Saturday, December 28, 2013

Morrowind Day 72 - The Underground Rescue

25 Frost Fall
Occasionally I wonder how Morrowind has existed so long without me. There are days when it seems as if no one I know is capable of taking care of the smallest task without my intervention. When I spoke to Galsa this morning about my stronghold, she exclaimed that it was good to hear that the construction was proceeding as planned. I rather thought it was her responsibility to see that the place is built properly and to hand it over when it is ready. Apparently not! She assured me that the construction should be finished soon, but I do not know what basis she has for that claim, for it seems it is my place to inform her about the construction of House Redoran's own stronghold. Very strange.

As planned, I went back to the Sixth House cave I found yesterday, but I have learned my lesson from Red Mountain and stopped home briefly to drop my bonemold bow and steel spear in exchange for my Daedric weaponry. Heavy though they are, there is no reason not to bring your best when fighting your worst. Cheered by another bright purple morning, I set out for the cave with a small amount of trepidation. I was feeling more confident in my abilities prior to my exploration of Red Mountain, where it was shown quite clearly that, yes, I am skilled, but I still have a long way to go before I can directly challenge Dagoth Ur. The Sixth House cave could not have been any more difficult than that, but I suppose it is healthy to have your self-confidence shaken a little bit now and then.
It's not really a short walk to the cave and despite leaving Ald'ruhn early it was almost noon when I was standing in front of the cavern door. A quick (but careful!) exploration of the initial rooms showed that I had actually cleared them out yesterday. There was another door leading further underground and I made sure to use all of my protective enchantments before stepping through the door and down a small stone staircase to another door. 

The door led to another bone-white tunnel of stone and I was immediately attacked by a nearly naked Dunmer armed with a club. His end came quickly. A lumpy Corpus monster was placidly standing at the end of the tunnel and fell to my arrows.

If I had not heard the tell-tale muttering, I would have been surprised to find one of Dagoth Ur's kin (or so I have been told) within the cave. The Ash Vampire was stronger than the ones I have already fought and I was injured quite severely by the end of the my victorious combat. The creature had a very powerful ring on it, but I could not figure out what it is enchanted with. That will have to be for Galbedir to figure out.

I do make it a habit now to carry two sets of healing scrolls: one that heals gradually over a long period of time and one that heals more effectively, but only within a short period of time. I could deal with the pain well enough, so I used the gradual healing scroll and proceeded onward.
A little worrying was the Dunmer I encountered after retracing my steps from the corpse of the Ash Vampire. The man bore the blank stare of the naked cultists I have always been encountering in the Sixth House locations, but this one was armed with a steel stabbing sword and armored with a steel cuirass, greaves, and boots. None of that proved any sort of threat to me, but I suddenly had a vision of hundreds of similarly equipped mindless Dunmer swarming over Vvardenfell. Not a pleasant thought.

Exploring deeper, I found what I thought was another dreamer and drew an arrow on him. But something made me hesitate and when he turned around and saw me he collapsed to his knees, babbling that he was a prisoner.

The man's name is 'Hannat Zainsubani' and as soon as he told me I remembered his father, Hassour Zainsubani, asking me to find his son in, quote: "...the Daedric shrine of Mamaea". I must have either forgotten that I agreed to find his son or been waylaid in my task, but either way I am ashamed to have left Hannat in the cave for so long when I could have found him earlier. Hannat did not know this of course and I escorted him out of the cave, after which he promised that if I visited his father I would be richly rewarded. He assured me that he could make it to Ald'ruhn by himself, but given the number of blighted Nix Hounds wandering about I am still concerned. He provided me a code phrase to recite to his father, that he blossoms anew beneath tomorrow's sun...whatever that means.

I watched him jog away with a surprising amount of energy for someone held captive underground and went back inside the cave after he had jogged out of sight. The cavern was now pretty much empty of the Sixth House, but without a lava pit their corpses remained where they fell. I am sure the next time I come across the cave some enterprising smugglers will have taken up residence.

