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 30, 2006

Chapter 146: Spoiling for martyrdom

The king's champion stepped purposefully towards me, raising an unusual blade: gracefully curved, but wider towards its end than at the hilt. I side-stepped to avoid the whistling downward swing of the sabre, and was then forced to quickly jump back as Karrod swung out at waist-level. He was not using a shield: I sent my own Daedric blade in a low arc towards his unprotected flank...

It was a tremendous fight - and a long one. I do not know whether Karrod carried with him enchanted items that gave him preternatural grace and ability, or whether he was simply a physically powerful and extremely well-trained man; but he was easily my equal as a fighter. I was very impressed: my own strength and ability was not something I really considered to be well-earned: it was mostly the result of magic (the magicka leak), or my vampiric blood.

Karrod's god-like endurance was certainly not in question: every blow of mine that bypassed his armour only sunk a little way into his flesh - before he twisted away, out of the blade's path. Still, he was soon bleeding from multiple wounds; but it did not slow the giant of a Redguard in the slightest. I too was caught many times by his strange sabre; but I had fed from Hunter directly before departing for Mournhold, and her fresh blood served to heal my every wound almost instantly.

This was Karrod's undoing, in the end: he could not outlast an opponent whose wounds closed over as quickly as he could attack. As more and more of his blood stained the floor, his movements slowed and became sluggish. Eventually he sank to his knees, sabre resting on the dais; and he raised his hand, palm outwards.

"Stop... please." He said. Everyone gasped, and I blinked in surprise. Had Helseth not just told me that Karrod was mute? "You are the better fighter." Karrod rumbled. "I concede."

King Helseth stepped up onto the edge of the dais, clapping.

"Excellent! We should have expected no less from a vampire, of course. I think that you can be of use to us. But first: Karrod... you speak! After all these years..."

The massive Redguard did not stand, or raise his head.

"Sorry." Was all he said.

"Yes... well; we shall be having a word together shortly, you and I." Helseth turned to an Imperial Cult healer who had been watching on with the Royal Guardsmen. "Tend to his wounds, if you please." He said, pointing to Karrod. "And someone clean up this blood."

A very relieved-looking Sirilonwe came up and rested her hand on my shoulder as Helseth drew me aside to congratulate me on my victory. I had expected him to be disappointed that Karrod had not managed to kill me... and he probably was; but his expression was unreadable.

"That was quite a show. You deserve a commendation for defeating Karrod, vampire Frost: that really was the first time he has lost a fight. And that you have revealed that he has been keeping this secret from me for so long... well: I believe you have proven your loyalty through all this." The king lowered his voice slightly. "We have plans for you... and I'm sure you can see how we can both benefit from the powerful friends we would gain through a... joint endeavour."

I felt my body tense up as the king drew a large, glittering dagger with a blade of green volcanic glass from inside his robes. However, he then also pulled out the sheath to go with the blade, and handed them both to me.

"Take this as a token of my esteem: to seal this working relationship. It was my father's ceremonial blade: the 'Dagger of Symmachus', some call it."

The finely-wrought blade was quite large for a dagger, and boasted a minor protection enchantment. It was a valuable and generous gift. This only made me suspicious, of course.

"Now," Helseth continued, "onto our plans for you. They concern the Temple; and I have no qualms about admitting - in front of you, vampire Frost - my lack of love for Almalexia and her Temple here in the city. You helped Delitian secure an informant among them, after all. The attack by these constructs - these 'fabricants' as they have come to be called - on the city is obviously a cause for concern: and again, it was you who found that they are not Dwemer-made."

I found my attention wavering, drawn to the scent of blood stirred up by the servants mopping the throne-room's dais clean. I could not help it: I was a vampire. The next words out of Helseth's mouth drew my attention back in an instant, however:

"I should think this much should be obvious now, looking at the dead ones we preserved. I believe these fabricants to be beyond anything the Dwemer - or any other mortal race - could dream up. It would take the power of a god to create such things."

"You mean..." I began.

"I mean Sotha Sil, the Tinkerer god. No-one has seen the man-god in centuries - only Almalexia could shed some light on where he might be, and what he might be doing - we are sure of it."

