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, November 20, 2005

Chapter 51: From above - ashes

Early the following morning, I left Wolfen Castle in Falorn's care and set out to continue my pilgrimage of the Seven Graces. The Bosmer groundskeeper kindly helped me into my armour before I left: usually I had to struggle into it on my own, through creative use of my teeth and a nearby wall - to hold the pieces in place while I pulled the straps tight. Ancois, my new cook, prepared plenty of food for me that would keep well on an extended journey.

One problem with the castle's otherwise superb location was that there was no nearby source of fresh water (we had to have it brought in by the barrel, along with the other supplies); so I teleported to Balmora and filled my water-skins at one of the public pumps there. I intended to set off from Fort Moonmoth, just outside Balmora, in any case. Casting Divine Intervention on the streets of Balmora took me instantly to the Imperial Cult shrine at the fort.

It was a grey and dreary morning, just before dawn, and the rain drizzled down upon the Legion soldiers on watch in the fort. The soldiers were in a foul mood - probably just about to come off a long and cold night shift - and the men I passed barely acknowledged my presence. Just before I reached the main gates, on my way out, something happened that seemed to vastly improve the spirits of the soldiers on duty: the fort was attacked by vampires.

Now, most people would not be pleased at the sight of a pair of vampires dropping down out of the gloomy sky - and rightfully so - but these two were in a pitiful condition, much like the vampire I had killed in Caldera. One was an Argonian (I had never seen the teeth of one of the lizardfolk before, but this one certainly had them); and the other was a male Dunmer - both were scrawny and near naked. And their eyes! Vampires are generally regarded as having somewhat ... scary-looking eyes, but these two... the looks in their eyes made them appear quite crazed.

They had to be quite insane to attack an Imperial Legion fort near dawn, too: before I could get anywhere near the creatures, they were surrounded by every soldier on duty. I stopped halfway across the yard and watched the soldier's backs from a distance as their blades rose and fell. There were several terrible screams from the centre of the crush of Legion men, and a few rivulets of blood ran out from between their armoured feet. In a short moment the soldiers had dispersed, laughing, and all that was left of the vampires was a trampled pile of ashes, gradually mixing in the rain with the dirt and volcanic ash on the ground.

Frowning slightly, I left Fort Moonmoth for the nearby 'Foyada Mamaea'. 'Foyada' was the local word for a wide, deep groove carved out by flows of molten rock from the volcano, Red Mountain. The one near Balmora was called 'Mamaea', and, according to my map of the island, provided a long, uninterrupted and near-straight path from the region around Fort Moonmoth all the way to the Ghostgate.

The Ghostgate was the nearest landmark to the Shrine of Pride, one of the shrines included in the Seven Graces pilgrimage. Ald'ruhn was much closer to the Ghostgate - as the bird flies - than Balmora, and I could have gone from my castle to Ald'ruhn in a matter of moments by asking Masalinie to teleport me there. I chose the route up the Foyada instead because my map indicated that the terrain between Ald'ruhn and the Ghostgate was near impassable.

I also chose the longer route because Master Healer Synnolian had recommended that I get plenty of exercise to help ward off the ravages of age. This was not, he had told me, because exercise would have any specific effect on what was causing me to age at an accelerated pace; rather he said that plenty of exercise would make anyone live longer.

I made good time travelling up the Foyada, as I ran the whole way. I was aided by another piece of clothing I had had enchanted by Folms: a fine new pair of pants. I hadn't told anybody about them, mainly because I was too embarrassed to say out loud that I was the proud new owner of a pair of "magic pants". They were incredibly useful, though; enchanted to work in much the same fashion as my 'Stamina' spell. With my 'Tireless' pants (as I had called them, for obvious reasons) on, I could sprint as fast as I could all day long and never run out of breath. By the same token, any fighting would have to be heavy indeed before I began to feel fatigued.

This utility came at a price, though: something in the vicinity of forty-two thousand septims, to be specific. I was incredulous when Folms gave me his quote: how could it possibly cost that much? It took him some time to convince me that he was not abusing my trust... and in the end, their stupendous expense was another reason I kept my Tireless pants secret.