The only enemies left were found down a section of tunnel I had skipped earlier, but they were few and isolated, posing no trouble to me. I did have one last interesting encounter with a fully clothed and apparently sane Dunmer woman. I had been sneaking down a small tunnel and turned a corner to see her pacing in front of what I discovered after her death to be a shrine to Dagoth Ur. I do not know what gave me away, but she suddenly spun about and yelled, charging at me with a simple wooden staff. She was adorned in cheap leather armor and I can only assume she was some sort of religious pilgrim prior to whatever caused her to convert to worship within the Sixth House.

The shrine had an odd looking stone statue that I guess was supposed to be Dagoth Ur and next to it a stone trough full of equipment. Some of it was not worth carrying out, but three items caught my attention. The first was a very...unique looking purple helmet crafted from large insect shells. It is not enchanted, but I have never seen anything like it before, so I grabbed it.

I initially mistook the second item for an ornate pot, but the weight of the thing surprised me when I picked it up. It appears to be a Daedric jousting helmet, as odd as that sounds. It completely encases the head and neck behind a layer of armor and I can easily imagine my skull and neck collasping under the weight if I was stupid enough to try it on. The face of the helmet is literally that: a fearsome visage has been carved on to it, but what tools are capable of carving so finely on to something as tough as Daedric-infused plate armor? The helmet must be very old, maybe a relic from some Dwemer lord long ago.

The third item was far lighter and smaller than the first two and the most easily overlooked, for it looks like a chitin dagger. When I examined it closer I realized that the "blade" was a large, sharpened tooth and the rest of the dagger was bone. Grisly, but the magicka radiating from the weapon is incredibly strong, so off to Galbedir this will go as well.

I backtracked from the shrine to explore a small passage I had skipped on my way, but it only ended in an empty room with two half-buried skeletons in it. The skeletons were each firmly sunk into the stone floor and how they became as such is a mystery.

And with that I had explored the entire cave system and cleared it of the Sixth House, rescuing someone in the process. I used my amulet of Recall to pop back home and displayed the two helms on top of a stack of books to keep them from sliding off of the stools they were balanced on.
Find potentially priceless Daedric helmet, use it as a paperweight. What else am I going to do with it? I certainly cannot wear it and I doubt any of the merchants are in the market. If I took the helmet back to the Imperial City I could probably retire for life very comfortably, but alas, I am still stuck here. And then there's the ring I pulled off of the Ash Vampire's hand. What powers does it have? How much is it worth? But if it cannot help me survive my next battle, then it is ultimately interesting but useless. I wonder if I could give some of this stuff to the men-at-arms I am supposed to have at the stronghold.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Morrowind Day 71 - On Patrol

24 Frost Fall
As planned, I spoke with Galsa about my stronghold this morning. It was a good thing I did, for she apparently does not have much faith in the construction foreman and asked that I visit the construction site and check on the progress. The foreman is an orc named of Bugdul gro-Kharbush and is (surprisingly) an unknown quality to Galsa. I am sure the orc's fortune will greatly improve if he satisfactorily completes his first House Redoran task.

Walking to Bal Isra, the name of the stronghold's location, was not terribly difficult from Ald'ruhn. The weather was clear and the site is conveniently close to the town. I encountered nothing more dangerous than a few rats and cliff racers and made good time towards the stronghold's location.
Bugdul seemed affronted that I would think visiting the site personally was a requirement for quality work. Gruffly, he assured me that the work would be done on time and to report to Galsa that everything would be as she requires. It must have been too early in the day for the other workers, for I saw none, but the main 'keep' of the stronghold was already built in the Redoran style.
With nothing else planned, I decided to explore the surrounding area for smuggler hideouts, figuring that must lie somewhere in my future duties as a stead-holder for House Redoran. I came upon a small camp of Ashlanders, but they were friendly and gave me directions to a smugglers' hideout somewhat north of their camp.

