Elsweyr: Sload and Sand.
By the time we had washed and had breakfast it was about 7:00AM.
J’Zargo approached me and Rigmor and said, “This priest, Erid’or, used to be my master. I was apprenticed to him. I know you sometimes think my ego is big, no? It is but a fraction of his. He is most boastful but has vast knowledge of Khajiiti magics and lore. I do not expect warm hugs but do not worry, I never regret going to College in Winterhold.”
We found Erid’or sitting and consuming his breakfast.
“Good morning to you Erid’or.”
“Yes, I am Erid’or, priest of Baan Dar, explorer and famous expert in all matters of spirit – and magic as well. Who are you to interrupt my breakfast?”
J’Zargo said, “You know who they are and need to show respect as the Pahmar have. You have a problem and if asked nicely we will solve it.”
“So, I see my runaway apprentice has returned! Have you come back to learn useful things?”
J’Zargo cast a fireball that flew across the water and killed a large jungle spider in the distance. As the sound of the explosion reached us and started to echo he said, “This is one of many useful things I have learnt. Would you like me to conjure a Dremora to teach you more of my new knowledge?”
Erid’or laughed and replied, “Relax. My anger was replaced by pride many moons ago. I can’t scold one for doing what more Khajiit should do. We could then use enemy magic on them.”
J’Zargo look relieved and stepped back saying, “You are a good teacher but we need to combine the wisdom of our ancestors with the newer magicka of man and mer.”
I said to Erid’or, “What he says is true. When the enemy comes from Akavir we would be much stronger and able to stop them if magicka was shared between peoples. We are taking the first steps to bring that about. One day, when this cause is won and you are wondering what to do with your free time, come and speak to me and I will show you what we have been doing.”
“It may be quite some time before we awaken from this Thalmor induced nightmare. Maybe I shall make free time soon and come and look anyway.”
“You would be most welcome. Now I believe there is something you need help with?”
“Yes, yes. The Pahmar has told me a Sload had been spotted in the Cathedral. Erid’or went to investigate but it was very, very dangerous. Erid’or needs to know more so he can plan solution.”
“Of all the peoples of Nirn they are the least liked. No moral code or empathy. They are smelly, ugly and evil beyond words. We will investigate the Sload for you.”
“You understand, yes? Few remember the First Era. The Sload of Thras, masters of the dark arts, necromancers unparalleled! Soft, slimy and wet but very dangerous.”
“Their invasions of Tamriel are infamous. After many defeats they created the Thrassian Plague. It would make victims drink until they were bloated like the Sload and then more than half would die. Only when all of the nations of Tamriel combined to create a single navy were they finally subdued.”
“A good lesson I think. If leaders read their histories and took notice you and you mate would have an easier time preparing for the Akaviri arrival.”
“It is why we are here. A united Elsweyr is a formidable force that is worth pursuing.”
“Their cities and armies and navies were completely destroyed. So it is a surprise to see the slugs returning. It is said they never forget a single thing. Any who lived through the revenge of Tamriel would be full of even more anger.”
“Where do we need to go? Is there anybody else we need to speak to?”
“You must go to the Tenmar Cathedral. Silkskin was tracked the abomination and can tell your more. Be vigilant Son of Akatosh. Sload are very, very tricky.”
We walked to where a ladder to the Cathedral was and climbed it.
We found ourselves in a wide expanse of water, not a narrow waterway. It was teeming with creatures most of which were very hostile.
Rigmor approached and had a perplexed look on her face as she looked around. I knew what was bothering her and waited.
“We saw the sun when talking to Erid’or. There was blue sky above. Yet we climbed a ladder and in all directions there is water?”
“It is a portal of some type. We could be a long way from Erid’or or even below him. It is the type of magicka we need to master. That is one of the tasks I have set Urag and Tolfdir. They are going to visit the Hidden Valley to discuss with Knight-Paladin Gelebor how his people did it. We have a crude version of it but it needs a lot of refining.”
J’Zargo added, “Some of our magicka knowledge comes from our Gods. I believe Baan Dar taught us the portal secrets.”
“I wonder if there is any divine assistance between Baan Dar and that other trickster Baa’Ren-Dar? He does seem to flit around Tamriel like he uses such portals.”
“Marcus! He is no trickster!”
Rigmor was taken aback as the rest of us stared at her with eyebrows raised.
“Alright, maybe he can be just a little tricky.”
We had been given no direction on where to find Silkskin once here but the sound of battle could be heard and we rushed in its direction.
We found her with crab and mooncow allies fighting several of the biped lizards.
We attacked and soon dispatched the hostiles.
Silkskin had been injured in the fight and I healed her with magicka for which she was grateful.
