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My Dear Koniinge,
I hope this letter reaches you in Sadrith Mora. It's been many weeks since I've heard from you, and I hope that the address that I have for you is still up-to-date. I gave the courier some extra gold, so if he doesn't find you, he is to make inquiries to your whereabouts. As you can see, after a rather tedious crossing, I've at long last made my way from Bhoriane to my favorite principality in High Rock, surprisingly literate and always fascinating Kambria. I at once ensconced myself in one of the better libraries here, becoming reacquainted with the locals and the lore. At the risk of being overly optimistic, I think I might have struck on something very interesting about this mysterious fellow, Hadwaf Neithwyr.
Many here in town remember him, though few very fondly. When Hadwaf Neithwyr left, so too did a great plague. No one thinks it a coincidence.
According to my contacts here, Azura is not his only master. It may be that when he summoned forth the Daedra and accepted her Star, he was doing so for someone named Baliasir. Apparently, Neithwyr worked for this Baliasir in some capacity, but I never could find out from anyone exactly what Baliasir's line of business was, nor what Neithwyr did for him. Zenithar, the God of Work and Commerce, is the most revered deity in Kambria, which served my (that is to say our) purposes well, as the people are naturally receptive to bribery. Still, it did me little good. I could find nothing specific about our quarry. After days of inquiry, an old crone recommended that I go to a nearby village called Grimtry Garden, and find the cemetery caretaker there. I set off at once.
I know you are impatient when it comes to details, and have little taste for Breton architecture, but if you ever find yourself in mid-High Rock, you owe it to yourself to visit this quaint village. Like a number of other similar towns in High Rock, there is a high wall it. As well as being picturesque, it's a remnant of the region's turbulent past and a useful barrier against the supernatural creatures that sometimes stalk the countryside. More about that in a moment.
The cemetery is actually outside of the city gates, I discovered. The locals warned me to wait until morning to speak to the caretaker, but I was impatient for information, and did not want to waste a moment. I trekked through the woods to the lonely graveyard, and immediately found the shuffling, elderly man who was the caretaker. He bade me leave, that the land was haunted and if I chose to stay I would be in the greatest danger. I told him that I would not go until he told me what he knew about Hadwaf Neithwyr and his patron Baliasir. On hearing their names, he fled deeper into the jumble of broken tombstones and decrepit mausoleums. I naturally pursued.
I saw him scramble down into an enormous crypt and gave chase. There was no light within, but I had planned enough to bring with me a torch. The minute I lit it, I heard a long, savage howl pierce the silence, and I knew that the caretaker had left quickly not merely because he feared speaking of Neithwyr and Baliasir. Before I saw the creature, I heard its heavy breath and the clack of its clawed feet on stone moving closer to me. The werewolf emerged from the gloom, brown and black, with slavering jaws, looking at me with the eyes of the cemetery caretaker, now given only to animal hunger.
I instantly had three different instinctive reactions. The first was, of course, flight. The second was to fight. But if I fled, I might never find the caretaker again, and learn what he knew. If I fought, I might injure or even kill the creature and be even worse off. So I elected to go with my third option: to hold my ground and keep the creature within its tomb until the night became morning, and the caretaker resumed his humanity.
I've sparred often enough unarmored, but surely never with so much at stake, and never with so savage an opponent. My mind was always on danger not only of injury but the dread disease of lycanthropy. Every rake of its claw I parried, every snap of its foaming jaws I ducked. I sidestepped when it tried to rush me, but closed the distance to keep it from escaping into the night. For hours we fought, I always on the defense, it always trying to free itself, or slay me, or both. I have no doubt that a werewolf has greater energy reserves than a man, but it is a beast and does not know how to save and temper its movements. As the dawn rose, we were both nearly unconscious from fatigue, but I received my reward. The creature became a man once again.
He was quite considerably friendlier than he had been before. In fact, when he realized that I had prevented him from going on his nocturnal rampage through the countryside, he became positively affable.
