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, December 23, 2005

Chapter 65: Friends, lovers and painful thoughts

I told Folms about what happened in the filthy depths of Telasero: about the whispering shrine, the offerings of infected flesh, and the score of insane Dunmer people I'd killed. It was actually only as I recounted the grisly events of the morning that I realised that every single person I encountered in the stronghold was a Dunmer; even the 'tentacle-faced man' looked as if he - or it - could have once been Dunmeri.

It was a fact that seemed to upset Folms; perhaps because he too was a dark elf. He was obviously troubled at my story, in any case, and refused to meet my gaze.

"They didn't leave me a choice, Folms." I frowned. "They were all out of their minds - they would have killed me."

Folms finally looked at me, if only for a moment.

"Yes - yes, I'm sure you wouldn't have killed them for no good reason." The enchanter paused. "Dreamers. They had to be Dreamers." When he realised I didn't know what he was talking about, he went on to explain: "For a little while now, people have been complaining of... strange - dreams. Well, actually not many people are complaining, because the Temple tends to have a fairly dim view of people who complain of strange dreams... but the fact remains that people are having them. Mostly Dunmeri people, actually... and some of these Dunmer - usually the ones who complain the most of odd dreams - have just up and wandered off into the night. Some of them become violent if someone tries to stop them. More than one Dunmer I know has had their blank-faced lover push them down and run off into the wilderness, in the middle of the night."

The enchanter caught the Telasero index up off the table and held the stone up to his face, gazing into its depths. After a moment, he said:

"I think, Mister Frost, that you found where they're going, these 'Dreamers' - some of them, at any rate." He gazed into my eyes.

"You don't mean...?" I was shocked.

I sat down heavily, across from Folms. Since arriving on Vvardenfell, I had killed many, many more people than I would have liked. I had actually lost count. It never ceased to bother me, either... I kept myself going via the usual 'self-defence' argument - and by not thinking about those I killed. Those dead by my hand had no family, friends, or lovers. They had no past or future. They were nothing but an abstract threat to my life that I had removed.

Except that that was obviously not true, and what Folms was saying forced me to confront that awful thought: at least where it concerned the Dreamers in Telasero. Folms heaved a great sigh.

"They're going to be... upset when I tell them." The enchanter was staring into space. I assumed he was talking about his friends whose lovers had wandered off at night. "Anyway," he blinked and looked back to me, "I should have your Master Index ready tomorrow morning. Thankyou again for fetching all these -" he gestured with the Telasero index - "it really was a superlative effort. I'm looking forward to getting this travel service started... although I don't think I'll be sending anyone to Telasero just yet. In the meantime, I very much think you should report what you saw in there to the Temple. Perhaps they can cleanse the place. They would certainly want to know about it, anyway - I can tell you that."

I did exactly as he suggested, teleporting over to Ald'ruhn to talk to the monk Tuls Valen. He too was troubled by my story, and said he would inform the Ordinators right away. After I described the tentacle-faced man, Valen looked thoughtful, and said:

"That sounds like something I've heard Uvoo Llaren - at Ghostgate; you'll remember I mentioned him when we last spoke - like something I've heard Uvoo speak of. He may be able to tell you more about what it was you saw."

I left Valen in short order; he wanted to head off to talk to the Ordinators immediately. Back at Wolfen castle, I spent most of the rest of the day sparring with Rhek'feer, the Khajiiti martial arts trainer I had recently hired. After speaking with some of the castle guards, it had become obvious that none of us - especially myself - knew much about fighting without weapons.

This conversation was prompted by the events of one of the first few nights after parts of the castle were opened to the public. The castle was, of course, not open at night; but a drunken Legion soldier, wandering across from the Six Fishes tavern at Ebonheart, thought that it should be. He became quite obnoxious and belligerent, and the guards were apparently having a difficult time throwing him out: he was quite the brawler. I was woken by the shouting, and after jumping down from the battlements nearest my bedroom wearing nothing but my 'Infallible' belt and a pair of pants, I saw that the situation was becoming quite serious. A couple of the guards, sporting black eyes and bleeding noses, had just drawn their swords when I arrived.

