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, May 12, 2006

Chapter 125: Blackmail

Sometimes I looked at Sirilonwe and wondered how she could be so calm, after all that had happened in those months. We had really only just become romantically involved when I had died and been reborn as a vampire; and then, of course, she had followed suit a month or so later. These were some quite significant changes - and while Sirilonwe's manner was not exactly what I would call serene, she was still remarkably balanced and matter-of-fact about it all.

Sometimes I looked at myself and wondered the same thing. Caius had been right about my body undergoing an awful lot of abuse during my time on Vvardenfell. The constant violence and subsequent restorative magic - day after day; the use of magical items that some people argued altered a person's very physical nature; the months suffering from that magicka leak, in which time I probably aged the equivalent of several years; my own face regrown into a stranger's; vampirism; and finally Corprus.

I think I coped - and survived each waking moment - by simply looking at what needed to be done that day - what could be done that day - and then looking for a way to do it. Thinking too much about the distant future - or navel-gazing too much about the past - was to be avoided.

And it was this thought that brought me back to the present right then; as Sirilonwe and I left Tel Fyr. Never-mind how it all happened: I was whole and healthy again (inasmuch as a vampire can be considered 'healthy') - better than before, even. It was time to report back to Caius.

Equipped with the knowledge that I was now definitely immune to all disease - at least according to Divayth Fyr - I was hoping that the spymaster had new information about where I might find more lairs of the Sixth House. Yet again I visited Caius just before dawn, Sirilonwe staying behind at the Mages Guild see if any duties awaited her.

"This might be the last time you see me, Frost." Caius said, as he shoved a stack of papers into an open pack. "I received a message last night; I'm being recalled to the Imperial City."

I was a little surprised. It was hard to imagine the scruffy, bleary-eyed Caius Cosades walking the immaculate streets of the capital city.

"This seems... somewhat sudden." I remarked; wondering what would happen regarding our work on the Nerevarine and Sixth House cults.

"Yes, well; the Empire is in a mess." The old Imperial said, matter-of-factly. "The Emperor is ill, and there's the matter of the succession... By the Divines, this comes at a bad time, though!" Caius huffed. "I thought about staying right here, you know; but Mister- I should say, my superior - had to go and mention my family there in the city. He had to mention how close they were to the central office..."

He shook his head, as if bothered by a fly.

"Listen, Frost. I'm promoting you to Operative; so you don't have to answer to anyone while I'm away: got that? You'll work alone." Caius thrust a few items of clothing into his pack, and straightened to look me directly in the eyes. "This place - Vvardenfell - is dying, Frost. Rotting from the inside - and the embargo neatly prevents any help from outside. The Imperial Legion will do nothing. In fact they're under the strictest orders to do nothing - unless you count watching the Great Houses in case of some uprising or other that will never come."

I still felt wrong-footed and surprised. The spymaster was a highly-ranked government employee, and what he was saying could be considered by some to be close to treason. It was as if Caius read my mind:

"The Blades do not answer to the Council, as the Legion does: no, we answer directly to the Emperor himself. We - or you, now - are uniquely positioned to do something about this mess in Vvardenfell. We have the information and no other obligations. This is our job. Everyone else is too busy watching everyone else - for fear of someone attacking someone else!"

Caius tore the covers from his bed, and reached into a great tear down the length of the straw-filled mattress. There were weapons hidden inside - daggers and short-swords - which he began to strap on.

"Because I mean what I said about this place dying. It is almost literally rotting from the inside out. The blight - and the death and madness it brings - is spreading further and further from Red Mountain, and from what you and I have learned, we can be almost certain that it is deliberate. The Sixth House... Dagoth Ur. They are spreading these diseases... So it seems to me that the solution is simple - or at least simple to describe: destroy the Sixth House. Kill Dagoth Ur."

The spymaster pushed a dagger into his boot.

