The Morrowind Diaries – Chapter 2

Chapter 2

Chapter 2 – First Explorations and the Balmora Thieves Guild

Last Seed 17 (Day 2)

Balmora, as seen from the Silt Strider platform

Balmora, as seen from the Silt Strider platform

The driver awoke me upon our arrival in Balmora. It was still dark and the sky was overcast but the rain had stopped and I could see a few lights in the town as its inhabitants went about their business. Thanking the driver, I descended into the streets of Balmora.

A Dark Elf guard was idly keeping watch near the Strider stop and I asked him directions to the South Wall Corner Club. It turned out to be relatively nearby, just across the river to the east.

The guard seemed to be in a talkative mood so I asked him more about Balmora. He told me that the town was the council seat of House Hlaalu, one of the three great Dunmer houses. He himself was part of House Hlaalu.

He spoke of his desire to maintain order and keep the law and complained that crime seemed to be on the increase, even accusing the Balmora magistrate, one Nolus Atrius, of being on the take. With a sneer, he wondered how Larrius Varro, the Legion Champion from the Moonmoth Legion Fort who had sworn to fight corruption, would react to this.

Thanking him for his information, I proceeded east across the river and through a narrow, dark tunnel through a row of buildings. Several crates were stacked in the tunnel and I briefly looked through them, finding a few odds and ends which had apparently be overlooked when the crates were left there. I continued to the east and quickly found the South Wall Corner Club, the southeastern most building in the city. Several crates were stacked beside the building and, after glancing about to see if anyone was around, I quickly searched through them before entering the building.

Just inside the entrance I was met by a woman named Sottilde who identified herself as a pawnbroker. I started to sell her some of the items I had collected but suddenly realized that the crates outside may have been part of her inventory and instead simply asked her about Caius Cosades. She knew of Cosades, calling him “Sugar-Tooth” Cosades, but did not know his current whereabouts. She suggested that I ask Bacola Closcius, the owner of the club. She said I should be able to find him somewhere inside the club.

Thanking her, I proceeded around the corner; nodding to the few other patrons I met. One of them, a Khajiit, approached me, identified herself as “Sugar-Lips” Habasi and asked if I was interested in joining the Thieves Guild.

I was quite taken aback by the forwardness of her question and quickly glanced around to see if anyone was listening in on us. She was able to convince me that she was the local guild leader and that her offer was genuine. I decided that since I did not know what the Emperor’s ultimate plans for me were it would perhaps be in my best interests to gain some allies. I accepted her offer to join.

She immediately became friendlier towards me and offered me a job. She had a client who wanted a diamond; a diamond currently in the possession of Nalcarya the Alchemist. I recognized this as a test of my skills and agreed to procure the diamond for her. She gave me the location of Nalcarya’s shop and sent me on my way.

I did not immediately leave however. I continued to the lower level of the South Wall, still in search of Closcius. I did not find him in the bar area and so retraced my steps to the entrance then took the stairs up to where the South Wall had rooms for rent. I found Closcius in the hallway there. After a brief introduction he gave me directions to the bed and basket where Cosades lived; out the lower door, right up the stairs then left to the end of the street.

I thanked him and set out on my way. The first light of dawn was beginning to appear in the sky as I walked north towards Cosades’ house. I passed several more of the crates which had proved to be worth searching but as more people were out on the street I decided against looking through them at the time.

First meeting with Caius Cosades

First meeting with Caius Cosades

Arriving at the house, I entered and found myself facing Cosades himself. He appeared annoyed at my arrival as it appeared he had been preparing for bed. At first he did not know what I meant when I said that I had been told to report to him but I gave him the documents that Sellus Gravius had provided me and after perusing them his disposition improved dramatically.

Cosades told me that I had been selected by the Emperor to join the Blades; the intelligence service of the Empire and the personal eyes and ears of the Emperor. I did not know why the Emperor had selected me for this position and apparently neither did Cosades. However, he welcomed me into the Blades as he would any other.

He then briefly filled me in on the various factions and guilds operating on Vvardenfell; some supporting the Empire and others supporting the Dunmer, the native Dark Elves of the island. Foreigners or outsiders such as us were not well liked by many of the Dunmer.

As well as the Blades, the Empire was officially supported by the Imperial Legion and the Imperial Cult. Further support was provided by the Fighter, Mage and Thieves Guilds.

Organizations supporting the Dunmer were the three great houses of House Redoran, House Hlaalu and House Telvanni. Cosades spoke with great respect of these houses, saying that House Redoran was very serious and honorable and that House Hlaalu was a loyal supporter of the Empire and very open-minded and tolerant. The only one of the Houses that he had anything negative to say about was House Telvanni. The Telvanni, he said, were led by a group of thousand year old wizards who hated politics, foreigners and just about everything else.

Of the other Dunmer organizations he mentioned the Temple, which he called narrow-minded and superstitious but he did admit they did much work for the poor. He also told me of the Morag and Camonna Tongs. The Morag were executioners and assassins who operated legally but worked under a strong code of conduct. The Camonna, on the other hand, were the local criminal syndicate. They actively opposed outside interference in their operations. As a new member of the Thieves Guild myself, I noted this information particularly. He also mentioned, almost in passing, that the Camonna seemed to have some connections to House Hlaalu.

Finally, he spoke of the Ashlanders. These were the inhabitants of the Ashlands, the area downwind of the volcano that dominated the center of Vvardenfell. These he described as murdering savages who hated everyone, including their own Dunmer kin.

Having filled me in on the local situation he told me that I would need a cover while in town. Fortunately, the occupation of “freelance adventurer” was fairly common and I could easily claim to be such. He then informed me that I needed to improve my skills before he would feel comfortable in sending me out on assignment. He gave me some coins with which to buy some weapons and armor and suggested that I work with one of the other guilds or factions for a while in order to gain experience. He suggested that I either take on some freelance work on my own or join the Fighter or Mage’s Guilds, the Imperial Cult or the Imperial Legion.

I was somewhat offended by the fact that he apparently considered me to be too inept to be of use to him but I kept a pleasant disposition and thanked him for his support. I then left, ostensibly to purchase my weapons and armor.

