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, September 02, 2005

Chapter 17: Underhanded

I was not happy with Ajira. It felt like she was wasting my time. Since Ranis - as the Mages Guild Steward - had ordered me to report to Ajira for assignments, I had to do as the khajiit said if I wanted to advance in guild; even though I was an Apprentice, just like Ajira. Upon delivering the wildflower samples I had collected for her, she was at an obvious loss for what to do with me. After a moment of silence in which she placed each flower sample in a line on her desk, one after the other, Ajira scooped up the pieces of a mixing bowl which had somehow broken in half, and dropped it in my hands.

"Ajira needs a new ceramic mixing bowl. Can the naked breton go and buy one for us?" As my hands were full, she slipped a few coins into my pocket. I must have pulled a face, because the khajiit's ears twitched irritably and she drew me close to hiss in my ear: "Frost is an ungrateful one! He should be happy Ajira gives him such easy tasks! Ahh - but he doesn't understand..." She relaxed, apparently realising that I was in the dark about something. She went on to explain that in the guild it was the number of tasks performed, not their complexity, that lead to official promotions. The difference as a person advanced in the guild was that members of higher rank had to be given more difficult tasks for them to count towards promotion. No-one really cared what Associates, Apprentices and even Journeymen did.

It seemed that she did actually have my best interests in mind. I apologised to Ajira, and left the guild for the general store across the street, disposing of the broken bowl along the way. Upon return with the new bowl, it became apparent that something had happened to greatly upset Ajira. She was padding back and forth near her desk, looking under and behind things, her tail flicking dangerously about. She thanked me briefly for the bowl, dropping it roughly on the desk, and took me by the arm into the main hall. Her claws were well and truly hooked into the tough, fibrous bonemold armour.

"It's that BOSMER!" the khajiit spat. "She's stolen Ajira's reports! All our careful words on mushrooms and flowers... Help us find them, Frosty, and we'll send you back to Ranis for jobs." Her claws were scoring small curls of bonemold from my armour. "Frosty wants that, yes? To have less easy jobs? They're in here somewhere - Galbedir hasn't left all day long." She gave me a push and went back to rummage through her desk. I began my search, glad I had been wearing my armour. Irritated khajiit were careless with their claws.

The search didn't take long (I did grow up a thief, after all), and the reports were soon back in the hands of the grateful cat. True to her word she told me she didn't have any more tasks for me, and directed me back to Ranis. Or, she said, I could ask Edwinna at the Mages Guild in Ald'ruhn for jobs.

"Edwinna's nicer than Ranis. She's breton like you! Not so naked though." She gave me a toothy grin.

I had not been happy with Ajira - that was true; but Ranis was a good deal more unsettling to be around, especially with the first task she set for me. She did, at least, promote me.

"I'm surprised you didn't pull her whiskers out." The dunmer looked mildly disappointed. "Even if it was just for that, I think you deserve to be a Journeyman now. I do have a couple of jobs ready for a young Journeyman mage, too: conveniently. There is a guild member named Manwe doing research in Punabi caves who hasn't payed her guild dues in months. She must owe nearly... hmm - two thousand septims now, I would say. I need you to go to Punabi and persuade her to give them up. If she refuses, you'll have to resort to ... stricter measures."

I blinked. Surely she wasn't asking me to -

"Near Punabi, in a place called Sulipund, is a Telvanni wizard: Tharer Rotheloth. You must convince him to join the Mages Guild. If he won't, I have to ask you to kill him. I must assume that located where he is, he is actually hostile towards us. Joining would be a gesture of goodwill." She wouldn't go into any more detail than that, other than to say the Punabi and Sulipund were located near the north shore of Lake Nabia, in the Ashlands east of Balmora.

I was shocked. Playing debt collector and hitman was far from how I had imagined my duties at the guild to be. As with my earlier frustration at Ajira, it must have shown on my face. Ranis was not impressed:

"Edward, those magicka threads that I gave you are very powerful. If you keep that in mind and take some time to prepare beforehand, I'm sure that you'll find some way to complete these tasks that will make both of us happy." I couldn't shake the feeling that Ranis was holding her admittedly generous gift over me to ensure I did her dirty work.

