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 16, 2005

Chapter 23: Thievery

My activities the following day reminded me again of my time growing up in the Imperial Cult orphanage.

Back at the Imperial Cult Shrine in Fort Moonmoth - near Balmora - the Cult healer had suggested asking for duties as an Almoner at the Imperial Chapel in Ebonheart. Initially I had baulked at the idea of doing such a thankless job, but when Iulus Truptor approached me during my visit to the Chapel and described the workings of a standard Almoner 'project' to me, I reconsidered. Each project was considered a separate task, and a member that performed a certain number of tasks would be considered for promotion through the ranks of the Imperial Cult. It was very similar to the structure of the Mages Guild, actually.

What really sold me on the job though was that for each Almoner project, I was sent out alone to a particular organisation with a fairly low collection target (one hundred septims), and - most importantly - without a logbook or other means of recording who donated what. This meant that I didn't have to put myself through the humiliation of begging for money: I could simply leave the Chapel for a while, and upon return use some of the money raised through my thefts to complete my Almoner project. Stealing from the rich and giving to the Cult was exactly what I used to do in my youth.

As a small ruse, it worked extremely well. I could at once feel as if I was repaying my debt to the Cult, while also helping a worthwhile cause, and advancing through the ranks. A number of outcomes through one effort.

The day progressed in a pattern like this: I would ask for an Almoner's project from Iulus Truptor, teleport to Balmora for a two hour longsword-training session with Rithleen, and then teleport back to the Imperial Chapel to give Truptor the money I had (as far as he knew) collected. Afterwards I would ask for another project and the process would repeat again.

For each project, I gave Iulus more money than he had asked for. He became so happy with me that by the end of the day, he had advanced me through four whole ranks in the Imperial Cult: from Layman, through Novice, Initiate, Acolyte, and then to Adept. He also rewarded me with a number of pieces of clothing that bore minor enchantments. I was quite taken with them at first: I had never before had the opportunity to even hold an enchanted item. The way in which I could instinctively feel what kind of enchantment was placed on each piece of clothing simply by holding it was fascinating; though it meant that I soon lost interest in them. Each item was enchanted so that it could periodically provide a slight, and temporary, boost in the wearer's ability to understand language and empathise with people. The clothes were more ceremonial than useful, basically.

Near the end of the day, Iulus Truptor told me had no more simple 'begging' Almoner's projects (though he didn't call them that, of course), but that he might have other work for me in a few days. I cast my Recall spell and teleported back to Balmora for one last training session with Rithleen before retiring for the night. The Redguard woman seemed a good trainer, and often said that everything she taught me had one aim in mind: to keep me alive. So I believed her when she told me that I was making good progress, but that I would benefit greatly by getting some experience in the field.

It was true that I had seen very little of the wilds of Vvardenfell; in fact, I had only seriously ventured outside the towns twice - and both times I had not strayed from the well-worn track. Rithleen gave me a few pieces of advice for getting some serious exercise and practice defending myself against wild creatures, while not getting myself killed in the process:

"Caius would be cross with me if you happened to end up the dinner of a family of cliff-racers, so please don't wander off into the deep, deep wilds. Be very wary of the Dwemer ruins: they're often haunted and patrolled by those blasted metal constructs - and you can't tell until you go inside. Also, if you should come across some Daedric ruins - big, spiky purple stones, crazy angles - run in the other direction, alright? There are things in those ruins that can turn you inside out or roast a person inside their armour." I was fast losing my enthusiasm for gaining some field experience. I asked her:

"Can you recommend somewhere I could go that won't get me cooked, turned inside out, or eaten?"

"The Bitter Coast. It's nearby, and home to mudcrabs, nix-hounds, netch, and the occasional tomb or smugglers' hideout. Nothing worse than that along there, really."

That did sound like a workable plan: for one thing, I knew where the Bitter Coast was and how to reach it - and also, if it was as pocked with smugglers' caves as everyone said, such an expedition could be a very lucrative. As an added bonus, theft from outlaws was actually approved of by polite society in Morrowind. I decided to prepare for an extended hike through the wild areas of the Bitter Coast.

So, that evening I bought a fair quantity of raw meat, and carried it and my new portable metal grill up the steep hill just to the north of Balmora. Once outside the city limits I set a fire, and searched about for some rocks to support the grill while I waited for the flames to get hot enough. I sat and cooked the meat I had bought, watching the sun set over Balmora. Dusk was well past by the time I had finished, and as I salted the pieces of meat and wrapped them in leaves, I found myself edging closer to the fire to ward off the encroaching chill of night. I hoped to have enough food to last me several days. Finally, before heading for bed, I refilled my water skins at the same public pump I had used to wash the bloody Dark Brotherhood armour.

Early the next morning I took a silt strider to Seyda Neen, intending to hike up the Bitter Coast to the west. On my way out of the village I ran into the altmer Eldafire, apparently returning from a morning swim, and thought to ask her if she knew Caryarel. Kaye had said that the thief might live somewhere along the Bitter Coast.

