FUN IN ARKNGTHAND
I cast levitation and floated up to a bridge that went nowhere at the left side of the second level of the structure. Suddenly, I was hit by a blast of magic fire! It wasn't very powerful, but it hurt, none-the-less. I looked down and saw that it was coming from a Dwemer spector, a ghost left over from the days of a thousand years ago. The spector shot another blast of magic at me, but this time it missed me. I floated down to the bridge, and the ghost raced out to do battle with me.
I was more angry with it than anything else, and rather than use magic on it, I just punched it in the face. The ghost fell back as my fist hit it squarely in the nose. It came back for a second bolt of magic, but before it could cast anything, I hit it again, then again. The ghost couldn't reconfigure itself into a magic-casting pose. I guess all that time spent as a vampire, which improved my hand-to-hand skills to the max, proved most valuable at this time.
After several rights and lefts, the ghost finally diappeared in a puff of green mist, leaving behind a blob of ectoplasm, which is very useful for my alchemy equipment.
Laurenna shouted from below, "Are you alright?" I leaned over the railing and told her I had it under control. "What was all that noise?" she asked. "Oh, nothing, just a ghost got under foot, don't worry about him. He's quiet now." I said.
I checked around the upper levels of the structure, and found a locked chest. Then, I saw the boobytrap attached to the lid. I picked the lock easily, but then had to carefully un-do the boobytrap from the lid with a probe I had brought with me. It took a few tries, but I finally managed to release it. I was hoping this would be the puzzlebox we were looking for. Imagine my disappointment when all I found were a few trinkets and, an admittedly, very nice Dwemer shield.
"Did you find anything?" Laurenna asked, as I levited back down to her position. "Well," I said, "it's not the puzzlebox, but how do you like this?" I gave her the Dwemer shield. "Oh, my, it's lovely." she said. "Look at the craftsmanship, the detail, oh, it's ...." "It's yours." I finished. "A lovely shield for a lovely lady." "Oh, Eldorf, you old smoothie" she grinned.
We made our way back up and into another section of the stronghold. More machines, more doors to go through, then suddenly, we came to a door that had an odd sound on the other side, something I had heard near my old stronghold. "Laurenna, it sounds like a centurion sphere on the other side. Can you still cast chameleon?" "Yes," she said, "I still have the amulet that Granny gave to me." She used it an blended into the surrounding wall behind her. I used my own amulet of shadows and did the same, then went through the door.
My guess was correct. On the other side, we found a different type of centurion sphere, one that can shoot arrows or bolts at tremendous speeds - very deadly.
I got on one side, she got on the other, and we both attacked at the same time. The sphere never stood a chance. There was another door behind the sphere, so we decided to give it a try.
Upon going through the door, we were met with yet another Dwemer specter.
The ghost just floated by us, and then I realized that since Laurenna and I were still using the chameleon spell, it simply couldn't see us.
The spell would only last 60 seconds at any one time, so we had to time this carefully.
We waited until it was close enough, then both of us attacked it.
The thing was gone in a matter of seconds, leaving yet another pile of ecktoplasm on the floor.
We made our way back up to the place where we started, and noticed that there was a door that we hadn't tried yet, since it was locked.
Since we hadn't found the puzzlebox yet, I figured we may as well give this one a try. It always has to be the last one you try, right?
Inside the room, we found a the leader of the bandits, an old, bald-headed, nasty-smelling, poorly-natured guy who's name I didn't bother to remember. What I did remember is that he had a very nasty, rusty old axe he was about to use on me. I was about to paralyze him with a spell when Laurenna just jumped in front of me and dared him to try the axe on her.
The bandit looked at me, waiting for an attack from two sides. I just shrugged my shoulders and said "Well, you wanted some fun. Please, indulge yourself."
With that, Laurenna smiled, and the bandit, now realizing that it was going to be just one-on-one with a girl, thought he had a chance.
To put this in perspective: Bandit with a simple piece of armor chest plate and a rusty axe, against a Nord female with full armor, broadsword, and an attitude. Poor guy never had a chance.
I noticed some old crates on the other side of some leaky steam pipes, so I thought I may as well see what prizes we had won. As I started around the pipes, something caught my eye.
On the bottom shelf, in a dark corner, there it was: the puzzlebox we had been looking for. It was here, all the time.
"Laurenna, look at this." I said. "It was right here, the last place we looked."
"Oh, that's alright." she said, "If we had come here first, we wouldn't have had as much fun."
We both laughed. She was right - it would have been a boring mission had we come to this room first.
I gathered up what we could carry between the two of us, including the very important puzzlebox.
Laurenna and I finally left the stronghold. It was good to be out of that dark, dreary place, and back into the Molag Amur region (well, that's also dreary, but at least it's brighter than the inside of a Dwemer stronghold).
We made our way back to Balmora, and met with Hasphat Antabolis at the Fighter's Guild offices.
"Eldorf, old man, you've found my puzzlebox. Thank you ever-so-much. You know there are only a few of these things in the entire world, right?"
"Well, so I hear." I replied.
