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 03, 2005

Chapter 4: Manacles

My search of the smuggler's cave did not take long, as the recently departed occupants had not kept much in the way of valuables; at least, not much of value to me. I took all I could carry that seemed like it could be some value to Arille at the tradehouse: a few weapons, some alchemical reagents, and what appeared to be a couple of potions or liqeurs secreted away with some small pouches of ... sugar. It held the appearance of sugar, at any rate, but thinking of the deranged woman I had killed earlier and the sugary crystals caked around her mouth, I suspected that it was not the sort of sugar one used in the baking of cakes. I placed a couple of granules of the sugar on my tongue and let them dissolve. It had a sweet but tart flavour, and at first I didn't notice anything other than that: a pleasant taste. Gradually I realised, though, that I was feeling less and less guilt about having killed three people that day. I reasoned that their deaths should have been weighing heavily on my conscience; and up until that point they had been.

The sugar was a drug. My upbringing had taught me two things about drugs: the first was that they generally made you a witless fool; and the life I led meant I needed my wits about me at all times. The second was that they were always valuable. I dropped the pouches of sugar into my sack; if I could find someone who would buy such a thing, I could certainly use the money. One sniff of the heady contents of the two flasks found with the sugar told me that they were not simple liqueurs, either. I stoppered them carefully and took them with me also.

My guilt over having caused the deaths of the smugglers was somewhat alleviated when I discovered something that accounted for the relatively few valuable items I had found among their things. On my way out of the caves, I encountered a rough wooden gate set into a narrow opening in one of the cave walls. The gate was haphazardly constructed, with generous gaps between the wooden slats nailed vertically across it. There was obviously some space or passage behind it, but it was too dark to see more than that. Slowly drawing my saber I crept towards it, squinting into the dark space there. With a crash, someone slammed into the gate from the other side and pressed their face into one of the gaps between the wooden slats. The furry muzzle and glinting eyes revealed it to be a khajiiti male: one of the cat-people from Elsweyr.

"Breton!" He shook the gate violently. "You killed the criminals, yes?" I looked behind me and realised that this khajiit would have been able to see my fight with the robed wizard from his vantage point behind the gate. "Free us, please!" Pushing a powerfully muscled arm through a gap in the gate, he indicated the lock holding the gate shut with a clawed hand. I noticed a heavy-looking bracer on his wrist as he did so. It glowed dully in the gloom of the cavern, and had an iron ring hanging from it: it was a manacle more than a bracer. I realised the khajiit was a slave. I had found a key in one of the smugglers pockets, and I quickly found that it fit the lock on the gate perfectly. As I turned the key I noticed several more sets of glinting, luminescent eyes staring at me from the gloom of the slave pen. There were more people in there: several khajiiti and a couple of argonians, or "lizard-people".

The slave's bracers were cleverly constructed so as to require two hands to unlock them: one to turn the key, and one to squeeze the opening mechanism in just the right way at the same time. Locked and immovable as they were, this meant that even if a slave somehow managed to get ahold of the key to their bracers, they would not be able to remove them on their own. This of course would not hinder a group of like-minded slaves, as I witnessed directly. The khajiiti male at the gate snatched the key from the lock (and my hand) as soon as I unbolted it, and set about freeing the rest of the khajiit and argonian people from their bracers before finally being freed himself. The next I knew I was being smothered in a suffocating bear hug from the muscular khajiit, whose name I learned was Baadargo. Several other furry and scaly (respectively) bodies soon joined him.

I talked with the ex-slaves briefly, and what they told me of their treatment at the hands of the smugglers served to ease my mind of the burden I felt for having killed them. Although... I don't think I'll ever forget how the first woman began to cry when she realised she was going to die. In any case, the khajiiti and argonian people I had freed were effusive in their thanks. Some people... a lot of people - consider the so-called "beast races" to be little different to their domesticated cats and the small skinks that dart from rock to rock in their gardens, due to how similar they look. They treat them as animals. It's something I've never understood: you can talk to them like anyone else. These particular ex-slaves told me that they would remain in the caves for a time to regain their strength: something that the bracers they had been wearing made necessary.

I could tell that the bracers were magical from the way they glowed, and I picked one up to examine it more closely. I felt a tug at my magicka when I gingerly touched the inside of one of the bracers with a finger; similar to the feeling I get when I cast a spell. The slave bracers were obviously designed to remove any possibility of a slave using magic to escape. They were awful objects, and I left them all in the dirt where they lay to visit Arille and sell him things I thought were worth something.

Arille took all the weapons and alchemical ingredients I had found, but refused to even touch the unusual liqueurs and pouches of sugar. He told me that the "liqueur" was called "skooma", and was refined from "moon sugar" like that in the small pouches I held. He also told me that they were indeed both potent drugs and worth quite a bit. I would have felt concerned over Arille calling the town guards for my posession of the drugs, but I saw him eyeing the broken links of my chainmail and the rips and tears in my clothes - I'm sure he had a good idea where the drugs had come from. So far, from the people I had spoken to since I arrived, it seemed that contraventions of some laws tended to be overlooked if they somehow involved known criminals coming out the worse for it.

I was left with a comfortable number of gold septims and the need for somewhere to stay the night. No power in the empire could have made me set foot in the "abandoned" necromancer's shack again, so the smuggler's caves seemed the ideal choice. Besides, I had new friends there.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for mentioning the mods.

Friday, August 05, 2005 12:39:00 am  
Anonymous Vic said...

Hi! I'm a new reader. I was quite taken by your chapter 5 (The Shadow); Good writing, and it's getting better! Keep up the good work.

And yes, mentionning the mods is an excellent idea, and a more than adequate hommage to their authors.

Friday, January 04, 2008 8:52:00 pm  

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