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 18, 2005

Chapter 24: Lost and forgotten things

Once the skeletal guardian crumbled into a pile of bone shards, the tomb was eerily quiet. I could hear the grating, chirupping call of the swamp insects filtering in from outside. Venturing further underground, into the next chamber, I found a pit of ashes like the one in the Andan tomb. And, just like in the Andan tomb, a ghastly spectre burst from the ashes with an awful, unnatural scream. While the spirit of Lleves Andan had proved to be harmless, this ghost had one goal in mind: for me to join it in death.

The thing swooped in with alarming speed, swirling about my head and raking me with its spectral, bony hands. Though I could see right through them, its fingers felt sharp as talons, opening numerous small wounds in my back and arms before I could react. When I did make my move, I was glad no-one was there to see me: I was waving and whirling my silver blade about as if trying to swat flies from the air - I felt somewhat foolish. I managed to connect, though - in a manner of speaking - as my sword passed through the ghost's midriff with little resistance, leaving a trail of blazing silver light in its wake.

The spectre actually paused for a moment to stare at me, its pale, skeletal face impassive. I took that opportunity to cast Soul Trap; a white, ethereal loop bursting from my hands and encircling the spectre. At that, it became enraged, giving an almost unbearably loud screech and flying to the attack again. I had cast hooks into the ghost's very soul, and it knew it: it was about all the thing had left to lose.

And lose it the ghost did. I scored a few lucky hits, finally destroying the spectre with a slice right down its middle. The thing boiled away like thin clouds before the sun, and I felt a now-identifiable lurch in my pack. Looking inside, I found that one of the higher quality soul gems was now home to the apparition's soul. I couldn't help but smile: Galbedir had told me that the captured soul of an ancestor ghost could fetch a few thousand drakes when sold. Quite the fortune as far as I was concerned.

With the angry spectre out of the way, I was able to give the room a thorough search for valuables. I tried to assuage my guilt and dispel the notion that what I was doing was basically grave-robbing, by telling myself that the tomb was obviously long forgotten. It almost worked.

In any case, I was glad I looked, because in a small, rotting chest I found a deep blue gem. It actually looked very similar to some of the soul gems I was carrying in my pack - but as soon as I picked it up I could tell that the stone itself was enchanted in some way. When I brought it close to my face to have a closer look at it, the gem twitched, then slipped from my fingers and floated into the air, brushing past my forehead as it did so. When it touched my forehead I instantly knew what the stone did: it would actively and constantly work to clear my mind and improve my concentration, while also occasionally intercepting hostile spells before they could harm me. In fact, any spells caught in this manner would be absorbed, feeding into my magicka reserves. It was a magnificent find - but having the knowledge of what the stone did pushed into my mind through contact with it was unnerving. It was something like remembering the answer to a riddle you had heard before, a very long time ago.

I observed the curious floating gem as I went to leave the room: it zoomed down from the ceiling to bob along behind my head as I walked. Whenever I stopped it would orbit my head, or sometimes float over to apparently inspect some nearby object. Later I learned that this behaviour was common to all ioun stones (for that was what it was). They were unusually anthropomorphic in nature for enchanted rocks.

There was little else of interest in the Thelas Ancestral Tomb, so I continued my expedition up the Bitter Coast. For hours I trudged through the inland swamps and muddy sand of the shoreline, without seeing a single sign of civilisation; past or present. It was hardly surprising: fetid swamps made for a poor place for anyone to settle. At some point in the afternoon I found another tomb, this one encrusted with layers of salt, as it opened directly onto the sandy shore of the coast. After leaving the Thelas tomb with such valuable items, I only hesitated for a short moment before approaching the coastal tomb for a closer look.

The arched alcove was marked as the 'Sarys Ancestral Tomb', and from outside it actually made for a picturesque scene, glittering with crystallised salt as it was. Inside, though, I underwent the heaviest fighting I had yet seen.

The Sarys tomb was the largest I had explored, and was crawling with undead monstrosities. Just inside the first chamber, a huge, wheezing bonewalker lurched out of the shadows, bearing me to the ground with its draining attacks, just like the one in the Andan tomb. I defeated this one in much the same way as the first, focusing my Frostbite spell through one hand, and the Righteousness spell through the other - until the thing collapsed on top of me, well and truly dead. Unfortunately, this revenant had not been temporarily summoned by a necromancer, and it did not vanish when killed. I was unable to push the revolting, stinking thing off until I had magically restored my strength. Keeping my lunch down under such circumstances was quite a feat.

Next I encountered two more of the zombies - one at a time, though - luckily. The first one was much weedier than the other bonewalkers I had faced, and its swollen lips were frozen in a wide, rotting grin. I thought at first that the thing must have had some difficulty telling how far away I was, because it lashed out at me from across the room. Hoping to take full advantage of the creature's apparent handicap, I rushed straight at it, sword raised. I soon realised my mistake, since as it lashed out, it projected a dull reddish field from its hands, catching me full in the chest. I stumbled, suddenly feeling weak and clumsy: it was another draining attack!

The skinny bonewalker then proved that it knew perfectly well where I was, running up and battering me with the hardened flesh of its arms. I was again forced to use 'Righteousness' to survive its attacks and bring it down. This time, I didn't just feel sick from transferring the 'life' force from an undead creature to my own body: I felt weak and exhausted, even after magically reversing the effects of the revenant's draining attacks. I had caught some horrible, fast-acting disease from the creature - and I suspected that it had happened because of the Righteousness spell. Fortunately, I knew a spell to cure most common diseases, and I was soon feeling perfectly healthy again.

