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, April 28, 2006

Chapter 119: Search and destroy

"What does that mean?" I asked, fighting to keep my temper down. "Surely if I was the Nerevarine - the physical reincarnation of Nerevar - surely I would feel something! I would know somehow."

The wise-woman Nibani Maesa folded her arms and straightened her back, in a light stretch.

"As I said, vampire Frost; you are not the Nerevarine. Not yet, might be what I should say. So even if the Incarnate does 'feel something' - it is to be expected that you do not." The wise-woman fixed me with her red, intense eyes. "You are a puzzle, vampire. I held the belief that you thought you were the Nerevarine. That is what brought you here, is it not?"

By her expression it was obvious that she had seen through my act. It was time to be honest, I decided:

"Yes, alright - you can obviously see that I don't personally believe that I could be the Incarnate." I admitted. "There... are people I know - who encouraged me to come here, and see you; and ask you if I could be the one..." I licked my lips absently. I had to play things carefully; if she suspected that the Imperial government was (to some degree) behind my visit... not only would she refuse to help me, Sirilonwe and I would likely have to leave the Urshilaku camp in an uncomfortable hurry.

"But no -" I continued; "I find it difficult to believe that I could be the one. I mean, how in the world could a man like myself - or a vampire like myself -" I added at a raised eyebrow from Nibani - "possibly hope to drive the Imperial Empire - its army and citizens - from Morrowind?"

But Nibani merely gave me an unfathomable look.

"I have one thing to say to that, vampire Frost. There are participants in prophecy who are not aware of the part they play - or have played - or will play. Just help me - fetch those lost prophecies, if they can be fetched - and then we shall see, you and I. We shall see where we stand."

We left after that, as the wise-woman refused to say anything further. It was quite late when we arrived back at the castle: an hour or so past midnight. For much of the rest of the night, Sirilonwe and I pored over the notes we had made that night, and some of the notes I had made during my earlier research for Caius: anything about Nerevar and the Nerevarine cult that we could lay our hands to.

It was a few hours of frustration. Nothing I had shed any more light on the matter, or provided some magical proof that I was not - and could not be - the Incarnate. Eventually Sirilonwe stumped up the stairs to bed, and I gathered our notes together and teleported across to Balmora in the last hour before sunrise.

"So you really could be him, eh?" Caius said, somehow appearing very bleary eyed and enthralled at the same time. "The Incarnate... amazing. Just amazing."

Not trusting myself to say anything civil, I remained silent.

"She wants you to ask the Dissident Priests about some 'lost prophecies', though - before she can be sure?"

"It was difficult to get Ms Maesa to... commit to anything like that. I think the only way any of us - myself, especially - can be sure that I'm the Nerevarine is if I start to do every little thing the Nerevarine is supposed to do. But yes: there are some prophecies she knows of, but hasn't actually heard. The 'Seven Curses of the Sharmat' was one she mentioned specifically. Do you think these 'Dissident Priests' would have something like that?"

The spymaster yawned and shrugged.

"I don't know. I'll try to get in contact with Mehra Milo - you remember her; she was the one who told you about the Dissident Priests - and see if she can find out for us. In the meantime, I actually have a very important mission for you. And don't look at me like that, Frost -" Caius said, stifling another yawn - "it is important: all this is. It is, however, also very early. You're lucky I didn't have you wait until morning."

Again, I bit my tongue and waited for the Imperial to continue.

"Yes - it is quite significant. We've found a Sixth House base. A real one." I raised my eyebrows, prompting Caius to say: "Yes, I know. I also thought the name 'The Sixth House' cropping up recently was just some petty smugglers or bandits who thought they were smarter than they really are... but this is genuine. The details I have are... a little sketchy, however."

I frowned.

"So you heard about this base from someone else, then? How do you know that this report is genuine?"

"I know -" Caius replied - "because the squad of Imperial Legionnaires who found the base were all killed." He paused for a moment to let that fact sink in. "The report I have says that Fort Buckmoth sent a patrol out to the area surrounding Gnaar Mok, up the coast from here. They were looking for smugglers who were said to have Sixth House connections, but they found an actual Sixth House base in some caves - 'Ilunibi caves', they're called by the locals. They found 'monsters', cultists, a shrine, and some Sixth House priest calling himself 'Dagoth Gares'. 'Dagoth', yes. That word alone would persuade me, if the deaths of those men did not."

The spymaster took a deep breath.