"That would be my advice to you as a Blades Operative, at any rate -" Caius continued - "and it is my prerogative as your Spymaster to give such advice. Now - while you should keep that in mind, you do still have your orders from the Emperor to pursue your... role as the Nerevarine. So... as I have said, Mehra Milo has informed me that she may be able to get access to those 'lost' prophecies for you. You should go see her at the Hall of Wisdom; and then..." he gave a slight smile; "play it by ear."

Caius, having finished packing his few belongings (at least those in that draughty shack, I suppose), slung the pack over his shoulder and stood, ready to depart.

"Oh - one more thing, Frost. One of my people tells me that he knows who bought that Dark Brotherhood contract on your life - this mysterious 'H'...".

I stiffened. I had not forgotten about that business with the Dark Brotherhood assassins. They had made my first months on the island a misery of fear and paranoia. I had to know who was behind it. This person had to be eliminated: before he - or she - decided to move for another attempt on my life (so to speak).

"Who is it?" I demanded.

But Caius only shrugged.

"My contact has that information - not me. He is under orders to deliver it to you... once your 'dealings' with the Sixth House have reached a satisfactory conclusion."

Blackmail! It was just like an Imperial Spymaster - and just like Caius in particular - to stoop so low. I regarded him steadily for a moment, wondering if there might be some way I could force the information from him... but such things were not really in my heart. He would probably simply lie to me if I tried to force him, at any rate.

"Not my decision, Frost." Caius said; though I doubted his sincerity there. "I think they just want to ensure that you concentrate on your assigned tasks before becoming distracted by... revenge." The spymaster made for the door.

I did not shake his hand as we parted.

I decided to follow Sirilonwe's example, and use the daylight hours - when I was trapped inside anyway - to see to my duties as Arch-Mage of the guild. There were documents to review, make changes to, and sign; discussions on what spells should be available to be taught to non-members of the guild; inductions of new Associates... and the list went on. I was fortunate to have Sirilonwe and Edwinna Elbert to help with all this - as otherwise I would have been quite lost.

It was the beginning of a pattern Sirilonwe and I were to follow over the coming weeks (at least when things were quiet): Mages Guild duties in the daylight hours, and our own business at night. Sometimes we slept: but only to pass the time until nightfall.

On that evening, we left our armour at the castle and went to pay a visit to Mehra Milo, in the Hall of Wisdom in Vivec. Our hope was to attract as little attention as possible: and vampires in armour going into the Hall of Wisdom would be sure to attract quite a lot of it.

We would pass for mortals at a distance, and for any close encounters with the Ordinators; well, we had our Illusion magic to make them forget that they cared one way or the other about vampires.

Together, Sirilonwe and I cast Almsivi Intervention from the castle, and appeared outside the High Fane. The entrance to the Hall of Wisdom - and the Library of Vivec, inside it - was just nearby. We were not challenged on our way into the library, but the Dunmer priestess Mehra was not to be found among the dusty shelves and books. A librarian-priest (suitably befuddled by a Charm spell) told us to try her quarters; across from the Canon Offices, down the hall.

She was not there, either. However, there was a stale, half-finished meal - sitting ominously on a small table. Ominous because it brought to mind my last conversation with Mehra: particularly the concern she expressed for her own safety. She had hinted to me that she was being watched by the Ordinators, and had mentioned using the code word 'Amaya' as an indication that she was in trouble.

Sure enough, I found a scribbled note on her wardrobe addressed to 'Amaya'. It was a cleverly-worded distress note; it seemed that her concerns about the Ordinators had been well-founded.

"What does it say?" Sirilonwe asked, as I scanned quickly through the note.

I handed it to her once I was finished.

"The Ordinators have her - in the Ministry of Truth. She wants me to break her out."

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Chapter 124: Madness

"No, not much of a choice at all..." Divayth Fyr was saying. "I can tell you that the poor devils down there in the Corprusarium have a wretched existence. Constant pain. Ferocious appetites and passions... and barking mad. Marvellous too, though; in their own way. Completely immune to disease - and old age, for that matter; though I suppose that that's nothing special to you, vampire. Still, it is quite incredible. For these Corprus-sufferers, anything short of an instantly fatal injury is not the end: their flesh will grow back after almost any wound... though more horribly twisted and deformed than before."

