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 26, 2006

Chapter 131: Failing

With an immortal beast stalking us through the lava tunnels under Kogoruhn - a beast that I was certain was an Ash Vampire - Sirilonwe and I raced along as fast as we could, hoping to outrun the thing. Unnervingly, we could not actually tell if it was following us or not: the Ash Vampire had kept eerily silent all through our frantic battle - and if it was chasing us, it was remaining just as quiet about it.

Fortunately, we encountered no other resistance until we found a room with several small shrines (or grave markers - it was difficult to tell), each of them decorated with valuables. Some were quite valuable, indeed. Once we had reduced the tentacle-faced man guarding the chamber to a smear of putrid yellow dust, we had a close - but brief - look around. Along with the Shadow Shield Ashkhan Sul-Matuul wanted (a Dwemer shield enchanted with a minor invisibility cantrip), we found a pair of Daedric gauntlets, in perfect condition. A princely find for my museum.

Considering ourselves fortunate to have found what we came for with that Ash Vampire around, Sirilonwe and I teleported home. The sun was already high in the sky by that time, so we had another day of tedious Mages Guild business to sit through before we could return to the Urshilaku camp.

"Yes... good." Sul-Matuul said. "I knew you would have little trouble with this test."

The Ashkhan took the House Dagoth cup and the Shadow Shield, but indicated that the Corprus weepings (which I had wrapped in a piece of waxed paper) should be thrown in his yurt's hearth-fire.

"You are the first to come this far in a long while." Sul-Matuul continued. "I have no reservations about telling you the secret of the 'Cavern of the Incarnate' now; though you may be disappointed to learn that all I know is this riddle:"

"The eye of the needle lies in the teeth of the wind. The mouth of the cave lies in the skin of the pearl. The dream is the door and the star is the key."

The Ashkhan shrugged, saying:

"This is Wisdom's Test. Seek the wisdom of the tribe, and you shall find the way. Find the moon and star in the Cavern of the Incarnate, and then talk to wise-woman Nibani about it."

That - irritatingly - was all he would say. At least by telling me to "seek the wisdom of the tribe", he had given an obvious hint as to who might help me with the riddle. We went to see Nibani Maesa again.

Strangely, though the wise-woman had refused to speak of the Third Trial directly, she still answered my questions about the riddle; telling me what she thought each line meant. According to her, the star referred to in the riddle was Azura's star; which was only seen in the sky at dawn and dusk. Therefore, the line 'the dream is the door and the star is the key' meant that the door to the Cavern of the Incarnate could only be opened at dawn and dusk. Just like Holamayan, I thought.

As to actually locating the cavern, the first two lines of the riddle were my directions - apparently. Nibani told us of a 'Foyada' (or trench carved out by lava-flows) called the Valley of the Wind, that ran south from the northern coast of Vvardenfell. The valley's entrance, located just past a pair of ruins close to one another (Dwemer and Daedric ruins named Bthuand and Zergonipal respectively), was marked by two great stone spires called 'Airan's Teeth'. These would be the 'teeth of the wind' from the riddle's first line.

'Skin of the pearl', in the second line, referred to another distinctive stone formation at the southern end of the Valley of Wind: another tall spire - with a pale tip. So, 'the mouth of the cave lies in the skin of the pearl' meant that the Cavern of the Incarnate could be found near that distinctive stone spire.

I was still unsure exactly what I was supposed to go to this cavern for - but deciding that at least investigating it would be little trouble, in the grand scheme of things, we set out immediately. Of course if we did find it, and - like Holamayan - we could not get in until dawn, it would mean another long night without feeding; but we knew from uncomfortable experience that we could manage.

We jogged along the grey northern coast, the clear, cold night turning to rain as we went. For maybe an hour we ran through the rain, our feet making sucking noises in the damp ash and sand. The rain began to ease off as we passed Bthuand and then Zergonipal; and then we found it: a deep, smooth Foyada marked by two huge, monolithic stone spires: Airan's Teeth.

