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 08, 2006

Chapter 85: Morale

I had hoped that the morning would bring with it the warming light of the sun, but unfortunately that was not to be the case; at least not on Solstheim. Grey skies prevailed the entire day; and while the weather was warmer than the night before, the magical wards against the elements I wore on my fingers were still not enough to keep me from shivering.

Having Recalled back to my Marked location beside the stone dock in the grey morning light, I got my first real glimpse of Solstheim. Fort Frostmoth dominated the view from the shore, but behind it I could see ranges of deep-green pine trees, stretching off to the horizon. The farther trees were powdered white with snow.

Soldiers of the Imperial Legion were now on duty around the fort; some marching around the perimeter, others huddled on the battlements, staring morosely into the grey distance. It seemed a cheerless posting, and I soon found that this assessment was quite accurate. I attempted to ask one of the soldiers for directions to their armoury (Legion forts sell surplus equipment to anyone with the septims to pay), but the man merely sneered and turned away, ignoring me.

I received similar treatment from every Legionnaire I approached: they were all apparently too lost in their own private miseries to even raise a hand and point me in the right direction. Eventually, one hook-nosed soldier condescended to snarl at me to "take any business to the Captain". This man did point out a building to me - the largest in the fort - the general quarters.

The only business I wished to conduct with the Legion was the purchase of some warmer clothes or armour, so I decided to search for the armoury on my own. In any case, as far as I could tell, none of the soldiers much cared where I wandered in the fort. My frustration began to mount when I found the armoury: the Legionnaire in charge there was no better mannered than the other soldiers I had met that day. He sat among the stacks of armour and weapons with his back to me, pretending not to hear me over the fitful sharpening of a sword.

So it was in a rotten mood of my own that I arrived in the (blessedly warm) chambers of the fort's Captain. The Captain, who I learned to be named Falx Carius, was bent low over his desk when I entered, his brow furrowed over the writing of a letter. He sighed at my interruption.

"So, Mister Frost - you say you wanted to buy some cold-weather armour from the armoury, but young Zeno Faustus refused to sell to you."

"He refused to even acknowledge my presence."

The Captain sighed again and stood, stepping away from his desk to stretch.

"This... is a difficult post;" he said; "as I'm sure you can imagine. My men are separated from their families, and set to guard a frozen hunk of rock in this remote corner of the Empire." Carius rubbed his eyes. "To be fair, though, most were sent here as punishment for some offence or other. I must say, though, that things have been worse recently. The men have been more... belligerent than usual - and lax in their duties. I'm sure there must be someone behind this: someone agitating the soldiers."

I frowned lightly at the gold-armoured Imperial.

"I'm afraid I don't..." I shook my head. "Why are you telling me this?"

Carius sat back down behind his desk.

"What I'm getting at is that if you want anything from my men, you will probably have to help me discover the reason for these morale problems." I narrowed my eyes at him, but the Captain continued before I could object: "I'm guessing that you would not be here asking after warm clothes if you did not have some dire need to trek up to the north. Very sensible, by the way - looking for warmer clothes, I mean. You won't get far on this island in an outfit like that."

Closing my eyes for a moment and taking a deep breath to calm myself, I forced a polite answer:

"So I can see why I need your help - but why do you need mine? I don't have much time - and they are your men, after all."

"But that is precisely it, you see!" Carius replied. "As their commanding officer I must keep a certain distance and formality between myself and my men. They would not talk to me of morale problems - or of who might be causing them. Sometimes people will confess to a stranger, though..."

Considering the treatment I had received from Carius' men, I highly doubted that any of them would feel like confessing anything to me; and I told the Captain as much. I also reinforced how I did not really have the time to coax a collection of surly soldiers into a friendship.

"I can appreciate that you must be in a hurry, Mister Frost, so let me assure you that this is a small outpost here. It would not take long to speak to the entire rank and file of the fort - and I suspect that though they may be loath to admit it, the men here are so few in number that they would be glad of a new face to talk to."

Seeing only a choice between helping Captain Carius and trawling the many shops of the warm island of Vvardenfell for fur armour (that is, if I did not want to simply abandon the airship crew to their fates), I again approached one of the Legion soldiers on duty. I was careful to pick one who had not been a witness to my earlier attempts to speak with the fort's staff: a Legionnaire huddled into his armour atop the battlements.

But it seemed the rancour affecting the soldiers was endemic: the man growled at me:

"Leave us be! Don't you know better than to disturb a soldier on duty?" As I walked away, I distinctly heard him mutter to himself: "By the Divines, I need a drink..."

