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.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Chapter 12: Unmasked

As Ranis vouched for my innocence, explaining that the guild had been the subject of an attack by the black-clothed assassin, I watched the reactions of the guards. Their eyes were fixed on the body at my feet, their faces masks of suppressed fear. Their expressions didn't change when they looked at me, putting my iron saber away. I suppose they could see that my armour had been sliced open in several places and dirtied with my own blood; and my apparent lack of injury perturbed them. Still, the sight of two muscular dunmer guards in full bonemold armour actually afraid of a man that had been seriously dedicated to the task of killing me did little to reassure my own fears. These were men who could have easily held me down with one hand. What they told me sent a chill to my heart:

"This was a Dark Brotherhood assassin. They do sometimes die - as you can see - but they never stop coming once they've marked someone. You can have the armour, and anything else on him: you won't find any of us laying a finger on him! And if you ask our superiors you'll find that we're ordered to avoid all contact with the Dark Brotherhood."

At my insistence, the guards, who I had learned were employed by the Great House Hlaalu (one of the governing bodies of Vvardenfell Caius had mentioned), told me everything they knew about the Dark Brotherhood. It wasn't much. They told me that the assassins were thought to be based somewhere in Mournhold, Morrowind's capital city - which was located on the mainland. One of the guards had heard that Apelles Matius, a high-ranking member of the Imperial Legion, had recently arrived in Ebonheart after being transferred from his position in Mournhold. His high rank in the guard, and his prior posting, would make him an ideal person to ask about the Dark Brotherhood.

"Also," he said, "if you're crazy enough to want to find them, you should be able to take a ship from Ebonheart to the mainland." I closed my eyes for a moment. It did sound crazy; certainly an absurd thought given my current physical condition. Still, I needed to know more about them if they were as relentless as these guards said.

All in all there was a lot of fear in the room, all one way or the other directed at the dead assassin. The mask - or hood, more accurately - he wore completely concealed the wearer's identity: even the eyepieces were made of some kind of dark glass that appeared opaque unless held up to one's eyes. Grimacing, I knelt beside the body and peeled the black chain hood, sticky with blood, from his face. My assailant turned out to be a dark elf - a dunmer just like the guards watching reluctantly on. He had no distinctive marks I could see - none, that is, but the criss-crossing cuts, gouges and bruises covering every part of his skin: the results of my 'Righteousness' spell. I continued the grisly work of removing his armour, discovering that his whole body was a mess of wounds. The armour, a very fine and flexible chain mesh dyed an indelible black, was also sticky with blood; but even I could see it was of a very high quality. Yet it felt too flimsy to me, somehow. I wouldn't feel comfortable wearing it. I decided to sell it, and the two steel wakizashi blades that made up his entire outfit (they were too short for my tastes). He carried nothing else: no clues as to who wanted me dead that badly; or why.

Meanwhile, Ranis had succeeded in browbeating the guards into leaving with the assassins body: "Your job is to protect the people of this town. Since tonight you failed miserably in that regard, the least you can do is remove this body." Frowning but remaining silent, the guards donned their helmets and between the two of them, carried the bloody corpse off into the night.

The rest of the guild was still watching, and once the guards had left, they gathered around to hear the whole story. Figuring there was probably no point in pretending that the assassin had attacked the guild in general and not me specifically, I told them of the attack in the caves near Seyda Neen, and of my escape. They all seemed very impressed, gasping at just the right moments in my tale. Masalinie Merian's eyes in particular were shining particularly brightly. Just then Ranis, who had been standing behind me, placed a hand on my shoulder, making me jump.

