Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Morrowind Day 121 - Excitement in Mournhold (Finally!)

13 Evening Star
Events seem to be approaching a rapid conclusion in Mournhold, though it appears that unknown third actor is the one instigating all of today's excitement.

But the morning started in Thirsk, not Mournhold. With not much to do I decided to visit the colony and see if there was anything for me to help with. Other than a band of poorly-equipped raiders, the walk there was surprisingly peaceful.
It seems like a great deal of progress is being made at Raven Rock, with a few houses completed and already lived-in. Falco was as morose and nervous as I have ever seen him, but when he saw me approach he appeared to be somewhat relieved.

He told me that I had arrived at a crossroads of a sort because Carnius had started to directly act against him, attempting to divert the construction of the colony towards an end Falco was not entirely sure of. Whatever Carnius's reasons were, Falco said that Carnius would likely ask me to aid him when I next spoke with him, but urged me to consider supporting him instead.

I knew both men about equally well, which is to say not almost not at all, but something in Carnius's nature made me reluctant to even approach the man about this matter and Falco had been honest with me so far, so I assured him that he could count on my support against Carnius in the future. He laughed and slapped me on the shoulder, then immediately drew his hand away.

To cover up his obvious embarrassment he asked me to talk with the few residents of Raven Rock and ask them whether he should commission the construction of a smithy or a general trader's shop. With only four people to ask, this was a quickly completed task. Apronia in particular was very insistent upon the trader's, voicing her concern that her single dress was falling apart after her own adventure several days ago. The final tally came to three votes for the trader, one for the smithy, making my decision a rather easy one. Falco promised that the construction would start immediately and said he would have a dress for Apronia delivered from the mainland within a day or two. Apparently there may be something between the two of them and I wish them the best of luck if so.

Falco had one final request of me for the day: to go to the Fort and tell Carnius of his decision. He apologized for shouldering me with the task of speaking with such a disagreeable man, but at least I there was a small boat at the colony to ferry people and supplies back to the fort. I swore to never travel on a boat ever again, but I figure one that stays within sight of a shore is acceptable.

Carnius told me he did not care what was built at the colony, told me to go away, and just about threw a bag of coins at my head as I turned to walk out. I would say the money is welcome, but I am rapidly running out of supplies that I need to purchase anyway. Mostly just arrows and the occasional healing elixir, neither of which are expensive.

With the trader's shop under construction I had no more tasks pending on the island, so it was back to Mournhold via my Recall amulet, then teleportation from the Ald'ruhn Mages Guild to Vivec, and humid walk down the road to Ebonheart.

As soon as I walked into the Palace courtyard in Mournhold, a guard ran up to me and exclaimed that the grand Plaza was under attack by "constructs" and that the Royal Guards were summoning every armed citizen to the Plaza grounds. She urged me to make haste towards the plaza, for she feared the guardsmen and High Ordinators stationed there would soon be overwhelmed. Having apparently no choice, I rushed to the city's defense.
My first impression of Mournhold's invaders were of giant insects, one a light grey color and very fast, the other almost black and slower, but much stronger than the first. The nameless guard who sent me to the Plaza was correct in the city's defenders being outnumbered, but the Royal Guard and High Ordinators had little trouble with dispatching twice their number of enemies. I myself accounted for one of the black creatures.

Upon closer inspection it was obvious that the creatures were more mechanical than animal, hence 'constructs'. Whose constructs is a mystery that everyone in the city is very eager to have solved.

A High Ordinator grabbed me and told me that I needed to go to the Temple and inform Fedris of the successful defense of the city. Again, it appears I had no choice in the matter. 

Fedris was already well-informed of the attacks, but was pleased that I had come to see him, for naturally he had a task for me. The constructs had crawled out of a hole that appeared beneath the plaza's Memorial statue, utterly destroying it. Three High Ordinators had ventured into the hole, but none had yet returned. Fedris asked me to descend into the hole and determine what progress the Ordinators had made.
A ladder was helpfully left behind, allowing me to climb down beneath Mournhold with no fear of a broken leg or some other calamity resulting from having to jump down into it. It was easy to walk along the tunnel the constructs had bored out of the earth, but I sped up as I began to hear sounds of battle. I thought the Ordinators had become engaged with more of the mechanicals, but the tunnel ended in the wall of a large room in which Dwemer guardians fought a losing battle against more of Mournhold's invaders. There was no sign of the High Ordinators.