I stopped them before any serious bloodshed could ensue, and incapacitated the drunken lout with a paralysation spell. A couple of the guards dumped the soldier outside the grounds, lowering the portcullis behind him. Once the spell wore off, one of the archers saw him off by firing a couple of arrows past his head.

This was all a cause of concern for me. We needed to be able to see off thieves and unruly visitors without killing them - and without putting ourselves at risk. So I hired Rhek'feer to teach myself and the guards unarmed combat. At first I only intended to keep him on until I felt that we had learned enough from him (and I told him this), but Rhek's incredible skill soon saw him fall into an unofficial 'captain of the guard' role. The great cat's daily physical exercises also proved quite a draw for visitors to the castle: his gymnastic acrobatics routines in particular were spectacular.

As promised, Folms had my Master Index ready for me in the morning. It was a carved blue stone a little bigger than a propylon index, looking somewhat like an elongated spinning top. It felt good to have finally finished that 'little' job for Folms - and to have the evidence in my hand - but I had no need to try it out right then.

I had decided that it was past time I returned to Caius Cosades in Balmora to see what orders he might have for me as a 'Blades operative'. I didn't need his money anymore, and I wasn't going out of respect for the Emperor's wishes or a desire to serve the Empire. I went because I was still curious to discover why I had been abruptly released from a Cyrodiil prison, and taken all the way to Morrowind. I also thought that if, by some chance, the Blades had the means to cure my affliction, they might develop the desire to help me if I served them.

"Frost! Just the man! Come in." Caius opened the door to his hut all the way. He looked as bleary-eyed as the last time I saw him; shortly after arriving on Vvardenfell.

He also seemed... happy to see me. It had been three months since the Imperial Spymaster had sent me off to regain my strength, make friends and contacts, and generally become better established on the island. During that whole time, Caius had apparently had orders waiting for me: I had expected him to be cross with me for keeping him waiting. I had my excuses, of course: a lot had happened - incredible things! I had a whole new face, for goodness' sake - and... actually - that was when it occurred to me:

"Mister Cosades, how did you know it was me?" I gestured at my face.

Caius sat on the edge of his bed.

"Ah, yes - you must be wondering how I could tell you apart from every other Breton on the street ... with a big glowing crescent mark on his face..." he gave me a mildly mocking look - "right?"

I took his point. He had, obviously, heard about my remarkable new identifying mark. Instead, I broached the topic of my long absence:

"I'm sorry if you expected me back sooner. Things have been a little... hectic."

"Hah! Hectic is right." Caius chuckled. He certainly did seem to be in a good mood. "The stories I've been hearing! I very nearly sacked some of my people because I thought they were making it all up. When I last saw you three months ago, now I mean no offence, but you looked like you'd just fought a cave rat for your last square meal - and lost."

The spymaster may have said he meant no offence, but his words nevertheless brought back some painful memories. While I had never 'fought a rat for food', in so many words, there were times in the Imperial prison when such a thing would not have been above me. They did not feed us well.

Caius, oblivious to the hurt he had caused, was still speaking:

"Now look at you, though. Daedric weapons." He pointed to my sword. "Armour I've ... never seen before. Killing Dremora. A goddess asking for your help - apparently. Your own castle!" Caius shook his head slowly. "I don't mind that you took three months to get back to me, because, to be honest, with the condition you were in I thought it would be longer before you'd be fit enough to even swing a sword properly. You've far surpassed my expectations. I couldn't really ask for someone better established here than someone with their own castle. Not to mention the equipment you've got there."

Once again he eyed my heavy Daedric sword and the Netch Adamantium armour - and the blue ioun stone bobbing lazily near my head.

"Anyway, Frost, take a seat." He indicated the lone, rickety wooden chair in the hut. "We have a lot to discuss."

