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.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Chapter 138: Opposing powers

"Are you angry that no-one knows what we did at Red Mountain, Edward?" Sirilonwe had been watching me as we made our way to 'Godsreach', the upper-class residential area in the western part of Mournhold. I could tell that something was on her mind. "We would be called heroes, you know."

"Yes," I remarked, "we probably would: if we weren't vampires, and if the whole business wasn't wrapped up in political and religious secrets. I doubt they'll ever acknowledge our part in it; just as Azura said."

Sirilonwe's eyes narrowed slightly.

"You believe you really did see Azura, then?" She asked.

I did not say anything for a while. I had told her about what I had seen after killing Dagoth Ur: through the haze of significant blood loss; but it was obvious that she was not sure whether I could trust my senses in such a situation.

"It's not the first time she's spoken to me." I said shortly. "Where else could the 'Azura's Star' soul gem have come from?"

Sirilonwe nodded, and said gently:

"I only ask because you seem so... angry and determined when it comes to pursuing this 'H' from the Dark Brotherhood contract. Even if it really was Helseth, is this the best course of action? He is the king! This could be - would be - very dangerous for us."

I was not frustrated with her for expressing these concerns. I agreed with her that it was dangerous.

"Think about how you felt when that vampire hunter came in through the window - while we were sleeping." I paused, and let the idea sink in. "This is not something I can simply leave alone. It would be just as dangerous if I did."

That; and the fact that we had reached the 'Winged Guar' - the tavern in Godsreach - settled the discussion for the moment. We were seeing to Captain Delitian's request: to discover the source of the rumours surrounding the death of the late King Llethan. In essence, the rumours stated that Llethan had not died a natural, accidental death; someone had murdered him. Delitian had assured me that this would not be as hard as it may have sounded: Mournhold was still quarantined from the rest of Almalexia, so the community there was a small and contained one. Since the rumour was a fresh one - and apparently only known inside Mournhold (and not in the rest of the city), it had to have originated from somewhere within the holy district.

The nervous Royal Guardsman that had approached me on our arrival had directed us to the Winged Guar; the only tavern in Mournhold. The hour was too late to hope to find people anywhere else.

We were still in our armour, as prior to our arrival, I had not known what to expect from a visit to the Royal Palace (would the king's men make an open move against me?); and returning all the way home just to change into casual dress would be too much trouble. A full suit of armour is not exactly appropriate for trying to blend into the crowd in a public house, but seated in a dark corner we found a Nordic man so drunk that our state of dress did not matter - and nor did our vampiric nature. That is not to say, however, that he did not notice:

"H-hey - " the drunk, hulking man slurred, as I handed him a mug of sujamma I had bought from the Charmed bartender; "you're not... you're not vampires, are you? C'mon; you can tell me." He spoke as if trying to wheedle an admission of an obvious secret from someone.

"Well... no - " I replied; "but don't tell anyone, alright? Trying to keep up appearances, you know." I suspected that what I told him would not really matter; as long as he thought that I had divulged some kind of secret to him.

The man nodded sagely.

"You can trust me." He said solemnly. "Is there s-something I can do for you... vampires?" He giggled.

"Yes, actually." I leaned forward, as if to speak on a topic that held great intrigue for me. "We've been talking about King Llethan, you see. Everyone says that his death wasn't an accident - but no-one really knows anything about it. They all just say they overheard it somewhere."

The Nord took a long draught from his drink, and, blinking blearily, said:

"Ah, they're all too ashamed to admit they only read it in 'The Common Tongue'. But I don't care one bit! It's a f-fine broadsheet. Very smart, whoever writes it. Big secret, of course. The guards don't like The Common Tongue. 'Specially since this one that has everyone up in arms says that Helseth killed Llethan."

A broadside sheet, then. I had not seen their like in Morrowind before, but I remembered them from the Imperial City, in my youth. Sensationalist stories printed on cheap paper. So: the meat of the rumour was that Helseth was responsible for the late king's death! Considering what Caius had told me about the new king, I found it easy to believe.

We learned nothing further from our Nordic friend in the tavern: he rushed outside to be violently sick in the gutter.

Captain Delitian (who apparently was on duty all that night) was interested to hear about the story in 'The Common Tongue'; and even more interested in seeing a copy; if we could find one for him.

"Whenever you happen across one," he said, "just bring it to me. That would be fine. In the meantime, since you've shown dedication and speedy work, there's something more important I'd like you to look into..."

This 'more important' task turned out to be finding an informant in the Mournhold Temple. Delitian wanted to know if the Tribunal Temple planned to accept Helseth as the new king - or if they planned to move against him somehow. I began to get a sense of the captain's current duties: Helseth faced distrust and suspicion from the people and from the Temple (the other main power in Almalexia - and indeed all of Morrowind, some would say), and Delitian was tasked with quelling this 'ill will'.