Instead, I decided to follow up on the information that Habasi had given me. I had decided to not mention to Cosades that I had already made contact with the Thieves Guild; especially given that they seemed to have much more respect for my ability than he did. So, following Habasi’s directions, I crossed the river again then headed north towards the Temple. I found Nalcarya’s Alchemist shop just west of the Temple.

Briefly entering, I discovered that the shop was occupied by Nalcarya and a guard, who also happened to be blocking the stairs. However, upon returning to the street I noted that there was a second set of stairs outside which led to a door on the upper floor. I stealthily climbed the stairs and examined the door.

It was locked, of course, but I was able to open it after a few tries with the lockpick I had found earlier and slipped inside. I could hear voices from the shop below as I stealthily searched the room.

There were a large number of objects lying on shelves but I did not want to remain any longer than necessary and risk being caught by the guard downstairs. I eventually determined that the diamond must be in a locked chest above Nalcarya’s bed but my security skills seemed to fail me and I was unable to master the lock.

Fortunately, I was born under the sign of the Tower and as such have certain abilities. Taking a moment to prepare, I summoned the Magicka within myself and the mystical energy flowed from my hands into the lock. The lock released with a slight click and I looked inside the chest to find not one but three diamonds. I slipped the diamonds into my pouch and, returning the chest to the shelf, quietly slipped out of the room the way I had entered.

The sun was now above the horizon and I realized that I had had nothing to eat since my release the previous day. Before returning to the Corner Club, I decided to stop at a local tavern and found myself in the Lucky Lockup.

The Lockup was busy even this early in the morning and I spoke with several of the customers there as I enjoyed a simple breakfast of bread and wine. I again heard that Nolus Atrius was on the take but got the additional information that he was protected by “fat cats and family back in the city”, which explained why the League champion was having trouble with him. I also heard a rumor that House Hlaalu had a spy in Ald’ruhn as they always seemed to know what the Redoran council was planning.

Talk also turned to a disease known as Corprus. Corprus was apparently found in the upcountry of Sheogorad, Molag Amor or inside of the Ghostfence. It turned animals and men into beasts; superhumanly strong and filled with hatred. Many were afraid to attack creatures with Corprus as there was no known cure.

But most of my information came from Chuna, an Argonian Bard who served House Telvanni. Knowing that Bards cannot help but tell their stories, I spent some time listening to her and learning of Vvardenfell.

She told me that Vvardenfell was really home to three cultures, the nomadic Ashlanders, the settled Dunmer of the three great Houses and the western Imperial colonists. The Dunmer, I was told, did not particularly like foreigners, particularly outland Dunmer who didn’t know what it was like to be a Dunmer born and bred. On the other hand, they were not complete xenophobes; there was a Nord on the House Hlaalu Council for example. Outlanders were more accepted in Hlaalu territory but even there the Dunmer were very sensitive to accents, clothes and manners.

It was easiest for Outlanders in Balmora and in the House Hlaalu territories and harder for them in House Redoran or Vivec city. They were definitely not welcomed by the Telvanni wizards. Still, it was possible for Outlanders to join any of the Houses, provided they had a reputation and could find a patron within the house.

She added that most people didn’t realize how much the Dark Elves resented the Imperial occupation. The real powers behind the Hlaalu Council were Orvas Dren and the Camonna Tong and they continued to nurse ancient resentments. If the Legion was ever distracted, by problems with the Septim succession for example, then Dren and the Tong would probably move openly against the Empire.

I asked what she thought and she admitted that there had been peace and prosperity for centuries while under Imperial rule. Since the Empire has both free trade and free religion the people of Vvardenfell were rich in both pocket and spirit and she felt that things were good.

Since she had mentioned the Empire I asked about the various Imperial organizations and factions. She spoke of the two official Imperial organizations; the Legion and the Cult. The Imperial Legion, she said, handled law enforcement, escorts and rescues while protecting the people from dangerous predators and diseased or blighted beasts. The Imperial Cult maintained the faith for the Outlanders and also functioned as missionaries. There was also the Fighters Guild, which provided mercenaries, and the Mages Guild, which consisted of wizards for hire. Finally, there was the Thieves Guild, the semi-tolerated underworld.

She also mentioned one unofficial Imperial organization, the Blades. The Blades were the eyes and the ears of the Emperor. In other words, spies.

I asked more of the Blades and learned that they were a prestigious service order for those citizens who had demonstrated the greatest loyalty to the Emperor. To be named to the Blades by the Emperor was a great honor and publicly acknowledged members of the Blades served openly in noble courts and diplomatic posts.

Having learned this information I thanked her and went on my way, my mind spinning. Why had the Emperor selected me for such a prestigious organization? Though I was a citizen of the Empire I had certainly never demonstrated the level of loyalty that seemed to be necessary for membership in the Blades. I did not understand what I had done to draw the Emperor’s attention to myself and wondered what he expected of me. Suddenly, I felt paranoid and wondered if others knew of my selection and if I was being observed even then. I quickly found myself crossing the main square towards the armorer’s shop while feeling the presence of hundreds of imaginary eyes on my back.

The armorer turned out to be a man named Meldor. While he measured me for armor, he also talked of the corruption within the city. He said that the Legion champion was having no luck working through official channels because the syndicates had their people covered. Instead of going through the system, he said, what was needed was to find someone who could go around the system… or someone who could go through the system. “Straight and hard” through the system.

My funds were more limited than I liked but I purchased myself an iron tanto and a basic set of chitin armor. Feeling a bit more protected, I returned to the South Wall Corner Club and met with Sugar-Lips again.

Habasi was pleased when I presented her with the diamond and immediately gave me another task. It seems that Sugar-Lips had an interest in examining Nerano Manor. Not the ground floor, which was usually unlocked, but the upper floor. She needed the key in order to satisfy her curiosity.

She knew of two people who had a key to the manor; Ondres Nerano himself and his assistant, Savor Trandel. Nerano would probably be in his manor and Trandel could usually be found either with his employer or in the Council Club.

I gave my regards to Habasi and left. I initially thought that my best chance at retrieving the key would be from Trandel and found my way to the Council Club.