As Sirilonwe and I started up the valley, the clouds above scudded aside to reveal the near-full moons. The moonlight fell on the grey, cracked ground, the ghostly light reflecting up and illuminating the whole of the narrow, sheltered valley. For an hour - or perhaps two - we walked along that deep Foyada, the moons hanging in the sky directly over our heads, and bathing us in their light.

Eventually, the path rose into a slope and curved up and around to the west, and then the north. At the end of this hook-shaped path was the door from the riddle: or doors, I should say. Two huge metal doors, fashioned with designs of moons and stars - that predictably refused to swing open, no matter how much force I applied.

My pocketwatch said it was only three hours past midnight. We were faced with a wait, just like outside the Holamayan monastery. Without being able to concentrate on anything that required much thought (since we both knew we would likely be burnt by the sun soon, in our attempts to enter the cavern), we sat and watched the threads of light behind the stars while we waited for the sun to rise.

We were already straining against the doors as the dawn's light began to scald our skin - and they swung open easily.

Inside, a short tunnel terminated in a small cavern. A beautiful statue of a woman's upper body sat in the cavern's centre, bathed in an otherworldly light - the source of which I could not find. A fine ring of silver and gold - with the device of a moon and a star fixed to it - was cupped in the statue's outstretched hands.

"That is the 'moon-and-star' ring!" Sirilonwe exclaimed. "I was reading about it at Holamayan: it is the ring that Indoril Nerevar had made for himself. He had it enchanted so that only he - or the Nerevarine, as the Ashlanders now say - could wear it. It would kill anyone else who tried to put it on."

So that was the 'moon and star' that Sul-Matuul had been hinting at: an enchanted ring that once belonged to Indoril Nerevar. It sounded dangerous. As I reached out to catch the tiny thing up, I decided that I would take it back to the castle - or maybe to my friend Folms, the enchanter, to study its properties. This plan was still forming in my mind when I abruptly realised that the ring was on my finger - without my meaning to put it on!

I yanked the thing off, and stood there for a long moment, frozen; just staring at it.

"You're not dead." Sirilonwe observed. "Well - you are dead: you're a vampire. But... actually, that would probably be why the ring did not kill you: you are already dead." She held up her hands, palms out. "Do not give it to me to test that theory, though!"

I held the moon-and-star ring up close to my face to examine it closely - and promptly received another nasty shock when I realised that Sirilonwe and I were no longer alone in the cavern. There were soft rustling and muttering noises coming from all sides... and my feeling of alarm did not ease when I realised what was making them.

We were surrounded by ghosts; all standing quietly in the darkness that pooled around the edge of the cavern. The one closest to me spoke, saying her name was Peakstar. I had heard the name before: Peakstar was the most famous of the 'Failed Incarnates' - people that were rumoured to fit the Nerevarine prophecies, but had failed; usually through the folly of dying.

Every ghost gathered in that small cavern was the same: they were all Failed Incarnates. Peakstar told me of her death at the hands of an Ash Vampire: that had been her failure: she had been "unable to master the arts of war", as she put it. Once she had said her piece, she vanished. I walked among the ghosts, and all did the same thing. They told me of their failure, and then vanished.

They also all said something which troubled me; and I could not understand why, given my attitude to the prophecies. They all told me:

"You are failing."

The following evening, we sat again in wise-woman Nibani's yurt. The Dunmer woman, a dreamy smile on her face, gazed at the moon-and-star ring; held between my thumb and forefinger (I was unwilling to let anyone else touch it, after what had happened when I picked it up).

"What did you see in the Cavern of the Incarnate?" Nibani asked me. "What did you hear?"

I told her about finding the ring, and the ghosts speaking to me - but this did not seem to satisfy her.

"Yes, but what did you see, vampire-Nerevarine? What did you hear?"

Somewhat confused, I insisted that the statue, the ring, and the ghosts were all I had seen. The wise-woman now seemed quite wrong-footed:

"Is that so? It's only that... I saw in my dream that you would..." She trailed off, and gazed at me for an uncomfortably long while.

