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, September 30, 2005

Chapter 29: Soul eater

Every person at the table was intrigued by the magical items I had found. It was to be expected, I suppose: we were all members of the Mages Guild, after all. Ajira was especially taken with my blue ioun stone, following its movements around the hall with a smile on her face. Galbedir was interested in the powerful magic ring I had found in the Sarys Ancestral Tomb - the one that boosts a person's mental capacity. I was interested in the ring I had found that provided constant protection against the elements. I knew how dangerous elemental magic could be, having seen the deadly results of my own Frostbite spell numerous times.

"It's just a pity that the effect of the ring is so weak." I said. "I don't think it would protect me against much more than - ow!"

The dunmer Ranis had slapped me in the back of the head - playfully, but still a little harder than she really needed to.

"I can see it's time for you to pay more attention to your studies, Frost. Then you might actually realise what you've got there." She pointed to the elemental protection ring and the tiny gems I had found along with it. "People join the Mages Guild to study. Tomorrow you will go to the bookstore across the lane and buy one copy of all the volumes of 'Magical Trinkets of Tamriel' they have in stock. Don't look at me like that, there's only three volumes; it won't be that expensive. We did already have copies in the guild hall, but they seem to have been... misplaced." Ranis gave both Galbedir and Ajira hard looks. I noticed neither of them met her gaze. "Anyway - study those books, and then in future you should be able to avoid embarrassing yourself like you are right now. Don't lose those gems."

Refusing to be drawn further on the topic, Ranis retired to bed. I followed her example soon after, exhausted from my long trek through the swamps of the island's south-west coast.

I spent the following morning studying the books Ranis had sent me after, and they were a fascinating read. They were an encyclopaedia (of sorts), detailing a dizzying array of common and uncommon magical items found on the continent of Tamriel. By mid-morning I found a passage on magical rings that rely - at least partially - on small inset gemstones for their great magical powers. These stones sometimes fall out and become separated from the enchanted ring. If stones of the right type, cut to the right size and shape could be found, a ring could be restored to its intended glory.

I soon realised why Ranis had been frustrated with me: on close inspection, the protection from elements ring could be seen to be ringed with six small holes, spaced evenly around its circumference. Using one of the 'Magical Trinkets' books, I was able to identify it as an 'Elementward' ring. The book said that it was originally inset with six ametrine gems. Two of the small stones I had found with the Elementward ring were ametrines. I had been complaining about the ring not being powerful enough, with the means to address that shortcoming literally right in front of me. No wonder Ranis had slapped me.

Galbedir kindly showed me a quick way to re-set the stones - though I suspect she did it out of a desire to closely inspect the ring. In a few short moments I was able to set both stones by placing them carefully into the ring and letting a small amount of alteration magic flow into it. Instantly I could feel the power in the ring more than double - and, sure enough, with Elementward on my finger I could put my hand in a candle or lantern flame and not feel a thing.

After my expedition up the Bitter Coast, my armour was full of holes, and my swords had picked up a number of nicks. In addition, I needed to replenish my supplies: food, potions, that sort of thing. An afternoon visiting the shopkeepers of Balmora was in order; but first I wanted to visit Creeper to see how much he would give me for the soul gems in my pack.

The scamp's eyes fixed on my pack as soon as I walked in.

"Souls..." He breathed. Apparently he knew what I had come for.

I had barely opened my pack when Creeper's long, skinny arms snaked out and scooped up a large handful of the less valuable soul gems - the ones filled with the souls of skeletal guardians, mostly. He stared intently at the collection of gems for a moment, before dropping one back into my pack. Creeper clasped the gems to his brown leathery chest, and with his free hand, he reached into his mysterious screaming crate and fished around for a sack of coins, as he always did. The sack he eventually produced was huge; I almost dropped it when he flung it at me with his usual vigour.

"Five thousand." The scamp said. "All I have. Come back tomorrow - more money then." He indicated the crate by giving it a thump with his tail. I was mildly surprised to see that Creeper had not dropped the soul gems into the crate, as he had done with every other thing I had ever sold to him. I opened my mouth to ask what he intended to do with them, but then he opened his mouth - and shoved the whole handful of stones in at once.

