Thursday, January 30, 2014

Morrowind Day 76 - Back to the Zainab

29 Frost Fall
I spoke to Galsa about this morning about the stronghold before starting my day. I expected some sort of news, but she said that the construction was proceeding as planned and that she would leave word with the Mage Guilds when I was needed. Her indifference felt a little rude, considering it was being built for me (and the House, of course). I am sure it will not be long until she is badgering me to take care of some minor problem.

My agreement with the mercenary captain of Tel Vos was to visit the camp of the Zainab and find out what trade opportunities existed between the two of them. I had meant to do this yesterday, but never found the time. It was first on my list of tasks to do today and would provide a good opportunity to scout the area. My previous visits to the area kept me to the coast and the roads to my various destinations. A large part of the interior was still a mystery to me, which is always unacceptable.

Dandera Selaro is the Smith outside of Under-Skar and she has grown accustomed to my visiting her every morning to have my equipment repaired. The repairs to the bow I received from Sul-Matuul have been very expensive, owing to its age and enchantments. Most of its use has been against blighted wildlife rather than Daedra and the repair expense is not really worth it. Dandera had no bows for sale, but I knew the Razor Hole in Balmora did.

Holding the cheap short bow reminded me of my first days on this island and how far I have come since then. A sheaf of cheap iron arrows plus the bow barely cost me fifty Septims and will hopefully save me money going forward.

I could have gone to Caldera to have Folms send me to the coastal fortress again, but I went to Sadrith Mora instead so that I could explore the islands surrounding the town. My expectation was that I wound find nothing but cliff racers and mudcrabs...and my expectation were mostly correct. There is a Daedric shrine surprisingly close to the town, but I could not find a way into it. I did walk away a little richer in Frost Salts after besting the ruin's guardians, so there's that.
I came across a shipwreck just off the coast of the town's island. The ship was wedged between two large rocks, almost entirely out of the water. I have never seen any evidence of waves in the waters surrounding Vvardenfell, so it must have taken an amazing lack of seamanship to cause the ship to end up where it did.
The lack of seamanship is understandable, for the meager remains of the ship's stores included a few bottles of Skooma and some satchels of Moon Sugar. Smugglers are not known for their skill at sea and while I know nothing of boats, the coastline certainly looks daunting what with all the strange rock pillars littering the sea.
When I made my way back to the mainland I was greeted by a sword-wielding skeleton who was likely guarding a tomb I found nearby. Further on I spotted two bandits arguing around their campfire and I tried to sneak past them. Normally this would not pose a problem, but one of them managed to catch me and shouted an alarm. I felled both with three shots from my new bow. The ease at which I alone can dispatch them makes me wonder why there is even a bandit problem in the first place. Political, I suppose. The Imperial Legion could certainly take care of it, but that would require far more soldiers than is practical and the Great Houses are too busy bickering among themselves to accomplish anything at all.

The sky was begining to grow dark and I still had not made much progress towards the Zainab camp. My wandering had not been a waste of time though, for I explored a good deal of previously unseen territory. The whole experience almost made me feel like I was back in the Auxiliaries again. I started to head directly towards where I thought the camp was and ran into a comical duo guarding another shrine.
The tombs in the west of the island never had skeletal (or mudcrab) guardians, so I guess the practice is due to being in Telvanni-controlled land. A single skeleton does not mean much to me any more, but neither does the few coins and dusty potions that tombs usually cough up. Khajiit are not born to be delving underground anyway.

The night seemed to close in early, but I suppose the day's lack of terror and violence made it seem to go by quicker. The night was amazingly clear and I was treated to a smear of bright purple stretching across the sky. I do wonder what causes so much purple to end up over Morrowind, for it cannot be any action of Dagoth Ur's to cause this kind of weather.
I passed Indoranyon fortress and a small squat tower just behind it that I had not seen before, but had no interest in exploring. It looked similar to the the Telvanni hideaways I have visited once or twice and if this was the same I had only undead, an irate wizard, and a few coins waiting for me. Best to skip such a thing. A nearly naked Nord was pacing across the road in front of the tower and he started yelling and waving his arms while I was still a good distance away. Strong as they are, a naked unarmed Nord would have no chance against a well-armed...anything, so I let him approach.

