The Morrowind Diaries – Chapter 3

Chapter 3

Chapter 3 – More of the Balmora Thieves Guild

Last Seed 22 (Day 7)

It was just before dawn when I awakened the next morning and I exited into the cool darkness. A few of the town guard were wandering on their patrols but otherwise I seemed to be the only one yet awake. I was walking towards the gate when I passed the eastern guard tower and thought it may be interesting to climb to the top and view the countryside from there.

The lower level of the tower was empty except for some racks on the wall holding a few, basic weapons. I climbed to the next level and found a bunk room with a bored guard standing watch.

The guard seemed a bit put out by my arrival but simply told me to be on my way. I was about to do so when something on the top of a closet caught my attention. It seemed to be the hilt of a sword; one of higher quality than any I had yet seen in Morrowind. Obviously it would not be possible for me to examine the sword more closely with the guard in the room so I descended the stairs to the first landing and considered my options.

I decided that, while bored, the guard was likely to remain where he was for some time and that my ability at sneaking around was still too slight to allow me to enter the room undetected. I was about to leave when an idea suddenly struck me and I begin digging around in my pack.

Somewhere in my travels I had picked up several potions and I pulled one of them out and examined it carefully. It was a potion of Exclusive Invisibility and would certainly allow me to get past the guard undetected. My only concern was if the potential reward of the sword was worth using the potion now or if I should save it for possible use later.

After a brief moment I pulled the stopper from the bottle and drained it, wincing at the bitter taste of the potion within. Almost instantly I saw the outlines of my hand begin to fade and within a few seconds I could no longer be seen.

Not knowing how long the potion would remain effective, I ran up the stairs as quietly as possible and sidestepped around the guard and towards the closet. He looked around briefly, apparently feeling the displaced air as I passed and seeking to find the source of the faint breeze. While he was distracted, I reached up and grabbed the sword.

As I did so, I saw my arm fade back into view. I quickly dropped the sword into my pack and turned just in time to see the guard turn towards me. I tensed, expecting him to shout out a report of my crime and attack me, but he simply blinked at me in confusion for a moment then brusquely told me to be on my way. Muttering an apology, I quickly made my exit.

Once safely outside the tower I pulled the sword out and examined it. My breath caught as I suddenly recognized it as a Sword of Woe. I had heard of them before but never expected to actually see one, much less have one in my possession. The swords of Woe were long blades which contained an enchantment which would drain health from whoever they struck. Such a weapon would normally only be issued to elite warriors and for one to fall into the hands of a novice Agent such as myself was unheard of. Despite my personal preference for shorter blades, I made a few test swings with the sword then placed it in my scabbard. When the Fates present you with such a gift you do not question it.

Pleased that my brief sojourn into the guard tower had proved to be so profitable, I exited through the north gate then followed the road to the west and south.

I had set out this morning with two goals in mind. The first was to return to Adanumuran and examine the two chests I had missed earlier. Then I would return to Hla Oad and again try to convince Ra’Zhid to return the missing artifacts. However, the two destinations were in different directions and, rather than following the road, I decided to try cutting across country.

Just to the east of Balmora rise a series of hills which separate it from the chasm known as the Foyada Mamaea. Since Adanumuran lay on the other side of the foyada I decided to try cutting straight across instead of going around. To this end, I left the road and begin climbing the hills.

The going got steeper as I ascended and I found I could only climb the last short distance by jumping from rock to rock. Finally, I reached the crest and pulled myself up and over.

I had expected the Foyada Mamaea to simply be a crevice in the earth but that was not an adequate description. It was a crevice, but one that was blackened and burned. The charred remnants of trees stood here and there and a faint haze of smoke seemed to hang in the air. It certainly smelled of smoke and of other, less pleasant things. I briefly entertained the idea that this was the track of a lava flow from the Red Mountain then rejected it after considering the distance to that distant volcanic peak. I was later to learn that my first impression was correct and this chasm through the landscape did lead all the way to that volcanic source.