Here's what I learned: Neithwyr never returned to High Rock. As far as the old man knows, he is still in Morrowind. I visited the gravesite of his sister Peryra, and learned that it was probably through her that Neithwyr first met his patron. It would seem that she was quite a well-known courtesan in her day, and very well traveled, though she chose to return home to die. Unlike Neithwyr, Baliasir is not far away from me. He is a shadowy character, but lately, according to the caretaker, he has been paying court to Queen Elysana in Wayrest. I leave at once.
Please write to me as soon as possible to tell me of your progress. I should be in Wayrest at the home of my friend Lady Elysbetta Moorling in a week's time. If Baliasir is at court, Lady Moorling will be able to arrange an introduction.
I feel confident in saying that we are very close to Azura's Star.
My Good Friend Charwich,
I only just last week received your letter dated 6 Sun's Height, addressed to me in Sadrith Mora. I did not know how to reach you before to tell you of my progress finding Hadwaf Neithwyr, so I send this to you now care of the lady you mentioned in your letter, the Lady Elysbetta Moorling of Wayrest. I hope that if you have left her palace, she will know where you've gone and can send this to you. And I hope further that you receive it in a timelier manner that I received your letter. It is essential that I hear from you soon so we may coordinate our next course of action.
My adventures here have two acts, one before I received your letter, and one immediately after. While you searched for the elusive possessor of Azura's Star in his homeland to the west, I searched for him here where we understood he conjured up the Daedra Prince and received from her the artifact.
Like you, I had little difficulty finding people who had heard of or even knew Neithwyr. In fact, not long after we parted company and you left for the Iliac Bay, I met someone who knew where he went to perform the ceremony, so I left at once to come here to Tel Aruhn. It took some time to locate my contact, for he is a Dissident Priest named Minerath. The Temple and Tribunal, the real powers of Morrowind, tend to frown on his Order, and while they haven't begun so much of crusade to stamp them out, there are certainly rumors that they will soon. This tends to make priests like Minerath skittish and paranoid. Difficult people to set appointments with.
Finally I was told that he would be willing to talk to me at the Plot and Plaster, a tiny tavern without even a room to rent. Downstairs, there were several cloaked men crammed around the tavern's only table, and they searched me to see if I had any weaponry. Of course, I hadn't. You know that isn't my preferred method of doing business.
When it decided that I was harmless, one of the cloaked figures revealed himself to be Minerath. I paid him the gold I promised and asked him what he knew about Hadwaf Neithwyr. He remembered him well enough, saying that after he received the Star, the lad intended to return to High Rock. It seemed he had unfinished business there, presumably of a violent nature, which Azura's Star would facilitate. He had no other information, and I did not know what else to ask.
We parted company and I waited for your letter, hoping you had found Neithwyr and perhaps even the Star. I confess that as I lingered in Morrowind and never heard from you, I began to have doubts about your character. You'll forgive me for saying so, but I began to fear that you had taken the artifact for yourself. In fact, I was making plans to come to High Rock myself when your letter came at last.
The tale of your adventure in the cemetery at Grimtry Garden, and the information you gathered from the lycanthropic caretaker inspired me to have another meeting with Minerath. Thus began the second act of my story.
I returned to the Pot and Plaster, reasoning that the priest must frequent that area of the city to feel so comfortable setting clandestine meetings there. It took some time searching, but I finally found him, and as luck would have it, he was alone. I called his name, and he quickly drew me to a dark alleyway, nervous that we would be seen by a Temple ordinator.
It is a rare and beautiful thing when a victim insists on dragging his killer to a remote location.
I began at once asking about this fellow you mentioned, Neithwyr's mysterious patron Baliasir. He denied ever having heard the name. We were still in that easy, fairly conversational state when I attacked the priest. Of course, he was completely taken by surprise. In some ways, that can be more effective than an ambush from behind. No matter how many times I've done it, no one ever expected the friendly man they're talking to grip them by the neck.