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Chapter 64: A Red Day

In the morning I asked Masalinie to teleport me to the Vivec guild hall. The silt strider platform was just outside, and fortunately I was able to charter a strider to take me across the Ascadian Isles to Suran straight away. From there I struck out to the east, heading along the coast to the Telasero stronghold.

Folms' warnings about the Velothi stronghold were dire - but admittedly vague. Walking along the ashen coast, I was restless in my mind. What had the enchanter seen in his vision of the place? I had never heard anything about Telasero; what was it that people said about it? I began to run, putting my 'Tireless' pants to use. I had to know... I wanted to stop wondering.

I ran through fields of dead, skeletal trees, and leapt over shallow, steaming pits of soft and damp sand. I was coming fairly close to the Molag Amur region; the part of Vvardenfell with the most volcanic activity - after Red Mountain itself, of course. Compared to most of the island, the south coast near Suran was home to terrain that was fairly flat and agreeable to travel on foot. Before very long at all, I crested a hill and beheld the massive Telasero stronghold, squatting in its crater as if some giant thumb had pushed it down into the ground.

No living thing grew near the stronghold - not for as far as I could see - all around; even to the nearby coast. A pall of steam and smoke from Molag Amur hung in the air, and everything was grey; and quiet. There were no windows in the stronghold, and only one way in or out: a massive pair of heavy wooden doors. Taking a deep breath, I readied my weapons and went inside.

I almost immediately dashed back out again: the oppressive atmosphere in the stronghold was nearly too much. The air was sweltering, and thick with the stench of rotting flesh and bodily waste. Inside was as silent as the outside - at least I thought it was. I couldn't shake the feeling that someone or something was whispering to me. Clusters of glowering red candles were strewn about the floor, all down the entrance corridor and the chamber beyond; but they did little more than give a rough indication of the dimensions of each room. Even with the candles it was black as pitch - my Night-eye spell would be a necessity.

The smell was by far the worst part - it filled me with revulsion and horror at what could be the cause of it. I constantly felt as if I was about to retch - but shortly I was faced with a more pressing problem. The entrance corridor sloped downwards from the door, and there was something moving at the base of the slope: it was in the doorway to the large chamber - I could see its silhouette in the candlelight.

With my Night-eye spell in place, I could see it more clearly... but I still had no idea what it was. It was a swollen, obese thing in brown and purple robes, roughly shaped like man or mer, with tiny grey arms sticking out uselessly either side. Its head was truly alien, though: two big black cavities where its eyes should have been, and a long central trunk surrounded by two or three waving tentacles. The beast appeared to have trouble shuffling about very quickly, but then it proved that it didn't need to be near to attack me, its tentacles writhing as it projected bolts of magical ice and fire at me.

Keeping low to avoid its magical attacks, I dashed up to the 'tentacle-faced man' (for want of a better name) and swung into it with the Daedric sword. With an angry, trumpeting cry, the thing lashed out with its dry yet awfully sticky tentacles, battering me about the head. I quickly realised that the creature breathed through the central trunk: it exhaled a cloud of musty, pungent air into my face with every swing of its tentacles.

Hacking away at the tentacle-faced man's swollen body seemed to do little more than put the beast off-balance, so when I the opportunity presented itself, I thrust my blade into the base of its waving tentacles, just beneath the central trunk. With a gut-churning gurgle, the thing toppled over backwards - but before it could hit the ground it dissolved into putrid yellow dust, only leaving its monstrous, deformed skull behind.

Blinking, and shaking my head in an attempt to clear it after the pummelling it had received, I prodded the skull experimentally with the tip of my blade. What in Oblivion's name was that thing? Its grey-skinned arms could have belonged to a Dunmer, but the tentacles...?