For a moment I thought of turning back but in the end decided to press on. I climbed to the bottom of the foyada and begin walking southward, carefully picking my way through the boulders and cracked earth at the bottom of the crevice.

I soon reached a point opposite where I thought the cavern of Adanumuran could be found. Unfortunately, the walls here were too steep for me to climb and I begin to walk along the edge looking for a way up. Thus distracted, I did not see the two winged creatures which had approached until, with a shrill cry, the first one dove towards me. I barely had time to draw my sword before it was on top of me with a flurry of claws and wings.

The first Cliff Racer attacked but I was able to duck behind my shield and thus avoid most of its initial blows. It swung about, apparently trying to regain altitude, and I struck out at it with the Sword of Woe. I connected but at first I thought my blow had been ineffectual. Then the health drain effect of the blade set in and the first Racer collapsed in a tangle of wings and talons.

The second Racer had begun its dive by this point but this time I was ready for it. As it reached the bottom of its arc, I ducked below my shield and swung the sword over my head. The blade caught it at the base of its wing and the creature collapsed onto the ground beyond me, its shrill cries echoing off the stone walls of the foyada. Before it could gain its footing I was on it and finished it off with a quick thrust of my sword.

After carefully scanning the sky to make sure no more of the flying creatures were around I resumed my search for a way up the side of the foyada. I eventually found one a bit further south but again had to resort to leaping from rock to rock to reach the top.

As I crested the ridge and examined the forest below I suddenly realized how tired I was. It had now been a week since I arrived in Vvardenfell and my head was buzzing with all I had seen and experienced since then. I suddenly wanted to do nothing more than sleep but instead I found my way carefully down the hill. I had been forced to travel a bit further south than I had originally planned but I quickly found the road and followed it back up to the cavern.

No one seemed to have entered the cavern since my last visit and the traces of my fights there were still evident, as were the piles of items I had left behind when I realized I could not carry all that I had found. I continued on to the inner chamber and went to the lower platform where the chest with the most complex of the two locks could be found.

Pulling out my new lockpicks, I started work on the chest. It took a while but eventually the lock snapped open and I felt as if some of my old skills were starting to return. Inside the chest were a stack of books and I felt a brief twinge of regret over my killing those I found here, since it seemed as if at least one of them shared my love for the written word. Carrying the books with me, I returned to the upper platform.

The chest here proved to have a ridiculously simple lock on it and it opened easily but it turned out to contain only a worthless cup. Ignoring it, I sat down on the hammock and begin reading the books I had found.

Reading, especially in the cool dimness of the cavern, only served to increase the sleepiness I had been feeling and I soon found myself stretched out on the hammock. I decided that I would wait until tomorrow to visit Hla Oad after all and fell into a deep sleep.

Last Seed 23 (Day 8 )

I awoke the next morning feeling more refreshed than I had in some time. As I was gathering my supplies together in preparation of leaving, I noted that my Strength and Endurance seemed to have increased, probably from the experience I had gained over the past week. I smiled, feeling confident that my abilities would continue to reach higher levels if I continued on the path I was on.

Leaving the cavern, I went south until I found a place where I could cross over the hills. This time no Cliff Racers interrupted me as I crossed the Foyada Mamaea and soon I found myself again on its western side.

I continued until I encountered the Odai River and followed it until I reached a bridge. Crossing over, I continued south to the Odai Plateau then cut across it towards Hla Oad. A single mudcrab confronted me along the way but I barely had to pause to defeat it and soon found myself on the edge of the small village.

As I expected, Hla Oad did not look any better in the daytime than it did at night. The House guard standing at the entrance to the town barely glanced at me as I entered and made my way to FatLeg’s Dropoff. With a final glance around, I stepped inside.

Once my eyes had adjusted to the darkness I could see that Ra’Zhid and the owner, Trasteve, were the only ones present. I again confronted Ra’Zhid about the artifacts and again he denied knowing anything about them. However, I noticed after a while that he kept glancing towards a locked chest just to the left of the trap door leading to the smuggler’s den below.

Shrugging, I decided to take the direct route to solving the problem and, pulling out my lockpick, inserted it into the lock on the chest. Ra’Zhid saw this and, calling for the town guard, drew his weapon and charged.

