Sunday, May 25, 2014

Morrowind Day 90 - My Final Day at Sheogorad

13 Sun's Dusk
My last day at Sheogorad was certainly not a sad parting, but I did accomplish something today, though I am not sure what it is I have done exactly.

The several days spent wandering the compact and dangerous surface of the island had taken its toll on my equipment and when I woke up this morning I realized I either was going to repair everything the best I could or call my entire plan to walk around Vvardenfell, as I was unlikely to even make it halfway to Tel Mora before my armor dropped off of me completely.

The Legion trained us only in the most basic techniques of smithing and repair, obviously assuming whatever damage we incurred would be repaired by the Legion's smiths when we returned from the field. While such services are available on Vvardenfell, they are not near Dagon Fel and barely even on the east coast at all. I had to do the best I could with the small amount of tools the local trader, Heifner, had for sale.

I had hoped to finish exploring the main island of Sheogorad today, with the surrounding isles being left for any spare time I might have at the end of the day. I left Dagon Fel via the south road and walked past the crossroads leading to Rotheran fortress. I paused briefly to speak with a friendly Orc who claimed she was traveling across the entire province of Morrowind looking for an errant husband-to-be. She was well-equipped for this daunting mission with an Orsimer breastplate, greaves, and two-handed maul. No doubt she has seen and fought many things while on her way to her husband, but she did not seem like she wanted to talk for long, so we talked for a few minutes and parted ways. 

It is nice to know that not everyone you meet on the road is looking to bash your skull in.

Along the shore I also spoke with a trio of Ashlanders who had come to Sheogorad on the rumor of a vampire stronghold in the area. I told them about the vampires I had fought on the island, but they seemed certain that there was a large concentration of vampires nearby. The irony became clear later on.
I was just about finished exploring the main island when, yet again, I found another tomb. It was still early in the morning and I guessed the tomb's nearness to the water would keep it to a modest size. I was correct, but exploring it was simply as waste of time and effort. The skeletal guards skillfully wielded silvered long and two-handed swords, but were guarding absolutely nothing of value. 
And that was actually it for the main island. I walked across the water to the nearest small island and found a small shack built next to a Tribunnal shrine of some kind. The Dunmer lady living there was polite and explained that she was the shrine's caretaker. The shrine is called the Sanctus shrine and is built on what the Temple considers to be holy ground, as it is where the current Archcanon wrote his book of sermons, which I have never once read or even seen a copy of.

So far I was making good progress. All I had left to explore was a long, narrow island to the west of the shrine and a fairly large island farther south. I elected to visit the narrow island first, since I figured I could hop on to the mainland from the larger island and make my way along the shore to the Urshilaku tribe's camp should the day start to draw to a close.

The island managed to emphasis the chaotic personality of Sheogorad while barely being wide enough for two roads. The land rose and fell seemingly at random, the sea would occasionally wash over the entire width of the land and cliff racers flitted amongst the tops of giant mushrooms. It was an island that demanded levitation, but I only have the cheap amulet that I save for emergencies. It was a very difficult place to be walking.

Recalling the ashlanders' warning about the vampire stronghold, I gave the first cave I found more attention than it deserved. I would say it was just another den of smugglers if there had not been so many of them, but the experience was pretty much the same. As usual, they completely lacked cohesion and communication while also being spread out and isolated. The most noteworthy part of my little visit was the one smuggler clad entirely in iron armor, something I have never seen on Vvardenfell until today. The armor was rusty and fit the man poorly, making me think he would have been a great deal better off wearing no armor at all.
A Dunmer, probably the leader of the group, had been fortunate to somehow acquire an Ebony cuirass, but he wore no other armor, making his arms and legs excellent targets for my spear. There were others, but they were typical of who I have been fighting in these places and bear little mention, just as the complete lack of valuables does.

I write on it briefly, but the cavern was quite large and the enemies numerous, so that when I stepped back outside I found that a great deal more time had passed than I expected. It was already growing dark by then, so the exploration of the island was over for good and I turned around to head back to Dagon Fel.

To make the most of what little time I had left on Sheogorad, I went back to the fishing village via the larger island to the south that I had not yet set foot upon. There was a single cave on the island, but it wound up being the vampire stronghold the ashland warriors had been seeking.