While looking for the hideout I found a steep, but workable, path up the side of the hills that separated the dry ashlands from the plains watered by the coast. Standing astride the hills and looking in one directions displayed nothing but volcanic ash and rock and in the other direction...I had expected trees and grass, but saw only grey fog and dead trees. The effect was rather unsettling.
The cavern that the Ashlanders pointed out was farther south of Bal Isra and the earth outside the door bore the signs of much activity and traffic. I admit to feeling a bit overconfident as I walked through the door, after all, had I not survived several trips to Red Mountain? A rude rebuke of my arrogance awaited me behind the door in the form of a well-practiced Dunmer warrior heavily clad in armor. He was a surprisingly skilled opponent and fought with a well-worn grace that I suspect came from more honest employment somewhere in his past. Whatever his history, it was not enough to prepare him against a Khajiit with a (summoned) Daedric spear.

Counting him, there were only eight thieves in the cave, but each one was extravagantly equipped and as a result were far tougher foes than I had anticipated. The best equipped was a Dunmer armored in ebony plate and wielding an ebony broadsword. He was clearly the leader of the rich gang and would have certainly proved to be my toughest opponent had I not crept up on him invisibly, silently ending his life. They had no decent treasure other than their odd equipment choices, but I left that with them. By clearing out the smugglers' den, I have probably saved myself the trouble of having to do so later when I take ownership of the stronghold. A retainer of House Redoran allowing thieves to live right under her nose would certainly not make a positive impression on anybody.

I left the cavern and made my way back to the hillside path I had found earlier with the intent to explore the remainder of the area between Ald'ruhn, Maar Gan, and Gnisis. After wandering around and getting attacked by Nix Hounds every couple of minutes I found what looked like a Dunmer family's ancestral tomb. I am no ransacker of tombs, but my history with the tombs has led me to always suspect them of harboring thieves and smugglers instead of ancestors. While I normally am content to let those ruffians be, it is becoming obvious that the Sixth House has been able to resurrect itself largely due to the activities of smugglers, providing House Dagoth with the materials it needed, either knowingly or not. So once again I dove into a tomb, expecting to face everything and coming out with nothing. In this I was not to be disappointed.

Honestly, there is not much to say about the tomb itself other than that my suspicion of it harboring agents of the Sixth House was unfounded. Instead, I had to fight animated skeletons armed with silver two-handed swords, two of the strange floating ghosts with one skull and four skeletal arms, and finally one of the winged female Daedra.
In terms of my effort to survive being rewarded: it was not. The only items of any particular value worth carrying out were jeweled rings worn by the six docile skeletons of whatever family owned the tomb. I contented myself with the alchemical ingredients I was able to recover from my undead and Daedric enemies and left the family with their goods.

My continued exploration led to an encounter with more Ashlanders, but this new pair attacked me on sight and died just as quickly. I do wonder why I continue to be so readily attacked by common bandits. The equipment I have on me should indicate I am no merchant or slave-Khajiit to be harassed or robbed, yet so many have figuratively rushed on to the end of my increasingly deadly spears. Fools, the whole lot of them!
It was starting to grow dark when I found the distraught Imperial pacing along the road. I could hear him muttering to himself and it was clear that the man was no threat, at least to me. When I hailed him from atop a hill alongside the road, he nearly jumped out of his clothes, but quickly introduced himself as 'Lucan'. He claimed to be waiting for someone from Ald'ruhn who had promised to meet him to purchase some equipment. Why anyone would want to meet someone on a dirt road in the middle of nothing interesting is a mystery, but he asked if I would be willing to carry his wares into Ald'ruhn and deliver them to an orc staying at the 'Rat in the Pot'. I agreed since I was already going back there anyway. He handed me two silvered swords, a hefty silvered axe, and a simple steel-shod staff after insisting I swear an oath to Zenithar that I would not shirk from my promise. The relevation that I lived in Ald'ruhn calmed him somewhat, but I suppose some people are just more nervous than others.

