Friday, July 25, 2014

Morrowind Day 97 - Making A Name for Myself

20 Sun's Dusk
If the recent chaos within House Redoran was not enough, I woke this morning to a grim reminder of the growing influence of Dagoth Ur. Ald'ruhn was gripped by the violence of a strong Blight storm, bathing the entire town in a dull red glow as the sky appeared to ripple with fire and lightning. A wonderful start to the day.
Visibility was bad enough that I considered breaking my vow not to use the Silt Strider service, but Gnisis was close enough for me to stumble safely to, ending with an unexpected tumble down the side of a hillside and into the river that separates the fortress village from the rest of Vvardenfell. My sudden arrival into the water startled a Dunmer who appeared to be bathing, but I scampered away before he could say anything.

I was looking for Hetman Abelmawia, the steward of House Redoran who represents the village of Gnisis in contrast with whomever is in charge of the Imperial fortress. He was easily found and my suspicion yesterday was correct: the "taxes" only came to sixty Septims. I could have paid Gnisis's taxes, or whatever the Septims really represent, all on my own. So many little things about Morrowind simply fails to make a whole lot of sense to me.

Hlaren had one last task for me before he would support my advancement within the House. This one was the most personal of anything I have yet been asked to accomplish: find a long-lost love of his, a Dunmer named Nalvilie Saren . He seemed confident that this woman would be willing to move from her home in Vivec to be with him and asked that I tell her he was no longer concerned with the past, only their future together. I really had no choice but to agree. Hlaren thanked me and excused himself to take care of the business of his manor. I was just about to leave when a guard that had been loitering nearby during our exchange asked me to spare a moment of my time for her.

Her name, Nalvyna Sarinith, was surprisingly similar to the councilor's love and for good reason I suppose: she had feelings for the Redoran lord. Nalvyna revealed that Nalvilie was living in disgrace at Vivec and has a long history filled with many lovers, of which Hlaren was but one. She pleaded with me to speak to Hlaren on her behalf in order to convince him to, as she put it, "...look a little closer to home." 

I readily agreed, happy to possibly not find myself in Vivec today. Hlaren was further within the manor, but willing to have his work interrupted. He spoke highly of Nalvyna when I asked of her, but was hesitant to meet the woman's shy advances until I rather brashly pointed out that Nalvilie was a woman of much less honor than his loyal guard and much more worthy of his honor. The look of surprise on his face was comical. It was certainly the first time in his life a Khajiit berated him, but he took it with a sense of humor and agreed to speak 'honorably' with Nalvyna. He agreed to support me within House Redoran.

I am just glad to have had only to walk a few dozen steps to earn his approval!

The second approval I needed for the stronghold had to come from Mistress Brara Morvayn. Her husband had been the Councilor until he was killed defending their Ald'ruhn manor from Corpus-infected creatures. I thought this odd, for until today I have never heard of the Sixth House physically assaulting an occupied dwelling, especially one in a sizable town. Her task was obvious: I was to be the counter-assault into her former home. The only help she could provide was an observation that the creatures had started to wander close to the manor only after her husband had brought home a red statue.

This is getting to be quite alarming, but at least I knew what I was going to be facing.

Morvayn Manor lies outside of Under-Skar against the hills encircling Ald'ruhn, making it easy for the monsters to rush the building with the element of surprise. Sadly, Brara's husband had almost made it, perishing just at the foot of the stairs leading upwards into the dining area and the front door. I imagine he made his last stand at the stairs as his wife and retainers fled up the stairs to safety.
The blighted residents soon arrived to welcome me, but compared against what of the Sixth House I have fought against and won these creatures were of little consequence to me. The group was sizable, but not particularly dangerous: six unfortunate Blighted men, probably Imperial or Breton and three of the hulking mountains of flesh the men might have turned into given enough time. Luring them to the stairs evened the odds considerably and they all fell near the body of their final victim.