The place might have been a regular tomb hundreds of years ago, but the vampires that called the place home must have expanded it extensively, digging out deadfalls through the floors and trapping almost every door in the sprawling complex. I thought I would be able to sneak along and ambush them individually as I normally do, but there were a large number of entranced people, mostly Dunmer, wandering the hallways. They were harmless and could only mutter nonsensically, but they would show surprise at seeing an armed Khajiit stalking the halls. So unless I sank low enough to kill the helpless souls, stealth was out of the question.
However, vampires are not generally known to house themselves close to each other. The complex was a large one, but the number of vampires residing there seemed low to me. I had great luck initially, picking off lone vampires walking the hallways with my bow or an invisible strike with my spear. As I penetrated farther in the hallways started to branch off into living quarters and libraries, where I found myself fighting two or three vampires at a time. I do not know much about how vampires live among themselves, but this group was well prepared with a fully functional smithy, complete with a vampire smith to work it, an Altmer, surprisingly. He was not much of a warrior, perhaps he had been a tradesman in his previous existence. He helpfully kept a stack of armorer's hammers near his forge and I took a few to work with later. 

Eventually my stalking led to a dead-end: a sizable room with a large raised platform in the center of it and a female vampire standing serenely atop the stairs, staring down at me as I entered. She did not immediately attack, but coldly asked what authority I had to slay her kin and clan. I replied honestly, stating that I have been recognized as the Nerevarine and was travelling across Vvardenfell seeking out and eliminating elements of the Sixth House and anything else that posed a threat to Morrowind. The vampire leader was silent for a moment, then declared that my journey was to end tonight. With that, she started casting a spell, but I fled out of the room and hid around the corner, hoping she would be foolish enough to fall into my ambush.

But she was much wiser than her now-deceased comrades and stayed on her platform, surrounded by the magical barrier she had summoned at the declaration of my death. To charge back into the room did not seem a good idea, as I was very tired and wounded after the day's exertions and had no guarantee I could engage her in combat and win. I won by trickery instead, as Khajiit always should.

Certain that she was not going to leave the room, I fished a certain scroll out of my waist-satchel and then used my invisibility spell before dashing back into the room and to the side of the platform, out of her sight. I activated the scroll and broke my invisibility enchantment, much to the vampire's alarm. She yelled something and finally ran down the stairs...right into the arms of the Golden Saint my scroll had summoned.

The battle was over quickly. The Golden Saint brought a Daedric long sword with it which the vampire had little hope of countering. Already wounded and tired, I stayed well away from the two of them ready to jump in with my summoned spear, but that was not necessary. To the vampire's credit she fought courageously and managed to hold her own for a few minutes while they two of them circled each other at the base of the stairs, but the Saint was relentless and wore down her magical defenses enough to impale her with the blade, killing her instantly.  
The Golden Saint disappeared shortly afterwards, back to wherever it came from and taking its sword with it. Six people were trapped in a crude wooden cage built along the back of the platform, probably to be turned into mindless food at some point. They were very eager to be free of the place and ran out of the room as soon as I unlocked the door. As there was no one left between them and the exit, I can only assume they somehow made it off the little island, since I was the only one there after leaving the stronghold.

It was already well into the morning of 14 Sun's Dusk when I returned to Dagon Fel. Simply writing this was a struggle against my fatigue and I do not anticipate making a lot of progress today. I will take a short nap and hopefully be bedding down tonight somewhere far south of here and closer to completing my journey.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Morrowind Day 89 - Stumbling around Sheogorad

12 Sun's Dusk
I spent yesterday purposefully consuming all my time on tombs and smugglers and I spent today wandering around with no purpose at all and nothing to show for it. While there is still more of Sheogorad to explore, I do not expect doing so will lead me to any great progress against the Sixth House. At best I may be making the island a bit safer for the residents of Dagon Fel.