With a horrid grinding, scraping crunch he bit down on the soul gems, and proceeded to chew them up, a rapturous expression on his face. I watched in horror. I had read books that described huge, arcane, monstrous beasts as 'soul-eaters' (among other things, usually) - but always as a form of hyperbole. There I was though, watching Creeper very literally eat the souls I had trapped.

Once finished, the scamp collapsed spread-eagled on his back, wearing a contented grin. Normally the creature spoke with a voice the timbre of a child's, but now, when he spoke to me, his voice was deeper than that of the biggest man I'd ever met:

"YOU'RE STILL HERE, PINK ONE?" Grit and flakes of stone fell from the corners of his mouth as he spoke.

"Uh - I'm just going now." I said huskily. "I'll ... see you tomorrow." With that, I Recalled back to Balmora, glad to be out of the unsettling scamp's presence.

I spent the next several days studying and training. My studies into magical items revealed that the ring I had found in the Sarys tomb was unique: 'Mentor's Ring', it was called. It was even regarded as an artifact. This of course made me even more pleased with my lucky find. I took to wearing the ring all the time - and the mental boost it gave me certainly helped my studies.

Every day I visited Creeper and sold him more soul gems. No-one knew it, but I soon owned something in the vicinity of twenty-five thousand septims. It seemed unreal to me - I didn't know what to spend it on.

On the last of those days spent on my studies, I visited Meldor the smith to have my armour and weapons repaired. While the bosmer Meldor busied himself with fixing my equipment behind the counter, I looked around his store at the pieces of armour on display. It occurred to me that some better armour would be an excellent thing to spend my new fortune on. The holes and gashes Meldor was patching up were evidence that I could certainly do with some sturdier protection.

When I had bought my bonemold armour from Meldor, I had been limited by how much money I had. On this occasion I was limited by the bosmer's selection. I examined a metal breastplate covered with intricate chiselled patterns; the label described it as 'Orcish Cuirass - Medium-style'. Looking around, I found a matching pair of armoured boots, but nothing else.

"I don't get much call for anything finer than bonemold." Meldor called out. "In Balmora, you mostly have your Hlaalu guardsmen - with their regulation bonemold - and your amateurs that want to be equipped just like the guards. If I'd have known you were looking to get really serious about your medium-style armour, I'd have bought those sets from that Cythus fellow after all."

When pushed, Meldor elaborated:

"Oh, I had a dunmer fellow in here a few days ago - Cythus - he wanted me to buy a couple of sets of this unique armour he'd made and put them on sale in my shop. Well, he said it was unique, anyway: 'Netch Adamantium' armour. Adamantium plates on a backing of netch leather for flexibility." He picked up a hardened netch leather pauldron from the counter and showed that it bent slightly. "Very, very nice armour - but very expensive. Like I said, I didn't think I'd be able to sell it to anyone here." At that, the bosmer appeared to think of something: "You could probably buy it directly from him, if you have the funds of course. He said he was trying Pelagiad next - I think he was hoping I would change my mind and go chasing after him. Ask at the tavern there for him - I'm sure you'll find him."

I hadn't told him that I was interested in what this 'Cythus' had to sell - I didn't get the chance to. Meldor proved to be very talkative, barely stopping to draw breath during my entire stay in his store. Regardless, I was interested. As soon as Meldor was finished with them, I strapped my armour and weapons on, paid him for his work, and ran all the way from Balmora to Pelagiad. I made good time, casting 'Stamina' periodically so I didn't lose my breath - or even slow down until I reached the Imperial-style village.

I was in luck - the dunmer Cythus was actually eating an early lunch in the Halfway Inn and Tavern when I arrived. He was wearing a suit of the armour he was trying to sell - I recognised it from Meldor's description. After hearing that I was interested in making a purchase, the dunmer invited me to join him for lunch.

Afterwards, we went outside so Cythus could give me demonstration of his armour. He made a good salesman, jumping about the dirt street acrobatically and energetically, showing how flexible the armour was. Next he drew a blade and began to whirl, thrust and parry wildly, as if surrounded by imaginary enemies. It was quite the spectacle: the sun peeking through the clouds and seeming to blink and scatter off the gleaming armour plates of the whirling and dancing swordsman. He made the armour look as light as if he wore naught but clothes, and yet as he pummelled and even slashed at himself with his sword, it was apparent that it was very durable too.

