Frost in Morrowind

Edward Frost's time in Morrowind has come to an end; but his struggles are recorded here for any to read. A year in the making, and spanning one hundred and fifty chapters… Violence, suspicion, loss, betrayal, revenge, power with a price, a fight for survival, ages-old mysteries... all thrust in the way of Edward Frost, a man simply trying to rebuild his life.

Chapter 1 can be found here.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Chapter 82: Compulsion

There was a man loitering outside the Mages Guild hall when I was on my way in to make use of the guild guide service. I was coming from the Ald Skar Inn after speaking with Hassour Zainsubani, and was lost in my mind, composing my thoughts so as to give Caius a proper report on what I had learned. Initially I walked right by the man, hardly registering his presence. As I pushed my way through the door, though, I absent-mindedly held the door open for him, thinking he too meant to enter the guild.

When he took a small step towards the open door, but then stopped, looking indecisive, I shook myself from my reverie and frowned at him quizzically.

"Are you coming in?" I asked, more puzzled than anything.

He was a Breton, perhaps a few years older than me; though his hair seemed too shot-through with silver to properly match the apparent age of his face. He seemed to wear a permanently concerned expression.

"Well - yes. I mean... I was going to, I should say." He appeared quite nervous, for some reason. "I don't know if they could - er - help me, though. I... didn't want to waste anyone's time, if they can't ... help me." His voice became quieter and quieter as he went on, until I could scarcely hear him.

"You wish to employ the guild for something?" I asked, trying to make eye contact with the man.

He merely frowned, biting his lip and looking over his shoulder. He was either very shy generally, or very nervous about this 'help' he needed; perhaps both.

"Look," I said, leading him to the shady side of the guild hall, and choosing a seat on an empty water-barrel, " I'm a member of the guild. Why don't you tell just me what it is you need, and I'll tell you whether I think my superiors would assign someone to help you. I'm Edward Frost, by the way." I held out my hand.

"Nice to meet you." The Breton nodded, shaking my hand briefly. "Oh - L-Louis Beauchamp." He patted his chest.

There was a pregnant pause. We looked at each other, both expecting the other to do something, I think. I motioned for him to tell me his story.

"Oh! Yes, alright." There was another extended pause, in which Louis squeezed his eyes shut, apparently deciding where to begin. "It's a rescue mission." He said suddenly. "And... a search - for an... artefact... of sorts. But yes - mainly a rescue mission. It's a long story." He sighed.

I resisted the urge to take out my pocketwatch. The words 'rescue mission' had piqued my interest, in any case. I again motioned for him to continue. His words came out in a stilted jumble, but I caught the gist of it - at least I think so:

"I made an airship, you see... a beautiful craft, if I may say so! Powerful levitation magic, Dwemer parts... Because Solstheim is so very far away. Oh - Solstheim, in the north: that's where I sent my crew. I hired a crew, you see: to man the airship, and steer it all the way to ... H-Hrothmund's Bane, over the Moesring Mountains. They were to enter the crypt - Hrothmund's crypt - and fetch me the Amulet of - ahem - Infectious Charm."

I remained silent, but by the name of the amulet, I thought I could see why a man like Louis would want such a thing. He seemed in sore need of some extra charm... He was obviously an accomplished mage if he could make some kind of ship fly through the air with levitation magic... Perhaps he was poor at the Illusion College of magic, and couldn't cast an effective Charm spell on his own... At any rate, he shortly confirmed my suspicions:

"L-Legends say that Hrothmund was ugly - and - and - brutish, but he had plenty of... lady friends. It was the amulet - the one in the crypt..." Louis paused, and swallowed; before finally making eye contact with me - if only for an instant. "I need that amulet. I must... I can't go on like this, you see. I should say - don't get me wrong - there was one girl - lady - not too long ago; she was quite special... but..."

He trailed off. I cleared my throat, and changed the subject. I understood perfectly well what he wanted the amulet for...

"You said it was a rescue mission?" I prompted.

"Oh, yes. My crew, you see - they haven't come back! They've been gone for so long!" Louis wrung his hands. "The stories they tell ... of Solstheim, I mean - dreadfully inhospitable place... freezing, don't you know. The airship may have ... though I built it well! It is the first of its kind - that I know of... at least. What if it fell? What if ... a mountain - a cliff! What if they flew into something? And they would come back! I told them the airship would... convey them to Hrothmund's Bane and back again - nowhere else. Where could they go without the ship - in such... in a place like that?"

I began to feel a sense of urgency.

"Are you saying, Louis, that if they tried to ... fly off-course - for whatever reason - your airship would fall from the sky?" I frowned at the man. What if the crew had needed to change course for some reason? Would they have still crashed to the ground for this Breton's paranoia?

Louis obviously realised what I was getting at.

"Oh, no! They would have to go a long - very long - way off-course for the magic to fail!" He gulped. "I just... such a large investment you see - couldn't risk it..." There was another long pause. "Are you for hire, Mister... Mister Frost? I must know if they - my crew - can be - need to be - helped... and ... the amulet..." He looked at me hopefully.