Once there, I quickly determined that the task would be more difficult than I expected. Savor Trandel was indeed present but he was by no means alone; several other patrons were also passing their day in the cool dimness of the club. I tried several times to approach him but was always within the range of vision of another and so was unable to make the stealthy approach I desired. Once again I realized how far my skills had deteriorated while in prison.

Wanting to find a place where I could pause a moment and consider my options, I left the main room of the club and stepped into a hallway. There was another patron here but they did not seem to be paying attention to me and I stepped back into the shadows and out of sight. I noticed a door and slipped through it.

As I expected, I was in a small storage closet. I briefly searched through the contents and was surprised to find several bottles of Cyrodiilic Brandy. Not wanting my visit to the club to be a total waste of time I picked them up and concealed them in my pack before returning to the club. No one seemed to have noticed my brief visit to the hallway and no one paid any attention to me as I left.

Realizing that I would have to go to Nerano Manor I first returned to the Lucky Lockup and found Hickim, one of the patrons there with whom I had spoken during my earlier visit. Hickim sold both lockpicks and probes and I stocked up on several.

I then proceeded to the manor and, finding the door unlocked as Habasi had predicted, I let myself in. I was immediately confronted by Ondres Nerano himself.

Nerano Manor

Nerano Manor

Nerano was naturally perturbed by my presence in his house and I made some vague excuse as I walked around the room, examining the contents of the numerous tables and shelves. Nerano continued to watch me as I wandered about the room, finally arriving at a small alcove in the back behind a large barrel. I stopped here, briefly examining the jars that were stored there.

Apparently at this point Nerano decided I was some harmless eccentric or fool, as he turned his back on me and took several steps away. Seizing the opportunity, I attempted to slip up behind him silently and take the key, the outline of which I could see in his pocket. Unfortunately my skills failed me once again. Nerano spun towards me in righteous anger and swung at me. Instinctively, I blocked his swing and drew my tanto.

We fought silently for several minutes, my skills, faded from my long confinement, only slightly superior to his. In the end, however, it was I who proved triumphant as Nerano fell to the floor with a gurgling moan.

A quick examination confirmed that he was dead while I had escaped virtually uninjured. I briefly considered the body. I was no stranger to killing and death but bemoaned the uselessness of it. I had not come here to kill him and was only forced to do so when my failed pickpocket attempt caused him to attack me. Once again I was reminded as to how far my skills had deteriorated and I swore to myself that I would work to regain them. I still did not know why I had been released and did not like being a pawn; particularly a helpless one. I thus decided that before I returned to Cosades I would utilize my cover of “freelance adventurer” to the fullest and find what jobs and quests I could in order to regain my lost experience. When I returned to Cosades I may still be a pawn but I would not be a helpless one.

My first order of business was to get rid of Nerano. I had no desire to return to prison after having been so recently released. I searched the body, taking the key which had been the cause of all of this along with any other items of value before disposing of the corpse. With that out of the way I turned my attention to the manor itself.

Exploring the first floor I found that it contained little of real value. While there were a great number of plates, bowls and bottles none of them were worth particularly much and I decided that it would not be worth my time to carry these around. I then remembered what Habasi had told me; that she wanted to explore the upper floors of the manor. I found my way to the stairs and started upwards.

I came to a landing which Nerano had apparently used as a library. There was a comfortable chair sitting next to a bookcase filled with books. I perused the titles and glanced through them, reading of the history and lore of Morrowind. Several of the books seemed valuable and I started to collect them so that I could sell them to the book dealer I had seen in town but then I paused. I have always enjoyed books and having a collection such as this would be worth more to me than the relatively small amount of gold I could get for selling them. I decided to leave them where they were so that I might come and peruse them again in the future.

The thought gave me pause, for I had not thought I would venture inside of the manor again before this. Then it occurred to me that Nerano was dead and that it would be a shame to allow such a fine home to go empty. I immediately decided that I would claim this house as my own and that it would henceforth be known as Aldarian Manor!

There was a locked door to the outside from the landing and I opened it briefly and looked out over the plaza of Balmora. I then re-entered the manor and continued to the top floor. Here I found another locked door but it opened easily with the key I had taken from Nerano.

This was the bedroom. A large double bed occupied one wall while the others contained a closet and several chests. Several of them were locked and one small chest contained a trap but with a little work with the lockpicks and probes I had picked up earlier I was able to gain entry into all of them. The trapped chest turned out to only contain a small amount of gold but my biggest find was within the closet where Nerano kept a variety of extravagant and exquisite clothes.

I suddenly felt self-conscious standing there, since I was still wearing the stained and torn clothing I had worn while in prison. I decided that if I was claiming this manor as my own then I should look the part. Stripping off my prison rags, I donned a set of exquisite shirt and pants, fastened them with an exquisite belt and covered my armor with an exquisite robe. Looking at myself in a mirror, I was astonished at what a difference the clothes made. Truly, it seems, clothes do make the man.

Having satisfied myself as to my appearance, I decided that I had done enough for one day. I lay down on the bed and found it to be more comfortable than anything I had known for a long time. In a very short time I drifted off into a deep and dreamless sleep.

Last Seed 18 (Day 3)

I awakened completely refreshed shortly after dawn and, after a momentary confusion as to where I was, quickly redressed and prepared to venture forth into another day. I collected most of the remaining clothes from the closet, leaving only one spare pair for myself, and exited through the door on the landing to the plaza.

I stopped briefly at the shop of the trader Ra’Virr and sold him most of the clothing I had collected from the manor. I then found my way back to the South Wall Corner Club and reported back to Habasi.

Sugar-Lips Habasi

Sugar-Lips Habasi

“Sugar-Lips” was somewhat unhappy with me for having killed Nerano but she accepted the key I gave her. She also told me that my rise within the ranks of the Thieves Guild had begun and that I had been promoted to “Wet Ear”. Somehow it did not sound that impressive but I expressed proper gratitude and Habasi immediately gave me a new task.