“That was interesting. Your healing felt different than that of our witch cats. That is something I will ponder on later. First we must hunt Sload together.”
“Where did you track it to?”
Rigmor asked, “Why ‘it’? Do they have no gender?”
I answered, “They have both sets of bits till they reach a certain age and then all genitalia is absorbed back into their stinky, blubbery body. They are huge creatures but start off as small wriggly worm type things the size of your thumb.”
Silkskin said, “You do not need the hunter senses of a Pahmar to track their scent. A rock could probably smell them. It is at our ancestor’s burial site, deeper in the Cathedral north east of here. I cannot go there in anger – you must go and find the Sload. Our dead should be protected against its foul use of necromancy but it probably brought some undead with it.”
“We will do so immediately Silkskin. Do no worry about any desecration; we will not use destructive spells within the tomb.”
We had to kill more aggressive creatures on the way. I had been using an axe in place of sword but also crossbow instead of bow. It was certainly easier to use and more accurate than a bow for beginners and that is why Rigmor has been equipped with one. I much prefer my bow for speed and it just seems more natural to me. Obviously I was trained in both by somebody. I am beginning to think more and more that is was Akaviri who did so.
We eventually stood at the entrance to the tomb and I said to Rigmor, “Wait for us here as we may be involved in close quarter fighting.”
She stood over the entrance, wrinkled her nose and said, “Sethri smells like a rose compared to that. I will gladly sit this one out.”
We entered the tomb and the stench was overpowering. Not decay. Not flatulent. Not sewerage. It is so unique the smell has the same name as it origin, Sload.
We travelled down a few corridors and finally found a chamber large enough to accommodate the hideous mass of blubber.
It had a few undead skeletons guards that appeared to be wearing ancient 1st Era armour.
I approached it and said, “What are you doing here? You are a most unwelcome guest. I suggest you leave immediately.”
In a deep voice that consisted of many disturbing gurgling sounds it answered, “Malseka! Malsato! I am the magnificent! And you are insignificant. Bow now, hairy one, and you may yet survive the first course. Malsato! Malsata! I am hungry, and the dinner is served.”
“You dare you tell me to bow! Gods have demanded such and got the same reply which is, ‘Go fuck yourself!’ You used to be able to do that when younger I believe. Keep being rude and I will pour salt on you and watch you writhe in agony.”
“I have spent fifty years planning this excursion and am insanely hungry! I will eat all in this forest! And you will serve me my dinner, little one!”
“And how are you going to make me do this? Threaten to breath on me? Can you fart? Please tell me you can’t fart!”
“Insignificant servant! Disobey me, slave, and I will release a disease worse than the Thrassian Plague! Malsano! Malsatego! Kvakvakva!”
J’Zargo leant in and whispered to me, “They are known to use magics that detect their death and set off pre-prepared spells.”
“So slicing it so its innards fall out is not recommended?”
“Not yet. My old Master may have an idea. After all, he does worship the God of cleverness and desperate genius.”
“I can torture it a bit though.”
J’Zargo smiled, “Of course. This will be amusing.”
“Forgive me mighty Malsato. For you I shall prepare a meal both artisanal and raw. The mouthfeel is superb and everything will be oh so delish. Unctuous and succulent yet piquant and moist. Redolent with juices worth quaffing.”
A deep rumbling could be heard emanating from its stomach and strings of drool reached from its foul mouth to pool over the floor in increasing puddles.
As we were walking to the exit Lydia laughed and asked, “You have read ‘Uncommon Taste’ haven’t you?”
“Where else would I get all those disgusting food snob terms. I noticed he had nothing in that book to compare with your Apple Cabbage Stew and they dare call it high cuisine?”
“And no Elsweyr Chowder either! Barbaric!”
We emerged from the tomb still chuckling and Rigmor asked, “All done then? Looks like I missed a good party.”
“No my beloved it is far from finished. This is what happened…”
As we walked I told Rigmor of the encounter.
“Do you think it really has a plague ready to go?”
“Yes, I do. I am pretty sure you, I and one other would be safe even from the Thrassian Plague. I doubt whatever it has made would be as deadly as that.”
Rigmor touched the rose locket containing Pilvi’s ring and nodded.
We went to talk to Silkskin but she was not there so headed the entrance and climbed down the ladder.
We found Erid’or busily grinding something with mortar and pestle.
“The slug is blackmailing us. It threatens to release a plague if we do not feed it.”
“Hmm, so typical Sload. We will feed it, and it will stay for a century or more. It will grow very, very big, big enough to eat Mervar, yes.”
“If Mervar is a spicy as his Elsweyr Chowder that might be enough kill it!”
“Or at least regret every time it needs to pass solids, yes?”
“We believe it has rigged some sort of magical plague release activated if we kill it.”