Eventually she blinked a few times, rapidly, and continued:

"Well, vampire, the Third Trial is complete: you bear the moon-and-star. I congratulate you." Nibani seemed distracted as she spoke. "Now - the Fourth and Fifth Trials are similar to one another, and will both be considerably more difficult than the Third Trial; but as it is said, the Nerevarine will succeed where all others have failed..."

She went on to describe them, but I had of course already heard about the Fourth and Fifth Trials. The Nerevarine was supposed to be able to gain the support and public recognition of all the Ashlander tribes and all the Great Dunmer Houses that resided on Vvardenfell. The Ashlander Tribes had to all name him Nerevarine; and the Great Houses Hlaalu, Redoran and Telvanni had to all agree to name him as 'Hortator', the combined warlord of the Houses.

It was an impossible ask, basically. I had been holding out hope that Nibani had some small, perhaps purely ceremonial matter in mind for the Fourth and Fifth Trials that I could wade through - just to satisfy her and the other cult members enough so we could continue on down the 'path' they had in mind, and eventually come to some way to fight Dagoth Ur. However, when the wise-woman began to speak of persuading every Ashkhan of the Ashlander clans - and every councillor of every Great House Council - to publicly name me Nerevarine and Hortator, I gave up that hope.

There was just no way it could happen. Well, maybe the Ashlander clans: I had already won over the Urshilaku, after all. Not the Great Houses, though. The clans were small and tight-knit, like extended families. The Great Houses represented the government on Vvardenfell; large and structured. A Charm spell here and there would do nothing: not in regulated bodies like those. Any strange or uncharacteristic behaviour caused by such a spell would be recognised.

I was a vampire - they would not do a thing for me; especially not accept me as the Nerevarine. The Great Houses (especially Redoran and Hlaalu) were known to be well under the thumb of the Tribunal Temple; and the Temple persecuted the Nerevarine cult mercilessly.

Added to all this, of course, was the fact that I had never - and still did not - believe that I was the Incarnate.

No, I had to finally accept that Nibani Maesa and I would never see eye-to-eye on the matter of my part in the prophecies - and it was time she was made aware of this. I had been sitting there in silence, lulled by the words of the wise-woman as she spoke of my destiny, as if it was not really my own... and I realised that it was all I did, when it came to the Urshilaku. I had always just sat and listened - and did as they asked. It was too much.

I stood up.

"I am sorry, sera Maesa," I said; "but I do not believe that I am the Nerevarine. All I see are coincidences. Born on a certain day to uncertain parents. That could be many people. Age cannot harm me because I am a vampire. The 'curse-of-flesh before me flies' because a wizard's deadly 'cure' could not kill someone who was already dead. In exactly the same vein, this moon-and-star ring - that is supposed to expose False Incarnates through their death - cannot kill me because I am already dead!"

The wise-woman wore an expression of pure shock. Sirilonwe looked surprised too; but only at my sudden candour, I think. She already knew - and agreed with - my opinions on the prophecies.

"It is all a convenient coincidence - for you -" I continued - "but even if, somehow, I could become the Nerevarine through virtuous and foretold actions - as you seemed to always believe, wise-woman - I would not care to. Why would I? I first came to you - to the Urshilaku - because I was curious about your beliefs. I am sorry to have lied, but that is all that brought me here. I only returned because I was promised the end of Dagoth Ur if I did what you said. The destruction of House Dagoth is all I want. I am not here to be used by the Urshilaku - and all the other tribes - to add to the prestige and power of your clan with knowledge and artefacts!"

This was not something she could deny. I had fetched items of power for Sul-Matuul under the guise of his endless 'tests'; and I had delivered prophecies to Nibani that had been lost to the Ashlanders for scores of generations. They were using me.

I had no need of them. If they knew how Dagoth Ur might be defeated, they would have done something about it - told someone. Told me.

No - I knew who I needed to speak to.