It seems that a Khajiit by the name of Ra’Zhid had acquired several artifacts that he was supposed to turn over to the Thieves Guild but he, as of yet, had not done so. Habasi wanted me to go to the town of Hla Oad where I would find Ra’Zhid in a place known as FatLeg’s Dropoff. Once I found him, I was to retrieve three artifacts from him; a Dwarven Goblet and Bowl and a Dwemer Tube. She also told me there was no direct route to Hla Oad but that it was on the coast to the southwest of Balmora. My next task assigned, she sent me on my way.

I was less than happy with the directions she had given me but after looking at my map I decided that the best way to find Hla Oad would be to follow the Odai River downstream from Balmora then head north along the coast until I reached the town. Nodding goodbye to Sottilde as I passed her in the hall I left Balmora through the south gate near the Silt Strider platform.

The day was pleasant and the trail alongside the river easy to navigate and I made good time southward, alternately walking and trotting along. Along about midday I heard voices and smelled the aromas of food being cooked over an open fire. Looking off the trail to the west I saw several people gathered around a fire in front of what seemed to be a mining operation. Deciding to take a break in my travels I left the road and approached them.

One of the men greeted me and, introducing himself as Dinok Findulain, invited me to join them around the fire. I was grateful for the opportunity to rest a bit and joined him and the other men as we took our meal.

I learned that I had discovered the Shulk Eggmine and that the main products from the mine were Scrib Jerky and Jelly, Kwama Eggs and Kwama Cuttle as well as quantities of raw ebony and glass, dreugh wax, daedra skins and hearts, diamonds and ash salts. Findulain said, with a laugh, that mines like this one were responsible for feeding most of the population of Vvardenfell. I marveled at this as it was so different from my home where food came from farms instead of mines.

The men asked why I was out on the road and I responded by telling them I was an adventurer. They accepted this and one or two of them even seemed a bit jealous, as if they too felt the call of the road but were too entrenched into their current life to be able to consider it. Findulain suggested that I stay out of the mine since the Kwama foragers and warriors could tell by my smell that I did not belong there. He said they would not mind if I killed any who attacked me but did ask that I not kill any of the Kwama workers so that they could continue to produce and protect the queen.

Talk turned to other things and I listened for some time. For some reason, one of their stories stuck with me. It was the story of the Nerevarine Prophecy, of which I had never heard before. It seems that the Dunmer have been waiting for centuries for the return of Lord Nerevar, who they call “The Incarnate”. Every few years the Ashlander tribes would find someone and begin calling him the Incarnate but, inevitably, representatives from the Temple would appear and declare this latest arrival to be a fake. Several of the men wondered why the Temple did this and why they were so concerned with rumors of “The Incarnate”.

I had spent too much time relaxing by the mine and the time was getting late. I made my excuses, saying that I had many miles to travel before night fell, and set out on my way once again.

I soon came to a bridge over the Odai and, as the trail seemed a bit easier on the other side, I crossed over to the eastern bank and continued southward. It soon turned out that I had possibly made a mistake as the terrain quickly became very rough and I was forced to scramble over large boulders. I thought about backtracking to the bridge again but the day was getting late and I did not want to make the long journey back so I continued onward.

An Unexplored Shipwreck

An Unexplored Shipwreck

Eventually I came out of the boulder field into an area where several hot springs bubbled and steamed. I could hear the ocean ahead and made my way towards it. As I reached the shoreline, I could see the hull of an unexplored shipwreck ahead of me.

Though the day was late and the sky overcast I decided to take the time to explore the wreck. My initial search turned up nothing and the only cabin was half flooded and only contained a few empty bottles. I then dropped through a hatch in the deck into the interior of the wreck.

The open lower deck was also half flooded. A few crates and barrels bobbed in the small waves but none of them contained anything of particular value. However, I noticed a submerged door leading to an aft cabin and, after a moment’s hesitation, I drew a breath then dove under the water and through it.

The aft cabin turned out to contain an air pocket and I was able to examine the room in the dim light which filtered in from above. Another crate was in this room and opening it revealed four reddish statues which seemed to be made out of hardened ash. I did not recognize them but assumed they must be of some value since they were stored so carefully and so added them to my pack.

I found nothing else of interest and so swam back though the door and returned to the upper deck. Looking around I noticed that the ship had spilled some of its cargo onto the beach and so climbed down and began sorting though the debris there. I discovered little of interest until I came across a still sealed chest which, upon opening, I found to contain a silver longsword!

Pleased that I had gotten at least some reward out of my exploration I now faced the immediate concern that it was becoming quite late. I had not seen another bridge across the Odai since the one I used earlier in the day and I did not want to attempt to navigate the boulder field again after dark. So, in the fading twilight, I waded and swam across the mouth of the Odai River. A mudcrab attacked me as I exited the water on the far side but, with the aid of my new sword, I was able to quickly dispatch it.

I wandered aimlessly through a marshy area for a while and I was beginning to be afraid that I would have to pass the night in this desolate area. I was attacked several times by both mudcrabs and scrib but was able to defeat them without injury to myself. Eventually I stumbled across a trail and was relieved when I found a sign directing me to Hla Oad.

It was late night when I finally entered the town but I really do not think my impression of Hla Oad would have been improved by seeing it in the daylight. The town consisted of a few ramshackle huts and docks with a few run-down fishing boats floating off shore. And it smelled.

Several people were out and about and I stopped one of them to ask where I might find Ra’Zhid. The man I stopped, Relien Rirne, immediately asked me if I was lost, since no one came to Hla Oad on purpose, and welcomed me to “the garden spot of the Bitter Coast”.

His light attitude put me at ease and I asked him about the area. He told me that Hla Oad was a small fishing village connected to Balmora and Seyda Neen only by a rough trail along the Odai River. Most people coming to and from the village traveled by boat and he told me where I could find a captain who would be willing to take me elsewhere.

He said that the area was known as the Bitter Coast because of the number of salt marshes and their bitter water. He said, confidentially, that the area was also known as the Smuggler’s Coast because it also contained numerous small caves and hidey-holes where boats could land. Most of the smuggling was controlled by the Camonna Tong and he mentioned, almost in passing, that he expected a war to be coming soon between the Tong and the Thieves Guild, a war he expected to be very bloody.

