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 09, 2005

Chapter 20: Pilgrimage

I felt as though I may have made a reckless purchase. With the earnings from my recent 'explorations' of the Balmora nobles' manor houses combined with the money from the sale of the second set of Dark Brotherhood armour, I had in excess of seven thousand septims! In a small yet lavish shop in Caldera I met a Mister Beile, who had for sale a variety of time-keeping devices: clocks. The item that caught my eye was a 'pocketwatch', a gold disc a little smaller than my palm, with a white dial on one face that indicated the time of day.

It was ingenious, really: it didn't work through magic, but rather told the exact time through a mechanical process. The device was powered by once a day twisting a small disc protruding from one end, which compressed a 'spring' inside the watch. This spring would then slowly expand, pushing a mess of tiny cogs and gears that in turn rotated a 'hand' on the dial-face of the watch at an exact rate: the hand pointing to the current hour of day.

I was very taken with my new purchase: Mister Beile's timepieces were imported all the way from Cyrodiil, adding to their already hefty price tag. They were truly items for nobles: the pocketwatch cost two and a half thousand gold. That, and the feeling that I could probably survive well enough without the pocketwatch, is why I felt a little reckless handing the money over. Walking to the Caldera Mages Guild to be teleported to Vivec, I attempted to rationalise my purchase through the old adage: "money is good for buying or losing: little else". It also occurred to me then that knowing the time while out on my nocturnal excursions - when there was no sun to gauge the hour of day from - could be useful.

I had visited the Mages guild in Vivec via guild guide before, to meet other members and learn magic, but had never stepped outside the building. When I did so that morning I was surprised to find that I was actually still inside: the guild was a smaller building within a huge dome. There was a square of sorts in the centre of the dome, filled with a bustle of people; who were mostly visiting the various other stores and buildings surrounding the square.

I stopped someone passing by and asked for directions to the Saint Olms Temple, soon learning that the layout of the holy city of Vivec was quite complicated. Each city district was actually a single massive building rising out of the sea just off the southern coast of Vvardenfell. These buildings were called 'cantons' and were comprised of multiple levels: the 'underworks' or sewers at their base, the lower and upper 'waistworks' at their centre, and a domed plaza at the top - such as the one housing the Mages Guild. The guild was in Vivec's northenmost canton, the 'Foreign Quarter'; so named because until very shortly before that time, it was the only part of the holy city that outlanders such as myself were allowed to visit.

Upon exiting the Foreign Quarter plaza and standing on a balcony running the whole perimeter of the canton, I realised I had seen the canton-style architecture before: the outpost of Molag Mar was a canton without a domed ceiling. However, while the single canton of Molag Mar had appeared to squat in a depression among barren hills, beneath the ashen sky of the Molag Amur region, all seven cantons of Vivec seemed to stretch up into the rich blue morning sky of the Ascadian Isles.

The holy city was so big, and the entirety of it so different from anything I had seen before, it made me conscious again of being in a place almost completely alien to me. Weighing the expensive pocketwatch in my hand, I thought of how quickly my life had changed in the past week or so since I had arrived in Morrowind. I had moved from one day to the next acting on instinct and whim: just like I had done growing up. That path had led to an Imperial prison. I had been given a second chance, for whatever reason. I should consider my long term plans, or risk following the exact same path as I had before.

Besides a small part of Vvardenfell, all I had seen of Tamriel was the Imperial capital I had grown up in. To me, there in Morrowind was as new and exciting as anywhere else. I already had a place to stay, plenty of food, a job apparently given to me by the Emperor himself, places to study and improve myself, and a growing number of contacts - perhaps even friends. The more I thought about it; the more it seemed that maybe my instincts had steered me right, and I was on the right path already. In the end I decided that for the time-being, discovering why I had been set free - without warning - on the remote frontier that was Morrowind would serve as a long term goal.

The sun-baked stone and mud surfaces of the cantons radiated withering waves of heat; I found myself sweating within moments of leaving the Foreign Quarter Plaza. Fortunately it did not take long to reach the cool confines of the Saint Olms canton. Once I had been directed to the Temple there, it took even less time to retrieve the Marandus propylon index for Folms Mirel.

The temple seemed almost abandoned: no-one challenged me as I walked in, located and searched a basement storeroom for the index, found it on the floor among some packing crates, and left. My visit would have been entirely uneventful, were it not for a couple of huge rats - searching among the crates for something edible - taking issue with my apparent wish to steal food from them. The scrawny things both tore a chunk from my hand as I reached for the index. I must have tasted good to them, as they were not content to leave it at that, either. Not wanting to blunt my blade by swinging at the stone floor, I broke their backs with my tower shield. Feeling particularly un-heroic again, I caught up the propylon index and left the temple.

