Chapter 5 – The Road to Balmora
Heartfire 5 (Day 21)
The last few stars were still out as I began my travels. I left Ald-Rhun through the western gate and was planning on passing southward through Caldera and from there on to Balmora. As I walked, I found myself thinking about things I had heard the previous evening. While passing the time indoors and away from the blowing ash I had spoken with several of the locals. One had mentioned a secret cult known as the Sixth House that was killing Imperial citizens. Another, a bard, had said the appearance of this cult and the general increase in violence across Vvardenfell was a sickness of the soul caused by a lack of faith and a love of sin. He said that the bad dreams and omens people had been experiencing were a sign that the people had abandoned the Temple and fallen into greed and wickedness.
He said more but I once again found myself remembering the strange dream I had experienced just as I arrived on the island. It continued to haunt me for some reason and I strangely felt as if my own destiny were tied in with that of Morrowind. These thoughts had troubled me in my sleep and they continued to do so as I made my way along the road.
My thoughts were interrupted when I spotted a figure standing alone on the road. I made a friendly gesture as I approached but at first he seemed to ignore me. Then, seeming to suddenly become aware of my presence, he called out for assistance. As I came up to him I noticed that he was naked save for a loincloth and helm. Only his eyes moved to follow me and I strained to understand what he was saying through his clenched teeth.
His name, I discovered, was Hisin Deep-Raed. He had been traveling in the company of a woman who had turned out to be a witch. She had cursed him with a disease of paralysis and asked if I could help.
Unfortunately I had no potions or knowledge of any spells which could help and I could only offer my apologies and sympathy. He asked if I could find something which could cure him and promised a reward if I returned with it. I agreed to do so and immediately set out again.
I had only traveled a bit further along the road when I encountered a second traveler. This was a woman and she identified herself as Sosia Caristiana. We spoke for a few moments but she did not seem to have much to say to me and would not speak of why she was waiting by the side of the road. I mentioned Deep-Raed to her but she claimed to have no knowledge of him or of any way to help him. She actually seemed somewhat amused at his predicament and I suspected that she knew more of the matter than she was admitting but was not able to get any more out of her. After a brief while I bid her a goodbye and continued on down the road.
For some time it seemed as if I was the only traveler on the road and my journey was only interrupted by occasional attacks by wild animals; mostly rats, nix-hounds and especially cliff racers, all of which seemed to be becoming much more common and aggressive. Thus I was slightly surprised when, upon reaching a crossroads near Caldera, a figure with a painted face who was standing near the signpost called out to me.
The figure introduced himself as Hlormar Wine-Sot and asked for my aid. It seems he had been traveling with a female companion and the two of them had become friendly on the journey, though perhaps not as friendly as Hlormar had hoped. When the time came for them to bed down for the night she cast some sort of spell on him and he fell asleep. When he awakened the woman was gone as was his prized axe “Cloudcleaver”. Hlormar asked my assistance in tracking down the woman and recovering his axe.
It struck me that a lot of travelers seemed to be having problems with their companions on this road and I immediately thought of Sosia Caristiana. Gesturing for Hlormar to follow me, I set back up the road.
Along the way, Hlormar regaled me with stories of his axe. It seems that the axe had first belonged to his father who used it to slay the Terror of Wrothgar’s Quagmire. When I asked about this terrible creature he admitted that in the end it had turned out to be a newborn nix-hound that was eating the neighbor’s marshmerrow plants but that the tales of the fight were still told in the basements of every seedy bar in Windhelm. His father’s life had eventually been claimed by snow-elves and the axe had passed on to him. He was distraught that he had lost such a valuable family heirloom and I promised my aid to him in getting it back.
Hlormar continued his tales and we soon found ourselves back where Sosia was still waiting beside the road and Hlormar recognized her immediately as his former traveling companion. He seemed ready to attack her but I stopped him and tried to speak with her myself.
She admitted that she had taken the axe from Hlormar but had a slightly different story to tell. According to her, she had hired Hlormar as a guide but that he tried to become too friendly with her. She cast her sleep spell on him to protect herself and then stole his axe as punishment. She also said that she felt that he was of too low intelligence to be allowed to have such a powerful artifact in his possession. She wanted to show the axe to her mentor and, if he decided that Hlormar could keep the axe, we could reclaim it at the Caldera Mage’s Guild in three days. I relayed this information to Hlormar who almost immediately flew into a rage and demanded that I help him regain his axe.
