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, March 01, 2006

Chapter 94: Found and lost

Once the sun had risen and it was again warm enough to travel Solstheim's wilderness, I teleported back to my Mark near the Rimhull caves. From there I went west, down onto the northern edge of the Isinfier Plains. At first I could see where the grey, glittering Isild River split in two to become the Iggnir and Harstrad rivers, but this view was lost to me as I arrived on the snow-drifts, soil and blasted rock of the low-lying plains.

There were few trees this far north, and therefore very little to break up the chill winds that swept down from the Moesring Mountains looming on the western horizon. The mountains: they were my destination; so I spent most of the day with the wind blowing full in my face. The painfully bright sunlight prevailed for most of the day, though the gusting wind occasionally whipped up enough of the powdery, freshly fallen snow to cast my surroundings in a grey, freezing shadow.

In the early afternoon I spotted a group of men trudging down a gentle hill towards me. For a moment my hopes were raised: could they be the crew of the airship? One of the pale, fur-clad men noticed me at almost the same time, and nudged the man next to him. In a short moment it became obvious that they were not the ones I was looking for: they were bandits.

They all drew weapons and moved to the attack: most had axes and were charging down the slope towards me, but two were hanging back, longbows in their hands. An arrow whistled past my head, and I dashed up the hill a little way to get behind a boulder, cursing to myself. If only I had kept a better watch on the landscape, I might have seen the bandits before they saw me, and been able to skirt around them.

In my defence I was quite bleary-eyed from the constant chill wind - though mainly I was just careless. I had not expected to see anyone in such a remote place, especially highwaymen: there were (obviously) no highways anywhere nearby! I readied my sword and shield, straining my ears to listen for any sound that might give away their positions. I had counted five of them. I had been triumphant in the face of worse odds than that before, of course, but that was usually in relatively close quarters; where it was difficult for my enemy to out-manoeuvre me. On the wide-open Isinfier Plains, I would have to be careful indeed.

Fortunately for me, one of the bandits was quite careless himself; and came rushing around the corner, sticking close to the boulder behind which I was hiding - rather than ranging away from it as he came, which would have been rather more sensible. With one vicious swipe of my Daedric blade, I literally cut his legs out from under him.

As it turned out, the highwaymen had at least had the sense to come at me from both sides at once: a crunching footstep in the snow behind me alerted me just in time, and I leapt forward to escape the whooshing swing of a silver axe. Almost. A searing pain shot up my back as the obviously enchanted blade carved a shallow furrow from my flesh. I smelt burning fur, from my armour - and worse: burning flesh - from my own back. I stumbled forward another few steps, suddenly feeling weak and ungainly. The enchantment in the bandit's blade had set me alight with a flash of magical fire, and was sapping my strength. Save for weapons that paralysed their victims, I had never before encountered a more brutal enchantment.

My leap out of the way of the bandit's axe had taken me out from behind the protection of my boulder; with near-disastrous results. An arrow came in over the top of my shield, burying itself in my arm, near the shoulder. At the same time, a taller bandit in sparkling white fur armour caught up with me and dealt me a powerful blow to my chest with his own axe. I was thrown backwards onto the ground, and had to turn my head away from the burst of magical flame that erupted from the wound, or risk being blinded. There had been an audible crack when the blow landed, and I knew what that meant - even in the tiny instant before the pain blossomed through my body: my ribs had been broken once again.

Wishing that I had not become so familiar with the sound of my own ribs cracking, I struggled weakly to my feet. My strength was still ebbing away, but now it was not just from the foul enchantment in the highwaymen's blades: I was bleeding heavily. Forcing the magic of the Tinur's Hoptoad spell into my trembling legs, I leapt high into the air before the two remaining axe-wielding men could descend on me. I came to rest upon the snow-capped tip of a tall, monolithic boulder, my blood spattering the snow at my feet from the impact. I was out of reach of the men with axes, but the archers would still pose a threat.

Awkwardly balancing atop the monolith, I put my sword away and crouched down behind my shield. I needed a free hand to yank out the arrow from my shoulder (which hurt so much I nearly fell from the boulder), and send healing magic into my body. Once my wounds had closed and I had negated the strength-sapping magic spreading through my veins (numerous arrows burying themselves in my shield all the while), I directed my attention back to the bandits. It was very clear that I would have to kill them all.

The Hoptoad spell was still buoying my body up, and so I took the opportunity to make a wild leap high over the heads of the troublesome archers. I came back to the ground just behind them, but not before landing my 'Holding Field' spell on the pair of them. In two neat strokes, I beheaded the two paralysed men. Now I could focus on the formidable axe-men without worrying that I might receive an arrow in my back.

There were only two left now, and they were close together and sprinting up to meet me. I tried to paralyse them, too; but the tall Nordic man in the white fur-armour shrugged off every spell I threw at him. The other man was not so lucky: just before the white-clad bandit reached me, I vaulted over his head and landed virtually on top of the other (paralysed) man, burying my blade in his head.

The bandit in white fur was possibly the most formidable warrior I had yet faced. Our fight lasted for what seemed like nearly half an hour, and I lost count of the number of times I had to break off and heal myself. He never once gave any indication of giving up and trying to escape - perhaps he was waiting for my stores of magicka to run dry (not knowing, of course, that mine never really did). Eventually I got in a lucky hit and cut halfway through the man's wrist (on his axe-arm). I thought that then, maybe he would give up, being no longer able to even hold his weapon.