Before I had a chance to examine the skull more closely, my still tender head received further punishment at the 'hands' of a rock - glancing off my helmet. I was standing in the large chamber I had seen earlier, and up above me on the opposite wall was a balcony - which held a couple of completely naked Dunmer men. They were throwing rocks at me - plus the occasional stone block that had come loose from the stronghold wall or floor. They made no sound, staring dispassionately my way as they went about their haphazard attack. Their eyes reminded me of the first person I'd ever killed: the woman in the smuggler's caves near Seyda Neen who had attacked me while out of her mind on Moon Sugar. She too had stared into the middle distance, as if not really seeing me at all.

With the aid of my Tinur's Hoptoad spell, I leapt up to the balcony and slammed them each, in turn, into the wall with my shield; knocking them unconscious. Aside from rocks they were unarmed; I didn't want to kill them if I didn't absolutely have to.

I didn't know what kind of opposition to expect, or what numbers I would face, so as I carried on deeper into the twisting passages of the stronghold I tried to remain as quiet as possible. Even so, when I rounded a corner and saw another Dunmer shuffling towards me, I was spotted at the same time. I don't know how he did it - he had no eyes! Nevertheless, his swollen, wrinkled head followed me as I moved - he definitely knew I was there. He seemed different to the naked, rock throwing Dunmer men - he was wearing a soiled grey loincloth for one thing - but he also seemed more ... aware, somehow.

He also threw offensive spells at me with frightening speed - using both hands - one spell after the next. Reflexively, I dived to the side, drawing the power of invisibility about me as I went. The eyeless Dunmer tracked my movement, scorching my legs with an electrical attack. But then I winked out of sight and he stopped, confused! I was surprised, but thankful: since he could 'see' me without eyes, I was half-expecting the Invisibility spell to have no effect on him.

In any case, he was far too dangerous to leave at my back while he was still breathing: I dashed up and sliced him in half with a single stroke, becoming visible as the eyeless Dunmer crumpled to the floor. Magically powerful, physically fragile.

By that time I thought I had mastered my unsettled stomach, but as I pushed through another heavy set of doors at the base of a flight of stairs, my nose was assaulted by a stench somehow much worse than in the above chambers. The reek of decay and bodily wastes was redoubled, but on top of that, and worst of all, was the smell of infection. At that moment I vomited on the floor - I just couldn't control myself any longer; the smell was too much.

I was in a great long hall, interspersed with pillars and the ever-present red candles. The whispering I was now sure I had been hearing since setting foot in Telasero was louder here, but nowhere near loud enough to drown out the sound of a Breton man being violently sick. Doors lining the length of the long hall slammed open, and a crowd of naked Dunmeri people - men and women - boiled in from the adjoining rooms. They all remained unnervingly silent as they came, but every last one brandished a vicious-looking spiked club. I was quickly surrounded by a sea of naked, filthy bodies, clambering over each other to bash my head in with their clubs.

"Stop!" I cried, my sides aching from my fit of retching. "What do you want?"

The naked Dunmer never hesitated for a moment, pressing in around me. Truly they must have been insane. Just then was the worst possible moment for my Night-eye spell to wear off, but that is exactly what happened. The world before my eyes was plunged into darkness, and before I could renew the spell, I felt the first of the blows - on my armoured back. Lunging forward to escape injury, I hacked at a dark shape in front of me, cutting right through one of my attackers, from shoulder to waist. I was hammered with blows from their clubs, becoming bruised and bleeding in a short moment.

Seeing no other means of escape, I drew my shield in to my side (I couldn't see well enough to actively block incoming attacks, in any case) and began to swing the heavy Daedric sword in flat arcs about me, left and right, hacking through the stinking crowd of insane Dunmer. It was too dark to do otherwise: I span about again and again, laying about me with the blade; striking at the merest suggestion of movement. In a moment it was done, and they were all on the floor around me, dead or dying. In a way I was glad that I hadn't been able to see details of what I had been doing - the carnage was, in more than one sense of the word, shocking.

I stepped gingerly over the bodies, nursing my shield-arm. I was hurt - bruised and bleeding all over. The Keeper shirt was doing its job and slowly healing my wounds, but to speed the process I still used my healing spell, letting it gently spread through my body instead of directly applying it to any one area with my hands. It hurt too much for that kind of intricate movement.