This gave me an idea. If Captain Carius was right about his men generally not being 'cut from the finest cloth' - so to speak - then they should be susceptible to a well thought-out bribe... It was a matter of mere minutes for me to teleport home, collect a couple of bottles of Cyrodiilic Brandy from the kitchen, and Recall back to Frostmoth Fort. I approached the same soldier on the battlements, and sat one of the small bottles between us, on the rampart wall. The man's eyes grew large at the sight of the alcohol, and he turned to me, looking mildly confused.

"For me?" He managed to say after a moment.

I merely nodded, giving a nonchalant shrug. The soldier caught the bottle up and pulled the stopper with his teeth (to save having to take his gloves off, I imagine). Never mind that the sun had risen only a few short hours earlier, the man downed a third of the brandy in one gulp. With a heartfelt sigh of pleasure, he said:

"Thankyou - and apologies for before." Giving a sheepish grin, he added: "I suppose you heard me, then? About needing a drink? Well look, normally I wouldn't be chasing a drink at this hour, but since this became a dry fort..." he gestured vaguely, "things have been... unpleasant."

"A dry fort?" I prompted.

The soldier took another sip.

"Yes: no liquor allowed at Fort Frostmoth - at all. Orders of the Captain - I guess. Seemed kind of strange coming from him, though;" he said thoughtfully; "I mean Carius seemed like an alright sort before this. I guess we weren't up to his standards, and he cut us off. Everyone's been in a foul mood since then."

An alcohol ban! If that was all there was to it, perhaps I could be on my way sooner than I had hoped. I could ply the man in charge of the armoury with a drink and get what equipment I needed from him (provided of course that the ban was the cause of his rudeness, and not something else). After that I could tell Carius what I had learned (just out of good manners), and depart in search of the airship crew.

As with everything in my life though, things turned out to be not as simple as that.

"A dry fort?" Carius raised his eyebrows. "They think that I banned alcohol? It's only a dry fort because the alcohol shipments stopped coming in a while back. Actually, I recall that Nuncius - Antonius Nuncius, our priest here - wanted a ban. He was worried about the effect of alcohol on the men. We argued about it a couple of times, I think - and then of course it ceased to matter soon after that because there was no alcohol to be had here anyway."

The Captain stopped to think. I screwed my eyes shut, again fighting back my frustration.

"This story that I banned alcohol must have come from someone. See if you can find out who. If we can expose this person, I think we'll both get what we want from my men."

And now Falx Carius was ordering me about as if I was one of his men. My frustration only grew. Would the petty politics and tantrum-throwing of a backwater Imperial Legion outpost be the death of the men I had set out to save?

I could feel a headache coming on.


Anonymous Person said...

I remember this! I went around to all the cornerclubs and such and bout shein and gave everyon 1 each.

Certainly cheered them up.

Great chapter as always Joseph.

Thursday, February 09, 2006 1:31:00 am  
Anonymous Person said...

*Bought, everyone.

Geez, I suck at typing...

Thursday, February 09, 2006 1:33:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you have a girlfriend?

Thursday, February 09, 2006 6:34:00 am  
Anonymous Matar said...

If we did we would not be reading this right now >.>.

Great chapter... I just stole the captines boozes each time >.>.

Thursday, February 09, 2006 10:57:00 am  
Anonymous Stygian said...

I think 'anonymous' was referring to the writer.

Thursday, February 09, 2006 11:22:00 am  
Anonymous Person said...

Y'know, if you ask the Captain about booze he says:

'No, sorry, I dont drink.'

So why does he have all those bottles of liquor in his quarters?


Thursday, February 09, 2006 2:15:00 pm  
Blogger Joseph said...

"Do you have a girlfriend?"

Sorry, but my love life is going to remain private.

Person: One shein for everyone! That would be hard to carry around. I'm reminded of this joke (maybe an Australian joke) about how carrying three drinks in your hands is like Moses parting the red sea: everyone in the pub will move aside to let you pass. :-)

- Joseph.

Friday, February 10, 2006 12:07:00 am  
Anonymous Random said...

Oy! Lay off us ozzies!

Friday, February 10, 2006 3:49:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Friday, February 10, 2006 3:53:00 am  
Anonymous Tchakkazulu said...

Hrmph, people won't even go aside when I carry six drinks.

Friday, February 10, 2006 7:55:00 am  
Blogger Joseph said...

Random: No, I mean a joke that originated in Australia. (I am Australian myself).

Tchakkazulu: Six drinks? Is that without a tray or anything - just in your hands? Because that sounds like quite a feat, if so... :-)

- Joseph.

Friday, February 10, 2006 9:24:00 am  
Anonymous Person said...

Can't say I've seen or heard of that happening Joseph, heard the joke though.

Friday, February 10, 2006 9:25:00 am  

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