Rigmor contacted me and said they would be stopping in thirty minutes. She would summon me then. I said goodbye to everyone at Silverpeak Lodge then waited in my bedroom.
I was in a much better frame of mind than when I left Solstheim and looked forward to seeing Elsweyr. It was coming up to forty minutes since I had heard from Rigmor, and I was pacing back and forth. Via the rings, I knew she was okay and resisted the urge to speak to her.
“Okay, Wulf, you can join us now.”
“Take it easy on me, for this is my first time!”
“I suppose it is. I have always zapped over to you.”
“It won’t hurt, will it?”
“Just get over here, you idiot!”
I concentrated on Rigmor and saw her standing amongst the sands of northern Elsweyr.
In the blink of an eye, I was standing in front of her.
I said, “That was not like a normal teleport. I spent no time in the ether!”
“Yes, I have heard The Sentinels complain about that cold place. Lady Mara made these rings, so they probably work differently.”
“All these months that we have had them, and I didn’t know the difference in teleporting. It is something I will have to study!”
“I am going to be late for the opening of the exhibition. So, you had better kiss me hello and goodbye.”
“Prepare to have your toes curled!”
I grabbed Rigmor then we gave a display of expert-level smooching to a fascinated audience.
We finally parted, and Rigmor giggled as she vanished.
Suddenly Meeko growled and leapt at a hyena that was attacking the caravan’s mooncalf.
Three attacked. Meeko ripped the throats out of two of them. Kharjo managed to shoot another with his bow. The mooncalf stomped on an already dead hyena just to make sure it wasn’t going to get up ever again.
I collected some meat from a hyena to test its alchemical properties.
I walked up to Ku’rana. Verina remained sitting.
- Ku’rana: As that one and Rigmor were locking lips and Khajiit watched enthralled, these three hyenas tried to make a meal out of our mooncalf. Meeko prevented injury to the mooncalf!
- Wulf: We told you he is handy to have around.
- Verina: Meeko, you have proven to be a worthy guard more than once. This one thanks you.
- Meeko: Woof!
- Ku’rana: Are you sure he is a rian? He does not behave like one.
- Wulf: We have often wondered what he is.
- Kharjo: The way Meeko deals with cubs is something to behold. He can make the saddest little one laugh.
- Ku’rana: Perhaps Meeko was sent by Azura. Emissary Dar says you are her champion.
- Wulf: If a god sent him, they have my eternal gratitude.
- Ku’rana: Rigmor would not have had time to tell that one before her lips were attacked. Khajiit have stopped here for a reason.
- Verina: The moonstrings lead us in this direction. But a blockade has been placed to stop Khajiit from continuing along the Moonpath.
- Ku’rana: They are probably Renrijra bandits who have done this thing. Perhaps someone should take a look?
- Wulf: And that someone is me?
- Verina: Khajiit is curious about your skills. Perhaps you can use the exercise, no? Verina likes a good show.
- Wulf: Sorry to say you will not experience my Thu’um. That would announce to those with ears for many miles that a Son of Akatosh may be present.
- Ku’rana: These roads are filled with brigands. Our Thalmor overlords are more interested in heretics than bandits.
- Wulf: Heretics? We can have no peace till the Thalmor accept religious freedom as a right of all mortals.
- Verina: We were informed that one has no love for these parasites. That is abundantly clear.
- Wulf: All Thalmor deserve to die for their crimes. It is too bad the Altmer do not overthrow them.
- Ashni: This one does not think there are many bandits. But that one can see behind the walls and count them?
- Wulf: I can try.
I studied the compound and counted only seven bandits.
- Wulf: There are only seven of them. I will go alone and see if they will let us pass.
- Verina: What will you offer them to allow passage?
- Wulf: Nothing, I want them to attack me.
I walked to the compound, and two guards waved me through the entrance.
I approached a table where the leader sat with two other Khajiit.
I said, “Your blockade is preventing our progress.”
“That is easily resolved with the correct payment.”
“We outnumber you and could easily kill you all.”
“Not without casualties. Is it not better to pay the toll?”
“No, that is cowardly. I will go and tell my people to prepare for a fight.”
“Sorry, my friend, but that one is not leaving alive.”
The bandits attacked, so I used Slow Time. That Shout is more of a whisper.
Within a few seconds, they all died.
I returned to the caravan.
- Wulf: The bandits are no more.
- Ku’rana: When Khajiit turns to Renrij, he has no reason to be. The sand will bury their shame, and we shall move along.
- Verina: I could not see you fight from here, but what this one heard, the clash of weapons was brief.
- Wulf: I do not see why you would want to watch me kill. There is no glory in what I do.
- Verina: This one apologises. Rigmor was with caravan for only a few hours, but she did not stop talking. In that way, she has not changed from when a cub
- Ku’rana: Rigmor told Khajiit how you are the most skilled of warriors.
- Verina: Rigmor said you do not like to kill. This one was thoughtless.
- Ku’rana: Why did that one go to the bandits alone? The others could have killed them instead.
- Wulf: If four or five of us went to talk to them, they might not have attacked.
- Ku’rana: The Dovahkiin said that one wanted the bandits to attack. Why?