I clenched my teeth. If I was right about what he wanted... it would make things difficult for me.

"I'm sure you can see what I want. We must know if these fabricants will come again. You are the most suited to question Almalexia. Now, it would be best if we are not seen talking until you have something significant to report. As you yourself told Delitian, Almalexia holds no love for our royal person, either. It would of course be better if she does not suspect our relationship."

"What do you think all that was about?" Sirilonwe asked, after we had left the palace.

"I think he's momentarily out of ideas for staging an acceptable 'accidental' death for me. Yes; that's what Karrod and those assassins were about - I'm sure." I added, at Sirilonwe's slightly startled look. "He was trying to lull me into a false sense of security with his gift - and he sent me away with instructions not to contact him so that I'll stay at a safe distance while he thinks of another way to dispose of me. Maybe that's why he's sent me to question Almalexia: he's hoping she'll take offence at my questions about the... 'fabricants', and kill me for him."

"You will be careful about asking her those things, won't you?" Sirilonwe frowned. "And not just blatantly ask whether her eons-old companion has been making predatory constructs recently."

I nodded absently, turning the enchanted blade Helseth had given me over and over in my hands.

"Of course." I replied.

Sirilonwe watched as I studied the blade.

"You know, I would have told you to be careful handling that, as Helseth might be expected to give you some kind of cursed or trapped gift..." she said. I started, and froze; holding the blade gingerly between my thumb and forefinger. "... But that blade is unmistakable. The Dagger of Symmachus is considered to be a magical artefact, you know. Quite the kingly gift, really. May I see it?"

I grunted at her subtle joke, and passed the blade to her.

"Hold onto it, if you'd like. Short-blades aren't really my custom."

The evening was still early, so I decided to visit the Mournhold temple immediately. Chief Steward Hler met us at the entrance. He had apparently been wanting to speak with me.

"I have been hearing things about your dealings with Delitian and the king, Sera Frost. I can tell you that we at the Temple certainly would have appreciated a report from you about the attack on the city." The scarred Dunmer held up his palms. "But do not worry: I was well-informed enough, in the end: I hear things, as I have told you. And I'm not worried about what you've been doing in the Royal Palace: I know why you go there, and what you're doing. Just remember that we're no friend of Helseth's either. You can come to me for help with... your 'business' at the palace. What you have in mind is something the Temple can benefit from too. Now... what can I do for you?"

"I wanted to speak to Almalexia about the attack, actually." I replied, with a slight smile. Hler's words had been a comfort to me.

"Better late than never, I suppose. Go right in: Our Lady has made it plain that you're welcome in her presence."

Almalexia stood, as before, in centre of her chapel, giving off that otherworldly - but warm - orange glow. I tried to ask her about the fabricants, but she quickly steered the conversation away. After exchanging pleasantries, I began:

"About the attack on the city..."

But Almalexia said:

"Yes, that is just what I wish to speak of. There have been some alarming developments since the attack. My attention currently rests on one of the worst: a cult lead by a young Dunmer named Eno Romari. They are calling themselves the 'End of Times'. In the wake of the attack, my people are troubled... and I fear that this cult is gaining in popularity - even in such a short time." She regarded us in silence for a moment. "I am... under strain, at present. Those who live in Mournhold were not the only ones injured in the attack. There are those in the rest of the city who require my aid - my healing; and I help them, from my chapel. It is not easy though... without the Heart." She gave me a significant look, before continuing: "You have helped me before - both of you. I would ask for your help again."

I nodded for her to continue. It seemed that my path to entering Helseth's confidence was at a dead end. He wanted answers to the mystery of the fabricants - and if those answers lay with Almalexia, then I would need to enter further into her confidence.

"Good." The living-goddess gave a brief - and quite grim - smile. "This Eno Romari is dangerous: many of his cult's members have been found dead in their homes: poisoned. He is right here in this holy district, spreading his pollution. The cult must be driven out: but do not kill him! A martyr speaks many times louder than a zealot. I have learned of a woman named Meralyn Othran, whose brother was one of the poor souls found dead in his home. She has been seen in the Great Bazaar this evening. You should find her and learn what you can about this cult. It would be a great service to me."

