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, September 11, 2005

Chapter 21: Drown

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

That was what the inscription on the Puzzle Canal triolith said. It seemed clear that this riddle held the secret to accessing the Shrine of Courtesy: and it looked like the secret was to drown oneself in the water of the Puzzle Canal. I stared at the clear, swirling water - and then at the shimmering wall of light blocking my path - for a long time. It was just too cruel. That couldn't be the answer to the puzzle! And the gods knew how terrible I was at riddles... perhaps I was missing something.

I cast Almsivi Intervention and was yanked through space to the entryway of the nearby High Fane Temple, blacking out briefly as I always did when teleporting. An Ordinator strode past, his intricate golden armour almost blinding in the midday sun. I would have thought that a dripping-wet man in full bonemold armour appearing out of thin air right next to you and floating a little way off the ground would have caused at least some surprise, but the Ordinator barely even glanced my way. I suppose he was a holy warrior, and being posted in such a hotspot for pilgrimages, he must have seen much stranger things than me on a daily basis.

He did pay at least passing attention to me as I stopped him to ask about the Puzzle Canal. I couldn't read his expression through the golden face of his helmet, but from what he said to me, he couldn't have been happy to speak to me. He grunted before he spoke:

"Another outlander with stars in his eyes over the living gods. You're all the same: you can part with your gold, and with your flying potions -" he indicated the blessing of temporary flight I had received from the Shrine of Daring by pulling me down to the pavings, then snorting as I bobbed helplessly back into the air again - "but you all wither and flinch when it comes to drowning yourself in the Canal." That at least confirmed my fears, but the Ordinator wasn't finished: "Listen: the boys and I - no, the MEN and I - we often go and drown ourselves in the Puzzle Canal at dawn to really wake ourselves up for a long day's patrol. It won't kill you - it just feels like it does. It's bracing, let me tell you."

I had absolutely no idea whether he was being serious or not - but I was sure he wore a mocking smile beneath the golden mask.

"And look, since I'm being so nice to you, I'll help you on your way back to the Canal." The Ordinator grabbed my ankle and whirled around on the spot a few times, drawing me into a dizzying spin. After gaining some speed he let me go, and I hurtled down the tunnel through the centre of the High Fane, directly towards the Puzzle Canal. Either I felt extraordinarily light to others when levitating, or the Ordinator was simply very strong - probably both, actually.

Back at the centre of the Puzzle Canal, I was resolved to go through with it. I had always been vulnerable to performing silly acts when challenged by others - even when that challenge was only implied. Besides, I reasoned that children raised to become priests or priestesses would also have to perform the Pilgrimages, and surely they would not be set a task that would kill them before they could become useful members of the Temple.

I planned to do it by floating on my back, just below the surface, and holding my breath until I fell unconscious. I knew I didn't have the willpower to do it any other way; and I wasn't ashamed of that, either: I considered it a good sign that I had great difficulty in bringing harm to myself. During my incarceration in that Imperial prison, many prisoners had come to lack that sense of self-preservation, and had died in the awful place.

And so I put my plan into action, watching the shimmering wall of light from beneath the clear water. I lost count of the number of attempts I made: it was the most difficult thing I had ever done. Eventually the light-headedness gained from repeatedly holding my breath until the last possible moment - followed by struggling desperately to the surface - prevailed, and I passed out.

At least I think I did. To me it seemed as if I merely closed my eyes against the dancing spots for a brief moment; but then the shimmering wall was gone! Pushing my way to the surface yet again, I made to take a deep breath, but found I had to cough up a great deal of water first. Weakly crawling up the steps to the platform holding the puzzle-triolith, I coughed and heaved painfully for a good while before I could regain my feet - or, bob back into the air again - to be more accurate.

When I did, I was surprised to see a stone bridge had appeared across the gap between the platform and the space in the wall where the shimmering field had once been. It felt solid enough - not a mere illusion. It didn't matter to me, at any rate: I flew across the bridge, into the dark space in the wall, and shortly found myself facing a statue. A red and black painted statue - or, maybe a suit of fearsome, stylised armour. Leaning in for a closer look, I almost jumped out of my skin when the 'statue' turned and spoke to me:

"It is not courteous to stare. And this is the Shrine of Courtesy." It indicated the triolith squatting in the dim torchlight. 'The Pilgrim's Path' had referred to a Dremora named 'Krazzt' that was bound to guard the Shrine of Courtesy; I realised that the strange talking suit of armour was in fact Krazzt. For that is all Dremora are - or how they are perceived by mortals on this plane, at least: animated suits of armour with nothing inside but the spirit of a Daedra. I had learnt at the Mages Guild that Dremora were summoned to this plane - usually temporarily, but sometimes permanently - and they brought with them powerful Daedric weapons and armour. They could not be killed, only banished back to Oblivion - and this was no mean feat: by all accounts they were very dangerous and deadly beings. I decided that being courteous to such a creature was probably a good idea, and I gave a bow before addressing the red light behind the eyeholes of the Daedric helmet:

"My apologies, Krazzt. I've never met a Dremora before." If Dremora had moods, I did not know - and I couldn't have read its expression even if they did. Krazzt's voice seemed to ease out of the holes and gaps in the Daedric armour:

"Well, now you have. And -" he pointed to the silver longswords strapped to my belt - "you've come properly armed, too. In fact, I see that you have two swords there, whereas I am unarmed." At that, Krazzt paused for a very long time. I waited, unsure if I was supposed to do something, or - "You are brave and gallant." Krazzt heaved a great sigh - it spoke as if reciting a speech it had delivered a thousand times: and resented each time. "Will you give me your longsword so that I might stand a chance against your might?"

"Oh - yes. Of course." I unstrapped one of the silver swords and handed it to the Dremora, hilt first. Krazzt took the blade without a word, stepping over to a large worn chest nearby that turned out to be full of silver swords. Dropping my gift among them with a clatter, Krazzt said:

"Thankyou. You have the grace of courtesy. You should read the inscription on the shrine to complete your pilgrimage. Now." It prompted, when I didn't step over to the triolith immediately. "Otherwise you'll have to come back. And we don't want that."

Upon reading the Grace of Courtesy as it was inscribed on the shrine, I felt a hum of Alteration magic go through me: I was able to recognise this blessing - it was similar to one of my own spells, in fact. I had been blessed with the temporary ability to breathe underwater. Perhaps it was intended as a sort of apology for the hellish experience of drowning oneself that pilgrims had to go through to access the shrine.

After thanking Krazzt I turned to go, but the animated armour called out to me:

"Pilgrim! Tell Vivec I'm bored - maybe he'll let me go." When I stared stupidly at the Dremora for a moment, mouth agape, it added: "That was a joke."

I gave Krazzt a weak smile, and floated out of the room. On my way out I could have sworn I head the Dremora mutter something that sounded like:

"Starry-eyed mortal."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

awesome. thanks dude!

Thursday, July 13, 2006 7:58:00 am  

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