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 25, 2005

Chapter 27: Cheating death

On the morning of the third day into my trek up the Bitter Coast, the sun finally came out. The rain and fog clearing up was a welcome change in that I could better see my way through the swamp, but at the same time, it quickly became almost unbearably hot. I was relieved to find a narrow path leading a short way up into the mountains to another natural cave system, not too far from the one in which I spent the night.

Hacked into the doorframe leading to the caves was the name 'Kudanat'. Glad to get out of the scorching sun, I pushed the door open and almost lost my hand to a wicked-looking war axe, wielded by a female bosmer in a ringmail cuirass. The axe luckily caught in the door just above my wrist, and I was able to kick her away, back into a downward-sloping tunnel just inside the door. I followed her - there was no room to swing my katana in the doorway. I called out for the wood elf to wait a moment, but for whatever reason, she ignored my plea and rushed to the attack again.

At first I thought I had managed to catch her wrongfooted, opening up a couple of wounds on her unprotected legs; but when she managed to connect with her axe, I found that the elf had surprising strength in her wiry arms. Her axe cut through the armour on my sword arm and bit into the bone: a numbing blow. Temporarily unable to move my sword-arm, I threw my shield at her and followed up by catching ahold of her weapon-hand and draining the life from her with my Righteousness spell. Soon enough the blood loss from the resurrected wounds all over her body took its toll, and the bosmer collapsed, tumbling down the sloped tunnel.

Her body came to rest at the feet of a huge nordic man, who looked about equal parts fat and muscle. Enraged at the sight of his dead friend, he roared and charged up the slope, brandishing a silver axe laced with spectral flames. I felt my eyes go wide at the sight of the enchanted axe. This was going to hurt.

I had just managed to heal my arm and retrieve my tower shield when the nord was upon me, dealing a massive overhand chop to my chest with a blinding burst of flame and sparks. Thankfully the front of my cuirass was reinforced, and it stopped the blow. The fibrous bonemold, however, immediately caught fire, and I had been knocked onto my back, winded. I frantically rolled onto my front to put the fire out in the dirt, then over again onto my back, in time to see the nord warrior lifting his axe high above his head, for a blow that would no doubt split me in half.

As the blade whooshed down, I reached up and a swirling green mist shot from my hand, enveloping the warrior. When it cleared, my heart doubled its already breakneck pace: the nord's axe had frozen in place so close to my head that I could count the scratches and nicks on the blade. I had paralysed him, but only just in time.

Paralysation spells are interesting: their effects are quite different from the general limpness associated with a person becoming physically paralysed through injury. Instead, the victim is held in place, able to move only incredibly slowly - definitely incapable of attacking anyone. The nordic man appeared to be bracing himself as best he could given his situation; hunching his shoulders up and drawing his head in. I dealt him several blows with my katana: as hard as I could given that I felt as if I had a few broken ribs, and that I still felt an instinctive hesitation to hurt people. This feeling was only exacerbated by the fact that my attacker was now almost defenseless.

The only warning I had that the spell had worn off was the agonising upward slash of the silver flameaxe, as it sent my helmet flying up and off my head and opened a long gash up the side of my face. An instant later the magical flames licked up the side of my head, sending me screaming and staggering into the cave wall. Somehow I managed to focus through the pain of the horrible burns and paralyse the nord again, this time just before his axe pinned me to the wall. After gently pressing my hand against the burns and sending my healing spell into it, I brought my sword to bear on the warrior again.

Fully healed and too angry (and scared) to hold back, I cut the man's throat open and left him to fall over dead once the paralysation wore off. Just around the corner was a dunmer woman in black clothes, who had been hanging back, hiding in the shadows. At least, she would have been hidden had I not been using my Night-Eye spell at the time. As it was, I easily caught her chiton shortsword on my shield and cut her down with a couple of strong blows to her unarmoured midriff.

Three people dead by my hand already, and then I stepped into a central cavern - and into the most bloody fight I had ever endured.

The musclebound orc waited for me to approach in the centre of the room, and at first I failed to see why. Once I ran up to engage him I found out: a dunmer woman stood on a raised wooden platform against the cave wall, aiming an arrow at me. At that, I gave up any pretense of facing the orcish warrior in a 'fair' fight, and paralysed him. Not fancying the thought of the spell wearing off and the orc burying his axe in my back, I left the dunmer archer for the moment and focused on the orc. It was a dangerous dance: dodging back and forth to avoid the whistling arrows, and slashing at the warrior every chance I got.

