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 18, 2005

Chapter 50: Planning

The representative for the 'Lord's Men' company in Vivec was very helpful; and discreet. I'm sure it must have been apparent that I had no idea what I was doing when it came to hiring castle staff, but the Dunmer representative made no comment on it. Nor did it lead him to inquire as to how it was someone like me should suddenly be in the market for my own employees; he simply laid out the way his company did business.

There was a high initial fee for each staff member - the specific amount depending on their role - part of which went to the 'Lord's Men' company. The remainder went to the staff member as their first few weeks' pay. Wages after that point would be negotiated between the staff member and I. It seemed simple enough. I described to the representative how to reach Wolfen Castle, and hired my first staff members. The representative would send them on later: they would arrive at the castle on their own.

Instead of teleporting directly back to Wolfen Castle, I cast Divine Intervention and 'jumped' through space to the Imperial Chapel at Ebonheart, across the bay from Vivec. I had no business at the chapel itself; instead I walked down to the docks and warehouses area of Ebonheart, to arrange for wood and other supplies to be delivered to the castle. Falorn was going to repair the doors and other things the castle Guardian had damaged, and had told me what supplies he would need before I left that morning.

From there I did teleport back to the castle, to relieve Falorn from his vigil on top of the lookout tower. After all that had happened in the past few weeks, it felt good to just sit for a while in the sun and the cool sea breeze. My new staff arrived partway through the afternoon; much earlier than I had expected. From the lookout, I could see them making their way along the long bridge to the island. When they were just about at the portcullis gate, I jumped from the top of the tower to meet them, my 'Infallible' belt carrying me safely down to the yard. I took every opportunity I could to make use of the enchantment in the belt: it still took great mental fortitude to make myself jump from such heights; and I wanted to be ready to do so without hesitation should some life-threatening situation warrant it.

The castle staff was very slight in numbers to begin with: two guards - an archer and a swordsman - a cook, a blacksmith, and a housekeeper. I introduced them to Falorn, and we all got to know each other a little over a late lunch, out in the castle yard, near the flower beds. Ostensibly this was because it was such a pleasant day outside; but what I really wanted was to keep an eye on the gate.

Falorn and I showed them around the keep: the Bosmer groundskeeper took the cook, smith and housekeeper with him; and I took the guards, showing them their dormitory before taking them up to the lookout tower. Initially, I placed them on rotating shifts standing watch on the lookout, each of them awake for half the night and half the day. If there was trouble and I was home, they were to come fetch me; otherwise they were to wake the off-duty guard and deal with the situation as best they could. Ulfred, my new Nord smith, was quite strong also; and agreed to help if he could.

It was hardly ideal, of course. Over the following days, as my funds were replenished through visits to Creeper, I hired more guards; plus Yanika, an assistant mage. Yanika, an elegant-looking Altmer woman, virtually took the laboratory as her own as soon as she laid eyes on it. Like Estirdalin at the Balmora Mages Guild, Yanika was a gifted enough mage to aid others in the creation of their own custom-made spells. While I thought that that would no doubt become useful, the main reason I hired her was to act as a healer for the rest of the castle's inhabitants; especially the guards, of course. In the event of some kind of attack on the castle, having a mage in residence to aid in defence certainly couldn't hurt, either.

Once the castle's retinue of guards was fleshed out, I asked them to change the way they were deployed about the grounds. The guards were divided in half, as before; into rotating shifts. There would always be an archer and a swordsman assigned to each of the three portcullis gates, plus an archer stationed atop the lookout tower. The other guards were to stay in the keep while they were off-duty, except for three hours each day in which they could leave if they wished (though no more than half of them could leave at the same time). At first, this arrangement seemed somewhat harsh to me, but Falorn assured me that it was the way the Wolfen family had done it for generations.

One night, when we were eating dinner in the mess hall, I looked about at everyone and thought again about how I was financially responsible for every person there. Running a castle was expensive - and so was equipment, weapons and armour for a traveller like me, in a place like Vvardenfell.