A conspicuous red glow was throbbing behind one of the doors and I thought I knew what I was about to find. The statue was not in the room as I thought it would be, but the four candles encircling a Sixth House banner were purposely placed there and not likely by the former Dunmer inhabitants. The Corpus creatures I slew did not seem to have the manual dexterity required to arrange and light candles like that, but I can think of no other explanation.
Down the hallway from the candle room was a scrawling of a scarab similar to the design on the banner and the drawings I had found at the various Sixth House bases. While I am willing to assume the Corpus creatures were able to shuffle the candles around, I cannot believe any of them drew the symbol I found on the floor. Despite what recent progress I have made in Ald'ruhn it seems that Dagoth Ur's agents are still at work in this town.
Just past the marking on the floor was the statue sitting on a crate, next to another red candle. I took the cause of all this trouble and brought it to Lloros so that he could disenchant and get rid of it. Whether Mistress Brara moves back into the manor is her own business, but I cannot see how someone could live in a home that has seen such tragedy. It will likely end up in the care of the Temple to whatever use they can manage.

Even though she had lost most of her wealth and all of her family, Mistress Brara still saw fit to reward me materially with an amulet enchanted to strengthen my attacks. Compared against what equipment I currently have it is a paltry thing, but the thought was a nice one. She confirmed that she will support my rather forced advancement within the House.

I returned to Athyn and he confirmed that news of my deeds had already reached him. With the support of the two Councilors I am now a House Father (Mother?), meeting Galsa's requirement and allowing the final phase of the stronghold construction to commence. Finally! Athyn mentioned that I could be named a Councilor myself, but that would require the support of the final two Councilors. Quite frankly I have no interest in the politics of the House, I originally just wanted something to do and now just a safer place to live than my tiny house.

Galsa was just as helpful as she usually is: She had nothing for me but the advice to travel to the construction site once again, this time to see what I can do to attract more settlers to the fortification. I do not see why she lacks for any ideas on that subject.

Having raged all morning and afternoon, the Blight storm was finally spent as evening approached. If anyone was hoping for clear weather they were sorely disappointed for the air was still full of dust, making it just as difficult to travel. But travel I did to the incomplete Indarys Manor so that I may see what I can do to attract a larger garrison.

The Blight storm had worked its ways and it feels as though I had to fight off a maddened animal of some kind every dozen steps. Nix-Hounds are the worst of the lot. While weaker than Kagouti and not nearly as nimble as a Cliff Racer, the beasts come charging at you from within the gloom with just the rustle of its feet as a warning. Kagouti and Cliff Racers are kind enough to roar and screech, respectively. Such is life on Vvardenfell.
The watchtower of Indarys Manor
The caretaker of the manor is an older Dunmer Hetman named Guls. He seemed a little embarrassed to admit that he would have much better success in recruiting additional retainers of the manor had some marriageable young women already waiting for them. I shall have to ask around Ald'ruhn tomorrow. The Hetman did point out that if I cannot find anyone willing to come here, that purchasing slaves is an option. Becoming a slaverowner is a detestable thought, but marriage is probably a happier prospect than slavery. It did work out for Falura.

The manor-house was already complete so I decided to take a tour of what would become my new home eventually. It is a very livable sort of place and has a full staff of servants and guards. Among the latter are an eccentric pair, a warrior and a mage, who share a small room. I say eccentric because the warrior has a fine steel breastplate, a closed steel helm in the Imperial fashion, and an expensive pair of silk leggings with matching shoes. The mage's dress is more appropriate, he only deciding on a Dwemer helmet that, along with the robe, gives him the appearance of a scholarly insect. I do hope the safety of the manor and its inhabitants do not rest on these two.

My own room is a big jump up from the cot jammed into the corner of my Ald'ruhn home. I have been furnished with a double bed by a very optimistic carpenter and have shelves and chests enough to store all of my goods. Once the construction of the manor is completed I will have to spend some time in simply moving all of the stuff from Ald'ruhn, though my Recall amulet should make the toil a little quicker.

There was no reason to go back to Ald'ruhn immediately, so I am spending the night, my first, at Indarys Manor. Writing this at the provided table is far more comfortable than cradling a parchment and pen while on a cot. I do believe I shall enjoy being a Redoran Lady, but as always there is more work that needs to be completed. Dagoth Ur also seems to be making more overt moves to expand his influence and I am certainly running out of time.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Morrowind Day 96 - The More Things Change

19 Sun's Dusk
The completion of my Redoran stronghold is now my highest priority. It will certainly be a great deal more secure than my gifted house in Ald'ruhn and hopefully a great deal larger, for my collection of equipment and curios is starting to overwhelm the small adobe.

