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, July 29, 2005

Chapter 2: Bones

At the tradehouse mentioned by Sellus Gravius I bought some new clothes: cheap and rough, but better than my threadbare prison rags by a long way. At the sight of a squat brown crab the height of a large dog trundling along the shore outside the tradehouse, sifting through the muddy sand with huge, powerful-looking pincers, I also bought some armour and a weapon. I traded in the silverware I had stolen from the Census and Excise building for these armaments, but truth be told Arille, the owner of the tradehouse, didn't have the greatest selection. I didn't fancy myself as strong enough to wear the likes of full plate armour, and couldn't afford it even then. The lighter armour available, such as the leather or dirty white chiton armour (as Arille told me it was called) looked too flimsy to afford much protection at all. I needed something in between, but all Arille had was an old chainmail cuirass and a chain coif. I wasn't complaining too much: my first day out of prison and I was wearing chainmail - however old and rusted it may be. I rounded out my outfit with several pieces of the chiton armour, because it was cheap, at the least.

With some bread, crab meat and bottles of water bought from the small bar in the tradehouse, I took my purchases outside and sat in the shade near the shore, keeping a wary eye on the mudcrab I had seen earlier. The crab meat I was eating tasted extraordinarily good, and I don't think it was only my half-starved state that informed my opinion of it. On a full stomach the mudcrabs meandering about Seyda Neen's shore didn't look nearly as formidable as they had earlier, and I resolved to hunt some that afternoon - both to get some exercise and practice with a blade, and to secure some more food for myself.

Finding a secluded spot along the shore just outside of Seyda Neen, I stripped off my prison rags and had the first decent wash I'd had in a long time, out in the salt water. Donning my new armour and readying the iron saber I had just bought, I set off to spend the afternoon hunting mudcrabs. It's true I was no fighter - and I received more than one nasty nip on the legs from the pincers of those huge crabs. The bleeding and bruising was easily stopped with my healing spell though, and I procured a fair amount of meat (which I packed in salt found on the rocks on the shore) by the time dusk fell.

During the afternoon I had come upon a small stone shack separated from the main village by a shallow inlet. It was still within sight of the village, and when I made to knock on the door, one of the town guard called across to me:

"Stop! Don't go in there - that's a necromancer's house!" He gestured frantically for me to come over to him, and so I did, curious to hear more. He admitted that the necromancer had recently been driven out by a passing paladin, and I gathered from him that no-one had been game to go anywhere near the house since; even to burn it down. Upon hearing that nothing had emerged from the house since that time either - and not knowing anything about the undead - I decided to return later to spend the night in the necromancer's house. It may sound like I was trying to prove something, but in truth I just needed a place to sleep.

In the moonlight the shack did look somewhat menacing: inky darkness in the empty windows. I slowly pushed the door open and let the flaming branch I was carrying lead the way into the house. I almost lost my nerve altogether when I saw the first set of remains: a skeleton reclining on the bed, its head hanging over the side. Head turned towards the door as it was, its empty eye sockets seemed to be watching for someone to enter the shack. I had never seen this sort of death before: the abandoned remains of a thing - a person - who could have once held a conversation with me. There were more, too: entire skeletons, piles of bones, skulls arranged in rows on the shelves. After I got over the initial shock I was glad of my fortitude, as there was some good salvage to be found among the bones (and luckily nothing more grisly than bones).

Eventually I got over my fear enough to be able to drag the skeleton from the bed and place it in a corner, as gently as I could. I did not intend to share the bed with a rotting skeleton. The day's exertions thankfully made me drift off to sleep quickly, and soon I was dreaming... Until I was woken by a loud scraping noise. It was coming from the corner in which I had dumped the skeleton, now pitch black since I had tossed the burning branch into the water near the shack. My breath caught in my chest when the skeleton stood up, its upper body silhouetted by the moonlight from the window. It turned to face me, and stared for a long time. I thought I could see a faint light in each of its eye sockets, and they seemed to bore into me, filling my vision. I was frozen in place I was so terrified. I could not move, even when the thing shuffled over to the side of the bed and bent in close, raising a skeletal hand. It slowly reached out for my face, finally prodding it with an icy fingerbone, then running its freezing grasp lightly across my forehead. Even had I felt capable of movement, I doubt I would have dared to. My relief was unmeasurable when the skeleton, apparently satisfied, abruptly withdrew its hand, and shuffled slowly back to the corner I had originally left it in. I swear I heard it sigh before it collapsed with a resounding crash to the floor.

Needless to say perhaps, I did not sleep at all for the rest of the night, but lay there, heart pounding, shivering despite the muggy heat of the swamp. I would have bolted from the place immediately, but the noisy collapse of the skeleton appeared to wake the rest of the shack's occupants. I was surrounded until dawn by the sound of bones scraping against each other, and the skulls grinding against the wooden shelves as they spun in place to murmur quietly to each other. One skeleton paced the length of the shack for what seemed like hours, never taking its "eyes" off me. As the first reflected light of dawn reached the interior of the necromancer's house, the unintelligible conversation of the skulls died out, and the pacing skeleton took a seat at the shack's small dinner table, where it fell still.