On my next stop on my pilgrimage to some of the holy city's religious sites, I encountered what was probably the most amazing thing I had ever seen. 'The Pilgrim's Path' told a story of the Daedra god Sheogorath pulling the moon Baar Dau from "its appointed path through Oblivion" and throwing it at the new city of Vivec. The god Vivec apparently stopped the moon in place with a single gesture. The stuff of fairytales; or so I had thought until I approached the High Fane - the main Tribunal Temple on the island - and saw the moon floating there, just above the temple. It was another very convincing sign that not only did the Tribunal exist, they were also most certainly divine. I stared at the moon Baar Dau for a long time, but still couldn't quite convince myself of what I was seeing. The great floating rock was as big as the High Fane itself, and even had scaffolding and doors hanging from its flanks. I could see people walking about up there.

I eventually tore my eyes from Baar Dau and made my way over to the Shrine of Daring - which I had also heard referred to as the 'Shrine To Stop the Moon'. The triolithic shrine was actually in the shade of the moon, and I had to shield my eyes from the reflected glare of the surrounding buildings and sea to be able to read the inscription. As 'The Pilgrim's Path' had instructed, I unstoppered the potion of Rising Force I had brought with me and poured it over the shrine, reading aloud the Grace of Daring inscribed on it.

The blessing I received from the Shrine of Daring was very noticeable: I began to float up off the pavings as soon as I read the Grace. I wasn't just levitating slowly about like the mages, either: I could fly! I could soar through the air like a bird, and stop - suspended in place - like a bird could not. It did not feel as if I was weightless; rather it felt like my weight simply did not matter. I rose up to the floating moon for a closer look, the delighted expression on my face eliciting a muttered "s'wit!" from an Ordinator patrolling the moon's scaffolding. (As an aside, the Ordinators were the holy warriors and guardsmen of the Tribunal Temple, and regarded by many as some of the most fearsome soldiers in Morrowind.)

I soon returned to float along closer to the ground. Despite the name of the shrine that had bestowed the blessing of flight upon me, I dared not fly too high for too long when I had no reliable way to save myself should the blessing suddenly fade away. And I knew that the blessings of the Temple shrines did fade in time. In the meantime, flying about the sun-drenched city was much more agreeable than walking on such a hot day.

Conveniently, the next two shrines on the Pilgrimage of the Seven Graces were only a short distance away: one was outside Vivec's Palace, the other below it in the Puzzle Canal. The Shrine of Generosity was at the top of a long flight of steps leading to the entrance to the palace of the living god. The door was held shut by the largest and most intricate lock I had ever seen. I briefly wondered whether my 'Skeleton Key' spell would be powerful enough to unlock the door. Briefly, because my common sense soon intervened to tell me that breaking into the living quarters of a god that obviously did not wish to be disturbed would be an incredibly silly idea. Still, it felt strange to stand just on the other side of a door from a god.

Of course, for all I knew Vivec was not in his palace; or even really corporeal at all. I shrugged the thought off and turned my attention to the shrine. Such things were beyond my power to know. The donation traditionally given at the Shrine of Generosity was simple: one hundred coins. After reading the Grace inscribed on the triolith and placing the small sack of coins at its base, there was a short-lived humming sensation in my hands; but after it subsided I couldn't actually tell what blessing I had received from the shrine, if any.

The last 'Seven Graces' shrine in Vivec was apparently located at the centre of the Puzzle Canal underneath Vivec's Palace. The palace was ringed by canals, arrayed in multiple tiers down its sides; making a rough pyramid shape. Water fed into each canal from a number of openings leading into the dark passages making up the labyrinth beneath the palace. The damp, cool confines of the Puzzle Canal were a marked relief after the roasting sun outside; and it did not take long to find the centre of the maze: a larger room with a platform rising out of the deep water that was omnipresent throughout the complex.

High up on one of the walls was an opening, obscured by a shimmering wall of light. Its height posed no problem: I flew up to it. However try as I might, I could not pass through the humming wall, or even see through it clearly. There was a triolith on the raised platform, but I soon discovered that it was not the actual Shrine of Courtesy: rather it held instructions on how to find it. Its inscription read:

"Breathe the Waters of his Glory and the Way is Made Clear."

When it dawned on me what the riddle must mean, I was dumbstruck. Surely the Tribunal would not ask young men and women wishing to offer their aid to the Temple to do such a thing! It was barbaric.

It was asking too much.


Anonymous JeeBee said...

I so much remember being in Vivec for the first time. I came per Silt Strider and was like 'huge building, this is it?' When walking to it, I also saw Redoran cantan, Arena canton and all these others and was like 'wow'.

Friday, September 09, 2005 7:21:00 pm  

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