However, any further construction on the stronghold has been oddly halted until my place within House Redoran has risen. I cannot think of why they would simply not start the construction until I have met this requirement, but who am I to speculate on the political workings of one of Morrowind's Great Houses?

So I spent today running to and fro for the House, mostly for Councilor Athyn as I am already well-known to him and thought well enough of for him to trust me with problems of a more personal nature.

His son's trouble had not ended with his return to the Sarethi manor. Soon after, the young man was accused of the murder of a friend of his, the late Bralen Carvaren. The death of Bralen was indisputable, for the body was quickly recovered and evidence pointed towards Varvur Sarethi as the murderer. When I spoke to the boy he admitted that the guards found him close to his friend's body, but that he had no recollection of that evening at all. I was about to suggest that he and his friend had been too deep into their cups, but then he mentioned a series of bad dreams he had started to suffer in the days leading up to Bralen's death.

Bad dreams? That sounds familiar! I have not received any in quite some time, I imagine Dagoth Ur has given up on me. But it seems odd that he would target the son of a Redoran nobleman. Varvur was growing increasingly nervous as our little interview went on, but he confessed that all of his bad dreams were of killing his friend, Bralen. He then sought assurance from me that those dreams did not actually mean he killed his friend. Athyn's son is not particularly bright. Of course that's what the dreams meant! But it did not mean Varvur was guilty of murder.

Further supporting my impression of the youth as slightly dim-witted, he appeared to suddenly make the connection between the acquisition of an ash statue and the start of his violent dreams. Hearing this I considered the mystery pretty much solved and took the statue out of his room, leaving him a little calmer than when I found him.
Athyn suggested that I speak to someone at the local Temple about the statue to see if they can determine if it influenced his son. I had no doubt in my mind that it did, but decided that the word of a Temple Dunmer would trump that of a Khajiit in this matter. He recommended a priest named Lloros.

Lloros was friendly enough for a Temple dweller which means he curtly demanded the statue from me immediately. Once in his possession, he was somehow able to sense an enchantment on it that could have influenced Varvur. He asked that I ask Varvur to come see him so that Lloros could determine whether Varvur was still under the enchantment's...enchantment.

And that was the end of it, at least for the Sarethi family. I cannot help but feel that the only manipulated party may be myself. Lloros's part seems to have been a little too convenient and simple. Perhaps the statue was a scapegoat and Varvur's 'visit' to the Temple is for legal consultation instead of divination. I could be wrong. Even if I was not, what could I do about it?

I went back to the manor to deliver Lloro's summons and received Athyn's thanks, along with another task. This one was very political and the result of poor relations between House Redoran and House Hlaalu. Specifically, a retainer of House Hlaalu, Ondres Nerano, is spreading a rumor of infidelity between a Redoran Councilor and another nobleman's wife, a typical indiscretion of the high-class in every province. Of course, House Redoran is complaining of this obvious slander, while House Hlaalu would likely insist it is only stating facts.

Whether true or not, Athyn has decreed that as a retainer of House Redoran myself it was my duty to confront the Hlaalu noble spreading the rumor and 'convince' him to desist with his gossiping. Should this fail, Athyn permitted me to challenge the nobleman to a duel to the death in order to cleanse House Redoran of this stain. I remember hoping it would not come to that, but this is Vvardenfell.

Ondres lived in Balmora, which was fortunate for it meant I only needed to walk to the Mages Guild in order to reach him. The Balmora Mages Guild was surprised to see me back so soon, but I assured them that I was only taking care of a little business in Balmora and not leaving on another long trip. I was not told where Ondres was in Balmora, but a helpful Altmer in the Lucky Lockup corner club gave me directions to the Nerano Manor, which is situated up on the hill across from Nalcarya's shop.

He made the task an easy one. Ondres refused to issue a retraction to his statements, stating that as a Redoran I was obviously too stupid to see the truth of his words. Harsh against a fellow Dunmer I suppose, but we Khajiit are more than accustomed to scorn and ridicule. Most of us retaliate by stealing from our would-be tormentors while they sleep, but I digress. He boasted that if I was looking for a duel, then he would be more than happy to oblige. 