- Wulf: They needed to die. When I looked from here, I could see an overturned carriage and goods stacked high. It was obvious they had robbed caravans and most likely killed the merchants and guards.
- Ashni: Wulf could not just walk in and start killing. He waited till the bandits became aggressive.
- Wulf: They stood no chance of defeating me. I would attack a group of opposing soldiers in war without warning, as that is justified. However, if I just walked up and killed the bandits without discussion, that would be murder. This way, I was defending myself.
- Verina: That one dislikes killing but made sure he would have to?
- Wulf: Yes, that sums it up. The bandits used free will and chose their fate.
- Verina: This one will have to think upon this.
- Wulf: What is next on our journey?
- Verina: We ride to Tenmar Forest, on the road to Senchal. Into the forest, we pass with Ja’Kha’jay Pahmar. We need wild moon to go there.
- Wulf: How long do you estimate that will take?
- Verina: After we eat, it will be time to move on. We should get to the forest about midday of the fifth.
- Wulf: I am looking forward to sleeping under the stars.
It was just after 1:30 PM on the fifth that we entered the jungles of southern Elsweyr. A couple of hours later, we stopped where a bridge crossing a shallow stream had collapsed.
The light in the jungle varied depending on the angle of the sun. It was always sunny, but things took on a dull, yellow tinge when the overhead canopy of leaves filtered the sunlight.
Ku’rana and Verina sat down to eat. Consuming large amounts of food seemed to be one of their favourite pastimes, yet they remained trim!
- Wulf: It seems this sturdy bridge did not collapse without help.
- Verina: Khajiiti no longer maintain their manes, their pride or the roads.
- Kharjo: It is sad to see how many have given up so quickly.
- Verina: Khajiit are servants to the Thalmor now. Verina can see brightly in the darkness, and it seems these servants have gone on strike.
- Wulf: This bridge was destroyed deliberately. Some Khajiit are conducting a covert war. But you can’t possible remove the Aldmeri Dominion unless united under a single leader. I am starting to see why Baa’Ren-Dar was so secretive.
- Ku’rana: Maybe right. Maybe wrong. Khajiit are not allowed to discuss such probabilities.
- Wulf: I will see if I can find a shallow ford.
- Ku’rana: You are very useful, my friend. We will wait here and offer to Riddle’Thar. We will speak with moons and the forest in Thar’s sweet dreams.
- Wulf: In other words, you and Verina will sit here contemplating why your stomachs are still empty and eat some bread and cheese to solve that problem.
- Verina: Exactly!
- Wulf: I will leave The Sentinels with you. They, too, will wish to partake in this offering to Riddle’Thar.
- Meeko: Woof!
- Wulf: Yes, you are a Sentinel, and yes, you can pretend to worship Riddle’Thar as well.
- Verina: That is a lot said in a single bark!
- Wulf: Yes, Meeko is quite eloquent.
A large boulder had been dropped to block the bridge. The saboteurs must have decided that was not enough, so they collapsed the bridge.
Large spiders greeted me. They were green in colour and spat a different poison than the Frostbite Spiders of Skyrim. The Tamrielic name for them is Jungle Queen.
I killed six of them, including one marked by Kyne.
I collected samples of their venom and meat to test for their alchemical properties.
I found a shallow ford then made my way back to the camp.
- Wulf: I’ve found a ford down the river. It has a strong current but is shallow enough to cross.
- Ku’rana: Oh yes, no worries. Our mooncow is heavy. We feed him with Thalmor droppings.
- Wulf: I am confused. How can you tell the difference between the Thalmor and their droppings?
Ku’rana and Verina laughed long and loud.
- Verina: We have finished our talk with Riddle’Thar, so Khajiit need to move on.
- Wulf: To where?
- Ku’rana: The Pahmar have invited you to their jungle. This is rare, but they are expecting you. We will bring you there to meet them before tomorrow’s day breaks.
- Wulf: We do not see many of that Furstock in Skyrim or Cyrodiil.
- Verina: They are our children born in the strong moon. Some live with us, but many hear the call of the wild.
- Kharjo: The Pahmar honour you, Dovahkiin. I doubt many Men or Mer have been allowed into their territory since the Thalmor walked into Elsweyr.
- Ku’rana: Do you give Thalmor a chance to pick their fate as you did with the Renrijra bandits?
- Wulf: Not at all. As far as I am concerned, we are still at war with them. I kill them without pity or warning.
“Talking with the mooncow, Anahbi?”
“It is smarter than Argis and other Nords. Smells better as well.”
“I would like to have one at Dragons Keep to educate the children. But I doubt the cold weather would suit it.”
“They can grow much larger than this one. Khajiit cannot tell how big they will become. Some stop at this size. Others grow many times this size.”
“They are a magnificent animal, but I think Nords are smarter.”
“Maybe. But that one cannot say that Nords smell better!”
As we travelled, Rigmor contacted me.
“Wulf, I have some news.”
“Good news, I hope!”
“I am going to join you once you reach the Pahmar camp.”
“I don’t think you are entirely over the ‘episode’.”
“I am back to the killing, but so far, it is part of the reason I am here. I have not ‘bumped’ into trouble. I felt my Dovah stirring. The thrill of battle excites him. He finds glory in it, and destroying his enemies seems so… right. As natural as eating and breathing. Why not let him do it? That is his question, and he is not content with my answer.”
