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.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Day Twenty-three: The gang war takes a turn

I felt much safer sleeping in my new home. This shack is built on pilings over the water, and the planking creaks and groans. The rhythmic sound is low and soothing, and as an added bonus the boards can be counted on to shriek their protests when trod upon. I am getting familiar with the few places where tight jointing allows quiet passage, but a prowler in the night would not know. I continued my practice of leaning a plate on a crossmember of the door as an added precaution, and of course slept with my spear close at hand.

The only disturbance to my rest was a sound of voices, which were carrying over the water from some distance, but not far. The smugglers of nearby Shurinbaal on a foray. I strained to catch their words, and the more I heard the less taken I was with my new neighbors. They speak very freely of the coming demise of Wadarkhu and the rest of the guild and of running Gnaar Mok. The only humor I heard from them revolved around the cruel treatment of slaves. I slipped out to the deck and observed their landing. They loaded numerous crates onto the beach, then hid their small boat below the water by weighting it down with rocks. With assistance from others who came out of the underbrush the pile of crates rapidly dwindled, and soon they were gone. I returned to my cot and willed myself into a deep restful slumber, from which I arose knowing I faced a dangerous day. Today I entered Shurinbaal to meet the neighbors.

Unlike my first foray into a smuggler's lair, this time I had no consideration of joining them, and I activated the devil spear before I passed the threshold. As expected they had a warrior posted, and not surprisingly she was tough and attacked without wasting a breath on a challenge. I noted in passing that this would be my first experience of bonemold armor in actual combat, and ducked under the first swing of her mighty Nordic battle axe. The warrior had the dark skin of a Redguard, but I was concerned that she may have gathered some frosty magic from the Nords along with the axe. I quickly gulped a frost shield potion just in case; the swirling cold energies of the barrier served well against the axe anyway. Ajira had supplied me with an array of shielding potions and I breathed her a word of thanks as the Redguard and I continued our intricate dance.

I used a series of short thrusts with my spear to keep her off balance as much as possible. She countered with swipes of her axe, knocking my point aside and trying to snap the shaft of my spear. A lesser weapon would not have served, but the daedric energies of the devil spear were proof against the tactic, and my opponent was soon bloodied at numerous points. Desperately she raised the mighty axe high overhead and brought it crashing down, aiming for my head. Without the protective field I may have been split in two by the blow. Much of the force was dissipated in the frost shield, giving me a split second of extra reaction time so I could take the blade flatter and on my armored shoulder rather than my exposed scalp. Even so I was driven to my knees by the blow. I took a wild roundhouse swing with my spear.

The wicked edges of the devil spear had earned the full respect of the skilled Redguard, and she leapt back to avoid having her legs cut from under her. I had time to lurch to my feet, and her next mighty downward chop I met with the crossed shaft of my spear. Once again, a lesser weapon may have snapped in my hands even though I caught her axe across the haft below the gleaming blade. The Redguards are a race of warriors, generally regarded as the most skilled in the Empire, and I knew that this woman wielding the axe was probably as well trained with the spear as I was myself. It would be expected for a good spearman to use the force of the axe blow, letting the left arm give way, bringing the blade of the spear down into the area under the arm of the axe wielder while guiding the axe away to the side. My recent experiences had made me a good spearman, in fact a better spearman. I surprised the Redguard. Giving way with the right arm rather than the left took her axe in an unexpected direction, and I brought the butt of the devil spear crashing into her forehead. Hardened beyond steel by the energies of the Daedric spirit within the butt of the spear delivered a devastating impact, leaving the Redguard fully exposed as I spun the spear into a killing thrust under the bonemold breastplate. As could be expected from a Redguard warrior the look in her eyes as they glazed over in death held only respect.

The battle so long in description actually lasted only seconds, and I had time to use my healing belt before anyone arrived from deeper in the cave. The ache in my shoulder took repeated uses of the belt before it was completely eased. I reasoned that the smugglers would have their most accomplished warrior posted at the door, and I hoped my reasoning would prove correct. In a fighting crouch with my spear leading the way I scuttled down the curving passage to meet whoever was drawn by the clashing of arms.

