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 30, 2005

Chapter 29: Soul eater

Every person at the table was intrigued by the magical items I had found. It was to be expected, I suppose: we were all members of the Mages Guild, after all. Ajira was especially taken with my blue ioun stone, following its movements around the hall with a smile on her face. Galbedir was interested in the powerful magic ring I had found in the Sarys Ancestral Tomb - the one that boosts a person's mental capacity. I was interested in the ring I had found that provided constant protection against the elements. I knew how dangerous elemental magic could be, having seen the deadly results of my own Frostbite spell numerous times.

"It's just a pity that the effect of the ring is so weak." I said. "I don't think it would protect me against much more than - ow!"

The dunmer Ranis had slapped me in the back of the head - playfully, but still a little harder than she really needed to.

"I can see it's time for you to pay more attention to your studies, Frost. Then you might actually realise what you've got there." She pointed to the elemental protection ring and the tiny gems I had found along with it. "People join the Mages Guild to study. Tomorrow you will go to the bookstore across the lane and buy one copy of all the volumes of 'Magical Trinkets of Tamriel' they have in stock. Don't look at me like that, there's only three volumes; it won't be that expensive. We did already have copies in the guild hall, but they seem to have been... misplaced." Ranis gave both Galbedir and Ajira hard looks. I noticed neither of them met her gaze. "Anyway - study those books, and then in future you should be able to avoid embarrassing yourself like you are right now. Don't lose those gems."

Refusing to be drawn further on the topic, Ranis retired to bed. I followed her example soon after, exhausted from my long trek through the swamps of the island's south-west coast.

I spent the following morning studying the books Ranis had sent me after, and they were a fascinating read. They were an encyclopaedia (of sorts), detailing a dizzying array of common and uncommon magical items found on the continent of Tamriel. By mid-morning I found a passage on magical rings that rely - at least partially - on small inset gemstones for their great magical powers. These stones sometimes fall out and become separated from the enchanted ring. If stones of the right type, cut to the right size and shape could be found, a ring could be restored to its intended glory.

I soon realised why Ranis had been frustrated with me: on close inspection, the protection from elements ring could be seen to be ringed with six small holes, spaced evenly around its circumference. Using one of the 'Magical Trinkets' books, I was able to identify it as an 'Elementward' ring. The book said that it was originally inset with six ametrine gems. Two of the small stones I had found with the Elementward ring were ametrines. I had been complaining about the ring not being powerful enough, with the means to address that shortcoming literally right in front of me. No wonder Ranis had slapped me.

Galbedir kindly showed me a quick way to re-set the stones - though I suspect she did it out of a desire to closely inspect the ring. In a few short moments I was able to set both stones by placing them carefully into the ring and letting a small amount of alteration magic flow into it. Instantly I could feel the power in the ring more than double - and, sure enough, with Elementward on my finger I could put my hand in a candle or lantern flame and not feel a thing.

After my expedition up the Bitter Coast, my armour was full of holes, and my swords had picked up a number of nicks. In addition, I needed to replenish my supplies: food, potions, that sort of thing. An afternoon visiting the shopkeepers of Balmora was in order; but first I wanted to visit Creeper to see how much he would give me for the soul gems in my pack.

The scamp's eyes fixed on my pack as soon as I walked in.

"Souls..." He breathed. Apparently he knew what I had come for.

I had barely opened my pack when Creeper's long, skinny arms snaked out and scooped up a large handful of the less valuable soul gems - the ones filled with the souls of skeletal guardians, mostly. He stared intently at the collection of gems for a moment, before dropping one back into my pack. Creeper clasped the gems to his brown leathery chest, and with his free hand, he reached into his mysterious screaming crate and fished around for a sack of coins, as he always did. The sack he eventually produced was huge; I almost dropped it when he flung it at me with his usual vigour.

"Five thousand." The scamp said. "All I have. Come back tomorrow - more money then." He indicated the crate by giving it a thump with his tail. I was mildly surprised to see that Creeper had not dropped the soul gems into the crate, as he had done with every other thing I had ever sold to him. I opened my mouth to ask what he intended to do with them, but then he opened his mouth - and shoved the whole handful of stones in at once.

With a horrid grinding, scraping crunch he bit down on the soul gems, and proceeded to chew them up, a rapturous expression on his face. I watched in horror. I had read books that described huge, arcane, monstrous beasts as 'soul-eaters' (among other things, usually) - but always as a form of hyperbole. There I was though, watching Creeper very literally eat the souls I had trapped.