“You thought you had this under control. Have you wondered about the actions of other Dragonborn? Why they did what they did?”
“Much could be explained if they were more a dragon than a mortal at times. Talos would understand but is restricted on how much aid he can provide. Paarthurnax fights his base instincts with The Way of the Voice, which to me is a load of bollocks.”
“You have not asked Odahviing to fight your enemies. Are you afraid to see him as a dragon, not the mortal friend he seems?”
“He is working against his base instincts, as are most of the dragons flying over the fields of Skyrim. If I asked him to aid me in battle, he would be a dragon and enjoy the killing. That I could accept. It is what other witnesses would make of my friend that concerns me. Would his aid to me enforce the stereotype that almost had his race exterminated?”
“You need me with you!”
“What about your mother and the others. When do they expect you back?”
“I have sent a courier to inform them I am travelling with Baa’Ren-Dar to Torval.”
“And what excuse have you given them?”
“No excuse. I am the Countess of Bruma and answer to nobody but my citizens. As long as things get done, what right does anybody have to tell me where I can be? Others can handle the mundane duties. Things that need my signature or my attendance can wait. Baa’Ren-Dar says most courts work that way. The Count or Jarl sits in session one or two days a week. I do not need to sit in that throne room listening to drivel day in and day out!”
“I agree that they have no right to stop you, ask where you are going or question your reasons.”
“Baa’Ren-Dar says what you are doing is important to the future of Elsweyr. I want to help both you and the Khajiit.”
“You are right. I need our quiet to calm my Dovah when he demands attention.”
“When will you reach the Pahmar jungle?”
“Before sunrise tomorrow.”
“I will be ready.”
“I love you.”
“And I love you.”
We arrived at the forest camp at about 6:30 AM on the sixth. It took thirty minutes to say goodbye to Ku’rana and Verina, who wept along with The Sentinels. They had been travelling together for more than a week, and bonds had formed. Even Meeko ended up with soggy fur after teary goodbyes.
Once the Caravan moved away, I contacted Rigmor, who then appeared before me.
I kissed her then said, “I love your hair!”
“The bun at the back doesn’t make me look old?”
“Yeah, ancient. Maybe even twenty, twenty-one. Is that a wrinkle?”
“Wrinkle! Luckily for you, it looks like one of the Pahmar is coming to greet us.”
- Tazzhid: This one is called Tazzhid. It is our honour to guard the Dovahkiin and Bruma’s Clan Mother. Our Pride Leader, Deepclaw, speaks highly of you both. Feel free to move around and introduce yourself to the others who dwell here.
- Wulf: Your trust humbles us. We are proud to be friends of all Khajiit.
- Rigmor: Where do we go, and to who do we speak to?
- Tazzhid: Yura will tell you these things. She is barely out of cubhood, so forgive that one’s energy and enthusiasm.
- Ashni: Oh, this one remembers being like that. The world was still new and exciting.
- Anahbi: Then reality knocks that rubbish out of Khajiit!
- Ashni: It is not rubbish. It is how we should be!
- Rigmor: Before you two start spitting and scratching, let’s talk to Yura.
- Tazzhid: Do as the Den Mother says before she twists your ears!
We walked down a level then a very young Khajiit came rushing towards us. She stopped then clapped with excitement.
- Rigmor: Yura?
- Yura: Yes, this one is Yura. I live here. We were expecting you, so Ameir told me to come and welcome you.
- Rigmor: Where is this place? I did not travel a Moonpath to get here.
- Yura: These are the waterways of southern Elsweyr. The Pahmar had given you this place, Priderock, as your home in Elsweyr.
- Wulf: You wear Siligonder armour. Does that mean you travel the Moonpaths as a guard?
- Yura: The armour proves this one is brave and skilful as I had to kill the Siligonder. However, more knowledge of moonstrings is needed before this one will be allowed to travel the Moonpaths.
- Rigmor: I know Ameir. Is she in Priderock?
- Yura: No. Deeper down, you’ll find a door to the waterways. Travel there to find Ameir. It will take a few hours of walking.
- Wulf: Thank you, Yura. You have been most helpful.
- Yura: You are so brave! If only I could come with you. I’d make a great dragon slayer.
- Wulf: Of that, I have no doubt. When Dov invaded Elsweyr, your people defeated them without a Dovahkiin to assist. Khajiit are fine warriors! But not all dragons are my enemy, and I do not enjoy killing any of them.
- Yura: This one did not enjoy killing the Siligonder.
- Wulf: Your reluctance to kill will make you an even better warrior.
We proceeded to have a look around Priderock. Beds had been provided, along with crafting stations, bookshelves, chests, tables, and other amenities. It was a luxurious home unique in being so exposed to the elements.
One thing that intrigued me was a teleport platform. It was inert, but the symbol on it was that of The College of Winterhold. I was told nobody had been invited to this jungle for a very long time. I said nothing to Rigmor but was starting to suspect where Baa’Ren-Dar obtained his teleportation ability.
When standing next to a double bed, Rigmor whispered, “There is no privacy. So, you might get a cuddle, and that is it!”