Eventually I left and found my way to FatLeg’s Dropoff. As expected, I found Ra’Zhid but he claimed to have no knowledge of any Dwemer artifacts. I tried using my skill at speechcraft on him but without success. I tried slipping him a few coins and his disposition towards me improved but he still would not reveal anything about the artifacts. I thought about simply trying to take them from him but since there were others in the room with him I felt that there was no way I could do so unobserved. Eventually I gave up and begin looking around the Dropoff.

I noticed a trap door in the corner and heard voices from below. No one seemed concerned about it nor did anyone confront me when I opened it so I climbed down the ladder below it to see what I could find.

Below I found a series of caverns which had obviously been turned into a smuggler’s dock. There were a number of wooden platforms, some near water level, and a small boat was pulled up in front of one of them. Several people were around, mostly Dunmer, and I quickly learned that most of them were with the Camonna Tong. I decided to keep my own allegiances secret while I set out to learn what I could.

The first man I met was a Dunmer named Llemisa Marys. He was quite open with the fact that he was with the Tong and with the fact that he didn’t like me much. After determining that he was only a dealer in overpriced thieves’ tools I continued on my way.

I passed a Dunmer in conversation with a Khajiit and continued to a raised platform where I met Faluis Tunel, a Dunmer drillmaster who’s first words to me were “Go away!” I ignored him and approached a table on which I found a book, the title of which,A Surfeit of Thieves, caught my interest. Quickly reading it, I realized a minor technique it described as one that I had not heard of previously and I felt that knowing it would help my skill in Security.

Not feeling the need to talk to Faluis Tunel I started to retrace my steps to the exit when I was stopped by the Dunmer I had seen earlier, Relam Arinith, who asked me if I would be interested in doing some business.

I stopped and pleasantly asked him what he had to offer. He indicated the Khajiit behind him and introduced her as Rabinna and told me she was his slave. He wanted me to deliver her to Vorar Helas in Balmora as payment for some previous dealings the two of them had been involved in.

Looking at her I could tell that she was quite scared and had been severely mistreated. No one appreciates freedom more than someone who has been imprisoned and I found the thought of her slavery repugnant. But I realized that her situation elsewhere could not possibly be worse than it was here and so I reluctantly agreed to escort her back to Balmora. Arinith was pleased by my decision, telling me how to find Helas and cryptically telling me to take care of Rabinna, saying that the inside was more important than the outside.

As we left, I tried to talk to Rabinna but she was too frightened to say anything to me. It was still night as we left Fat Legs Dropoff and started back up the faint trail for Balmora.

Last Seed 19 (Day 4)

The trip was uneventful, save for our being attacked occasionally by rats and scrib. Rabinna joined me in defending ourselves against these vermin but still would not speak with me. Understandable, I supposed, and I kept telling myself that she would be better off with Helas than she would have been if she remained with Arinith. At any rate, we passed the trip in silence and the sun was well up in the sky before we made our way back to Balmora.

Vorar Helas turned out to live in the eastern part of Balmora, quite near Caius Cosades’ home. The main entry from the street was locked and the only other door could only be reached by climbing the hill behind the house and onto the roof. Rabinna either would not or could not climb the slope and so I was forced to return to the street with her. I wondered what Helas would think of my action but I once again summoned the energies within myself and, touching the lock, watched it pop open. With Rabinna reluctantly following, I opened the door and entered.

To my stunned surprise Helas immediately attacked Rabinna, apparently trying to kill her. At this final injustice I realized that I could no longer stand to the side and let this treatment continue. Rabinna, though she had no real reason to do so, had come to my aid when we were attacked by the creatures along the road and I could not remain passive when she was attacked in turn. I drew my longsword and, deftly parrying the latest blow he was aiming at Rabinna, lunged into the fray.

You really have two options here and can help Helas kill Rabinna if you wish. If you do, he explains about her containing the moon-sugar and gives you the Medusa Head ring and 400 gold as payment. Of course, if you kill him you can take the ring from him and Im Kilaya will pay you 400 gold after you take Rabinna to Ebonheart. I played from an earlier save just to see what would happen if you helped him but kept the one where I saved Rabinna because I decided that Vvardenfell was a better place without Vorar Helas in it.

Helas was apparently taken completely by surprise by my action and while his skills may have been adequate when attacking an unarmed slave they were no match for a Redguard in full fury. The battle lasted only a few seconds before he fell to a fatal blow.

Rabinna seemed almost as surprised as Helas but gave me her heartfelt thanks. I asked her why he had attacked and she explained, in obvious revulsion, that it had not been intended for her to survive after reaching Helas. Arinith and Helas were smuggling drugs and she was their latest vessel of choice for transporting them. In her stomach were sealed packages of moon-sugar and Helas would have killed her in order to retrieve them. Apparently, in his eagerness to get his hands on his shipment, he had not noticed that I was not the normal slave escort from Hla Oad and so had not anticipated my reaction when he attacked her.

It was at that moment that I truly came to hate the Camonna Tong and knew that they would have become my enemy even if they did not oppose my new friends in the Thieves Guild. While Helas was only the latest of the many men I had killed, I had always done so only in self-defense or when there was otherwise no other choice and many of those deaths haunted me for weeks or months afterward. I carry the guilt of some of them to this day. But I found the thought of killing someone for no reason completely inconceivable. I knew then that I would oppose the Camonna as long as I remained in Vvardenfell.

By this point Rabinna had regained her breath and I asked her if there was some place where she would be safe. She did and said that Im Kilaya of the Argonian Mission in Ebonheart would take care of her and I readily agreed to take her there.

But first I needed to take care of some things. I searched Helas’ body and took any items of possible use before disposing of it. My search revealed that he had been wearing a Medusa’s Head ring which had been enchanted with a spell which would cause paralysis in one’s opponent when cast. I was suddenly grateful that he had been too startled when I attacked him to use it on me. I slipped the ring onto my own finger and resolved not to make that same mistake.

I searched the rest of the house and found little of real value. I was about to begin the trip to Ebonheart with Rabinna when I realized how tired I was. My trip to Hla Oad and back had taken all night and I was not ready to begin another all-night journey. Helas’ house contained a very comfortable bed and I gratefully settled into it for a deserved night’s rest.