"If only there was a way for the castle to raise money..." I thought to myself, casting my mind back to the books I had read on rainy days in the Cult orphanage; when I was desperately bored. Some of them, mostly the dry history books, had contained passages on castles: why they were there, what they did. According to those books, most castles were situated to protect the surrounding area - usually farmland. The people that lived on that land payed tithes to the master of the castle, and that was how the problem of funding was solved.

At least, that's how it was according to my fuzzy childhood memory of something I hadn't been terribly interested in at the time. At any rate, Wolfen Castle was surrounded by nothing but water, so that was no good... I did remember reading and hearing about certain castles or manors that housed items of interest, or attractions of some kind; and the public would pay for entry. Just then it occurred to me that I was in an ideal position to do just that: I travelled a lot, and always saw many interesting things: I could bring things back and put them on display in the great hall - there was plenty of room. The great city of Vivec, with its many people, was nearby, as was Ebonheart...

Ebonheart! It struck me that Ebonheart, being Vvardenfell's main port, was home and workplace to many, and also saw lots of people passing through after arriving on the island. There were the warehouses, the Legion fort, the Black Marsh and Skyrim Missions, the Imperial chapel... All these places and people, and yet Ebonheart had virtually no shops to speak of! If I could set up a private museum of sorts in the great hall, and have a couple of shops in the buildings surrounding the castle yard... Ulfred could make items to sell, and other things could be brought straight across from the Ebonheart docks. It seemed the perfect opportunity.

I was excited, and told everyone in the mess hall of my idea straight away, finishing by saying:

"If this works, the profits will go to maintaining the castle, and paying everyone's wages. I will cover the difference, of course, should it become necessary; but I have a good feeling about this."

Falorn was especially taken by the idea, and for the rest of the evening, every word from his mouth was part of a practical idea on how my plan could be made reality. So, the next day I hired Idaynia, a Dunmeri general merchant, and her and Falorn set about discussing plans for opening part of the castle to the public.

That night I stood for a while on the tower lookout (which was to become a favourite place of mine), gazing at the glittering stars. It was a clear evening, and both moons were full, appearing so huge that it felt as if I could reach out and brush them with my fingertips. Along with the full moons came the much-faster-than-usual surge of magicka into my body; being in the moonlight also made the crescent moon mark on my face tingle. More than that: the mark shone brightly, and actually gave off light. When I held my hand up to my face, I could see the pale light glimmering on my palm.

Needless to say perhaps, it was an odd feeling - and a forceful reminder that I needed to find a cure for my condition. The soothing enchantments in my 'Keeper Shirt' meant that I felt no pain from the magicka leak; but it was still there, and I was still dying. The problem was, of course, that I still had no idea where to look for a cure - should one actually exist.

I came to think of the Tribunal Temple. Religious organisations were renowned for (apparently) keeping knowledge and secret power to themselves, shared only among their uppermost ranks. The Tribunal Temple was native to Morrowind, a frontier land for an outlander like me. Surely if any religious organisation held a secret that might help me, it was the Temple. It was my understanding that one could rise in rank within the Temple by performing acts of service for, or devotion to, the Tribunal gods.

So it was that I decided my next course of action: I would continue my studies at the Mages Guild in the hopes of finding a cure, but in the meantime I would complete my pilgrimage of the Seven Graces for the Temple, so I could properly join their ranks. I also told myself that I really should report back to Caius Cosades, too: if he was really in the secret service of the Emperor, he might be able to help me - after I did whatever it was the Blades wanted of me. Perhaps that way I could also learn why it was the Emperor himself had ordered my release from prison.