"This is all based on the report of the only trooper who escaped from the caves - and he died of Corprus disease shortly afterwards. Your mission -" Caius said, a note of anger beginning to creep into his voice, "is to go to those caves, and kill everything inside. Everything - and especially that priest, Dagoth Gares. Afterwards, take note of the contents and layout of the base, and bring me a full report on your 'excursion'."

I blinked. Was he serious?

"You're... sending me into a place that was the death of a whole squad of Legionnaires?"

Caius cupped a hand to his ear.

"Hark - what is this I hear? Are these words really coming from the same man who slaughtered an entire Dark Brotherhood Cell all by himself? Before he became a deadly vampire, I might add?" He became serious once more, and I realised that the anger had not left his voice. "I think you will have little trouble, vampire. In any case, go see Champion Raesa Pullia at Fort Buckmoth for the details. She's the one who sent the patrol. You know where Forth Buckmoth is, correct?"

I nodded.

"Good. Off you go, then. Oh, and Frost? I know about Sirilonwe - and I know that you took her along to see the Urshilaku." The spymaster's expression was unreadable. "Just make sure she stays quiet about us, and everything I have you do."

Sirilonwe (who had insisted on coming along, despite my wishes) and I arrived at the fort at dusk that evening. The journey had only taken a few minutes, as we had teleported from Wolfen Castle to the Balmora Mages Guild, and then on to the Ald'ruhn Guild. Fort Buckmoth was just outside Ald'ruhn, so a Divine Intervention spell cast there brought us directly to the doorstep of the building that housed the fort's Imperial Cult shrine.

In the centre of the walled yard we could see the smouldering remains of a great bonfire. Every trooper on duty was doing their best to avoid looking at it as they patrolled up and down. It had to be the remains of the funeral pyre for the soldier that escaped Ilunibi caverns.

"Yes, we had to burn his body." Raesa Pullia, the Imperial woman in command (I assumed) of the fort, said. "We could not risk spreading Corprus." She shook her head sorrowfully. "That disease... We do not even know who it was we put in that pyre! The disease was so... it had gone so far, that he was too disfigured for us to even recognise! But - I should tell you the whole story..."

Champion Raesa (who continued to eye me suspiciously, despite the signed note from Caius I had given her that vouched for my trustworthiness - and more to the point assured her that I would not try to kill her) recounted all she knew - based on the garbled, delirious speech of the now dead trooper:

"Apparently, the squad entered the caves and engaged a large number of disfigured 'man-beasts' - Corprus monsters, I think. The squad was driven deeper into the caves, where they found a shrine of some kind; and a 'half-man creature' named Dagoth Gares." Raesa swallowed, with some discomfort. "This 'priest' Dagoth Gares slew the... the entire squad, save for that one trooper. He told the trooper he was being spared, so he might tell others that 'The Sleeper Awakes,' and 'The Sixth House has risen', and 'Dagoth Ur is Lord, and I am his Priest', and 'All will be One with Him in the Flesh'."

The Imperial woman closed her eyes for a moment. The loss of a whole squad under her command obviously weighed heavily on her.

"I can remember his exact words," she continued, "because that poor trooper kept repeating himself over and over like a madman - until he died. He said he woke up outside Ilunibi and - and he had already begun to change; but he managed to get back here." Raesa's chin began to quiver subtly, her voice becoming choked. "He was crawling when he reached us - dragging his legs behind him: he couldn't move them anymore. I - I just can't imagine..." She closed her eyes again, and clenched her teeth.

I did not want to imagine it either. My skin crawled at the thought of the trooper dragging himself; his body - a body that was rapidly becoming - well, not his own, anymore - all the way from the Bitter Coast to Fort Buckmoth; so far inland. I desired a change of subject.

"Dagoth Ur, he said..." I repeated slowly, mostly to myself. That name again. I had half-wondered if he might come up. "Did he say anything else about the caves?"

"Yes - well, I don't know if it's important," the Legion Champion said, her voice more or less steady again; "but he kept saying 'red candles, red candles, blood candles'. And once he said something like 'red candles, blood candles, and the red whispering shrine'!"

A shock went through my body. Could it be? It sounded just like the horrific spaces I had found inside the Telasero and Falasmaryon strongholds; the red candles, the whispering shrines... Those sickening, ghastly places; full of death, corruption and decay - is that what the Sixth House was? Were they the ones responsible for the Dreamers - the innocent Dunmer enslaved by their dreams, and drawn to live in the horror of a place like Telasero?

I had to see for myself. If that was what the Sixth House cult were about, then Caius' search-and-destroy order would no longer seem so... suspect. I would do it gladly.