I have written this before, but what is it about me that fails to suggest that I may just be a dangerous opponent? I have slain far more frightening things than Ondres has likely ever dreamed of, yet he charged at me, fists swinging wildly. For my part, I used a scroll to summon a Frost Atronach, which proceeded to chase him around his own manor. His efforts at killing the beast were admirable, if ineffective, for the chairs and cups he threw at it either shattered on impact or were swatted out of the air. 
After a few amusing minutes of this, he yelled that I won the duel and he would retract all of his statements against House Redoran if I would just remove the "ice titan" from his home. I graciously accepted and sent the Atronach back to its Plane with a few strikes from my spear. I do wonder if it felt a little betrayed by my intervention as it disappeared. I used my amulet to teleport back to Ald'ruhn.

I left out the details of the duel, but Athyn was pleased to hear that the honor of House Redoran was still intact. He had an additional job for me, of course and this one meant some walking. Complaints of smuggling have come from Gnaar Mok and the Great House has decided to reply. I am to travel to the fishing village, find the smugglers, and dispatch them. I suspect the "complaint" is from a rival gang of smugglers, for who in Gnaar Mok would see it as anything but another way to earn some more coin? Nevertheless, I left Ald'ruhn as the Sarethi manor was preparing to sit down for lunch and made my way to the hills separating the dusty plains from the marshes of the Bitter Coast.

I made my way across the rolling ash hills outside of Ald'ruhn, dodging bothersome Nix-Hounds and Cliff Racers and was lucky enough to find a stretch of the barrier hillside that I was able to scale without the aid of my levitation amulet. A gentle slide down the other side of the hill and into the humid, wet air of the Bitter Coast's plains. Between the plains and the marshland lie another chain of hills and I had every intention of simply levitating over them when I encountered the Redguard.

She introduced herself as Pemenie and asked if I was interesting in making a deal, immediately marking herself as a suspicious character. Her request was convenient: that I escort her to Gnaar Mok. I was going there anyway, so I agreed to slow my pace on her behalf, though it meant finding a pass through the hills. She was pleased and offered me a pair of magical boots as payment for my service. Boots are useless to me, but she would not hear of my refusing her reward, so I accepted and started thinking of people I knew that needed a pair of boots.

This was evidently not Pemenie's first trip to Gnaar Mok, she knew where a pass cut through the hills into the marshland, her request of me was out of concern for the growing number of hostile Nix-Hounds and Cliff Racers that live along the Bitter Coast. The trip was uneventful and wet; it started raining as soon as we descended the hills into the marshes, but we encountered no hostile creatures.

Once we reached the fishing village Pemenie handed me the boots, calling them the "Boots of Blinding Speed". She made herself scarce quickly, boarding a small fishing skiff captained by a young Dunmer and the two women were quickly sailing away.

The reason for her hurried exit may have been the boots themselves. Though useless to me, I was curious as to how they were enchanted. I could barely sense if the boots would in fact lend additional speed to the wearer, but my skill within the Illusion sphere of magic made it very easy to see that the boots were completely blind the wearer as soon as they were worn. She never lied, they really were boots of blinding and of speed, though of the latter I know not how much. Given the blindness enchantment I did not think it responsible to throw them away, perhaps I can find a mage somewhere willing to pay to display the pair of oddities.

But I had business of my own with Gnaar Mok and made a few inquiries. Rumors had it that smugglers in the cave to the south of the village had lost their 'source' in Balmora and had resumed business with someone in Ald'ruhn. That sounded like Shurinbaal to me.
Athyn had told me that the 'leaders' of the smugglers were a couple by the names of Daroder and Enjine, but I cannot say I had any opportunity to ask any of them for their name while they were trying to kill me. A Redguard woman predictably assaulted me as soon as I stepped inside, but she was poorly armed and the battle was soon over.

Though hardly a match for me in combat, they evidently were worth the attention House Redoran was paying them today. Several large rooms were stacked with crates and chests, all of them full with various goods, most of it sundries worthless to me. After I had slain the smugglers and satisfied my curiosity I used my amulet to travel back to Ald'ruhn.

The councilor's next task was a bit of an embarrassment for me. Athyn wanted me to travel to a former egg mine where a maddened Redoran lord had set himself up as the 'Lord of West Gash' and was busy extracting a toll from passing travelers. He stated that he would rather prefer the man be cured of his malady rather than killed and suggested I speak with the man's father before searching out the mine.