I saw no reason to join in the vicious melee below me, so I ran back to the ladder, noting that the head of Almalexia's statue had fallen the farthest, unreachable now under a torrent of frigid water. Something about it was very disquieting.
Fedris was unnerved that the creatures were not of Dwemer origin, for now there was a third side that no one had any information about. Evidently unsure of his next course of action, he acted like an Imperial soldier and passed the problem upwards, telling me to speak with Almalexia about the ruins I found.

I found her to be somewhat...disturbed, I suppose. She seemed to care little about the attack on Mournhold and much about a cult she had heard about called the 'End of Times'. All of the known cultists were found dead via strong poison and she feared that the cult would spread throughout the city, driving more cultists to their apparent suicide. She provided me the name of the leader, 'Eno Romari' and asked that I bring him to her alive, not dead. She suggested I speak with a young Dunmer named 'Meralyn Othan', whose brother died as a result of being a part of the cult. She was to be found in the Great Bazaar. 

Meralyn was sad and confused as to how her brother got involved with the cult to begin with. She described it as "destructive, heretical, and frightening...", but then told me Eno Romari was usually to be found standing in front of the Winged Guar in Godsreach. I do wonder how dangerous the cult can be if Almalexia felt that having an Ordinator drag the man to jail was overreaching her power. Meralyn stated the man was usually preaching to passer-bys and drunks, hardly sounding like the leader of some murderous cult.
Eno Romari was quite calm and pleasant for an apparently deranged cult leader. He described the 'End of Times' as an organization dedicated to relieving the suffering of those troubled by these times we are living in.

Talking to him for only a few minutes made it obvious why Almalexia was so eager to silence the man, dead cultists or not. Eno unabashedly stated that the cornerstone of  the 'End of Times' was the belief that the Tribunal has lost its power, heralding doom upon the province of Morrowind. Eno called the loss of the Tribunal the 'Passing of the Three', yet Vivec, Almalexia, and presumably Sotha Sil have not been lost. He dismissed that objection, stating that a "new era" was beginning and that the deaths of the cultists were simply individuals who chose to be reborn when the gates of Oblivion open and Daedra assault the land.

He seemed very earnest in his belief of the world's destruction, but I suppose cult leaders would have to be. Eno assured me that the dead simply "went on ahead" to be ready to battle the Daedra once the battle between the world of Men and the plane of Oblivion began. When exactly this was all going to occur, he could not say. Of course. Mindful of the Lady's instructions, I left the man alone and went back to the Temple.

Predictably, Almalexia did not take the insult to her power very well. In fact, the very notion that her power was waning seemed to have set something off inside of her. She fumed in silence for a few moments after my report, then declared that the city needed a lesson in her power and I was assist with this lesson immediately. 

She did not ask, she demanded that I descend into the ruins where I witnessed the battle and find a Dwemer device called the 'Karstangz-Beharn', which she explained could be translated as 'Weather Witch'. If it was still working the device could be use to control the weather over Mournhold, but Almalexia was not interested in sun or rain. She wanted the Ash Storms of the late Dagoth Ur, which her power had kept from crossing the channel between Vvardenfell and the mainland.

The 'Weather Witch' would let me create an Ash Storm over the city, which Almalexia would then drive away, showing the people of the city that she was still a God to be feared and respected. Those were her words. But they do not seem the words of a caring God. Galsa Andrano's concerns increasingly seem well-founded, but I do not have much choice in the matter. I must go beneath the city once again, but at least it is not the sewers this time.

With her parting words she handed me a Dwemer object that she said I would have to use to awaken the machine. How to do this was not explained, but I am confident I can work that out.

Tomorrow though. It has been a very long, very exciting day and I am in no condition to fight off hordes of Dwemer guardians and whatever creatures swarmed into the city today.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Morrowind Day 120 - Back to Snowy Lands

12 Evening Star
It is with more relief than I anticipated that I find myself back on Solstheim today. I may have grumbled about the cold island in the past, but after the sewers of Mournhold I am ready to celebrate any reason to be back outside again.

Carnius, with all of his usual charm, asked me to go back to Raven Rock to inquire about a shipping manifest on a ship scheduled to arrive at the young colony. Carnius suspected that supplies were being skimmed off the top as it were and wanted to compare the ship's manifest against his own.