But no: he made to grab the axe with his other hand, forcing me to kill him. I thrust my sword through his neck in that vulnerable moment.

I must have been an awful sight to behold after that fight: my armour was sliced, torn, scorched and bloodied. I felt little better myself. I was shaking from adrenaline and fear - I very much disliked facing better warriors than I in close combat. Still, I managed to force my quivering hands into stripping the man of his white, sparkling fur-armour. They seemed to be made from wolf-skin, though I had never seen a wolf with snow-white fur. Just by touching it I could tell that the armour was enchanted to protect against cold temperatures - I recognised the feel of the magic by its similarity to that in my own Elementward ring.

I discarded the pieces of wolf-skin armour I had been wearing (they were damaged almost beyond repair anyway) and replaced them with the white fur armour. I did not replace my bear-skin armour: I wanted the added protection the thicker hide afforded. The rest of the white armour I gathered into a sack one of the bandits had been carrying and slung over my shoulder. It was not overly heavy, and I was sure it had to be quite rare. Perfect for my museum.

Making sure to keep a better watch out from then on, I set out once more; trudging up the steeper and steeper slope to the west. Soon I realised that I was standing on the feet of the Moesring Mountains; sharp-looking, grey and white spires of rock above me. Snow began to fall softly in the late afternoon, and it was through this grey, shifting veil that I saw the ruin of Louis' airship.

I stood and stared at the macabre scene for the longest time, my heart seeming to freeze over and almost stop beating in my chest, such was the despair I felt. At the same time my scalp prickled and my face felt hot with frustration. After all the trouble I had gone to on that island; the pain, the danger, the near-constant fighting for my life, and the absolutely-constant, will-sapping cold; I had found the stranded airship crew...

But... the only sound was the ghostly hiss of the falling snow. They were all dead. I could see their bloody, reddened bones half-buried in the snow all around the wrecked hulk of the airship. The thing looked like a normal wooden boat, only with several still-clanking and -clamouring Dwemer machines bolted to it in various places. It looked as if it had fallen from the sky.

Tearing at a near-fleshless corpse was the largest wolf I had ever seen: a wolf with snow-white fur. Instantly I knew what sort of creature the sparkling, white fur-armour had been made from. I shouted at the thing in an attempt to scare it off, but the wolf, its muzzle stained red with the blood of man or mer, snarled and threw itself at me instead. The monstrous thing was nearly as tall as I, and I certainly did not want it to get close enough to bite me.

I slashed the beast across the throat as it made to fasten its jaws on my leg. With a series of horrible, gurgling yelps, the massive wolf tore off into the nearby trees... probably to die.

Clenching my teeth, I set about the grisly task of surveying the scene of the crash. Next to the tangled mess of blood-stained bones the wolf had been attacking was a book - a journal. I gingerly crouched in the red snow around the corpse and picked it up.

It told a grim tale.


Anonymous Random said...

Great pictures, Joseph, Really great pictures. Way to finish a chapter too, it's a great cliffhanger

Thursday, March 02, 2006 3:10:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great entry as usual Joseph. I wonder now if you'll head back to vvanderfell, or stay and complete the bloodmoon phrophecy......?

P.S. I agree with random, great pictures.

Thursday, March 02, 2006 9:11:00 am  
Anonymous Person said...

Captain Roberto Jodoin's journal...
For this Quest, I really thought the reward was nowhere near enough. When I fought the snow wolf, it almost killed me because of it's frostbite. Not to mention the reikling raiders in the mountain pass and valley beyond the airship. And the other Snow Wolf...

Excellent chapter Joseph!
Sorry about my rambling...

Thursday, March 02, 2006 3:22:00 pm  
Anonymous Matar said...

I agree. The reward for all this sucked >:-O

Thursday, March 02, 2006 6:24:00 pm  
Anonymous Person said...

All I can say is... WTF??? I was in Seyda Neen and a Slaughterfish came onto the land and started moving around! I just chased after it and watched it flop around between two rocks for a minute and it then went back into the water... Has this happened to anyone else before?

Friday, March 03, 2006 1:34:00 am  
Anonymous dabigpman said...

ive had it happen on both the xbox version and on the PC version. just a random glitch.

Friday, March 03, 2006 2:40:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Person:
That's happened to me, too, just like a Dark Brotherhood assassin getting stuck in a bunk bed at the Balmora fighter's guild....

Anyway, it was a great chapter with an awesome ending, even though it makes me impatient for the next chapter. By the way did u just make up the bandit with the wolf armor, because the only reavers i've seen have nordic fur armor...

Friday, March 03, 2006 1:13:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way the post before me was by Noozooroo....I need to make my name known!


Friday, March 03, 2006 1:15:00 pm  
Blogger Joseph said...

Thanks everyone: I do enjoy a good cliffhanger. :-) I enjoy doing the pictures for this story, too.

I didn't make up the Reaver in Snow-Wolf armour - I've seen them in Snow-bear (is that the name?) armour as well. They're pretty tough; it's possible you only see them sometimes, and only if you're over a certain level.

- Joseph.

Friday, March 03, 2006 8:25:00 pm  

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