"Another failed one, then." Was all that Nibani said as I left her.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Chapter 130: Immortal

Though he did not say as much, Ashkhan Sul-Matuul seemed as sceptical as I about my being the incarnation of Indoril Nerevar. Wise-woman Nibani had sent me on to speak to her Ashkhan about the Third Trial (of the seven mentioned in the 'Seven Trials of the Incarnate' prophecy), as for some reason that she was unwilling to relate, she was forbidden to speak of that particular trial.

If you are wondering why I am suddenly speaking of a third trial when I have not mentioned the overcoming of the first two, it is because I had already passed the First and Second Trials. This was according to Nibani Maesa, at any rate. I passed the First Trial because of my birth-date and because I did not know my parents: I was born 'on a certain day to uncertain parents'. I passed the Second Trial because as a vampire I was 'immune' to aging; and thanks to Divayth Fyr's treatment I was immune to Corprus disease. 'Neither blight nor age' could harm me.

As it turned out, Sul-Matuul was also unwilling to speak about the Third Trial of the Incarnate: at least at first:

"Many have gone before you," Sul-Matuul rumbled, "saying they are the Incarnate. All are dead or proven cowards now. The Nerevarine must be strong - a warrior - so for every hopeful that comes to me, I set this test; to see if they are a warrior. Though for you, vampire, I think it will test your loyalty and determination to our cause, more than anything." He looked me up and down slowly. "For you are already proven a killer by virtue of your vampiric nature."

He described an ancient Velothi stronghold to me - and it was not one of the ten I already knew of that housed the propylon chambers that I used to teleport around the island. This one was called Kogoruhn, and from the Ashkhan's description, it was obvious to me that it had become a lair for the Sixth House.

The three 'tokens' Sul-Matuul wanted me to retrieve from Kogoruhn (as proof of my willingness as a thrall of the Urshilaku - as I darkly suspected) were what gave it away. The first was a sample of Corprus weepings - which of course could be gathered (rather revoltingly) from a Corprus beast - and as I had seen, sufferers of Corprus gathered at Sixth House lairs like flies to places of stinking corruption. The second token was a cup with the mark of House Dagoth on it, and it was here that the Ashkhan admitted that he knew very well what Kogoruhn was:

"Yes, a House Dagoth cup. Dark Kogoruhn is the lair of our enemy, and it is too close to our camp for our comfort. I will not lie: that is why I send you there; in the hope you will... lessen the danger in that place."

Knowing that Kogoruhn was a Sixth House base, I would have gone regardless of what the Ashkhan wanted; and he did not have to hope that I would kill as many of the monsters there as I could - I would be glad to do it.

In any case: the final token Sul-Matuul wanted was the 'Shadow Shield', an enchanted item that apparently lay on the tomb of a 'Dagoth Morin', in the lava tunnels beneath the stronghold. The name Dagoth Morin brought to mind - uncomfortably - Dagoth Gares, the deformed creature who had cursed me with Corprus. Kogoruhn sounded like a dangerous place indeed.

So I was surprised when Sirilonwe said that she would go with me into the stronghold.

"I have waited outside too often while you go alone into dangerous places." She said. "I will watch your back, and you will watch mine. I believe we are safer together, anyway."

For my part, I believed that there had been good reasons for all the recent occasions on which Sirilonwe had stayed behind while I did something dangerous - and that there was another good reason for her to do the same while I went into Kogoruhn:

"Siri, it will probably be just like the other Sixth House bases I've seen -" I told her; "crawling with disease."

"And I am not immune to Corprus like you probably are -" Sirilonwe replied; "I know. You came out of Telasero and Falasmaryon perfectly healthy, though - from what you tell me. In any case; I have my spells to protect against Corprus, and if I see a 'Dagoth' like that Gares, I will go invisible and you can kill it for me, alright?" She gave a smile, showing her fangs.

In the end I relented and agreed to her company. I would feel safer with her watching my back - as she had said.

