A Fool In Morrowind, Day 9 – The Last Dwarf

Agent Loaf returns, after a brief hiatus so RPS could spend some quality time documenting its own history. Now, my plan with this series had been to avoid the core narrative for as long as possible (even though it’s something I never got around to the first time I played Morrowind.) Then a funny thing happened. It became compelling. Based on how unsatisfactory I’d found Oblivion and Fallout 3’s main plotlines to be, this was not something I’d been expecting. It also puts me in the unusual position of narrativising someone else’s narrative -a starkly different prospect to diarising my own haphazard experiences. If you’ve not ever played Morrowind and still intend to, be aware that here be spoilers…

When someone tells you that you might just be a god… well, that sticks in your craw. My raison d’etre to date has been entirely materialistic, but the growing frequency with which random nutters and even my own trusted contacts have made noises about my possible divine origins have awoken a hunger for metaphysical fulfilment too. So, I put aside my lockpicks for a time and went off in search of answers.

Later.

Something went horribly wrong. I’ve been infected by the most feared disease in the land. Corprus is an awful flesh-eating, flesh-twisting malady with no know cure. Small wonder I caught it, really, given I’ve lately been fighting things like this:

Yeah, he’s probably not big on the personal hygiene, is he? Corprus is horribly infectious, and anyone who contracts it suffers monstrous physical and mental collapse. Strangers run from me in terror, and even my friends (well, contacts. But they’re the closest a light-fingered egoist such as I has to friends) stare in horror and refuse to talk to me. I really don’t feel much like a god right now.

On the plus side, the time I’ve spent working for the Blades, the Emperor’s secret spy ring, affords me access to information that the average monsterised civilian doesn’t benefit from. Pro: there may be a cure after all. Con: to find out about it, I have to visit the top floor of a tower without any stairs, and with a basement full of violent-tempered Corprus victims. Dammit – can’t someone just send me a potion on a Silt-Strider? I’m supposed to be a god, people! Do what I damn-well say!

However, it’s my contacts’ constant, worried highlighting of that lack of stairs that restores my wounded pride somewhat. You’ll need to be able to fly to reach the guy who can help, they say. Have this potion that makes you levitate for a bit, but if you waste ’em you’re screwed… Hah. I don’t need any measly potions – for I wear The Red Bull upon my possibly-divine head.

Named after a mythical but foul-tasting potion rumoured to make the imbiber incredibly twitchy but also give them temporary “wings”, this glass helm is the major fruit of the epic thieving sprees brought about by Power-Hat. A stolen Soul Gem containing the essence of a Daedric Lord and a frightening amount of money was spent on enchanting this impressive piece of armour with the power of flight. With it, I can soar across the skies for 30 seconds at a time. Well, I say soar, but “shuffle across the horizon like a geriatric cliff racer” would be more apt. The Red Bull grants me access to, essentially, anywhere in this land, but the wings it gives me sure ain’t quick. No matter – it’s enough to conquer this stairless tower.

The tower of Divayth Fyr is a sinister place. It stands alone in the fungal wilderness, a long way from civilization. In its antechambers stand four blank-eyed, beautiful young women. The first implies she may be Fyr’s lover. As do the others. Upon activating The Red Bull to levitate up to Fyr himself, a darker truth than mere bigamy is revealed. These are his daughters, magically grown, somehow, from his own near-immortal flesh. Yet also his lovers. Maybe. I might just be paranoid.

Brrr. I smile though gritted teeth, wanting for all the world to smack this incestuous, self-worshipping bigamist around his ancient chops with the mighty blade Optimus Slice. I have to be polite, alas, or I shall never be rid of Corprus. Or ‘the Divine Disease’, as Fyr insists on calling it – believing it to be the physical manifestation of the dark god Dagoth Ur’s mark. He too senses there’s something otherworldly about me, and that this may be the key to realising the Corprus cure that’s eluded him until now.

Of course, he’s not just going to give me the fix. Even immortal wizards need errand boys, it transpires. To the Corprusarium with me!

The Corprusarium is Fyr’s basement-level refuge/prison for Corprus victims. It’s quickly apparent it’s more zoo than hospital – dark, dirty and dangerous, and clearly designed more for voyeurism than medicine. I’m oddly relieved I already have Corprus – the worst that could happen to me by visiting this awful place has already happened. I’m under strict instruction not to attack any of the inmates, which seems fair enough. Unfortunately, they’re under no such orders, meaning I have to endure the slings and arrows of outrageously mutated monster-men. I’m more glad than I’ve ever been of Power-Hat, which means I can at least escape their foetid blows without raising a fist in anger myself.

There’s also a ton of awesome loot down here – it’s so fearful a place that other ‘adventurers’ have either kept a way or fallen prey to the roaming sickies. In particular, I pick up an incredible piece of chest armour, though I’m intensely annoyed that it doesn’t match the rest of my cosmically crystalline Glass Armour. None of these trinkets can, however, hold a candle to the wonder and horror of my true goal in the Corprusarium – The Last Dwarf.

There’s much debate about what the Dwemer really are. Are they their own race of squat, bearded humanoids, or yet another subset of the elves so common in Tamriel? Despite being the last of his people, Yagrum Bagarn doesn’t provide much in the way of answers. Whatever the Dwemer were, he doesn’t look like it any more.

The Last Dwarf – the only living link to a civilization that defines Tamriel’s history, and one that mysteriously, horribly disappeared en masse aeons ago. Time has not been kind:

The last dwarf suffers from a morbid case of Corprus. While his face and his mind have yet survived the disease’s worst ravages, his body is bloated, monstrous and useless. Only that incredible Dwemer technology – of the sort that created Power-Hat – keeps his life worthwhile. His bloated, cracked-skin bulk rests upon metal spider-legs, though it’s clear that given the choice he remains stationary. Too dangerous and too unwell to roam the surface, his only options are death or the untender ministrations of Divayth Fyr and his clone-daughters. In return for the latter, he performs services – explaining and repairing the Dwemer artifacts and technology that Sickboy upstairs is so strangely obsessed with collecting.

I’ll confess I’ve not cared a jot for the lore of this land before now. It largely seems to be very simple concepts unnaturally stretched over unwieldy speeches and too many pages of the history books that fill the stores and homes of Vvardenfell: far too much information, and so detached from my own existence. The Last Dwarf, though – that really fascinates me. To come face-to-face with something spoken of only in confused myths and whispers is almost a miracle. In general, whenever I meet any hitherto unencountered species, it tries to kill me. This one looks like nothing I’ve ever seen before, but he also talks.

Sadly, he doesn’t know what happened to the rest of his people. He suspects it was a botched experiment to depart the physical realm, but whether the Dwemer still live in another form or have simply been atomised is beyond him. I feel a great swell of pity for this lonely, sickly survivor, even as I silently fill my pockets with his rare possessions. He’s not only the last of his kind, but he’s also an embarrassment to them – what a sad legacy of a once-great race.

After disconsolately sharing what little secrets he does know, the Last Dwarf hands me the artifact Fyr sent me to collect – Dwemer flying boots. As I inspect them, my sadness grows. They’re less powerful than The Red Bull. I fear that, should I tell him a hat enchanted by a random, greedy thief not long out of jail trumps one of the last artifacts of his lost race, that would be the final straw for his miserable life. Best to leave, and to keep this poor creature’s existence a secret.

Fyr cures me of Corprus (or, at least, of its negative effects – apparently I still carry a non-infectious strain of the disease, which has the side-effect of granting me immunity to all other illnesses. Proof of my godhood appears to be growing…), but, as I fly my now-healthy body off to new adventures, I can’t say I feel terribly celebratory.

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