Sosia Caristiana and Hlormar Wine-Sot
Both Sosia and Hlormar stared at me and I quickly considered the situation. If Sosia’s version of the story were true then her casting a sleep spell on Hlormar made sense. Still, I felt that he had probably learned his lesson and thought that things would be much smoother if she simply returned his axe and everyone went on their way. So I turned to her and suggested that she return Cloudcleaver to Hlormar.
Her reaction surprised me. With a yell, she brandished her staff and attacked me! I felt an indescribable sensation as it hit and felt the distinctive wash of Magicka over myself. Shaking it off, I drew my longsword and returned her attack. Shouting a battle cry, Hlormar leapt into the fray at my side.
Without the element of surprise that her initial attack had carried Sosia proved to be no match for the two of us. She was staggered by Hlormar’s unarmed blows and a final thrust by me sent her collapsing to the ground.
Hlormar immediately grabbed his axe with the expression of one who had just recovered a lost child. I examined the body a bit more carefully. In addition to Hlormar’s axe she also carried several potions and a long staff. Examining it, I determined it to be a Steel Staff of Chastening which carried a spell which would damage the Luck and Personality of anyone it hit. This explained the odd sensation I had felt since being struck and I knew I would have to find some means of reversing the effects on myself. I looked through the potions I had found but none of them were of use in this case, though I did find a Cure Disease potion which I thought would be helpful to Hisin Deep-Raed, the other barbarian stranded beside the road.
You, of course, have two options here. If you refuse to give the axe back to Hlormar he attacks you and Sosia comes to your assistance and later gives you the potions as a reward. I do not know what happens if you do nothing now and go to the Caldera Mage’s Guild in three days as I didn’t feel like playing through three days of game time just to find out.
I think that Sosia was also somehow involved in Hisin Deep-Raed’s predicament but never found any evidence for that in the game. In the end I wound up helping Hlormar because I felt that Sosia was up to no good and because I liked the two points of Strength that you get for helping Hlormar more than her potions (which you get after killing her anyway.)
Hlormar thanked me profusely for helping him and seemed quite happy to be rejoined with Cloudcleaver. He said that he had nothing with which to pay me but instead showed me a few combat techniques which he said were secrets of his people. It struck me that the exercises would probably help boost my Strength and I was appropriately grateful. With a final farewell I set off again, leaving him beside the road polishing his beloved axe.
Continuing to retrace my steps, I soon found Hisin Deep-Raed still frozen in place beside the road. In answer to his unvoiced query I simply showed him the potion I had found then carefully held it to his lips so that he was able to drink what he could. The effect was almost immediate and he was soon leaping around the road with the sheer joy of being able to move again.
He continued to thank me and gave me his helm as payment for helping him as it was the only item of value he carried. I tried to tell him that no payment was necessary but he insisted and in the end I left him, still running about the hillsides and shouting with joy. I felt somewhat guilty at taking his helm as it was really quite valuable. He called it the Icecap and said that while wearing it I would always be somewhat protected from cold and frost based Magicka. I was impressed, as magickal items which work continuously are much rarer than those which only function for a short time when activated.
I set off back down the road towards Caldera, waving to Hlormar as I passed where he still stood. I had almost reached the intersection where I had first met him when I noticed a figure behind some large boulders on the opposite side of the road. Curious as to who this person may be I left the road and climbed up the slight slope.
The figure turned out to be an Orc by the name of Bugrol gro-Bagul. Bugrol was apparently afraid of something as he kept spinning around and looking behind him in an almost comical way. When he noted my approach he called out to me and asked if I could do him a favor.
It seemed as if the town guard in Caldera had accused him of something that he had not done. He had fled town and hidden here in the wilderness and wanted me to carry a note to someone in Caldera who could help him. Since I was heading for Caldera anyway I agreed and he promised me a reward if I returned with a reply.
I left him still standing behind the boulder, comically sticking his head out from time to time to look around then ducking back out of sight. I waited until I had rounded a bend in the road then pulled out the note he had asked me to deliver. The note basically said that the guards knew he had done the thing he said he didn’t, but really had, but that they shouldn’t have known. It also said where he was hiding (behind a rock and another rock and a tree) and that he was a “good hider” (so if you didn’t see him, that’s where he was). I shook my head, partially at the tortured syntax of the note and partially in amusement at what Bugrol seemed to think was clever scheming. I decided that delivering the note would be entertaining anyway and so returned it to my pack and continued on my way.
