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, October 07, 2005

Chapter 32: Stalling for time

The mere sight of the moons caused me pain after that day. To be more accurate, my head throbbed and my vision swam with dreamlike... visions - whenever I was in the moons' sight; when I went outside, in other words. Lalatia, the Oracle at the Imperial Chapel, seemed to be correct: the celestial bodies had something to do with the moon emblem unravelling and burrowing under my skin. Magic, if nothing else, was a curious thing... Why would someone make an item that would do such a thing? Malice? Or was it a mistake - a botched attempt at creating a magical item?

Not that it mattered, anyway. I was dying, and while Master Healer Synnolian maintained that there was hope I might find something that would cure me, it was mere speculation on his part. He had no idea what I should look for, or where to begin searching. For all we knew, there was nothing to be done: the magicka bleeding into my body would gradually edge out my life force, and I would age many times faster than I rightly should.

There was one thing that could be done: I could follow Synnolian's suggestion and attempt to somehow obtain for myself an item enchanted to constantly heal my wounds - visible and otherwise. As with the unknown and likely mythical cure for my affliction, stumbling across an item already enchanted with the effect of regeneration would probably be near impossible. Such things would be kept a closely guarded secret by their owners. I would need to pay to have one enchanted (I certainly did not have the skill to do it myself). This is was not something to be undertaken lightly: I have already mentioned in passing the incredible expense involved in having something enchanted, but there is more to it than that. I will explain:

Enchanting something to constantly radiate a particular magical effect requires four things (five if one includes the obscene amount of money charged by the enchanter): First, an item of clothing, jewellery, armour or weaponry - whatever it is has to of exceptional quality to be able to hold the enchantment. Second, a very rare 'grand' soul gem - third, a 'Soul Trap' spell, and finally, a creature of such might that its soul can stand the strain of constantly powering a magical field - essentially forever. I had a Soul Trap spell (and no trouble casting it reliably), and I had a selection of fine clothes stolen from a noble's house, but that was all.

I had nowhere near enough money, though I soon reasoned that I could probably scrape together enough by trapping souls into gems and selling the results to Creeper. The frequency with which I found undead (or undead found me) would probably mean I could raise the funds in a relatively short time. Grand soul gems were rare and highly coveted; Galbedir had described them to me, but I had never even laid eyes on one. I would have to find at least one somewhere though: no other soul gem would be strong enough. This brought me to the final obstacle: and the one I expected would give me the most trouble: I needed the soul of a fearsome, powerful creature. Not only would I have to find such a creature, I would have to somehow kill it (no other way to take posession of its soul, I'm afraid), while at the same time landing a soul trap spell upon it. I sincerely doubted that anyone would be willing to help me in such a fight, either. Even if most (non-magically inclined) people did not look down on the practice of trapping souls, no contingent of Imperial Legion soldiers was about to accompany me on a hunt for some deadly creature. No matter how much my lot may have improved since arriving on Vvardenfell, I was still a recently released convict.

As I saw things, I had little choice in the matter: I would have to do it myself. Only five years of life was bad enough; but as far as I was concerned, I didn't so much have five years of life left, as I had five years left until I died. I would be an artificial old man long before then, if Synnolian Tunifus was to be believed. If there was anything I could do to even merely delay such an eventuality, I would do it.

Before I could put my plan into action, there was much I needed to learn. I did not even know what manner of creature I should be hunting. There had to be someone in the Mages Guild who could help me. I teleported back to the Balmora guild in search of information.

"Edward, I am sorry for your condition, but I am not the one to blame for this." I couldn't help myself: I was scared, and angry, and I had lashed out at someone: Ranis Athrys. She had been the one who had introduced me to this array of mystical items and their extraordinary powers: she was the one who had gifted me with the magicka threads, and egged me on to chase down as many magic trinkets as I could. Ranis did not agree:

"I'm sure you recall as well as I do that I have never - in any way - forced you to submit yourself to the effects of any magical item; and certainly not one whose function is not well understood." The guild steward did not seem angry - she rarely did, to tell the truth - and right then she actually looked sympathetic and concerned. At the same time, her manner left little room for argument.

And she was right, of course. I had no-one but myself to blame. I had appeared in the guild and made a beeline for Ranis, shouting abuse as soon as I saw her. She had responded calmly once my story was out, and then... then I was too far gone in despair and self-pity, I think, to be embarrassed by my behaviour; but I became quiet again, at least. Once the dark elf learned of my plans, Ranis did what she could to help:

"Folms Mirel at the Caldera branch tells me that you and he are working together on that propylon scheme of his. It's good that you've met him already: he is the most knowledgeable enchanter I know. He can help you with what you'll need for such a powerful enchantment. I was at the Caldera guild just a few moments ago, speaking with Folms. He should still be there; you should go talk to him now."