Thankfully the orc fell quickly - but before I could dash up the wooden steps to the platform to deal with the archer, an imperial woman with a shining broadsword sprinted up, attracted by the shouts of the archer. She turned out to be a forbidding swordswoman, and I was soon forced to deal with her in the same fashion as the nord and the orc. In the meantime, the dunmer archer had apparently run out of arrows - as she had jumped down from the platform and disappeared from sight. No longer harried by a hail of arrows, I was just about to land the killing blow upon the imperial woman when someone jumped on my back and grabbed my sword arm, pulling it away from my adversary.

It was the dunmer archer. I dislodged her from my back by thrusting my elbow hard into her ribs, then spun around and dealt her a couple of slices across the chest, cutting right through her chiton armour. She gasped and ran off into the shadows, clutching at her wounds. I was unable to give chase, as at that moment I was brought to my knees by a powerful downward chop to my shoulder: the imperial woman had shaken off the effects of my paralysis spell. I threw myself onto my back, lashing out over my head with the katana as I did so. The swordswoman was taken by surprise, and the blade cut through her throat.

By now the floor was slippery with blood - mine and that of the bodies littering the room. It took a moment for me to struggle back to my feet, and when I did, I was assaulted by yet another bandit. This time it was a male dunmer - again with a war axe. He seemed distracted by the bodies at my feet: his swings were wild and erratic. Before too long I had opened numerous gashes across the man's arms and chest, and he was starting to stagger and struggle to keep his weapon up.

"Nalur!" A cry came from behind me. I jumped back from the wounded man, twisting my head to see where it had come from. The dunmer archer was sprinting out a tunnel towards us, eyes fixed on the bleeding dunmer man, her face a mask of horror. The man glanced at the archer, a pleading expression crossing his face. He opened his mouth to say something, then froze.

I had buried my blade in his side. By the beating footsteps I could tell that the woman was almost right behind me. In one motion I yanked my katana from the man's side, and, with a vicious backhand, span around and took the woman's head off. The dunmer man closed his eyes at the awful sight, and appeared to give up, falling to the ground next to the woman - dead.

Once it was all over, and no-one else jumped out to attack me, I shuffled over to the wooden steps and sat down, breathing heavily. I stared into space for a long while, trying not to look at the bloody tangle of bodies in the centre of the room. Seven people - all dead because of me - all in one morning. Of course I could come up with all sorts of reasons why killing them may have been the right thing to do - no doubt they were just like the smugglers in the caves near Seyda Neen: trafficking slaves and drugs - but really: it didn't make me feel any better.

After a while I realised that I was badly hurt, and bleeding profusely inside my armour. I healed myself and got up to look around the caves, mainly to get away from the scene of carnage in that cavern. The more I thought about it, the more incredible it seemed: I had fought and killed seven warriors single-handedly - though of course I had been lucky that they hadn't swarmed me all at once. As it was, I had been pushed to my absolute limits to survive the encounter; sitting there I knew that once the real fight had begun in the central cavern, I would not have had the chance to cast a teleportation spell out of there if it had become necessary. Casting a spell is not an instantaneous process; I would have been cut down had I attempted to teleport away.

I certainly would have fallen if it had not been for my Paralysis spell.

Nevertheless I had prevailed, and when I got back to Balmora I was going to give Rithleen a great big kiss (if she would let me) for teaching me how to fight.

Deeper into the caves, my suspicions about the bandits were proved to be correct: I found a slave pen packed with argonian and khajiiti people. While I had not been able to find the key to their slave bracers, they were still ecstatic to be set free, and told me that they would look through the belongings of the smugglers for the key themselves.

In the meantime, I left Kudanat caves with the few items of value I had found: a small collection of tiny gems, and an enchanted ring with symbols for the elements and protection (respectively) engraved on the inside. The gems and the ring were all in a small cloth bag together; I wondered if they were related somehow. In any case I could tell that the ring was enchanted with a permanent or 'constant effect' enchantment, protecting against the elements, like the symbols had suggested. The enchantment was fairly minor, however: it wouldn't protect someone from much more than the heat from a candle flame, or the chill from a moderate evening breeze.

Nevertheless, I slipped it on before leaving the caves: perhaps it would make the muggy heat of the swamp more bearable. That at least would be some small comfort, given my frame of mind.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Stygian said...

Awesome

Monday, September 26, 2005 12:59:00 am  

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