Since I had been expecting more or less this reaction, my sword was already out and waiting when he got to me. While he was a bit more experienced of an opponent than most I had met I was able to meet him on better than even terms and a final slash sent him tumbling to the floor of the Dropoff. I waited a second to see if he would climb back to his feet but it quickly became obvious that Ra’Zhid would never lie about the artifacts again.

Don’t take the gold from the chest. If you do, Trasteve will attack. He is a mage and got two spells off before I could close the distance with him, at which point the game crashed and I got dumped back to Windows. Oops. I reloaded and tried again without touching the gold and he ignored me.

I could hear the shouts of the town guard as they approached, drawn by Ra’Zhid’s earlier cry, so I knew I needed to move quickly. Searching the body, I found a key which opened the chest, inside of which I found a small quantity of gold coins as well as the goblet, bowl and tube. Quickly taking the artifacts, I stood and turned to face Trasteve. With a brief shrug, he glanced towards the door then turned back to his work. Giving him a slight nod in return, I quickly left.

Outside, several of the locals were looking in my direction and I could see two of the town guard running towards me. I immediately ran to my right and out of the town then turned northward and left the road, heading into the wilderness. The guards tried to follow but their heavier armor slowed them down and I soon left them behind. Once they were out of sight, I turned more towards the east and the general direction of Balmora.

Realizing that I needed to make good time I ran as far as I could until I was forced to slow down and regain my breath. During one of these rest breaks, I was suddenly struck a stunning blow to my side. I immediately feared that the guard had caught up with me and I drew my sword and swung to face my attacker, determined that I would not let them take me back to prison again. To my relief, it turned out that my opponent was only a Kwama forager and I easily made short work of it.

Hearing a rustling in the bushes, I looked and saw a Kwama Worker wandering around seemingly aimlessly. I speculated that there may be an Eggmine somewhere in the vicinity but decided not to take the time to investigate. As soon as my breath returned I resumed my run towards Balmora.

I crossed a low range of hills somewhere to the north of the Odai Plateau and found myself on the road south of Balmora. I quietly headed north along the river, sneaking past the Shulk Eggmine when I reached it, and soon saw the walls of Balmora ahead of me.

By this point I had realized that there was probably a price on my head because of my theft back in Hla Oad and possibly one for killing Ra’Zhid. I also knew that someone in the Thieves Guild could probably take care of it for me. My only problem was that I needed to get to the South Wall Corner Club without the Balmora city guard spotting me.

I briefly considered swimming along the river and into town but then remembered that the city guard often patrolled the bridges over the river and that I would probably not be able to exit the river without being seen. Instead, I swam across the river and sneaked around the city wall until I reached the point where the buildings of Balmora merged into the hills to the east. I then climbed down the slope and into Balmora. A commoner watched with disinterest as I slipped down the stairs and, after a quick look around, ducked into the South Wall Corner Club.

Sottilde greeted me as I entered and commented that she knew I had a price on my head. News apparently had spread quickly and I briefly wondered what mechanism the Legion had which let it spread such information throughout Vvardenfell. I acknowledged her concern without stopping and continued around the corner until I found Habasi.

Sugar-Lips immediately asked if I had retrieved the artifacts and by way of reply I pulled them from my pack and handed them to her. She was pleased and handed me some gold in payment, then suggested that I talk to Phane Rielle downstairs to see about having the bounty on my head taken care of.

Taking her advice, I proceeded down to the bar and found Rielle to be the bartender. He offered to have my bounty taken care of for half the price of my fine. I was a bit taken aback by this at first but he pointed out that the guards would also take any of the items I had “acquired” along the way and so I grudgingly paid my fee. He promised everything would be taken care of and I returned up the stairs to Habasi again.

Habasi was waiting and had another job lined up for me. It seems that Ralen Hlaalu had recently died and that Habasi desired a bottle of vintage brandy that he had kept. Apparently she felt that since he could no longer enjoy it himself it would be a shame to let it go to waste by being given to an unappreciative heir. The job sounded simple and I told her I would return directly.

