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.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Chapter 28: Liars

It hurts when someone calls you an insulting name. It hurts more to realise that they are in fact right about you, and that the insulting name is actually appropriate.

I arrived at the clutch of run-down coastal dwellings called Gnaar Mok sometime in the late afternoon, and soon found someone who could direct me to Caryarel's shack; "over by the docks". As I approached the sagging wooden structure, the high elf emerged from the door, locking it behind him. This was the man accused of stealing the limeware bowl that had been donated to the Imperial Chapel in Ebonheart. He was making his way towards me, through what passed as the village square. I waited until he came quite near before greeting him:

"Excuse me, are you Caryarel?" He nodded, and I extended a hand. The altmer regarded me suspiciously, and made no move to return the gesture. Still, I had brought my hand close enough for my Charm spell to leap invisibly across to his body, and I followed up by addressing him in a manner that I hoped would not antagonise him. "Muthsera, I was ... persuaded by the Imperial Cult to retrieve a limeware bowl they say you took. Can you think of a reason why they would say such a thing?"

The tall elf had been squinting at my face as I spoke, as if trying to recall whether he knew me or not. It seemed that all my Charm spell had accomplished was to put Caryarel in good spirits, as he laughed before finally speaking:

"I know who you are now, smuggler! I find it amusing that a petty criminal such as yourself should presume to accuse someone of theft." I started. Considering the detestable practices of the smugglers local to the Bitter Coast, I took being called 'smuggler' as quite the insult. But of course he was right: I was smuggling dwemer artifacts in my pack. That must be what Raz'hid had reported to the guard in Hla Oad - a crafty move, I thought.

Caryarel continued:

"And why in the world would I steal a bowl, of all things?" His smile vanished. "I'd advise you to leave town, breton, because should I happen across the town guard, I'll be sure to let them know you're here."

The altmer pushed past me roughly and stalked off. As soon as he was out of sight, I walked casually over to his shack and grasped the door handle, letting alteration magic seep into the lock. As soon as the lock had popped open and no-one was looking, I slipped inside. Caryarel's cramped shack was cluttered with barrels and sacks - it reminded me strongly of Fatleg's Drop-Off in Hla Oad. As I quickly rifled through the elf's possessions, I wondered why I had felt so hurt when he had called me a criminal. I had grown up a thief, and it had never bothered me before. Perhaps it was because my thievery back then had been (mostly) for a good cause. Perhaps it was because right then I was apparently a publicly known criminal.

I found the bowl in short order (from the maker's mark on its base that Kaye had told me to look for); it was full of various foodstuffs and hidden at the bottom of a barrel. I secured it in my pack, and rather than risk being caught leaving Caryarel's shack, I cast Recall to teleport back to Balmora.

Gnaar Mok was actually on a small island just off the Bitter Coast, connected to the main island of Vvardenfell by several small bridges. Though I had water-walked most of the way there, the watery approach to the village had given me the opportunity to finally wash off the blood from the carnage in Kudanat caves. However when I appeared in the Mages Guild I was still somewhat bedraggled, and sported some bloodstains baked into the fibrous bonemold armour by the scorching sun of the coast. I drew a few curious looks from the other members.

I was able to temporarily satisfy their curiosity by giving them a brief overview of my trek up the Bitter Coast, and promising that I would fill them in at dinner that night. (Most guild members that could drag themselves away from their experiments ate together in the guild hall). Before I did anything else, though, I wanted to be rid of the dwemer objects in my pack - and the price on my head. Before heading for the South Wall, I dumped my armour in the cabinet across from my bunk and pulled on my Pilgrim's robe. There was no sense going out on the streets of Balmora matching the description given to the authorities by Raz'hid.

The cornerclub was starting to fill with patrons for the evening, so Habasi threw a few coins to Bacola, the owner of the club, and took me into one of the upstairs rooms. Pushing the door closed with her back, the khajiit said:

"Habasi hears rumours, little Edward. You tripped and stepped on Raz'hid's tail trying to be sneaky, yes?" She gave a faint growl, her tail whipping back and forth spasmodically. "Not good. Not good, Edward. Certain bad people know now that you're with us. Habasi cannot give you new jobs for a while - too dangerous." Her eyes, luminescent in the candlelight, fixed on my pack. "But ... you did bring back Habasi's dwemer things, yes?"

