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.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Chapter 55: Flying, falling

In the early afternoon, I took a silt strider from Ald'ruhn to Maar Gan, coming into the village at around five o'clock. I was fairly certain I knew the Daedric ruins Tuls Valen had directed me to: on my recent hike from Maar Gan to Gnisis, I had seen the tell-tale jumble of dark-purple stone blocks and haphazard, sharp spires, off in the distance.

I struck out west for the ruins - 'Maelkashishi' - immediately. I was confident I could reach them before nightfall: if I remembered correctly, they were just on the other side of the mountainous ridge west of Maar Gan - the one I could make out even from the outskirts of the village. I intended to return to Maar Gan once I saw to the sickly Orc in the ruins. It would no doubt be dark by then, but the lights of the village would guide me back... if the clear weather held.

Which, unfortunately, it didn't. A wild ash storm blew up as I neared the foot of the ridge. I wrapped the scarf on my helmet around my nose and mouth, and squinted up through the blowing debris at the sheer, rocky side of the ridge. It wasn't far to go - I would press on. I had to levitate up to the crest of the ridge - it was too steep to climb. I felt a part of the storm, surrounded on all sides by the wind, and the whirling, blowing ash.

At the top of the ridge, I was above the worst of the ash storm. When I looked to the east, over the Ashlands, most of the terrain was covered in a thick blanket of roiling ashclouds. To the west, almost right in front of me, in fact, were the Daedric ruins. A massive tower grew out of the western side of the ridge, its crown of odd, streamer-shaped stone decorations reaching a little above the ridge's crest. At the western foot of the ridge, down in the beginnings of the West Gash region, the remainder of the Maelkashishi ruins were sprawled in a chaotic heap.

From where I stood I could probably have jumped right down to the lower ruins, my 'Infallible' belt carrying me down without injury. However, in the day's last remaining light, I could see that part of the Daedric tower, a little way down from where I stood, was open to the air. There was a kind of platform there - and I jumped down to have a closer look.

The mysterious oval door was evenly covered with a crust of brown dust, like the rest of the ruin. It was a Daedric door - of the kind that somehow opened of their own accord, quicker than you can blink - and it was set in the side of the ridge. It snapped open as I approached, the dust that had caked it crumbling to the floor. No-one had passed through the door for a long while.

Inside was black as pitch. My Night-Eye spell revealed that I was standing on a stone balcony, near the roof of an immensely tall, natural chamber. The Daedric stonework looked as if it had been built into the undoubtedly ancient cave. I approached the edge of the balcony. In place of a guard-rail was a row of jagged, triangular spikes. As I carefully leaned over them, I could see that there was a series of similar balconies ranged down the dizzying shaft.

I was considering whether to trust the Slowfall enchantment in my belt and drop down to the bottom of the shaft, or play it safe and levitate down, when a glint of black metal off to my right caught my eye. It was an arrow, and its head was buried in a solid stone pillar. The arrow was made entirely of metal; in place of flight-feathers, it had red, metallic fins. The black and red, the odd lustre... I had seen such metal before; the armour of every Dremora I had seen. It was Daedric metal, and the extremely rare weapons made of it - forged in Oblivion and brought to Nirn by plane-hopping Daedra - were apparently the strongest and sharpest known to man and mer.

That explained how an arrow could come to be buried in a stone pillar, but where had it come from? There were a few more Daedric arrows nearby, and all of them were buried at such an angle that they could only have fallen from above - at great speed. The roof of the chamber was too close for them to have been fired from below and then pulled down again by gravity - sharp and strong as they were, the fall would have been too short for them to gather enough speed to pierce stone. They had to have been fired from above. I looked up, and sure enough, almost out of sight, there was another balcony nestled up against the roof of the chamber.

Curious, I cast Tinur's Hoptoad and jumped for the high balcony. Unfortunately I had misjudged the distance, and after scrabbling frantically at the jagged spikes edging the balcony, I fell. Things were made worse when my Night-Eye spell wore off an instant later, leaving me to hurtle end over end down the darkened shaft, completely blind. My heart was in my throat: would my Infallible belt save me if I didn't land on my feet? What if I struck one of those spikes on the way down?

Somehow I forced my levitation spell to come, and my fall was brought to an abrupt stop in mid-air. Once my Night-Eye spell was renewed, I heaved a great sigh of relief. I was two-thirds of the way down the shaft, and thankfully had not come too close to any of the balconies during my fall. I floated back up the shaft, determined to investigate the high balcony.

I was glad I did: it was definitely worth the trouble. Slumped in the back corner of the cramped balcony was a skeletal corpse, the rotting remains of clothes hanging in tatters from the bones. At its side was what made my terrifying plunge down the shaft worth it: a Daedric longbow! There was no mistaking the lustre of the red and black Daedric metal. Daedric weapons were commonly held to be the finest in the world; it was unfortunate, then, that I could not make use of the bow myself. Apart from one of my 'magicka threads' precluding the use of ranged weapons, I was utterly hopeless with a bow; I couldn't hit a thing.

I probably couldn't sell it, either; Daedric weapons were so rare and valuable that finding someone who could pay what the bow was truly worth would be near impossible. So - it seemed I had found my first display item for my little museum at Wolfen Castle. I strapped the (very heavy) bow to my pack.

Near the corpse I found something else of value: a propylon index. I was reasonably sure it was an actual index, and not just a similarly-shaped stone, because it actually had a wax-coated label tied to it, with waxed string. It read, simply, 'Falensarano' - one of the Velothi strongholds that incorporated a propylon chamber (according to Folms). It was no doubt one of the indices Folms was looking for! I couldn't believe my luck.