“So my ex-apprentice did listen to some of what I taught. It will have infected an animal somewhere in the forest and created a connection to it that it can trigger by will or automatically upon death.”
“I assume we can’t just kill the infected creature as that would release the plague.”
“You would not be able to tell which creature it is amongst the very many in the Cathedral. The Sload’s magic would mask the creature’s corruption even from the nose of Silkskin.”
“Is that not a huge risk? Some other creature may kill it for food or fight over territory thus releasing the plague!”
“Yes but the Sload would not care. It would just move elsewhere to extort new people. The plague would only be released if there is a connection between creature and Sload. If we sever that connection then both can be safely eliminated.”
“So what do we need to do. None of my vast knowledge of magicka helps here.”
“Hmm, this is a puzzle solved by alchemy… Erid’or have idea! You could bring some hyena meat and Jungle Queen venom, yes?”
“Just so happens I have collected those things already as I was going to test them for alchemy properties!”
“Erid’or will give you list of properties later. Give them to me.”
I handed over the meat and poison and watched as he created a concoction.
“We can’t just break the connection as that may trigger the plague release. This mixture will weaken the connection between Sload and infected creature. I have to get everything in correct proportion so that it does not realise the connection is compromised.”
J’Zargo said, “Erid’or is probably one of the few alchemists on Nirn who could do such a precise thing.”
“He is correct. I am the best poison cook in all of Elsweyr.”
I watched with professional fascination and awe as Erid’or used the base ingredients I gave him and quickly added precise amounts of others, some raw, some cooked and some distilled. Other experts in alchemy I have observed use scales and rulers and other instruments to create the perfect ratio of ingredients. Erid’or did it with his eyes and fingers and nothing more.
J’Zargo also watched intently and smiled. He obviously had great respect for Erid’or and seemed proud of the skills being displayed.
After almost half an hour of intense concentration Erid’or poured a tiny amount of liquid into a vial and handed it to me.
I said to him, “My mother would be impressed by such skill. You are truly a master Erid’or!”
“She is a God, yes? Then that is high praise indeed and I humbly thank you.”
“So what do we do with this?”
“You must do in correct order. Feed this to fat one. Do not worry about how big the meal just mix the potion in with it. This will weaken connection between it and infected creature.”
“Then Silkskin should be able to detect the corruption and we can kill it safely?”
“Correct. Remember, no kill Sload before carrier is dead, OK?”
“I look forward to deflating the evil slug but understand that pleasure will have to wait its turn.”
J’Zargo and Kharjo joined forces to make an admittedly fine smelling hyena roast. They advised me not to sample it as they went overboard with the spices. Apparently Sload like food that would burn a hole on the way in and out of most creatures. I poured the potion over it and we were ready to go.
Once again Rigmor waited outside the tomb but this time I left everybody else with her for extra protection. The Sload was not going to try and harm its favourite chef.
It truly was a creature whose appearance was almost as repulsive as its nature.
I approached and said, “Oh tremendous one, I bring you a delicacy. A dish I call ‘Volcanic Rectum Roast Hyena.’ It is made from local wildlife and the finest spices of Elsweyr.”
“Malsato! Malsata! I can’t hold my joy at your grovelling servitude! Give me the meat, and go now before I regurgitate. Return with new tastes. Quickly!”
I watched the thing rip apart the large meal and stuff huge hunks into its maw. The slobbering and what must have been sounds of contentment were more than disturbing. I wanted to see if it showed any reaction to the concoction I had poured onto the meal.
“You are still here, lazy slave? Bring me something I have never tasted, now! Or this forest will be a disease-ridden swamp!”
“Forgive me my Mighty Malsato. I promise on my return I will fill your stomach with a new sensation to die for!”
I made my way out and gathered the others. We soon found Silkskin.
“The Sload is weakened for now. Can you find the plague carrier?”
“Find it, yes. This Khajiit smelled it before you came here. I did not kill it as its death and that of the Sload must happen in quick succession or all might come undone. It is near the mammoth skull north of here. Go quick and take care of this corruption.”
“I do not have the senses of the Pahmar but Kyne, whom some call Kynareth and you call Khenarthi, has given me a way to see the corruption. We shall take care of the carrier and Sload immediately.”
We travelled to the mammoth skull and saw it was surrounded by many creatures. I used the Aura Whisper Shout. Like the name suggests this was not a ground shaking use of the Thu’um but an actual whisper of the three Words of Power.
One of the lizard creatures emanated a dark aura unlike anything I had seen before.
I immediately killed it and we rushed to the entrance of the tomb.
I asked Rigmor if I could borrow her sword. Without a pointy bit my axe was not suitable and my knife too short. She handed it to me and waited outside with J’Zargo as guard.