“It doesn’t seem to bother the Khajiit. I dread to think what they got up to before I joined the caravan.”
“A week of debauchery, no doubt!”
“The birds and other wildlife are quite noisy.”
“That does not mean you are in luck!”
“I was merely suggesting we might not have to put pillows over our heads if The Sentinels get lucky.”
We made our way down to the water and met some of the local fauna. Orange crabs, very much like Skyrim’s Mudcrabs, were in great abundance.
Rigmor said, “I always called them Rivercrabs. They do not attack people or mooncow.”
Rigmor laughed then said, “Meeko, they won’t attack you either.”
As we walked to the door mentioned by Yura, Anahbi stopped to pat another mooncow.
Rigmor quipped, “If that mooncow poops on Anahbi, we would have to dig for a week to find her!”
We entered the waterways and were immediately attacked by a Jungle Queen.
I retrieved my bow, knocked an arrow in one smooth movement, drew, aimed, and released. The arrow flew true and killed the spider.
Rigmor asked, “Can you hear the fighting in the distance? I wonder if somebody is attacking the Khajiit?”
“Yes, I can hear it, but it is hard to tell how far away the fight is. Sound travels far on the water and along the canyons. Let’s run!”
About thirty minutes later, we came across a melee involving Rivercrabs, Jungle Queens, bipedal lizards called Zahilisk, Skeletal Warriors and a Nord Necromancer.
The Nord hit Meeko with an Ice Spear and made him yelp.
I yelled, “Hey you, hold this arrow for me!” then shot him in the head.
I healed Meeko while Rigmor and The Sentinels checked the bodies for anything useful.
I took samples of meat, teeth and eyes from the Zahilisk for alchemical testing.
One of the Zahilisk was peppered with arrows from the Skeletal Warriors and Ice Spears from the necromancer.
Rivercrabs might not be aggressive to other animals, but they often bicker amongst themselves.
Not far from the Khajiit camp, we encountered more Jungle Queens. A huge one immobilised Meeko with its poison.
Rigmor screamed, “Leave Meeko alone!” then hit the spider with an almighty swing.
Meeko soon recovered, much quicker than a dog should have been able to do, and joined Rigmor in taking down the eight-legged giant.
“You do have a bow!” I reminded Rigmor.
“It is Inigo’s influence. There is a certain satisfaction when you crunch a giant spider with your sword.”
We entered the camp then Rigmor said, “Over there, that is Ameir with a Pahmar.”
When she noticed us standing close by, Ameir stood then bowed to Rigmor.
- Ameir: I am honoured to greet you, Bruma Den Mother, and you, Dovahkiin.
- Rigmor: Ameir, I am still Rigmor. The same girl you have known for years.
- Ameir: We are among the Pahmar. They are very fussy about protocol.
- Wulf: We enjoyed our walk along the waterways, despite the many things that tried to kill us.
- Ameir: You get used to it, but it was not as interesting as the journey from Skyrim or Cyrodiil, yes? We have been hearing many exciting tales of the Dovahkiin and not just from our esteemed emissary.
- Kharjo: This one is interested. Which tale was your favourite?
- Ameir: This one likes the tale with the Dovahkiin, High Queen Elisif, two stable boys, a goat and a chicken.
- Ashni: Has that one read about the Dragonborn, a giantess and the watermelon?
- Ameir: Ah yes. That is where the giantess puts the watermelon…
- Wulf: Ahem… that is enough. Rigmor might not have read that one yet, and you don’t want to spoil it for her.
- Rigmor: That is one of Cerys’ favourites.
- Wulf: What do you do here? Are you the leader?
- Ameir: The Pahmar that guard us are essential to the Moon Sugar, my friend. And in a manner, we are the Mane’s emissaries for them.
The Sentinels and I gasped. Rigmor did not comprehend the gravity of the secret just told us and looked at me puzzled. Ameir smiled. I knew asking further questions about the Mane would only elicit silence. If a Mane exists and the Thalmor found out, they would put maximum resources into finding and eliminating that reincarnated being. The only mortal who could reunite Elsweyr would be a danger to the Dominion.
- Ameir: As for being the leader. Every Khajiit is their own pillar. We follow only the moon and the Mane. But in a sense, I command respect amongst the folk here.
- Rigmor: The Pahmar speak to the Dragonborn and me in our language. This is fortunate as my Ta’agra is a bit rusty.
- Wulf: A bit rusty? More like totally seized!
- Rigmor: Yava zuubka!
- Wulf: At least you remember how to swear in Ta’agra.
- Ameir: The Pahmar foresee great and good achievements for you both. The fact they speak to you in your tongue and show deference is a tremendous honour.
- Rigmor: I would like to learn more about the Pahmar. During my time amongst your people, they were a mystery and fascination to me.
- Ameir: This one is not permitted to teach you. Aleyt may be able to tell you more. Speak to her.
- Rigmor: Aleyt is here?
- Ameir: That one had been looking forward to talking to you once more. She is over there wearing Redguard gear.
We looked to where Ameir pointed, and an elderly Khajiit wearing Alik’r clothing smiled at Rigmor.
- Wulf: It has been an honour meeting you, Ameir. Now we had better visit Aleyt before Rigmor explodes with excitement.
