Thursday, April 24, 2014

Morrowind Day 86 - Along the Northern Shore

9 Sun's Dusk
Previous to today I have already spent enough time in the northern wasteland to know the chances of finding anything was pretty slim. The air was so humid and foggy this morning that even the sun had no hope of burning any of it away. It just hung in the grey sky, stoically illuminating what it could.
The trip was unpleasant enough with the weather, so I count myself fortunate that I ran into no trouble between Gnisis and the camp of the Urshilaku tribe. The stone walls of the foyada forced me to briefly walk across the water past the wrecked ship I explored some time ago. I could not remember if there was anything useful inside, so I passed it by.
Owing to being on the other side of the hills, the weather was remarkably clear on east bank of the foyada, giving me an excellent view of the Daedric ruin the Urshilaku built their camp near so as to test their warriors. Personally I think living so close to such a place is foolish, but the Ahemmusa follow the same practice, so it must make more sense to the Ashlanders.

Clear weather or no, there was no mistaking the lumbering bulk of the Ogrim shambling back and forth in front of the ruined shrine. This was only the third one I have so far encountered on Vvardenfell and it was far enough away that I decided to try using my short bow to fire steel arrows at it so as to see how effective my 'simple' weapons are against Daedra.
My bow was very effective against the lumbering giant, mostly due to it being near impossible to miss such a large target. I was able to shoot the lighter weapon much quicker than my Daedric bow and the creature quickly found that knees full of arrows makes for an uncomfortable walk. Thus crippled, the Ogrim fell to a well-placed thrust of my spear. 

I surprised a Clannfear Daedra in much the same way, but I could only fire two arrows before it was upon me. The battle felt almost routine and it was over quickly. It is sobering to think that just three months ago a duo of Nix-Hounds posed a considerable threat and now I fight Daedra and their Dremora cousins with a regularity that would have terrified most of the Auxiliaries. It may be a swampy and dusty wasteland, but Vvardenfell is an effective, and harsh, teacher.

The Urshilaku welcomed me as one of their own, eagerly purchasing my spare ingredients and equipment I have been liberating off of my unfortunate foes. They got great deals owing to the combination of my desire to lighten my inventory and their light purses and slim inventories. I sold a battle axe crafted in the Orcish style for just over two hundred coins, though I could have gotten at least five times the price in Balmora or Ald'ruhn. But weight is a formidable enemy in the wastelands and the axe was doing me no benefit other than to smack me in the leg every third step.

A dust storm had kicked up while I was busy enriching the Urshilaku tribe and I was completely engulfed in dust after I left the trader's tent. I knew my progress was going to be very slow as long as the storm continued, but I planned on retreating to the coast if the storm was too bad inland.

One advantage of the ash wastes is that the hostile wildife generally finds the area just as unpleasant and I generally do not encounter many creatures. I did pass by the desiccated corpse of a long-dead Silt Strider, but found little else of interest outside.
My only find today was of an ancestral tomb overlooking the shore just before the Daedric ruin near the Ahemmusa tribe's campsite. I investigated the tomb and had a surprising encounter with a Dunmer woman who claimed to be the 'apprentice' of the Ahemmusa wisewoman. She rudely rebuffed my inquiries and demanded that I leave her alone and flee the tomb immediately. I did so only because it would be very easy to verify the woman's claim. If I find that she lied, she will be receiving a much ruder visit from me in the future.

I reached the Ahemmusa's tiny camp just as the sun began to set. While I am acknowledged as the Nerevarine, I am simply not as comfortable among the Ahemmusa as I am with the Urshilaku who I am more familiar with, or the Zainab, who are more genial and accepting of outsiders. I exchanged enough words with the wisewoman to be polite and asked about renting a sleeping mat for the night. She offered one of her own, which I have accepted with some trepidation.

I am not sure what my goal is tomorrow. Logic dictates a turn south towards Sadrith Mora, but there are the Telvanni islands to the north that I have yet to explore fully. Perhaps I shall flip a coin after breakfast.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Morrowind Day 85 - Kerra, Grandmaster Fisher-Khajiit

8 Sun's Dusk
There will be a day when my plans actually go as intended, but today was not one of those days. My intentions this morning was to cross the foyada separating the northern wasteland from the Bitter Coast and continue my travels into the Telvanni-held territory, with tonight being spent at the Urshilaku's tent village. Instead I am writing from within the Gnisis barracks yet again.

I left Gnisis early this morning and made straight for the fishing outpost of Ald Velothi. I passed the small lake where the two Imperial woman had tried to kill me and saw that their bodies were gone. In their place were sure signs of a large creature dragging something heavy with it, though I lost the tracks when they turned off the dirt road on to the grass. Kagouti perhaps, or Nix-Hounds? I do not know and I think I will be much happier never finding out.