Whatever I did next, it would be good to be on the road again.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Chapter 49: Having something they want

Once I was dressed, I rushed outside and jumped from the top of the battlements down to the yard, hoping to meet soldiers before they entered the castle grounds. You may remember that I mentioned the battlements were around three storeys tall, so now would probably be a good time to mention that I had recently bought a fine belt in Balmora, and had had Folms imbue it with a light 'Slowfall' enchantment. This basically meant that I could fall from virtually any height, and not hurt myself in the slightest. It was fantastically useful... not least because the soul of another Golden Saint had been used in its creation, meaning that the enchantment was always in effect.

I had given the belt the humorous (or not - depending on who you asked) name of the 'Infallible': I had been glad to discover that it did not reduce my fall to a slow, ponderous descent; it merely softened the landing to the point where I never hurt myself.

So it was that I beat Falorn to the portcullis gate nearest the long bridge; fortunately in time to meet the Imperial Legion soldiers before they passed through. If my suspicions were correct, I most certainly did not want them inside the grounds. There were twenty of them marching along the bridge, dressed in full Legion armour, and carrying a pair of Legion standards in the middle of the formation. As they came to an impressively synchronised halt in front of me, I recognised the officer leading them: it was Apelles Matius, the man I had reported the Dark Brotherhood attacks to.

He, of course, did not recognise me: my face had undergone its mysterious transformation in the time since we had last met.

"Hail, Breton!" Apelles called out, taking a few steps closer, away from his troops. "What business have you in such a remote place at an hour early as this?" His hand rested comfortably on the hilt of his sword. It was not an aggressive stance, but it did seem to indicate that he wished for his authority to be taken seriously.

I eyed the large company of burly, armoured men nervously. I had certainly filled out since stepping off the prison ship at Seyda Neen as a skinny bag of bones, but I still had nowhere near the size and physique of the trained soldiers before me. Even with my newfound, apparently supernatural strength (I knew no other way to describe it), I doubted I'd be a match for three or four Legion troopers at the same time, let alone twenty. Add to that the fact that I had not had time to strap my armour on, and I was feeling quite vulnerable. Why had I felt secure enough last night, of all nights, to sleep without my armour on? Perhaps not receiving a visit from an assassin for weeks upon weeks had caused me to lower my guard...

In any case, I was sizing the soldiers up because I suspected they had come to lay claim to Wolfen Castle as their own. The large, bright standards they carried further persuaded me in that belief, as did several of the faces I saw in the files of Legion troops; I recognised them as belonging to the men I had spoken with about the castle the previous day. They looked uncomfortable, and refused to meet my gaze.

I needed to confirm my suspicions, so:

"Forgive me if this sounds somewhat rude," I said, resting my hand atop my own blade's hilt, "but I was actually about to ask what you gentlemen were about, visiting at such an early hour."

Apelles' face was marred by a deep frown.

"We are here, Breton, to establish an outpost in this abandoned castle; in the name of the Legion and the Emperor. I trust that meets your approval?" The Imperial remarked with a light sneer. He was much less personable than during our last meeting.

I took a deep breath.

"I -" I began, then paused to clear my throat, "I'm afraid that I'll have to disappoint you there." Matius' eyes flew wide, and his face flushed a deep red. He looked as if he was about to fly into a rage, so I pressed on before he could say anything: "The castle is already occupied."

"What?" Matius' voice was dangerously low. Behind him, I could see the soldiers lean forward, almost imperceptibly, trying to catch what was being said. "If you think... 'squatter's rights' mean anything at all, then..."

My fears had definitely been confirmed, and things were not going well. Fortunately, Falorn came running up at that moment, carrying the late Master Wolfen's journal. I thanked the Bosmer quietly, but Matius was still talking. He appeared to be trying to remain calm and rational:

"My information stated that the castle stood empty. We sent men in to investigate, mere days ago."

I glanced at Falorn. He shrugged, and whispered to me:

"Anyone could have come and gone in the night, I suppose; or when I was in my hut - as I told you, I hadn't been in the keep for some time."

