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, November 25, 2005

Chapter 53: Light and Dark

I couldn't rest. The only shelter I found on my hike through the West Gash were several ancestral tombs - and all were too heavily haunted to risk spending the night in. There was one exception there: the Salothan Ancestral Tomb, the entrance to which I found a short distance from the remains of the three scrawny vampires I had slain. No poltergeists, skeletal guardians or angry spirits to mention.

The problem was that since it was the 'quietest' tomb I had seen in the area, and since I had encountered a group of vampires outside, I was led to believe that it was probably a vampire's lair. And I was certainly not going to sleep in a vampire's lair.

Sure enough, I was attacked by an athletic-looking female Nord vampire upon leaving the tomb. She leapt down from above the entrance, her Nordic battle axe whistling through the air in a vicious downward slash. It was very fortunate for me that I had happened to bend over to attempt to scratch my calf at that very moment (difficult while wearing full armour); for it meant that she sailed overhead, missing her target. If she had connected, the force of her blow would likely have split my helmet - and my head - in half.

Yelping in fright, I yanked my katana out of its sheath and went to the attack. She was definitely the strongest and most skilled vampire I had faced - but that wasn't saying much considering the wretched and deranged animals I had seen previously. In the end, it was I who took her head off.

I continued on, to the west, without stopping, for hours upon hours, until the sky behind me began to lighten; blue and orange taking the place of the black night. In the pre-dawn light I made out a river at the base of a steep embankment. Having studied my map of Vvardenfell earlier, I knew that that meant that Gnisis was close by: the Samsi River was the only one in the area, and ran in a rough crescent shape around the village. Squinting into the gloom ahead, across the river, confirmed it; I could make out the hulking, organic shapes of Redoran style buildings (like those in Maar Gan).

Staring across the river gorge caused me to miss what was happening more-or-less beneath my feet. A jolt of intense pain in each leg, one after the other, served to direct my attention downwards. The shaft of an arrow protruded from each of my thighs; they had gone up through the netch leather and underneath the adamantium plates. Before stumbling back from the edge of the gorge, I spotted my attackers: more vampires! I was beginning to think the West Gash was full of them!

Gritting my teeth, I wrenched both arrows out at the same time, and then sent my healing spell into the wounds. As I straightened up, the vampires - four of them - came over the lip of the embankment. I barely had time to ready my shield and blade before they were upon me. Luckily for me (since there were four of them), the creatures turned out to be just as deranged, weak and stick-thin as almost all the other vampires I had seen. And they were attacking me at dawn! They had to be insane or truly desperate - perhaps both.

The arrows had come from a Khajiiti vampire with a shortbow, and when the battle was joined he hung back to attempt to stick me from afar. I was able to keep the bodies of the other vampires between myself and his arrows, though - until every one was cut down but him. It was at that moment that the first rays of the sun peeked out from above the mountains to the east, catching the vampiric Khajiiti bowman in the eyes. The thing screamed and threw its hands up to protect its eyes, at the same time ducking down out of the sunlight. Wisps of smoke drifted up from the Khajiit's scalp, and even at my distance I caught the acrid smell of singed fur.

The blinded vampire made to escape back down the embankment, staggering wildly. I bounded after it and caught it by its filthy, matted tail; before dragging the kicking, thrashing creature up into the sunlight, raining slashing blows down upon it all the while.

Vicious, I know; but I could still remember the pain of his arrowheads buried in my legs. I left the burning bodies behind and made my way down to the river to wash away the blood and the cobwebs of a night without sleep. I hadn't actually landed a killing blow on any of the vampires, merely incapacitated them. The morning light finished them off.

There was an tomb on the river-bank, the 'Falas' Ancestral Tomb, according to the name on the doorway. Thinking that it was probably where the vampires had come from, I readied myself and went in. Like the Salothan Tomb, it was very quiet inside, and mostly empty. The deepest chamber was devoted to a single urn, with the name 'D. Bryant' painted on the side. It reminded me strongly of the tomb in which I found the 'Mentor's Ring'. Remembering that the urn there had been trapped, I used my Telekinesis spell to pop off the urn's stopper at a distance; just to err on the side of caution.