I levitated down to the bottom of the great shaft, not wanting to take any chances. Lurking in the deep shadows at the base of the chamber were a couple of Daedra: a Hunger and a Winged Twilight. I was yet to meet a wild Daedra that did not fly to the attack as soon as they laid eyes on me, and these two were no exception. I dispatched the spiny, clammy-looking Hunger easily, but I had never encountered a Winged Twilight before, and she - or it - was a more difficult foe.

Winged Twilights have the torso and head of a grey-skinned woman (looking very similar to the Dunmer, as a matter of fact), great, leathery wings instead of arms, a long tail, and scaly, bird-like legs. The Twilight that I met attacked by alternately buffeting me with its powerful wings and leaping up to deliver a lightning-fast kick with both taloned feet at once. It was too fast for me to get any distance on it, so I had little opportunity to use my magic. I did manage to take it down before too long - cutting one of its arms (or wings, rather) off and then slashing it across the throat - but not before the creature dealt me a number of painful gouges, bruises and lacerations.

As I carried on, deeper into the underground ruins, I used my healing magic to close the wounds and ease the pain. My Keeper shirt would have done so eventually, of course, but it would have taken quite some time - and I was in a fair degree of pain. I (literally) stumbled across an ancient, rotting strongbox a little way from the Winged Twilight, and secreted within was a kama blade made entirely of green, volcanic glass. Almost anything made of volcanic glass was quite valuable, so I took it with me. With the demands of the castle I had 'inherited', I was in more need of money than ever.

Pushing through a heavy stone door, I was met by the somewhat more familiar interior of a Daedric shrine: huge, dark purple blocks of stone, carved with swirling patterns. I was also met by three Daedra-worshippers, who lived up to their reputation by screaming, waving their blades about and charging towards me. None of them were Orcs, so I did not hesitate in cutting them all down. One of them, a Dunmer in steel armour, had been carrying a fine glass war axe - I took that too.

In the main chamber of the shrine, as in other Daedric shrines I had seen, was a giant stone statue. This one depicted an old man with a cane - a representation of the mad Daedra god Sheogorath, I guessed. At its feet was an offering of precious gemstones; several emeralds and a diamond. With my katana ready, I scooped them up into a pouch at my waist. As I had been half-expecting since the last time I had done such a thing, an armour-clad Dremora winked into existence behind me and immediately aimed a blow at my head with a big black sword.

I dashed away down the steps at the statue's base, and yelped with alarm as the Dremora seemed to gather fire from the air above its head, and sent it down in a roaring, blazing sheet across the floor to roast my feet and lick at my legs. The flames grew in intensity, and I dived to the side to escape the unbearable heat, rolling and clattering across the stone floor. I came to rest against something in the corner of the chamber; it was soft - and warm - and woke with a startled snort and grunted angrily at me!

"Gah!" I gasped, jumping to my feet and backing away from the dark shape in the corner. Most of the rest of the chamber was light enough for me to have not needed my Night-Eye spell, but I couldn't make out what it was that I had disturbed. Regardless, I had to deal with the Dremora first. I rushed it before it could send another magical wave of fire at me, and battered it with my glass katana until the light behind its eyes finally went out. Using magic against Dremora was too risky to be worth it: they had a nasty habit of catching offensive spells and hurling them back at their attacker.

The spirit of the Dremora cast back into Oblivion, its Daedric armour crumbled to dust, and left behind (for whatever reason) the black sword it had wielded. The blade had a strange way of catching the light, and had dropped to the floor with an odd-sounding clunk. I picked it up, and soon recognised it to be made from fine ebony (dark volcanic glass, in other words) - much stronger than green glass. Stronger, but not sharper: I took it with me to replace my silver sword as a backup weapon (I was told that ebony weapons were also capable of harming supernatural beasts), but I kept my katana of green volcanic glass as my main weapon.

I remembered the thing I had disturbed in the corner of the chamber. Casting Night-Eye, I turned to get a better look. Glaring at me groggily and struggling to sit up was a female Orc - she had to be Bulfim gra-Shugarz, the one Valen had sent me to find.

She did not look well at all.


Anonymous Matar said...

Neat-O how did you do that fire thing ?

Thursday, December 01, 2005 1:11:00 pm  
Anonymous Stygian said...

I've been playing Morrowind recently (your writing is quite inspiring) and I just got around to killing The Guardian in Wolfen Castle (I totally got this without any inspiration... Seriously...)...

I'll simply say that you make things seem very cool.

I got A Lord's Men (see the parenthesis at the after Woflen Castle. Honestly... >_>) as well. I haven't hired anyone... Thought I'd take a trip to Mournhold after seeing if I could kill a Golden Saint (summoned (and I can... At level 5... With level 10 Lilarcor. He's that cheap)) to take advantage of the respawning Grand Soulgems.

Anyway, I love your story, and I couldn't help but post my character status.

Thursday, December 01, 2005 1:35:00 pm  
Blogger Joseph said...

Thanks, guys. :-)

Matar: The 'wave of fire' thing didn't happen exactly as I described it. I use the 'New fire damage effect' mod by Mad DJ (got it on the Summit, I think), which I'm still unsure about because you're pretty much blinded in first-person when you catch on fire.

Anyway, the Dremora set me on fire, and when I ran along with the flames trailing behind me, it looked like what you can see in that screenshot.

Stygian: I think getting inspired to try out the mods in this story can only be a good thing - this is why I include links to the mods, after all. :-) All mod-makers want is for people to play their mods (well, and maybe to be given a job in the games industry). I know this because I've made mods in the past, though not for Morrowind (except for Frost's face-change).

- Joseph.

Thursday, December 01, 2005 4:51:00 pm  

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