His story was a short one: He had been escorting a 'witch' named Iveri Llothri when, according to him, she attacked and put him under a paralysis spell. She, for some reason, stole all his armor, clothes, and a prized axe he charmingly called 'Widowmaker'. Naturally he wanted my help in finding Iveri, exacting bloody revenge, and retrieving his stolen goods. There was something about his tale that did not ring true to me and I refused to help him, ready to cut him down if he became angry. But he shrugged and said he would figure it out on his own.

By then it was nearly pitch-black and the second group of bandits were very easy to see clustered around their campfire. I was able to sneak past them without a fight, only to encounter another of the winged Daedra just beyond them. I was concerned that fighting the creature would create enough noise to summon the bandits at my back, but I need not have worried. The Daedra crumpled after a few arrow shots, having made it no more than halfway to me from where she had been stalking about.

As seems to be my habit I reached my destination late into the night. The Zainab were very welcoming of me and ushered me into the Ashkhan's tent before I could explain why I was visiting. His wife was out, but Kaushad was in a jovial mood. He winked at me and confided that he realized that Falura was no high-born Telvanni lady soon after I left after being named Nerevarine. This deception met with his approval and he stated that a Nervarine clever enough to fool the Ashkhan of the Zainab was a good thing indeed. He said that he was much happier with Falura than he would have been with some, in his words, 'stuck-up Telvanni lady'. He gave me a fine shirt as a token of his appreciation and hoped it would remind me of them when (if) I wore it.

He had nothing to say about trade goods, disdainfully pointing out that such concerns were beneath an Ashkhan. He recommended I speak to the tribe's trader, Ashur-Dan, and the wise woman. Falura walked into the tent as I was leaving and was just as happy to see me as Kaushad was. She expressed her happiness and bemusement at being wife to the Ashkhan and wryly pointed out her change of fortune: from slave to a companion of the Nerevarine, to wife of the Ashkhan of the Zainab tribe.

Ashur-Dan was not cooperative. In his opinion the tribe did not need anything from the outlanders at Tel Vos. He was genial, assuring me he did not blame an outlander like myself for misunderstanding the Ashlanders. I suspect he had no idea who I was. 

The wise woman Sonummu was far more helpful. She knew why I was asking about trade goods and that Aryon hoped to bind the tribe closer to the Telvanni through trade relations. She saw more help than harm in the exchange and asked that I relay the tribe's need for potions to cure common and Blight diseases. The hunters travel far and cannot return to the camp to be cured before the day is out, hindering the day's catch. She claimed that the Ashlanders as a people just never got the hang of 'bottling magic' and us 'roof-loving people' were far better. Interesting.

I had only to go to Tel Vos now and tell them what I learned, but it was late, so I am staying with the Zainab tonight. I will try to make it to Vivec tomorrow and speak to the Archcanon regarding Dagoth Ur.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Morrowind Day 75 - The Unlikely Champion of the Telvanni

28 Frost Fall
I was in a rush today to be named Hortator of House Telvanni, though why I was optimistic that it would be done today is a mystery. Of the three houses, I anticipated that the Telvanni would be the most difficult owing to me being an outlander and a Khajiit as well. I proceeded with the construction of the Redoran stronghold in an effort to improve my legitimacy with them and I can now say at the end of the day that there would have been no improving it at all, least not with the Telvanni.

Only two councilors remained to be convinced of my apparent divinity: Mistress Therana in Tel Branora and Archmagister Gothren in Tel Aruhn. Therana sounded like the easiest of the two to convince, so Tel Branora was the first destination of the day. Unfortunately it is the most remote of the Telvanni towers and it took quite a walk from the fortress of Telasero to get to.
Morning outside Telasero
Walking from Telasero to Tel Branora would mean passing by Molag Mar and through the large peninsula, where I would have to contend with either passing around or through a Daedric ruin. While I feel the ruin would not cause me much (ha) ruin, my decision to bypass this route entirely by water-walking to Tel Branora stems from a desire not to be distracted as I usually am.

However, as I was walking across the water I realized that the effort to walk all the way to Tel Branora would take more skill and energy with spells than I had, so I was forced to hop on to land now and again to reduce my dependency on magic. My first landfall proved darkly comical, for I stepped on to the shore almost directly in front of an ancestral tomb guarded, unusually, by a sword-wielding skeleton loitering outside the door.
The comedy was due to the skeleton's unthinking optimism in its chances. It ran towards me as soon as I was seen, but it was poorly armed and probably poorly summoned. One sideways swipe of my simple steel spear severed the skeleton's spinal cord and sent its upper half into the water while its lower half crumbled to a pile in front of me. I did not even bother to explore the tomb.