I addressed Apelles Matius:

"I'm sorry you and your men had to come all this way to hear this, but I took possession - legal possession - of Wolfen Castle yesterday." Sensing that I was in imminent physical danger, I took the journal from Falorn and tossed it across to the Imperial officer. "Read the final entry. That journal acts as the previous owner's last will and testament. It was witnessed by Falorn here, as was my fulfilment of the terms outlined in the previous Master's final wishes."

If there is one thing Imperials respect above all else, it is law and order. After all, their laws and government are what built their Empire - even on the backs of the subjugated races. It was my hope that Apelles Matius, as a loyal Imperial soldier, would accept the late Master's will as legal and binding. Apelles caught the journal in one hand, snatching it out of the air. As he read, I continued:

"It wasn't easy, either. If it hasn't been taken apart by slaughterfish yet, you might be able to walk around the shore there and see the remains of the beast that was the keep's last 'squatter'."

Barely looking up from the book, Matius pointed at the pair of soldiers at the front of the double column, and then waved a hand in the direction I had indicated. The pair jogged around the side of the castle wall, their boots clattering on the rough stones. There was a moment of uncomfortable silence, in which Matius continued to read, his face growing a deeper shade of red, and his eyebrows knitting together. Shortly, the two soldiers reappeared and made their way back to the columns, their faces quite green and pasty-looking.

"It's true, sir," one of the soldiers said, when Apelles looked up at him, "and it's huge... I've never seen anything like it." The trooper leaned to the side to see around his superior, and called out to me: "You killed that thing?"

Silencing the trooper with a look, Apelles snapped the journal shut and turned to me.

"So, that would be this 'Guardian', then. What about the 'seal' - the token he mentions?"

I knew then that I had him; that he would respect the wishes laid out in the dead man's journal. Legion officers all regard themselves as 'lawful' and 'honour-bound': it's how they reach their privileged rank. The Wolfen ring was still on the chain around my neck, laying against the bare skin under my shirt. I pulled it out and held it up for Matius to see. By the way he studied it, and then glanced down at the device on the front of the journal, I could tell that he was convinced that it was all genuine. Convinced, but still angry. He closed his eyes for a few seconds, heaving a great sigh.

"FINE. Just... Fine." Apelles tossed the book down at my feet, then ran a hand through his hair. "That's all in order, but - look, there's little point in pretending that I'm happy about this. I've been charged with keeping order in the area around Ebonheart. A castle like this, in such a strategic location, so near to Ebonheart, makes my superiors uncomfortable. So, Master...?"

He paused, raising his eyebrows at me.

"Frost." I replied. "Edward Frost."

"So, Master Frost, you can expect to receive a visit from an official very soon. They will, no doubt, wish to confirm that your... interests in this area do not conflict with your duties as a citizen of the Empire." In other words, I thought to myself, they want to know that I'm not plotting against them from my new fortress. Matius broke across my thoughts with one last statement: "And Master Frost? You can expect to see me again."

With that, the officer turned and waved his troops back the way they had come. As one, they span around and marched away, along the long bridge. Apelles passed through the middle of the double column to take the lead again.

Once they were some distance away, Falorn and I heaved a great sigh of relief, almost simultaneously.

"I don't know about you, Master Frost," The Bosmer said softly, "but I could do with a stiff drink after that."

I laughed softly despite myself, and rubbed my eyes.

"Yes, it certainly wasn't the best thing to wake up to." I sighed again. It had been a tense meeting, and it deftly illustrated something to me. "There is something we need here more than a stiff drink, though..." I paused before saying what was on my mind. Considering what had just happened, it might have sounded mildly... treasonous. As I have mentioned, however, I was not one to abide by laws for their own sake, and it was something that needed to be said:

"We need guards to protect the castle." I cast Falorn a glance to gauge his reaction. "This place is no more secure than a run-down, thatched wooden shack if anyone can drift in and out anytime we're not looking." I was thinking of expansionist-minded Imperial bureaucrats and Legion officers, as well as common thieves - but those were thoughts I kept to myself.