The ancient Dunmer wizard stared into the middle distance for a long moment, before turning to me once more.

"I want you to go down into the Corprusarium, vampire." He said. "See what's in store for you if you don't try this potion."

This seemed a cruel joke to me. I knew exactly what was in store for me if my Corprus disease ran unchecked - and this much was obvious to anyone that looked at me. I could not have 'caught' the disease in the first place had I not had a close encounter with Corprus beasts.

"While you're down there," Divayth continued, "you can pick up a pair of boots from one of the victims. Yagrum Bagarn; my oldest patient. He's a handy fellow: fixes things for me. Bring me the boots, and I'll give you the potion. A trade. I've put a lot of time into researching a cure for Corprus, after all. A lot of time." I turned to go, but he was not quite finished: "One last thing, vampire: do not harm the inmates. People may call them 'Corprus beasts' - and indeed they may attack you - but do not hurt them. They have enough suffering in their lives already."

Down in the winding bowels of Divayth's great fungus-tower was a door leading underground, to a series of natural caverns. It appeared that Tel Fyr had been purposefully built on top of them. A red-skinned Argonian - wearing (strangely) a steel breastplate but no pants - stopped Sirilonwe and I at the entrance. Like the ancient Dunmer wizard, he seemed to hardly care that we were vampires; only telling us, in his low, hissing voice, that he was Vistha-Kai; Warden of the Corprusarium. He reiterated Divayth's warning that we were not to harm the 'inmates':

"They are sad, distorted monsters," Vistha-Kai said, gesturing towards the door - which I gathered to be the threshold of the Corprusarium; "angry, and cruel, and desperate. Their suffering is great - but they still live and feel. Do not even think that death would be a mercy to them - an end to their suffering. There is always hope. Divayth Fyr works to cure them. You are their guests here, vampires. You will answer to me if you hurt them."

Marvelling at the obvious compassion Vistha-Kai and Divayth felt for such hideous creatures as Corprus beasts (even if they were once man or mer), Sirilonwe and I nodded our agreement and continued on into the Corprusarium.

...Although Sirilonwe did not follow me very far. Unsurprisingly, the Corprusarium was a horrible, depressing place. The inmates, some so corpulent and swollen with infected growths that they could barely move, shuffled about the dark, uneven passages, pausing occasionally to fitfully rub their raw, weeping wounds against the rough stone walls. At the sight of these sickening Corprus weepings smeared over every surface of the caverns, it occurred to me that even keeping a healthy distance between ourselves and any Corprus men might not be enough for Sirilonwe to avoid infection. I opened my mouth to voice my concerns, but Sirilonwe beat me to it, saying:

"I'll wait outside the door." She returned to the antechamber, and I heard her strike up an awkward conversation with Vistha-Kai.

It was for the best that I went alone. I did not have to worry about infection myself, of course: I already had the disease.

After searching through the dark tunnels for a short while, racing along at a great pace so as to avoid the vicious, heavy swings of the irritable 'inmates', I found a larger cavern that was home to more than just pitiful Corprus monsters. In the pool of light cast from a crackling fire sat a Dunmer woman and another, quite extraordinary, individual.

He appeared as a very fat man with a long, charcoal-grey beard, suffering from a (relatively) mild case of Corprus. I would have picked him for an obese human; only his ears were pointed, like those of an elf. I had never seen a fat elf before. Truth be told, I had never seen anyone so fat as this strange person. Even stranger, though, was the steam-powered contraption in which he sat. It looked like one of the spider-constructs I had encountered in Dwemer ruins, only... more chair-like. It was a great metal chair that could walk about, in other words.

This grossly overweight figure was Yagrum Bagarn; the one Divayth had sent me to find. He made some quite extraordinary claims - and he also seemed starved for company.