Cythus had a couple of sets in his room at the Halfway Inn, separated into portable baskets for loading onto a pack animal. He was kind enough to let me try on a complete suit of the Netch Adamantium, and I was so impressed I didn't even take it off; rather I bought the whole lot right then and there. The price was steep: even after trading in my newly repaired bonemold armour, I ended up handing over around nine and a half thousand septims.

Still, I felt as if it was worth it. As I made my way out of the tavern, I felt as if nothing could touch me. When a drunken patron made a rather pointed comment about the expense of my new armour, and suggested that I put it to some actual use by ridding the village of the gang of bandits in the caves next to the nearby lake, it didn't even hurt.

In fact, I left the tavern and advanced down the hill to the lake, intending to do just as he said.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Chapter 28: Liars

It hurts when someone calls you an insulting name. It hurts more to realise that they are in fact right about you, and that the insulting name is actually appropriate.

I arrived at the clutch of run-down coastal dwellings called Gnaar Mok sometime in the late afternoon, and soon found someone who could direct me to Caryarel's shack; "over by the docks". As I approached the sagging wooden structure, the high elf emerged from the door, locking it behind him. This was the man accused of stealing the limeware bowl that had been donated to the Imperial Chapel in Ebonheart. He was making his way towards me, through what passed as the village square. I waited until he came quite near before greeting him:

"Excuse me, are you Caryarel?" He nodded, and I extended a hand. The altmer regarded me suspiciously, and made no move to return the gesture. Still, I had brought my hand close enough for my Charm spell to leap invisibly across to his body, and I followed up by addressing him in a manner that I hoped would not antagonise him. "Muthsera, I was ... persuaded by the Imperial Cult to retrieve a limeware bowl they say you took. Can you think of a reason why they would say such a thing?"

The tall elf had been squinting at my face as I spoke, as if trying to recall whether he knew me or not. It seemed that all my Charm spell had accomplished was to put Caryarel in good spirits, as he laughed before finally speaking:

"I know who you are now, smuggler! I find it amusing that a petty criminal such as yourself should presume to accuse someone of theft." I started. Considering the detestable practices of the smugglers local to the Bitter Coast, I took being called 'smuggler' as quite the insult. But of course he was right: I was smuggling dwemer artifacts in my pack. That must be what Raz'hid had reported to the guard in Hla Oad - a crafty move, I thought.

Caryarel continued:

"And why in the world would I steal a bowl, of all things?" His smile vanished. "I'd advise you to leave town, breton, because should I happen across the town guard, I'll be sure to let them know you're here."

The altmer pushed past me roughly and stalked off. As soon as he was out of sight, I walked casually over to his shack and grasped the door handle, letting alteration magic seep into the lock. As soon as the lock had popped open and no-one was looking, I slipped inside. Caryarel's cramped shack was cluttered with barrels and sacks - it reminded me strongly of Fatleg's Drop-Off in Hla Oad. As I quickly rifled through the elf's possessions, I wondered why I had felt so hurt when he had called me a criminal. I had grown up a thief, and it had never bothered me before. Perhaps it was because my thievery back then had been (mostly) for a good cause. Perhaps it was because right then I was apparently a publicly known criminal.

I found the bowl in short order (from the maker's mark on its base that Kaye had told me to look for); it was full of various foodstuffs and hidden at the bottom of a barrel. I secured it in my pack, and rather than risk being caught leaving Caryarel's shack, I cast Recall to teleport back to Balmora.

Gnaar Mok was actually on a small island just off the Bitter Coast, connected to the main island of Vvardenfell by several small bridges. Though I had water-walked most of the way there, the watery approach to the village had given me the opportunity to finally wash off the blood from the carnage in Kudanat caves. However when I appeared in the Mages Guild I was still somewhat bedraggled, and sported some bloodstains baked into the fibrous bonemold armour by the scorching sun of the coast. I drew a few curious looks from the other members.

I was able to temporarily satisfy their curiosity by giving them a brief overview of my trek up the Bitter Coast, and promising that I would fill them in at dinner that night. (Most guild members that could drag themselves away from their experiments ate together in the guild hall). Before I did anything else, though, I wanted to be rid of the dwemer objects in my pack - and the price on my head. Before heading for the South Wall, I dumped my armour in the cabinet across from my bunk and pulled on my Pilgrim's robe. There was no sense going out on the streets of Balmora matching the description given to the authorities by Raz'hid.

