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.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Chapter 5: The Shadow

I retired early that evening, bedding down near the campfire where I had disturbed that crazed woman earlier in the day. The battles I had fought that day had left me almost completely drained of magicka; I judged I would need the extra sleep. I often wondered why it was that one's magicka was only naturally restored through sleep. As a child I had believed that it was dreams that did it, since spells took such mental focus to cast. I believed that the intense experiences and memories gained through dreams - through being in effect false experiences - acted as a kind of buffer for one's real memories: one's real mind. I thought that this buffer enabled one to concentrate well enough to cast spells without eroding the mind itself. The theory was linked with the concept of how much one needed to concentrate to remember a dream. My theory always fell to pieces when I tried to put it into words; as you can see.

As an adult I didn't know what to believe: no-one had been able to disprove my dream theory, but no-one I had known growing up had ever really taken it seriously, either. All I knew is that on days that I had drained my magicka reserves, I always had vivid dreams. That evening I dreamt of the night it had all gone wrong for me: the night I was caught in a noble's house, stealing. It was a cat that had given me away: by hissing at me. In my dream the grey cat hissed and spat again and again, backing away as I frantically tried to calm it. I realised that again, my dream was merging with the waking world, and I forced my way up from sleep. The campfire had gone out long before, and I cast my gaze about the dark cavern trying to work out what had woken me.

A chorus of loud - and very real - hissing came from deeper in the caves: in the direction of the slave pen. I scrambled to my feet, searching around for my helmet. Soon I was creeping towards the disturbance, slowly drawing my iron saber so as to not make any noise. As I came within sight of the slave pen, the interior still mostly lost in gloom, the hissing stopped. I came to a halt also, hunched over, straining my eyes to see into the pen. All I could make out were the reflective eyes of the khajiiti ex-slaves, glinting in the distant light of a torch somewhere behind me. They looked as if they were all backed against the walls of the cave, their eyes wide with fear, staring into the centre of the pen. All except one: as my eyes adjusted to the darkness a little more I thought I could see one of the khajiit people crouched down low in the centre of the pen, in what seemed a fairly awkward manner. In fact, he - or she - looked to be being held down.

"Hey -" I began, "what's..." I didn't get any further than that, as the crouching khajiit suddenly fell forward and a dark shadow of a figure that had been hidden behind him (or her) leapt forward, closing the distance between us in an instant.

I felt my chainmail cuirass being drawn to the side, and then the feeling of a cool breeze in a place I had never felt before. It took me a second to realise that my chest had been sliced open and I was feeling the passage of air through the wound! Doing my best to ignore the pain that came a second later, I swung out clumsily at waist level, in a wide arc, and felt the saber connect with something. I still couldn't see anything more than a dark shadow in front of me, so I took that opportunity to dart back the way I had came, to a place with a little more light. I felt a glancing blow to the top of my helmet as I vaulted over the top of a set of steep wooden steps, twisting in mid-air as I fell, to land facing the way I had come.

There were a couple of torches in this cavern, and I had turned just in time to see a figure dressed all in black leap from the top of the stairs, a wicked-looking single-edged short sword - an Akavirian wakizashi - raised above his head. I focused the energies of my Frostbite spell into my left hand and managed to catch his wrist with it before his blow could land. He howled with pain, but too late I realised that he was holding another wakizashi in his left hand: he broke my grip by giving me a painful cut in my midriff. Now bleeding heavily I rolled with the force of his blow and tried to scramble away, concentrating my healing spell into my hand and then swiping it across both wounds in one movement.

The dark figure was too fast for me: I couldn't escape him. Heart pounding, I stood my ground and did my best to fend off his attacks. After a few moments of whirling and flashing blades, I was becoming desperate. I had managed to land a couple of blows, but my attacker hardly seemed to feel them. In contrast I had expended most of my magicka in healing myself. I estimated that I had enough left to either heal myself or use my Frostbite spell one more time. I was bleeding from multiple wounds again and was about to cast my healing spell when luck smiled on me and I managed to push both of the black-garbed man's blades aside, putting him off balance for a moment. Again focusing the Frostbite spell into my left hand, I grabbed ahold of his throat and squeezed. The aching cold of the spell sunk through the fine black chainmail he wore and into his neck.

Gasping desperately, he threw his arms up to break my grip and throw me off. I could tell he couldn't breathe: he clutched at his throat, leaving himself open to attack. I stepped forward, swinging from the waist up, dealing him a great slicing blow from his stomach up and across his chest to his shoulder. During the struggle we had found ourselves by the deep pool of water I had washed myself in earlier. The great blow I dealt him knocked him from his feet and into the water, where he disappeared from sight.

I could barely stand I was bleeding so badly. I lurched towards the exit, hoping to get away and run for the Seyda Neen guards. As I left the cavern I glanced over my shoulder and saw the dark figure on hands and knees half-submerged near the edge of the pool, heaving and coughing through his black mask, trying to get his breath back. Seeing me looking, he muttered a curse and threw himself backwards, disappearing again into the inky blackness of the water. I kept running.

At the entrance to the caves I slammed the door behind me and slumped to the ground in the doorway, within view of a clump of glowing mushrooms. I could go no further. I bandaged my wounds as best I could with my shredded clothes: I had no magicka left to heal myself. I stretched out on my back, my head on the dirt. I inhaled the thick, humid air of the swamp at night, and gazed up at the sky. The winking, twinkling stars seemed to go out one by one as I lost consciousness.


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