I found the trough Folms had mentioned seeing in his 'vision' - or whatever it was he sensed when he divined the locations of the propylon indices. Well, actually I found two troughs, and looked in the wrong one first. I immediately wished I hadn't: the trough was the source of the smell of infection that polluted the hall, being home to hunks of grey and yellow, decaying flesh. Needless to say perhaps, I reeled away from the trough and began retching again, uncontrollably.

The other trough was more agreeable to the senses; it was filled with miscellaneous objects (again, much as Folms had described), most of moderate value: fine clothes, a few weapons - that sort of thing. Besides the Telasero index (to my great relief - I don't know what I would have done had it not been there), a sack of coins and several gems, there was nothing in the trough I needed or would have taken from such a place.

I was about to teleport home when I noticed a brighter, yet deeper, red glow in a small chamber at the end of the hall. I felt drawn to it - by my own curiosity and perhaps some other force. The malevolent whispering in the air became louder and more insistent the closer I came to the red glow. I stopped at the mouth of the chamber, looking in. The whispering and murmuring was making my head hurt, and something about the room felt very wrong.

At its centre was a low, hexagonal platform, adorned with thin red candles that burned brighter than the fat, squat ones I had seen throughout the rest of the stronghold. A vaguely man or mer-shaped statue sat in the centre of the platform. It was a vivid red, with three strangely luminescent 'eyes' arranged like the points of a triangle. It had to be a shrine of some kind: more of the lumps of rotten, infected flesh were piled on a plate in front of the statue. I was certain the statue was whispering to me; but I couldn't understand what it was saying.

I teleported away home. I couldn't take the heat and the stench any longer. I only realised how much of a mess I was when I appeared in the light of the great hall. The main doors were open to allow visitors in to see my small collection of rare arms and armour. I looked a fright: my armour was scored, torn and dented all over, and I was coated in blood, gore and filth.

I instantly regretted teleporting directly back to the castle - especially since we had a few visitors - both in the yard and in the hall. Shooting an apologetic glance at a collection of visitors being shown about the 'museum' by Falorn, I dashed outside and, with the Tinur's Hoptoad spell, leapt over the castle walls to wash myself in the sea. I wanted to spare everyone such a grisly spectacle; but in hindsight, appearing out of thin air, covered in blood, then leaping over the castle walls was probably quite scary in itself.

Falorn came out to see me a moment later, looking quite worried.

He of course wanted to know what had happened, and if I was alright - but for a long while I could say nothing at all. I just stood there and let the waves break over me.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Chapter 63: Violence in the Temple

"Here Mehrunes Dagon held this rock high above the Dunmer. Vivec taunted Mehrunes Dagon so that Dagon threw the rock at Vivec instead of the people." This was the inscription on the 'Magic Rock of Maar Gan'. The monk Tuls Valen had sent me to the rock on a pilgrimage; I was supposed to read the inscription and then mimic Vivec's actions.

Another riddle, then: it seemed the Tribunal Temple was fond of them. Looking about the main chamber of the Maar Gan shrine, I hoped that the solution to this one was not as cruel as that of the Puzzle Canal.

Despite its name, the 'Magic Rock' was an unremarkable boulder, as far as I could tell. I looked elsewhere. Really, the only other interesting thing in the room was Anhaedra the Dremora. I had learnt his - or its - name on my previous visit to the shrine, but nothing else. One of the priests had merely said: "Watch yourself around Anhaedra."

I thought it through carefully. I had to imitate the actions of Vivec as described in the inscription: right there in the shrine, presumably. In the inscription Vivec had taunted Mehrunes Dagon... Mehrunes was of the Daedra... and there was a Daedra right there in the room: Anhaedra.