The Bosmer didn't seem taken aback at all - rather he was giving it some serious thought:

"You need a proper castle staff." He said flatly. "Guards alone are no good if they have no food, no clean place to sleep, no smith to maintain their arms and armour..." I felt my shoulders slump as he spoke. I had been naive, I suppose, to think that having my own castle could be anything other than very expensive - but still... financially, I thought, this is going to hurt.

Falorn, thankfully, was coming to the point - a helpful one, as it turned out:

"The late Master used to hire staff through the 'Lord's Men' company, in Vivec. I sometimes went to see their representative myself, actually: over in the Foreign Quarter plaza. They're very good, and specifically aimed towards providing staff for manor houses and the like. Very quick, too: I think they have quarters in the city somewhere. If you see them today, you might be able to have staff begin arriving tomorrow."

It all sounded good, if a little unreal to me. I was struggling with the concept of having my own staff. Would I be able to afford such a thing? Still, if done right, Wolfen Castle could be the safest place anywhere for me to store my belongings, and lay my head at night. I hadn't completely forgotten those assassins. I made up my mind: I would look into the groundskeeper's suggestion. First though, how could I ensure the castle's safety in my absence?

"Falorn," I began, craning my neck to look up at the lookout tower, "do you know how to set a signal fire?"

The Bosmer grinned.

"Do you want smoke or light?"

"Smoke. As much as you can get it to make, as quickly as you can get it to start smoking up once lit. I need you to set a signal fire on top of the lookout tower, and sit with it today while I'm in Vivec. I'll go no further, so I should be able to see it. Light the fire should there be any trouble, and I'll teleport back here right away."

"Certainly, Master Frost. It will be good to have the place up and running again."

Master. It would take some time to get used to that. I shook my head slowly, thinking of the extraordinary things that had happened to me since coming to Vvardenfell. My luck was nothing if not extreme - for better or for worse.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Chapter 48: Master

The Castle Guardian lay dead on the rocky shore. The only thing that stood between me and ownership of Wolfen Castle was the Wolfen family seal: I had to find it.

I ran all the way back down to the ground floor of the keep, my armoured boots clattering over the stone steps. I'll admit I was worried about Falorn knowing more than he let on: that he knew all about the Wolfen seal, and what it meant - hence my rush in getting back to the chamber in which I had disturbed the Guardian. The chamber, as I had hoped, turned out to indeed be the crypt mentioned in the late Master Wolfen's journal: on a stone plinth lay a dusty skeleton, carefully arranged with its arms by its sides. Also by its side was a massive, two-handed dai-katana. The blade glittered like nothing I had seen before, and was... ghostly. My fingers passed right through it.

Falorn was nowhere to be seen, but I did not exhale in relief until I spotted the ornate golden ring resting on the skeleton's ribcage: it bore the device of the Wolfen family - the one I had seen on the journal. The Wolfen ring was attached to a finely wrought chain that went around the skeleton's neck, and I exercised great care in unclasping it. I did not want to disturb the late master's body more than was necessary; I had seen too much of the frightening undead to want to risk angering the spirit whose castle I intended to take as my own. As it was, several things about the late master perturbed me: how was it that his corpse had decayed so much in only a few months, when it had been kept in that more-or-less sealed crypt? There was absolutely nothing left but the bones.

There was also, of course, the matter of how he had kept an entire castle hidden from the world for so long, and the hints in his journal that he was somehow different than the average man or mer. These thoughts were immediately put from my mind when I fastened the fine chain around my neck, and experimentally slipped the Wolfen ring onto a finger. I blacked out, and an instant later, came to - standing in the great hall of the keep, right where I had found the journal!