The captain cited the schism of the Dissident Priests from the main order of the Temple as a sign of discontent in their ranks; and said that this discontent would doubtless make it easy to find a willing informant. While I was obviously chagrined at having to play spy for the lapdog of my enemy, I did not really feel disquieted at the idea of producing an informant among the priests of the Temple. The Tribunal Temple was so full of corruption, heavy secrets and control by terror already that an informant would fit right in.

Finding a copy of 'The Common Tongue' proved to be an easy - albeit tedious - task. I reasoned that locating a discarded copy of the broadsheet would be our best bet; and the best place to find one would be in a busy, public area - such as the Great Bazaar in the eastern part of Mournhold. Sirilonwe and I split up and combed the bazaar; empty of people in the hours after midnight.

After searching for hours (if you can believe it), I eventually found one that had been stuffed into a well-tended garden bed near the centre of the bazaar. In summary, the broadsheet inferred that King Helseth was a 'subtle and accomplished' poisoner, with hundreds of murders to his name. It also suggested that the deaths of both the late King Llethan - and his young protege Talen Vandas (who had apparently been widely expected to take the throne after Llethan) - were the result of poisonings, rather than illness. It was worded carefully so as not to accuse Helseth directly, but left no doubt in the mind of the reader as to what was intended.

Finding an informant in the Temple would likely be more difficult: there was no way I could simply skulk around the Mournhold Temple, looking for someone who appeared frustrated with their faith. The Ordinators (High Ordinators, actually) would attack me; given my appearance.

No - I would have to gain their confidence; perhaps work with them, as I had on Vvardenfell. However, therein lay the same problem as ever: the Tribunal Temple was well-known for their hatred of vampires. Unless... unless they would recognise Wraithguard on my hand as a sign of Vivec's trust in me. It seemed simple, actually - and the thought made me feel more confident: really, what better recommendation could I have?

In the last hour before dawn, Sirilonwe and I made for the spectacular temple that dominated the northern side of Mournhold: the building that I had heard was also the home of the living-goddess Almalexia. A Dunmer priestess stood on the Temple steps, giving blessings to passers-by on their way to or from work. She called out to me as I approached. I noticed she was staring at the Wraithguard.

"Wait - are you... Edward Frost?"

I stopped and regarded her silently. She took in my face, and gasped quietly.

"By Almsivi! You really are a vampire..." She gave a hasty bow, and said: "Sera Frost, I have a message for you. Almalexia says that she is thankful that you did what she - and Vivec and Sotha Sil - could not, even if it means- " she gulped, and glanced about us - "the decline of her divine power." The priestess paused. "I admit: I still can't believe Dagoth Ur is really gone. It's just... such amazing news. I know that everyone at the Temple here would be proud to have you visit us. Steward Hler especially, I think: I heard him say several days ago that he was keen to talk to you."

After that encouraging encounter, we proceeded into the entrance hall of the temple, to be met by none other than the Steward the priestess on the steps had spoken of; a hard-looking Dunmer with a scar down one side of his face.

"Ah, yes!" He said. "The vampire Edward Frost! And Sirilonwe, too!" He added, his eyes flicking briefly to Sirilonwe and then back to me. "I am Fedris Hler, Chief Steward for Almalexia. It is excellent to meet you."

The Chief Steward repeated more-or-less what the priestess on the steps had said about Almalexia and the events at Red Mountain, but added:

"I would show you around the temple, but there is actually an urgent matter that requires my attention... and that since you are here, almost like a gift from the gods -" he gave a reserved grin - "perhaps you can help us with. If doing even more for the Temple is not an imposition."

I nodded for him to go ahead. Again, things were happening almost exactly as I could have wished them too... though I was soon to learn that - again - it was not the divine hand of fate that guided events, but the rather more dirty hand of politics and intrigue.

"Ah - good;" Hler continued - "I am indebted to you. Well, this matter actually concerns our new King Helseth... as I understand it, you have been approached by his majesty's guard-dog, Delitian, yes?" At my sharp look, the Steward went on to explain: "I hear things, you see. For instance, I have heard it said that our new king has ties to the Dark Brotherhood... and I have heard that you had a... rather violent disagreement with the Dark Brotherhood cell here in Almalexia. Now; I am no fool. I can put these three facts - plus the fact that you have agreed to work for Delitian - together and see what you intend."

His manner had changed subtly. In his words I could sense - not a threat, or even a warning - but a notification that he held the power of knowledge over me: of secrets that could be detrimental to me if they were made public.

"Not to worry though;" he said; "my feelings towards Helseth are commonly known around here. He is a foul man, and unworthy of the throne. Which brings us to the matter at hand... Our Lady Almalexia watches over this city and keeps it safe - and recently she has been watching Helseth closely... with good reason. The king is raising a goblin army somewhere nearby."

I glanced at Sirilonwe, shocked. She looked just as taken aback. A number of Altmer were said to keep and train goblins as cheap, vicious muscle - but Sirilonwe was one of the many High Elves that frowned on this practice. Goblins were very dangerous.