I told Kharjo and Lydia that they were to take care of the skeletal guards and to leave Malsato up to me. They were not to do anything till I plunged Rigmor’s sword into it.
I walked up to Malsato and said, “I usually kill quickly and without pleasure or cruelty. Occasionally a mortal offends the Dovah in me so much I must let it express its anger or I get an upset stomach. You of all creatures should know what that feels like.”
I let the Dovah take over. It was fitting.
“I sensed your betrayal and now worthless slave thinks a little indigestion will stop me. We’ll see how you taste!”
“Fuck you are one slimy pile of arrogance. Worse than a Thalmor which is not something you should be proud of.”
I cast a paralyse spell as I was sick of listening to it. Plus Sload can sometimes teleport out when in danger.
“Your people killed half of mine with that plague. I doubt yours would have been anywhere near as powerful. Still, a bit of overkill don’t you think? Just so you can enslave others instead of hiring a good chef or two.”
I drew Rigmor’s sword and braced myself.
“I told you I would fill your stomach with a new sensation to die for. Well here it is. Enjoy because I will.”
I plunged the sword into the centre of its huge stomach and slowly sliced it from naval to breastbone.
The others were dispatching the skeletons as I leapt back and allowed half-digested hyena and other stomach contents to spill.
I then released the paralysis and Malsato screamed for what seemed like ages. The others had despatched the skeletons and stood watching. Finally it managed to mumble, “Noooo! I will remember this!”
“I know and that is why I let you live. Do not forget to tell others of this lesson if you have the chance.”
It vanished and I turned its stomach contents into ash with a Flame spell.
I turned to leave and Kharjo said, “I have heard from others but never witnessed it before now. I am glad you only bring it out on special occasions!”
“It is equally a part of me as the compassionate Wulf. My father was a great man loved by many but to secure the Empire he committed mass murder and atrocities equal to any Daedric Lord. Let us hope Rigmor and I do not have to do the same.”
We left the tomb and with a single look Rigmor could tell who had come out to play. She simply kissed me on the cheek and held my hand as we walked to where we last saw Silkskin.
She was not there so we made our way back to Erid’or.
“Both the Sload and disease carrier are no more. I allowed it to teleport back home. I do not think it will survive but hopefully others of its kind will get the message.”
“I will go and cleanse the elder grave-site now. Khajiit ancestors do not like foul smells. Mervar was looking for you. He has news about the Thalmor.”
“Terrific, we have dealt with one slimy, arrogant creature with no morals or conscience and now have more of them ruining our day.”
Erid’or started preparing to leave for the Cathedral and I asked him for parchment. He handed me some and I quickly jotted down the recipe Allie had given me and some other reagents tried with it. I handed it to Erid’or and said, “Those simple ingredients make a potion that will remove the fatal disease of the Akaviri vampire. It is also deadly to them. However it is not viscous enough to remain on weapons. By the time a sword has finished its arc the poison has flew off. It does not kill by contact but has to be deposited under the skin so the flying poison does no good. I have listed other reagents I know have been tried to make the potion stickier or more viscous. For some reason they have all corrupted the poison and made it ineffectual. For the sake of all mortals it would be good to find a solution to this problem.”
“A God gave you the recipe but nothing else useful?”
“That is their way sometimes.”
“It is a good puzzle. I will see what our ancient knowledge can do for all the mortals on Nirn.”
It was almost midday when we made our way to Mervar.
He said, “Ahh, the Sload killers return triumphant I assume. Since we are not falling over dead from a plague I assume correctly, yes?”
“Once again we were more than happy to assist our Khajiit allies. I believe you have some information from your spies?”
“Khulan has the information. Mervar asked him to report to you at your Priderock Hideout. Perhaps he is already waiting there.”
We sat and had lunch before setting off for the hideout. Neither J’Zargo nor Kharjo knew of Khulan. Rigmor did not ask me about the Sload for which I was grateful.
It was about 1:00PM when we arrived at the hideout. An airship was tethered to the small house the Khajiit had provided us. We assumed Khulan would be inside so headed for it.
On the deck was a tall bare chested Khajiit. I did not think he was Tojay-raht.
“Hello, my name is Marcus.”
“Ahoy! ‘tis cat just be a simple sailor, my noble sir. Ye may call him… captain. Captain Skullcat at yerr service.”
“And I am half dragon. Should I singe your whiskers off to demonstrate how short a temper I have?”
“Shiver me timbers! Ye be right, captain I ain’t. Yarr! Now, ain’t it a shame? You be the Dragonborn then?”
I stared with my arms crossed.
“Long time ‘go, I had a shipmate by the name, arr, Dogborn, aye. Ugly as a Daedra, I’m tellin’ ye.”
