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 27, 2005

Chapter 54: Venerate

Upon appearing back home in the great hall, I stumped down the hall to the smithy and stripped off my armour for Ulfred to repair. Almerie, the housekeeper, also insisted on taking my Keeper shirt with her so she could wash it. I must admit that, after travelling almost non-stop all day and night, it definitely needed it. Without its constant, soothing healing enchantment next to my skin, my head would soon begin to throb painfully from the magicka leak; but I was so exhausted that once in my bed, I fell instantly into a deep sleep regardless.

Since I had retired before noon, it was unsurprising that I woke at some point after midnight, unable to get back to sleep. With little else to do at such an hour, I dressed and made my way down to the kitchen for something to eat. I had slept right through my usual meal-times, and was starving.

The moons were out, and bathing the landscape in a pale, ghostly light. I spent the hours before dawn out on the surface of the water (through use of my Water-Walking spell), exploring the surrounding coves, bays and swamps. I explored to the north-west of the castle, mostly; and I believe I came nearly to Seyda Neen before turning back. The sun was about to rise by then, and I did have things to do that day.

My first port of call was the Caldera Mages Guild, to deliver the Falasmaryon propylon index to Folms; and find out where the next index on his list was. I thought, not for the first or last time, that it would be inordinately helpful to me if the Dunmer enchanter could just tell me all at once where all the indices were. Telling him as much was no good, though: he maintained that magically divining the location of each of the devices was difficult and time-consuming, and there was no point detecting them all in advance and giving me a list, because by the time he reached the tenth index, the first few could very well have been taken elsewhere.

This seemed especially true of the Valenvaryon index, the next on the list. Folms told me that it was in the possession of the Wise Woman of the 'Urshilaku', one of the nomadic Ashlander tribes of the Vvardenfell wilderness.

"I have heard that Ashlander Wise Women are often traders for their tribe," Folms said, marking the last known location of the Urshilaku on my map, "so this 'Nibani Maesa' might have the index up for sale. It's possible that she might not know its true worth, so you may be able to buy it from her cheaply."

After paying Creeper a visit (as usual) to sell a couple more inhabited soul gems, I used the Wolfen Ring and the castle's teleportation pillar to get back to Balmora. Several consecutive 'jumps' through space sometimes left me a little dizzy, but it saved a lot of time. In Balmora, I climbed the steps to the Tribunal Temple there to report my completion of the Pilgrimage of the Seven Graces to Feldrelo Sadri. She was the priestess I had first appealed to when I decided to join the Temple, though she of course would not have recognised me with my new face.

She raised her eyebrows at me when I reported my success, her gleaming red Dunmer eyes looking me up and down.

"Then I must congratulate you, muthsera." She gave the slightest of bows. "As I'm sure you discovered, parts of the pilgrimage are not at all easy. Most... outlanders ... have especial trouble with the Shrine of Courtesy."

I remembered the Shrine of Courtesy rather more vividly than I cared to. Just reaching it required an Ordeal; of the type that gives religious orders a bad name; I had to literally drown myself in the waters of the Puzzle Canal. I was, of course, magically preserved somehow, but that made it no less unpleasant.

Feldrelo took me by the hands and lead me over to the triolithic shrine that formed the focal point of the domed chamber. She pressed the palm of my right hand against one of the shrine's faces, my left hand against another, and finally placed her own right hand on the remaining face, before closing her eyes and murmuring a few words to herself. I guessed that it was some kind of induction ritual, and I was right; but I shortly found that it was also a test, of sorts: of my honesty.

"So, you have indeed paid the proper respects at all the Seven Graces shrines." The priestess' hand dropped to her side, and she gave a deeper bow. "Forgive me, but I must check. Some people, especially outlanders... unintentionally make some error at one or more of the shrines. Unfortunately for some, having one's heart in the right place is not enough - the scriptures are quite clear. In any case, Sera Frost, this does not seem to be a problem for you - so I can raise you to the rank of Acolyte."

As I understood it, this was quite a jump from the lowly position of Layman, the rank given to people like me who walk in off the street and ask to join. I thanked Feldrelo profusely, but I think it was mostly lost on her: she seemed somewhat distracted.

"Hmm?" She raised her eyebrows at me again, and gave a vague smile. "No, that's quite alright. Most priests reach Acolyte when they perform the Seven Graces, so..." Something appeared to occur to her at that point, and she said: "But then you're not really a priest, of course, so you don't have duties. If you should want to perform services for the Tribunal, then - I'm sorry - but you'll have to ask at one of the other Temples. I'm only new to this position myself." She looked a little embarrassed - I think that if Dunmer could blush, she would have. "Try Endryn Llethan in Ald'ruhn, or maybe Tharer Rotheloth over in Molag Mar."

And so I was off again - I chose Ald'ruhn over Molag Mar, as the guild guide teleportation service to the Mages Guild branch there made it much easier to reach. I had made brief visits to the Ald'ruhn guild hall before, but I had never actually been outside; I had only ever travelled there by teleportation. The town was comprised almost entirely of Redoran-style buildings, like Maar Gan and Gnisis; only it was much larger. As I climbed the stairs to a kind of outdoor bazaar, near the Temple, I laid eyes on one of the biggest structures I had ever seen (second only to the cantons in the city of Vivec).