I had to taunt and provoke the Dremora, it seemed: to violence, probably. It felt somewhat contrived ... well, I suppose it was contrived, being a recreation of a mythic (or famous, perhaps) event - but sauntering up to a stranger who was minding their own business and insulting them seemed strange to me. I wasn't sure how to go about it. Provoking a Dremora wasn't something to be taken lightly, either. I was still wearing my armour, of course - my shield I had slid up my arm, to leave both hands free. As I approached Anhaedra I let it fall down into the ready position.

"So, you're here to scare the tourists, then?" I stared into the Dremora's eyes (or rather, the glowing lights behind the eye-holes in its helmet) in what I hoped was an antagonistic manner. "Just for show, though, I suspect. Is that dust?" There was actually dust on the Daedra spirit's armoured shoulders; and though it felt like putting my hand in the mouth of a vicious guard dog, I reached out and roughly brushed some of the dust off.

"Do you want something, mortal?" Anhaedra's voice sounded, hissing out of the cracks in the Daedric armour. "You can't possibly be here to mimic Vivec. Your taunts are weak. Like your flesh."

I felt that things became a little juvenile at this point, but I couldn't think of anything better to say than:

"Weak? I'm stronger than you, I'm sure. I've killed many of your kind. In fact," I said, drawing my Daedric longsword and holding it up as if to examine it, "I cut down two Dremora to get this sword." (I was, of course, pretending to be ignorant of the fact that Dremora apparently could not be killed, only banished to Oblivion).

It had the desired effect, anyway. Upon spotting my Daedra blade, Anhaedra's eyes flared, and he bellowed:


The Dremora twisted about and caught up a silver sword he had cunningly concealed in his shadow. Dremora are all mostly slow-moving creatures - Daedric armour is extraordinarily heavy, after all - but Anhaedra was the slowest I had seen. As I easily deflected his first blow with my shield, I wondered how long he had been standing there in that shrine. The joints in his armour seemed to be caked with dust. As I had the time to perfectly line up and execute my swings, I only had to strike him twice before the shriek and crack of breaking metal signified I had beaten him. A priest came up behind me as I watched the animated suit of armour crumble into dust.

"Good, good. Well done," he said. It was the same priest I had spoken to on my last visit to the shrine. He nudged the pile of dust with his toe. "Sometimes I almost feel sorry for Anhaedra. Being summoned and killed periodically would be enough to make anyone irritable, I imagine. Still, it seems to make him more prone to provocation, which is quite suitable to his purpose here, really." He paused, then, as if remembering himself, added: "In any case, you've completed the Maar Gan pilgrimage, so congratulations are in order."

I mumbled some vague words of thanks and excused myself. I was not comfortable there; the whole thing had felt like executing a caged animal to me. In a strange way, the thought that Anhaedra was not really dead was actually comforting.

I paid Valen a quick visit at the Ald'ruhn Temple the next morning, to tell him about the pilgrimage. He was polite about it, but it was obvious that he didn't care much for the whole business either. He gifted me with a book for completing the pilgrimage, the 'Death Blow of Abernanit', hinting as he did that I would learn much more from reading it than I would by cutting down a summoned and bound Dremora. The monk said he had nothing else for me to do right then, and suggested I try Uvoo Llaren at the Ghostgate or Endryn Llethan in Vivec if I was impatient to perform another service for the Temple.

"You do good work though, Sera Frost." Valen clapped me on the shoulder. "I'll be sure to send word through the Temples, should I have something for you."

I was glad of the reprieve, to tell the truth. During the interminable silt strider trip of the previous day, I had decided to focus on retrieving the remaining propylon indices for Folms, so he could make good on his promise to construct a 'Master Index' for me. Now I had the opportunity to do just that. I certainly wasn't beholden to the Temple to perform their will at a moment's notice - or anything like that - but I wanted to cultivate good relations there, and if no-one was waiting on me, I was free to take my time on other endeavours.

