This is the autobiographical journal of Arvil Bren, a somewhat reluctant hero who has been placed on an unknown quest by powers that he barely knows exist. Follow his journey as it is updated daily, Monday through Friday, and enjoy! These are the most recent entries in Arvil Bren's third journal; Politics of the Redoran. His first journal can be found in its entirety here. His second journal, Trail of the Archmage can be found here.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Day Thirty-one: Triumphant return

Today I began the search for Hasphat's puzzle box. I cannot say it has been a great success, but it is a beginning. It also appears to be an opportunity to line my pockets. The ruins of Arkngthand are apparently rich with ancient Dwemer artifacts. Rich enough to have attracted a band of looters.

The ruins crown the mountain just east of the Foyada Mamaca, looming ominously over my campsite at the bridge. Numerous towers jut into the sky, and a huge statue of a Dwemer sorcerer gazes balefully down over the road. On the surface the ruins are buried in ash and dust from the explosive Red Mountain volcano, and overgrown with brambly trama vines. These hardy plants seem to thrive in the harsh ashlands of Vvardenfell. They have little competition.

As Hasphat had said, there is a crank on a pipe near the entrance to the underground halls. The magic and engineering of the Dwemer is astonishing. When I turned the crank a huge stone sphere set in the nearby mountainside split asunder, revealing a metal door inscribed with Dwemer runes. I entered cautiously, and gazed in awe at the entry cavern spread out below me. From the cavern floor great towers rose. Some pierced the ceiling, perhaps continuing on the mountaintop above, while others were completely contained in the great expanse. I stood gaping on a platform of Dwemer metal perched high on the northern wall. The cavern was lit by a combination of glowing tubes that appeared to contain some sort of magically lighted fluid, flames endlessly flickering about the broken ends of ancient piping, and a series of torches burning far below. I wondered at the torches, and who had placed them.

The Dwemer apparently had no concerns about levitation. The entry platform was not their only construction that came to an abrupt end. From where I stood I could clearly see two more. One far below, about halfway to the floor, could be reached using a series of rough ledges. Another was near the roof and attached to one of the great towers. I saw no way to reach it without using my enchanted boots or a spell. With my boots ready to save me from an unexpected fall I began carefully scaling down the ledges. As soon as I was clear of the entry platform the eastern side of the cavern came into view, and again I stopped to gape. A huge metal building loomed, suspended against the native stone. The two levels were open to the cavern, and on the lower level a Redguard paced, obviously in conversation with someone who remained out of sight behind a huge pillar. Broken stones and scrap had been heaped into piles on the cavern floor to provide access to both levels of the building as well as the platform towards which I continued creeping.

I arrived on the platform and slipped into the mouth of a tunnel, which promptly opened into a room. The dust of ages had been swept haphazardly. Obviously not in effort to clean up, merely to reveal the floor and any artifacts of value that may have lain there. Trafficking in Dwemer artifacts is a crime, but is sufficiently lucrative that it is not uncommon, and those who participate are seldom targets of Imperial authority. The biggest hardship faced by artifact raiders is the sheer weight of the goods. The Redguard and his unseen companion were obviously not deterred. I wondered if they were alone, or part of a larger operation. Either way, I suspected they would not be leaping at the chance to share the spoils with me. I peered out through the tunnel and across the cavern to where the conversation continued. The Redguard seemed to have made his point, and now stood listening, nodding occasionally.

The room provided a second exit, a winding stair that lead deeper into the ruins. I grabbed a lantern from a heap of supplies that had been left by the looters and headed down. In the light of the lantern the stairs revealed dismaying evidence of passing feet; far more than two pairs. Although the tracks often obscured each other I identified at least six different shoe prints. I climbed back to the top of the stairs and returned the lantern. The supplies and empty crates seemed to indicate that the looters were undertaking an extended operation. Any interruption and they could flee, taking the cube with them if they had found it. I was not ready to confront half a dozen potentially dangerous criminals today. I slipped out the way I had entered and left the looters to their work.

Abandoning the riches of Arkngthand, even temporarily, cut against my grain. I have to keep my eye on larger pictures though. Such a large band, and they are obviously planning on spending many days in the ruins; searching for the cube myself could take weeks. I do not have the time. Following through with my plans is imperative to avoid suspicion. Hiding from the Dark Brotherhood is a big enough problem; if the Cammona Tong gets an inkling that I am responsible for the massacre at the Council Club my life in Morrowind will be brief and bloody.

As evening set I entered the gates of Moonmoth Fort; roadweary, overburdened with hides and tradegoods from Granius' camp, and moving very slowly. I complained to the guards about the distance from Sulipund, shared a jug of sujamma, and entered the main building having firmly established my whereabouts, in their minds at least. The tales they told of the 'bloodbath at the Council Club' I met with appropriate horror and astonishment. I sold off hides and goods to the traders who frequent the fort's main room, and managed a brief encounter with Larrius Varro as he passed through. He was jovial at the turn of events in Balmora and shrugged off even a pretense at being interested in finding the killer. I compared my encounter with Snowy Granius to that other toll-taking bandit Fjol, and he openly gave me another reward. No one needs to know that the ring he gave me is worth far more than one old bandit's life. I never expected to share a bond of conspiracy with a Champion of the Imperial Legions.

I arrived at the guild hall in Balmora late, and tired. I will sleep well. Tomorrow at breakfast I will report to Ranis that her tasks are completed, and settle for good any consideration that I might have had anything to do with recent events in Balmora.


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