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, June 16, 2006

Chapter 140: Playing both sides

Going by the angry words of the Altmer goblin trainers, it seemed safe to conclude that the large goblins Sirilonwe and I killed were the War-Chiefs Steward Hler had sent us after. I was glad to finally leave the catacombs; even though (as a vampire) I could not become tired, a whole day and night of constant fighting in those dark caverns and passages was somewhat wearing on my nerves.

There was still the matter of how to get back out again, obviously: but Sirilonwe and I were both accomplished mages. We tried casting Almsivi Intervention, and I was delighted to discover that it worked exactly as I had hoped: we appeared just outside the Mournhold Temple. It was a little after midnight by then: Chief Steward Hler was likely asleep. Giving him an account of the encounter with the goblin army would have to wait; instead, we went to see Captain Delitian (stopping at a public water-pump along the way to wash ourselves of the filth of the sewers and catacombs). I had a couple of presents for him.

"Something smells of the sewers." Delitian sniffed.

Mind racing, I somehow managed to say more-or-less smoothly:

"Yes... well - that's where I found this." And I handed over the copy of the broadsheet 'The Common Tongue' I had found.

The guard captain skimmed through it quickly - his expression unreadable - before briefly thanking me for it and quickly moving onto the topic of the informant he had wanted me to produce from the members of the Mournhold Temple.

"Galsa Andrano, eh?" The Imperial rubbed his chin. "And she told you that Almalexia herself wishes the Temple to move against King Helseth?" Delitian took a deep breath. "This is excellent work, vampire Frost. Mister Frost. I'll make sure his majesty hears of this. In actual fact, since you've done so well testing loyalties, I have a somewhat related task that I think you would be perfect for."

The captain glanced around the throne-room at the Royal Guardsmen standing on duty.

"You - and you, Ms Sirilonwe - are both obviously powerful mages. You are quite high-up in the Mages Guild, of course." He winked. "How are you with the College of Illusion specifically?"

"Passable." I said levelly; wondering where he was going with such a line of questioning.

Delitian looked pleased.

"Excellent, excellent. It's my men, you see." The Imperial lowered his voice. "I replaced many of the former king's guards with... more reliable men; but I had to keep some for virtue of their experience. I need to be sure of their loyalty to the new king. That's all."

Delitian handed Sirilonwe and I each a signed document that read simply:

'Esteemed member of the Royal Guard; please give this person your name, and answer their questions.'

"Go, do your magic." The captain said, with a grin.

It was as simple as that, in the end. Sirilonwe and I made a tour of the Royal Palace, speaking to every guardsman we met (the ones on night-duty, at least). Without more specific information from Captain Delitian as to exactly what he was worried about, we simply Charmed each one and asked him (or her) how they felt about King Helseth.

A somewhat simple - but massively strong-looking - guardsman named Ivulen Irano looked about ready to cry at the mention of the dead King Llethan, and, in stark contrast, appeared to be only just managing to hold in his anger, when I asked him about Helseth.

"Look through his things;" Delitian suggested, with a slight frown, when I told him about this - "but don't be seen. My men have no time for thieves."

The captain's sense of humour may have been a little misplaced, but I knew from long experience how to properly steal things; and the guards' quarters was not exactly a 'secure location' for someone like me. Their dormitory in the palace was darkened and full of sleeping bodies. Only occasionally did a patrolling guardsman pass by the chambers, glancing in from the hallway. Using my levitation spell, I floated silently across the dark ceiling, safely out of sight of anyone passing by in the hall.

At the foot of one of the beds was a strongbox belonging to Ivulen Irano (which I identified as his by the carved wooden sign on it that bore his name). From my position flattened against the ceiling, I used Telekinesis to quietly open the box and have a 'look through his things', as Delitian had asked. There was nothing much besides clothes in the box - but after a moment I noticed that wedged under the box was a worn-looking piece of paper. Such a thing was difficult to grab using Telekinesis, so I dropped lightly to the floor, caught up the note, and quickly left the dormitory, invisible.

The note turned out to be a strange copy of the guard rosters in the palace throne-room for the previous few weeks, with several shifts underlined heavily. I will admit that I thought it held little significance, myself; but Sirilonwe asked to see it too. After a moment's study, she pointed out something I had missed: the names recorded for the underlined shifts; Milvela Dralen, Aleri Aren, and Ivulen Irano himself - were the only ones that were consistently spelled correctly.

"This suggests to me -" Sirilonwe said - "that these three know each other well, and might be planning to do something on one of the shifts in which they are alone in the throne-room with the king. Or at least that this Ivulen Irano may think something like that."

It was a very astute observation on her part, and when we went to question Milvela Dralen and Aleri Aren, it became obvious that the pair also held little love for King Helseth.

"Maybe they want the same thing you do - and are planning the same thing you are." Sirilonwe whispered afterwards.

"Perhaps;" I nodded; "but they're little good to me if they're incompetent enough to leave something like this lying around." I gestured with the marked roster. "No; I'll give this to Delitian, I think."

The captain looked very pleased at our findings, tucking the roster away in a satchel at his side - and that was actually the last we heard of the matter. Quickly dispelling the idea that he might have some more pleasant or rewarding work in mind for me, Delitian told me that he had been concerned for a little while about rumours of a conspiracy against Helseth among the House Hlaalu nobles in the city.