Unfortunately the directions he gave to the mine made me realize I had unknowingly taken care of this problem nearly a month ago when Galsa had asked me to visit the construction foreman at the site of what might eventually become my finished stronghold. Athyn took the news well, graciously stating that I could not have known who the man was at the time. 

That was the last of the tasks Athyn had for me. He recommended that I speak to Councilor Hlaren Ramoran or Mistress Brara Morvayn for further duties. Only after I have won their acceptance will my stronghold be completed. Per Athyn's recommendation I visited the Ramoran estate first.

As Athyn said, the concerns I would be dealing with were 'worldly concerns' and not anything I would have trouble with. Hlaren's first request was for me to travel to Gnisis and speak to his tax collector there in order to collect the money owed to House Redoran. I rather suspect I would be able to pay the taxes out of my own wealth, but the councilor made no mention of how much I was to collect...which I thought odd.

But by then the sun had set and walking to Gnisis in the dark, even with my superior night sight, held no appeal to me. Tomorrow morning I shall be at Gnisis and take care of this matter. I have waited long enough for my much-promised stronghold and a large part of my plan to defeat Dagoth Ur relies on my actually residing there.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Morrowind Day 95 - Back Home

18 Sun's Dusk
I may be the first and only Khajiit to spend a night at Suran's House of Earthly Delights. By the name I was expecting some kind of high-class eating place, but the main attraction of the place was the three barely-clad dancing girls at the side of the main room. Patrons could sit at their tables, eat the bar's cheap food, and watch them dance and spin. That was the so-called "Earthly Delight". I felt more out of place there than I did in the Telvanni canton in Vivec and spent all of my time there in the cheap room I had paid for. A double bed in a closet of a room just wide enough for the bed itself. Not the high-class place I expected at all. I hope I shed all over it.

Suran is not an especially large town and my hope of selling off the spare equipment I collected was also a disappointment. The blacksmith's shop there is run by an Orc and had a very good selection for sale...but a small wallet to purchase my own goods. I pressed a Dreugh staff I had liberated from somewhere on to the Orc and received two hundred Septims in return, plus one less thing hanging from my pack.

The town actually has an independent clothier run by a Dunmer named Verara. I am not sure how she manages to stay in business in such a small town, but she was willing to purchase my non-enchanted rings for a good price. My last stop was at the apothecary's shop and he was eager to buy whatever I wanted to be rid of. According to him Suran is not a popular stopping place for merchants and he depends on the surrounding plantations for his inventory. My stepping into his store netted him more inventory than he has received within the past six months. Quite a sad figure, honestly, but he should be able to make profitable use out of the ingredients I sold him, even if they were all the cheapest I had.

I took my time walking along the coast from Suran to Balmora. It was nice to feel a breeze that was not throwing thousands of bits of grit and dust at me.
Of course it would not be a day unless I found myself deep within the earth battling something or another. I found the cave conspicuously dug into the shores of the lake, no attempt at all was made in hiding it. Obviously a hideaway for smugglers. I was feeling refreshed and energetic from the lakeside walk, so I stepped inside.

They were slavers, with a little smuggling on the side, of course. Slavers occupying the Dunmer fortresses or caves dug into the ashland up north, those are challenges. Slavers along the lake...not so much. The two Nix-Hounds the slavers kept put up more of a fight than they did. I freed the slaves they were keeping, two Khajiit and an Argonian. I recommended they go to Pelagiad, but they probably looted the bodies after I left and escaped into the hills. One of the Khajiit, a young female, asked if I was part of the Twin Lamps and told me that if someone asks about them, I should respond that the Twin Lamps light the way to freedom. Some secret anti-slavery group? If so, I certainly support it, but I have no clue as to where this group is or if they really exist.

It is remarkable that I could not be outside for more than two minutes in the north without being attacked by a diseased Cliff Racer or foraging Kagouti, but I was able to walk from Suran to Balmora without being attacked by anything at all with the exception of the slavers.

I received a very warm welcome at the Balmora Mages Guild. Everyone asked me where I had been and were eager to hear about my exploits, which I faithfully recollected with an admirable lack of imagination, if I do say so myself. Galbedir was excited to show me the items I had left with her and even Ranis abandoned her aloofness to see Galbedir's small presentation.