We elected to go to Kogoruhn immediately, leaving directly from the Urshilaku camp. We were already wearing our armour and had our travel supplies with us - as always when travelling in the wilderness - so there was no real reason to wait.

The trek only took an hour or two, heading south-east from the Urshilaku camp, and Kogoruhn was just where Sul-Matuul said it would be: over a steep ridge of worn, wind-blasted stone from the Falasmaryon stronghold. Kogoruhn reminded me in some ways of Telasero: they were both built in the same Velothi style, and both squatted in a barren depression in the ground. The depression protected Kogoruhn from view - and from the harshest of the Ashlands' winds - but a restless breeze still blew gently across the massive stone platform, brushing over the drifts of soil and ash that half-buried the ancient structure.

There was no-one outside, guarding the stronghold; but when we began our search for the three tokens with the smaller buildings that sat on the great stone table, we found that there was more than enough resistance on the inside. Even in those confined spaces, the tentacle-faced men and ash-skinned 'zombies' we fought there threw their powerfully destructive magic about with abandon. If Sirilonwe and I had not been experts at countering spells and dispelling harmful magic, we would likely have been burnt to a cinder.

In one of the small, domed buildings on top of the stronghold, I found two of the items Sul-Matuul had requested: some Corprus weepings were smeared along the wall in a long, sticky trail; and an ornate goblet (that shared the colouring and engravings of the sinister 'whispering shrines' I had seen before in Sixth House lairs) was sitting on a table.

That left only the 'Shadow Shield' to find, and only the largest structure on the stronghold to search. As I had suspected, this building was the entrance to the Kogoruhn stronghold proper. It was rife with sickening creatures. We went from room to room, killing every deformed monster we found. There were no Dreamers - no-one that still looked like man or mer - to be found in those halls.

Kogoruhn actually appeared as if it had been inhabited by humans in the not-too-distant past, and that the Sixth House had taken the stronghold from them by force: either by driving them out, or simply killing them all. I say this because there was furniture all through those dark chambers, whereas there had been none in Falasmaryon, Telasero, or Ilunibi.

In a vaguely disturbing fashion, in almost every room, the furniture - soiled by Corprus weepings - had been stacked into elaborate and precariously-balanced piles. Stools on top of chairs on top of tables, with ceramic bowls and jugs perched on the very top. I still cannot imagine why those mindless Corprus beasts or ashen zombies would have done such a thing.

We pushed on deeper into the complex, and found something I had definitely not expected: an ancient waterway, reminiscent of a sewer. The place was rank with the stench of the fetid, reddish water collected in the canals. I was very glad of the walkways that flanked the canals. Even water-walking on the surface of that red muck would have been extraordinarily unpleasant.

Beyond the canals were the lava tunnels Sul-Matuul had spoken of; and they were nearly unbearably hot. Sirilonwe and I gave any open lava pits we encountered a wide berth. Vampires are not fond of fire and extreme heat.

It was searching gingerly through those tunnels that we met what was possibly one of the most fearsome opponents I had ever known. At first glance, he - or it - appeared as a Dunmer man of great stature - but on closer inspection, the beast - which was naked but for a golden loincloth and golden head-dress - had a long charcoal beard (unlike any Dunmer I had ever seen), a strange pattern of muscles to his body, and long talons for fingernails.

He was a tough opponent. I sliced again and again at his body, but only ash trickled from the wounds. Sirilonwe set him on fire - but the magical flames died down quickly, leaving blackened skin that hardly seemed to pain - or even slow - him at all. In the end, Sirilonwe managed to pierce him through the abdomen with her Daedric blade; which served to halt his twisting, erratic movements long enough for me to remove his head with my own blade.

The creature had left us both with several ragged cuts from its vicious talons, and a number of bruises from its powerful limbs. Our vampiric constitutions seemed to be stopping the wounds from bleeding too much, but there was nothing much we could do to treat them properly until we could feed again: fresh blood would heal us.