A moment later I was sprinting from the house, clutching my sack with the old weapons and rare alchemical ingredients I had salvaged from the place. I began the day with strong drink at the tradehouse.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Chapter 1: Dreaming of the start

I had a dream just before I arrived. Like most of my dreams, it was muddled, and I can't remember much - but unlike any dream I'd had before, it was not of somewhere I'd already been, but of somewhere I would be. There was a woman's voice... She spoke of the surprising turn my life had just taken: how I had been recently released from the prisons of the Imperial city at the heart of the Empire, but taken under guard to the coast, and onto a ship. I was being taken to Morrowind, to the volcanic island of Vvardenfell that dominates that place - though no-one would - or could - tell me why. In my dream I saw the slopes of that volcano - Red Mountain - a barren land of wind-blasted rocks and spiny, serpentine weeds; though it wasn't until later that I knew that Vvardenfell was what I had seen. The woman's voice told me I was chosen.

My dream of dust became a dream of water; raindrops in a great storm, pummelling the ocean. After a while I realised my dream was merging with the waking world, and that the prison ship was passing through a sea storm. I drifted in and out of sleep until the morning: I was not used to the motion of a ship on the waves, and it was not a feeling I liked. I didn't want to wake up and face the prospect of trying to keep down what little I had had to eat recently. I was shaken awake by the dark elf with whom I had shared the hold of the ship during the voyage. I must have looked a fright, because he actually looked concerned. It was not an expression I had expected to see on a face like his: jutting and weathered, with a great scar down his grey features, from a wound that had evidently put out the red light in his right eye. It wasn't a great stretch of the imagination to see why I warranted pity; dressed as I was in old, rotting clothes that did a poor job of covering my pale and painfully thin body. Prison life had not agreed with me. Still, I must have seemed especially wretched and green from sea sickness that morning, as until that point this dark elf and I had barely exchanged glances, let alone words.

"We've arrived." He straightened up, hesitated, then said: "I'm Jiub. What's your name?"

I sat up gingerly, clearing my throat. "Edward Frost. I..."

At that point a man in full chain mail stepped into the enclosure I had taken to sleeping in. It was one of the prison guards. Sweat was running down his face, and he looked to be in a foul mood. Giving Jiub and I a suspicious look, he levelled a finger at me. "You. Follow me." Jiub remained silent and looked away as the prison guard directed me onto the deck of the ship, into the bright sun and sweltering heat. I understood immediately why the guard had been sweating. I was lead down the gangplank and into the Census and Excise building of the small village of Seyda Neen; which turned out to be a swamp. The air was stifling it was so humid - I couldn't seem to catch my breath.

In the Census building was a Breton man who had to record my arrival - and, it seemed, everything else about me. He smiled when I told him I was also from High Rock, and asked me what class I was. I didn't know what to say at first, and glanced down at the form he had been filling in as he questioned me. His quill was poised next to a list containing names like "Healer", "Master-at-arms", and "Mage". I had never received any formal training beyond the basics of reading and writing, and had never considered myself to follow a particular path in life.

"Night Mage. I'm a Night Mage." I had made it up on the spot. I studied his expression to see if he would accept that. Truth be told I didn't feel like much of anything standing there in my prison rags.

He began to write on his form again. "Ah yes. Things can be quite different in the night. One has to be ready for anything. I imagine then that in addition to various schools of magic, you have studied some forms of self-defence?" I nodded. I couldn't tell if he was being serious or not. I imagined I saw a slight smile appearing on his lips as he spoke. "Very good." He stamped some papers and handed them to me. "Take these to Sellus Gravius near the front door on your way out."

In truth I had told him I was a "Night Mage" because I was a thief. I had bent my magical studies towards two ends: keeping myself alive in the short term through self-protection, and keeping myself alive in the long term through aiding my thieving skills. My instincts in that regard took over as I passed through a small dining room on my way to the exit. This was not the house of a desperate pauper: it was a government building, and I felt no remorse in catching up an empty sack from a shelf and filling it with dusty and uncared-for silverware. As a bit of misdirection I took an old dagger from the table and broke the clasp on the window, leaving it ajar. I ensured the contents of the sack would not clank against each other with movement, then tied it to my back with a piece of cord and carried on to meet Sellus Gravius as if I had in fact arrived on the island with the sack. I was starving and I needed money.

Sellus Gravius made an imposing figure, and I had the feeling he was only in Seyda Neen to pass on some orders to me. Perhaps more to the point, he may have only been there to make an impression on me; to ensure that I actually carried out those orders. His golden armour, gleaming in the bright sunlight streaming through the window, certainly looked out of place in a swamp like Seyda Neen.

"You would be Edward Frost then." He took my release papers, barely glancing at them. "I have orders for you. Now these come direct from the Emperor." He paused, eyebrows raised, letting that point sink in. "You in fact owe your freedom to him - and don't ask me why Uriel Septim himself set you free - and so far from the Imperial city, because by the Divines, I would not have a clue. He does appear to have a job in mind for you, though: you are to report to Caius Cosades in Balmora. Give this package to him." He handed me a sealed scroll, and a large map of the island, on which he indicated the locations of Seyda Neen and Balmora. Finally Sellus gave me something I had definitely not expected, considering the treatment I had received at the hands of the Imperial guard recently: money. Nearly one hundred septims. "So you don't starve on your way to Balmora. Now, I'd recommend stopping in at the tradehouse nearby for some directions and supplies..."

Soon enough I was out of the Census building and taking my first steps on Vvardenfell soil. I opened the pouch Sellus Gravius gave me and looked at the coins within. It had been a long time since I had held any money at all, let alone money I could actually call my own. The prospect of an actual job with (hopefully) a reliable wage sounded awfully good to me and my rumbling stomach. I decided that I might deliver the package to this "Caius", and see if anything worthwhile could come of it. Right then though I needed food, water, clothes and equipment.