First, she gingerly held up the strange bone-dagger I had brought. She announced to Ranis and I that it was the Fang of Haynekhtnamet. I had never heard of such a thing before today, but Ranis immediately offered me six thousand Septims for it! Heedless of Ranis's offer, Galbedir babbled on about the history of the weapon:. According to her, the dagger's "blade" was really a carved tooth from some beast slain in Black Marsh. The creature had the power to discharge lightning from its mouth and the dagger retained some of that power, shocking its victims with every strike.

I am sure there are many Khajiit who would love to have the dagger, but it is useless to me, powerful though it may be. Like most of the equipment littering my home in Ald'ruhn, it simply does not fit well with the fighting style I am accustomed with. I cannot think of anything on Vvardenfell that I would feel comfortable engaging at dagger-length. My short sword is about as close as I would like.

The two rings were powerfully enchanted as well. One, which Galbedir named the "Ring of the Wind", will boost the wearer's agility by a considerable amount. This would have been useful to me if I was not already wearing two rings with more useful enchantments on them. Galbedir advised against placing a third on my hands unless, in her own words: " did not care for one or both of them." Sage advice.

The second ring was a great deal more malicious-looking. This one I at least remembered where I had found it: on the Ash Vampire of Mamaea while searching for the son of Hassour in Ald'ruhn. Galbedir could not conceal the awe in her voice as she explained this ring to Ranis and I. Apparently it can dispel harmless enchantments put upon the wearer while strengthening her health and ability to focus magicka energy. It would also, for whatever reason, protect the wearer from paralysis and magical lightning. It is not so powerful a ring as to bequeath this protection constantly, one has to activate it by rubbing the jewelstone for the ring to have any effect. The look on Galbedir's face as I rejected the usefulness of yet another item was something I shall remember for quite some time!

The pair of gloves I received from the Redguard were enchanted only minorly, one with a Charm enchantment and the other with a combination of blinding and silencing. Being a Khajiit, the gloves are useless to me unless I felt like cutting the fingertips off.

I surprised Galbedir by giving the gloves to her, then further surprised the both of them by giving the second ring to Ranis. The Dunmer was obviously uncomfortable with thanking me, but I found the whole thing rather amusing for Galbedir thanked me more than enough for both of them, especially after I gave her a new set of items and a sack of Septims to fund the required research. Galbedir's "Ring of the Wind" went to Ajira and I am sure the wily Khajiit will make full use of the ring's feature.

I truly have no idea what I am to do with all of the things I have sitting in Ald'ruhn, but giving some of it away seems like a charitable thing to do.

With Estirdalin's help I was able to create a few powerful spells, most of them Illusions, to replace ones that were no longer a challenge for me to cast. Though I doubt I will ever be a great mage, challenging myself should be a boon for my spell-casting skill.

The story-telling and spell-making finally came to an end several hours after I arrived in the Guild and I bade everyone a farewell and paid Masalinie for my long-awaited trip to Ald'ruhn.

Despite living (more or less) in Ald'ruhn, I do not know the Guild members here very well and in stark contrast to my arrival at Balmora, no one at the Ald'ruhn Mages Guild commented on my arrival, even if I was only a very familiar face constantly seen heading for the teleportation room. How many Khajiit do they have coming through here anyway?

The weather was welcoming at Ald'ruhn: a light breeze and no dust in the air, the best one can hope for here.
My home was untouched and the door still magically locked, all of my junk still exactly where I left it. I dumped what I wanted to leave at home in a pile near the door and hurried to Under-Skar before the Redoran offices closed for the day. Galsa confirmed that the second stage of my stronghold's construction had been completed in my abscense, but the third and final stage could not begin until my ranking in House Redoran had risen some more.

That would have been nice to have known before I started plodding across Vvardenfell! I was too tired to argue that maybe being the Nerevarine was rank enough. This can wait until tomorrow.

I had only one last item of business before turning in for the night and that was to inform Hassour of his son's rescue. He was very appreciative, loading me down with five large chunks of uncut ebony ore and his personal blade. 

I returned home as evening set in and simply enjoyed the peace and relative quiet of finally being done with my journey. I am not entirely sure of my next step. Do I pursue tasks for House Redoran? Should I resume my raids into Red Mountain? I do not know.