I pressed hard against my favorite spot in the soft part of the throat, just below the thyroid cartilage, and it took him too long to react to my lunge and try pushing back. He began to lose consciousness, and I whispered that if I released my grip a little so he could talk and, but he tried to call for help, I would snap his neck. He nodded, and I relaxed the pressure, just a bit.
I asked him again about Baliasir, and he shook his head, insisting that he had never heard the name. As frightened as he was, it seemed most likely that he was telling the truth, so I asked him more generally if he knew anyone else who might know something about Hadwaf Neithwyr. He told me that there was a woman present also during the ceremony, someone he introduced as his sister.
I remembered then the part of your letter about seeing the grave of Neithwyr's sister, Peryra. When I mentioned the name to the priest he nodded frantically, but I could see that the interrogation had reached an ending. There is, after all, something about being throttled that causes a man to answer yes to every question. I snapped Minerath's neck, and returned home.
So now I'm again unsure how to proceed. I've made several more inquiries and several of the same people who met Neithwyr remember him being with a woman. A few recall him saying that she was his sister. One or two believe they remember her name as being Peryra, though they're not certain. No one, however, has heard of anyone named Baliasir.
If I do not hear word from you in response to this in the next couple of weeks, I will come to High Rock, because it's there that most people believe Neithwyr returned. I will only stay here long enough to see if there are other inquiries I can make only in Morrowind to bring us closer to our goal of recovering Azura's Star.
My Dear Koniinge,
Please forgive the quality of the handwriting on this note, but I have not long to live. I can only reply in detail to one part of your letter, and that is that I fear Baliasir, contrary to what you've heard, is very much real. Had he been but a figment of that caretaker's imagination, I would not be feeling life ebb from me as I write this.
Lady Moorling has sent for healers, but I know they won't arrive in time. I just need to explain what happened so that you'll understand, and then all my affairs in this world will be ended. The one advantage of my condition is that I must be brief, without my habitually ornamental descriptions of people and places. I know that you will appreciate that at least.
It started when I came to Wayrest, and through my friend Lady Moorling and her court connections was introduced to Baliasir himself. I had to proceed carefully, not wanting him to know of our designs on Azura's Star which I presumed he possessed, given to him by his servant Hadwaf Neithwyr. His function in Queen Elysana's court seemed to be decorative, like so many of her courtiers, and it was not hard to differentiate myself from the others when we began conversing on the school of mysticism. Many of the other hangers-on at the palace can speak eloquently on the subject of the magickal arts, but it seemed that only he and I had deep knowledge of the craft.
Many a nobleman or adventurer who aren't mages by profession learn a spell or two from the useful schools of restoration or destruction. I told Baliasir quite truthfully that I had never learned any of that (oh, but I wish I knew some healing spells of the school of restoration now), but that I had developed some small skill in mysticism. Not enough to be a Psijic, of course, but in telekinesis, password, and spell reflection I had some amateur ability. He responded with compliments, which allowed me to segue into the topic of another spell of mysticism, the soul trap.
I told him I was unlearned but curious about that spell. And very naturally and comfortably, I was able to bring up the subject of Azura's Star, the endless well of souls.
Imagine how I had to hold back my excitement when he leaned in and whispered to me, "If that interests you, come to Klythic's Cairn west of the city tomorrow night."
I couldn't sleep at all. The only thing I could think of was how I would get the Star when he showed it to me. I still knew so little about Baliasir, his past and his power, but the opportunity was too great to let pass. Still, I must admit that I held hopes that you would arrive, as you threatened you might in your letter, so I might have someone of physical strength to aid me in my adventure.
I am growing weaker and weaker as I write this, so I must proceed with the basic facts. I went to the crypt the following night, and Baliasir led me through the maze of it to the repository where he kept the Star. We were talking quite casually, and as you've so often said, it seemed an excellent time for an ambush. I grabbed the Star and unsheathed my blade in what I felt was amazing speed.