"Edward, I think if you're going to continue sleeping here, we'll need to change the sleeping arrangements a little so there's no-one between you and the front door." She gave a slight smile. "Nevertheless that was an impressive use of magic, all told. I think the rank of Apprentice would be more suitable for you than Associate. Congratulations. Complete another task or two for Ajira and I'll be able to promote you to Journeyman, too. I don't think anyone here would begrudge me that, considering that if you hadn't dispatched the assassin they would have likely been attacked next. So, yes: congratulations." Everyone clapped. I blinked: beyond a few stammered words of thanks, I didn't really know what to say to a midnight promotion. A few minutes later almost everyone was going back to bed. Ranis remained a moment later to freeze the large pool of blood solid with a spell, and to instruct me to break it into pieces and then dispose of it all outside.

Masalinie Merian followed me outside as I did what Ranis said, then went to wash the blood from my body and from the black armour before it completely dried and caked on. Masalinie was the Balmora 'guild guide': a mage that specialised in teleportation magic and used it to provide instantaneous transport from one Mages Guild building to another. I wasn't sure at first why she was following me, but it became obvious she was interested in the black armour.

"You're going to sell that, aren't you? I mean, they are already trying to kill you, but wearing the armour of one of their assassins surely wouldn't impress the Dark Brotherhood." I couldn't read her expression in the dark.

"Yes." I said, gritting my teeth as the cold water from a public pump hit my skin. "I don't think I'm suited to light armour anyway; and this black chain looks quite valuable." I set the bloody sack containing the armour under the running water, and straightened up to face her. "Why do you ask?"

She looked about us before answering. "Because it is quite valuable. You're not likely to find anyone in Balmora who can give you a fair price for it. I know someone in Caldera you should speak to." When I pressed her for more details, she would only say: "I'm afraid I've promised not to tell anyone more than that. I'll teleport you to Caldera tomorrow, and you can look for ... this person. I can tell you that if you're unsure whether you've found who I'm talking about or not, then you haven't found this person."

With that, Masalinie turned and headed back to the guild. I followed a little while later, glad to see the guards posted at the door, and gladder still to be able to go back to bed.


Anonymous Stygian said...

There's gotta be something you need! Help a Scamp out! I've got booze...!

Sunday, August 21, 2005 2:33:00 pm  
Blogger Joseph said...

Heh. :-) Just wait until the next chapter.

- Joseph.

Sunday, August 21, 2005 8:28:00 pm  
Anonymous Ravenholme said...

Aaaaah, a certain scamp is going to find himself short of cash after Edward visits him

Sunday, August 21, 2005 9:09:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Typo in first sentance of one of the paragraphs.

Monday, August 22, 2005 1:03:00 am  
Anonymous Insane Fanatic said...

Nice one, Joseph. This is a cool story, specially with the links. The really cool thing is, I have most of the mods associated with this story.

Monday, August 22, 2005 7:05:00 am  
Blogger Joseph said...

Thanks, everyone. And thanks for pointing out the typo - fixed it.

- Joseph.

Monday, August 22, 2005 9:45:00 am  
Blogger John C. Morrison said...

Great Story, do you have an email or some way for me to PM you? I have a few questions for you if you don't mind.

Monday, August 22, 2005 12:00:00 pm  
Anonymous Bookworm said...

I like your story and writing style. Especially when you flesh out the characters, either your protagonist or the NPCs. For people like me who have played through vanilla Morrowind for three years, the fan fiction gets much better and more immersive when the authors try to put in their own thoughts and emotions about events, people, and quests. Until now, you have caught my attention with the well-written characterization of Ranis Athrys in particular. And I like your use of mods, also. Although many of the mods available don't adhere to lore or are too farfetched or overpowered. I hope Edward Frost won't achieve superhuman status through the mods. Nice job so far: chapter 1-12. :)

Monday, August 22, 2005 8:24:00 pm  
Blogger Joseph said...

bookworm - Thanks. :-) The parts where I flesh things out more are the most fun to write. And yeah - I think Ranis has had the most dialogue so far.

Don't worry: I only use mods that don't stray too far from the lore; even when playing purely for my own amusement.

- Joseph.

Monday, December 19, 2005 1:47:00 am  

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