As could be expected of the bigoted Cammona Tong syndicate, most of the smugglers would be Dunmer. To my surprise though it seemed this group of smugglers would consist mostly of women. First to follow her Redguard sister into death was a young girl. Despite the dagger in her hand and snarling hatred on her face she was attractive, and I regretted the choices she had made so early in life that had brought her to this. Fortunately she did not have skills to match her youthful exuberance and in her blind rush up the passage she was easily skewered through. I jerked my spear free as an arrow thumped into my armored chest. The light chain fabric of my armor blunted the broadhead, and the padding within cushioned the blow, but still the heavy iron arrow had a painful impact. Another Dunmer woman rushed at me armed with a shortsword and clad in netch leather armor. She was far more cautious than the first, using the quickness of her blade to deflect my spear as she tried to work inside its deadly point.

Buffeting the swordswoman with blows from the spearshaft and backing to avoid her point I shortened my grip on the spear. I could match her range, but the long shaft behind it made my blade unwieldy by comparison. I was also limited in my defenses by not being able to circle. The archer perched on a rocky outcrop deeper in the cave waited patiently for such a maneuver to expose my back. These dire circumstances were sure to cost me blood, and I gulped a healing potion. Not only did the restorative magic ease my bruised chest, but it continued to work for a brief period, stopping the flow from the first telling cuts from the Dunmer's wicked blade. Her shortsword was crafted from the serrated edge of some sort of giant insect shell and even a glancing blow from the flat of the blade tore bare flesh, but almost inevitably the matching of my ultra sharp spear against her leather won out over the shell sword against my black chain mesh. As she fell I charged the archer and quickly spitted her as well.

With my wounds again healed by the restorative energies in my belt I continued into the torchlit passage, creeping cautiously as I approached a branching point. My caution was well founded. Another Redguard launched himself from the passage on my right in a swirl of kicks and blows from rock hard fists. My head rang with the impact, and were it not for the quality of my armor I would no doubt have suffered severely from a rain of blows to the ribs and kidneys. I clung to my spear and quaffed one of my restoratives to clear my head, then laid the monk low with a fierce thrust through the heart. Unknown to the Theive's Guild the tide of the gang war was turning their way. I had slain five members of the Cammona Tong in a matter of minutes. I stood at the junction and listened carefully. To proceed down either tunnel was to risk being cut off by pursuit from the other.

After some time had passed with no further clamor I slid down the passage to the right. A gentle lapping sound rose to greet me, and I reached a point where I could see the shimmer of torchlight on water. High pilings supported a platform above the reach of the tides. I could hear voices from above in animated discussion, one with a marked Imperial accent. I reasoned that these two would not emerge to impede any exit that might become necessary, and slipped back to explore the other passage.

Again after some distance I met the sound of voices, a man and a woman. I crept up to a ragged wooden gate and peered through. The Dunmer beyond were engrossed in unloading a crate, which apparently contained armor of fine Imperial steel! The woman already wore the breastplate, and was brandishing an Imperial broadsword; commenting on its exceptional balance. I reached through the gate with an iron probe to dislodge a delicately set bolt trap, while the man handed her a pair of gauntlets. I wanted to surprise them, and I wanted to do it quickly before they got any better armored than they already were. I activated my spear once again and crashed through the gate with a roar; "They defile our armor! Legionnaire's to the charge!" The thought of facing actual Imperial soldiers gave my quarry horrified pause, and they had no way to know the gleaming Daedric spear bearing down on them would not be followed by a mass of troopers. In their initial confusion I landed a telling blow across the lightly armored man's throat, evening the odds. More than evening the odds it turned out. Though the woman was well armored, and a fair hand with a sword, the weight of the armor was unfamiliar and she had had no practice with this particular blade. The Cammona Tong was quickly down two more thugs.

I left what was obviously the band's major storage area, and made a quiet return to the flooded cave. The conversation continued on the platform above, and I wondered how to approach the last of the smugglers. As I listened to the conversation above it became very clear that only one of the voices belonged to a smuggler, the cultured Cyrodiil tones belonged to some sort of Imperial officer!