It was now late at night and I found my way across town to Hlaalu Manor. Seeking a discrete entrance, I climbed the steps of the adjacent building until I came to a landing then lept across the railing to a balcony on the side of the manor. The door here was locked but my Tower heritage proved itself again and I quickly gained entrance.

I found myself in a small hallway. There were stairs leading both up and down as well as a door on this level, behind which I could hear faint sounds. Moving quietly, I descended towards the first level.

At the foot of the stairs I found the body of Ralen Hlaalu, lying face down in a pool of blood. This came as a shock to me as I had assumed that he had died of natural causes instead of foul play. I wondered briefly if the Thieves Guild were somehow involved then decided against it; if Habasi had sent someone here to kill Hlaalu then they would have taken the brandy then. I briefly examined the body but found nothing of interest and so began to search the room.

The brandy turned out to be relatively easy to find as it was sitting in the open on a shelf. After carefully wrapping it up and placing it in my pack I proceeded to see what else I could find.

There was little of interest but a series of crates and sacks in one corner of the room proved to hold a few petty soul gems and a quiver of enchanted Cruel Sparkarrows which would unleash electrical damage on whoever they hit. I took the arrows even though I have no skill as a marksman as they would probably be worth something at one of the traders in town.

After finishing with the ground floor I returned to the small hallway and continued to the upper floor. Here I found what had apparently been Hlaalu’s room but it showed signs of a struggle and of having been searched. I felt that I would not find anything here and a cursory search proved that thought to be correct. I returned to the hallway again.

By now I was curious as to what transpired here in the manor and, as someone who once dealt in secrets and information, I allowed my curiosity to get the better of me. I quietly approached the door and opened it.

Inside, I found a Dunmer woman who had obviously been crying. She looked at me with disinterested eyes and, when I spoke to her, identified herself as Uryne Nirith. She had been the housekeeper for Ralen Hlaalu and, with her employer dead, was now worried as to what would happen to her.

I asked about Hlaalu and she confirmed that he had been murdered. She had seen the murderer herself and described him as a young Dunmer with red hair in a tall row over his head. He was wearing bonemold armor and wielded a Dwemer war axe.

I told her that I would see if I could find out anything about such a person and she thanked me with a slight smile. Seeking to comfort her some more, I stayed briefly and talked with her and we soon found ourselves talking about the lore of Morrowind. I learned little new, only that the Dunmer had a hatred of necromancy and that there had once been a problem with vampires on Vvardenfell, but she seemed to be happy to be able to talk to someone and take her mind off of the body lying in the main hall below.

Eventually I took my leave from her. As I prepared to depart, I noticed a book lying open on her desk and discovered it to be one of the Thirty-Six Lessons of Vivec. In this case, it was Sermon 22. Uryne told me that reading the sermon had helped calm her nerves and I took a moment to glance through it. While it did not mean as much to me as it obviously did to her, some of the passages held information which would be useful for someone wearing medium armor and I devoted those points to memory.

With a final goodbye to Uryne, I left the manor by the same method I had entered. After returning to the street I realized the lateness of the hour and decided that Habasi could wait until the morning to get her brandy. As Nerano Manor was nearby, I returned to it and fell into the bed there for a short but restful sleep.

Last Seed 24 (Day 9)

I awakened early the next morning and made my way through the early dawn light to the South Wall Corner Club. Habasi was quite happy with the brandy when I presented it to her and smiled as she told me that she was promoting me to the rank of “Blackcap” within the Thieves Guild organization. She also gave me several lockpicks and probes to use in continuing my career. She then presented me with a new task.

It seems that another member of the guild, one “New-Shoes” Bragor, had gotten himself arrested in Pelagiad and was in a cell in the Legion fort there. It also seemed as if the administrator there was planning on leaving him in the cell indefinitely. Habasi wanted me to go to Pelagiad and arrange for the release of Bragor. At first I thought Habasi wanted me to arrange a jailbreak and I immediately became worried as I did not look forward to the thought of attacking an Imperial Legion Fort. Fortunately, that was not the plan.