In a way it was a lot like working for Ajira.

In any case, I would leave it until I felt better prepared, as Ranis had suggested. With that in mind I prepared to head out into town for the evening. I had spent most of my money paying people to teach me spells; and now that I had a couple of teleportation spells that enabled me to escape virtually any trouble I might find myself in, I felt ready to return to my old survival methods. The dark streets were calling to me, and with my new unlocking spells I expected it to be easy to replenish my funds. I wasn't dressed for stealthy work, though. I removed the bulky bonemold armour and stored it in the cabinet across from my bunk, along with my silver sword. I only kept my katana and a few restorative potions, just in case.

I spent the rest of the afternoon searching through the stores of Balmora. It was dark by the time I had found what I was looking for: a pair of soft shoes and what some called a 'Pilgrim's Robe': a generous robe with a multitude of hidden pockets. I imagine the design had been intended to help travelling pilgrims conceal items of value in case they were stopped on the road by highwaymen, but it worked just as well for thieves. Of course, thieves were concerned over hiding things from town guards, but the principle was the same.

Once dressed in my Pilgrim's Robe and soft shoes I was ready. I spent a number of hours going from house to house in the noble's district, mostly slinking into the shadows of upstairs entryways, opening any locks I encountered with a jolt of alteration magic. Most people were out for the evening, and those that were not did not see me before I made a hasty exit.

Having spent a goodly time in an Imperial prison for theft, getting back into the habit was not as smooth as I had anticipated. I got away all right - I even came away with a decent haul - but knowledge of what I could expect if I was caught was making me too nervous: I wasn't as good as I had been. I decided to end the night with a late drink at the South Wall cornerclub to soothe my raw nerves. The club was nearly empty at that point, but absorbed with my drink I failed to notice the khajiit until she was lightly running a hand down my side.

"Does the lumpy one have a buyer for these things?" I started and looked up. It was the khajiit I had noticed watching me the other night. She had obviously spotted the ill-gotten items I had secreted in my pockets. I turned to face her, trying to see if she was armed.

"Yes." I said evenly. I was in fact intending to sell the things I had stolen to Creeper. Wherever the items he tossed into his mysterious screaming crate went, I felt fairly certain that they would not resurface anywhere that would serve to link them to me. I was not about to tell this to a strange khajiit in a club after midnight, of course, so I left my answer at that and waited for her to explain herself.

"Habasi is our name - though others in the Thieves Guild call us Sugar-Lips. What is yours?" With her talk of 'buyers' I was not surprised to hear her admit to being a thief - but still, the cat seemed oddly direct about revealing a guild of thieves. She took a seat next to me at the bar. I sighed. She probably knew who I was anyway: people had been talking about how I had killed a Dark Brotherhood assassin right there in town.

"I'm Edward Frost. Listen, I didn't mean any offence if this is your territory: I didn't know -" Habasi nodded and smiled at my name, but then as if I hadn't said anything more, she extended a claw and began to trace the outline of a silver sword I had found in one of the Balmora manors and shoved under my robes, into my belt.

"Mister Frost has a lot of things here. You're lucky no-one saw you take them, or you'd have quite the bounty on your head. We can help you with things like that, of course. Mister Phane Rielle here does that." She indicated the old man cleaning glasses behind the bar - he smiled and made a bow. "He can make those nasty bounties go away - for less than paying off a guard, too. You must join the guild for quality services like these, though." Habasi grinned, showing her sharp teeth. There was no doubt: she wanted me to join the Thieves Guild.

I sensed that there would likely be trouble if I refused; I probably had infringed on their territory. The khajiit went on a little longer, saying among other things how they knew where the valuable things were, and the best ways to get them. I eventually accepted her invitation.

I just hoped it would not lead to more trouble than it was worth.


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