- Ameir: The crabs would enjoy chunks of Rigmor, but you are not here to feed them. So, hurry, I think the Bruma Den Mother is starting to bulge in the middle.
- Wulf: Do not worry. That is the result of many sweet rolls.
- Rigmor: Wulf!
We hurried over to Aleyt, and Rigmor gave her a mighty hug.
- Aleyt: The hairless cub is breaking ribs!
- Rigmor: I’m sorry. I am so happy to see you again!
Rigmor stood back and wore a smile that could melt my heart.
- Wulf: It seems you are special to Rigmor.
- Aleyt: Most likely because I spoiled that one more than any other.
- Rigmor: You understood my need for vengeance. It was you who talked Baa’Ren-Dar into hiring the swordmaster who took up my lessons from where my father had left off.
- Aleyt: This one understood your darkness and what was needed to bring light back into your heart.
- Rigmor: You opened the door a crack. This huge barbarian ripped the door wide open and jumped inside.
- Aleyt: Dovahkiin, seers of Azura have told us of this love. It must be truly remarkable for the gods to take notice.
- Wulf: One day, the whole world will take notice! Its power will give hope to the oppressed and defeat the evils that threaten us all.
- Aleyt: Baa’Ren-Dar says it has done so already.
- Wulf: Our work has barely begun. Many battles, both physical and spiritual, lie ahead for us both.
- Rigmor: As you can see, we have excellent friends to help us. This is Kharjo, Ashni and Anahbi.
- Aleyt: Your stories are also known to the Pahmar. They are pleased that you are now Penis Octopus members.
- Wulf: Don’t you mean Penitus Oculatus?
- Aleyt: Rigmor, is the Dovahkiin a bit slow? That one failed to recognise an obvious joke.
- Rigmor: He was dropped on his head when a cub.
- Aleyt: Ahh… perhaps this one needs to use smaller words and speak slower.
- Rigmor: That would be wise.
- Wulf: If you ladies have finished. May I ask Aleyt something?
- Aleyt: Yes… you… can. Do… you… understand?
- Rigmor: Understand might be too big a word.
- Wulf: I am not discombobulated!
- Rigmor: The poor thing now feels the need to invent big words.
- Wulf: Did you two gang up on poor Baa’Ren-Dar when Rigmor lived in Torval?
- Rigmor: Well… um…
- Wulf: Because a particular hairless cub thought it was funny when he growled?
- Aleyt: The Dovahkiin is not so silly.
- Rigmor: No, he is far from it.
- Wulf: Okay, enough playtime. You are rebels. The Thalmor are too good at finding money trails, so no payments from the leaders of Anequina or Pelletine can be risked. Plus, you are trying to keep your numbers low, and any government support would involve too many people. There is also a good chance the existing leaders would not want to be replaced as they have excellent deals from the Aldmeri Dominion. Therefore, you are currently funded by Moon Sugar. Correct?
- Aleyt: Yes. Such endeavours as ours require coins. Currently, those coins are earned from Moon Sugar which is not in itself immoral. But Khajiit are well aware of what it is used to create. Perhaps other goods from Elsweyr can be traded to Tamriel?
- Rigmor: The legal Khajiit caravans that travel through Cyrodiil and Skyrim do not carry anything that can only be sourced from Elsweyr. We would have to find something other than Moon Sugar with a big enough market that can only come from Elsweyr.
- Wulf: It would also have to be sustainable. For instance, Siligonder chitin is unique to the northern deserts of Elsweyr and parts of Hammerfell. It makes solid armour that is lightweight. A market could be generated for it, but the numbers of Siligonder would need to be carefully managed.
- Rigmor: I noticed you taking samples of the animals we killed.
- Wulf: Yes. I should take samples of unique flora as well to test for potential alchemical uses. There could be a market for reagents.
- Aleyt: This one suggests you speak to Qa’mel. That one handles trade for us. He is one boat over.
- Rigmor: We shall do that. Maybe one day soon we can sit and have a long talk?
- Aleyt: This one would like that very much.
- Wulf: Aleyt, perhaps one day we can sit and have an excellent talk? You can tell me embarrassing stories about Rigmor!
- Aleyt: This one would like that very much as well!
- Rigmor: Traitor!
- Aleyt: Oh, there are so many! This one wouldn’t know where to start!
As we made our way up and down ladders towards Qa’mel, I whispered to Rigmor, “That battle to me. Do you surrender yet?” Rigmor answered with a stare that would curdle milk.
I let Rigmor take the lead with Qa’mel.
- Rigmor: Greetings, Qa’mel. I believe you are the one to speak to about trade?
- Qa’mel: Yes. They call me Qa’mel the Wanderer as I have followed many moons to establish our current trading agreements.
- Rigmor: Your trade is crucial to the current undertakings?
- Qa’mel: Indeed, Bruma Clan Mother. All the coin from the Moon Sugar is going straight into our new Mane’s coffers. Hence the extraordinary caution you will find amongst my colleagues. Thalmor spies are everywhere.
- Rigmor: Wulf, I missed the significance before, didn’t I?
- Wulf: Yes. I was going to talk to you about it soon.
- Rigmor: Qa’mel, is there an increase in this undertaking and why?