Habasi knew that a merchant in Pelagiad, Mebestien Ence, was smuggling Dwemer artifacts. He was doing this with the aid of one of the Legionaries from the fort, an Orc by the name of Shadbak gra-Burbug that Ence had been bribing to look the other way when the artifacts arrived. Her plan was for me to “obtain” one of the artifacts from Ence then confront gra-Burbug with it and threaten to reveal his involvement unless Bragor was released. This plan made sense to me and I agreed to help.

I quickly set out on my way along the now familiar path to Pelagiad. The day was overcast but no rain appeared and I was unmolested by any of the forest or mountain denizens so I was able to make good time. I passed Maurrie Aurmine, still standing beside the road, and soon passed the trail leading off the main road to the cavern that I only knew as Ulummusa. Previously I had passed it by but now, with a bit of time on my hands, I decided to investigate.

Behind the door a roughly-hewn tunnel sloped downwards, supported here and there by timber bracing. Large roots dangled from the ceiling and I made my way through them as I descended deeper into the mountain.

I was suddenly surprised by the appearance of someone ahead of me. Before I could say anything it became apparent that my intrusion was not welcomed as he charged me with a cry of “You will die!” I barely had time to draw the Sword of Woe before he was upon me.

The battle lasted longer than I would have liked. My opponent was a skilled fighter and I found the long sword I was using to be a bit awkward in my hand as I am more used to a smaller blade. Eventually, a final thrust sent him groaning to the ground but by the time that occurred I was fairly injured myself.

I searched the body but found nothing of interest and disposed of it. I continued forward along the tunnel but found nothing but more roots until I came to an open doorway. Through it, I could see a Nord pacing about the room. Knowing I was no match for one of those northern warriors in my present injured state, I decided to postpone further explorations of the cavern until later. Retracing my steps, I soon found myself back outside and once again on the road. The rest of my trip was uneventful and I soon found myself in the town of Pelagiad. Still recovering from my fight in the cavern, my first stop was the Halfway Tavern.

Once inside, I saw Ahnassi and she motioned me over. She first congratulated me on my promotion to Blackcap then, with a slight hesitation, asked if I could possibly help her with a problem. I naturally told her I would and we retreated to a quiet corner of the bar.

Ahnassi told me that she had recently been approached by a dustman named Daren Adryn. Adryn had openly admitted to be affiliated with the Camonna Tong and had suggested that Ahnassi drop her allegiance with the Thieves Guild and join that organization. He also made it quite clear to her that if she did not she would find herself in great danger.

Ahnassi was frightened and asked if I could help her. I promised her that I would and this seemed to give her some comfort. She told me that Adryn could be found in Gnaar Mok and usually stayed at Nadene Rotheran’s shack there. I spoke with her a bit longer until I was sure that she would be all right then took my leave from her, promising that I would let her know as soon as I had dealt with Adryn.

Leaving the tavern, I crossed the street to Mebestien Ence’s Tradehouse. Inside, I found Ence behind the counter as well as a Legion guard. I nodded politely to both and sold a few of the items I had taken from Adanumuran to Ence. After we had finished with our dealing I wandered around the tradehouse, looking at the various items on display on the shelves and in the various containers around the room. Several of the items looked interesting but none of them were Dwemer artifacts and I knew not to try to take any of them with both Ence and the guard observing me.

Eventually my wanderings took me to the base of the stairs which led to the upper part of the tradehouse. I waited until both Ence and the guard briefly turned their backs on me then stealthily crept up the stairs.

I found myself in what seemed to be Ence’s living quarters and quickly searched the room but I was unable to find anything resembling a Dwemer artifact. I began to wonder if Habasi’s information had been incorrect when I heard steps on the stairway. I quickly ducked into a small alcove at the back of the room which contained Ence’s bed and tried to be as silent as possible.

The guard entered the room and looked around, at one point coming to the back of the room and looking into the alcove. I am certain he saw me but for some reason he said nothing and eventually went back downstairs as I breathed a sigh of relief.