"Oho, what's this?" He called out, and rapped a short tattoo on his expansive paunch to underline the statement. "A visitor! Come, lad - take a seat near Yagrum and tell me what's happening out in the fresh air. Oh - but you're a vampire!" He said as I came closer. "Well, you won't be wanting my blood, befouled as it is. Heh." He indicated the Corprus sores that festered in his skin.

The Dunmer woman tending to him briefly introduced herself as Uupse Fyr (one of Divayth's daughters), and slapped down a ratty cushion near the obese man; gesturing that I should take a seat. She was giving me such suspicious looks that I believe she offered the cushion because she would have felt safer having me sitting down, rather than out of any genuine sense of hospitality.

"Er..." I addressed Yagrum awkwardly, his grotesque appearance putting me off slightly; "a pleasure to meet you. Divayth sent me to fetch a pair of boots..."

Yagrum sighed.

"Too busy for conversation then, I see." With a series of hisses and clanks, the mechanical chair scuttled sideways to a table containing a cluttered mess of tools and pieces of metal. Stretching a pudgy arm out with a grunt of effort, Yagrum caught up a pair of metal Dwemer boots, then scuttled back over to me. "Well, here; take them, with a message. Tell my gracious host that I have done what I can with them; only a Dwemer magecrafter could have done so much. But only idiots could have made these boots. It shames my race that we must be judged by the works of such incompetent blunderers."

I took the boots absently, staring at him. Did he just say...? But it could not be that... no, he must be mad; as Divayth Fyr said. The Dwemer race disappeared all-at-once thousands of years ago. What had really happened to them was one of the great mysteries of the world... Still, I had to ask:

"A Dwemer? Did you just say that you're a Dwemer?"

Yagrum grinned, and I got the sudden feeling that he had dropped the phrase 'Dwemer magecrafter' on purpose, as a conversation-starter.

"Yes lad, I did indeed. The last of the Dwemer - or so I call myself. I looked to see if any others remained, of course... but no. It seems I am the last."

I shook my head slowly, and looked to Uupse Fyr for help - but her expression did not change. She was obviously not about to let me know her opinion on whether Yagrum Bagarn was genuine, or merely mad from Corprus.

"But then..." I struggled, "you would know... what happened to the Dwemer? Where did they go?"

But the self-styled Dwemer shook his head, too.

"That I do not know. I wasn't there when it happened; I was in an Outer Realm at the time - and then when I came back... Everyone was gone."

"Ah," I said, inclining my head, "an Outer Realm. I see." It seemed obvious that Bagarn was indeed quite mad.

He gave me a sharp look, and snapped:

"Even with all the long years at my disposal here, lad, I have no time for rudeness. Come back with better manners in your mouth, and I'll tell you about the Dwemer. Until then, take the boots and remove yourself from here."

I did just that; mulling over the strange meeting as I picked my way back to the antechamber where Sirilonwe was waiting. Yagrum Bagarn must have represented quite a unique case of Corprus, in that he retained a semblance of civility and intelligence - and was not violently aggressive - but there was little doubt in my mind that he was still somewhat... confused.

"Ah, excellent. Give me the boots, if you please. Thankyou. Now, take a seat, close your eyes, and open your mouth." Divayth Fyr pointed at the same chair he had sat me in earlier, when he had examined me. "I must give you the potion now, so that I can observe its effects."

I hesitated, staring at the chair. What if the potion did not work? What if it killed me outright, as it had Divayth's other test subjects? These same thoughts were in Sirilonwe's mind, I am sure: she pulled me into an embrace, and... well, what lovers say when they think they may lose each other is something too painful and embarrassing for me to repeat here.

After a moment though, my resolve returned. I did not want to become like the miserable creatures in the Corprusarium - and I certainly did not want to die a final death.

I did as Divayth had asked, and felt him tilt my head back and pour the potion (uncomfortably quickly) down my throat. The liquid burned on the way down, the heat turning into a sensation of numbness that spread out from my belly and enveloped my whole body. When I realised that I had slid off the chair and was lying crumpled on the floor, I became quite frightened. Was my blurred view of Divayth's feet the last thing I would ever see?

But slowly, feeling returned to my body, my vision cleared... and I was alright. Better than 'alright', in fact: I was cured!