- Qa’mel: When the moons vanished for two years in the Void Nights, no help came from The Empire. When the Aldmeri Dominion claimed to have restored them using Dawn Magic, many influential Khajiit believed their lies. Eventually, a coup occurred in 4E 115 and Elsweyr was once again divided into two states and voluntarily became a Dominion protectorate. Rumour is intense that our Dominion friends somehow caused the Void Nights as an experiment to see what would happen to our cubs when born. That they believed we would somehow have Mer children. Our cubs did not survive as there were no moons to determine their Furstock.
- Rigmor: The Dovahkiin does not believe they know Dawn Magic as they have never used it in battle. If somehow, they are responsible for the Void Nights, then they have shown once again how their claim of racial superiority drives them to commit atrocity after atrocity.
- Qa’mel: Each day, more Khajiit question the Thalmor claims about restoring the moons with Dawn Magic. Some believe they created the Void Nights and therefore knew how to restore them. Others think they discovered the phenomena that caused the Void Nights and timed their false claims about Dawn Magic to coincide with the moons’ natural restoration.
- Rigmor: And therefore, without having to recruit, more rebels find their way to you?
- Qa’mel: As you are aware, once The Dominion are invited into a country, they are dismissive of native culture and religion. We are all of lesser species, and therefore whatever they do is permitted, and we should all be grateful. Even a Khajiit who believes that the Thalmor had nothing to do with causing the Void Nights but did restore the moons may get tired of their oppression. All of these things combined have increased rebel activity. Primarily passive, as you would have observed, but increasingly violence is a solution. We are not the only rebel group, but no other knows about the new Mane.
- Wulf: As far as I can see, the Thalmor would have difficulty finding evidence of a rebellion here. But if they think there is a Moon Sugar trade centred on this area, they may legitimately come looking for that as Skooma is a problem throughout the Aldmeri Dominion.
- Rigmor: It would benefit this group if Moon Sugar was not traded. The Dovahkiin and I will think of ideas on what may provide good coin in legal trade. Maybe you can suggest ideas of your own?
- Qa’mel: I agree. There is way too much jungle and desert for the Thalmor to patrol. They concentrate where they have some suspicion rebel, or another illegal activity is occurring. Moon Sugar trading may have led them to this area. We have seen many patrols getting closer to this Pahmar jungle and our other camps in the deserts of Anequina. We need to know if they are looking for rebels or the Moon Sugar.
- Rigmor: Baa’Ren-Dar wants us to investigate and possibly deal with the Thalmor first. Then think about legitimate trade later.
- Qa’mel: That is what we have been told. Speak to Mervar Denfriend, the grumpy looking Tojay-Raht over there. He has information about the Thalmor.
More ladders led us to the imposing Khajiit. He stood staring at us with his arms crossed.
“Mervar, I am Wulf. You appear to be guarding this door?”
Mervar snarled, “And what is it to you, little one? Speak to Qa’mel. He is in his barge down the stairs. If he vouches for you, Mervar might turn his ears to you.”
I smiled at Rigmor then let my Dovah to the fore. Mervar looked worried as I stepped closer.
Using a tiny bit of Thu’um to emphasise my growl, I replied, “If you were not sleeping when supposed to be guarding, you would have seen us talking to Qa’mel not more than two minutes ago!”
Mervar realised his mistake in addressing us with disrespect. He mumbled, “Ah…this…” but I did not give him a chance to apologise. I was having too much fun!
“We have been here for many minutes, yet no Pahmar or other Khajiit has challenged us. The first non-Khajiit to visit here in a very long time! What gives you the right to question who we are when those above you have not?”
“You should know that Pride Leader Deepclaw and Emissary Dar invited us here. Or were only the important Khajiit informed of this?
“You called me ‘little-one’. Do you think you would last more than a few seconds because you are taller than me, and I wished to slay you? You are a tiny spec compared to the dragons I have killed and the gods I have faced!”
Mervar was starting to look around for help from the other Khajiit. They just watched the spectacle with barely hidden amusement.
“Your poor mother would weep if she saw you demand a Den Mother seek validation! The Countess is even shorter than me, but she could still twist your ears for being a naughty kitten!”
Mervar stared at Rigmor, who tried to look stern but started to giggle.
The Sentinels and Khajiit audience started to laugh. I put my Dovah away and joined in.
Mervar realised I was having a bit of fun and bent over with laughter of his own.
- Wulf: Relax, Mervar. It is good you take security seriously, but your manners need improving.
- Mervar: I know your reputation, Bruma Clan Mother. I would not want my ears twisted by you.
- Rigmor: I would not want to climb that high to twist them!
- Wulf: I believe you have a rat infestation. Where are they, and how can we help?
- Mervar: Pahmar told me that a Thalmor patrol is in the area. My twin, Dervar, is scouting near the Tenmar Den. Go and see if he is all right, yes?
- Wulf: Is he also Tojay-Raht?
- Mervar: Yes, so he should be easy to find, no?
- Rigmor: How do we get to the Tenmar Den?
- Mervar: The door behind me leads there. Take this key. It will take over one hour of walking to reach Dervar.
- Wulf: Do not worry, Mervar. We are the best rat exterminators on Nirn.