I started another search of the room. This time I stopped to look at several books that Ence had out and opened on his shelves. One, The Pilgrim’s Path, contained mention of several points of interest on Vvardenfell and I carefully marked them on my map. Another was The Alchemist’s Formulary and continued instructions on mixing various potions using commonly found herbs and other items. I read this book carefully and eventually, after glancing around to make sure the guard had not returned, picked it up and slipped it into my pack.

As I turned from the shelf which had held the Formulary I noticed a small chest on a high shelf that I had overlooked earlier. I quietly walked over and found it to be locked. I fumbled a bit with my lockpick but eventually was able to get it open. Inside I found a Dwemer Coherer, surely the artifact of which Habasi had spoken. I added it to my pack and quietly slipped back down the stairs. Neither Ence nor the guard seemed to have paid any particular interest to my activities upstairs and I politely nodded to both of them and left.

My next stop was Fort Pelagiad. I entered the courtyard and found it to be occupied by several Legion Guards and Archers but none of them paid any particular attention to me. I ignored them as well and proceeded into the main keep.

Immediately inside I was intercepted by the Guard Captain who didn’t seem to be too happy with my presence there. But he didn’t ask me to leave either and, after a short conversation, I continued into the keep. After a brief search I was able to locate Shadbak gra-Burbug.

The Orc was also the fort blacksmith and I first approached him by asking if he could make some minor repairs to my equipment. He readily obliged and I also purchased a few repair items from him so that I could practice my own very weak Armorer skills.

As I opened my pack to put the hammer and tongs away I casually asked if he knew of “New-Shoes” Bragor. He looked at me sharply then noticed the Coherer (which I had left readily visible in the top of my pack) and immediately accused me of stealing it from Mebestien Ence.

I did not try to deny stealing the artifact but instead asked him how he knew that Ence had the artifact in the first place. An immediate change in his posture indicated that he realized that he had given himself away. I pressed my advantage and told him that I would forget about his involvement if he would see to it that Bragor was released. He reluctantly agreed but he also told me that he would remember that I had blackmailed him and that he would get his revenge on me someday. I shrugged and, reminding him to free Bragor, left the fort.

My reason for visiting Pelagiad completed, I set back out on the road to Balmora. My trip was mostly uneventful until I had almost reached the end of the journey and I came across a lone Guar in the road. I ignored it and was walking around it when, with a bellow, it suddenly turned and charged me! I was surprised at the sudden hostile behavior but drew my weapon and was able to defeat it without injury.

A few minutes later I was attacked by a pair of nix-hounds and defeated them as well. I wondered briefly if the scent of the two predators had frightened the normally passive Guar but eventually decided not to worry too much about the encounter and completed my journey to Balmora without further incident.

Back in the South Wall Corner Club I reported to Habasi and told her that Bragor would be freed. She was quite pleased and rewarded me by promoting me to a higher position within the Thieves Guild. I was now an Operative and she immediately gave me a new task.

The presence of the Guild was becoming a bit too well known in Balmora and Habasi was afraid that we may come under attack from agents of the Camonna Tong. She wanted someone who could improve the security of the South Wall Corner Club. She had heard that a security expert had recently arrived in Balmora and wanted me to track him or her down and see if they would help us. Unfortunately, she did not know who this person was or where they could be found. In fact, her only information was that the expert was an Altmer; a high Elf. I told her that I would try to find this expert for her and bid her good evening.

As I was leaving, Sottilde called to me and I stopped briefly to talk with her. She had little new to tell me though and I was about to leave when I remembered the murder of Ralen Hlaalu. I gave her the description of the murderer but she did not recognize him. With a final nod goodbye, I stepped out into the street.

It was the dark of night and I briefly watched the torches of the city guard as they made their rounds. Deciding that whoever I sought would probably be asleep at this hour, I decided to do the same and returned to Nerano Manor for the evening.