Falco laughed when I told him I was there to find a ship. He pointed towards the shore and asked where a ship of that size would dock. I had been envisioning something quite small actually, but he said that the ships also carried supplies for the fort and normally unloaded their cargo there. Given the dangers present in Solstheim's wilderness, Falco constantly had trouble finding people willing to carry the cargo from the fort to the colony.

However, he had no knowledge of any expected supply ships and suggested I ask around the growing town to see if anyone had heard or seen anything. One of the construction works, a Dunmer named 'Gamin Girith' said that he had seen navigation lights out on the water two nights ago, but fearing that it was a band of raiders, he did not investigate any closer. He pointed me towards the northwest and away I went.

The weather was terrible, with wind and snow conspiring to keep me from seeing more than a few feet in front of me. The rapid pattering of their paws were the only warning I got before the wolves were upon me, but they were no difficulty.
The unexpected undead Nords were a bit more difficult. Two came charging out of the fog as I approached the northwest shore and I managed to slow one down with an arrow before they got too close and dispatched the other with my spear before the wounded one fully recovered. I have never fought Draugr on the surface before, so I assumed something must have drawn them to the area.. I was correct: the "something" was the wrecked remains of the ship Gamin had seen two days ago, along with half-eaten body of a Bosmer.
A woman's voice called out into the fog from behind the wreck asking if it was safe to come out. I was tempted to point out that she would never receive a negative answer to that question, but I assured her I had killed the undead and that it was okay for her to come out of her hiding place.

The voice belonged to an Imperial named 'Apronia' who had booked passage on the cargo ship the night before it left. She appeared to be unarmed and helpless, but the dead Draugr laying before her suggested otherwise. Whatever the case, she asked that I escort her to Raven Rock, but never once explained why she wanted to be there in the first place, only mentioning that she hoped the people at the colony were "nice and liked to chat". What purpose she will serve there is a mystery to me.

Falco was pleased that at least one person survived the wreck and subsequent Draugr attack, but lamented the loss of the pick axes that were onboard the ship. The wreck was fairly close, so I offered to go back to retrieve his equipment. No Draugr awaited me upon my return and the pick axes were cumbersome, but not difficult to carry. Falco paid me an amazing 500 Septims per axe, three thousand in total. People seem very willing to give me large sums of money lately and I still have very little reason to spend most of it.

Carnius was predictably less pleased and less generous than his counterpart. He was angry at me for the ship having been wrecked and threw a bag of coins at me that I later counted out as three hundred. He told me to go away, for just looking at me reminded him of the money he lost with the wreck of the ship. His personality certainly did not start as very good, but it seems to be getting more difficult to deal with him as the construction of the colony progresses. I would think he would be pleased with the recent successes, but for whatever reason that does not seem to be the case.

The day was still young so I followed the river north, intending to visit Thirsk and see if my position as leader had been usurped yet. On the way there I passed the Sun Stone, still alight with the magic I had awoken in it days ago.
I met a Nord dressed in bearskin armor pacing nervously in front of one of the many burial barrows that dot the island. Seeing me pass by, he waved and shouted for my attention, which piqued my curiosity, for most Nords would have nothing to do with a Khajiit, especially in what could be considered an extension of their home province.

The Nord introduced himself as simply 'Ingmar' and asked if I could keep a secret, as if he had never met a Khajiit before...which now that I think upon it, could certainly have been the case. His request was a strange one: He had been sent to the barrow to slay a Draugr that lay within, but his first attempt sent him scurrying back outside. The task was beyond the man's courage to accomplish, but he felt that returning to the village without proof of the Draugr's slaying was worse than death at the creature's hands. The man was more clever than he was brave, for my arrival inspired him to come up with a plan.

His plan was not a great one: I was to enter the barrow first, draw the Draugr's attention, after which Ingmar would enter the barrow and kill the creature while it was distracted. I am not sure why I agreed. I suppose I did not want the man's death on my conscience.
So I went into the barrow first and engaged the Draugr only with my oft-unused shield. While I was deciding on whether or not to kill the thing myself Ingmar stepped inside and cleaved the monster's skull in two with a blow from behind.