The last discovery of the day was of another Sixth House base of some sort, though I did not have time to explore it thoroughly today. From outside it looked like an abandoned egg mine, but it certainly did not appear to be one as soon as you passed the door. For one thing, the entrance was of some sort of white bone-like rock that I have not seen before and two, there was a mostly naked cultist charging at me as soon as I entered.
Further in I fought a tentacle-faced man who seemed to be praying when I spotted him and past that pious creature were two small rooms serving as cages, one with another tentacle-faced man and the other with one of the faceless. By then I was feeling tired and a Sixth House shrine is no place to test one's luck and fatigue, so I used a Scroll of Leaguestep to recall back to my home in Ald'ruhn.

The orc in the 'Rat in the Pot' paid me one hundred Septims for the delivery of the weaponry. I was going to then call on Galsa about the progress of the stronghold, but by then it was late enough at night that it seemed that task could wait until tomorrow morning.

I need to clear out the Sixth House mine tomororw, for I definitely will not be able to rest knowing that they are operating so close to what is supposed to be my future base of operations (I hope!). Other than that, I do not have any pressing tasks, though the delay in being confirmed as Hortator for House Telvanni is really beginning to eat away at me. I do wonder if waiting for the completion of the stronghold is really necessary.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Morrowind Day 70 - The Second Training Day

23 Frost Fall
Another somewhat relaxing and productive day today. I spent nearly all of it at the fletcher's in Vivec being taught how to better use my bow in inclement weather. Aradraen recommended the lighter native arrows of bonemold and corkbulb for outside of Red Mountain and the heavier steel and silvered arrows for within. I am sure this suggestion at least partially came about due to her massive inventory of native arrows, but it is an economical one as well, so long as continue to purchase my arrows from her. Bonemold and corkbulb are rather hard to find otherwise, but seem about as effective as regular steel arrows at a third less the cost.

A week has not yet passed from when I was told the construction on my little stronghold was going to start, but I do feel that the completion of it is instrumental to my success with House Telvanni. I suppose it would not hurt to visit Galsa and inquire about the progress that is hopefully being made. If there is nothing for me to do in relation to the fortress, I do think another trip to Red Mountain is in order tomorrow or perhaps more time spent in Telvanni territory on the east coast of Vvardenfell.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Morrowind Day 69 - Training Day

22 Frost Fall
My performance at Red Mountain was pretty good, but it also revealed that some of the skills I had to rely on are lacking, primarily my marksmanship and spell-casting. My first thought was to visit the Ald'ruhn Fighters Guild to see about training with my bow, then spend the rest of the day at the Mages Guild to work on my Alteration spell-casting, which I am far less skilled with compared to Illusion.

The visit to the Fighters Guild turned out to be a wasted trip. I could find no one able or willing to accept money in exchange for lessons with the bow and the only thing I got from them was necessary (and expensive) repairs to my equipment. The Ald'ruhn Mages Guild was no more useful for Edwinna has structured the Guild for research and scholarship rather than spell-casting. As a result few members of the Guild there are proficient enough to train others, though all of them are much more traveled than members from other Guilds. Useful for Edwinna's obsession with the Dwemer, but not very useful for me!

So it was back to Balmora yet again. I spent the morning with Marayn practicing my Alteration spells and Ajira for Alchemy, though neither were able to tell me who in Balmora would be willing to teach me how to use my bow better. On a hunch I visited the South Wall Cornerclub, the openly secret Thieves Guild headquarters, but no one there would train me either...understandably I suppose.

I stopped at Fort Moonmoth to speak with the head of the garrison, Larrius Varro. This was the man who I had been told was looking for me. Our conversation was short: he told a thinly-disguised 'story' about a magistrate (himself) who wanted to get rid of some bad people (Camonna Tong members). He basically requested that I go to the Council Club by the Silt Strider platform and murder the occupants inside. I care little for the Camonna Tong syndicate and have no doubt unknowingly slain a decent number of them already, but I am no bloodthirsty mercenary and I have larger problems and more dangerous enemies than them to worry about. Larrius hinted just as subtly that there would be a reward for such a deed, but I am passing on this one, at least for now. I will certainly reconsider should I encounter evidence that the Camonna Tong is working with the Sixth House.