“I bet he reminded you of your mother.”
“Hey, ‘tis my story! Dogborn, he be dead. Messy way. Skullcat’s very own bloody claws tore him ‘part!”
The fool drew his sword. I pointed my crossbow at his stomach.
“Impressive. I kill dragons and fight Gods and have sent over 3000 mortals to the void single handed. I win this pissing contest so put the sword back in its sheath before I add you to my tally.”
Skullcat cautiously put the sword back where it belonged and all humour was gone.
“Mervar told me to look for Khulan. Do you know where he is?”
“Jungle witchcats, phew! Merrunz burn ‘em all! And ‘tis cripple squid schemer is hidin’ underhatch, o’ c’rse.”
“That sounds about right. Many useless wastes of space worship Mehrunes Dagon. You fit the bill now get out of my way.”
I stared at the hatch and willed some calmness into myself. Khulan, whoever he is, does not need to see or feel my wrath.
I approached the only Khajiit in the vessel, “You are Khulan?”
“As yes. Khulan welcomes you to the Waning Moon, your personal airship.”
“I thought they had all been taken by the Thalmor. And why is this one mine?”
“This Khajiit took this one back when those who stole it suddenly died from eating bad chowder. Khulan is not a very good cook!”
“An accident I am sure. But why is it mine?”
“Our new Mane gifts it to you. It may aid in your tasks here and other places. Thalmor will also likely try to steal it back again and kill the cook. It is better in ally hands away from here.”
“A generous gift and I look forward to the Thalmor wondering how it suddenly appeared outside the Imperial Palace. Have they found the Justiciar?”
“New Elsweyr spies tracked him north of here, close to the city of Dune. That damned elf is raiding our caravan supply posts! He must pay for his crimes!”
“Ready when you are Khulan. I see no controls. How do you fly it?”
“The same way as the Dwemer did. You establish telepathic link with ship, have map in head and tell it where to go. Thalmor could not do this and butchered the other airship with manual controls. Barbarians!”
“We shall watch and observe. It will just be a big pretty balloon if we can’t master this magicka.”
Khulan closed his eyes and seconds later the airship started moving.
“Flying Khajiit, hah! What can stop us now?”
Dragons would knock this out of the sky in seconds but I did not mention this to Khulan. He had a big smile on his face and I did not want to be a party pooper.
I observed Khulan and he explained things patiently till I said I think I could do it but not over Elsweyr. I simply do not have a precise enough map of it in my head. He advised that I not try it even over my homeland till I do.
“You may tell it to go from here to here and it will obey and if you forgot a big mountain in the way you will become a bloody smear on that mountain.”
I went on deck to watch the jungle give slowly away to desert underneath. It seemed far more gradual than what I had observed on the ground.
J’Zargo and Kharjo were pointing out landmarks to the ladies. Skullcat was watching me with caution instead of being a lookout like he was supposed to do. So I yelled, “Mountain!” and was rewarded with him doing several 360 degree turns looking for the mountain. He learned his lesson and paid more attention to the surroundings than me.
Eventually the two women moved to the bow of the ship and were in deep discussion. It reminded me very much of Zan and Rigmor on Casius’ ship.
A while later I was leaning on a railing not thinking of much when Lydia joined me.
“Remember when I was scared of heights?
“Yet you still had the courage to climb aboard Odahviing with me.”
“I had my eyes closed all the way and missed out on this experience. Nirn looks so different from up here and the troubles below seem petty when you can see so much beauty.”
“Minotaur and Dov have both expressed the same awe to me and they do it their entire life.”
“What kind of cruelty would lead to tearing their wings out?”
“The worst thing about that is they justified it with the Alessian Doctrines. People just accepted that the Mother of all Minotaur, as Saint Alessia is known, was OK with her children being tortured, mutilated and driven to extinction.”
“Neither she nor The Divines could do anything because of the barrier she asked Lord Akatosh to create.”
“Yes Lydia, and like the story of Princess Pilvi and her people, good intentions resulted in tragedy.”
“And now we have the curse Kintyra is supposed to help end. Don’t you find it unfair that countless generations have paid for the sins of their distant forefathers?”
“Gods are not infallible. I would consider several of my completed Divine Tasks as repairing the damage done by careless Gods or simply plans that went astray.”
“In the long run they just want what Saint Alessia wanted. That mortals and Mundus exist without the interference of Gods.”
“Yes. Until that is achieved The Divine and allies must interfere.”
Just then Skullcat yelled, “A supply post ahead and they be under attack.”
The Waning Moon came to a smooth stop and a gangplank quickly lowered.
We all ran to engage the Thalmor with Skullcat leading the charge with a blood curdling battle call.