I pulled the items from my pack and placed the bowl and goblet on the bed in front of the khajiit. The tube of metal and heavy glass, however, I twirled between my fingers.

"Habasi, I was clumsy and got caught, I know - but I got a price on my head while on a guild job. This is the sort of situation where I could really use those guild services you mentioned..." The cat gave me a puzzled look, and, scooping up the dwemer bowl and goblet, said:

"It is as I told you, little Edward: talk to Mister Reille about that." I guessed that that meant I was free to approach Phane Reille to have my bounty removed. She held out her hand, and I dropped the dwemer tube into it. "Keep from trouble for a while, Edward."

I left Habasi to her artifacts without a word. She was happy. I was not. All she had given me for the painful trouble I had gone to on her behalf was a couple of thieves' tools; which, with my magic, I had no need for. I sold the lockpicks to a Thieves Guild member (who I had come to know casually) for around a hundred drakes, and made my way through the packed club to the bar. The old breton Phane Reille was behind the bar, taking orders. I lined up and waited my turn. After a few moments of being jostled, bumped and having drinks spilled on me, it came around to my turn to be 'served'. Phane and I leaned in close in order to hear each other over the din of the crowd.

"Ah yes, Mister Frost, isn't it? I saw you speaking with young Sugar-Lips earlier. I hear you're in a bit of trouble, Mister Frost." He raised his greying eyebrows.

"Yes, that job Habasi sent me on; Raz'hid saw -" I began.

"Hush - yes, I know of the bounty on your head." Phane interrupted. "I know that it comes to one hundred and seventy-five drakes exactly, as a matter of fact. Not too bad, really. Even better, I can make it all go away; every record of this unfortunate event ever having taken place, for only eighty-seven drakes." He smiled slowly, showing a row distractingly white teeth.

By all accounts it was an excellent deal. My name would be cleared, without having to even lay eyes on a guardsman. Still, I handed over most of the money from the sale of the lockpicks with a sigh. I had barely broken even on that job. All I had really gained was the experience of another close brush with the authorities.

"Thankyou, Mister Frost. I'll take care of everything at first light tomorrow. Don't expect an official apology; just expect not to be chased." His dazzling smile broadened. "And one more thing: here is your drink. Enjoy."

Phane placed a large cup of sujamma in front of me, and turned to his next customer. For all anyone else in the club knew, I had merely ordered a drink. I had to admit it was an elegant system. Most people there were too busy talking, singing and getting drunk to care exactly what passed between a stranger and the barman. Feeling somwhat disillusioned with Habasi and the other thieves, I drank the sujamma down quickly and walked back to the Mages Guild. The other members were just sitting down to the evening meal, and I joined them to tell the story of my expedition up the Bitter Coast.

Partway through dinner I carefully laid out the small collection of magic items and tiny gemstones I had found in the tombs and smugglers' caves. At the sight of them, the guild steward Ranis leant in intently, her eyes seeming to flare into a faint glow - just as they had done when we first met.

"Where did you get these?" Her piercing eyes were now on me. I didn't look away, replying:

"I killed for them. Smugglers and slavers ... ghosts and revenants." I paused, then went on to describe the heavy fighting of my last few days. I omitted no detail - even when it came to the bloody fight in Kudanat caves. I felt a little better for talking about it all, but there was a long silence once I had finished, broken only by Sharn gra-Muzgob's noisy eating habits. It was Ranis who eventually broke the silence.

"So, Frost, it appears you've come to realise that death is occasionally necessary. Or," she smirked, "at least that it sometimes cannot be avoided."

Everyone looked at me. I said nothing.


Anonymous Bhaal said...

Great post as always. I love reading these entries, partly because I (sadly?) have most of the game memorized and can remember alot of these encounters, but mostly because they are wonderfully written and enjoyable to read. Adding in the links for the mods is just a bonus. Great work.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005 11:41:00 am  
Blogger Joseph said...

Thanks Bhaal - glad you like it. :-)

- Joseph.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005 1:55:00 pm  

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