A High Ordinator in the Great Bazaar pointed us in the direction of Meralyn Othran: a small, listless figure sheltering from the tepid evening rain underneath a great raised walkway. She was staring out at the darkened and deserted bazaar as if she could see right through it.

Speaking with the grieving woman was unpleasant, and there is no need to recount the details of our conversation here. Suffice it to say that we learned that the 'End of Times' was a suicide cult. Her brother had apparently been something of a lost soul - someone seeking direction in life - but he was certainly not prone to self-harm. It was the influence of the cult that brought about his death. Secretly, I thought that her brother, Sevil, must have been remarkably open to suggestion, and prone to delusion: the cult apparently believed that the Gates of Oblivion were soon to open, and a Daedric scourge would cover all of Tamriel. A ridiculous notion.

We found Eno Romari where Meralyn had suggested we look: outside the Winged Guar in Godsreach, waiting to accost the drunken patrons as they left the tavern. He too was sheltering from the rain; under the awning suspended over the tavern's entrance. The Dunmer's strikingly white robe was spattered by the raindrops that blew sideways into the area beneath the awning.

"What do you want, vampire?" He snarled. "I can see the token of the Tribunal on your arm - and I can only imagine one reason their agent would come before me! Do you mean to make me into a martyr, vampire?" His voice grew a touch shrill. Perhaps he was afraid of me, despite his words. "Everything I preach is true! The Tribunal are in decline - they cannot protect us anymore! The very air will split and tear, into yawning gates to Oblivion; and the Daedra will come, and swarm over Tamriel! Why would you oppose us? Those that go on to join the Ancestors make the sacrifice willingly. It is necessary. Only our Ancestors can survive and defeat the coming horde!"

We left him there outside the tavern, shouting his nonsensical rubbish after us. He did not sound much like a charismatic cult leader to me - but perhaps he was merely afraid, and out of sorts. Still, that people were heeding his words was troubling. We returned to tell Almalexia what we had learned.

"WHAT?" Almalexia bellowed, the glow of her skin spiking into a blinding brilliance for an instant. "They would DARE? While I struggle and strain, expending my energies to heal the people of this city, they would claim that I am in decline? That I am DYING? I will show them what it is to mock the will of a GOD!"

Sirilonwe and I exchanged uneasy glances.

"These heretics will receive a lesson in power; and you, Edward Frost, will be my agent!"


Blogger Mindstroller said...

two words almalexia... ANGER MANAGEMENT

Saturday, July 01, 2006 3:23:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, she kinda reminds me of my brother when he's angry, very loud and , well, just weird. :) But don't tell anyone I said that, It's a secret! ;) anyway, great chapter, Joseph. I love how you played out Helseth's emotions, especially after Karrod spoke to you, he was just streaming with anger, at least that's what I read, or saw, whatever.

- Mystic Ranger

Saturday, July 01, 2006 4:18:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, gee, I wonder what The Morrowind developers were hinting at there.


Saturday, July 01, 2006 5:11:00 am  
Anonymous Ray said...

That was great, I've never done the Tribunal Quests yet, and so was pleasantly surprised with the 'End of Times' cult, seeing as how they were right. Hilarious.

Sunday, July 02, 2006 2:42:00 am  
Blogger Joseph said...

Thanks everyone. :-)

Noozooroo: "Well, gee, I wonder what The Morrowind developers were hinting at there."

Hinting at where, exactly? (Out of interest).

Ray: I had actually forgotten that the End of Times cult foreshadowed the events of ES4: Oblivion. It was pretty interesting to see that.

And for Ray and anyone else here who has Tribunal but hasn't finished it yet (how many years has it been now? :-P), go play it! Go! DO IT NOW! Before it's too late, and I ruin the ending for you! :-)

- Joseph.

Sunday, July 02, 2006 1:06:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The cult was right in their prediction... I'd very much like to see Edward end up in 'Oblivion'.


Monday, July 03, 2006 10:28:00 am  

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