Rather than re-trace my steps from yesterday, I left the village heading west into unexplored territory. Almost immediately I was greeted by one of Sheogorad's friendly Daedric inhabitants.
Ogrim as a general rule are very large, but this one was larger still, with hands that could have easily enveloped me with one grip. I was able to shoot it with several silvered arrows as it lumbered towards me, but they only seemed to mildly annoy the giant creature. Fighting it as a Khajiit its attacks seemed to be easily predicted and the swings of its giant arms were far too slow. Should one of those arms have caught me I would have likely been dashed to pieces against the nearest hillside, but it never landed a blow upon me. Fighting with the steel spear was tedious work, but the Daedric enchantment made short work of the Ogrim. All this just outside Dagon Fel. I shudder to think of how the guards would have fared against an Ogrim set on flattening the small village.

While trudging along a hillside I spotted an outdoor Daedric shrine, a very unusual sight, at least for me. Loitering in front of the shrine were three Orcs each fully clad and armed with their cultural equipment, making each quite a dangerous foe and a group of three was to be avoided entirely. They never saw me skirt around the shrine atop the hill that sheltered it and I was more than content to let them be.
A second Ogrim was idly standing around a crossroads on the opposite side of the shrine and bellowed its challenge when it saw me, immediately bounding towards me on its massive legs. This one seemed to be about the same size as the first one and I dealt with it similarly, stabbing the Daedra as I constantly circled it and dodged the giant fists swung my way. 

I followed the coastline as it curved back around the way I came, forming a long, narrow peninsula that hosted a large number of placid mudcrabs on its interior coast. I kept to the exterior coastline and came upon a tomb built at the tip of the land. Keeping in mind all the time I spent yesterday combing tombs with no great result, I promised myself a limit on tomb exploration today and pushed the door open with my spear.

Initially, I encountered nothing except the same tapestry design that I encountered yesterday. There were no skeletal guardians, no floating skull-monsters, just musty air and dusty urns. The urn room was lit with a few candles, but a small passage on the far side of the room was pitch black, which was unusual for an ancestral tomb. However, Khajiit have no need to fear the dark and I could see a Dunmer pacing back and forth at the end of the hallway. There seemed to be something wrong with him and as I tried to work out what it was he turned towards me and revealed what that 'something' was. It was his glowing eyes and long fangs. 

I had stumbled upon a den of vampires, though they were weak ones. Perhaps this had been a group that set out to create their own den or whatever it is vampires create to live in. There were five of them, but they were separated, allowing me to defeat them one at a time. None of them put up a notable fight, in fact, the final vampire died not even realizing I was crouched right behind her. So much for the vampires' reputation of being able to smell their prey.
There are several large islands surrounding Sheogorad and I decided to walk across the water outside the tomb to check them out. I expected more tombs, possibly a Dwemer ruin or Daedric shrine, but I wound up finding things far more strange than that.

There is a shack on the closest island, but when I knocked on the door the voice of a Dunmer female insisted that I leave immediately. I did not argue and quickly explored the rest of the woman's small island, which had nothing else on it. I continued along the water, passing a small island on my way to a much larger one far to the west and directly north of the west end of Sheogorad, which I have yet to explore.

This large island housed another recluse, this time an Argonian who I fear may not have been whole of mind, to put it politely.
He was harmless and spoke only of a fork and a giant bull netch that was floating around somewhere between there and Ebonheart. Half of his tiny cabin was taken up by stacks of barrels and chairs, all carefully arranged and balanced. The other half hosted a large collection of polearms, mostly spears with a few halberds mixed in, all of them looking as though they had not been touched in at least a century. The Argonian's babbling gradually lessened and I quietly sneaked out while he was busy measuring his stacks of furniture. How very strange.

It was quickly growing dark and I did not relish the thought of trying to make my way back to Dagon Fel at night, even with my night sense, so I hurried back across the water to the 'main' island. I took the most direct route and came upon the Telvanni outpost of Vas. I hoped it would be like the similarly named and somewhat hospitable Telvanni tower of Vos, but it was not to be.

The place had more in common with a tomb than a tower, right down to the creatures that guarded it.
After fighting two floating skull creatures and two skeletons armed with silvered two-handed swords I guessed my chances at finding a bedroll for the night was slim, so I left and continued across the water towards Dagon Fel.

