13 - Morthal

Of course, once we reached Morthal, we discovered that the carriages will take you there, but don't pick up. If we wanted to hire a carriage, we'd have to go to Solitude, or Markarth, or Whiterun. The guard mentioned a couple of other cities way to the east, too. Riften and Windhelm were so far away from here, it was almost a joke.

Whiterun was actually the nearest, but there were the mountains in the way. The pass through them was just the other side of the old Nordic complex of Labyrinthian. The guard didn't recommend going through there, as there were frost trolls in some of the old buildings.

"You'd be safer out in the swamps," he told us. "Nothing worse than a few frostbite spiders out there."

A glance at my companion told me that she preferred trolls.

We stayed the night at the tavern, the Moorside Inn, and managed not to inspire the Orc bard to sing. He played the lute well enough, but the tavern-keeper, Jonna warned us that his voice drove her customers away. "He won't sing while we're chatting, so I like to keep my customers in conversation, for their own good."

She told us all the local gossip, particularly about the fire that had destroyed Hroggar's house, and killed hs wife and daughter. "Hroggar says it was a hearth fire, but some folks say Hroggar started it himself." The Jarl would like to know the truth, and there might be a reward if someone could find it.

Her own theory was that Alva was involved, somehow. Hroggar had moved in with her the day after, and she wasn't just being charitable, and giving him a roof over his head. Alva wasn't that kind of woman.

I discovered that the town mage, Falion, was her brother. He lived in the house just beyond Alva's, overlooking the swamp. For some reason, he was unpopular with the townsfolk, who were suspicious of his night-time activities. Whether their relationship had anything to do with the slow trade at the inn wasn't clear. "Gorm comes here for dinner every evening, so at least one person isn't listening to the rumours," Jonna offered.

In the morning, we ate breakfast before Lurbuk rose, and got out before he started singing. When the Jarl's longhouse opened for business, we went in and asked about the burned-out house. Jarl Igrod Ravencrone gave us the task of investigating. She shared Jonna's suspicions about Hroggar, but couldn't take action without proof. "Perhaps an outsider like yourself has a better chance to find some," she suggested.

At the Jarl's suggestion we started with a search of the remains of Hroggar's house. Parts of the walls were still standing, and in one corner was a ghost! Not an antagonistic one that wanted to drive us away, but a lonely little girl who wanted someone to play with her. I assured Helgi that although I was strange, being a Dremora, that wasn't the same as a stranger, so I could be her friend, if she wanted. We asked her about the fire, but she couldn't tell us there, in case someone was listening.

She wanted to play hide-and-seek, but we'd have to wait until it got dark, so the other one could play, too. "If you can find me first, I can tell you." Then she disappeared, going off to wherever she'd chosen to hide, I supposed.

We had quite a bit of time to kill before it got dark, so we wandered around the small town and checked out the only store, an alchemy shop known as the Thaumaturgist's Hut. Lami, the proprietress, was the wife of the mill-owner, Jorgen. She'd started the business when she read a book called "Song of the Alchemist" and she'd love to have her own copy. I promised to look out for one, and bring it to her if I found it.

We also met Alva, the woman in whose home Hroggar now lived. She flirted with me, although I got the impression she did that with all men. She dressed that way, showing almost as much cleavage as my lovely companion, and with a skirt slit up almost to the waist. But something was bothering me about her. Something seemed fake, but I just couldn't place what it was. She wandered off towards the Moorside Inn, presumably to have lunch.

Ingrod the Younger was watching her younger brother Joric, to make sure he didn't get into trouble. "Please don't mind Joric. He's not mad, really he's not." I asked what was wrong with the boy, and she told me "My brother is... sensitive. He has trouble focusing his attention on things. We were taking him to the Temple of Kynareth in Whiterun, just so the healers could make sure he was in good health, and they say he's fine."

We talked a while longer and I discovered that "visions" affected the whole family. Jarl Idgrod had them, and considered them a gift. Her own were a bit more erratic, and didn't really give her any insights. Joric just found them confusing and unsettling.

At some point I must have mentioned Whiterun, because she asked me "Are you heading to Whiterun? Could you take this letter to the priestess, Danica Pure-Spring? It's a note about Joric's health."

I took the note. It was certainly likely that I'd be going back that way. I told Idgrod that it might not be soon, but she reassured me that it was more important to deliver it safely than immediately. I'm not sure why she chose to trust it to me. Perhaps she knew that a Kyn's promise was a solid guarantee.

The sun was getting low, so we started looking around for likely hiding places for the lttle ghost girl. At the edge of town was a small cemetary, where it was likely that she, and her mother, would have been buried. We could see, as we approached, that someone had been digging here recently, as there was a shovel sticking up from a hole in the ground, and a small coffin had been disturbed.

When we got just a bit closer, someone came around the rock, dressed in a black robe like the conjurers had worn in the cave where I nearly lost my housecarl. Just like them, she attacked us on sight, using a spell that I didn't recognise, but which seemed to drain my health. It wasn't as effective as my companion's firebolts, which quickly dropped her next to the defiled grave.

The coffin was Helgi's, and that's where she was hiding. She told us that Laelette had started the fire, but had kissed her on the neck so she wouldn't feel the heat. She'd still been 'all burned up' and she was tired, and wanted to rest, but couldn't.

"Laelette!" exclaimed a voice behind us. I turned to find Thonnir, who operated the lumber mill for Jorgen, standing behind us with a torch. He told us that the dead woman was his wife, who he'd thought had gone off to join the Stormcloaks. She'd been spending a lot of time with Alva, and was supposed to meet her the night she disappeared. Alva had told him that she never showed up.

"Perhaps she did meet Alva," I suggested. "Somebody made Laelette a vampire, and maybe that was when it happened."

"But that would mean that Alva's a vampire, too! I refuse to believe that. You have no proof!"

He rushed off in a huff, leaving us to put Helgi's coffin back in its grave. I considered burying Laelette, too, but decided that Thonnir would probably want to do that himself.

"Let's take a look in Alva's house," I decided. "She's probably not there at night, and Hroggar should be asleep. If there's any proof to be found, it will be there."

Hroggar wasn't asleep, and attacked us when we opened the door. We found a key on his body to the basement, where we found an open coffin, and Alva's journal. This was the proof we needed, as it detailed her plot to make all the town's inhabitants cattle for the vampires, and how she had Laelette deal with Hrogar's wife and daughter.

We took it to Jarl Idgrod, who recognised the name of Movarth, the ancient vampire who'd turned Alva. She raised a posse of men and women from the town to go with us to Movarth's lair outside town, but at the mouth of the cave, they all stopped, reluctant to enter. Most of them fled back to town, except for Thonnir, who I could tell was only there because he wanted revenge for Laelette. When I assured him that I'd do that for him, he left, running after the others.

Vampires don't like fire, so my housecarl dealt with them, as I cracked their thralls' skulls with my war-hammer. Movarth himself was a bit tougher than the rest, and needed attention from both of us. Among the bodies, as we searched the place, we found Alva. Whether the other vampires had killed her, or we had, it was hard to tell.

I collected quite a lot of vampire dust (including from Alva), as well as gold coin. I could have brought out quite a large assortment of boots and shoes, too. One of the vampires must have been collecting them.

As we left the lair, Helgi's ghost appeared again at the exit. She thanked us for helping her finally rest, and I'm sure that my silent partner had a tear in her eye when she disappeared again.