"Yes..." Steward Hler continued. "What I would ask you to do - what you would be perfect for - is to discover the location of the army, and kill their war-chiefs (there should be two); plus their Altmer trainers. There should only be two of them, as well. The army should disband with no-one to lead them: goblins are just like that. And if you are worried that taking action against Helseth's dubious army would jeopardise your chance to... meet the king, then don't be. Even if they somehow discovered that it was you, they could never admit as much; not without revealing their culpability regarding the goblin army. This is why I mentioned my knowledge of your 'work' with Delitian, you see."

Any trace of a smile left Hler's face, and he became very serious.

"Besides," he said, "this must be done. That army could cause untold loss of life in the city, should those Altmer trainers lose control over it." He paused for a moment. "Yes... this is very important. Again, I apologise for thrusting it upon you like this... Please, feel free to ask any of the priests here if they have heard anything about these goblins. We must find them quickly, before the army grows too large."

So: I found myself in the service of the right-hand men of both the major powers in the city of Almalexia. Opposing powers, no less.

"This might become a little complicated." I murmured to Sirilonwe.


Anonymous I'm a nerd hear my roar said...

shouldn't Frost take damage inside the temple?

Monday, June 12, 2006 2:26:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

well there arent any holy altars or symbols in the room if i remember correctly.

Monday, June 12, 2006 2:53:00 am  
Anonymous I'm a nerd hear my roar said...

isn't it a tempel anyway? = holy ground.

Monday, June 12, 2006 3:49:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well maybe no!! There are the two Temple shrine's near the back before the temple's basement..
You known.. The back room before, basement storage-area leaning into the temple's sewers..

-Cannot Spell..

Monday, June 12, 2006 4:19:00 am  
Anonymous rarr said...

The Tribunal isn't divine anymore, so Temple ground isn't holy. Edward probably still can't go onto Imperial Cult ground. Or maybe Wraithguard is protecting him...

Monday, June 12, 2006 4:33:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps the Tribunal decided to let Frost into theirtempls without getting hury as a reward for killing Mr. Ur?

Monday, June 12, 2006 5:35:00 am  
Blogger Joseph said...

rarr: Bingo. And Edward hasn't mentioned anything about all this yet because he's only seen the entrance chamber of the temple so far; and as Anonymous said, there are no actual shrines in there - so it hasn't occurred to him yet.

If I'm going to be honest, I was going to have him mention this, but the chapter was very long already; so I cut it. :-)

(On a non-story/rpg note, going from memory I think the Vampire Realism mod excludes main-quest areas from the list of locations that can cause holy-ground damage to vampires.)

- Joseph.

Monday, June 12, 2006 9:26:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great chapter as always. I would like the world to know that I turn 17 on this 12th day of June. I have read this since chp 12 was new. It has been a great run, and I would like to say that you are a talented writer.

Say does anyone here read the Wheel of Time series?


Monday, June 12, 2006 4:06:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the Vampire/Werewolf combination.. I thinking that bug, that I have, werewolfs hand-to-hand not working maybe caused by, Vampire/werewolf.. The werewolf can do every thing, run - jump, just not the hand-to-hand!! Has to do with, items that beast races cannot use "plus" if you key "0" for the hand-to-hand, gives this message.. Item cannot be used!!

So if someone knowns how this can be fixed, I think you need to go-into TES3 and enable some commands.. I don'nt what they are..

-Cannot Spell..

Monday, June 12, 2006 11:34:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok - So to continue.. Werewolf not useing the hand-to-hand.. I have fond out that by holding down, either one of the "0" or "F" keys you can get the hand-to-hand to work.. The "Ctrl" key - the grapbag, sneek-thievf icon, still works - only the werewolf is not able to pickup/use any items.. The spacebar or use key works, so you can open doors.. I known, an keyboard configure problem.. My CPU is bit-of this, bit-of that, just a lot of pices put togettur..

-Cannot Spell..

Tuesday, June 13, 2006 7:53:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now that I have my werewolf problems out of the way.. How about some trivia..

Were can you find, the two skills' books, The Gold Ribbon of Merit, and the Surfeit of Thieves.. Hint.. Can be found into the lower cell of the same named - Banit-Summager's/slave-holding cave.. Cave can be found along the East/South shoreline..

-Cannot Spell..

Wednesday, June 14, 2006 12:03:00 am  
Anonymous Person said...

Hey guys! I've certainly missed a bit!

Cannot spell - The book Surfeit of Theives is in Fatlegs drop off in Hla Oad. I previously posted where the Gold Ribbon of Merit was. See if you can find it. :)

Wednesday, June 14, 2006 1:10:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That wrong.. I siad both books can be fond within the same place or lower cave.. read my post..
As before I can only say sorry for the misspelling..

-Cannot Spell..

Wednesday, June 14, 2006 1:31:00 pm  

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