As soon as my head cleared, I noticed the strangest thing: the Wolfen ring was not on my finger anymore; it was, in fact, hovering a short distance from my face, drawing the fine chain out to hang parallel to the floor. It was as if some poltergeist had a hold of the ring, and was pulling it towards the strange three-sided pillar I had noticed earlier. The pillar... now that I looked at it more closely, it reminded me of the triolithic shrines of the Tribunal Temple. Perhaps it held some significance - beyond the fact that it appeared to physically attract the Wolfen ring, of course.

I stepped closer to the pillar, the force with which the ring pulled against the chain growing ever stronger, until - it touched the pillar, and I blacked out again. This time when I came to I was standing on the guide platform in the Balmora Mages Guild, with Ajira and Masalinie staring at me.

"Are you alright, Edward?" Masalinie asked. "You look... startled. And your armour..."

I followed her gaze, and looked down at my armour. It was, of course, liberally spattered and caked with blood - both mine and the black ichor of the Guardian beast.

"No, I'm fine," I replied, "I just... didn't cast Recall to get here - or have one of the other guides teleport me." Masalinie and Ajira both raised their eyebrows at me. I made a dismissive gesture with my hands. "Never mind - I'll explain later."

I slipped the ring onto my finger, and a moment later was standing once more in the great hall of Wolfen keep, with the ring again straining towards the pillar. This time I stepped away from the triolithic stone, and the ring fell back against my chest.

I felt a smile creeping across my face. It was becoming plain that the Wolfen ring was more than just a symbolic "token of his people", to paraphrase the late master. It acted as a key to the castle (in a manner of speaking), proof of ownership, and best of all, could teleport me back to the keep instantly - no matter where I happened to be.

Falorn was standing outside, at the bottom of the keep steps, awkwardly grasping my silver sword. With a concerned look at the bloody and savaged state of my armour, he held out the sword for me to take.

"I saw what happened from the yard!" The groundskeeper said. "I knew there was something in there. Little wonder no-one wanted to stay. But you killed it - thankyou! It landed on the other side of the wall - I heard it from here..." the Bosmer shuddered, "nothing could survive a fall like that. And now..."

Falorn stopped. He had seen the Wolfen ring hanging from my neck. I was mildly surprised when he made a short bow.

"That's the Master's ring. He - the late Master Wolfen - always carried it, and I know what it means. I heard him talking one night, near the end; to some of his ... friends, I suppose they were. He said that he would see to it that once he died, no-one would wear the Wolfen ring again until the next owner of the castle came along - and that only by taking up the ring, would that person be named the new owner." The Bosmer paused. "Maybe not his exact words, but his meaning was clear enough."

I cleared my throat, feeling slightly uncomfortable.

"Yes," I began, "I found the journal..." I explained briefly how the final entry in the book echoed Falorn's account of the late Master's wishes, and about the defeat of the Guardian monster being part of the 'deal', so to speak. As I spoke it occurred to me that if the Bosmer really couldn't read the journal, he was taking an awful lot on faith. From his point of view, I could be making up anything I wanted about the book's contents. So, at the end of my explanation, I handed the journal over to the groundskeeper and added lamely: "We... can take the journal to someone of your choosing, and have them read it to you, if you like."

Falorn shook his head.

"No, I believe you - because I believe him, and what he said about the ring." He tapped the Wolfen emblem on the front cover with a forefinger. "For as long as I knew the late Master, if he said something would happen, it did. So..." he smiled, and bowed again, "this means you're the legal owner of Wolfen castle, Master Frost; and I'll be your witness to that fact - on one condition." His expression grew quite shrewd. "You keep me on as the paid groundskeeper."

I felt the corners of my mouth twitch upwards despite myself. It was the most 'Bosmerish' thing I had heard Falorn say.

"Of course." I shook his hand. "I'll need someone who knows how to run a castle, because, to be honest, I ... well - have little idea how."

So that was how I came to be master of my very own castle. It was such an extraordinary piece of good fortune (desperate fight with a monstrous beast notwithstanding), that even as Falorn guided me through the keep, it still hadn't really sunk in. I silently took in all that the keep had to offer, while the Bosmer, grumbling all the way, surveyed the extensive damage the Guardian had caused in its pursuit of me.