I hopped back on to the water and explored a large island just off the coast. There was one of the reptile-looking Daedroth wandering around, but it was more susceptible to my steel arrows than the flying ladies were. Another Daedra wandering around though...definitely worrying.
After several more island hops, I finally was able to see Tel Branora in the hazy distance. I had spent nearly all morning just getting there and it was early afternoon by the time I stepped through what looked like some sort of gate. I tried to ask about Therana with what few people I saw outside, but all of them rudely asked what business I would have with a Telvanni councilor. Pretty much the response I expected.

I assumed that Mistress Therana would be at the top of the mushroom/tree tower, so I drank the only levitation potion the Ald'ruhn Mages Guild could scrape up and drifted upwards to look for the entrance. I floated around the tower ready to cast my meager Slowfall spell, but spied a door before the spell wore off. It is odd that the Telvanni guards would allow a well-armed Khajiit to simply float into their master's home. If I was Telvanni, my tower would have archers ready to shoot down any unannounced petitioners on sight.

The top most entrance was unguarded and the two guards inside barely glanced at me when I walked in. They or someone had taken the trouble to position what were either ancient Kwama eggs or simple rocks in decorative shapes around the room, which is a first for any Telvanni tower I have been in. It was only a small taste of the eccentric nature of Mistress Therana, which I soon found myself dealing with.

I made the mistake of asking one of the guards where the lady was to be found and when asked why, I replied that I had concerns related to the Nerevarine prophecy. While I had not said the concerns were regarding myself, the guard laughed and said Telvanni did not care about prophecies, religion, or superstition and that I could call myself the Nerevarine if I wanted, because the Telvanni did not care. Pleasant fellow, Bosmer mercenary by the sound of it, though his full helm made it difficult to be sure.

Mistress Therana was in a small room filled with crystals growing from the floor. A half-naked Khajiit male was with her, quietly feeding a small fire from a pile of expensive-looking books which he occasionally left to replenish. The room had two bed rolls in it, one smelling of Khajiit and one of Dunmer, though I could be wrong due to the smoke in the room. The implications are certainly...disturbing, actually.

The lady herself was said to be kept alive by necromancy, but whatever magic sustained her body was starting to lose its hold on her mind. I would not say she was crazy in a dangerous way, but Therana is definitely not holding on to reality with two hands, so to say.

When I asked her about House Telvanni she told me a story about when she was a little girl and offered me a kwama egg before realizing she had none. A question about the Telvanni councilors resulted in the loudly whispered advice not to trust any of them, for Telvanni always made bad councilors. She thought the Nerevarine was the title of a play and that the Hortator was a container for alchemy ingredients. Maybe she thought I said Retort?

All I needed was her agreement to vote for me if she ever wound up finding her way to the Telvanni council to actually vote. The story about her Hortator/Retort changed from one about bittergreen roots to one about spider eggs, then to an 'itty bitty kitty' named Kier-Jo than I took to be a Khajiit she once owned, not a cat. According to her 'they' never last and she keeps having to buy new ones. The Khajiit slave that was still alive and in the room left at this point and did not come back.

I interrupted to ask her about the Hortator vote, but she got huffy and threatened to throw me in the basement with a bunch of spiders...then made no move to do that either. She stared at me for a few seconds, then bade me a good morning and asked what she could do for me.

Uneasily, I asked her about the Telvanni Hortator again, but figured it would be best to let her talk until she exhausted her story. Never before have I heard so much of a story that ultimately meant so little. When she was done rambling she expressed surprise that I was still standing in front of her and asked what I needed. This time my reply that I needed her vote to become Telvanni Hortator was granted. I think. She did ask why I wanted to be a steel box, but I took that as good enough and left the addled woman's company.

My next stop was Tel Aruhn, home of Archmagister Gothren. Dealing with Therana left me in no mood to walk all the way up the coast from Tel Branora, so I popped home and simply teleported to Sadrith Mora. The walk from there was a short one and the Guild in Sadrith Mora had a few Levitation potions for sale.

