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.

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