The ground floor held the great hall, a kitchen, mess hall, servant's quarters, smithy, sparring room, alchemy laboratory, a couple of storerooms, and a room just off the laboratory that was bare except for a raised stone platform in the centre - a room for magical activities, I assumed. The second storey was made up entirely of dormitories and bed chambers - enough to accomodate the entire staff of the castle, plus a decent retinue of guards - that is if I had either of those things, of course. The top storey was made up of the massive master bedroom, plus exits out to the castle battlements and the tower. I was glad to see that, though they were nothing fancy, most rooms in the keep held serviceable furnishings - beds, tables, chairs, wardrobes and the like.

"All these doors will need to be replaced," Falorn was saying, nudging the splintered remains of the door out to the battlements, "especially this one. The late Master left some money in the keep, to be used for the maintenance of the castle, but I don't think it will be enough..."

The Bosmer shot me a hooded glance. I guessed that one of the reasons why he was not averse to having a new master was that he needed someone with money. He had had a castle in his sole care, but that was little good without the means to feed himself.

"That shouldn't be a problem, Falorn." Silently I reminded myself to thank Masalinie Merian yet again for directing me to Creeper. "I'll have money enough."

Once the Bosmer had finished showing me around, I excused myself and carefully bathed in the rocky shallows just outside the castle walls (on the opposite side of the tiny island to the grisly remains of the Guardian). I had to be careful not to let the breaking waves knock me off my feet (swimming in full armour is not easy), but soon I had cleaned myself and my armour of the monster's black ichor - and of my own dried blood.

Afterwards, I used the three-sided pillar to teleport back to the Mages Guild. At first I wasn't sure whether the pillar was sending me to my own 'Marked' location on the guide platform, or if whoever had enchanted the pillar had simply found, as I did, that the Balmora guild hall made a convenient destination. Through later experimentation, I found that it was the latter; which I thought was excellent, as it meant I could Mark other useful locations but still return to Balmora quickly through use of the Wolfen ring.

I explained my astounding news to my friends at the guild over lunch, taking pains to assure them that they would still see me just as often as they had up to that point; I merely wouldn't be sleeping there anymore. As I had expected, no-one was greatly upset to hear that - I was sure they would all sleep easier knowing that, from then on, there would be no chance of them getting in the way should a Dark Brotherhood assassin decide to visit me in the night.

I spent the afternoon moving my possessions from the guild hall to the castle, a task made rather easy by the teleportation properties of the Wolfen ring. Most of the time was spent deciding where to store my things in my new home. Partway through the afternoon, I made a fantastic discovery. As I was trudging through the great hall with an armful of clothes, I noticed that as I passed a certain length of wall, the echoes of my footsteps came back sounding rather... hollow. An examination of the wall revealed another secret door like the one to the crypt, and behind it, a chamber full of wooden great-chests; the perfect hidden storeroom!

I could hardly have wished for a better place to store my money and valuables. I retired that evening in the master bedroom feeling very content. The first night in my new home passed uneventfully, but the dawn brought a new set of problems.

I woke to find Falorn shaking me. Groaning, I sat up.

"What?" I rasped groggily. "What is it?"

"Get up, Master Frost," the Bosmer said, pulling at my wrist, "you need to see this."

He dragged me over to the window and threw open the shutters. Squinting into the glare of the morning light on the sea, I saw what had Falorn so concerned. Marching along the long, narrow bridge towards Wolfen Island was a score of Imperial Legion soldiers, unmistakable in their glittering armour. They were coming two-by-two, and the two men in the centre of the formation held bright Legion standards, flapping gently in the morning breeze.

"Falorn," I said, as I dashed over to the wardrobe and began pulling on some clothes, "go get that journal, and meet me at the castle gates. Hurry!"

I was fairly certain I knew what the Legion soldiers wanted, and it did not bode well for me.