My curiosity for Telvanni towers had long been spent by then, so I wasted no time levitating to the top of the Tel Aruhn tower. The Archmagister was easy to find and the small audience chamber he was sitting in was made all the more smaller for the two Dremora he had guarding him.
Had I spoken to the man during my first month on Vvardenfell I would have been impressed. Intimidated even. But not by now. These Dremora were only armed with Dwemer equipment while the larger Dremora I have been fighting are usually armed with Daedric or Ebony weaponry. Perhaps the Archmagister should have updated his spell or something.

My encounter with him was mercifully short. He absolutely refused to ever declare me Telvanni Hortator, stating that it would never do to name an unknown and unreliable outlander to the position, let alone one of the 'slave race', as he put it. To further prove himself a fool he threatened dire action on his part if I insisted on bothering him again.

I guess I snapped. I slipped my spear from the loops on my back, whispered the enchantment's incantation, then rammed a now-Daedric spear through the neck of the closest Dremora. He died instantly with a gurgling sort of howl and I rammed the butt of the spear into his comrade's face, temporarily putting him out of the fight.

Gothren did not shout for the guards, which was yet another foolish decision and I dispatched the second Dremora just as he finished casting a spell on me...but nothing happened. He seemed surprised and I turned on him with my spear as he completed another flurry of words and gestures. This time his intended effect took hold, literally, for I was paralyzed. A third spell started to sap my energy as he danced around with a dagger, futilely attempting to stab me through my cuirass. The paralysis did not last long and my energy was not greatly drained, so he wound up dying before he could cast a fourth spell, poetically run through with my spear and pinned to his throne. If I had the actual Daedric spear I would have considered leaving it there for the artistry of the scene, but alas, I could not do that.

And that was the end of the greatest mage the House Telvanni had...though as I think on it now, he was really the greatest politician the Telvanni had, not the most powerful mage. Divayth Fyr at the Home for the Blighted is certainly a more powerful mage, but a disinterested one. I can think of several others I estimate are more powerful as well. Strange are the lives we lead sometimes.

On the bright side, his robes held nine magicka restoratives and four powerful fatigue restoratives, all of which I took. His dagger, ironically, was Daedric and should have been able to pierce my cuirass, but the man simply did not know how to fight and therefore made the weapon ineffective. He might have made more use of it by throwing it at me.

It was a tired trip from Tel Aruhn to Tel Vos and fortunately I had to only contend with three Kagouti on the way, for I was utterly exhausted...probably more from dealing with Therana than Gothren. Aryon was pleased to see me so quickly and congratulated me on collecting all the votes. He anxiously inquired as to the Archmagister's health and was not displeased to hear the mediocre mage has taken a permanent vacation from his position. Aryon rewarded my effort with a robe he called the 'Robe of the Hortator'. The robe's enchantment will temporarily boost my magicka energy, but that's of limited use to me.

With the acceptance of the Telvanni to my title of Hortator I have completed the Fourth Trial of the Seven Trials of the Incarnate. The Fifth Trial was to be named Nerevarine by the four Ashlander tribes, so now I must make plans to meet with the Archcanon of the Temple. Events seem to be moving quickly, but signs that Dagoth Ur may be moving quicker is my constant concern.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Morrowind Day 74 - The Indifference of the Telvanni

27 Frost Fall
I was not going to make the same mistake I made yesterday. This morning I visited Balmora to stock up on supplies before re-visiting the Telvanni holdings along the east coast. The Mages Guild was well stocked in greetings and friendly faces, but not in potions or scrolls of levitation. I left the magical dagger, two rings, and the two gloves with Galbedir to see if she could figure out what they actually were.

For levitation I needed to see Nalcarya. It was still very early in the morning and the sky was absolutely clear. I cannot even remember the last time I was able to see the stars and moons from Vvardenfell. It was quite a beautiful sight.
Nalcarya had what I needed, but only in small amounts. She had a single magicka restorative available and only two vials of levitation, neither particularly potent. But that was the best I was able to get, so off to Tel Vos and Master Aryon I went, once again.

I used the same route I did yesterday: from Caldera to Indoranyon, then a walk along the coast. I had several hostile encounters, one merely annoying and two very alarming.