Last Seed 20 (Day 5)

Rabinna and I set out just after dawn the following morning. After looking over the map I decided that our best route would be to travel to Pelagiad and from there to Ebonheart. We left through the north gate of Balmora and walked along the Odai river until we came to a place where we could cross near its headwaters. We then turned south and started the first leg of our journey.

The area we passed through was pleasant and grassy, with towering trees on either side of the trail. Several other trails crossed ours but in each case signs pointed the way we needed to travel. As we progressed southward a row of hills begin to climb to our right, separating us from the area known as “The Gash”.

I was still recovering from the mental effects of my imprisonment and so I relished the opportunity to be walking through the countryside. As we walked I was constantly looking around and trying to absorb all that I was seeing and so it happened that a slight trail leading off into the hills caught my attention.

As we were on no particular time schedule I decided to indulge my curiosity and so Rabinna and I left the main trail and followed this side one. After a brief walk we found ourselves at a door set into the cliff face. At first I thought I had found one of the Dunmer Ancestral Tombs, many of which dotted the countryside of Morrowind, but upon looking closer I decided that it was not. I was able to determine that this place was called Adanumuran but the name meant nothing to me.

By this point a slight rain had begun and, after testing the door and finding it to be unlocked, the two of us stepped inside to get out of the wet. I had no sooner closed the door behind us when, with a roar, we were suddenly attacked by a nix-hound!

I was startled but was able to draw my sword in time to block the creature’s attack. The battle was brief and the hound soon collapsed at our feet. Now more cautious, I told Rabinna to wait for me near the exit and proceeded deeper into the caverns.

Actually, my leaving Rabinna at the entrance was due to an earlier glitch in the game. The first time I explored the area I went through a door deeper in the caverns which closed behind me. After dispatching the enemies within I attempted to exit, only to find that the door would not open. The door opened outward and, from the sounds, it seems that Rabinna was standing just on the other side of the door and attempting to walk in without opening it. The door could not open with her standing there and I was trapped in the room with no other way out. I was forced to reload from my last save. So, my second time in the cavern I left Rabinna at the entrance.

After a short entryway I found myself in a larger chamber. A ramp led upward to a closed, wooden gate and I could see a Dunmer walking around on a wooden platform behind it.

I called out to him and to my surprise he opened the gate and, with a cry of “die fetcher!”, charged towards me with his weapon at the ready. (Curiously, when he opened the gate, he was hit by the discharge of an electrical trap of some type.) I drew my own weapon to defend myself and slew him without injury.

Now even more curious as to the nature of this place, I continued deeper into the cavern. I came to a cross tunnel and encountered two more nix-hounds. These too attacked and I was forced to kill them as I had the one near the entrance. The tunnel to the right led to what seemed to be the nix-hounds’ kennel and, after seeing the bones of their previous victims, I begin to feel less guilty about those that I had killed here.

Returning to the intersection I proceeded down the left tunnel which was blocked by a wooden door. Upon opening it I was immediately attacked by the two inhabitants of the room.

I killed the first, who had been standing just inside the door, before her companion could cross the room to get to me. I was ready and when he arrived and I was able to dispatch him without effort.

After disposing of the bodies I searched the rest of the room. On another raised wooden platform I found a hammock and several locked chests. Taking out my lockpick, I was able to open one of them and retrieve several gold coins but my lockpick broke before I could open any others. To my annoyance I discovered that I had failed to purchase any more before leaving Balmora.

Beneath the platform was another chest but without a lockpick there was no way to determine its contents. I returned to the main tunnel and continued into the cave.

The tunnel ended in a final chamber with yet another platform. Once again I was attacked by the inhabitant but by now I was expecting his attack and was able to defeat him without injury. A quick search of the area revealed a platform reached by a narrow stone bridge which contained another sleeping pad but nothing of major interest.

I do not know why these four Dunmer were in this cave or why they attacked me when I entered. Nothing I could find told me anything and I finally returned to the entrance. Rabinna reported that nothing had disturbed her and we left the cave without further incident.

The rain was continuing as we resumed our trek towards Pelagiad. We had only been walking a short time when we encountered a woman, obviously distraught, standing beside the road. She called to us and we approached.

The woman introduced herself as Maurrie Aurmine and said she wanted to talk to us about a bandit in the area. I immediately grew concerned and started to draw my weapon but she hastily assured me that the bandit was long gone. Confused, I replaced my sword and listened to her tale. It seems that she had been traveling along the road when she was approached and robbed by one Nelos Onmar, a dark elf who stole her jewels. At first I assumed she wanted me to retrieve her jewels for her but that turned out to not be the case.

Apparently, after relieving her of her jewels, Onmar stayed and talked with her for several hours and lady Aurmine had become quite infatuated with the handsome dark elf. In fact, she wished to make his acquaintance again! She asked me to search for him and relay that information to him. She said that she thought he could be found in Pelagiad and gave me one of her gloves to give to him when I found him.

I smiled at this gesture and assured her that I would do what I could to locate Onmar for her. Secretly, I thought her interest in Onmar a bit odd but probably what I should have expected from someone standing beside the road in the rain. With a final exchange of pleasantries Rabinna and I resumed our journey.

Main Road into Pelagiad

Main Road into Pelagiad

The rain grew worse and developed into a full storm by the time we reached Pelagiad. Lightning was flashing as we entered the outskirts of the village but I was able to locate a villager who was able to give me some information.

Farusca Salas, the villager, immediately recognized me as an outlander and offered to point out the services in town. She said I would probably be most interested in Mebestien Ence, a Breton, who was the trader in town or Uulernil, a high elf, who was the local blacksmith.

The village is dominated by Fort Pelagiad and she told me that Shadbuk gra-Burbug was the smith there and Tafa the Healer was in charge of the local Cult shrine. She also said that a healing altar could be found at the shrine. Finally, she told me that if I was interested in training I could talk to either Ladia Flarugrius or Ahnassi, both of whom could be found at the Halfway Tavern.

I asked about the village and Farusca told me that it was founded when the fort was built to protect the road between Vivec, Seyda Neen, Balmora and points north. Many of the veterans from the fort took their mustering out pay and used it to buy farmland in the area. Soon merchants and others moved into the area and Pelagiad came into being.