In any case, it was still morning when I arrived at the Ghostgate, the only point at which one could go through (as opposed to over) the very impressive 'Ghostfence'. The Ghostfence was a massively tall perimeter fence that surrounded the entire Red Mountain 'region'; the steep slopes around the crater of the active volcano. In the place of fenceposts were monumental pillars, and instead of crossbeams between the pillars were great walls of shimmering light: just like the shimmering wall that had initially blocked my progress in the Shrine of Courtesy.

This was hardly surprising given that the Tribunal Temple had built both structures. The Ghostfence (which apparently was built out of the bones of fallen warriors - one of the more fantastical rumours I had heard about it) was built to contain the disease-ridden 'Blight-storms' that spewed from Red Mountain's crater. The Temple taught that the Tribunal gods - Vivec, Almalexia and Sotha Sil - maintained the shimmering wall with their divine will. Looking at the sheer size of the Ghostfence, I could believe it.

The weather was still damp and misty, and the light fog made it impossible to see very far, but as I approached the Ghostgate I could see a deep red glow behind the fence. The unnatural red glow seemed to permeate everything back there, from the roiling ash storms on the slopes, all the way up to the dark drifting clouds above. The Ghostgate was comprised of twin domed towers, set either side of a dead-straight tunnel; out of which was drifting a light stream of ash. I ignored the towers: they were garrisons for 'Buoyant Armigers', travelling warriors of the Tribunal Temple; stationed there to defend the gate against the maddened, diseased creatures that tried to pass through from the Red Mountain side.

I just needed to pass through the tunnel myself; The Pilgrim's Path said that the Shrine of Pride was just inside the Ghostfence, up a short path to the right of the gate. The book also warned that it was one of the most dangerous shrines on the pilgrimage of the Seven Graces - though it did not say why, other than to give a vague warning to be wary of the minions of 'Dagoth Ur' - whatever or whoever that was.

There was a portcullis at either end of the tunnel, and cranks on either side of each portcullis to operate them. Once I had worked the crank and raised the first portcullis, I saw that, once the crank was released, the portcullis slowly began to descend of its own accord. I hurried through the tunnel and onto the slopes of Red Mountain.

It was a terrible place. A fierce gale was blowing, whipping the ash that permeated the region into a stinging frenzy, much worse than the ash storms I had seen in the Ashlands. And it reeked - the wind, I mean - of sulphur and death. It had to be one of the Blight-storms I had heard about. Light from (I assumed) exposed flows of molten lava further up the mountain filtered through the ash-clouds above, casting everything in a baleful, deep red glow.

Wrapping the scarf on my helmet around my nose and mouth, so I could proceed without inhaling too much dust, ash, and poisonous vapours, I leaned into the powerful wind and struggled up the steep slope. Fortunately, the directions to the shrine were accurate, and I found the triolithic stone in the lee of a rocky bluff; sheltered somewhat from the wind. As I approached the shrine I thought I could hear something through the howling wind; a shuffling, snorting sound, coming from the top of the bluff. Squinting through the flying ash and the low light revealed nothing, however; so I pressed on, up to the shrine.

The pilgrimage of the Seven Graces required that a soul gem be left at the Shrine of Pride, so I placed a blue, 'lesser' gem (of which I had an abundance) at the triolith's base, and recited the Grace inscribed on its faces. As I spoke the final word in the Grace of Pride, there was a flash before my eyes, and a shimmering field of soft light appeared in front of my face. Looking down I could see that it was covering my entire body; but as I watched, it moved away from my body and quickly smoothed out, until I was surrounded by a kind of... shell of light. It appeared much like the wall of light in the Ghostfence, only much fainter and easier to see through: it was very similar to the 'Shield' spells some magic-users employ in place of protective equipment or armour.

The 'Shield' blessing from the shrine was quite appropriate given its location on the slopes of Red Mountain. The shimmering field actually helped to keep out some of the ash and other refuse in the blowing gale. It soon became apparent, though, that the Shield effect would possibly be put to the test protecting against more than just blowing ash; as when I made to leave, I heard the noise at the top of the bluff again - this time much clearer.