The cornerclub was starting to fill with patrons for the evening, so Habasi threw a few coins to Bacola, the owner of the club, and took me into one of the upstairs rooms. Pushing the door closed with her back, the khajiit said:

"Habasi hears rumours, little Edward. You tripped and stepped on Raz'hid's tail trying to be sneaky, yes?" She gave a faint growl, her tail whipping back and forth spasmodically. "Not good. Not good, Edward. Certain bad people know now that you're with us. Habasi cannot give you new jobs for a while - too dangerous." Her eyes, luminescent in the candlelight, fixed on my pack. "But ... you did bring back Habasi's dwemer things, yes?"

I pulled the items from my pack and placed the bowl and goblet on the bed in front of the khajiit. The tube of metal and heavy glass, however, I twirled between my fingers.

"Habasi, I was clumsy and got caught, I know - but I got a price on my head while on a guild job. This is the sort of situation where I could really use those guild services you mentioned..." The cat gave me a puzzled look, and, scooping up the dwemer bowl and goblet, said:

"It is as I told you, little Edward: talk to Mister Reille about that." I guessed that that meant I was free to approach Phane Reille to have my bounty removed. She held out her hand, and I dropped the dwemer tube into it. "Keep from trouble for a while, Edward."

I left Habasi to her artifacts without a word. She was happy. I was not. All she had given me for the painful trouble I had gone to on her behalf was a couple of thieves' tools; which, with my magic, I had no need for. I sold the lockpicks to a Thieves Guild member (who I had come to know casually) for around a hundred drakes, and made my way through the packed club to the bar. The old breton Phane Reille was behind the bar, taking orders. I lined up and waited my turn. After a few moments of being jostled, bumped and having drinks spilled on me, it came around to my turn to be 'served'. Phane and I leaned in close in order to hear each other over the din of the crowd.

"Ah yes, Mister Frost, isn't it? I saw you speaking with young Sugar-Lips earlier. I hear you're in a bit of trouble, Mister Frost." He raised his greying eyebrows.

"Yes, that job Habasi sent me on; Raz'hid saw -" I began.

"Hush - yes, I know of the bounty on your head." Phane interrupted. "I know that it comes to one hundred and seventy-five drakes exactly, as a matter of fact. Not too bad, really. Even better, I can make it all go away; every record of this unfortunate event ever having taken place, for only eighty-seven drakes." He smiled slowly, showing a row distractingly white teeth.

By all accounts it was an excellent deal. My name would be cleared, without having to even lay eyes on a guardsman. Still, I handed over most of the money from the sale of the lockpicks with a sigh. I had barely broken even on that job. All I had really gained was the experience of another close brush with the authorities.

"Thankyou, Mister Frost. I'll take care of everything at first light tomorrow. Don't expect an official apology; just expect not to be chased." His dazzling smile broadened. "And one more thing: here is your drink. Enjoy."

Phane placed a large cup of sujamma in front of me, and turned to his next customer. For all anyone else in the club knew, I had merely ordered a drink. I had to admit it was an elegant system. Most people there were too busy talking, singing and getting drunk to care exactly what passed between a stranger and the barman. Feeling somwhat disillusioned with Habasi and the other thieves, I drank the sujamma down quickly and walked back to the Mages Guild. The other members were just sitting down to the evening meal, and I joined them to tell the story of my expedition up the Bitter Coast.

Partway through dinner I carefully laid out the small collection of magic items and tiny gemstones I had found in the tombs and smugglers' caves. At the sight of them, the guild steward Ranis leant in intently, her eyes seeming to flare into a faint glow - just as they had done when we first met.

"Where did you get these?" Her piercing eyes were now on me. I didn't look away, replying:

"I killed for them. Smugglers and slavers ... ghosts and revenants." I paused, then went on to describe the heavy fighting of my last few days. I omitted no detail - even when it came to the bloody fight in Kudanat caves. I felt a little better for talking about it all, but there was a long silence once I had finished, broken only by Sharn gra-Muzgob's noisy eating habits. It was Ranis who eventually broke the silence.

"So, Frost, it appears you've come to realise that death is occasionally necessary. Or," she smirked, "at least that it sometimes cannot be avoided."