My final question about Nelos Onmar brought a smile to her lips and she admitted that many of the women in the village were smitten by this dashing bandit. She told me he could be found in the Halfway Tavern and I thanked her and set out in that direction.

Pelagiad is built in traditional Imperial fashion and I felt more at home here than I had since arriving in Morrowind. I would have liked to wander the streets for a while to enjoy the familiarity but decided I would wait and do so when the rain had stopped. We found our way to the Halfway Tavern and ducked inside.

I quickly located Nelos Onmar and was forced to admit that he was a handsome fellow. I also found him to be quite opinionated as after introducing myself and starting to make small talk with him he launched into a tirade about the “bloated Imperial plutocrats” who had gotten the charter to exploit the Caldera ebony deposits, as opposed to one of the native Great Houses or even the local colonists. He attributed this to “big fat bribes” and “friends in high places”.

Once he had run down a bit I was able to interrupt him and explain to him why I had sought him out. He seemed surprised at my news and almost touched when I gave him Aurmine’s glove. He remembered her and a distant look came into his eyes as he recalled briefly their encounter. I realized that lady Aurmine’s interest was reciprocated and smiled inwardly, wondering if his opinion would change if I pointed out to him that she was out standing in the rain.

Onmar came back to himself briefly and he quickly scribbled a note and gave it to me, asking me to deliver it back to her. The distant look returned to his eyes and he barely acknowledged me as I took my leave.

I was preparing to resume my travels towards Ebonheart when I was addressed by a Khajiit who complimented me on my “smooth moves”. Speaking to her, I learned that I had met the trainer Ahnassi.

Ahnassi asked me if I would give her a gift. This struck me as being somewhat forward of her but I responded by saying that I would give her the gift of my friendship. She seemed very pleased at this and her disposition towards me improved and it improved even further when I mentioned my association with the Thieves Guild. It seemed that she too was a member of that organization.

Ahnassi told me she collected secrets and that she would share one with me. She told me that upstairs in that very tavern was a woman named Hrordis. Hrordis was a servant of Mehrunes Dagon and she had a magic belt with strange writing in strange runes on it. Ahnassi wondered what the belt was and speculated that the writing indicated evil or danger.

The hour was getting late and so I made my goodbye to Ahnassi. In parting, she told me that she could train me in Sneak, Acrobatics or Hand-to-Hand if I desired and I promised I would speak with her again when I returned to Pelagiad.

Returning outside, Rabinna and I found that the storm had not let up in the least. In fact, it seemed to have increased in its fury and the clouds were making it seem as if night were coming early. I stopped briefly at Mebestien Ence’s Trading Post and sold some of the items I had been carrying around, since I did not desire to remain burdened with them, then the two of us resumed our travels towards Ebonheart.

Night fell but the storm continued unabated. We had not traveled that far when a man beside the road called out to us and we approached. He introduced himself as Nels Llendo and seemed to think that the name should mean something to us but I had never heard of him. He seemed annoyed by this and, drawing his sword, demanded that I turn over my gold to him.

This was actually the first combat encounter I hit in the game that was in any way difficult. In every encounter prior to this I had never taken more than a point or two of damage and so was quite surprised when I was killed in only a few seconds! (That flameblade is a bit nasty when you are only first level.)

I reloaded from my previous save and approached Llendo again. This time, I used the Redguard ability Adrenaline Rush and was able to defeat him. However, less than a minute later, I was surprised for a second time when I suddenly died for no apparent reason!

It seems there is a problem with using Adrenaline Rush. The ability boosts several of your stats by 50 points and Health by 25 points for one minute. After the minute is up, the points go away. In this case, I finished the combat with 17 Health. After the time was up, this dropped 25 points to… -8. I died. Oops. (Yes, I was killed by my own special ability.)

I reloaded again and defeated Llendo on the third try.

My anger flared and I told Llendo in no uncertain terms that he would not be getting anything from us. Llendo sneered and swung at me. I partially deflected the blow but was staggered when a burst of fire erupted from his sword as it hit and I felt a burning pain along my side as the flames reached for me through my armor.

Feeling more fear than I had since arriving in Morrowind, I raised my hand towards Llendo. He laughed at what he thought was a gesture of surrender but his laughter froze along with the rest of his body when I activated the Medusa Head ring I wore and he was paralyzed by the spell contained within.

With this brief respite, I called upon my Redguard heritage and felt a surge of adrenaline within me. I blinked as my strength and reflexes increased, then drew my sword and attacked.

As my first blow landed the paralysis on Llendo faded and he struck at me in desperation. Once again flame swirled around me but in my adrenaline enhanced state I barely felt it. I swung again and my second blow sent him crashing to the ground.

I paused, breathing heavily, until the adrenaline surge had passed. I suddenly felt the burns on my side and cast all of the charges from my healing ring upon myself. Feeling somewhat better, I searched Llendo’s body.

The first thing I took was his sword and I examined it briefly in the light of the occasional flash of lightning. It was a steel flameblade, containing a spell which cast a flamestrike whenever the sword struck an opponent. It was also a short blade, which I favored over the longsword I had been using, and without hesitation I removed the silver longsword from my scabbard and replaced it with the flameblade.

Searching the body revealed nothing else of importance. After a few more minutes to catch our breath Rabinna and I resumed our travel. I left the body of Llendo lying beside the road. He seemed to think that we should have been frightened when we heard his name. Now, everyone who traveled the road from Pelagiad would be able to see what his name was worth.

We had not traveled far when the storm ended and the stars became visible as the clouds drifted away. The night seemed peaceful and I enjoyed the quiet walk through the open grasslands of the region. At one point we could see one of the great Cantons of the city of Vivec off to our left but we passed on by.

Last Seed 21 (Day 6)

The first light of dawn was beginning to appear in the east as we approached the main gates of Ebonheart. As we entered, an Orc guard by the name of Olfin gro-Logrob approached and inquired as to our business and I explained that we were on our way to visit the Argonian mission. He welcomed us to Ebonheart and politely gave us directions to the mission.