Thanking whatever gods may exist that I had been born with some magical ability, I carried on into the tomb and soon crossed paths with another of the skinny bonewalkers. This time, however, I managed to surprise and corner the beast, raining blows upon it with my silver sword until enough of its bones were broken to render it incapable of movement.

I had managed to capture the souls of all three bonewalkers, and warm thoughts of all the money I would soon receive for the sale of their soul gems spurred me onwards, still deeper into the tomb. I think it made me careless. In my eagerness to cast Soul Trap on the skeletal guardian in the deepest chamber of the tomb, I underestimated the strength in its arms, and almost paid for that mistake with my life. (In my defence, one cannot judge the relative strength of a skeleton in the same way as one might pick a fight in a bar based on how burly their opponent is: skeletons have no muscles!)

This particular guardian carried a huge battle axe, and swung it into my side with a lightning blow that swept me from my feet and slammed me into the wall. Winded, I collapsed into a heap at the base of the wall, gasping for air. Blood ran from my gaping mouth in a thin trickle onto the floor. I could tell the axe had passed straight through my armour and cut deeply into my side, probably into one of my lungs. I couldn't get up, and as the shadow of the skeleton passed over my face, I knew that I had to do something quickly or I would die right there on the dusty floor. I snatched a couple of healing potions from a pouch on my belt and forced myself to choke them both down, even though I still couldn't breathe.

A wonderful feeling of warmth spread from my stomach outwards, the near-fatal wound in my side closing in an instant. I had just managed to get to my hands and knees when the skeletal guardian caught up with me and dealt another devastating blow to my midriff, sending me skittering across the floor. Thankfully, the healing energies of the potions were still running their course, and not only did I survive the attack, I rose to my feet fully healed, the Righteousness spell ready in my hands.

Somehow I managed to dodge enough of the skeleton's blows for long enough to completely drain the force driving it - into my own body. Eventually the thing just stopped, axe raised as if for another swing, before slowly toppling over and lying motionless.

Shaking with adrenaline and breathing hard after the desperate fight, I approached a stone plinth at the far end of the chamber. Resting upon it was an urn for holding ashes - just like the others lining the chambers of the tomb. This particular one, however, caught my interest as it was the only one in that whole room. Leaning in close to inspect it, I could hear something coming from within: it sounded something like a wild, roaring beach heard from a distance. Suspecting that the urn may be trapped, I backed away and popped the stopper off from a distance with my new Telekinesis spell. The distinctive red glow of destruction magic shot from the urn to dissipate harmlessly across the ceiling.

Inside the urn I found something that made battling the many undead creatures worthwhile: a beautiful ring - one that I could immediately sense was very powerful. I detected that the enchantment upon it was such that it fortified a person's mental capacity, not occasionally and temporarily like most enchanted items - but constantly. It was a lot like the ioun stone I had found earlier in the day, only much more potent. In short, it would aid my magical abilities no end. Slipping it on, I left the tomb and continued up the coast.

I found no further signs of civilisation until just on dark, when I rounded a stand of gnarled swamp-trees and saw a beached, wrecked ship, at the mouth of the Odai River (according to my map). The captain's cabin on deck was still intact, and the door still worked. Although the floor was at a crazy angle, it made for an excellent place for me to spend the night, safe from wandering creatures.

Laying in my bedroll, I gazed at the magical ring I had found before drifting off to sleep. It occurred to me that perhaps with such a ring I might be intelligent enough to avoid places like the Sarys Ancestral Tomb in future.


Anonymous electric_gods said...

Excellent. My favorite of the most recent chapters.

Also - perhaps it evaded you, but late as I was, some days ago I responded to you question posed in chapter 16

Sunday, September 18, 2005 12:09:00 pm  
Blogger Joseph said...

Thanks Electric_gods!

Oh yeah - I remember. You did answer my question; after a fashion. :-P

Just kidding - I know it's a hard question to answer. :-) Who needs genres and labels, right?

- Joseph.

Monday, September 19, 2005 9:35:00 am  
Anonymous electric_gods said...

[grin] Well it is difficult to answer. Vagueness abound: mostly fantasy, SF, and the occasional bit of angsty crap.

How would you describe, what you write?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005 1:24:00 am  
Blogger Joseph said...

Frost in Morrowind is actually the only fiction I write at the moment, and the only fiction I've written since my final year at high school (1999).

For non-fiction, I tend to find myself writing a lot of guides and tutorials, actually.

So I guess I would describe what I write *at the moment* as fan-fiction and instructional stuff. :-)

- Joseph.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005 6:33:00 pm  
Anonymous electric_gods said...

Planning on submitting anything for publication?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005 2:31:00 pm  
Blogger Joseph said...

You mean besides being published on the web? Not really; I think the things I've written are best suited to being right where they are now. :-)

- Joseph.

Friday, September 23, 2005 9:29:00 am  
Anonymous Vic said...

"It occurred to me that perhaps with such a ring I might be intelligent enough to avoid places like the Sarys Ancestral Tomb in future."


Saturday, January 05, 2008 8:46:00 pm  

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