On my way back to Balmora I was approached by a Sixth House madman, raving about the coming of Dagoth Ur. I wish there was something I could do for these people.

And that was it for the day, making this my shortest journal entry yet! I do need to find someone willing to teach me more about the bow and I fear only a trip to the fletcher's in Vivec will provide me with that. Traveling to that massive city always occupies most of my day and given the progress I have been making so far, I am loathe to spend more time wandering the cantons.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Morrowind Day 68 - The Failed Assault on Red Mountain

21 Frost Fall
The sky was unusually purple this morning, a nice change from the typical red or orange one sees in Ald'ruhn when the sky is not blocked by clouds. The weather was not only purple, but clear, making a nice change from the dust storms increasingly plaguing the town.

I stopped at the general store in Caldera to restore my stock of silvered arrows before entering Red Mountain. The trader, an Imperial named Verick Gemain, was the same man from whom I bought my very useful (especially today!) amulet of Recall. No one could fault Verick for a lack of variety in his shop: he carries everything from enchanted Dwemer war hammers to simple cups, plates, and everything in-between. This includes silvered and glass arrows, though the latter are too expensive to justify my wildly random skill at the bow. I have had days where every arrow strikes with fatal intent and others when it seems I could not hit the broad side of a Kagouti. It is very frustrating.

The walk from Caldera to Ghostgate is far simpler than it sounds, but I have noticed that the normally docile rats and cliff racers are increasingly becoming hostile, probably suffering the growing effects of living near Red Mountain. While I have only seen simple beasts affected by the Blight disease in this way, it is only a matter of time before the citizens of towns built near the Ghostfence start succumbing to Dagoth Ur's curse.
The view of the Ghostfence just outside of Caldera
The weather miraculously remained clear (and purple) all the way to Ghostgate, where the purple color faded away to clear sky. I activated whatever system it was that raised the first portcullis of Ghostgate and stepped through. The 'switch' arrangement still strikes me as incredibly insecure. Apparently to make the point more obvious, I was attacked by one of the faceless minions of the Sixth House as soon as I crossed the second gate. There was not even enough time to close the gate behind me before the creature started clawing at me, but the faceless creatures are not terribly difficult to overcome. I thought about leaving the body inside of the gate to prove my point, but that meant actually touching it, so I left it where it fell.
The expected Blight storm kicked up as I was trudging up the path, on top of which was another Sixth House creature, this time one of the tentacle-faced men. Dodging spells while walking uphill in a Blight storm is certainly an exhausting activity, but the creatures have a poor ability to track sideways movement and walking up the path at an angle made it much easier to predict and dodge its spells. Once in melee range it fell quickly to my simple iron spear.

I encountered far more enemies today than yesterday and I suspect, however remote the fear may be, that Dagoth Ur knows I was here and has bolstered his garrison, so to speak. Finding out where all these creatures truly originate from would be a massive blow against Dagoth Ur, but I fear that is a little beyond my capability right now to find out.
As planned, I walked along the same path that led me to Dwemer ruin yesterday, only this time I carefully went by it, hoping to explore as far as north as the northern stretch of the Ghostfence. Like most of my plans, this was not a realized goal today.

The terrain inside Red Mountain at the entrance of Ghostgate is not particularly dangerous or even noteworthy, but this changed soon after I passed the ruins as the path I was following became narrower and the landscape more broken. I very nearly tumbled down a sudden drop which loomed ahead of me, but whether the fall was five feet or fifty, I could not tell due to the storm. I carefully inched my way along the edge, finding (much to my surprise) a rope bridge.

Keeping to what seemed to be an old road past the bridge, I came upon a Daedric shrine nested above the path on a ledge. I am still not clear what the connection is between the Sixth House and the Daedra, if any, but I decided to peek inside a bit. The Daedric shrines do tend to be small on the inside, so I did not anticipate having to spend a lot of time there.
The shrine did seem to be fairly small: The path I was following branched up the small hill to a stairway leading to an observation platform of some kind. A Flame Atronach and one of the spidery Daedra was wandering around the platform, for some reason tolerant of each other's existence. Neither assisted the other against me and they attacked me separately, neither providing much of a challenge, though the spidery Daedra's spells did a fair amount of damage to my equipment. I really should find out what all these creatures I am fighting are named.