I would kill them all.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Chapter 118: Prophecy

Nibani Maesa, the surprisingly young-looking wise-woman of the Urshilaku Ashlander clan, did not seem to care at all that I was a vampire. In fact, she casually addressed me as 'vampire' - at the expense of my actual name! Still, I did not mind much; it was certainly better than the general distrust and outright fear that most people exhibited when in my presence.

Sirilonwe and I sat in the wise-woman's yurt and listened to her for the longest time. For an Ashlander wise-woman, recording history through memory and spoken stories is very important - it is one of their main roles in life, in fact. One of the reasons why the wise-women were so revered and protected by their clans was because these histories were never written down. All Ashlander knowledge was verbal - and most of it was kept by the wise-women of the clans.

So Nibani simply stared into the middle-distance and recited what she knew - what she had learned by heart - of the Nerevarine prophecies. I was forcibly reminded that she was the spiritual leader of the Nerevarine cult as well as the Urshilaku wise-woman; her knowledge of the prophecies was so extensive and intricate that both Sirilonwe and I had to take notes at a feverish pace, if we were to have any chance of remembering precisely what she said.

I will try to summarise for you - briefly - all she told us, because it is important - and interesting - even if I wasn't sure how much of it I actually believed.

According to Nibani, there were many Nerevarine prophecies, and each of them described things that the 'Incarnate' would do, or things that would identify him. The first she spoke of was called 'Aspect and uncertain parents' - and it was the prophecy that had apparently prompted Emperor Septim and his advisors to release me from prison and send me to Morrowind with the hopes that I might become an Imperial-controlled Nerevarine - or at least a 'persuasive impostor', as Caius had once put it. It was also a prophecy that I satisfied, as I was born 'on a certain day to uncertain parents', as the words of the prophecy went.

However, as the wise-woman bluntly put it, many people had the same birthday, and were not sure of their parentage. Onto the next one, then.

"'The moon-and-star'..." Nibani began; "it is an important symbol of Indoril Nerevar. Some say his family standard bore the design of a moon and a star. Some say he had a moon-and-star birthmark. Others say (and I believe) that he had a magic ring with this sign imprinted on it. Although I must say..." and at this, the wise-woman abruptly reached out and lifted my forelock so that she could see the glowing crescent-moon mark on my face - "it is interesting that you have this mark of the moon here. I might be inclined to believe that you are the Nerevarine - but there is no star to go with the moon on your face." It sounded quite unflattering when she put it like that.

She gave a light smile.

"You are not the Nerevarine."

For a moment, there was a feeling of lightness in my chest - I could stop pretending to believe that I was the incarnation of a figure of legend. It was a relief. But then:

"Listen though, vampire, to what I have to say - and to the request I will make. This might not be the end of the matter for you."

Without waiting for a reply, she continued her lecture. The next topic she spoke on was not a Nerevarine prophecy, but something related to them. 'Sleepers'. She mentioned the crazy 'Sleepers' appearing in the towns around Vvardenfell and claiming that Dagoth Ur had awoken and would 'drive the outlanders from Morrowind'. The word 'Sleepers' made me start, and Nibani linking them to the Nerevarine prophecies and to this mysterious Dagoth Ur made my mind race. It was seeming more and more likely that the Nerevarine cult, the Sixth House cult, and Dagoth Ur - the ancient enemy of the Tribunal Temple - were all related somehow.

Nibani said that the appearance of the Sleepers supported the Nerevarine prophecies, and was evidence that the time of the Nerevarine had come (in her words) - but that was all she had to say on the subject.

The next prophecies the wise-woman spoke on described how the Nerevarine would be identified by what he did. The one called 'The Stranger' was apparently the best-known of them all, and I will recount it here, so that you can see the kind of ambiguity I had to struggle with:

When earth is sundered, and skies choked black,
And sleepers serve the seven curses,
To the hearth there comes a stranger,
Journeyed far 'neath moon and star.

Though stark-born to sire uncertain
His aspect marks his certain fate.
Wicked stalk him, righteous curse him.
Prophets speak, but all deny.

Many trials make manifest
The stranger's fate, the curses' bane.
Many touchstones try the stranger.
Many fall, but one remains.

It was simply so vague that without more information, it could really apply to almost anyone. I was glad when Nibani went on to the next prophecy; the 'Seven Visions of Seven Trials of the Incarnate'. This one was a little more straightforward (but that's not saying much), in that it detailed a series of tasks the Nerevarine must complete - if he was indeed the Nerevarine, that is. Again, I will recount the verses of the prophecy here:

Seven trials.
What he puts his hand to, that shall be done.
What is left undone, that shall be done.