It turned out to be a wise decision: with a -bang-, harmful magics ran briefly up and down the urn. After they had died down, I peered into the urn, and then dug through the ashes inside with my (gloved) hand. The trouble I went to was worth it: I found a beautiful silver ring, inset with several rubies and inscribed with the name 'Denstagmer'. Moreover, I could sense powerful protective enchantments in the ring; when worn, it would ward against the elements: heat, cold, and electrical energy. It was much like my Elementward ring in that regard, only much more powerful, though unfortunately lacking any proof against insidious poisons.

Still, it was quite a find. I left the tomb with 'Denstagmer's Ring' tucked into a pouch at my waist, and set about crossing the shallow river.

My pocketwatch read seven o'clock when I arrived in Gnisis. I had travelled all through the night, and I was exhausted. Not physically - the enchantment in my 'Tireless' pants saw to that - but mentally; and no magic could relieve the heaviness in my eyelids. I made straight for the Temple. I just wanted to complete that stage of the pilgrimage and be done with it. I wanted to be in bed. Staying up through the entire night reminded me too closely of those terrifying nights growing up, when something had gone wrong on one of my 'excursions' onto private property, and I'd been forced to hide somewhere until dawn.

Along with the Shrine of Justice, Gnisis Temple held a religious artefact of great significance to the Tribunal faith: Vivec's Ash Mask. 'The Pilgrim's Path' told a story of a time deep in history, when Dagoth Ur (that name again) first entered Red Mountain and awakened it from dormancy: the beginning of the blight storms. Vivec was leading a group of refugees away from the ash and blight storms, and they rested in the place where Gnisis would later stand. Vivec awoke to find himself and his followers completely encased in a crust of ash, unable to move. He was (understandably) upset at being trapped, and his tears apparently dissolved the ash cast - or at least weakened it enough to allow him to free himself. From there he freed his followers, "breathed life back into them" (according to the book), and cured them of the blight.

Vivec's Ash Mask lay on a pedestal before me, a grainy, ash-coloured thing with holes for the eyes; much as I might have expected. I examined it from a respectful distance; an Ordinator, one of the Temple's holy warriors and guardsmen, was watching me closely. Turning away from the mask, I stepped up to the three-sided shrine, pulling the stopper from the 'Cure Common Disease' potion I had bought downstairs to offer at the shrine (I had no need to carry my own stock of the potions around, as I knew a spell that performed the same function). The shrine was different from the other shoulder-height trioliths I had encountered on my pilgrimage: it was a pillar, basically; with some detailing on its edges at around eye-level. It reminded me of the 'teleportation pillar' in Wolfen Castle, as a matter of fact.

I poured the potion onto one of the pillar's faces as I read the Grace of Justice (grooves had been carved into the stone floor to take the liquid from these offerings away). As I did this, I noticed bubbles forming in the stream, at a point roughly level with the bottom of the detailing on the pillar. Intrigued, I made a closer examination of the pillar, and soon found that by placing my hands on its surface, I could slide a panel on each face upwards. The detailing on the edges of the pillar actually acted as grooves for the panels.

Suddenly remembering the Ordinator, I cast him a guilty glance; my hands still on the sliding panels. He was still watching me, but made no move to stop what I was doing; so I assumed that he didn't mind... That or he had fallen asleep on his feet - I couldn't tell with the golden-masked helmets the Ordinators wore.

I slid the panels up, revealing a hidden compartment, containing another ash mask, propped up on a wooden stand. It looked just like the one on the pedestal behind me, though I assumed that being hidden, the one in the pillar was the genuine artefact... or not. I mean, who's to say? Perhaps neither of them was the actual Ash Mask of Vivec from the story in 'Pilgrim's Path'. I leaned in for a closer look, and at that point, the Ordinator did speak up:

"Careful there, outlander." He growled.