I was distracted by fond thoughts of Hunter's rich blood, waiting for us back at home, when Sirilonwe clutched my arm, staring fearfully back at the body of the bearded 'man' we had defeated. His arm was reaching out slowly, the taloned hand searching along the stone ground for something. The creature was not dead!

As we watched, horrified, the monster's hand found its head, lying on the tunnel floor; and grasped it by the long, charcoal beard, to draw it back to its body.

At that, we turned and ran. I thought then that I knew what the thing was: an 'Ash Vampire': very different from 'blood vampires' like Sirilonwe and I. They were said to be Dagoth Ur's immortal servants: highest in his service - and believably so, if the tales were to be believed, and they were truly immortal.

For what if they were really, truly immune to death? I was immortal, but I could still be destroyed. How could I fight something like an Ash Vampire, if it could not die?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Chapter 129: Conspiracy

"I want to stress that this information is not based on hearsay or unreliable, unproven conspiracy theories." Said Galvis Barelo, wearing an intense expression. "This has been recorded in the Apographa for thousands of years. It is true."

I glanced back down at the short essay that was 'Kagrenac's Tools' - one of the other documents abbot Barelo had had transcribed for me from the Dissident Priests' archive of censored works. I could see why he was keen to reinforce its veracity: it was quite a fantastical tale.

In summary, the essay said that long ago, the Dwemer found a great magical stone underneath Red Mountain, and determined that it was the heart of the dead god Lorkhan: cast there as punishment for his mischief in creating the mortal world. (This passage, of course, was the most difficult part to believe). Apparently, a Dwemer named Kagrenac wanted to use the heart to create a new god for the use and benefit of the Dwemer people.

He created three enchanted tools with this end in mind: the gauntlet 'Wraithguard' that would protect the wearer from destruction when using the other tools on the heart, the hammer 'Sunder' that would be used to 'strike the heart and produce the exact volume of power required', and the blade 'Keening' that would 'flay and focus' that power.

The 'Kagrenac's Tools' paper went on to suggest that the disappearance of the Dwemer was due to Kagrenac using the tools on the heart during the Battle of Red Mountain - and something going horribly wrong, presumably. After the battle, Dagoth Ur and Nerevar found the tools; Nerevar telling his comrade to guard the tools while he went to ask Vivec, Almalexia and Sotha Sil what should be done with them.

While Nerevar was gone, Dagoth Ur was tempted and confused by the power of the tools, and probably (as the paper said) experimented on the heart of Lorkhan with them. He then refused to give up the tools when Nerevar, Vivec, Almalexia and Sotha Sil returned to take them into safe-keeping. From what the essay said, it sounded like the power of the heart had driven Dagoth Ur quite mad. It had also made him immortal, though of course this was not discovered until later.

The confrontation dissolved into a fight, and Dagoth Ur fled, mortally wounded (or so Nerevar and his companions thought), deep into Red Mountain. Nerevar, Vivec, Almalexia and Sotha Sil all swore to protect the tools and never use them themselves - but this pact only lasted until just after Nerevar's death. Vivec, Almalexia and Sotha Sil all gave into temptation just as Dagoth Ur had, and went to Lorkhan's heart to grant themselves divine powers; fashioning themselves into the Tribunal.

The conclusion of the 'Kagrenac's Tools' essay said that even though the Tribunal were more cautious in their use of the tools on the heart - escaping the madness that befell Dagoth Ur - they were still corrupted by the process. The tools were cursed. Stealing power from a dead god was folly, and fated to disaster. The Tribunal were now losing their battle to control the power of the heart. The living gods were only sustained by the same tainted power that drove Dagoth Ur mad.

It went on in this vein for a little longer, before finishing by saying that despite the good things that Vivec, Almalexia and Sotha Sil had done as the Tribunal, they had hidden the truth of their power - and their weakness - from their followers.

Gilvas Barelo tapped this last paragraph with a long forefinger.

"They do this out of shame." He said, sitting down across from me. "They persecute us - the Dissident Priests - out of shame; and there is no doubt: it is the living gods themselves who are persecuting us. They do not want this secret to be revealed - especially in their weakened state."

