able to hand the clothes over to Savile before she closed her business for the night.

This led to her second request: Bug Musk to reduce Kaushad's resistance to the lady's charm. This at least could be found in Tel Aruhn, much to my relief. When I returned with the flask of perfume, Savile insisted that I give it to the slave directly...after I bought her. She asked for twelve hundred Septims and I am sure I could have bargained her down a bit, but I was tired and being named the Zainab Nerevarine was certainly worth her asking price. I was given the key to the girl's cage and we each wished the the other a good night.

As for the girl, I had and still have no idea how to talk to her. I am certainly unaccustomed to being the owner of anyone and though the girl seems excited about her new life I cannot help but feel a little guilty about forcing her path like this. For now I have paid for separate lodgings for the two of us at the local tradehouse and tomorrow we will arrive at the Zainab camp, where I shall hopefully be named Nerevarine.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Morrowind Day 61 - From Vampire Slayer to Match-maker

14 Frost Fall
Sinnammu was eager to accompany me and insisted on leaving before either of us had eaten, something that I am certainly not used to. True to her word, the woman could cast her own water walking spell and I started across the water slowly so that she could keep up with me, only to have her arrogantly trot past me with a command to hurry up.

Gratitude comes harder for some people I suppose.

A Dunmer woman greeted us from the shore as we approached the island shrine, but she asked if we were there for the dance. When asked, she replied that there were free drinks inside and to watch out for the 'silver hats' and their rough dancing. She obviously meant the Ordinators, but seemed unaware that her cultist friends had been wiped out. She was oddly friendly though and Sinnammu's only reaction to her was to irritably ask if I was planning on talking to crazy people all day. We left the confused woman in peace and continued into the shrine.

The Ordinators were still at the shrine but they recognized me and did not hinder us. I expected Sinnammu would at least have commented on the presence of the many dead bodies in her tribe's "safe place", but she was very single-minded in wanting to reach the shrine of Sheogorath. Such was her determination that I would have suspected Sinnammu herself to be a cultist if she had not been spoken of so highly by Nibani.

Either way, she solemnly declared me to be the Ahemmusa Nerevarine and swore that the tribe would follow me unto death, her apparently favorite subject. She handed me an amulet she called the 'Madstone of the Ahemmusa', a name suspiciously in line with their refuge being a shrine to Sheogorath, but I am Ahemmusa Nerevarine now, so I guess it does not matter much. The amulet was enchanted to produce a very loud noise upon activation. I failed to see the use of this and Sinnammu explained that it would make it more difficult for spell-casters to fire off their spells. Useful, but I have not had any major problems with spell-casters so far. Usually sneaking invisibly behind them and impaling them with a spear makes it quite difficult for them to cast spells.

She wanted to stay at the shrine for awhile, so I left her behind and started off towards the Zainab tribe's camp, almost directly (though far) to the south of Ald Daedroth. On the way there, I came across a small round building built adjacent to an egg mine and guarded by a sickly-looking Kagouti.
I felled the Kagouti with an arrow and carefully pushed the door open with my spear. The architecture was mostly Imperial with a fair amount of the walls simply being unfinished rock. A Dremora was patrolling the corridors and attacked me with an odd Daedric-looking club with two dull prongs. It had a very short reach and the battle was no doubt lengthened due to the weaker striking power of my chitin spear, but I was of course victorious. The club will make an interesting addition to my collection at home.

Further into the building I came across scattered pieces of paper that someone named Beram was using as a journal. The first few pages showed his irritation with his 'masters', for the man seemed to have been a foreman among a bunch of miners hired to dig out the cavern I was in. As I came across more of the man's journal pages, they started to spell a pretty chilling story of a monster that stalked and mutilated the miners one by one after they became trapped when their scaffolding collapsed on them.
What I can only assume is the final journal of Beram's simply states 'HE IS HERE'...then nothing. Was the monster really just the Dremora I dispatched with my cheap spear? Aside from some giant bugs and rats, there was nothing else to see and I left the forlorn place.

The Zainab were far more welcoming of me than the Ahemmusa had been. Again, word of my arrival had preceded me, but at least the Zainab I talked to were more accepting of my possibly being the Nerevarine. I was told to talk to the Ashkhan Kaushad who was described to me as 'ever-curious' and friendly towards outlanders. A welcome change.

He was cordial towards me and offered me the hospitality of his tribe in exchange for any news and rumors I had picked up on my travels. When he asked me how an outlander could end up being the Nerevarine I simply showed him the relics of the Urshilaku and Ahemmusa tribes, as well as the ring of Moon-and-Star.

But he laughed in my face and asked I believed my own stories. I guess he expected me to be mad at him, but I knew he was only baiting me. So I matched his disbelief with bravado, asking him to put me to the test as Nerevarine. He seemed to approve of my attitude and grinned as he explained he needed a vampire removed from a nearby ancestral tomb dedicated to the Nerano family. Seemed easy enough.

The directions he gave me were simple: follow the mountains separating the Ashland from the Grazeland and walk north until I passed a Dwemer ruin. Once past the ruin, I needed to find two trees to the east which flanked the tomb's entrance. It was growing dark when I left his tent, but I was confident that I, at least, would be able to see in the dark.

The walk was encouragingly quiet. The Dwemer ruin had an interesting weapon that appeared to be a large bow designed to shoot giant metal spears, but the device had long since been conquered by the surrounding vegetation and was completely inoperable.
I found the tomb without any trouble and as my usual custom, opened the door with my spear. Typical of the Dunmer tombs, the entrance-way only opened on to a stairwell that led down to another door, the entrance to the actual tomb.

Beyond the second door was a Bonewalker busy tearing the corpse of an Imperial into ever-smaller pieces, which it would occasionally slap on to its own body. Quite disgusting! So occupied, the creature failed to notice me and died instantly to a spear through the back of the neck, crashing wetly on to the dead Imperial.  

The room beyond was splattered with blood and limbs, all of it evidently from the three mutilated bodies in the center of the room. The tomb's skeletal guardians did their best to deliver me the same fate as the bandits', but skeletons have long since ceased to cause me concern. A note on one of the bodies suggests that the bandits were betrayed by one of their own to the vampire Kaushad had sent me to slay.

The vampire himself was rather anti-climatic. Given Kaushad's urgency with having him removed and the death of a fairly large group of bandits, I had been expecting an elder vampire the likes of which I had encountered in the Dwemer ruins so long ago. Instead I got a rich-looking Imperial with bloodlust in his eyes and little else.

I arrived back at the Zainab campsite just before midnight and spoke with Kaushad, fully expecting to be named Zainab Nerevarine. I had completed his task, right? Wrong! The wily Ashkhan said he would be happy to name me Nerevarine, but Ashland custom dictated that I gift him with something valuable first. I should have expected it.

The 'gift' that he politely demanded was a high-born Telvanni bride and his requirements were pretty strict: "a pretty one, plump, with big hips to bring me many sons". He claimed that any of the noble families of the Great House would consider the betrothal an honor, but to have such an opinion makes me doubt he has actually met any high-born Telvanni. He advised to speak with the wise woman regarding this matter, as she would know whom would be the best match for him.

From vampire-slayer to matchmaker? Certainly a strange twist, but if I need to do this to named Nerevarine of the tribe, then I have no choice. I will speak with the wise woman, Sonummu, tomorrow and figure just how I am to convince a Telvanni of any class to marry an Ashlander.