The lake sits at the base of the hill where the Dwemer ruin I passed by yesterday is. As I wrote yesterday, the Dwemer ruins are high in danger and comparatively low in treasure, the best being an ancient weapon or piece of armor. Gemstones are common, but they are much safer to acquire from Daedric ruins, odd as that may sound. At least the denizens of the Daedric ruins are living creatures; the guardians of the Dwemer ruins are soulless and non-living constructs that will stoically reduce any intruder into a fine paste without the slightest hesitation. Should things not go well while inside you will find they cannot be bargained with nor intimidated. The sum of the matter is this: avoid Dwemer ruins whenever possible.

So I trekked up the hillside only to get a better view of the coast I had been planning on traveling along today. But my curiosity got the better of me once again, though in my defense it was sorely tempted by the unusual statue built at the end of the massive bridge leading to the fortress.
None of the other ruins I have visited ever had any sort of adornment and certainly not a giant statue of an ancient Dwemer warrior. The unrelenting weather of Vvardenfell had long smoothed away any fine details the sculptor may have chosen to show, but the statue was still in good condition. The depicted Dwemer resembled a Bosmer with a beard and he was armed with a large shield and a halberd, though how he was supposed to have used both at the same time is a mystery.

The justification for risking my life inside the place was reasonable enough: none of the other ruins had a statue or such a long bridge leading to it (guarded by two giant crossbows), so this fortress must have been very important in its time and therefore worth exploring. I soon found out that this was completely false.

My first encounter with the ancient garrison was with a mechanical guard that sprang out of its golden sphere-like body. This was not a new thing to me, I have fought several of the things in other ruins, but they had been armed with melee weapons. The sphere-soldiers here had crossbows built into their 'arms' which fired unique-looking bolts, no doubt Dwemer. The first bolt fired at me cracked right through my shield, but stopped halfway through it. The second narrowly missed me and I was attacking the construct with my spear before it could fire a third.

Against the Dwemer armor that I guess made up its body, the steel of my spear did not have much effect. I had to retreat behind a pillar to activate the spear's Daedric enchantment to cause significant damage. I recovered a handful of its crossbow bolts from a quiver cleverly built into its back, but as I lacked a crossbow they were of no use to me.

I followed a staircase down into a very hot, stinking hallway heated and lit by a pool of lava sitting right underneath it. I do not understand how this was ever seen as a good idea, but the metal grate making up most of the hallway's floor managed to stay pleasantly warm, despite the molten stone beneath it. One of the Dwemer spider things scurried around the corner in front of me, but fell surprisingly quick to three silvered arrows.

It had been guarding a stairway leading upwards (making it seem that the hallway's only purpose was as a chamber to collect heat) and I had just placed my foot into the room the stairs led up to when a giant metal ball swung from the side and hit me square in the chest, sending me tumbling back down the stairs into the red, glowing hallway.

What followed me down was a giant war machine, easily the largest I have seen. The ball that struck me was an extension of one of the machine's arms, the other had a hand with three large 'fingers'. I scrambled back up, ignoring the searing pain of what was probably a cracked rib or two, and it stalked relentlessly down the hall after me.
The construct was almost completely immune to arrows and nothing in my meager collection of spells was likely to do much of anything, so I had to face it by hand. It seemed hardly a fair fight, but the thing's great strength came at a cost, for it was quite slow in moving and fighting. I dashed up the stairs leading towards the exit, activated my Daedric spear, and finally cast my invisibility spell, hoping to get a lucky strike.

My luck has never been particularly notable. Without a target, the guardian placidly stood in the center of the hall, oblivious to the heat and fumes radiating from beneath its feet. I crept towards it as stealthily as I could manage and got within melee range without being detected. My sudden strike was for its neck, hoping that this represented some sort of weak point. It did not. My aim was true, but the thing's neck was a collection of small tubes with some sort of binding allowing each segment to flex. My strike hit one of these tubes and glanced off, harmlessly gouging the machine's mantle.

The rest of the fight does not bear much mentioning. It was all a matter of timing: it would rear back, pause, and swing its ball-arm in a wide arc, no doubt aiming to smash my head off of my shoulders. But if it missed (which it did!) the machine would spend a few seconds orientating itself for another attack, which is when I would take my turn. We must have gone through at least seven rounds of our dance when the thing started spouting steam out of the gaps my spear had rent. It made one final swing and then suddenly stopped moving completely before toppling into the side of the hallway with a tremendous crash.

I have no idea how it actually died, if that term could be used for it. A stronger and arguably smarter man than I could have maybe pried the machine's breastplate apart to see how it worked, but my interest in the workings of the thing began and ended with how to make it stop trying to kill me.