The First trial.
On a certain day to uncertain parents
Incarnate moon and star reborn.

The Second trial.
Neither blight nor age can harm him.
The Curse-of-Flesh before him flies.

The Third trial.
In caverns dark Azura's eye sees
and makes to shine the moon and star.

The Fourth trial.
A stranger's voice unites the Houses.
Three Halls call him Hortator.

The Fifth trial.
A stranger's hand unites the Velothi.
Four Tribes call him Nerevarine.

The Sixth trial.
He honours blood of the tribe unmourned.
He eats their sin, and is reborn.

The Seventh trial.
His mercy frees the cursed false gods,
Binds the broken, redeems the mad.

One destiny.
He speaks the law for Veloth's people.
He speaks for their land, and names them great.

Nibani explained most of the verses to us, saying that she had spent much of her life thinking on their possible meanings:

"The 'Seven trials' verse says that the Incarnate will finish the great tasks that Indoril Nerevar began when he lived." She began - as Sirilonwe and I continued to scribble down notes. "It also means that he cannot fail; he shall succeed in all his endeavours. The 'First trial' verse, again, says that the Nerevarine will be born on a certain day to uncertain parents. The 'Second trial' verse... is one that I do not fully understand. Perhaps it means that the Incarnate will come to us as a spirit - unharmed by blight or age, as it were. Or..."

The Dunmer woman gave me a sly look.

"Or perhaps he will come to us as a vampire - an immortal." She shrugged. "In any case, I think that 'Curse-of-Flesh' refers to the blight disease Corprus - which as you should know, is incurable. Maybe the Nerevarine will be able to heal this disease? I just do not know."

Nibani shifted in her seat, as if uncomfortable. Not knowing the answer to something obviously displeased her.

"The 'Third trial' verse..." she continued, with a hesitant note in her voice - "there is a shrine to Azura called the 'Cavern of the Incarnate'. There are things I may not tell you about that cavern. Do not ask me." With that intriguing remark, she went on to the Fourth trial: "The 'Hortator' mentioned in this verse is a war-leader chosen by the Dunmer Great Houses on Vvardenfell. A Hortator must be chosen by all three Great Houses, and it has only ever happened when a threat becomes apparent that is significant enough to prompt the Houses to put aside their normal feuds and unite against a common enemy."

I was becoming more and more convinced that even the mere act of impersonating the Nerevarine would be an impossible task. The rivalry and political battles between the Great Houses of the Dunmer was well-known. How could anyone hope to persuade them all to agree on anything?

"The 'Velothi' mentioned in the 'Fifth trial' verse are the Ashlanders." Nibani went on. "It is another word for us. There are four major tribes on Vvardenfell - of which the Urshilaku are one. This verse says that the Nerevarine cannot truly earn that name until he has persuaded all the Ashlander tribes to call him by it. The Nerevarine is to the Ashlanders what the Hortator is to the Great Houses; and an agreement between the tribes on such a thing would be just as difficult to obtain."

Again, I began to dread the report I would have to make to Caius. He - or his ultimate master, the Emperor - would not be likely to release me from my duties to the Empire simply because impersonating the Nerevarine would be intensely difficult. I was no longer afraid of any one man; but earning the wrath of the Empire - and its Legion - by refusing the Emperor... that was something I did not want.

"The 'Sixth trial' verse," Nibani was saying, "is another puzzling one. The 'tribe unmourned' may refer to the Sixth House - House Dagoth." (There were those names - linked again). "The verse could also be referring to the Dwemer, though. It is hard to say. 'Eating sin' means to atone for another's sin - that part is easy to understand, at least. Now - finally, in the verse on the last trial, the 'cursed false gods' mentioned must be the Tribunal. Surely they are false gods: necromancers and evil sorcerers. They murdered Nerevar so that they might set themselves up as gods."

I chose not to argue with her on this point. She appeared to feel quite strongly about it. When Sirilonwe and I made no response other than to continue copying down all she said, Nibani continued - and mercifully, she was almost finished.