Apparently, supporters of the late King Llethan among the Hlaalu nobles had not accepted the new king's accession with 'good grace', as the captain put it. Delitian was concerned that these nobles might have some plan to put forward an alternate candidate for the throne - a Hlaalu one, of course. What this boiled down to for me was that Delitian wanted me to break into Llethan manor, in Godsreach, and try to find some evidence of a conspiracy. That the manor shared the name of the late king did not escape my notice... but perhaps it was merely a coincidence. King Helseth's first name was (coincidentally) 'Hlaalu', after all.

So: another vaguely defined, questionable piece of espionage for the guard captain. He at least had not been lying when he said that the work he wanted from me was not suitable for the rank-and-file of his guardsmen. You can imagine my chagrin at being ordered to do such things by a man like Delitian; but I believed it all to be necessary.

It would have to wait, in any case: the sun was rising as we spoke.

On our return to Mournhold in the evening, we went to see Chief Steward Hler about the goblin army. That was a task I could feel better about having worked at.

"Sera Frost!" The Steward beamed at me. "It is done: the back of the army is broken! I have been receiving reports of a mass exodus of goblins from the sewer outlets beyond the city limits. By all accounts, they're fighting amongst themselves every step of the way. You - both of you -" the Dunmer gestured at Sirilonwe as well; "have done Almalexia - and I mean both the Lady and the city - a great service."

Before I could quite believe what was happening, Sirilonwe and I were gifted with fifteen thousand septims from the coffers of the Temple. It was all we could do to physically carry it, such was the sheer bulk of our reward. I could not really think of what to say. It was Hler who spoke first:

"While having Wraithguard on your hand is sign enough that Vivec himself placed his trust in you, I have not forgotten that there is no little animosity between vampires and the Temple. The dissolution of the goblin army alone deserves such a stipend - but I also do this because we at the Mournhold Temple wish to secure your services - and your loyalty."

"And you shall have it." I said.

After accepting such a generous gift, I did not really feel as if I could refuse. I was still thinking of the possibility that the Temple might aid me in my eventual attack on the king, too...

"Excellent." Steward Hler nodded. "Now, I believe Archcanon Drin has something for you to do."

Gavas Drin, an intelligent-looking Dunmer man in a fine robe, was Almalexia's Archcanon; but he introduced himself as 'Patriarch' of the Temple.

"Ah, yes: the vampire-saviours." Gavas said, fixing me with a long stare. "I have something you can help me with. Now, as you may already know," he began, his gaze flicking briefly to the Wraithguard, "the Tribunal - Vivec, especially - wish for the Temple to return to its old ways; to ancestor-worship... of both the Anticipations and our Dunmer forebears. With that in mind, Almalexia has asked that the ancient Shrine of the Dead, in the ruins of Old Mournhold beneath the temple, be cleansed."

I was interested to hear of the Tribunal taking action to pursue the course Vivec had spoken of in our last meeting. I listened keenly.

"This shrine was once a place of great power." Gavas went on. "It allowed the faithful to speak with the ancestors; to learn and draw power from them. Over time it has become forgotten and neglected, and it has grown sour. The power there now draws nothing but hordes of the undead to it. Almalexia has asked that young Urvel Dulni here be escorted to the shrine so that he may cleanse and purify it in her name. Our Lady wishes to utilise the power in the Shrine of the Dead to aid her in her guardianship over the city. I would ask you to go with Priest Dulni to the shrine, and keep him safe from the undead along the way. One last word of warning: I have divined that the shrine has drawn to it powerful and profane liches... very dangerous things."

Gavas motioned for a young-looking priest in a blue robe to follow us. It seemed that he was Urvel Dulni - and that the Archcanon expected us to set out for the Shrine of the Dead immediately. With the last ominous-sounding words of the Archcanon ringing in our ears, we followed the young priest down to the temple basement. There was apparently an entrance to the sewers (again into the sewers!) down there.

Dulni was a quiet one; at least around Sirilonwe and I. I noticed him surreptitiously fingering an amulet that hung from his neck and glittered with obvious magic. He grasped it tighter whenever I or Sirilonwe spoke to - or even looked at - him. It was most likely enchanted with a teleportation spell that would allow him to escape quickly, should we give in to our 'natural urges as vampires' - or somesuch.

"You don't need to worry." I told him. "We don't need your blood. We can get it elsewhere."

"Although if we become seriously wounded while protecting you," Sirilonwe added, "you might consider allowing us some so that we might recover. It would be only fitting, don't you think?" She winked at me, over the priest's head.

Dulni's grey face turned a pale silver.

Thinking about it now, I do not think that what either of us said helped at all.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice chapter, i'm looking forward to see what happens next (i stopped the tribunal quest at this point, cause i felt i was being used =P, so i have no idea how all this ends).

By the way, Urvel Dulni doesn't look very young on that photo (obviously in the game too)=D

Saturday, June 17, 2006 2:40:00 am  
Blogger Joseph said...

Heh - yes, a lot of Tribunal is about being used. It does start to get a lot more interesting after this, though. Hopefully this will also translate into the upcoming chapters, and they will be more exciting than the last couple. ;-)

I've got some ideas down in my notes that I'm looking forward to getting into the upcoming chapters - and seeing how they work out...

And on Urvel; well, I suppose age is hard to judge when it comes to elves. :-)

- Joseph.

Sunday, June 18, 2006 12:09:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Using my levitation spell, I floated silently across the dark ceiling"? AFAIK, you can't levitate in Mournhold - I tried to!

Hmmm... I have'nt tried doing the main quest ahead of Tribunal.

Very nice story line!


Tuesday, June 20, 2006 2:49:00 pm  

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