The first one was annoying. While walking along the beach I heard a man shout at me to stop moving and drop my weapons. Looking inland I saw an unarmored Dunmer armed with a chitin sword running at me. The man must not have been too bright, for I was visibly holding my bow and he was a good distance away. He did not make it much closer. He had a friend that must have been hiding beyond the hill, but why this second man decided to attack me after his friend had died is a mystery. His end was similarly filled with arrows. Neither had anything worth taking.
The next two encounters were far more dangerous and ominous. After fighting the two bandits I turned inland, figuring I was north enough to not miss Tel Vos regardless of how I proceeded. While walking on the idyllic green plain, I was greatly startled to see one of the female Daedra enjoying a walk of her own. Where did she come from?
She was a long way off, but the best arrows I had were only steel-tipped and the creature shrugged off six good hits as she charged across the grass with a screech. While my spear is also just steel, it managed to be more effective than the arrows. Where did she come from and where was she going? It would be interesting to talk with one I suppose, though conversing with Daedra is not something I see in my future.

What I took to be Tel Vos loomed ahead in the haze and became increasingly erratic in appearance as I drew closer. It looks as though a Telvanni wizard inherited a Redoran stronghold and decided to remodel it. Huge tree roots twisted and enveloped the sturdy rectangular buildings, joining together above the structure to support a bulb-like mushroom.
However, this was not the Telvanni tower of Tel Vos, but the fishing village of Vos. A helpful fisherman pointed me west to Tel Vos, which also embraced a mixed architectural style. The small keep was very Imperial looking, but the giant roots were unmistakably Telvanni.
I wandered around the seemingly abandoned castle trying to find the entrance and only succeeded in finding the jail. The bored jail guard pointed out that speaking to Aryon required levitating to the top of the structure where the door to his study was. 

Just inside the study was the captain of his mercenary guard, an Imperial named Turedus. He offered me some work and the task sounded simple: He needs someone to speak with the Zainab Ashlanders to evaluate the possibility of establishing trade relations with them. He offered me one hundred Septims  to speak with them and learn what goods they need. I agreed to the work, though I wound up not taking care of it today.

Aryon was surprisingly cordial and accommodating, definitely not the reaction I expected from a Telvanni speaking with a Khajiit stating that she wants him to name her the savior of his people. Aryon gave me a book listing all of the Telvanni councilors and agreed to vote that I be named Telvanni Hortator. He warned that the other councilors would not be so easy to convince, with the exception of Mistress Dratha who would support me simply because I am female. Strange.

I decided to speak with Dratha first, as she was the easiest to get to: Her tower is in Tel Mora, just across the water from Tel Vos. After that, Master Neloth in Sadrith Mora would be my next visit.

Tel Mora was so close that I felt I had time to wander a bit more and during this wandering I encountered the second female Daedra wandering amongst the trees. She proved just as resilient to the steel arrows and just as vulnerable to my spear. It is a very bad sign that Daedra are now wandering away from the Daedric ruins, though I am not sure if this would be connected to Dagoth Ur. Releasing Blight-infected monsters upon Morrowind seems more his style than releasing Daedra that would barely be under his control. It is a concern either way.
Trying to avoid any further combat with Daedra, I turned around and went straight to Tel Mora. The settlement lacks the variety of Vos and Tel Vos, but the windings and turns of the roots gives the settlement a certain sort of grace. The first person I spoke to was a Redguard woman who sarcastically asked me if I had seen any men walking around. That I found the question puzzling must have been obvious, for she apologized and told me that there were no men at Tel Mora at all. Mistress Dratha has, for whatever reason, an undying distaste for menfolk of any kind and has forbidden any to enter Tel Mora for any reason. Her retainers and mercenaries are all women. The Redguard (I never got her name) described Dratha as "...a little crazy, but a good patron", which was not at all reassuring. 

I had no cause to be worried though. Taking my cue from Tel Vos, I did not waste time on the ground searching for an entrance but instead drank another levitation vial and floated to the highest platform I could find. This proved to be Mistress Dratha's study and the Telvanni councilor immediately mistook me for a serving girl as soon as I entered.

She did prove receptive to my tale of the difficulties and trials I have gone through to become Nerevarine and Hortator and seemed greatly amused by the idea that the savior of the Dunmer might be a woman after all. That I am also Khajiit was pointedly not mentioned. She assured me of her support when the vote was called and handed me four scrolls she said would summon 'Golden Saints'. Perhaps they would be useful as a distraction next time I am exploring Red Mountain. 