Really, it didn't require much deliberation on my part. Even from the man's somewhat garbled speech, it was clear that people were in danger (more likely than not). I could not abandon them to their fate, stranded in a place as (apparently) desolate and unforgiving as Solstheim. Especially when to do so would mean that their survival might very well rest on whether or not Louis could strike up the courage to actually ask someone else for help.

I accepted, noting down the proposed route of the airship on my map of Vvardenfell (which included a rough approximation of the smaller island of Solstheim, to its north-west), and clarifying a few points with Louis. He told me that Hrothmund's Barrow could be located by the 'Hrothmund's Bane' formation: rock and ice that, when viewed from the sky, took on the shape of a wolf. The Barrow was at the 'eye of the wolf'. This was one of the reasons for the airship's construction, apparently; identifying that rock formation. Intriguingly, one must say the wolf's name ('Ondjage') to enter the Barrow - otherwise it would remain closed forever. This was all according to Louis, at any rate.

I had decided. I would depart for Solstheim the very next morning, and see if anyone indeed needed to be saved. I left Louis Beauchamp outside the guild hall, with the arrangement that we would leave word for each other with Guild Steward Edwinna - should such a thing become necessary.

Teleportation directly to Solstheim was not within my means: there were no strongholds with propylon chambers there, nor were there any convenient branches of the Mages Guild, with their guild guides. No, reaching the island would take some preparation... I had heard that one could book passage to Solstheim aboard a ship from the village of Khuul - and I would likely need to take a silt strider from Ald'ruhn or Maar Gan to reach the fishing village more quickly. Khuul was quite remote. I would also need warm clothes (which were sometimes difficult to find in such a warm place as Vvardenfell), food, water, and supplies.

I teleported back to Wolfen castle for a few minutes before continuing on to see Caius; mainly to ask Ancois (the castle cook) if she could prepare plenty of food for me that would keep well on a long journey.

The spymaster seemed preoccupied as I gave my report, absent-mindedly rubbing a piece of paper between his fingers as I spoke. Once I had finished recounting the names of the Nerevarine cult members Zainsubani had given me, Caius nodded slowly and cleared his throat.

"Yes - good, good." He said, almost automatically. "I'll need you to continue on with this line of investigation, of course... And... since this business is fast moving beyond my own personal experience, I'll need to promote you again. No, don't thank me: it's necessary, and you're doing fine work in any case."

At that, the old man paused, his brow crinkling into a slight frown as he skimmed through whatever was written on the piece of paper that was so distracting him. After a moment, he seemed to reach a decision, and handed the sheet over to me.

"It's time to let you know what's really going on, Frost. Why I've had you chasing cults, and... something you've wanted to know for some time..."

I leant forward. Could he mean?

"... I can tell you why you are here - and not still in prison."


Anonymous dabigpman said...

damn your suspense joseph. DAMN YOU!!

Thursday, February 02, 2006 2:10:00 am  
Anonymous Stygian said...

"Oh! Yes, alright." There was another extended pause, in which Louis squeezed his eyes shut, apparently deciding where to begin. "It's a rescue mission." He said suddenly. "And... a search - for an... artefact... of sorts. But yes - mainly a rescue mission. It's a long story." He sighed.

Was that intentional? I am aware that it could be used to convey the same meaning as 'Artifact,' but I just wanted to be sure. If that was not purposeful, then... Uh...


There it is, man!

Thursday, February 02, 2006 8:23:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very suspensful writing Joseph, excellent as usual.

Thursday, February 02, 2006 9:09:00 am  
Anonymous Matar said...

A pox upon ye Joseph a pox!

How dare ye end this story at such a thrilling moment!

Thou shalt taste the steel of my blade if ye do not continue!

Thursday, February 02, 2006 9:43:00 am  
Anonymous Stygian said...

Everyone knows your blade is of the lowly Iron, matar.

Nay! It is Chitin!

Thursday, February 02, 2006 10:53:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't diss Chitin!

Thursday, February 02, 2006 11:10:00 am  
Blogger Joseph said...

Thanks, everyone, and Stygian: yes, 'artifact' and 'artefact' are two variations in spelling of the same word. They can be taken to mean different things (depending on context, I think), but not here. :-)

- Joseph.

Thursday, February 02, 2006 11:14:00 am  
Anonymous Person said...

Ah Frosty's goin' to Hrothmunds Bane! I think it's fantastic! If anyone decides to go, take a scroll of Windform (preferably: it's cheaper) or Windwalker. ZOOOOOM! hehe...

Thursday, February 02, 2006 3:24:00 pm  
Anonymous JeeBee said...

"I can tell you why you are here - and not still in prison."

Frost, I am your father...

Couldn't resist. Nice chapter. Hrothmunds Bane, way to go :)

Friday, February 03, 2006 3:56:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you take inspirations from your own life?

Girls you've dated, places you have been, adventures with your friends etc?

Friday, February 03, 2006 4:06:00 am  
Blogger Joseph said...

"Do you take inspirations from your own life?

Girls you've dated, places you have been, adventures with your friends etc?"

In answer to that, I can give an enigmatic "yes".

Though I would like to make it plain that Frost is not me: I don't write the story as if it was me reacting to everything that happens. Just to avoid any misunderstanding. :-)

- Joseph.

Friday, February 03, 2006 10:33:00 am  

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