My newfound resolve was due mostly to the frightening time limit hanging over my head: if Master Healer Synnolian was right, and I was dying, I didn't have time to sit around in silt striders or hike across rough terrain. I had given up on somehow stumbling across something in the wilds that would lead to a cure. I needed help. For that I needed to curry favour with powerful organisations; which meant scurrying about on various errands, like as not. If Folm's plan worked, a Master Index would allow me to teleport in an instant to any one of the ten ancient Velothi strongholds scattered around the island - as long as the enchanter was available to send me on my way - he would have the actual indices in his possession, after all.

Through a combination of my magic, the services of the guild guides, and the teleportation properties of the Wolfen ring and the Master Index, I could at almost any time travel to a vast range of locations across Vvardenfell in a matter of minutes. That was my plan, and my theory, at any rate.

I had expected my visit to Divayth Fyr, a Dunmer wizard who was allegedly thousands of years old, to be ... interesting - to say the least - but as it turned out, the tale of our meeting is hardly worth the telling.

I found his tower easily enough: one of the curious, hollowed-out giant fungi of the type used in nearby Sadrith Mora. I was directed by a Dunmer woman to his study at the top of the tower: accessible only by a sheer central shaft - without a ladder. A wizard's house, sure enough. I jumped up the shaft with my Tinur's Hoptoad spell, and found the ancient Dunmer seated at a small, cluttered table.

At first I thought I was looking at a Dremora - though I had never seen one of the Daedra spirits scribbling in a notebook; Divayth was wearing full Daedric armour. I realised my mistake when he straightened up, revealing his bare head. He looked old - there was no doubting that - but thousands of years walking the land? I just couldn't say.

In any case, as I said before, our meeting was uneventful. So much so, in fact, that I barely felt as if I met him at all. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: "Uh - hello; nice to meet you, Sera Fyr." (Awkward pause). "Ahem - I was told you have a certain propylon index in your collection. I was wondering..."

Fyr: "Oh - that thing. You want it?" (Rummages through clutter on the table, and tosses index to me). "Here."

Me: "Th-thankyou! That's -"

Fyr: "Yes, yes. Very generous of me, of course. But I don't want it. So." (Stands and adjusts armour). "Now, I'm heading out directly, so if you don't mind?"

And that was it. As I said...

Retrieving the next three indices proved to be just as easy. The Berandas index, interestingly enough, was also in the hands of a reclusive Dunmer wizard. Baladas Demnevanni lived in an ancient Velothi dome on the outskirts of Gnisis. The most interesting thing about Baladas was that he kept a Daedroth as a pet. Like Divayth Fyr, he was polite enough, but fairly dismissive:

"You want that old rock? You're welcome to it - it's of little use to me... just gathering dust here somewhere." After handing it over, the mildly unkempt-looking wizard stood and gazed steadily at me, making it fairly obvious he wished for me to leave. I was not about to risk the anger of a man who let a crocodilian Daedroth wander about his study and bedchambers untethered, so I followed his hint.

The next two indices also shared similar fates - curious, really. According to Folms they were both in the hands of "dangerous outlaws: the Andasreth index at the Hlormaren stronghold west of Balmora, and the Rotheran index (appropriately) at the Rotheran stronghold. The Andasreth was among the easiest of the indices to collect: I levitated over the range of hills west of Balmora, found the dome atop Hlormaren that Folms had told me to look for, and found the index on a shelf inside. There was no sign of the outlaw Folms had warned me about.

The Rotheran stronghold was some way south of Dagon Fel, and the long, protracted boat trip from Sadrith Mora to Vvardenfell's northernmost settlement was a further reminder as to why I was going to so much trouble to collect all the indices. After a few hours' hike through the steep and rocky Sheogorad region I found the Rotheran stronghold, and the index: in the coat pocket of an overly aggressive bandit (he did not survive our meeting).

With those four indices safely in Folms' hands, the enchanter told me the location of the final one on his list: the Telasero index. He gave quite a dire warning of the place:

"The index is in a trough with some other objects, in a dark place - that's all I can see. Listen, I've heard nothing but bad things about Telasero: it's all dark there, really. A very, very bad place."

He was right, too. I have never forgotten the depths of Telasero.