Backing slowly away from the cliff, which was perhaps as tall as the lookout tower at Wolfen Castle, I squinted again through the gloom of the wild Blight-storm at the top of the stony bluff. There was something up there; a dark shape - or two - it was hard to tell - swaying back and forth in the buffeting wind. I saw the glint of a luminous pair of eyes, and realised that the creatures on the bluff - whatever they were - knew I was there, and were watching me.

For I became certain that there was more than one up there: several more of the dark shapes gathered along the bluff, as I watched with growing apprehension. Without knowing what I was facing, there was only one intelligent thing to do: run.

The force of the wind was behind me as I sprinted down the steep slope; in a few places it actually lifted me from my feet and carried me in great leaps away from the Shrine of Pride. I had come around a cluster of boulders and regained sight of the Ghostgate when I lost my footing; sliding through the thick layer of ash underfoot, all the way back to the portcullis gate.

Once I was back on the other side of the tunnel, I undid the helmet-scarf and rinsed out the foul-tasting ash that had managed to make it into my mouth, with a little water from my pack. I glanced back at the blasted landscape beyond the Ghostfence before moving on. I was glad to be out of there.


Anonymous Matar said...

Neat-O hehe when i first saw one of thoughs courpus things i ran to :) I really hope you use frosty with this one ill tell you two things and they arnt spoilers at all.

1/ Dagoth Ur in it isnt evil and vivec isnt good there the same :)

2/ You learn how to controll your corpus so after a while you could go back to normal playing :)

Well see you soon

Matar Out

Sunday, November 20, 2005 1:04:00 pm  
Anonymous Stygian said...

English, anyone?

Seriously, I hardly understood a word of that...

All hostility aside, I just checked the CS and it's 'Foyada Mamaea,' not 'Foyada Mamaca.'

Sorry for being picky. V_V

Sunday, November 20, 2005 2:12:00 pm  
Blogger Star said...

I think the sixth house mod Matar is talking about is Great House Dagoth. I played the "Sixth House" mod once, but never Great House Dagoth.

Sunday, November 20, 2005 2:49:00 pm  
Blogger Joseph said...

*Slaps forehead* You're right, Stygian. I was looking at the paper map to get the name, and the 'e' looked a bit like a 'c'.

I'll change it.

And thanks for the info, guys. :-)

- Joseph.

Sunday, November 20, 2005 3:49:00 pm  
Anonymous Mtar said...

sorry stygian The crappy ass teachers never help me with my spelling... or writing.... or math..... or history.... i had some crapy ass teachers...

Sunday, November 20, 2005 7:33:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just read all the chapters, damn this is good stuff. :)

BTW, I've been wondering... You have Darker Morrowind-mod, right? Well I downloaded it, it works properly, but I've never after installing it seen clear blue sky. In your screenshots, I see a lot nice weather. I only get clouds. :|

I know the Darker Morrowind readme said "darker weather", but I didn't except it to turn the weather that much...

Sunday, November 20, 2005 8:10:00 pm  
Blogger Joseph said...

Thanks Anonymous. :-)

With Darker Morrowind, it includes an esp file, doesn't it? I can't remember because (in any case) I don't use it. I only use it for the (excellent) replacement textures. Oh - and I make some changes to my morrowind.ini file that are suggested by the mod, to make fog thicker and make it darker when it rains, that sort of thing. It's not a good idea to replace your own .ini file with the one that comes with the mod.

On a sort-of related note, it's worth looking up how to modify your morrowind.ini file to enable quadratic lighting in morrowind (if you haven't done so already). It looks better, and I think it's supposed to actually make the game run faster, too. (It's easy to do).

Hmm - actually, follow this link
, if you're interested. It covers it fairly well - plus, he mentions "spatial interweave hue reflections", and you've gotta love that. I mean, I don't know what that is, but it sounds pretty cool.

- Joseph.

Sunday, November 20, 2005 10:24:00 pm  

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