"At last we come to what you might do for me - for us, vampire Frost." The wise-woman's piercing red eyes were now fixed on mine. "I do not know all of the prophecies regarding the Nerevarine - and I do not think any Ashlander does. Some, like the 'Seven curses of the Sharmat' are known to us only by name - and there may be more that I have not heard of. If an old wise-woman forgets, or keeps it secret, or if a tribe is all killed, or if a prophecy is deliberately forgotten..." Again, Nibani shuffled uncomfortably. "We - the wise-women - are the memory of the Ashlanders; but it is a faulty memory. We age and die, and so does our knowledge and history. The books of the settled people, though; the words in those books do not die."

The wise-woman licked her lips as if in anticipation.

"I have heard of a group called the Dissident Priests, that collects history even if they are told not to by the Temple. I have heard that they study the Nerevarine prophecies. It could be that they have some of the lost prophecies in their books. You must go to them and ask for these books - and bring them to me."

Before I could object to her assumption that I was hers to command, she continued:

"You must do this because as I told you, your role in this matter may not be finished. You are not the Nerevarine - this is true. But you might be. You are one who might become the Incarnate."

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Chapter 117: Rules, regulations - and ancient rites

The Urshilaku burial caverns were a thing of wonder. While not as deep as the sunken passages and forgotten ruins beneath Mournhold, just how extensive the natural caverns were was astonishing. The sheer presence I felt as I wound my way deeper and deeper was quite something, too. I felt like I was in a place heavy with the history of every person interred there - a place that was likely very rarely seen by 'outlanders' such as myself.

The feeling of sadness I mentioned - the emotion that the very walls seemed to exude - extended to the mummified bodies of the people laid to rest there. Almost every one was sitting with their legs drawn up to their chest, and had their head resting on their raised knees; as if curled up and crying. Some had a few belongings gathered around them, and were huddled, as if trying to shelter from the cold and damp, beneath what looked to be shells of the large, scuttling 'shalk' beetles of the Ashlands.

Sul-Matuul had intended that my visit to the caverns be a 'Harrowing', and I was set upon by many skeletal guardians and angry spirits during my search, but the atmosphere of sadness there was more distressing than the resistance I met along the way.

I eventually found a cavernous central chamber, much taller than it was round, which played host to a roughly monolithic pillar of stone in the centre. On the various small ledges and hollows that covered the monolithic stone were more of the mummified bodies of the Ashlanders. A great waterfall ran down the monolith, split into foaming rivulets by the uneven rock. Many of the shalk-shells had been carefully arranged to deflect this flow of water, and keep its mummified owner dry.

A path that had been hacked from the dirt and stone wound up the walls, opening at various places into more and more burial chambers for me to search. All I knew was that I was to find the 'Bonebiter' bonemold bow, and that it was guarded by the spirit of Sul-Matuul's father. The burial caverns were huge. Trading favours could become a bit of a trial, sometimes.

I eventually found the spirit of Sul-Senipul, though (at least I hoped it was him): a luminescent wraith whose skeletal hand shone brightly where it grasped a very real bonemold bow.

He - it - was banished by my otherworldly blade just as easily as every other spirit that roamed those caverns - and with the bonemold bow (which was enchanted to make its victims clumsy and easier to hit with an arrow) slung over my shoulder, I set about finding my way back to the surface.

By the time I emerged from that dark, sad place and rejoined Sirilonwe, the sun was about to crest the eastern horizon. I could see the glow down low in the sky, and I could smell the morning before it came. It was time for us to teleport home; we would have to return to the Urshilaku camp in the evening.

I fed from Sirilonwe as soon as we were back at the castle: I had been down in the burial caverns for most of the night, and I was starving. I made the comment that once she became a vampire herself, we would both need mortal blood to survive. My point was that we would need to get the blood from somewhere...

But Sirilonwe had been fairly quiet since becoming 'infected' with the vampiric disease - especially when it came to that very topic. She made a noncommittal reply and retired to bed. She was tired - she had been up all night.

I, on the other hand, did not need to sleep anymore; and matters relating to my recent surprise ascension to the rank of Arch-Mage required my attention that day.

It was all down to rules, regulations, and laws. I was only Arch-Mage because Trebonius' infatuation over Sirilonwe had driven him into such a paranoid and bullish state of mind that he had wanted me destroyed; and he had seen a legal duel as the best way to achieve that. It would be the path with the least consequence, at least; especially from a legal point of view. He might have just killed me outright and claimed that I had attacked him; and not suffer too much scrutiny by the Ordinators of Vivec - I was a vampire, after all. Regarded by most to be a simple monster.