Once finished, the scamp collapsed spread-eagled on his back, wearing a contented grin. Normally the creature spoke with a voice the timbre of a child's, but now, when he spoke to me, his voice was deeper than that of the biggest man I'd ever met:

"YOU'RE STILL HERE, PINK ONE?" Grit and flakes of stone fell from the corners of his mouth as he spoke.

"Uh - I'm just going now." I said huskily. "I'll ... see you tomorrow." With that, I Recalled back to Balmora, glad to be out of the unsettling scamp's presence.

I spent the next several days studying and training. My studies into magical items revealed that the ring I had found in the Sarys tomb was unique: 'Mentor's Ring', it was called. It was even regarded as an artifact. This of course made me even more pleased with my lucky find. I took to wearing the ring all the time - and the mental boost it gave me certainly helped my studies.

Every day I visited Creeper and sold him more soul gems. No-one knew it, but I soon owned something in the vicinity of twenty-five thousand septims. It seemed unreal to me - I didn't know what to spend it on.

On the last of those days spent on my studies, I visited Meldor the smith to have my armour and weapons repaired. While the bosmer Meldor busied himself with fixing my equipment behind the counter, I looked around his store at the pieces of armour on display. It occurred to me that some better armour would be an excellent thing to spend my new fortune on. The holes and gashes Meldor was patching up were evidence that I could certainly do with some sturdier protection.

When I had bought my bonemold armour from Meldor, I had been limited by how much money I had. On this occasion I was limited by the bosmer's selection. I examined a metal breastplate covered with intricate chiselled patterns; the label described it as 'Orcish Cuirass - Medium-style'. Looking around, I found a matching pair of armoured boots, but nothing else.

"I don't get much call for anything finer than bonemold." Meldor called out. "In Balmora, you mostly have your Hlaalu guardsmen - with their regulation bonemold - and your amateurs that want to be equipped just like the guards. If I'd have known you were looking to get really serious about your medium-style armour, I'd have bought those sets from that Cythus fellow after all."

When pushed, Meldor elaborated:

"Oh, I had a dunmer fellow in here a few days ago - Cythus - he wanted me to buy a couple of sets of this unique armour he'd made and put them on sale in my shop. Well, he said it was unique, anyway: 'Netch Adamantium' armour. Adamantium plates on a backing of netch leather for flexibility." He picked up a hardened netch leather pauldron from the counter and showed that it bent slightly. "Very, very nice armour - but very expensive. Like I said, I didn't think I'd be able to sell it to anyone here." At that, the bosmer appeared to think of something: "You could probably buy it directly from him, if you have the funds of course. He said he was trying Pelagiad next - I think he was hoping I would change my mind and go chasing after him. Ask at the tavern there for him - I'm sure you'll find him."

I hadn't told him that I was interested in what this 'Cythus' had to sell - I didn't get the chance to. Meldor proved to be very talkative, barely stopping to draw breath during my entire stay in his store. Regardless, I was interested. As soon as Meldor was finished with them, I strapped my armour and weapons on, paid him for his work, and ran all the way from Balmora to Pelagiad. I made good time, casting 'Stamina' periodically so I didn't lose my breath - or even slow down until I reached the Imperial-style village.

I was in luck - the dunmer Cythus was actually eating an early lunch in the Halfway Inn and Tavern when I arrived. He was wearing a suit of the armour he was trying to sell - I recognised it from Meldor's description. After hearing that I was interested in making a purchase, the dunmer invited me to join him for lunch.

Afterwards, we went outside so Cythus could give me demonstration of his armour. He made a good salesman, jumping about the dirt street acrobatically and energetically, showing how flexible the armour was. Next he drew a blade and began to whirl, thrust and parry wildly, as if surrounded by imaginary enemies. It was quite the spectacle: the sun peeking through the clouds and seeming to blink and scatter off the gleaming armour plates of the whirling and dancing swordsman. He made the armour look as light as if he wore naught but clothes, and yet as he pummelled and even slashed at himself with his sword, it was apparent that it was very durable too.

Cythus had a couple of sets in his room at the Halfway Inn, separated into portable baskets for loading onto a pack animal. He was kind enough to let me try on a complete suit of the Netch Adamantium, and I was so impressed I didn't even take it off; rather I bought the whole lot right then and there. The price was steep: even after trading in my newly repaired bonemold armour, I ended up handing over around nine and a half thousand septims.

Still, I felt as if it was worth it. As I made my way out of the tavern, I felt as if nothing could touch me. When a drunken patron made a rather pointed comment about the expense of my new armour, and suggested that I put it to some actual use by ridding the village of the gang of bandits in the caves next to the nearby lake, it didn't even hurt.

In fact, I left the tavern and advanced down the hill to the lake, intending to do just as he said.


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