He took care of an Inga Brute with a single swipe of his cutlass but not before it had raked his shoulder.
When all the Thalmor were dispatched Skullcat walked past and I said to him, “That was good sword work. The Thalmor will learn to fear your name.”
He just smiled and continued back to the airship.
I approached the only Khajiit I could see. He was busy working at an alchemy workstation and did not even have the decency to stop and face me.
“Excuse me. My name is Marcus.”
“And I am busy. This is the deep desert, my friend. This is my caravan supply post. They stop here to stock up on water from the oasis.”
“What Oasis? This place looks barren.”
“If something is at a place but you cannot see it a smart person would realise it is hidden, yes? If you wish to stare at it and go, ‘Look an oasis!’ it is through the door at the back.”
“I am glad we arrived in time to stop the raid.”
“Yes, but many supply posts have already fallen to Justiciar Lenial. I think the bastard has already left this area.”
The Khajiit returned to his alchemy and it was obvious he did not wish to speak further.
I decided to have a look at the oasis and as we walked towards it Kharjo said, “You will find the northern Khajiit less friendly towards man and mer than the southerners. The desert makes those living here more independent and past experiences make them less trusting. However, they are some of our finest and most feared soldiers and would fight Akaviri without fear or mercy.”
As we stood before the entrance to the oasis I replied, “They can be as rude to me as they want. My only concern is that Anequina and Pelletine agree to join again under the new Mane. Then the Khajiit will show the rest of Nirn they are to be respected and feared. That is the only way they will stay independent. It is the best way they can help fight the Akaviri.”
We entered the oasis and to our surprise an Argonian was there. A desert is not exactly a friendly place for amphibious people!
I introduced myself, “Greetings, my name is Marcus.”
“Glad to meet you Dovahkiin and Queen Rigmor. I am Shi’ara.”
“It is surprising to find a Saxhleel living not only in a desert but amongst Khajiit.”
“Both peoples complain about being thought of as merely beasts by man and mer yet regard each other as inferior. That makes no sense to me. Many individuals of both are more practical in their outlook as am I.”
“What motivates you to be out here far from swamps or rivers?”
“This oasis, I planted it myself. I am here on Ameir’s request. I am trying to bring life to the desert.”
“To what end?”
“My project is to expand this oasis. This desert is said to contain a thousand buried cities and many a hidden water source as well. Very valuable.”
“I can see that apart from monetary wealth there may be lost knowledge of their ancestors to be rediscovered. A worthwhile undertaking indeed! How do you find the hidden water?”
“I track the Siligonder. They nest near underground water sources. I use a concoction of Siligonder eggs to mask myself.”
“I congratulate you on your ingenuity. It works quite well I assume.”
“It does but my supply is always running low. Due to Thalmor raids there are no warriors here who can get some for me. The Siligonder are extremely hostile creatures.”
“We are also here to aid Ameir and the rebellion. We shall get some for you. How many will suffice?”
“Half a dozen should tide me over for quite a while. Chitin is also useful as they make their traditional armour from it. Did Jelikirr give you the special set he was asked to make as a gift?”
“He did not even give me his name!”
“He is not the friendliest to outsiders but he is a quick and able craftsman. He would have made the best armour he could out of pride.”
“Then I will graciously accept it from him later but first we shall get you those eggs and chitin.”
I noticed a shrine to Dibella and…
… a huge statue of her.
I asked Shi’ara, “The shrine and statue of Lady Dibella. I assume you found those when uncovering the oasis?”
“The statue was here of course. Look at the size of it! But the shrine is my own. I spent time in Skyrim and became interested in the teachings of Dibella. I undertook some training in Markarth but found my ability to help others was hindered by my gender. So I went to Black Marsh and returned as a female. I helped far more people after that.”
Rigmor was standing with her mouth open and I knew she had a million questions.
“So this oasis was the sight of an Imperial settlement?”
“Yes, many of the ones we unearth will probably be of that time.”
“We will return soon.”
We had barely stepped outside the oasis when Rigmor blurted, “Came back a female? Please explain!”
“An Argonian’s gender is generally determined by the sap of the Hist tree they drink when hatchlings. It seems if they mature away from the Hist they are nearly always male. But it does not matter which gender they are, by returning to the Hist and performing a ceremony they can change to the other.”
“I don’t know whether to be impressed or horrified!”
“I was horrified at the gender imbalances of supposedly civilized Cyrodiil. That was totally unnatural. The abilities of an Argonian to change gender is not horrific, it is natural.”
“You are right. I should say I am impressed but it seems strange.”
“Diplomacy lessons from this brute. Now that is strange!”
We crept up on the Siligonder and rained arrows, bolts and lightening on them from a distance. They spit a corrosive poison that is both annoying and requires meticulous removal from armour and clothing. We were beyond their range.
