Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Morrowind Day 67 - To Red Mountain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 11, 2013

Morrowind Day 66 - Solidifying My Position

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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