It was late into the afternoon by then, but I made an effort towards getting Master Neloth's vote before the day ended. It was quickest to use my amulet to recall back to Ald'ruhn, then teleport to the Mages Guild in Wolverine Hall. Neloth's tower, Tel Naga, sat a short distance away from the Imperial fortress.
I used my last levitation potion to drift up to the highest door I could see and my luck held, for it led to Neloth's audience chamber or whatever the barren throne room was. He dismissed me as soon as I opened my mouth and I irritably (and foolishly, I am sure) asked him if I could buy enough time to finish a sentence. He seemed surprised at my rudeness and his guards tensed up, but he relaxed, laughed, and said three hundred Septims would be enough to buy his attention. 

My story failed to interest him and he suggested that an additional one hundred Septims would be enough to purchase his vote in my favor for Telvanni Hortator. I paid my money and he proclaimed me Hortator for House Telvanni, then bade me go away. He really cared not at all for anything to do with me and I wonder how he would fare with a Morrowind overrun by Dagoth Ur. I guess I could be less critical of him, his vote was an easy one to acquire.

By then it was late into the evening and there was no point in pressing my unusually good luck today any further. I recalled back home for the last time today and tidied things up a bit. Tomorrow I will tackle the remaining councilors and see if I cannot be named Hortator before Sun's Dusk.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Morrowind Day 73 - Firmly on the Ground

26 Frost Fall
As I have no doubt written before: even the best plans cannot guarantee results. Today I meant to visit the Telvanni tower of Tel Vos to see Master Aryon about the process to be named Telvanni Hortator and have been forced to end the day no where near accomplishing that simple goal.

I was not anticipating any major combat today so I left the Daedric bow, spear, and dagger at home, taking with me Sul-Matuul's Bonemold bow and my enchanted spear, both easily sufficient against the wildlife I normally encounter.

The quickest way for me to Tel Vos from Ald'ruhn is via Folm's teleportation to the fortress of Indoranyon, which lies on the coast south of the Telvanni tower. The air was unusually chilly when I stepped out of the Propylon chamber and very purple, which has been increasingly frequent lately. I hope it's a better sign than the Blight storms.
Before heading north I decided to spend some time heading in the opposite direction along the coast, as I have not really explored much of the eastern half of Vvardenfell, which proved to be mistake number two of the day. I walked along the water to the various small islands and found nothing of much interest on them. As I was making my way back to the coast, I stumbled upon what looked like an abandoned mine.

It was very small and contained a few Daedra and two mages of some kind. The combat was short and easy, leaving me with nothing to write upon it. The rewards for my minor exertion was quite good though: a large amount of powerful scrolls and potions, a lot of which I took with me when I left.

I moved further south along the coast, taking practice shots with my bow against the mudcrabs that seemed to be scurrying everywhere. My accuracy is certainly a great deal better than it was and crab meat is not the worst I have had to eat in my life. I was just about to turn around to make my way to Tel Vos when I spotted another mine set into the side of a hill. My curiosity got the better of me, as usual.
A Redguard was upon me almost before I got through the door. She was very well armed and I think I would have been greatly wounded (but victorious) had I not activated the enchantment on my spear. Skilled as she was, there are few creatures that pose a threat when standing before this Khajiit while she wields a Daedric spear. Her gold-hued Dwemer two-handed sword was far too cumbersome for me to carry. Sometimes I wonder if there are unseen people that lurk a few days behind me, secretly becoming rich on the valuable items I leave in my wake. A funny thought, if you have a dark sense of humor.

The second smuggler I encountered must have been unloading inventory for she had six bows hanging from shoulder slings...but no arrows at all. She attacked me with a short sword, but it was a pathetic attempt tangled up as she was. The bows were in nearly all the varieties commonly available: wooden Imperial short bows, Ashland chitin bows, Bonemold long bows, and Imperial steel-spine bows. The cave opened up just beyond her to a small underground dock crowded with at least a dozen crates and two more exits.

All of the crates contained an odd but valuable mix of Dwemer weapons and gemstones. One crate had a giant two-handed Dwemer battle axe and a small bag of diamonds. Another, a Dwemer halberd, rubies, and emeralds. Altogether the crates provided a full arsenal of Dwemer weapons, save for a short and long sword. The Dwemer spear was tempting, but it is heavy and the enchantment on my steel spear makes using anything else rather pointless. I would be very interested to know how these weapons came to be acquired, but I doubt I will ever find out.