We returned to Shi’ara.
“Here you go. We have nine eggs and seven pieces of chitin for you.”
“Thank you. Every little bit aids these brave people.”
We left Shi’ara and approached Jelikirr who still did not turn to talk to me..
“I believe you have a set of armour for me?”
“It is the finest set I have ever made. It is crafted to be worn in the desert style, and it provides great protection, but still remains light and airy.”
“Thank you Jelikirr. The craftsmanship is exemplary. I am truly grateful for the gift.”
Not a word from him so we returned to the airship.
I said to Skullcat, “It looks like you have cleaned the wound. Do you need healing?”
“Phew! Hang all witchdoctors! Skooma, matey. Skooma will do.”
“How about some warm milk instead?”
“Milk!! You trying to poison ol’ Skullcat?”
J’Zargo tossed him some Skooma and said, “Fetch them ‘aft o’ Skooma.”
Skullcat caught it, sculled it down and sang, “Thirteen cats on the dead man’s chest, hic, yo ho ho ‘n’ the bottle ‘o’ Skooma!”
We all knew J’Zargo carried Skooma with him. Many mages do. It can be used in alchemy recipes.
I asked Skullcat, “So, do you feel better now?”
“Faaarr better now, matey, hic.”
“I spoke to Jelikirr, he says many supply outposts have been raided.”
“Aye they have. I’ve to admit, ye be s’pris’n’ly good at killin’ em. Ye fought like a tiger!”
“It is a hobby of mine. Do you have idea where I can get some more information on this Justiciar?”
He pointed to his right and said, “Skullcat ain’t no cut-throat if that be no elf camp up tharr, aye? ‘tis cat be smelling their boy-lover perfumes, phew!”
“Plus you saw it from the air.”
“Aye, that might be the truth as well.”
We approached the Thalmor camp and were attacked by a large group of Siligonder and hyena.
We dispatched those and saw no sign of life in the camp.
We entered the camp. The barriers were intact but it appears the Siligonder poison in enough quantity was enough to kill to Thalmor patrol.
We found Justiciar Lenial’s journal in a locked chest. It read,
“Campaign logbook of Justiciar Lenial. Elsweyr Protectorate.
Tirdas, 14th First Seed, 4E 205
I’ve sent out a patrol to Tenmar Forest, a suspected source of the heretical ‘moon sugar’ substance. I am awaiting their report.
Middas, 15th First Seed, 4E 205
The patrol to Tenmar Forest failed to return and so I suspect the forests are impossible to enter safely. Guerrilla tactics would pose a danger to even the most prepared force.
It appears somebody has stolen he other airship. That will put a strain on my resources.
Turdas, 16th First Seed, 4E 205
I have decided to contain the moon sugar by raiding caravan supply sites. I believe they will be easy targets and crippling if destroyed.
We sacked and burst several sites in a few hours. The burnt remains of Khajiit and buildings will serve as a stern warning to future smugglers.
My scouts report that the stolen airship is inbound. It was spotted further down in the canyon.
Most of our patrol was preparing to attack this supply post when the airship touched down and a mixture of Khajiit and foreign mercenaries disembarked. I have sent additional troops to help.
The patrol was easily defeated. My scouts report that whoever it was that disembarked tore through our troops in no time. My forces are very low and I will have to make a tactical retreat.
This shame will hang above my family for generations unless I redeem myself by taking the heads of all aboard that airship.
I will leave this journal here so others will know of my shame or my glorious attempt at redemption.”
Rigmor asked, “Does he know about the rebellion”
“No, he still has no idea. I was wrong about something though.”
“Well, go on, spill the beans.”
“I thought they objected to Moon Sugar because it is used to make Skooma. In fact they object to it because they believe it to be heretical. How idiotic is that? They are dealing with a people who worship Aedra and Daedra and spirit Gods that are neither. They have no right to dictate to the Khajiit about religion but pick a harmless belief, that moon sugar is a solid form of moonlight, to concentrate on. The more I deal with Thalmor the more they get under my skin. They are 100% certifiable morons who do things The Divine do not sanction or teach. They are the biggest heretics of them all!”
“Calm down my love. You Dovah has already been exercised today.”
I approached Skullcat and said, “I have found the Justiciar’s journal. Care to have a read?”
I handed it to him and watched his face as anger took over.
“Arr, by the Merrunz’s twice twisted tail, elvish curlicues! Better be captured!”
“Not quite up to speed with my Khajiit pirate talk but I assume you are pissed off?”
“Aye, I be that. Show ‘tis t’ squid.”
We entered the Waning Moon and I handed Khulan the journal.