Rigmor took the key from Mervar then we headed for Tenmar Den.
As soon as we walked through the door, I had a quick talk with my team.
- Wulf: At the moment, we do not know why the Thalmor are sniffing around. They could be looking for a suspected source of Moon Sugar or rebels. They may even have heard rumours of a new Mane.
- Rigmor: If they thought the Mane was hiding in this jungle, they would tear every tree out till they found him!
- Wulf: The news of the new Mane is not to be spoken about to anybody else. Not even to the other Sentinels!
- Ashni: This one is not comfortable keeping secrets from the other Sentinels.
- Wulf: That fact you all know about Rigmor and me shows how much faith I have in you all, but that was something I had a right to share. The information about a new Mane is not mine nor yours to share.
- Rigmor: Baa’Ren-Dar wanted us to know. Wulf and I are probably the only non-Khajiit who do know. He is very cautious, and I am sure other information will be forthcoming when he deems it necessary.
- Kharjo: Ashni, there is no reason for others to know this thing. It does not affect their lives in any way as they are not Khajiit.
- Ashni: This one is now sure it is the correct thing not to tell. I will not break the trust of Khajiit.
- Wulf: Let us hurry and see if there are rats to exterminate.
About forty minutes later, we heard fighting and ran towards the Tenmar Den. Pahmar, Rivercrabs and Khajiit were fighting Thalmor and Imga. I could see that Dervar was in trouble.
I did not want to use my Thu’um, so I had to run as fast as I could towards the battle. The water slowed us down considerably.
I quickly cut down one Thalmor and left the remaining one to The Sentinels. I needed to hurry if I was to save Dervar.
A Thalmor Wizard said something idiotic about how his race is superior. Then he cast his best spell at me.
I laughed then sliced him open with three quick swings. Just as he fell from the last, a colossal Pahmar leapt on him.
“Leave some for me, Dovahkiin!” growled the Pride Leader as he ran towards another Thalmor Wizard.
Another Pahmar came out of the ether as I ran to catch up. I was learning a lot about the Furstock without asking questions.
I ran past both and cut down their opponent while saying, “You are too slow, even with four legs!”
Two Thalmor and the Imga had Dervar on the defensive. They would overwhelm him if the fight continued much longer.
I killed the Imga while Deepclaw ripped the throat out of one of the Thalmor.
Without pausing, I pulled my sword out of the Imga then decapitated the last Thalmor with a lazy backhand swing.
The fight was over, and every enemy was dead. The large Pahmar grunted then wandered back downstairs.
- Wulf: Dervar, I assume?
- Dervar: Wait, who are you?
- Wulf: The Dovahkiin. Mervar asked me to see if you needed help and if there were any Thalmor around.
- Dervar: Ah, only one breath older, and yet he feels like an old man already. Tell him he needs to stop napping near the fire and come help us out.
- Rigmor: Are you okay?
- Dervar: This one has never felt better. That was a good fight! It is an excellent day to spill some Thalmor blood. Hahaha!
- Rigmor: You are fortunate Mervar sent us!
- Kharjo: Our Pahmar brothers would not have reached that one in time.
- Dervar: But the Dovahkiin did. I think Deepclaw was impressed by how quickly that one cut them down.
- Meeko: Woof!
- Wulf: Meeko said he hates the taste of Thalmor. Deepclaw should be happy he did not have to bite more of them.
- Dervar: You can speak to rian?
- Wulf: Of course! His name is Meeko.
- Dervar: You fought well, Meeko. Not that this one had much chance to watch the fighting.
- Rigmor: No, that Imga would have ripped your head off if you didn’t keep dodging.
- Dervar: Imga like the Thalmor. This one could never figure out why.
- Anahbi: The Thalmor are the only people uglier than the Imga.
- Dervar: Ahh… that makes sense!
- Wulf: Why were the Thalmor here?
- Dervar: They did not say. We are still investigating these Thalmor. Maybe there are orders to be found?
- Wulf: I see no Justiciar amongst them, but we will search the bodies.
- Dervar: This one is grateful for your assistance.
I searched the bodies as we made our way back to the water.
Anahbi and Ashni had rushed downstairs and were talking to Deepclaw in Ta’agra when Rigmor and I approached. He was taller than them even when sitting down!
- Wulf: Are you Pride Leader Deepclaw?
- Deepclaw: Yes, Dovah. I am Deepclaw, Pride Leader of the Tenmar Pride. We welcome the Dragonborn to these parts.
- Wulf: You called me Dovah and not Dovahkiin. Yet, that part of me is hidden. How did you know he is with me?
- Deepclaw: We Khajiit roamed Nirn long before Man or Mer. We may have lost some, but Pahmar still have much knowledge remaining.
- Wulf: It was an honour to fight by your side.
- Deepclaw: And this one is Rigmor, the Bruma Den Mother?
- Rigmor: Yes, Pride Leader Deepclaw. I am also honoured to meet you.
- Deepclaw: Emissary Dar speaks proudly of his cub. This one is glad to have finally met you.
- Rigmor: May I ask a question about the Pahmar, Pride Leader Deepclaw?
- Deepclaw: Ha, Emissary Dar told me you would have questions. Den Mother outranks Pride Leader so ask your question.
