Frost in Morrowind

Edward Frost's time in Morrowind has come to an end; but his struggles are recorded here for any to read. A year in the making, and spanning one hundred and fifty chapters… Violence, suspicion, loss, betrayal, revenge, power with a price, a fight for survival, ages-old mysteries... all thrust in the way of Edward Frost, a man simply trying to rebuild his life.

Chapter 1 can be found here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Chapter 10: Errands

My introduction to the regulars of the Balmora Mages Guild that morning had earned me the nickname of "The Naked Breton". I wasn't convinced that Ranis hadn't staged the whole spectacle as a kind of unofficial initiation into the local guild, either. Most of the members seemed friendly enough, but the grand joke of waking up naked on the floor in front of them all certainly reinforced my position as the lowest ranking guild member there.

As embarassing as it had turned out to be, the process of forging links to the plane of magicka had been an apparent success. I could always physically feel when my magicka reserves were less than their maximum (a mage's 'maximum' magicka generally being understood as their magicka level after a refreshing sleep) - it is something akin to feeling tired. Ranis Athrys, the Balmora guild steward, asked me to cast a spell to test my new 'magicka threads'; a non-destructive one, considering we were indoors. I cast my water-walking spell (which has no visible effect when not standing in water), felt the usual tug at my magicka reserves, and after a moment noticed I could feel that my magicka levels were again at maximum. Apart from that I didn't feel very different than I had previously. I did feel as if I had a little difficulty concentrating: I kept drifting into short, vague daydreams.

After this test Ranis seemed satisfied that the threads had taken hold properly, and sent me to see Ajira, the khajiit apprentice alchemist, for some duties I could perform for the guild. Ranis explained that a combination of performing services for the guild and improving my casting skills would lead to promotion through the guild's ranks. Members of higher rank had access to spells and equipment (supplied by guild members) that lower-ranking members did not. This was quite apart from the goodwill afforded by helping members with their problems, and I knew that mages could be powerful friends.

I was also planning to take advantage of Ranis' offer of hospitality and continue to sleep at the guild, so feeling keen to earn my keep, I presented myself to Ajira to see what she would have me do.

"Ah, the naked breton wants something from us; a job maybe? There is something..." She trailed off, and I could see the nostrils in her cat-like muzzle flare. She was sniffing the air. "You have moon sugar in your pockets, Edward Frost. Nasty crystals; don't want to be caught with that. The guards don't understand." Ajira shook her head slowly. "Sell it to us: Ajira is an alchemist after all." The khajiit swished her tail back and forth, looking at me hopefully. I did as she wanted, and received a fair number of coins for the small pouches of sugar; Arille and I had been right about their value. As we made the transaction, Ajira told me that most khajiiti would be willing to trade for such things because of the general weakness most of the race has for them (and any other sweet thing). She said they usually either want it for themselves, know someone who does, or feel sympathy for khajiiti who one way or another have lost their lives to it. I didn't ask which category she fell into, and she didn't tell me. I did understand enough of alchemy to know that a purified substance like moon sugar would likely have many applications besides its main function as a narcotic. Perhaps being a studying alchemist, her intentions were in fact pure.

I kept the vials of skooma to myself: Arille had told me they were worth much more than the moon sugar. Since I was a lowly associate in the guild, Ajira would not have been able to offer me a worthwhile sum for them. I couldn't have expected her to make some kind of exception for me, either: it became clear that Ajira did not have a high opinion of me when she set me my first task as a guild member. Idly tapping the claws of one hand on a conspicuously blank piece of parchment, she asked me to collect samples of four different kinds of mushrooms so she could study them and write a report on their properties. Not only was it a menial errand, it was obvious it was to further her own place in the guild! I managed to keep my chagrin to myself and left for the silt strider I had seen at the south edge of Balmora. I figured that tasks that would aid my own (sorely needed) studies in magic would come in due time, and that I couldn't expect any different considering my position.

On my first day on Vvardenfell I had spent the afternoon hunting mudcrabs near Seyda Neen, and I had seen a number of mushrooms around the damp trees and rocks there. Ajira had also sent me in that general direction, so I took a silt strider to Seyda Neen, curious to see what the ride would be like. The 'caravaners' in charge of the striders hollow out a space in the upper part of the gigantic insect's body, at once providing a space for passengers and exposing a bundle of nerve endings that enabled them to control the creatures. The motion of the silt strider during the trip was anything but gentle, and the subtly gruesome sight of the caravaner prodding and pulling at the fleshy nerve endings made for an unpleasant journey. Seated in the hollow space in the strider's shell, I couldn't see anything but the clouds drifting overhead, either. At least it was faster than walking the distance between Balmora and Seyda Neen: I was able to to collect samples of the mushrooms Ajira wanted and arrive back in Balmora by late afternoon, in time to see the whole city bathed in the orange glow of a beautiful sunset.

From my vantage point on top of the tall platform that allows people to mount and disembark the silt striders (without resorting to rope ladders), I could see people all over Balmora leaving their places of work and heading for the taverns - or 'cornerclubs' as the locals called them. It reminded me of the package I had been asked to deliver to Caius Cosades. I had been directed to ask the owner of the South Wall cornerclub, one Bacola Closcius, where Cosades could be found. I asked directions to the South Wall cornerclub - and felt slightly foolish upon learning that it stood next the south wall of the city. As the recently arrived throng of customers at the cornerclub were all in the process of ordering their first drinks for the night, Bacola only spared me enough time to look me up and down once and give me Caius' address before turning back to the crowded bar.

On my way out I noticed a female khajiit watching me intently, and not looking away when it became obvious that I had seen her. I wanted to find Caius' home and be back at the Mages Guild before dark, though, so I decided not to head over to her corner to see what she wanted. I made a mental note of the distinctive markings on her fur, however, in case I saw her again in the future.

Besides not wishing to risk the dark alleyways of Balmora at night, I was also in a hurry because the idea of a paid job from this Caius Cosades still held a great appeal to me.


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