Last Seed 26 (Day 11)

The next morning was overcast but I set out to try and locate the security expert for Habasi. My first stop was the central plaza area of Balmora where I entered the shop of Clagius Clanler the outfitter. I used the opportunity to sell many of the items I had been carrying around, including the silver longsword from the shipwreck since I now had a much better weapon in the Sword of White Woe.

My finances replenished, I asked Clanler if he had heard of anyone who may be a security expert. He had not but did give me a rundown of who was important in town. I learned that there were no Hlaalu Councilers in town and that the ranking Hlaalu locally was Nileno Dorvayn, who I could probably find at the Balmora Council Club. Eydis Fire-Eye was the steward of the local Fighters Guild and Ranis Athyrs held the same position for the Mages Guild. The local Morag Tong head was Ethasi Rilvayn and the Tribunal Temple north of town was headed up by Feldrelu Sadri.

I thanked him and started to leave when I remembered the description given to me by Uryne Nirith and asked Clanler if he knew such a person. He did not but said that he had heard that Ralen Hlaalu had been killed by an Argonian. I thanked him again and left.

I briefly stopped at Meldor’s armor shop and got some minor repairs made to my equipment. Meldor noted the exquisite robe I was wearing and commented that my affairs seemed to have improved since my arrival. Thinking about Nerano Manor, I agreed. Meldor did not know anything about the security expert or the murder of Ralen Hlaalu either so I left after the work on my armor was completed.

Outside, I paused briefly to consider my options, then crossed the street to the Mages Guild. Inside, I was met by Ranis Athyrs, the local steward, who inquired as to if I had an interest in the Guild. I told her I did not and tried to ask her other questions but she told me that her services were available to guild members only. I considered searching through the guild to ask the other members if they had any information but decided that I would rather search elsewhere.

Back on the street I walked past the Fighters Guild, as I assumed they would be as unhelpful as the Mages Guild had turned out to be. Ahead of me I saw the Eight Plates Tavern and went inside. There were several people in the tavern and they glanced up at me as I entered. I waited a moment as my eyes adjusted to the smoky dimness of the interior then found my way to the bar.

I ordered a drink and started asking questions of the bartender, Dulnea Ralaal. She did not know anything about a security expert but she had heard of Ralen Hlaalu’s murder. According to her, the word on the street was that Hlaalu had been killed by Nine-Toes the Argonian.

I told her that I had heard otherwise and gave her the description I had received of the murderer. Ralaal seemed to dismiss the story but did tell me that the description matched that of Thanelen Velas. She told me if I wanted to talk to Velas I could find him at the Balmora Council Club. Realizing that I probably would not be able to get any more information I thanked her and left.

At this point I became resigned to the fact that I would have to do a house-to-house search for the Altmer I was seeking and began to search through the city. I met several people who had interesting information but none of it related to a security expert. For example, Dralsea Arethi, a commoner, told me that the Ordinators had burned out a camp of Nerevarine Cult worshippers near the Ghostfence in the Foyada Ashur-Dan. She thought that the Temple was going to a lot of trouble to exterminate a band of Ashlanders. Later I spoke to Astius Hanotepelus who, for some reason, wanted to talk about vampires. He told me they were not a problem here because the Temple burned out all of them centuries ago. He also spoke of House Telvanni, saying that they were an association of wizards who were equally hostile to the Empire, the Temple and the other two Great Houses.

I was becoming discouraged when I entered the home of Tyermaillon who surprised me by greeting me warmly. After speaking to him for a few minutes I suddenly realized that he was another member of the Blades and that Cosades had apparently told him of me. I suddenly felt uncomfortable, realizing that I had been in Balmora for some time and had yet to even speak to Cosades about the reason for which I had been sent here. It also occurred to me that the Emperor had arranged for my release from prison in order to work with Cosades and I did not know how much patience he would have with me or when he was expecting me to begin whatever it was I was supposed to be doing. On the other hand, Cosades had told me that he expected me to improve my abilities some by working for the local guilds before returning to him for my first assignment and he had not given me a time limit for doing so. Still, I reminded myself that I would have to return at some point if only to find out what the Emperor’s plans for me were.