Everyone looked at me. I said nothing.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Chapter 27: Cheating death

On the morning of the third day into my trek up the Bitter Coast, the sun finally came out. The rain and fog clearing up was a welcome change in that I could better see my way through the swamp, but at the same time, it quickly became almost unbearably hot. I was relieved to find a narrow path leading a short way up into the mountains to another natural cave system, not too far from the one in which I spent the night.

Hacked into the doorframe leading to the caves was the name 'Kudanat'. Glad to get out of the scorching sun, I pushed the door open and almost lost my hand to a wicked-looking war axe, wielded by a female bosmer in a ringmail cuirass. The axe luckily caught in the door just above my wrist, and I was able to kick her away, back into a downward-sloping tunnel just inside the door. I followed her - there was no room to swing my katana in the doorway. I called out for the wood elf to wait a moment, but for whatever reason, she ignored my plea and rushed to the attack again.

At first I thought I had managed to catch her wrongfooted, opening up a couple of wounds on her unprotected legs; but when she managed to connect with her axe, I found that the elf had surprising strength in her wiry arms. Her axe cut through the armour on my sword arm and bit into the bone: a numbing blow. Temporarily unable to move my sword-arm, I threw my shield at her and followed up by catching ahold of her weapon-hand and draining the life from her with my Righteousness spell. Soon enough the blood loss from the resurrected wounds all over her body took its toll, and the bosmer collapsed, tumbling down the sloped tunnel.

Her body came to rest at the feet of a huge nordic man, who looked about equal parts fat and muscle. Enraged at the sight of his dead friend, he roared and charged up the slope, brandishing a silver axe laced with spectral flames. I felt my eyes go wide at the sight of the enchanted axe. This was going to hurt.

I had just managed to heal my arm and retrieve my tower shield when the nord was upon me, dealing a massive overhand chop to my chest with a blinding burst of flame and sparks. Thankfully the front of my cuirass was reinforced, and it stopped the blow. The fibrous bonemold, however, immediately caught fire, and I had been knocked onto my back, winded. I frantically rolled onto my front to put the fire out in the dirt, then over again onto my back, in time to see the nord warrior lifting his axe high above his head, for a blow that would no doubt split me in half.

As the blade whooshed down, I reached up and a swirling green mist shot from my hand, enveloping the warrior. When it cleared, my heart doubled its already breakneck pace: the nord's axe had frozen in place so close to my head that I could count the scratches and nicks on the blade. I had paralysed him, but only just in time.

Paralysation spells are interesting: their effects are quite different from the general limpness associated with a person becoming physically paralysed through injury. Instead, the victim is held in place, able to move only incredibly slowly - definitely incapable of attacking anyone. The nordic man appeared to be bracing himself as best he could given his situation; hunching his shoulders up and drawing his head in. I dealt him several blows with my katana: as hard as I could given that I felt as if I had a few broken ribs, and that I still felt an instinctive hesitation to hurt people. This feeling was only exacerbated by the fact that my attacker was now almost defenseless.

The only warning I had that the spell had worn off was the agonising upward slash of the silver flameaxe, as it sent my helmet flying up and off my head and opened a long gash up the side of my face. An instant later the magical flames licked up the side of my head, sending me screaming and staggering into the cave wall. Somehow I managed to focus through the pain of the horrible burns and paralyse the nord again, this time just before his axe pinned me to the wall. After gently pressing my hand against the burns and sending my healing spell into it, I brought my sword to bear on the warrior again.

Fully healed and too angry (and scared) to hold back, I cut the man's throat open and left him to fall over dead once the paralysation wore off. Just around the corner was a dunmer woman in black clothes, who had been hanging back, hiding in the shadows. At least, she would have been hidden had I not been using my Night-Eye spell at the time. As it was, I easily caught her chiton shortsword on my shield and cut her down with a couple of strong blows to her unarmoured midriff.

Three people dead by my hand already, and then I stepped into a central cavern - and into the most bloody fight I had ever endured.

The musclebound orc waited for me to approach in the centre of the room, and at first I failed to see why. Once I ran up to engage him I found out: a dunmer woman stood on a raised wooden platform against the cave wall, aiming an arrow at me. At that, I gave up any pretense of facing the orcish warrior in a 'fair' fight, and paralysed him. Not fancying the thought of the spell wearing off and the orc burying his axe in my back, I left the dunmer archer for the moment and focused on the orc. It was a dangerous dance: dodging back and forth to avoid the whistling arrows, and slashing at the warrior every chance I got.