To my great surprise, the Blight storm completely stopped for about a minute as soon as the dispatched the last of the two Daedra. The timing makes me think even further that Dagoth Ur does know my location, at least when I am within Red Mountain. The storm did resume, but not before I met Llavelea Nelvani.
I was too busy admiring the rare view of Vvardenfell from the clear sky of Red Mountain to notice her inching closer to me, but when I did I cursed myself for being so stupid. She was fully armored in steel plate and armed with a well-used, but cared for steel long sword. I was not so surprised as to not be ready to fight, but her sword was sheathed and she immediately stepped backwards, assuring me that she meant no harm.

If anyone ever reads this, I am sure they could forgive my suspicion, given the circumstances. The tiny Daedric shrines in the sewers of Vivec were all typically guarded by a 'strong-arm' posted outside and I assumed she was similarly employed. She claimed to be a Temple crusader and had been preparing to descend into the shrine to eliminate its inhabitants when the Atronach and other Daedra suddenly popped into existence behind her. She managed to hide behind a broken column and was just about to attack them when I arrived. The story sounded pretty thin, but she said the episode had made her re-think her luck today and that she would be leaving for Ghostgate in a few minutes.

She sat down to catch her breath and told me I was welcome to the shrine if I had come to loot it. I only shrugged and said I was trying to make a map of Red Mountain, to which she shook her head, declaring it a folly and certain death. The irony of her statement would end up being a cruel one.

The shrine was about as small as I expected it to be and staffed by several Storm Atronachs, which was not expected, but easily dealt with. The cultists were a small bunch, only three and all of which I killed suddenly and silently. Perhaps I have an assassin somewhere in my bloodline, else they were simply overconfident in their Atronach guards. One of the cultists had a strongly enchanted pair of gloves, but I could not tell what they were enchanted with. I took them on the chance that they might be valuable.

I left the shrine expecting that Llavelea would have already started to make her way back to Ghostgate, but the Dunmer woman had not been given the chance. When I stepped outside (Blight storm still raging), I was greeted by the Dunmer's corpse, her steel armor torn and peeled away as if it had been paper. One of the winged half-woman Daedra had just begun to tear into the body when I exited the shrine. It's preoccupation gave me a slight advantage, but I was foolish for the second time today and charged the creature without checking my surroundings. I had just begun to attack with my spear when another one of the spidery Daedra emerged behind the winged woman, flinging spells at me.

Fortunately the spells 'only' damaged my equipment further. Were they designed to damage me I would have been hard pressed to win the melee against the female Daedra, but I was able to activate the enchantment on my spear to summon a Daedric copy and quickly overcame the creature. The spidery Daedra lasted only moments after that, for they do not seem to be particularly good fighters compared to most of their brethren.

Not sure what else to do, I dragged Llavelea's remains behind a column on the platform and covered it with debris from the shrine. Another adventurer claimed by Vvardenfell.

I continued down the road past the shrine and started to encounter Sixth House creatures in groups for the first time, making combat a much more unpleasant ordeal. I fought two battles against two creatures at the same time, but either by coincidence or plan my third encounter was with four Sixth House minions: one of the hulking brutes, a faceless Sixth House servant, and two of the tentacle-faced men. The faceless one and the brute quickly came within range of my spear as the two spell-casters flung lightning at me.
I could have likely been the victor of this combat as well, but I had already been feeling tired and worn from the day's stress and decided that my time at Red Mountain today was at a close. I retreated from combat and activated my Recall amulet.

I repaired my equipment as best I could and I may return to Red Mountain again tomorrow, though as it seems my arrival is now expected and planned for I might try to find something else to do for awhile. It is too soon to check on the construction of the Redoran stronghold, but perhaps I could spend a few days working on my magecraft.