He read it and said angrily, “Baan Dar! Let us head back to the Tenmar Forest and try to figure out what to do about this, yes? Not enough water around her, just warm sand…”
Khulan went into his trance like state and the ship slowly rose and started moving towards the Tenmar Forest.
It was past 9:00PM and Rigmor was weary.
“Please Rigmor, lie down on one of the beds and sleep. It will take about three hours to reach the forest.”
She curled up on the nearest bed and was soon asleep. J’Zargo had gone on deck to keep Skullcat company. I was sitting and randomly reading books from the small selection at hand.
Half an hour into the trip J’Zargo opened the hatch and said there was another airship on collision course. He closed the hatch and seconds later there was an almighty crash and anything not secured flew from the shelves.
Kharjo went on deck but I asked Lydia to stay.
Rigmor was startled from having her sleep interrupted by chaos. I held her and said, “It is just like on Casius’ ship. We have been rammed and the enemy is boarding. The difference being we are high in the air and it does not matter if you can swim, overboard is death. You are to remain in here with Lydia and Khulan. I am not going to debate it, you know it is the correct call. I suggest you get as far away from this hatch as you can and have your crossbow at the ready.”
She gave me a quick kiss and started moving to the far end of the cabin.
I came on deck to find the fighting virtually done. Kharjo finished the last Thalmor with a stomp to his throat.
The other airship was on fire. I looked at J’Zargo who shrugged his shoulders but had a big grin on his face.
“OK, well done. We cannot allow the airships to remain stuck together with that fire or both will plummet to the ground. I am going to see if our brave Justiciar is below decks. Try and untangle them whilst I dish out justice to our Thalmor friend.”
They all set to the task and Skullcat even gave me a quick salute.
Justiciar Lenial stood with spells at the ready. He knew he was a dead man unless he could talk his way out so did not attack. I let my Dovah have another play. I am starting to believe I will call on him a lot in my role as Emperor. Otherwise I will be too soft on the scum.
“Justiciar Lenial, I accuse you and the Aldmeri Dominion of murder and many other violations of the agreements signed when Elsweyr decided to become a Protectorate.”
“You side with these beasts? Who are you that I should care what you accuse us of?”
I lowered my hood and waited. He looked concerned but the beard and hair was still too much to recognise me.
“I am Emperor Wulf Septim. I am here to support the brave rebellion that will boot your racist, blasphemous arses out of their country. You never knew did you? That all along you have been facing rebels and not just another moon sugar operation. I read your journal. So worried about what others will think. Imagine the accolades and promotions you would have got if you had uncovered the truth that was right in front of you. But then the Thalmor are never very bright in my experience.”
“What are you going to do with me? My family has money. Name your price!”
“Oh, I wish you had said something before I gave all those secrets away. Now there is no option but to kill you. People will just think this is thunder and if they look up and see this burning airship they may assume it exploded.”
I used a full strength Unrelenting Force Shout.
I quickly checked the cabin for any paperwork and found nothing so left as it was filling with smoke.
Once I was on the deck of Waning Moon they shoved the other airship away with some poles. It would not be long before the fire reached the gas bags and it plummeted to the ground.
I entered the cabin and reported to Khulan, “Justiciar Lenial is dead. The other airship is doomed.”
“Good. He must have stalked the Waning Moon here and launched a desperate attack to avenge his Thalmor pride! An attack that failed, Khulan must add.”
“Let us head back to the Tenmar with the good news.”
“Ah yes, home sweet home.”
“What happens now that the Justiciar is dead? I assume that will attract unwanted attention.”
“New Elsweyr will wait. The Thalmor will return. Khajiit cannot kill a Justiciar without retribution. But for now, the forest is calm. Better enjoy the peace whilst it lasts.”
“Is there anything else we can help with?”
“Perhaps there is something this old Khajiit could use your help with, hmm. Jo’ran, a senior mage of the New Elsweyr movement, has been captured by Argonian pirates.”
“We will help free him. Do you know where he is being held?”
“Khulan has only discovered today where the pirate stronghold is. The winds of Khenarthi will carry the Waning Moon to the Topal Sea. One there, you will free Jo’ran from his chains!”
“I ask that you anchor the Waning Moon somewhere safe so we can get at least eight hours rest. Is that possible?”
“Oh yes, if I head out to sea there will be no eyes to spy us. It will be done.”
Khulan went into his trance, the airship started moving and it was time to rest.
Rigmor settled back down and was soon asleep. J’Zargo and Kharjo joined Skullcat and Khulan on deck. They lay out bedrolls and fell asleep under the moons of their homeland.
Lydia soon fell asleep on another bed as I was writing this journal entry.
I climbed next to Rigmor and held her tight as the Waning Moon gently swayed with the breeze.
I know not what time I fell asleep.