The whole guild hall had heard every word of our conversation, of course: there are few secrets in a guild where most members can magically augment their hearing. To their credit, they made no attempt to hide their eavesdropping this time, and on my way to the guild guide platform I received condolences and wishes of luck from everyone in the hall - except Sharn gra-Muzgob of course (she was instead reading a book and pretending not to notice what was happening). Ajira seemed especially upset at my news, engulfing me in a big, furry hug. With her large shining eyes brimming with tears, she pushed me onto the platform set aside for teleportation, croaking:

"Go get better, Frosty!"

A moment later, Masalinie had teleported me to the Caldera guild, and a few moments after that, the dunmer Folms had heard my story and was wearing a serious expression.

"I can help you - not with the price involved in such an enchantment, unfortunately: the amount of coin needed is outside my control. I can't tell you why: master enchanter's secret." Folms gave a slight, and very brief, smile. "I can help you on the matter of soul gems and what kind of soul you'll need. Have you heard of a golden saint? No? Well, they're a great deal nastier than their name might lead you to believe: they are in fact the only beings on Vvardenfell nasty enough to power a constant enchantment - at least that I know of. One of the 'lesser' Daedra - summoned from Oblivion like all of their kind: one usually only finds them around Daedric ruins. You know about them, of course? Dangerous places - full of things that can kill you as soon as look at you if you're not prepared?"

I nodded, my heart sinking again. Daedric ruins... the stories I'd heard of those places...

"Fortunately, I happen to have a steady supply of spell-scrolls that summon golden saints: I use them in my own projects. One advantage in summoning creatures with the intent of trapping their souls is that they're on your side: to begin with, at least. You can hopefully get in a couple of swings before they realise what you're up to." At that I felt more hopeful: at least I would not have to venture into those Daedric deathtraps in search of one of these creatures. Folms went on: "That should make things a little easier for you: golden saints are still, as I said, fearsome foes, especially for a mage: most spells only make them stronger, or bounce right off them, back at the caster. In other words you need a strong sword arm; and a strong sword: silver will hurt them, but you really need a glass or ebony weapon. A Daedric blade would be best, of course, but they're probably outside your means to procure. And I mean no offense by that: they're outside the means of most mere mortals."

Again that slight smile.

"Finally, and I hope you appreciate what it means for me to reveal this, but I know of a possible solution to the scarcity of grand soul gems - because you were right: nothing else will do. Except for Azura's Star."

I looked at him blankly. The dunmer seemed a little surprised that I had not heard of this 'Star', and went on to explain:

"Azura's Star is a near-mythic soul gem that does not crumble after use; like a normal soul gem. Not only that, it is supposed to be stronger than a grand sould gem! Now as you know, I am a diviner as well as an enchanter; I have been tracking what I'm sure is Azura's Star for the past several years. I sensed that it was all the way across the continent, in Summurset Isle: far too far away to retrieve it, obviously. Just recently, though, the Star passed beyond my sight. Now the records and tales of Azura's Star say that the Daedric goddess Azura periodically gifts the Star to a mortal for a time: usually until this mortal dies or does something ghastly - you know how those old stories can be."

As I had noticed on other occasions, Folms was a ... talkative man. It was usually worth listening to him though.

"My point, Edward, is that I believe that Azura may have taken back the Star, to keep until another mortal comes along and performs some service for her. I can think of no better way to get her attention than to travel to her shrine, and ... see what is to be found there. It's quite remote - if you have a map of Vvardenfell there, I can show you." I pulled out my worn map of the island, and Folms made a small mark on a peninsula at the far south-east edge, commenting: "This is mere speculation, of course, but if you could somehow get ahold of that Star... it would be half the answer to your problem."

The mage became somewhat rueful:

"I had originally planned on hiring someone - possibly you, actually - to try to retrieve the Star for me - for my own use. Your need is greater than my own, of course: if that healer is right, then you'll likely need to have all sorts of bodily aspects constantly fortified before too long. And if you do find Azura's Star," at this, Folms actually laughed, "then you will lend it to me sometimes, won't you?"

I left Folms Mirel after talking with him a little while longer, teleporting back to the Balmora guild. I planned to leave for Azura's Coast and the Shrine of Azura the very next morning, and I wanted to organise my equipment before I went to bed. I paid special attention to putting my magical items where I could easily reach them.

Even after the awful results of meddling with the moon emblem, I could not put the other magical trinkets aside. I simply could not afford to: I would need every advantage I could get if I was to gather the resources required to prolong my drastically shortened life.


Anonymous Vic said...

Mmmmh. I like the story so far, but I think that this chapter -in particular- makes too much mileage about trinkets I, player of the game, cannot rely to, since I didn't download the plug-in.

On the other hand, that makes for a freshier story...

Thursday, January 10, 2008 5:18:00 pm  

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