With luck and the superior vision of the Khajiit I managed to walk the width of Sheogorad back to Dagon Fel without encountering anything hostile save for a blighted Cliff Racer. I passed by the Orcs' shrine close enough to hear their rough voices raised in some sort of chant. I might have been able to use the darkness to gain enough advantage to defeat the group, but Daedra worshipers are not my concern right now. There would be no great reward for the risk: their armor, though valuable, would be too heavy to carry back to Dagon Fel, which may not even have a buyer for items that valuable. I find it very hard to believe that Orcs would be scheming to bring back the Sixth House, so I am willing to let them be.

Tomorrow must be the last day I spend on this island, for I have already wasted enough time looking for the Sixth House where it plainly, in this case, simply does not exist. Perhaps the location is too remote. Whatever the case, I will only be dedicating one more day to this island, then I must continue onward.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Morrowind Day 88 - Scouring Sheogorad

11 Sun's Dusk
Arriving somewhere new follows a typical routine: find a bed, visit the local trader, then explore the surrounding area for smugglers and cultists. The island of Sheogorad is more difficult than most to navigate, but you cannot turn a corner without spotting an abandoned mine or shrine. Clearly I will be spending more time here than I anticipated.

I left Dagon Fel and proceeded south along the coast, hoping to complete a walk around the entire island today and finishing the exploration of the island's interior tomorrow. Naturally, this was not how I wound up spending the day.

The first tomb was so close to the town that I must have walked right by it yesterday when I arrived on the island. Being so close to the shore, I assumed the tomb was a small one, but it wound up being far larger than I anticipated...and far more worth my time.

My first clue that this tomb was a little different was the guardian right at the entrance. I used to expect a simple skeleton or ghost, now I am more likely to encounter a well-armed, but clumsy, skeleton or perhaps a weaker form of the Bonewalker. This tomb had one of the four-armed floating skull creatures waiting for me as I stepped inside and it seemingly took great pleasure in firing spells at me from the bottom of the stairway it was guarding. It did seem to have trouble actually going up the stairs so I waited for the creature to exhaust its magical energy, then fired arrows at it until whatever force held it together evaporated.
Further inside I fought two more of the things as they wandered about a large chamber lined with urns. One of the urns had a red candle lit next to it and a tapestry with a vaguely familiar symbol hung over it. Signs of Sixth House activity? Maybe, but merely using a red candle is no sign of being in league with Dagoth Ur. Either way, the dead were not talking to me, so I have no way to find out.
There were more signs of the Sixth House scattered in the tomb. A second smaller urn room contained a second urn illuminated by a red candle and a tapestry depicting someone or something similar to how Dagoth Ur has appeared in my nightmares.
The last room of the tomb was guarded by claymore-wielding skeletons rather than the floating skull creatures I found elsewhere and they were easily tricked into crowding themselves around the doorway, making it difficult for them to attack me.
The unusually strong guard stationed in the tomb was likely due to the equally unusual body on display at the far end of the room. Dunmer normally cremate their dead, hence the need for urns, but this tomb had a skeleton laid out on an altar, complete with arms and armor. I suppose it is possible that the skeleton is not of the man (or woman) the altar was built to honor, but this seems unlikely given the normal Dunmer practices.
I examined the equipment, but most of it was mundane or not usable by a Khajiit. An elaborate ring placed next to the corpse caught my eye and a cursory glance was enough to know it was powerfully enchanted, so I took it to show Galbedir later. My apology to the former warrior if he misses it. This makes for the second powerful ring I have found within the week and the third overall, not counting the numerous rings people have gifted to me. Galbedir will be envious, but if she wants rings of her own she can risk her life as I do every day.

The weather was surprisingly clear when I stepped outside and I wish I could have taken the time to enjoy it at a more leisurely pace. As it was, my pace was far from leisurely, for I still had hoped to circle the entire island today. Naturally, I had barely walked for two minutes before I came upon another door set into the hillside just outside a Dwemer ruin.
Had I been in a less remote area I would have passed the cave by as simply another hideout for smugglers and thieves. But the reach of the Imperial Legion stops far short of Sheogorad and what I have already found on the island suggests the Sixth House is strongly establishing themselves on the island.