I slipped back to the intersected passages and retrieved the body of the Redguard monk. Even with no armor the corpse was a burden, but once I got it up onto my shoulders I could shamble along. Moving as quietly as possible under the load I returned to the water's edge and deposited the Redguard unceremoniously on a ledge, poised to fall into the water. With a gentle nudge from my outstretched spear the body rolled, and the sound of the splash pursued me up the passageway as I ran. At the first usable nitch in the wall I dove for cover and peered back into the chamber. A Dunmer in robes was climbing down from the platform, steel gauntlets gleaming on the rungs of the ladder. The movement of the robes indicated some sort of plate armor beneath them as well. The Dunmer paused and carefully scanned the chamber. I considered taking a shot with my longbow, but without knowing the nature of the armor a hit to the body could easily be wasted, and a head shot would call for greater skill than I could count on having. The Dunmer resumed the climb, then cast a spell and stepped onto the surface of the water.

I considered my options. Charging a battlemage of unknown skills seemed foolhardy at best, but the trail of corpses I had left through the cave really had to be completed if I was ever to be safe in Gnaar Mok. This Dunmer would not fail to associate the new spear wielding hunter with the skewered corpses of his minions. When he reached the body floating near the caves entrance I held my breath, then sprang into action as he briefly looked down. As I charged down the hall I cast a protective spell that would distort my image in a way that would make me more difficult to strike, then activated the devil spear as I plunged into the water. While it would certainly hinder my movements I counted on some protection from the water, and the reach of the spear allowed me full access to my surface borne target.

The protection I got from the water was not what I expected, but it did save my life. As I lunged with my spear the smuggler chief called upon the energies of the elements, and even though my spear struck home and bit deep he was able to complete the spell. His hand struck the shaft of the spear and it was immediately rimed with frost. My body also ached with a piercing cold, and I could feel my life rapidly ebbing away. I longed to sleep, my body shutting down with the icy chill. My fortune was preserved by the water around me. Though it was not particularly warm, the mass of it did slow the temperature change that would have been my death. I had just enough time to down a restorative potion. I was chilled and shaking, but would live. My enemy had been stricken a severe blow, and it is questionable if he would have survived it without magical restoration. I gave him no chance to try. Even shaking with the cold as I was I managed to ram the devil spear through the armor. The water walking spell expired with his life and the Dunmer's body collapsed into the roiling bloodstained waters.

I looked up into the hate filled eyes of a Cyrodiil. He brandished his short sword, holding the top or the ladder. It would be suicide to climb into the waiting blade. "Come down and fight", I taunted.

"Come up yourself, Breton scum," he replied.

"I can wait. You can starve up there."

A chuckle from the Cyrodiil, "My deceased compatriots left me in abundance. You, on the other hand, are standing in waist deep water with nothing. No my stupid captor, if there is starving to be done it will not be by me."

I drew my longbow, and he scuttled back from the edge. I kept talking, so he would know I had not come around to the base of the ladder, pausing only long enough to cast my levitation spell. I spoke more quietly as I rose; "Stick that misshapen head out where I can see it Imperial!"

"No, you will have to climb up if you want to shoot at me Breton. Come on! Don't be afraid to climb a little ladder." The last word stuck in his throat as I lofted over the far end of the platform.

The Cyrodiil was clearly a low ranking officer of the coastal guard, tasked with combating the smuggling that the mists and uncountable inlets of the Bitter Coast made inevitable. An officer on the payroll of the Cammona Tong. While I had no love for the Imperial Guard after my imprisonment, it was my new sense of honor as a member of the Blades that made me feel so satisfied as I drove my spear through the Imperial studded leather breastplate into the corrupt heart.

It took the rest of the day and late into the evening to gather all the goods into the storage area and assess the spoils of my victory. I don't intend to make any great effort to move all the material. I will bring the true valuables to the shack, but for the rest I will just make sure to always have a full load of trade goods when I head into the cities. I was taken aback when I was opening the cases. The Cammona Tong is obviously equipping themselves for a bloody showdown, and has a strong connection within the Imperial Legion. The amount of Imperial armor and weapons I found would equip a fair unit of guardsmen...or Tong thugs masquerading as guardsmen. I hope that I have severely crimped their operation with today's efforts. In the darkest hours of night I dragged all the corpses out of the cave and loaded them into their boat. For the first time I was happy about the ravenous slaughterfish. They are, I'm sure, very happy with me.


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