The rest of my journey was uninterrupted and I soon found myself in the Imperial mining town of Caldera. Caldera is built in traditional Imperial style and I felt quite at home among the familiar looking buildings. Actually, I may have relaxed too much as I was suddenly staggered by an attack from behind.
Spinning about, I saw several of the town guard running in my direction, swords drawn. I had a brief moment of panic and wondered what transgression I had committed when I heard a distinctive cry from overhead. I looked up in time to see a cliff racer hovering overhead and was barely able to raise my shield in time to block its next attack. By this time two of the guards had arrived and their swords made short work of the attacking creature. It fell to the ground at my feet before I was even able to draw my own sword.
I thanked the guards for their assistance. One of them grunted something in reply and left while the other simply looked at me strangely. I then remembered the effects of the spell I was under and realized that I needed to have its effects reversed as soon as possible.
Continuing into town I soon came across the local branch of the Mage’s Guild. Inside, I was able to find a merchant who was selling potions and two of them were able to quickly repair my damaged Personality and Luck. I also purchased a few other potions then set out to explore the guild.
I found several of the guild members who were selling various items or offering training in various spells or magickal disciplines. I also came across a copy of the book2920, Hearthfirewhich included a few tips on Conjuration that seemed worth noting. However, my best find was in an empty room at the top of a spiral staircase. There, I found a complete set of alchemical equipment as well as a variety of ingredients. No one was in the room to see what I was up to and I quickly transferred the equipment into my pack. No one paid any attention to me as I returned to the main floor and exited the guild.
A slight distance away from the Mage’s Guild I found the home of Bashrk gra-Bat; the person that I was supposed to deliver the note from Bugrol to. I found her standing in the middle of the room and, after introducing myself, gave her the note. She read it and, with a gesture of annoyance, said that Bugrol may be good at hiding but that she was better at finding. She asked me to wait while she wrote a reply.
As she did, I looked around her home and noticed a note sitting on a cabinet. It was from the local pawn broker and addressed to the two orcs. It stated that he was going to give someone a bit more time to pay the money he owed and, if he did not, it would be time for the two of them to do some “bashing”.
Here, apparently, was the “bad thing” that Bugrol hadn’t done but really had. Before I could think on this further Bashuk gave me the note for Bugrol and quickly hurried me out the door.
Out on the street I pulled out the note and looked at it. This one said that no one knew what Bugrol had done and to keep it a secret. It also wondered who I was. I shook my head again and put the note away.
I then noticed, across the street, the shop of the pawnbroker who had sent the original note to the two orcs. Though I should have learned better by now, I let my curiosity get the better of me and entered the shop.
Inside I found that the shop was fairly small and that I was observed by both the pawnbroker and an Imperial guard. I nodded a greeting then slowly wandered the shop as if I was simply examining the merchandise. I did notice a set of stairs leading upwards and when the attention of both shop occupants was elsewhere I quietly slipped up them. There was a locked door at the top and I stealthily took out my lockpicks and opened the door then stepped through.
I found myself in the owner’s living quarters and quickly looked through them. A book titledThe Buying Gamecaught my attention and I glanced through it. It seemed to offer some hints in mercantile so I added it to my pack. I also found a short blade in a locked chest that would afflict whoever it hit with a magickal poison and I took it as well. I then quietly left the room and returned to the lower floor.
I had found nothing to indicate what the pawnbroker was up to in his quarters so I looked around the shop a final time. There seemed to be some interesting items on a windowsill behind the counter but I was unable to examine them closely with both the shop owner and guard watching so I gave a polite goodbye and left the shop.
You can find out later in the game that the pawnbroker is involved in some dirty dealings involving the Caldera mine but I do not know if that is related to his agreement with Bugrol and Bashuk or not.
One of the items on the windowsill is the Propylon Index for Hloromen which will come in handy later. I couldn’t get it unobserved at this point in the game and so had to come back for it later but it’s a handy thing to have if you are able to pick it up now.
Deciding to see my current obligation through I left Caldera through the northern gate and returned to where Bugrol was still hiding behind his rock. He seemed happy and relieved to get the note and, after reading it, handed an item to me.
“Here’s your reward!” he said. “It’s a rock!” He walked off, laughing about the “stupid hero”. I looked at the diamond he had just given me and made no comment of my own.