Tyermaillon certainly did not seem to be displeased with me. He was a healer and told me that I could come see him if I was ever injured and even offered to let me use his bed if necessary. He also offered to sell me some of his potions and I purchased several that would restore my Health and Fatigue. Finally, I learned that he could instruct me in some of the Magical arts if I ever had need of them.

I decided that I would not question him about the security specialist as I was still reluctant to let the Blades know that I was working with the Thieves Guild. So, after a brief conversation I made my apologies and started to leave. As I did, Tyermaillon surprised me again by giving me an old Alembic, a piece of Alchemical equipment. He said that it once belonged to him but that he no longer needed it and I could either use it myself or sell it for whatever I could get. I thanked him for this unexpected generosity and returned to the streets of Balmora.

Tyermaillon’s house was on the east side of the river and he lived on the upper floor. I next learned that the lower floor was also occupied by a member of the Blades, this one a man named Rithleen. He also greeted me warmly and welcomed me into the Blades. I spoke with him briefly and learned that he was also a trainer, one who dealt in the combat arts. I assured him that if I ever needed training I would contact him.

My search continued until I came to one of the northern houses on the east bank facing the Odai river. Upon entering, I found myself facing the Altmer Hecerinde. At my question he immediately admitted to being a security specialist and he listened carefully as I explained the situation with the Thieves Guild at the South Wall.

After thinking but a moment Hecerinde agreed to help Habasi secure the Corner Club. He admitted that he had not been doing as much for the Thieves Guild as he should lately and he looked at this as a chance to improve his status within the Guild. I thanked him for his assistance and he thanked me in turn for the opportunity.

I started to discuss security methods with him and admitted that my own skills were somewhat inadequate for someone who desired to advance within the Thieves Guild. Hecerinde revealed that he was a trainer and offered, for a small fee, to provide me with instruction that would be of use. I readily agreed and the two of us spent the better part of a day discussing the intricacies of locks, traps and other security devices. I left exhausted and with much of my funds gone but with a much better understanding of the challenges I was sure I would soon be facing.

I was amazed at how much time had passed while I was learning from Hecerinde and it was already late in the day. Still, I wasted no time in returning to the South Wall to tell Habasi that I had located her security expert.

Habasi was quite pleased with me when I told her of the agreement I had reached with Hecerinde and thanked me for my effort by giving me a new, master-level lockpick. I thanked her and asked what she needed me to do next.

To my surprise, she told me that she had no jobs to give me! She was pleased with the work I had done and with the advancement I had shown but also felt that there was nothing else she could teach me. In order to advance further in the Guild, she told me, I would have to do work for some of the other Guild leaders. She suggested that I talk to either Aengoth the Jeweler in Ald-Rhun or Big Helende in Sadrith Mora.

With a strange feeling of sadness, I thanked her for all she had done for me and bid her goodbye. She wished me the best of luck then quickly turned away, as if there was something in her face that she did not wish me to see. I hesitated a moment then quietly turned and walked towards the exit.

Sottilde had apparently been listening in on our conversation and met me as I neared the door. We also exchanged goodbyes and she gave me a brief hug before returning to her usual place. I promised that I would come by and visit the next time I was in Balmora then took one final look around before stepping out into the darkness.

I stood in the doorway briefly and watched the torches of the guards on their patrols. I felt as if I was leaving home, a feeling I had not had for a long time. It had been long since I even had a place I could call home, yet here in a short time I had earned the friendship and respect of those around me. I briefly considered turning around and going back inside but, after a moment, I rejected the idea.

I knew I had friends here but I also knew that this was not my home or my destiny. I strangely felt that all that was happening to me was part of something larger, something that I did not yet understand. For some reason, a fragment of the dream I had experienced on the boat that brought me to Vvardenfell came back to me. You have been chosen… the voice had said.

I looked around and nodded to myself. Whatever my destiny was, it lay beyond this small club at the edge of town. The answers to my questions were somewhere out there, on the road, and it was time for me to return to it.

Balmora, which had almost seemed to be home to me, suddenly seemed a bit darker and colder. I drew my robe closer around myself and hurried off into the night.

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