"I suppose I can understand why you would want this information to come out..." I said slowly, still not entirely convinced that it was all true; "but what I'm wondering is that if this knowledge has always been held by the Temple elite, why is it that it hasn't been released earlier? Surely a secret like this would have come out at some stage."

Barelo looked somewhat pained at this.

"Until recently it has always been the opinion of those 'in the know' that the true source of the Tribunal's power should remain a secret; as Vivec, Almalexia and Sotha Sil have always maintained that they need the faith of the people to empower them in their battle against Dagoth Ur. A lot of people would obviously lose faith if they learned about Kagrenac's Tools." The abbot heaved a great sigh. "Now, however - as it becomes plain that the living gods are losing the fight - we believe that a frank examination of the source of Dagoth Ur's power is needed. Divulging the secret that the Tribunal gain their godly powers from the same source is necessary because the relative strength of each party is directly related to that of the other."

"In other words?" I squeezed my eyes shut for a moment. There had been a lot of information to absorb that morning.

"In other words," Barelo said, "as the Tribunal weaken, Dagoth Ur becomes stronger."

I nodded, and added facetiously:

"Ah - alright. Fantastic."

So; Vivec, Almalexia and Sotha Sil had knowledge - intimate knowledge, in fact - of Dagoth Ur's powers. It was then, as Sirilonwe and I prepared to leave Holamayan, that the thought leapt into my mind: who better to speak to about the destruction of a living devil than a living god? Why, Vivec was right there in the holy city that was his namesake, after all. Supposedly so, at least.

After experiencing the horrors that Dagoth Ur was feeding into the land - after seeing the plight of the Dreamers and Corprus sufferers - after suffering from the disease myself - I wanted Dagoth Ur and the Sixth House wiped out. Make no mistake. Still; approaching a being like Vivec - especially if what the Dissident Priests said about him was true - was not something to do on a whim. I needed to consider it carefully first; and perhaps see if another path presented itself.

In the meantime, relaying the lost prophecies to Nibani Maesa would be a simple task, and would no doubt earn the great appreciation of the entire Urshilaku clan. One can never have too many allies.

Nibani was overjoyed; an uncharacteristic broad grin on her face as I delivered the news the following evening that those forgotten prophecies that were so important to the Nerevarine cult were lost no longer. For an hour or more I sat in the wise-woman's yurt, repeating the 'Lost Prophecy' and the 'Seven Curses of the Sharmat' over and over - until she was satisfied that she knew them by heart. Afterwards, she asked me to leave her be for a time, and return once 'the sun had come and gone' (as she put it), so that she could give her judgement.

"Judgement?" I asked, confused.

"Yes;" Nibani replied; "a judgement is what you wanted, isn't it?"

And that was all she would say.

Sirilonwe and I spent most of the rest of the night - and all the sunlit hours of the following day - attending to Mages Guild duties we had been neglecting. Sirilonwe was very keen to hear what the wise-woman had to say; she suffered from incurable curiosity, just like me. It was one of the things I loved about her. So - we returned to the Urshilaku camp as soon as the gathering darkness allowed it. Nibani had had a full day to think about... whatever it was.

"You are the Nerevarine." The wise-woman said, as soon as we entered her yurt. She appeared to be making an effort to contain her excitement. "You shall walk the path of the Seven Visions, and pass the Trials of the Seven Visions. And I shall be your guide. All this I have seen in my dreams."

There was a thrilled tremor in her voice. Her excitement seemed to render her oblivious to the doubt and sarcasm in my voice:

"I see. Your... dreams told you this."

"Yes!" Nibani exclaimed. "This is your path. You shall be the one to destroy Dagoth Ur, and lift his seven curses."

That she mentioned Dagoth Ur was the only reason I did not stand up and leave immediately. The time when I was amused and intrigued by the Nerevarine cult and their prophecies was long past. She promised the end of Dagoth Ur, and that was what kept me with the Urshilaku.

But it was a slender thread.