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, February 07, 2005

Day Forty-six: In the cave of the Sixth House

I look at myself tonight and wonder, what has Vvardenfell made of me? I have a room at the South Wall for the night. Bacola Closcius, the proprietor, raised an eyebrow at my bloodied clothes, but asked no questions. Since his establishment is the base for the local Theive's Guild I expected none from him. The local authorities were less complacent.

I had already had a harrowing morning when I arrived in Balmora. While mapping the coast for Nine-Toes I located a number of caves that I suspected were in use by smugglers. What smugglers serve the Cammona Tong, and who does not? I have no way to know without checking for myself. In my rage I knew no fear of these self styled guardians of Dunmer purity. This morning I found that the caves of the Bitter Coast can harbor things far more frightening, and deadly. I set out from Pelagiad, headed for a cave on a small island southeast of Seyda Neen.

I crept into the cave warily. Smugglers can be expected to post guards. I found none. The interior passage was well lighted, groups of red candles burned on many rocks and ledges, casting a flickering glow. The floor showed the passage of many feet. Bare feet. A strange odor wafted through the passages, a putrid scent of decayed flesh. This was no smuggler's hide out. Not far inside the cave I came upon a man, kneeling, gnawing at a chunk of bleeding meat. I watched in horror. The man wore only ragged pants. His sides were scored with bulbous scars; wounds badly healed. Along his lower ribs blood oozed from a fresh jagged wound. It was healing rapidly, flesh forming as I watched. The wound, the meat; I gagged on the realization. He was eating his own flesh.

The sounds of choking down bile roused the monster from its grisly repast and it lurched to its feet. Still spitting and gasping for air I staggered backwards. The monster came at me with a lumbering gait, arms outstretched. No intellect graced its eyes, only hatred burned in those vacant orbs. In horrified shock I struggled to free my bow, then gave up and fled towards the daylight. At the entrance to the cave I turned. With distance some sense of calm returned. The creature shambled up the slope of the long straight passage to the surface. I could see that what had been a gaping wound in its side was almost completely healed and I abandoned the idea of killing it by conventional means. Forming my hands in the requisite curve, with thumbs linked together, I cast the spell. Magical flames erupted, forming a ball which I launched with a push. The cleansing magical fire scoured the monster, and it stopped its advance briefly. Skin curled and fell in blackened rolls that shattered on the stony floor, and fluids steamed from the staggered monster's oozing flesh, but it resumed its course. I repeated the spell, and the monster collapsed. The stench of burning flesh overcame me, and I could no longer choke down my rising gorge.

When I had recovered I gave serious thought to just turning and leaving. If the Cammona Tong had ever been there, they weren't now. I couldn't though. Bits of rumor and Caius' questions were starting to fit together, and I slowly realized that I was standing in a den of the Sixth House Cult. How the self devouring horror related to the ancient House Dagoth I had no idea, but I had to make at least some effort at investigation. I readied my bow and willed my feet to carry me back into the depths of the cave.

When I reached the spot where I had encountered the monster, clearly marked by the lump of meat abandoned on the stone floor, I faced a choice. I cast a wary glance down a side passage, and went straight ahead down the slope. I did not get far. The way was blocked by a deep crevice. On the far side a ledge fronted a closed door set into the wall. I returned to the side passage and turned to follow its narrow twisting course. The passage eventually widened, forming a natural chamber in the grey native stone. Across the chamber the passage continued, and another small cave opened on the wall high above with a rockfall providing a chance to scramble up. At the bottom of the fall lay a Dunmer corpse. Intricately decorated bonemold boots still graced its feet, and a matching shield, badly abused, lay discarded nearby. Much of the meat had been torn from the body.

Further examination of the body was stopped by the entrance of another horrible mockery of a man. This time there were no bulging scars, and he moved gracefully as he leapt into a defensive crouch and began weaving a spell. He was no longer human though, if indeed he ever had been. It was grey. Not a grey like a skin of some different hue. The brown skin of a Redguard, the bluish skin of a Dunmer, they are still skin. This man was grey, a powdery grey, as if he was made of ash; even his eyes. The creature muttered incantations, and a ball of sparks sailed towards me. I gulped a potion Ajira had made for me, and a barrier of my own magical electricity erupted around me. The two charges intermingled, popping and flashing, but the barrier held, and I returned fire with my own spell. The flames did not burn the creature visibly, it seemed already charred to an ashen waste, but it did weaken and grow more emaciated as the magica chorused around it. Volley after volley surged between us, and I would surely have been reduced to a smoking ruin without my shielding. The monster fared less well. Repeated immersion in the searing flames completely dessicated it, and it fell into an ashy cloud that settled rapidly to the floor.

I climbed up the rockfall and found another corpse, in similar condition to the first. I took their boots, and intricately woven belts. The belts seem to bear some sort of insignia, and I suspect will be identifiable to someone better versed in the politics of Morrowind than I. I teleported to my storage cave. I could face no more of the Sixth House Cult today.

I spent much of the afternoon repairing the battered shield. The workmanship is exceptional, on the shield and the boots. When I departed my cave I regretfully left my levitating boots behind. These boots are far too comfortable, and give so much better protection, that I had to wear them. After visiting Wyan the armorer though I am not sure. He bought the extra pair for an excellent price, but informed me that they are a product of House Indoril, a great house that is not represented on Vvardenfell. Here on the island they are worn almost exclusively by Tribunal Temple ordinators. The belts verified that indeed, the bodies I had found were ordinators. I described the creature, which Wyan identified as an ash slave, and he commended me for my good sense in deserting the cave. In his view whatever had killed the two ordinators had to be significantly more dangerous that that. I'm glad I departed without facing it.

When I left the Fighter's Guild hall I went to the Council Club. I hoped to gather information from the bartender there about the Tong. It is my actions there that concern me. I complain about Ranis sending me on missions of thuggery for the guild. I condemn the Tong out of hand. But what of me? As I approached, two Dunmer emerged, carrying their drinks to the rooftop tables. I have seen them around Balmora. Certainly they sympathize with the Tong, but I doubt they posed any active threat to Ahnassi. I slaughtered them like pigs. It is more good fortune than good planning that leaves me a free man.

When the authorities arrived I stood dripping blood, my two antagonists sprawled at my feet. Their weapons, which had availed them little against my bloodlust, lay scattered about them. Two things saved me from prison. A caravaner, from his vantage point atop the strider port, reported a clear view of events. What he saw was two Dunmer springing to the attack. He couldn't hear me hissing to them that I had slain the Tong's leaders and had returned for them. His report was the first thing. The second, I think, was some behind the scenes effort by Caius. I saw Caius' courier, Rithleen, come and go in the crowd which had gathered, and not long after a higher ranking member of the Hluulu guards arrived and I was turned loose. Afterwards Nine-Toes hissed in my ear; "Best not to see Caius today, apprentice. Better to get out of town for a while" I was startled by the disembodied voice, but managed not to draw attention to the invisible Argonian.

In the morning I will take his advice. I leave before dawn, for Hla Oad.


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