The red, swollen lumps on my limbs were going down, and the oozing sores and blisters were sloughing from my skin, leaving raw patches behind. Even those healed over quickly, though; as my vampiric body regenerated itself. The effect was quite dramatic, and needless to say, I think; a huge relief. Sirilonwe - sounding quite unlike her usual self - let out an excited squeak, and threw her arms around me.

"Yes, yes... good." Divayth spoke up. "But not very surprising. As I said earlier, the problem I've had with this particular concoction is that it produced death in my test subjects. You, of course, are already dead, so... this may not be the breakthrough my inmates are waiting for. Still! Good news for you, vampire! You still have Corprus," he said, to my surprise, "so you cannot catch it again - but you also have no harmful symptoms. So that much of the cure, at least, worked as I intended."

He leant over his desk and made a note in one of his books.

"Oh -" he added, casting a knowing glance at Sirilonwe, who was still holding me tightly - "and you're not contagious anymore either, so you two may go drink each other's blood to your heart's content... or whatever it is proper loving vampire couples do."

The ancient wizard waved a hand, dismissing us.

"In any case, you're welcome for me saving your hide, vampire. You can show yourselves out."

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Chapter 123: An interesting affliction

As a newly fledged vampire, Sirilonwe needed to feed right away. I did too, as a matter of fact: I had not fed since that morning. While Sirilonwe's head swivelled around, her senses nearly overwhelmed by how intense everything appeared - and smelled, and sounded - to a 'newborn' vampire, I proposed that we both use Divine Intervention spells to teleport across to the Imperial Chapel in Ebonheart. The only people about at such a late hour would be the Imperial Legion guardsmen patrolling the streets. A Legionnaire would be ideal for Sirilonwe's first feeding: strong and healthy enough to (probably) escape accidental harm during the process - but not so strong as to pose a threat to either of us.

A slight frown darkened Sirilonwe's features, reminding me of her passionate plea that I stop hunting mortals for their blood. She seemed resigned to it, though - it could not be helped, after all - not if she wanted to avoid starvation. Her altered instincts were no doubt making it easier for her to completely renege on her previous opinion on the matter, too...

Hunger is a powerful driving force.

By lucky coincidence, when we appeared on the doorstep of the Imperial Chapel, we found ourselves standing right next to an astonished Legion guardsman. Missionaries and magic-users appearing out of nowhere at the entrance to an Imperial Cult shrine was nothing out of the ordinary - Divine Intervention spells were used quite commonly, after all - but two vampires appearing suddenly, and right next to you, has to be frightening.

Sirilonwe and I both leapt on him before he could cry out, or draw a weapon - each of us putting our weight on one of his shoulders, to pin him down. I cast my Sleep spell on him, and then we were both hungrily feeding from him simultaneously; three prone bodies on the cold cobblestones. We both healed the guardsman as we drank, of course; keeping the amount of blood in his veins virtually unchanged - and we were gone before he awoke. Perhaps he believed us to be a dream - and himself to have been asleep on the job.

I spent several hours running through the night air with Sirilonwe, as she discovered her new body - or rather; her newly eternal, more powerful body. I showed her how fast we could run, how high and how far we could jump, and she showed me spells from the Destruction College made so potent that they could boil away seawater as they passed: parting waves and striking the sea-floor without being touched by the water. There was no doubt that she had 'inherited' the magic blood of the Aundae clan.

We spent nearly an hour near dawn lying on our backs on an isolated stretch of shore near Wolfen castle, watching the dancing threads of light between the stars that I was now sure I could see. Sirilonwe swore she could see them too; and I told her my theory that we were looking past the stars and into the great beyond: Aetherius, plane of pure magicka and home of the Nine Divines. I was linked to that place, I reminded myself; through the golden 'magicka threads' Ranis Athrys gave me all that time ago - and probably through whatever it was that Crescent Moon emblem had done to me, too.