He turned to me and I suddenly felt that I was moving like a snail. In a flash, Baliasir changed his form and became his true self, not man or mer, but daedra. A colossal daedra lord who swiped back the Star from my grasp and laughed at my sword as it thudded against his impenetrable hide.
I knew I had been beaten, and I threw myself towards the corridor. A blue flash of energy coursed through me, flung by Baliasir's claws. At once, I began to feel death. He could have smote me with a thousand spells, but he chose the one where I could lie down, and suffer, and hear him laugh. At the very least, I did not give him that pleasure.
Already struck, it was too late for me to cast a counterspell of mysticism, one to dispel the magicka, reflect it or absorb it as my own. But I did still know how to teleport myself, what mystics term 'Recall,' to whatever place I'd last set a spiritual anchor. I confess that at the time, I didn't remember where that would be. Perhaps in Bhoriane when I arrived in the Iliac Bay, or in Kambria, or in Grimtry Garden where I met the caretaker, or my hostess's palace in Wayrest. I prayed that I had not set the anchor last when I was with you in Morrowind, for it said that if the distance is too great, one can be caught between dimensions. Still, I was willing to take that chance, rather than being the plaything of Baliasir.
I cast the spell and found myself back on the doorstep of Lady Moorling's palace. To be out of the crypt and away from the daedra was a relief, but I had so hoped that I had been smart enough to cast an anchor near a Mages Guild or a temple where I could find a healer. Instead, knowing I was too weak to walk far, I beat on the door and was taken here, where I write this letter, lying in my bed.
As I wrote those words, dear Elysbetta, Lady Moorling, came in, quite tearfully and frantic, to tell me the healers should be hre withn but a few minute. But I wil be ded ere they arrve. I know thes are m last wors. Der frend, stay away frm this cursd place.
My Good Friend, Lord Gemyn,
You must forgive me for not meeting you at the palace personally, but I've been unavoidably, tragically detained. I've left the front gate and door unlocked, and if you're reading this, you must have made it at least as far the antechamber to the east drawing room. Perhaps you've already wandered the estate and seen some of its delights before coming to this chamber: the seven fountains of marble and porphyry, the reflecting pool, the various groves, the colonnades and quincunx. I don't think you would have already gone to the second floor suites and the west wing as you would have had to pass this room first, and picked up this letter. But believe me, they're beautifully appointed with magnificent balustrades, winding staircases, intimate salons, and bedchambers worthy of your affluence.
The price of this property is exorbitant, certainly, but for a man like you who seeks only the best, this is the villa you must have. As you undoubtedly noticed as you arrived through the gates, there are several smaller buildings ideally suited to be guard stations. I know you are concerned with security.
I am an intensely greedy man, and there is nothing I would have liked more than to meet you here today, show you the grounds, fawn on you obsequiously, and collect a fat percentage of the cost of the sale when you bought this marvelous palace, as I'm sure you would have. My dilemma that caused my inexcusable absence began shortly after I arrived here early to make certain the villa was well-cleaned for your inspection. A man named Koniinge crept up behind me, and gripped me by the throat. Clamping his left hand over my mouth and nose, and throttling me with his right hand, crushing the soft spot on my throat just below the thyroidal cartilage, he effectively strangled me in a few quick but very painful minutes.
I am currently buried in a pile of leaves in the north statuary parterre, close to the exceptional sculptural representation of the Transformation of Trinimac. It should not be too long before I am discovered: someone at my bank will surely notice my absence in due time. Koniinge might have buried me deeper, but he wanted to be ready for the arrival of his old partner, Charwich.
Perhaps part of you thinks it best to stop reading now, Lord Gemyn. You are looking around the antechamber and seeing nothing but doors. The large one you took to come in from the garden is locked now behind you, and without a better knowledge of the layout of the estate, I could not recommend you attempt to flee down a corridor that might easily come to a dead end. No. Much better to keep reading, and see where this is going.