"Now," I reminded him, "down to this business about a sixth house and this Neverland cult." "Nerevarine cult." he corrected me. "Why don't the two of you sit down." he said, "This may take a while."
A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME
"As you know," he started, "I am something of a student of history here in Vvardenfell. The province of Morrowind has had a turbulent history in the last thousands years. Most interesting, of course. You know that there are several great houses in the Empire of Tamriel, a total of five, at the moment. You are head of one of them, correct?" "Yes," I added, "House Telvani." "That's right," he continued, "Telvani, Hlaalu, and Redoran are represented on this island, and there are two more, but not here in Morrowind, which are House Indoril, and House Dres." House Dwemer were the great enchanters, and as you can see, their enchanted machines still walk and guard their strongholds. Since they vanished so long ago, they are not counted, hence, we only have a listing of five great houses of the empire."
"And this 'Sixth House'?" I asked. "A trusted informant says they're a secret cult associated with some strange events recently," he said, "and, more important, my informant thinks these recent disturbances are related in some way to the Nerevarine Prophecies."
"Please, elaborate on that." I said.
"Some Dunmer believe that an orphan and outcast, a youth born on a certain day to uncertain parents, will one day unite all the tribes of the Dunmer, drive out the invaders of Morrowind, and reestablish the ancient laws and customs of the Dark Elven nations. They call this orphan and outcast the "Nerevarine," and say the Nerevarine will be a reincarnation of the long-dead Dunmer General and First Councilor, Lord Indoril Nerevar."
"The Ashlanders believe a reborn Nerevar will unite the Dunmer against the outlander invaders and restore the ancient Dark Elven nation. Nerevar is a legendary hero and saint of the Temple, but the Temple denies the prophecy, and persecutes heretics who believe in the Nerevarine. Tell Caius that Sharn gra-Muzgob would be a better person to ask about the native faiths and superstitions."
I nodded in agreement. "Tell me more about this Sixth House."
"House Dagoth is the Sixth House, the 'lost' Sixth House. In the First Age, House Dagoth betrayed the other Great Houses during the War of the First Council, and was destroyed for their treason. I can answer any questions you have, but I'll also give you some notes to give to Caius, and recommend some Sixth House references he should read."
"House Dagoth was the Sixth of the Seven Dunmer Great Houses. Nothing remains of the Sixth House. Its members were all slain or adopted into other Great Houses following their treason in the War of the First Council. Their clanstead was called Kogoruhn."
"I've heard something about a secret cult worshipping Dagoth Ur. The idea is that the Tribunal are false gods who have betrayed Morrowind to the Imperials. The cult plans to overthrow the Temple and drive the Empire from Morrowind. The cult is outlawed by the Temple, the Great Houses, or the Empire, and I doubt it's very popular. I've also heard there's some connection with smuggling... that they smuggle goods, or hire smugglers, or something like that."
"Dagoth Ur was the leader of the extinct Sixth House, House Dagoth, the traitor house destroyed in the War of the First Council. Dagoth Ur is the evil immortal enemy of the Tribunal Temple cult. The Temple blames Dagoth Ur and his hosts for all the evils that beset the Dunmer and Morrowind. Dagoth Ur dwells in fiery caverns beneath Red Mountain, served by his kin and legions of monsters."
I thanked Hasphat for his time and information.
I took this information back to Caius Cosades, the spymaster. "This is most interesting." he said. "Do you have information from Sharn gra-Muzgob?" "No," I said, "not yet, but I will obtain that information from her shortly, probably tomorrow."
"Now," I continued, "I have another situation I must tend to before further projects can be started. I have a dragon to chase down."
"A dragon, you say?" The news caused his skooma-flooded mind to perk up a bit. "It burned down the cottage you had set up for me in Caldera." I believe there may be further information about it in Ald'ruhn. I will return as quickly as I can."
"Ok," he said, "just don't get killed. I have more work for you to do when you return."
Laurenna and I headed back to our humble abode, since it was getting very late, and it had been a very trying day for both of us. We had something to eat, and then decided to settle down for a long night's sleep. I told Laurenna that we should go to Ald'ruhn in the morning to find out more about this dragon. I would stop by the Mage's Guild and check with Sharn gra-Muzgob on our way back for further information on this Nerevarine cult.
Late that night, something odd happened: I had a disturbing dream. I can only recall one part. A tall figure with a golden mask led me among the dead as through a wedding celebration. I heard many voices, but no lips moved. I strained to breathe, but my chest didn't move. The tall figure spoke with each figure as he passed among them, laughing and joking, as if they were alive, but they made no reply. I tried to cry out, but without breath, my tongue fluttered in vain!
I woke with a start, my heart was pounding, as if I had been running. The dream the children had mentioned earlier! It was the same one they had described to us before we went to the Dwemer stronghold.
"Eldorf, are you ok?" Laurenna asked, waking from a sound sleep. "You're dripping with sweat. What's wrong?" she asked. "I'm .... ok." I said, trying to regain my composure. "It's nothing, just a bad dream. Go back to sleep, sweetie."
She closed her eyes and went back to sleep, but I couldn't. I kept thinking about how the children had mentioned others having this dream, and now it was invading my mind as well. Something is not quite right.