I understood his concerns clearly, and clasped my hands behind my back as I studied the mask. I would not touch it. Instead I found myself staring into the empty eye-holes of the ash mask as if hypnotised. I couldn't shake the feeling that there was something behind its empty eyes. As I stood there I became aware of a tickling, creeping sensation at the back of my eyes. It grew in intensity to a thrumming vibration that travelled from my head to my feet. My studies in the Restoration school of magic had progressed well enough for me to sense that powerful curative magic was sweeping through my body; strong enough to cure almost any disease or ailment known to man and mer.

My own fatal affliction was not really 'known' to man or mer, though (as far as I knew), and by the same token, it remained after the sweeping tide of curative magic had subsided. I had come to be able to sense the 'magicka leak' in my body (again through a greater understanding of the Restoration school); and it was still there.

There was something else, too. In my mind I could feel the 'presence' (for lack of a better word) of an entirely new spell: one that could cure virtually any 'Common' or 'Blight' disease in another being. Spells that cure blight diseases were notoriously difficult to learn - let alone master - but this new spell, that I somehow 'knew', just like my other spells, appeared incredibly simple in my mind. I just could not explain how (and I tried later to explain it to others in the Mages Guild); it felt almost instinctive.

Genuine or not, the hidden ash mask was powerful; there was no doubt about that. I slid the panels in the pillar closed again, and gave the Ordinator a respectful nod on my way out.

Koal Cave, where the 'Ruddy Man' part of the Pilgrimage of the Seven Graces took place, was supposed to be less than an hour's walk south from Gnisis, so I set out for it directly. It was the last shrine I had to visit on my pilgrimage; afterwards I could finally report back to a Temple official, and (hopefully) join the ranks proper of the Temple. More prominent in my mind, though, was that I could finally go home and get some long overdue sleep.

During the hike, I reflected further on the 'Ash Mask spell' I had learned. It had one odd drawback: I could cure others of blight disease, but not myself. I thought then, though, of the tendency of religious orders to place great emphasis on the importance of helping others - often at personal expense. Maybe that was it.

The Shrine of Valour was just inside Koal cave, which opened directly onto the Inner Sea. I could tell from the slick floor and the deep pool of water at the back of the cave that it would be partially submerged at high tide.

'The Pilgrim's Path' told some story of Vivec defeating 'Ruddy Man', the father of the dreugh (aquatic creatures with the tentacles of a squid, the torso and head of a man, and the pincer-like arms of a crab). There was some mention of negotiating for the use of the dreughs' red, leathery hides as armour for the Dunmer people, but I was too tired to give it much thought. In any case, the grey, sticky wax from a dreugh was the offering to be left at the shrine. I actually had a wad of the wax that had been in my pack for weeks, almost months: ever since I had first read 'The Pilgrim's Path' and set out on the pilgrimage.

Peeling it off the bottom of my pack was difficult, and left an unpleasantly greasy and sticky residue on my gloves. I stuck the wax to the base of the triolithic shrine and hastily recited the Grace of Valour. I could hear my bed calling.

In another moment I was gone.


Anonymous Stygian said...

Someone should make a FrostMod


Saturday, November 26, 2005 12:21:00 am  
Blogger Joseph said...

A FrostMod? :-) I'm flattered.

But what would it do?

- Joseph.

Saturday, November 26, 2005 1:41:00 am  
Anonymous Stygian said...

It would take the game and make it linear instead of completely open-ended and have the player follow in the footsteps of Frost.


Saturday, November 26, 2005 6:40:00 am  
Anonymous Matar said...

Neato!! hmmm so much to say yet so many people who dont give a damn.

Ya for the USA!!!

Thoigh what im gonna say may sound wierd. is frosty gonna pay a visit to suran and go in the... Nice dancing place??? you know not to be a perv but um...but um... to teach the girls to dance!... yah thats it.



Matar Out

P.s Lilarcor!

Whups well that just sliped out..

But it can be found on summit :P

Saturday, November 26, 2005 8:52:00 am  
Blogger Joseph said...

A FrostMod could be interesting... but it would be a long time in the making, if you think about it... :-)

Edward doesn't actually know about the House of Earthly Delights in Suran. I don't actually know if he would go to such a place or not... I'd have to ask him. :-)

- Joseph.

Sunday, November 27, 2005 11:30:00 am  

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