The rest of the ruin was home only to a small spider-machine, which posed no threat. I pocketed two diamonds I found at the bottom of a steel barrel, but the ruin was really very, very small and there were only two other rooms after the first hallway, neither of which held anything that made the trip inside worthwhile. Again: avoid Dwemer ruins whenever possible!
The ruin's very long bridge
At least the day was a pleasant one when I exited the ruin. The sea breeze did well to clear off the stench of ancient steam and molten lava off of my fur and I could easily spot Ald Velothi.
The Redoran outpost was only a few minutes walk along the coast. I stopped to speak with the Redoran retainer, Theldyn Virith, for whom I did a service some time ago. He remembered me and asked if I had a few minutes to spare. That question never led me anywhere good, but I agreed. His task was very simple: prowl about the beach of Ald Velothi and look for a larger-than-usual slaughterfish. Theldyn called it 'Old Blue Fin' and said they he and the fish had a history, but he did not say what kind of history. Anyway, the fish was causing the little village's fisher-people a lot of trouble: fouling lines, chewing through nets, and attacking anyone brave (or stupid) enough to try their hand at spear-fishing. He asked that I kill the fish, finally ending Theldyn's acquaintance with the creature and saving Ald Velothi's pitiful attempt at industry.

I would not have even mentioned this mundane task if it was not for a Dunmer woman who approached me while I was scouring the shore for Old Blue Fin. She seemed oddly shy and asked if I was Kerra. I saw no reason why she would need to know, but also no reason to deceive the woman. My curiosity again, I guess. When I told her that I was, in fact, Kerra, she gave me a little bow and thanked for waking her from her nightmare.

She had been one of the insane people I have been encountering, though I never met her specifically before today. She said she felt as though she had been asleep for a long time and as for the time passed, she only had nightmares of red places and people turning into horrible monsters. But she happily told me she was finally awake again and would tell everyone of my deeds.

What deeds did I perform to free this person from Dagoth Ur's influence? I do not know and neither did she. I should set aside some time in the future to review what I have accomplished so far, maybe I have missed something obvious.

Old Blue Fin was not making himself scarce, I spotted him myself as he lazily floated underneath one of the raised houses the Dunmer like to build on top of the water.
He was too deep for an arrow from either bow to have a decent chance of killing him and I did not want to merely wound him and drive him off. My only option was to go into the water after him. I checked my short sword, left my other weapons on the walkway, and cast my water breathing spell.

The fish was a bit stronger and quicker than the usual slaughterfish I lunch on occasionally, but it was still only a fish. The battle, if it could even be called that, could not have lasted more than ten seconds. The regular fish of Ald Velothi are safe once again. Theldyn rewarded my heroic effort with a sack full of Dreugh wax processed into little ingots.

Theldyn had another task for me, this one a great deal farther away. The Ashimanu egg mine between Ald Velothi and Ald'ruhn has been invaded by a Blight-infected shalk and he needs someone to go kill the creature. He also asked that I kill any Kagouti I see while on my way to the mine. I have no intention just now of going that far inland, but I agreed to the task since it was close to Ald'ruhn. No one ever seems in a big rush to get these tasks done anyway.

A small island was sitting off the shore and I saw no harm in taking a few minutes to walk across the water to check it out. Contrary to how much luck had been so far, there really was no harm in it, just an abandoned campsite and a chest stuffed with cheap trinkets.
The unknown smuggler's hideaway was less than a minute's walk across the water to Khuul, but I found the village worth visiting just as much as I did the first time...which is not at all. I only stopped in the tradehouse to purchase some arrows, but when I exited the shop I found the weather had grown far worse. Concerned about being stuck in a blinding Blight storm, I made the decision to turn south and walk along the inlet separating Gnisis from the mainland, arguing with myself that it technically constituted a 'coast' of some sort.

I arrived back at Gnisis just as the weather started to darken and spent the remainder of the evening repairing my equipment and trying out new combinations of alchemy ingredients. Tomorrow I definitely will make it to the Urshilaku's camp and continue my journey eastward.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Morrowind Day 84 - A Challenge from Beyond

7 Sun's Dusk
By the cardinal directions of a compass, I woke this morning just about halfway done with my self-imposed duty to walk the coast of Vvardenfell. By the amount of time that still needs to be spent, I may as well have not yet started. This is a slow process, though I have already achieved more progress than I thought I would...or at least it feels like progress.

The land north and west of Gnisis was my goal today. While the town is one of the last outposts of Imperial influence on my trip around the island, Gnisis itself is not  terribly imposing, nor is the fortress attached to it. The most noteworthy thing about it is that the garrison of Fort Darius is composed almost entirely of Orcs, a fact only noteworthy here on an island full of Dunmer. 