We hunted and fed once more before the sun rose - again on an unsuspecting Legion guardsman. Afterwards, we returned to the castle and washed ourselves quickly (something made a necessity - for me at least - by my decidedly nasty Corprus sores), before teleporting over to the Balmora Mages Guild. Sirilonwe said she would spend the daylight hours in the guild halls, attending to her new duties as Steward of the Vivec hall. After eliciting a promise from her that she would be careful (it would be the first time she had to watch out for sunlight and the possibility of people trying to kill her for being a 'monster', after all), I hurried over to Caius Cosades' hut, across-town from the guild - anxious to reach it before the sun came up.

My Corprus disease had been in the back - or perhaps even in the main - of my mind all through the night; even when I was cavorting with Sirilonwe along the Ascadian Isles' south coast. I obviously did not have the answer as to what I should do about it: I needed more information - and who better to gather information than an Imperial Spymaster? I was supposed to give him a report about the Sixth House base in Ilunibi, in any case.

So; again I found myself paying Caius a visit just before dawn.

"Dear, oh dear." The spymaster said, peering out from his hut, the door open only a crack. "Look at you. Well, get in here."

Caius pulled the door open all the way, and stood aside to let me enter. I noticed him muttering a few words to himself as he pressed his free hand against his bare chest. A faint blue glow spread from his palm and settled into his skin. It was obviously a spell to protect against disease; much like the one Sirilonwe brought back from the High Fane.

"Corprus, is it?" The old Imperial man was shaking his head. He did not seem surprised to see my condition. "This island hasn't been easy on that body of yours, has it? First that business with... whatever that magical trinket was, that started sucking your life away - then your new face courtesy of that fire - and then vampirism to get around that early death - and now this. Join the Blades!" Caius said dryly - "See the world! Have your body abused and mutilated three ways from Sundas!"

I began to frown. Again the spymaster took on that flippant attitude about the least appropriate things. He noticed my displeasure, I think:

"Not to worry, Frost. I'm on your side: and things may not be all doom and gloom, in any case." This earned him an incredulous stare from me, but he continued on regardless: "First though, tell me about the Sixth House base. Was it a success? Is Gares dead?"

Forcing myself to ignore his galling manner, I recounted everything that had happened in the Ilunibi sea-caverns, finishing with how I had torn Dagoth Gares to shreds with that spell, but he had still somehow cursed me with Corprus. Caius gave me a dubious look.

"You're saying he gave you Corprus intentionally? And this was after you got him with a 'fatal' spell? Are you... sure he's dead, then?"

I fixed him with a furious glare.

"I'm not going back in there." I said, a note of warning in my voice. "Look at me! I have Corprus!"

"Yes... yes." Caius said, stroking his chin thoughtfully. "Gares would have to be dead after what you describe. Yes - based on your... quite vivid description, he would have to have expired from his wounds: shortly after your encounter, if not immediately." The spymaster was making notes on an official-looking document as he spoke. "Alright. Now, I have to admit that I canvassed my informants after you left for possible treatments for Corprus: just in case something... went wrong." He nodded at my red, swollen skin. "Have you heard of a Telvanni wizard called Divayth Fyr?"

I leapt to my feet.

"WHAT? The Corprusarium?! If you think I'm going to consign myself, Cosades, then -"

Caius raised a hand and spoke over me:

"I have learned from my informants that this Divayth fellow - who yes, runs the Corprusarium - experiments on the... 'inmates' there; looking for a cure for Corprus. Now apparently, he has found something recently that... may interest you."

He fished out what looked vaguely like a watering can - only cast in glass and a dull, yellow metal - and handed it to me. It was obviously a Dwemer artifact of some kind; though anything more than that was past my ability to discern. I sat back down, and began to examine it.

"You should - in fact this is an order (if that actually means anything to you) - take that with you, and pay Divayth Fyr a visit. He is a well-known collector, I'm told; and he should appreciate a gift like that: he may even decide to help you."

I hefted the Dwemer object in one hand.

"Trading in Dwemer artifacts is treason, isn't it?" I asked. I already knew the answer of course; it was just that - given his attitude up until that point, I had not expected Caius to risk himself in such a way for me.