The guard seemed a bit bored and I knew from my own experiences that when standing watch on a quiet night it can sometimes be an effort to remain awake. So, I was not surprised when, upon asking a few more questions, I found him to be in a talkative mood.

I learned that Ebonheart was the Imperial Headquarters for the Vvardenfell district as well as being home to the District Council Chamber, the Hawkmoth Legion and the headquarters of the East Empire Company. Duke Vedam Dren also dwelt here, in Castle Ebonheart.

Services were a bit limited here. There were Imperial Cult and Imperial Legion offices of course but otherwise the only trader was Agning, the publican of the Six Fishes Tavern. For any other services we would have to travel to the Foreign Quarter in Vivec City. There, we could find traders, the Fighter and Mages guilds and representatives of all three Great Houses.

I asked about the East Empire Company and he told me it was a monopolistic mercantile enterprise chartered by the Emperor himself and managed by a board of directors. The EEC had sole authority to trade in flin (better known as Cryodillc whiskey), raw ebony and glass and Dwemer artifacts. They also had received very favorable tarrifs on Kwama eggs, marshmerrow pulp, saltrice and Telvanni Bug Musk (a perfume made from the scent glands of Grazeland beetles). Because of its economic power, the East Empire Company exerted a great influence in the Duke’s administration.

I also asked about the local Legion and he said if I was interested in joining the Legion then I should talk to Frald the White, Knight Bachelor and Chapter Steward of the Hawkmoth Legion at Fort Darius. He seemed to be quite proud to be associated with the Hawkmoth Legion and said with some pride that the Legion kept the sword of legend, Chrysamere, there in Ebonheart.

Town Center of Ebonheart

Town Center of Ebonheart

The sun was now fully up and Rabinna was showing signs of impatience so I bid gro-Logrob a good day and we proceeded into Ebonheart. We passed through the main square, with its carved statue of a dragon, and on into the main part of the city. There, we found the Argonian mission.

Once inside, Rabinna thanked me and said that she would be safe now. I bid her good fortune and went to meet Im Kilaya. Kilaya was an Argonian and it is hard to read emotion in their reptilian faces but I sensed somehow that he wasn’t overly fond of me. I was somewhat put out by this as I had just gone through some amount of inconvenience in order to help Rabinna get here. I had helped her because I felt it was the right thing to do, not because I expected praise and reward, but I have to admit to myself that it bothered me more than it should.

Still, I tried not to let my emotions show as I spoke to him and he thanked me politely for helping Rabinna. He also offered me 400 gold to offset my time for coming there, which I accepted. With a brief nod, I bid him good day and returned to the streets of Ebonheart.

I paused briefly on the steps leading to the central square and watched the sun rise over the harbor. I realized that there were probably many opportunities for a person of my skills here in Ebonheart but I also remembered that I had unfinished business back in Hla Oad. Now that I had seen her to safety and no longer had her well-being on my conscience I could return to the task of retrieving the Dwemer artifacts for Habasi.

I left Ebonheart and begin retracing my path back towards Balmora. The day was turning out to be warm and pleasant and I had the road to myself. I quite enjoyed being back on the open road and for a while simply relaxed in the simple pleasures of feeling the warmth of the sun on my back and the smells of the countryside on the breeze.

My relaxation was interrupted by a strange sound from the side of the road and I followed a short trail to its source. There, to my surprise, I found a lone Guar, either wild or one that had wandered off from its herd, scratching its belly on a rock and groaning in pleasure as it did so. I laughed, as I had never seen such a thing before. The Guar, of course, ignored me and after a brief time I returned to the main road and continued my way towards Balmora.

I had just passed the road to Pelagiad when another side trail caught my attention. Following it a short distance off the road into some low hills, I found another door set into the cliff similar to the one I had found previously. Again I could not determine its function as it was obviously not the entrance to an egg mine or an ancestral tomb. I began to speculate that these were bandit or smuggler caves and was able to determine that the location was known as Ulummusa but nothing more. I considered entering but remembered the reception I had received during my previous explorations and so decided to leave it to be explored on a later date.

Resuming my journey, I soon found Maurrie Aurmine still waiting beside the road. She immediately asked me if I had found Nelos Onmar and by way of answer I gave her the note he had entrusted me with. Its contents must have pleased her as after reading it she, blushing slightly, thanked me enthusiastically. She told me that she had nothing of value to reward me for my task but she did give me the name of a friend of hers, Emusette Braiques, who lived in Tel Aruhn. She told me that if I ever traveled to that distant city to look Emusette up and she would be able to provide me with assistance while I was there.

It occurred to me later that I never took the time to read Onmar’s note. By the time I thought about it I had no saves from the time I was carrying it and so I have no idea what it said. Hope there wasn’t another quest attached to it.

Update: I have since heard from fellow player Michael Feldman who tells me that the note was nothing but a mushy love letter with no quest involved. Thanks Michael.

She immediately began reading the letter again, a small smile on her face, and I quietly wished her a good day and once again continued towards Balmora.

The rest of my journey was uneventful, save for an encounter with a single nix-hound who attacked me near the edge of town. The fight was brief and I soon entered the city of Balmora, a place that was strangely coming to feel like home to me.

My first stop was the Lucky Lockup where I located Hickim and purchased several sets of lockpicks and probes. We chatted briefly and, after a bit, he casually mentioned that he was a member of the Morag Tong.

I felt a slight unease at realizing I was conversing with a member of the Guild of Assassins but managed to keep any sign of it from my voice or face and continued the conversation. Hickim apparently took this to be an interest in his profession and suggested that if I were interested in joining myself then I should talk to Enu Hlaalu, the guildmaster in Vivec City. While I was strangely pleased by the fact that he apparently thought enough of my abilities to recommend me for his guild I was not sure if I had the correct mindset to be an assassin. We talked a bit longer then I excused myself and returned to the streets.

I started towards the north gate with the intention of returning to Adanumuran and opening the chests I had been unable to unlock on my first visit but stopped when I realized the lateness of the hour. I did not wish to spend another night on the road and as I was near Vorar Helas’ house I entered. Finding everything as I had left it I settled into the bed there and soon fell asleep.

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