The experience inside the cave was what I have come to expect from smugglers: one sentry at the entrance and the rest huddled around a campfire among empty bottles and sugar pouches. I caught the Redguard slouching against a crate when I stepped inside, but she recovered quickly from her surprise and sought to drive me out of the cave using the long reach of her two-handed sword. She was good enough to slip past my spear during the opening moves of our combat, so I was forced to rely on my woefully short sword.

Our positions became reversed after I let a blow glance off the side of my armor, allowing me to slide along the blade and crowd her against the cavern wall. She was experienced enough to realize her two-handed weapon was now a disadvantage, but she had nothing on her save for a small knife. Versus my (now) comparatively large sword, she did not stand a chance.

The rest of the smugglers had somehow not noticed our struggle and the remaining three thieves each were occupying a private hollow of their own, allowing me to dispatch them one by one. Though poorly organized and clearly not expecting hostile company, they were well-armed and individually skilled in their chosen schools of fighting. One Dunmer had three volcanic glass daggers on him which will go for a very fair price.

Again I found several crates of the red Sixth House statues. Where are they coming from? Are they in this cave on their way to the mainland or are they being brought in from somewhere? And why? I have found only a few of them within the actual Sixth House outposts, yet a smuggler's inventory might have a dozen or more of the things. It is all very mysterious.

I left the cave satisfied that I could now finally get to the day's task at hand and complete my patrol of the island's shore, but once again my curiosity got the better of me. Not more than twenty seconds away from the previous cave was another one built in front of a crossroads leading to Rotheran fortress. I really want to walk by it and proceed along as planned, but I reasoned that this cave could be a Sixth House base after all, so in I went. Perhaps I was a Dwemer in a previous life.

My impression of the place was immediately soured by the score of Nix-Hounds that charged at me as I tried to creep down the tunnel entrance, but they fell with not a scratch done to me. This band of smugglers were somewhat more cautious than the previous group, for all their doors and chests were locked. The first door I magically unlocked silently opened to the backs of two smugglers unaware of my presence.
Nothing is unfair when your survival is at stake and killed the first smuggler with a single stab of my sword to the neck just quick enough to retain the element of surprise against the second. Pushing her into the campfire was certainly not sporting of me, but the lady had been trying to reach a wooden chest in the corner of the cavern and I ensured she died a quick death after her shirt burst into flames.

It was very fortunate to me that the Dunmer never reached the chest, for it contained a Daedric longsword, a weapon that would turn even an unskilled adversary into a dangerous long as they did not accidentally lop off one of their own limbs with the heavy blade. After I had killed all the smugglers, I wound up finding an exceptionally rare Daedic dai-katana as well, but valuable as they were, the swords suffered from the same disadvantages all of the Daedra-enhanced arms share: too valuable to sell and too heavy for me to carry. 

So if anyone reads this: head for a small cave at a crossroads outside the ruined fortress of Rotheran. You will be rich for life, provided your back is strong enough...not that anyone else will be reading this.

The remaining four smugglers were also paired up, but this lulled them into a sense of security I successfully used to my advantage. Each pair was roused out of their mental slumber by what I hope was a blood-chilling scream of a Khajiit warrior charging with her summoned Daedric spear. Against such a potent force, who would stand a chance? Probably an Orc or a Nord, but they were mostly Dunmer, with one Redguard and one Imperial among them, curiously all female.

I found more red statues within the 'regular' smuggling inventory, but the caves I have explored today are so close together that this barely hints at any further direction to take. It was disappointingly late in the evening when I left the cave, but my disappointment at putting off my goals (once again!) was soothed by the incredible view of the sky.
I really need to get my priorities straight. Tombs and caves were infrequent enough on the mainland that I managed to get things accomplished, but that seems impossible here on Sheogorad. Another night spent at the 'End of the World' tavern and another night with little to show for having spent the day, save for worn equipment and dried blood. I must make more progress tomorrow.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Morrowind Day 87 - The Curious Village of Dagon Fel

10 Sun's Dusk
This morning I woke to a decision that needed to be made: turn north and explore the island of Sheogorad or remain on my intended path south towards Tel Vos and Sadrith Mora. I have, of course, been to Tel Vos and Sadrith Mora, as well as the Zainab camp. I had not yet been to Sheogorad island, making the choice an easy one. After a hurried communal breakfast in pitch-blackness, I bid my hosts farewell and walked to the shore.  