"Nothing to worry about." Caius replied, with a casual wave. "I work for the Emperor, remember? If anyone complains about it, I just sign a form, and everything is fine. At any rate; go see Divayth right away, and then return here - as long as... you know." He cleared his throat. "Mehra says that the Dissident Priests do have records of Ashlander Nerevarine prophecies, and she has an idea on how we might get a look at them, so... we'll need to get onto that once you get back."

I again spent the daylight hours locked up in my chambers with my books - unable to go anywhere for fear of infecting someone. Sirilonwe stopped in a couple of times (as I had asked her to), to assure me that she was alright - and to complain about how hungry she was. In the end, she left her Steward duties early to return to the castle in the mid-afternoon and sleep away the hunger.

We were out hunting as soon as the sun ducked behind the hills to the west, and were on our way to the Corprusarium in Tel Fyr soon after that. I had visited Divayth Fyr once before - if only briefly - and so I knew how to find his Telvanni tower; out among the shattered islands of Zafirbel Bay, along the eastern Azura's Coast. Balmora guild-guide Masalinie teleported us across to the Sadrith Mora Mages Guild, and from there we struck out to the south-west, water-walking over the choppy seas. It began to rain steadily during the trip, and we were wet through by the time I spotted the giant, hollowed-out fungus that was Divayth Fyr's improbable home.

"Sorry, not interesting enough!" The ancient Dunmer wizard was bent over his desk - just as he had been on my last visit - and he did not even look around as he dismissed me.

I stepped over to Divayth Fyr's desk and placed the Dwemer device Caius had given me next to the book he was making furious markings in. He dropped the quill and caught up the strange artifact.

"Ah, a Dwemer Coherer." He breathed, turning the object over and over in his hands, studying it closely. "Very nice. For me, is it? Very thoughtful - and shrewd. I suppose you know I am a collector? Well, alright: why butter me up? What do you want?"

Finally, Divayth turned to look at Sirilonwe and I.

"A vampire, is it? Two vampires, even! Perhaps a little more interesting, then..." He said, in a tone that suggested he was being generous with such a statement. "But hold a moment... the divine disease! You have Corprus! Now that is more interesting. So vampires can become infected after all..." The ancient Dunmer spoke as if I was not actually there. "Sit. Sit. Let me take a look at you. I suppose you're here looking for a cure, aren't you..."

I did as he asked, and the wizard took up station behind me, studying the lumps and mild deformations on the back of my neck, and then on my arms.

"And though I don't think I need to say this," he murmured in my ear as he worked, "I am not food, vampire. It would be inadvisable to treat me as such."

I remained silent, and let Divayth examine me. As long as there was the possibility that he may be able to cure me, I would allow the eccentric old wizard to have his way.

"Corprus disease is fascinating, really." The ancient wizard continued to murmur as he examined me. "Did you know that corprus makes you immune to disease? Makes you more-or-less immortal too, barring accidents. Have you ever heard of the prophecies of the Nerevarine? The Ashlanders say the Nerevarine will be immune to disease, and will live forever. I've always thought, 'Maybe I have the Nerevarine down in my Corprusarium, and I don't even know it.' Hah-hah! The Nerevarine is a fat, disgusting corprus monster, and mad as a marsh rat. Wouldn't that be funny?"

I clenched my teeth. I still did not believe myself to be the Nerevarine, of course; but such humour did not appeal to me, considering my position.

"Well then," Divayth said, as he finished his examination and indicated that I should stand; "you have quite a bad case of Corprus! If it continues like this, you'll be mad as my inmates in a week or two!" He said cheerfully. "However: I have this potion I've been working on. In theory, it should cure corprus." He took a deep breath. "It doesn't work, though. Killed all my test subjects. But then..." he gave me a shrewd look - "you're already quite dead, aren't you, vampire? So... who knows?"

Sirilonwe took my arm, her grip tight. She looked as worried as I felt.

"In any case," Divayth added; "you have nothing to lose."