I had thought to spend some time exploring Caldera but the hour was growing late and I did not want to spend any more time on the road at night than necessary. So I simply passed through town without stopping and set out towards Balmora. Night did arrive as I was on the road but my travel was relatively uninterrupted and I eventually found myself back in the town I was beginning to think of as home. I thought briefly of dropping by the South Wall Corner Club to see how everyone was doing but decided against it. Instead, I returned to Nerano manor and, after safely depositing some of the items I was carrying in various parts of the manor, found my way up to the bedroom where I fell into an undisturbed sleep.
Heartfire 6 (Day 22)
The next morning I began by stopping at the armorer’s shop to have the accumulated damage to my weapons and armor repaired then I briefly visited Ra’Virr the trader to sell off some of the items I had acquired along the way. Ra’Virr commented that I seemed to be doing very well for myself and I was forced to admit that my situation had improved a great deal in the days since I had been dropped off of the prison transport at Seyda Neen. I spoke briefly with Ra’Virr about the latest rumors but there seemed to be little new in Balmora and I soon took my leave.
I had no immediate plans but I found my wanderings brought me to the front entrance of the Balmora Council Club where I thought of Larrius Varro’s request. I knew the five Cammona Tong members he wished me to kill were inside but I was not sure if I was ready to take on what seemed to be the heart of the Tong in Balmora. On the other hand, Varro did not seem to be the type of man who would be very patient and I also realized that he had the authority to return me to prison if he wished to. With a sigh, I checked my weapons and stepped inside.
In the entryway I almost immediately encountered Thanelen Velas. This was the man Varro had known only as the smith but I also recognized him as the murderer of Ralen Hlaalu. With a slight unease I nodded a casual greeting to him but he only returned it with a sneer. I could feel his eyes watching me as I descended the stairs to the lower level of the Council Club.
The occupants of the room glanced towards me as I entered. The first of them, Savor Trandrel, gave me a particularly unpleasant look and I suspected he knew of my involvement in the death of Ondres Nerano, his employer. Vadusa Sathryon and Marasa Aren were also present, as well as a bartender. I tried to remain as nonchalant as possible as I passed through the room searching for the last of the five.
I found her at the bottom of a sloping hallway leading downward from the main room of the club. Madrale Thirith jumped slightly as I approached and I noticed that she was standing near the locked door to one of the rooms that the Council Club had available for rent. I guessed that she may have been attempting to break into the room and, in a sarcastic voice, I commented aloud on the skills of the Cammona Tong.
Thirith’s eyes flared in anger and asked what I had meant by my comment. I shrugged and said that it was obvious why the Cammona Tong was so afraid of the Thieves Guild; our operatives were so much more skilled than those of the Tong that it would only be a matter of time before we took Vvardenfell away from them, at which time they would be lucky to find work with us cleaning our stables and chamber pots.
As I had hoped, Thirith responded to my taunts by drawing her weapon and charging towards me. I met her advance with my jinkblade, which I had palmed during my speech, and she was instantly paralyzed by its spell before whe was able to land her first blow. Switching to my longsword, I ran her through where she stood.
I stood over the body briefly and listened but it did not seem as if anyone on the main floor had heard our altercation. Quickly searching the body, I took what few items of value she had been carrying then quietly disposed of it. After cleaning my sword and jinkblade I casually ascended the hallway and returned to the main room.
The three watched me sullenly as I entered but no one made any mention of my actions, if they were even aware of them. Not wanting to take on any more opponents at one time than I had to I crossed the room again and climbed the stairs back to the entryway.
Thanelen Velas made some comment about foreigners as I arrived and I responded with a comment about the Cammona Tong and nix-hounds. Unfortunately, Velas would not take the bait and after a few more comments he refused to speak with me further.
I knew that attacking him directly was probably a bad idea as I could be branded an outlaw for initiating the fight and I didn’t want to get a price on my head for performing an execution on behalf of the local Legion Champion! So, with a final glare, I exited the Council Club, Velas laughing as I did so.
Outside, I paused to consider my options. I had killed one of the five people Varro had asked me to eliminate but was no closer to getting rid of the other four. As a Redguard I had no fear of battle and though I had no love of open combat I did not seek to avoid it when it came my way. On the other hand, I did not want to face all four of them at once.
After a moment, a thought occurred to me. There was an organization in Morrowind whose clients contacted them to arrange the death of others. An organization whose methods, if not goals, were complementary with the skills I had gained throughout my life. An organization with many members, one of which had suggested that I consider working for them and had given me the name of a contact. An organization whose goals were not what I had sought in the past but which seemed to have become a part of my new existence.
With a sigh, I set out through the south gate of Balmora and towards the distant city of Vivec, in search of the Morag Tong.