One crate erased any hesitation I might have had about killing the rest of the smugglers. It was full of Sixth House ritual pieces, mostly statues. It occurs to me only now that my assumption that the Dwemer weapons were for export may be incorrect. Why should the Sixth House not be seeking to arm its more lucid members with superior weaponry? Dwemer weapons are superior to anything a common guard would be armed with and while the advantage is probably not enough to guarantee victory to a Sixth House cultist facing multiple foes, it would be a costly battle. One-on-one, a crazed cultist armed with Dwemer equipment would be a daunting foe for most any guard, except perhaps the Ordinators.

I chose one of the exits away from the dock and fought two more smugglers in a dead-end room, each surprisingly armed very poorly with cheap iron weapons and chitin armor. They guarded only a lantern, two stools, a table, and their lunch.

The other way past the docks proved more profitable and not much more threatening. In an example of very interesting cave formations, I stepped into a very tall room with a large stone spire rising out of water-logged room. Some enterprising individuals erected scaffolding to and around the spire, creating a watchtower of sorts.
A Dunmer mage in a Dwemer helm was patrolling along the top of the spire, but not making much of an attempt to watch the only entryway into the chamber. I waited patiently until his walk around the spire brought him into my sight, then loosed a silvered arrow at him. Luck was greatly on his side and the arrow flew high, striking the broad side of his helmet and glancing off, no doubt greatly startling the man.

He had the advantage of height, but inexplicably charged down the scaffolding towards me, shouting and firing spells at me. I had fired six arrows at him during his charge, but he managed to dodge all of them. His end was assured once he got within range of my spear. On his body was a very powerfully enchanted ring, another item for Galbedir to identify.

I carefully scaled the scaffolding, but there were no more smugglers. Instead, I came upon a Redguard who called himself 'Jon Hawker' and immediately professed his surrender. When I asked him why he was surrendering, he told me he had been waylaid by the smugglers and robbed of all his goods. I was about to point out that he could recover his loss, if not the actual goods, now that the bandits were dead, but he would not let me speak. Instead, he asked me for a Divine Intervention scroll, saying that he did not care for his wealth any longer.

I had two scrolls, so I gave him one. He thanked me and disappeared to safety. As soon as he disappeared I felt something on my pack and reached behind me to find that two gloves somehow appeared there. Very strange! They are enchanted with Illusion spells, so at least I think I have a pretty decent idea of what they'll do. One glove feels like it has Silence and Blinding enchantments, the other, Charm. Galbedir will be able to tell if I am correct.

There were more crates stacked in the upper scaffolding, all of them absolutely full of armor. Most of it was cheap: iron and chitin, with some bonemold pieces scattered among them. Nothing a seasoned warrior would find useful, but a group of cultists would certainly be able to coax more utility out of the equipment. Ironically I found two Divine Intervention scrolls in one of the crates.

That should have been enough caves for one day, but I came upon my last one later in the afternoon. I was not greeted by any sword-swingers when I walked in, but the tell-tale red candles at the entrance marked the place as inhabited by the Sixth House.
The usual creatures were present: tentacle-faced men, stone-skinned women, and ordinary souls turned Blighted. The 'leaders' of the Sixth House, the Ash Vampires, were not represented here. I fought and won several battles against the cultists of the Sixth House, but my own stupid mistake deserves mention in place of what I accomplished there.

I crept down a tunnel while exploring the cave, only to find that it ended at a small cliff overlooking a large Sixth House shrine methodically staffed by a tentacle-faced man. He fell quickly to my arrows and without thinking of the consequences I carefully slid down the face of the cliff to the shrine below. There was not much there, mostly statues and various regalia of the Sixth House. A door on the far side of the shrine opened up to another part of the cave and more monsters, but I could not find any way to return to the entrance of the cavern. In short: I was unable to levitate and therefore unable to leave without either using my Amulet of Recall or a Divine Intervention scroll.

I recalled back to Ald'ruhn, but now I will have to repeat my attempt to visit Tel Vos. I will not make the mistake I did today wandering away from my intended destination, but will head straight for Tel Vos early tomorrow morning. I should also see about the progress on the stronghold as well. But I grow impatient now and I feel that I am ready to be named Hortator of House Telvanni. Whether they are ready to bestow the title upon a Khajiit remains to be seen.