He was extremely pleased to have killed it so quickly and bubbled that if I ever visited the village he would greet me as a brother Nord. As for a reward, he admitted he had nothing, but that anything I found in the barrow was mine to keep. I found ten Septims.

The rest of the walk to the Mead Hall proceeded without incident. The mead I had asked Svenja to order had not arrived yet, so there was little to do there other than rest in the chief's room, which was surprisingly still mine. I am not sure where I shall be at the end of tomorrow, but I do hope I am coming to a close with my business at Mournhold.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Morrowind Day 119 - Liches, Gods, and Ships

11 Evening Star
I greatly tire of this city and its myriad of problems no one else seems able or willing to fix. Almalexia's guards certainly have the equipment and training to clear out the sewers and King Helseth's Royal Guards have the numbers, but neither will make any move that could weaken them in comparison to the other.

Once again I was to go into the sewers and this time to travel nearly the same path as I did traveling to the shrine. This allowed me a walk largely unhindered by combat until my path diverged, but I would have much rather been exploring someplace new. My formerly trodden path diverged into a rough-hewn passageway where two of the "liches" I encountered at the shrine were waiting.

They are powerful spell-casters, but physical very weak, a single blow of my spear or a few arrows were enough to destroy the force holding their bodies together.
Further inside were more of these "liches", some of which summoned their own skeletal warriors to join in their assault against me. They were weak to arrows, so long as I aimed carefully enough to strike them in the head, but their numbers grew as I proceeded deeper into the ruins, culminating in an encounter with Barilzar himself, who I was certainly not warned about!

I had thought the 'Mazed Band' had simply kept its creator's name throughout the ages, but Barilzar was still "alive" as a lich himself, his raspy voice stating I could not be allowed to leave with the ring, which he regretted making to begin with. Any hope of a peaceful negotiation failed when a group of his lich warriors charged past him at me on his command, forcing me into a fighting retreat as I thinned their numbers by bow-shot.

Despite wielding a two-handed Daedric sword that I could barely lift, the undead mage was no warrior himself and obviously depending on his legion of liches and skeletons to guard the Band. Well-versed in fighting more heavily armed and armored opponents, I simply waited for him to unbalance himself with the un-wieldly weapon, then struck with my spear. It took more than a few strikes, but he fell, released from his own self-imposed penance. The 'Mazed Band' I had fought so hard for was nowhere to be found until I realized it was probably the simple, unmarked ring he had on his skeletal hand.
I returned to the Temple with some trepidation, for the wizard's warning kept repeating itself in my head. Fedris wanted nothing to do with the ring, instructing me to speak with the Archcanon. He in turn denied any responsibility for the ring and announced that I had "earned" the honor of speaking with the Goddess herself.
I was rather unimpressed by the so-called Goddess. She seemed tired and distracted, constantly referred to me as her "obedient servant", and only showed any sort of interest in me after she had Barilzar's ring. Her interest only extended as long as it took to wave one of her hands, announce she had bestowed her favor upon me, and then dismiss me from the room. Considering what I had to fight to  get the ring, I expected a bag of coins at the very least.

My brief encounter with Almalexia has me a bit unsettled. What was so terrible about the nondescript ring that he would willingly transform himself into a lich in an effort to ensure no one would claim it for themselves? No one I have asked seems to really know what it is supposed to do, but several people told me it was considered to be an evil artifact and one best left under the city. Of course, I was told this only after I handed it over to the distracted Goddess. I do have a suspicion that this is not the last I shall see of the mysterious ring.

An Imperial called to me as I exited the Temple and I turned to see a young man jogging towards me with a scroll in his hand. It was a summons from Carnius Magius in Fort Frostmoth to return in order to take care of some unspecified business regarding the colony of Raven Rock. Any reason to leave Mournhold was a welcome one, so I headed back to the Palace and had Effe-Tei send me back to Ebonheart. Once back on Vvardenfell I activated my Recall amulet and popped back into my small home in Ald'ruhn. 

There was no way around the long way to the coast, but I was pleased that there were no Blight storms raging above me, even when I was right against Red Mountain itself. I can only hope things will remain as peaceful as this, at least on Vvardenfell.
It was late afternoon when I reached Khuul and well into the night by the time we docked at Fort Frostmoth. I saw no reason to travel the frozen land in near-darkness, so I am staying at the fort until tomorrow. It is nice to be away from Mournhold, even if the alternative is Solstheim.