However, the generally tolerant attitude the Mages Guild held towards vampires was well-known, and the by-laws of the guild specifically forbade the harm or murder of another guild-member. A legal duel would allow Trebonius to neatly sidestep that particular law - but in the end, of course, it had the result that I - being of Master-Wizard rank - was saddled with the position of Arch-Mage upon defeating Artorius in the duel.

It was all perfectly legal and by-the-book... the unusual factor was that I had not known it was coming. I was not really prepared to be Arch-Mage of Vvardenfell. At the same time, such power created too great an opportunity to overlook; so I was not about to abdicate my new position. No - what I needed was a number of assistants to take care of the everyday operations of the guild: the system that was already in place with the Stewards of the various halls, in other words. They could run the guild halls, and just come to me when any big decisions needed to be made.

It would hopefully not provide too great an inconvenience to me: I was in and out of the guild halls every day anyway. The matter of just who was going to be the Steward of the Vivec and Caldera halls needed some attention, though. The Sadrith Mora hall had Skink-in-Tree's-Shade; Balmora had Ranis Athrys, and Ald'ruhn had Edwinna Elbert. Vivec and Caldera, however...

Following the advice of several members of the guild, I had always steered clear of Trebonius and not paid much attention to the way he ran the guild, so I was not exactly sure why the Caldera hall did not have its own Steward... but it simply did not.

I spent quite some time with Folms in the Caldera guild hall that day (as besides Sirilonwe, he was about the only person in the guild I felt I could call a true friend), and he said that their lack of a Steward had never been properly explained, but it was generally assumed that it was because the Balmora hall was so close, and Ranis Athrys was overbearing enough to be Steward enough for both halls. This last part was obviously not voiced out loud when Ranis was in earshot. In any case, it was true that in an unofficial capacity, Ranis took care of Steward duties for both the Balmora and Caldera halls.

Thinking that the Caldera hall should really have its own Steward - and of course holding no great love for Ranis - I made Folms Steward of the Caldera Mages Guild. He was easily the most capable mage there, and I knew I could trust him, so the decision was simple. Who I should make Steward of the Vivec hall was more difficult. The hall had not needed a Steward for quite a while because Trebonius had spent most of his time there; but I certainly had no intention of doing that.

In the end, Folms suggested Sirilonwe, pointing out that (thanks to Ranis' promotion) she was the highest-ranking member there. I was glad (for obvious reasons) that Folms had been the one to put forth Sirilonwe as a candidate, and promise to go on record with his suggestion. For my part, I wanted Sirilonwe to be the Steward for the simple reason that I could trust her. My obvious self-interest in the matter made Folms' nomination of Sirilonwe very welcome indeed. I agreed and signed the appropriate papers to make her Steward. (I would tell her later: she could turn the position down, if she wanted).

She did accept, though (however distracted she may have been when we discussed it that evening - during the trip back to the Urshilaku camp), only expressing the concern that she may have to delegate many of her tasks if she was to continue travelling and working with me.

Sul-Matuul met us outside his yurt, and this time there was no nimbus of magical light surrounding him. He accepted the Bonebiter bow and proclaimed me a Clanfriend of the Ashlander people:

"These are serious words, vampire Frost; words of life and death. I can see that you are no ordinary monster of a vampire, and am proud to name you Clanfriend... But I want to speak plainly, now that you are a Clanfriend. I cannot believe that you are the Nerevarine. The prophecies say that the Nerevarine will drive out the outlanders - but you yourself are an outlander! The Great Houses stole our land. The outlanders steal our land - and our dignity. The Incarnate is the last hope of the Ashlanders. And if you were to take that away..." The wiry Ashlander shook his head gravely.

There was a note of warning in his voice, but he still showed us to the yurt of Nibani Maesa, the 'wise-woman'. I was burning with the desire to say that I agreed with him - that I thought the whole business was one great coincidence - but my desire to learn more about the cult and the prophecies was equally as powerful. Sirilonwe, too, had to bite her tongue, I think. She tended to agree with me that the notion that I was somehow possessed by the ages-dead spirit of an ancient Dunmer general was quite absurd.

Nibani Maesa, who I had actually glimpsed once before when I cut a hole in her yurt to steal a particular small stone (one of the propylon indices for Folms), was a relatively young-looking woman; despite what her title may have suggested. Sul-Matuul let the flap over the entrance to the yurt fall closed behind us, and we were left alone with the Dunmer woman - and her penetrating red eyes.

"Ah, the vampire who would be our saviour." The wise-woman said, her tone suggesting that she did not fancy my chances at becoming something so noble. "Sit. There; sit over there. Good - now, I will tell you your fate..."