Thankfully the orc fell quickly - but before I could dash up the wooden steps to the platform to deal with the archer, an imperial woman with a shining broadsword sprinted up, attracted by the shouts of the archer. She turned out to be a forbidding swordswoman, and I was soon forced to deal with her in the same fashion as the nord and the orc. In the meantime, the dunmer archer had apparently run out of arrows - as she had jumped down from the platform and disappeared from sight. No longer harried by a hail of arrows, I was just about to land the killing blow upon the imperial woman when someone jumped on my back and grabbed my sword arm, pulling it away from my adversary.

It was the dunmer archer. I dislodged her from my back by thrusting my elbow hard into her ribs, then spun around and dealt her a couple of slices across the chest, cutting right through her chiton armour. She gasped and ran off into the shadows, clutching at her wounds. I was unable to give chase, as at that moment I was brought to my knees by a powerful downward chop to my shoulder: the imperial woman had shaken off the effects of my paralysis spell. I threw myself onto my back, lashing out over my head with the katana as I did so. The swordswoman was taken by surprise, and the blade cut through her throat.

By now the floor was slippery with blood - mine and that of the bodies littering the room. It took a moment for me to struggle back to my feet, and when I did, I was assaulted by yet another bandit. This time it was a male dunmer - again with a war axe. He seemed distracted by the bodies at my feet: his swings were wild and erratic. Before too long I had opened numerous gashes across the man's arms and chest, and he was starting to stagger and struggle to keep his weapon up.

"Nalur!" A cry came from behind me. I jumped back from the wounded man, twisting my head to see where it had come from. The dunmer archer was sprinting out a tunnel towards us, eyes fixed on the bleeding dunmer man, her face a mask of horror. The man glanced at the archer, a pleading expression crossing his face. He opened his mouth to say something, then froze.

I had buried my blade in his side. By the beating footsteps I could tell that the woman was almost right behind me. In one motion I yanked my katana from the man's side, and, with a vicious backhand, span around and took the woman's head off. The dunmer man closed his eyes at the awful sight, and appeared to give up, falling to the ground next to the woman - dead.

Once it was all over, and no-one else jumped out to attack me, I shuffled over to the wooden steps and sat down, breathing heavily. I stared into space for a long while, trying not to look at the bloody tangle of bodies in the centre of the room. Seven people - all dead because of me - all in one morning. Of course I could come up with all sorts of reasons why killing them may have been the right thing to do - no doubt they were just like the smugglers in the caves near Seyda Neen: trafficking slaves and drugs - but really: it didn't make me feel any better.

After a while I realised that I was badly hurt, and bleeding profusely inside my armour. I healed myself and got up to look around the caves, mainly to get away from the scene of carnage in that cavern. The more I thought about it, the more incredible it seemed: I had fought and killed seven warriors single-handedly - though of course I had been lucky that they hadn't swarmed me all at once. As it was, I had been pushed to my absolute limits to survive the encounter; sitting there I knew that once the real fight had begun in the central cavern, I would not have had the chance to cast a teleportation spell out of there if it had become necessary. Casting a spell is not an instantaneous process; I would have been cut down had I attempted to teleport away.

I certainly would have fallen if it had not been for my Paralysis spell.

Nevertheless I had prevailed, and when I got back to Balmora I was going to give Rithleen a great big kiss (if she would let me) for teaching me how to fight.

Deeper into the caves, my suspicions about the bandits were proved to be correct: I found a slave pen packed with argonian and khajiiti people. While I had not been able to find the key to their slave bracers, they were still ecstatic to be set free, and told me that they would look through the belongings of the smugglers for the key themselves.

In the meantime, I left Kudanat caves with the few items of value I had found: a small collection of tiny gems, and an enchanted ring with symbols for the elements and protection (respectively) engraved on the inside. The gems and the ring were all in a small cloth bag together; I wondered if they were related somehow. In any case I could tell that the ring was enchanted with a permanent or 'constant effect' enchantment, protecting against the elements, like the symbols had suggested. The enchantment was fairly minor, however: it wouldn't protect someone from much more than the heat from a candle flame, or the chill from a moderate evening breeze.

Nevertheless, I slipped it on before leaving the caves: perhaps it would make the muggy heat of the swamp more bearable. That at least would be some small comfort, given my frame of mind.