Koniinge, it seems, was in a partnership with his friend Charwich to try to recover Azura's Star. They understood it to be in the possession of someone named Hadwaf Neithwyr, a man who conjured up the Daedra Prince Azura herself to acquire it. As Neithwyr originally from High Rock, Charwich went there to look for him, while his partner searched Morrowind. They planned to communicate their findings by letters sent through couriers.
Charwich's first letter stated that he had found information that Neithwyr had a mysterious patron named Baliasir, a fact he had learned at a cemetery with a gravestone of Neithwyr's sister Peryra and a lycanthropic caretaker. Koniinge replied back that he could find nothing about Baliasir, but believed that Neithwyr had returned to High Rock with Peryra after getting the Star. Charwich's last letter was a written on his deathbed, having sustained mortal wounds from his battle with Baliasir, who it seemed had been a mighty daedra lord.
Koniinge grieved for his friend, and traveled the span of the Empire to Wayrest, to pay his call of condolences on Lady Moorling, the woman at whose house Charwich had been staying. After making some inquiries, Koniinge learned that her ladyship had left the city, quite suddenly. She had been entertaining a guest named Charwich, and it was understood that he had died, though no one ever saw the body. Certainly no healers had been sent to her house on the 13th of Last Seed of last year. And no one in Wayrest, just like no one in Tel Aruhn, had ever heard of Baliasir.
Poor Koniinge was suddenly unsure of everything. He retraced his late partner's path throughand Grimtry Gardens, but found that the Neithwyr family crypt was elsewhere, in a small town in the barony of Dwynnen. There was indeed a lycanthropic caretaker, fortunately in human form at the time. When questioned (using the technique of strangulation, release, strangulation, release), he told Koniinge the story that he had told Charwich many months before.
Hadwaf and Peryra Neithwyr had returned to Dwynnen, intent on settling old business. As the Star requires potent spirits for power, they thought they would begin small by capturing the spirit of the werewolf they knew of in the family graveyard. Sadly, for them, their grasp exceeded their reach. When the poor caretaker resumed his human form one morning, he found himself lying next to the shredded, bloody bodies of the Neithwyr siblings. Distressed and fearful, he brought the corpses and all their possessions down into the crypt. They were still there when Charwich came, and so too was Azura's Star.
Koniinge now saw things clearly. The letters he had received from Charwich were lies, intended to keep him away. Undoubtedly with the assistance of Lady Moorling, his new partner, he had concocted stories, including one of his own demise, to trick Koniinge into abandoning the quest for the Star. It was clearly a sad statement on the nature of friendship, and one that needed immediate correction.
It took the better part of six months for Koniinge to find his old partner. Charwich and Lady Moorling had used the power of the Star to make themselves very wealthy and powerful. They assumed a number of different identities in their travels through High Rock and Skyrim, and then down to Valenwood and the Summurset Isle. Along the way, of course, the Star itself disappeared, as great daedric artifacts always do. The couple still had much wealth, but their love sadly fell on troubled times. When they reached Alinor, they parted ways.
One must assume that during their months together, Charwich must have told Lady Moorling about Koniinge. It's pleasant to think of the loving couple laughing over the stories they were telling him about the mythical and dangerous Baliasir. Charwich must not have given his former beloved a very accurate physical description, however, because when Lady Moorling (then under the identity of the Countess Zyliana) met Koniinge, she had no idea who he was. It came as quite a surprise to her when he began strangling her and requesting information about her former paramour.
Before she died, she told Koniinge what Charwich's new name and title was, and where he was looking for a new palace. She even told him about me. Given all the twists and bends the last months' chase took him on, it was not difficult to find which palace Charwich was looking to buy, and what time his appointment was to view it. Then he had merely to arrive early, dispose of me, and wait.
There our story must sadly end. I look forward to seeing you soon.
- Syrix Goinithi,
- Former Estate Banker
P.S.: Charwich -- Turn around now, or don't. Your choice. Your friend, Koniinge.