The moonlight was just starting to retire for the coming day and I could barely make out the outline of the island right in front of me. The island was separated from the mainland by a small channel of water barely twenty steps wide, so the lack of visibility was not particularly troublesome. Beyond the island was another island and beyond that one lay another. There were also two islands to the left of these three. Such was my morning off of Sheogorad: walking across the water to islands that each had one or more unexplored islands behind it. The coast of Sheogorad island was always within reach, but I did not set foot upon it until late in the morning, having wasted much time in fruitlessly exploring all the small islands that lay in-between.

One of the islands offered up an ancestral tomb and I stopped to visit it, reasoning that tombs have so far been a good place to find Sixth House cultists, second only to abandoned mines. Just inside lay the skeletal remains of a would-be robber or adventurer and the complete lack of flesh suggested his or her end occurred a long time ago...but the excellent condition of the unfortunate soul's remaining equipment marked their death as very recent. The truth of this suspicion was confirmed in a bit.
Perhaps something in the nature of the vampire I fought in the next room had something to do with the corpse's apparently advanced decay. She was a tough adversary, possibly the most difficult fight I have had against a vampire in some time. It seemed that every third or fourth blow I struck her simply slid off her, no harm done. Trying to retreat from a hostile vampire is pointless exertion at best, so I could not call the Daedric enchantment on my spear, leaving me with my 'normal' steel spear. I eventually wore the accursed creature's protective enchantment down and slayed her, sustaining surprisingly little damage myself.

Her body dissolved into dust almost immediately, leaving behind an empty robe, a pair of shoes, and an enchanted ring. What it is enchanted with, I cannot tell, but it is powerfully enchanted with something. Galbedir will probably be able to tell what the ring does, but I have no idea when I will be seeing her next.  

The tomb itself held little worth taking. The largest chamber had a small raised platform upon which the typical basin of ashes, skulls on spears, and so on were placed. There was a small chest set along the ashes, but the time spent picking the simple lock would almost certainly not have been worth it.
Unique to the tombs I have so far explored, this one had a door leading to a rough cavern, perhaps a relic of now-abandoned plans to expand the tomb. The cave's campfires and bedrolls showed that there were occupants there very recently and the numerous crates and sacks of cheap armaments and alchemy ingredients bore the signs of an amateur smuggling group. But I encountered no one while in the cave, though I did find a letter pinned to a barrel.

The note was a grim one. Written by 'Rels' to 'Giden', it instructed Giden to arm the 'new man' with a sword of some sort and send him into the tomb to become the vampire's meal. Quite a gruesome arrangement the two parties managed to reach, but one I am sure the smugglers will be relieved to discover is no longer necessary.

I continued to visit each of the small islands enroute to Sheogorad and came across an egg mine and a small Telvanni stronghold on one of them, but decided to pass by both locations. Further on was a shipwreck so old the the water-saturated wood bowed under my weight and I was certainly not going to go inside the weakened vessel. 

My most curious encounter of the day was with a madman. Now, I have certainly had my share of dealings with crazy folk, but up until today not one of them had been Khajiit. He called himself M'Aiq and babbled incessantly about meaningless things. He claimed that there were dragons flying about, but that the ones that flew close to the ground were too small to see. He randomly proclaimed a distaste for vertical ropes, stating his preference for climbing horizontal ropes...which is simply impossible. No doubt the poor soul was a sugar addict, though he was very finely dressed to be so addled in the mind.

I finally set foot on the island of Sheogorad directly in front of a small tower built in the Dwemer style. The sole occupant was a Breton named Andre Maul who knew a great deal of geography, most of which was completely unhelpful to me. The small fishing village of Dagon Fel was just south of the tower and night had started to fall when I reached the place.

It did not meet my expectations. I was thinking it would be a Telvanni stronghold, like Tel Vos. Instead, I got something more like Khuul or Hla Oad, only with more Nord and less surliness.
The tavern was aptly named 'The End of The World' and I was able to get a bed for a decent price. Tomorrow I will try to gather some information about the surrounding area and hopefully find some more clues as to where the Sixth House is locating its agents...though it seems a remote chance that I shall find any around here.