"Caryarel?" Eldafire frowned. "Yes, I know him. we sometimes see him here trying to get a good look inside the Census and Excise warehouse. Just the place his sort would very much like to see the inside of. He comes all the way from Gnaar Mok to case the building."

I thanked Eldafire for her help, and carried on into the wilderness. Silently I also thanked my good fortune at picking up such a good lead, and hoped that my luck would continue. Heavy fog and a maze of stinking swamps, slippery rocks and trees with winding, serpentine branches and roots made for heavy going. I found myself constantly backtracking and checking my map so I wouldn't get lost. After a while I gave up on the inland route and walked along the coast, keeping the Inner Sea to my left. Now and then I would cast my water-walking spell and run gingerly out onto the water a little way (water-walking is rather like walking on ice: it is quite slippery) to escape the swamp and get a better look at the shape of the coast.

Before too long I found the entrance to a tomb. It had the same kind of arched alcove over the rotting door as the Andan Tomb, only this one was marked as the 'Thelas Ancestral Tomb'. My curiosity once again getting the better of me, I ventured inside, donning my helmet and readying my shield and silver sword. I was right to be cautious, though it did me little good. At the opposite end of the first room I entered stood a skeletal guardian, a chipped and scored longbow hanging loosely at its side. I had encountered animated skeletons before, during my terrifying night in the necromancer's house - but for whatever reason, those undead monsters had left me more or less alone. This one did not.

With alarming speed, the skeletal guardian snapped the bow to the ready and let loose an arrow, striking me square in the chest. The arrow was tipped with some kind of fearful acidic poison: it melted instantly through the fibrous bonemold chest plate and buried itself near my shoulder, burning away the skin and flesh it touched - so that a second later it fell out, leaving a gaping, agonising wound. I couldn't even scream, the pain was so intense. A second arrow burned a hole right through my tower shield and nicked my armguard, this time thankfully only giving the skin of my arm a peripheral splash of acid.

Realising my armour was not going to help in the slightest against the skeletal archer, I dove forward, getting a stone plinth between myself and my attacker. There, I crouched down low and waited, laying my shield aside. As the skeleton rounded the corner of the plinth, I grabbed one of its dusty, bony ankles and yanked hard. It crashed to the ground, and before it could skitter away and rise to its feet, I threw myself upon it. My entire weight upon the undead creature, I could feel its bones cracking and breaking - yet still the skeleton flailed about, battering me with its arms and even trying to bite me. Without its deadly arrows the thing couldn't do me much harm, however, and I was able to lock my fingers into its rib cage and draw whatever force was sustaining it into my own body, using my Righteousness spell. Soon I was healed, and as the skeleton's bones began to shatter and crumble away under my weight, I cast a spell I had learnt only recently: 'Soul Trap'.

The skeleton broke into pieces and lay still, and I fancied I heard a brief rushing sound, and felt something twitch and shudder inside my pack.

I had recently learned a little more about soul gems from the Apprentice enchanter Galbedir, as the crystalline stones were used to enchant items. If a creature or spirit was destroyed shortly after having had Soul Trap cast upon it, its soul would jump to the nearest soul gem, and be held inside until put to some purpose by an enchanter (usually). Like other gemstones, soul gems are found in varying qualities, the finer, rarer examples being able to hold more powerful, deadly creatures. I had a small collection of soul gems in my pack, mostly stolen, but some supplied by the Mages Guild. Upon inspection, one of the smaller, 'petty' gems appeared to be repelling the other stones, and when I picked it up I could feel a force radiating out of it.

I was no enchanter - and had no intention of becoming one. By all accounts it was an incredibly difficult, tedious and frustrating business; though for these same reasons it was also a lucrative one. Soul gems containing trapped souls were purchased by enchanters for sizable amounts of money - and that was the reason for my interest in the matter.

I had stolen a creature's soul - for money. It was theft, just the same.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A grill? Don't you think that's a bit excessive? Next thing you know Frost will be carrying a gun!

Friday, September 16, 2005 12:40:00 pm  
Blogger Joseph said...

Maybe the word 'portable' was a bit misleading. By 'grill' I don't mean one of those modern all-in-one gas cylinder things, I mean a metal grill: metal slats on a frame. You carry them around and lay them on some supporting rocks (usually), over the top of a campfire.

If you check out the 'Necessities of Morrowind' mod (which I linked to in the chapter), you'll see what I mean.

You could probably also go to a camping store and find the kind of portable grill I'm talking about. :-)

- Joseph.

Friday, September 16, 2005 4:25:00 pm  
Anonymous Stygian said...

I still like this.

Now I want to make one about my character, Stygian...


Saturday, September 17, 2005 6:43:00 am  
Anonymous Vic said...

I like how your character does not necessarly go (up to here) for the game's more profiteable aspects, like Alchemy and Enchanting (althought he does steal). That makes him more likeable, IMO.

Saturday, January 05, 2008 8:37:00 pm  

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