I am at something of a loss to describe what it looked like, except to say that it looked like what I learned it to be: the ancient, preserved shell of a giant crab. It was nearly as tall as the lookout tower at Wolfen Castle, and covered an area at least five times the size of the castle grounds. The Dunmer people actually used the hollow interior as the noble's district of the town! I could not imagine how such a massive living thing could have ever existed; what would it eat? How could it move about without destroying all in its path? How could there have been sufficient room in the world for a high enough number of the giant crabs to perpetuate the species?

It was unbelievable... but there the shell was before me, plain as day.

After a while, I realised that I was standing motionless in the centre of a busy bazaar, gaping like a rich, spoiled tourist. I moved on and found my way to the Temple. In the dimly lit entrance chamber was an authoritative-looking Dunmer priest, kneeling before a pit of ashes in the centre of the room. He was praying; the Dunmer people practiced 'ancestor worship', venerating the spirits of their own ancestors - and those important to the Dunmer as a whole. At the time I was unclear as to how this ancestor worship related to the worship of the Tribunal gods themselves - it was something I was still to learn - but the remains in the communal ash pits in the Temple seemed to suggest that there was, at the least, no animosity between the two forms of worship.

The Dunmer priest, who I learned to be named Tuls Valen, finished his prayers and stood up. I introduced myself as a new Acolyte, just finished performing the Pilgrimage of the Seven Graces, and asked after Endryn Llethan.

"Endryn?" Valen remarked. "He's stationed at the High Fane in Vivec."

"That's... odd;" I frowned, "I just came from the Balmora Temple, and Feldrelo Sadri there sent me after Endryn to ask for some kind of task I can perform for the Temple. She said he was here."

The priest smiled.

"Ah - Feldrelo, yes. She's still learning her way around - only arrived from the mainland recently." He shrugged slightly. "A small mix-up. Sorry you had to come all this way... although if you're just after a service to perform, I do have something suitable for a travelling Temple member."

I began to sense that there was a clear delineation between normal priests of the Temple, and people like me who - as I mentioned - walked in off the street and asked to join. I guessed that normal priests - those for whom Temple business could be considered a full-time occupation - had regular, day-to-day duties; whereas I would be given... 'odd-jobs', more or less.

Valen cast a glance over his shoulder, down a side corridor.

"I must apologise for the lack of a proper welcome, but we're quite busy here; I only have a moment." The Dunmer paused before going on. "You've completed the Seven Graces: this is good; parts of the pilgrimage can be difficult. Now... do not misunderstand me when I say this, but I consider the Seven Graces to be a somewhat ... arbitrary show of devotion to the Tribunal. They perform their purpose: they are quite good at weeding out those that are not truly dedicated to the Temple; but I have a task for you that will help someone, as well as show your devotion."

I studied Valen with renewed interest. In my experience it was unusual to meet a devout man who did not adhere slavishly to the established precepts of his religion, but rather gave intelligent thought to what the religion in question was all about. He went on:

"To belong to the Temple is to practice compassion. This comes from Vivec: he is known to have often shown compassion to his enemies. The followers of Sheogorath are considered our enemies, and we theirs. We have come to know of a Sheogorath worshipper, an Orc, named Bulfim gra-Shugarz, who is sick with a blight disease. The task I have for you is to travel to Maelkashishi - some Daedric ruins west of Maar Gan, over the mountains - and cure her."

To say I was taken aback would be... well, it would be accurate. On the visits I had made to Daedric ruins, the Daedra worshippers that frequented them had only ever responded to my presence in one way: with naked aggression and naked blades. How was I supposed to cure someone like that of a disease? Valen had read my expression:

"Yes, it will likely be difficult. But if it was not, it wouldn't be much of an act of devotion. Here, take this with you." The priest retrieved a potion of 'Cure Blight' from a corner and handed it to me. "I would prefer you to use a spell and return the potion to me, if you can; they are expensive. Use it if you must, though: Orcs have especially thick skin when it comes to magic, after all."

Valen looked down the corridor again. In the dim light I caught sight of another priest waving to him.

"Sorry, I really must go." He made for the corridor. "Still, you have your task, Sera Frost. Be careful, and good luck. 'Faith conquers all.'" With that, he vanished into the depths of the temple.

And that was the extent of my formal introduction to the ranks of the Tribunal faith. Like the interiors of their temples, it seemed rather... sparse. I knew there had to be something under the surface... The tales of monsters and living gods that surrounded the Tribunal religion... There had to be more to learn.



Anonymous Matar said...

Hehe i would have alot to say but i never joined the temple.... manly because i could never find all the shrines no matter how hard i looked.


Matar Out

Sunday, November 27, 2005 4:18:00 pm  
Anonymous Troutlord said...

This is a awsome story. Man I wonder what it would belike when Frost reches Dagoth ur!

Monday, November 28, 2005 7:42:00 pm  
Blogger Joseph said...

Matar: Do you know where the shrines are now, from the story?

The Temple quests are a pain to begin with (the Seven Graces Pilgrimage is a pain), but it gets better later on.

Troutlord: Thanks - glad you like it. :-)

- Joseph.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005 7:14:00 pm  

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