Gnisis does not boast a thriving mercantile, nor representation from any of the Imperial guilds, making it rather difficult to find the supplies I was looking for. Had I known, I would have purchased more scrolls of healing when I had been able to, for I woke today with none at all and no way to get more.
A Dwemer ruin loomed out of the morning haze, but the land between the west gate of Gnisis and the former fortress was very hilly and broken up. I also did not expect a Dwemer ruin to hold any secrets pertaining to Dagoth Ur or the Sixth House as it seems that the god-king's Dunmer arrogance prevented him from seeing the Dwemer fortresses as suitable accommodation for his reviving House.

I encountered a pair of bandits on the far side of a rope bridge and they predictably attacked me with cheap weapons and poor tactics. If I become any more callous I would cease to mention their deaths at all, for it is becoming rather routine. It does show how thinly stretched the Imperial Legion is though, when bandits can be safely camping right outside a garrisoned Imperial stronghold with no fear of arrest or death. Should Dagoth Ur's monstrous legions burst from within Red Mountain, I do not have much hope that the Legion will be anything other than a minor impediment. 

I dutifully followed the shoreline west out of Gnisis and came across a small den of smugglers situated high on a hill overlooking the water. Much like the bandits at the bridge, I have not a lot to say about them. They were more numerous than most smugglers, certainly more than six, but none of them were any threat to me. One of them ineptly wielded a Dwemer shortblade, which I kept for myself. I found two Ash Statues on top a crate full of junk, but that was it.

Continuing along the shore I passed an old, dis-masted shipwreck and an ancestral tomb. The Dwemer ruin loomed in front of me as I stood in front of the tomb, but to visit the ruin meant going away from the coast in order to loop around to a bridge, for the ruin was built on a plateau too steep to scale and I did not feel like expending my energy on an expensive levitation spell. I decided to complete my walk along the shore first, for it would lead me back to the ruin anyway.

Climbing over a natural rock bride, I nearly walked right into one of the four-legged Kwama worker creatures, but it simply sniffed me (I think) and wandered off. Its egg mine was not far from the bridge and I left the creature and the mine alone. What need do I have for a bunch of Kwama eggs?

North of the mine was a Daedric ruin preceded by the ruined structures of what looked like housing, an unusual find, but not an interesting one. The torches in front of the least-ruined building were lit, but I could see no signs of habitation anyway around the area. Quite a mystery.
The Daedric ruin was partially flooded and the Daedroth guarding it were hesitant to dip their feet into the water, making it easy for me to dodge their spells and dispatch them with my bow. I was met just inside the shrine by a Dremora  armed with an equally priceless and heavy Daedric longsword, but my improving skills with the bow weakened him a great deal before he was able to engage me. At the shrine itself was another Dremora armed with a Dwemer axe, plus two heavily armed Dunmer, one wearing a powerfully enchanted ring, the other a belt. I will save both until I can turn them over to Galbedir to see what it is I have found.

As I was leaving the shrine a booming voice seemed to fill the entire room, greatly startling me, I have no shame in admitting. The voice laughed and asked if I was up to a little challenge. When I asked the voice's name, I was answered with 'Mehrunes Dagon', the Daedric Prince of Destruction, among other nasty things. He (or it, I suppose) challenged me to find a dagger secluded in a tomb near Molag Mar, far to the southeast. 

One does not bargain lightly with a Daedric Prince, but I agreed to his task out of curiosity. A weapon of great power was promised, though I do not think I will feel comfortable using anything he will give me. The 'normal' Daedric weapons make me uneasy enough.

It was late into the evening when I left the Daedric ruins and I decided to go back to Gnisis by the way past the Dwemer ruin. An Imperial lady was fretfully pacing in front of a small lake past the ruin. Upon seeing me she asked if I could delve into the lake after a ring of hers and hinted at a monetary reward should I return it. Money is still not a problem for me, but the task sounded simple, so naturally it was more complicated than it seemed, but not by much.

The ring really was in the lake and I found it easily. As I walked back up the short path from the lake an arrow flew over my shoulder and the "lady" came charging down the path with a dagger in hand. The whole thing had been a trap and executed slightly better than the bandits I have typically been finding. The woman had a friend nearby armed with a bow and a Chameleon-enchanted ring. When she had heard my approach, the friend must have activated the ring and waited for me to return to what they must have hoped would be a fatal storm of arrows.

Instead her friend got two arrows off, one of which missed, the other harmlessly bouncing off my helmet and promising nothing worse than a headache later. Neither my damsel in distress nor the hidden archer had anything beyond surprise on their side and they both fell quickly with no harm done to me. As for her ring, it was pretty, but mundane and I threw it back into the lake I had found it in.

By the time I reached Fort Darius it was close to midnight and I do not feel like I accomplished much today. I will continue my journey tomorrow, but now I will be entering the wastes of the east, then the territory of the Telvanni. It will only become more difficult as I continue forwards, but I still feel that this is something I must do.