- Rigmor: The only Pahmar I saw in Torval walked on two legs. Are they the same Furstock?
- Deepclaw: Yes. Two or four is a choice when a kitten and taught by mothers. No clothes and four legs are more suitable for this jungle life. Pahmar cannot change between the forms after they are no longer a kitten.
- Wulf: So, you two ladies just rushed down here out of respect?
- Deepclaw: Khajiit were sad to hear I have a mate.
- Rigmor: I think they could be more dangerous than the Thalmor.
- Ashni: Anahbi, did that one notice that Pride Leader Deepclaw has no clothes?
- Anahbi: No, not at all!
- Wulf: Pride Leader, do you know why the Thalmor are showing interest in your jungle?
- Deepclaw: Not as yet. Did Dovahkiin find anything on the dead?
- Wulf: No. We will go and speak to Mervar and see if there are other Thalmor in your territory.
- Deepclaw: There are, but they move around quickly. Mervar’s scouts may have found them again.
On our way back to Mervar, Rigmor asked, “I have never seen an Imga before. Who are they?”
I replied, “Imga worship Altmer and are therefore a favourite of the Thalmor. They can be refined people as they try and emulate their idols. The one fighting Dervar was an Imga Brute. A simple soldier of the Dominion who thinks it is an honour to die for them.
An Imga prophet called Marukh once claimed Saint Alessia came to him as a ghost and questioned the existence of any Elven rule in Tamriel. Although Alessia fought against the Ayleid, many of her friends and allies during and after the Slave War were of that race. She never expressed anti-Mer sentiment in her lifetime and created The Divines pantheon to unite Man and Mer.
After this alleged visitation, Marukh formulated the Seventy-Seven Inflexible Doctrines, later called the Alessian Doctrines. The racist elements of Tamriel seized upon this blatant lie and formed the Brothers of Marukh. Eventually, it would become the Alessian Order.
In 1E 361, they staged a successful coup and seized control of the Alessian Empire. Worship of The Divines was abolished, and Alessia became the single god of a theocracy that lasted almost two millennia.
It was a cruel and vicious empire that resulted in the Ayleid and Minotaur genocides and forced nearly all Mer and beast races from most of Tamriel.
A ten-year conflict, the War of Righteousness, finally removed this stain on our history in 1E 2331. That is one thousand nine hundred and seventy years of Saint Alessia’s name and legacy abused by blasphemy and lies! Such was the ferocity of the battles in the War of Righteousness, more than half the citizens of High Rock were killed!
Worship of The Eight was restored, and Saint Alessia is now remembered for the truth, not the lies of a semi-literate ape. There are still remnants of the Alessian Doctrines within the laws of The Empire. For instance, the idiotic notion that in a Court of Law, the defendant is guilty unless proven innocent.”
“That never did make sense to me. It should be up to the accusers to prove guilt. Now I know where that crap comes from.”
“The Alessian Order is what I call a false religion. You can see or experience the divine powers of the gods of other pantheons. For instance, we have just experienced the Moonpaths. Recently we saw the power of the Skaal’s All-Maker. Not once did Saint Alessia’s power manifest itself!”
“I can sense great anger in you about this.”
“It isn’t only the suppression of The Eight that irritates me. I have a fondness for Saint Alessia. Her real morals and teachings mirror mine in many ways while those of the Alessian Order are opposite.”
We stood before Dervar.
- Wulf: It is fortunate for Dervar that you asked us to check on him!
- Mervar: Ah, so the Thalmor found Dervar, yes?
- Rigmor: Dervar was outnumbered, and the Pahmar were having difficulty reaching him.
- Mervar: This one takes it that the Thalmor are no more?
- Kharjo: The Dovahkiin cut them down without pausing. This Khajiit is always impressed.
- Ashni: So was Pride Leader Deepclaw.
- Mervar: That is good work. Keep the key. Perhaps Dervar may require your help in the future.
- Wulf: Neither Dervar nor the Pride Leader knew why the Thalmor were there. Nothing on the bodies gave us a clue.
- Mervar: Scouts found where that Thalmor patrol came from. They landed a stolen Khajiit airship at Pillar Falls.
- Wulf: A stolen Khajiit airship?
- Mervar: Yes, members of this movement discovered ancient Dwemer plans for ships that fly. Khajiit ingenuity, and many stolen components, allowed the construction of two such airships. The Thalmor noticed and confiscated them using some clause in the Protectorate Agreement. They just think it was clever Khajiit who did all the inventing. They cannot control them like Khajiit mages. However, they have managed to set up simple controls to fly them.
- Rigmor: Was this movement’s cover compromised?
- Mervar: No, the construction of the airships was done away from here. Khajiit, who worked on the airships, fled and were not captured.
- Wulf: The dense foliage somewhat hides these jungle places, but they may discover them if they fly high enough! In the desert, you would be easily spotted.
- Rigmor: How far is Pillar Falls, and how do we get there?
- Mervar: Take this key and use the passage near the fireplace. It will be just after sunset by the time you reach Pillar Falls.
- Wulf: We shall leave immediately and hopefully find the Thalmor still there.
Darkness fell quickly in the jungle. Unless the moons were in the right place, the waterways became pitch black soon after dusk.
After about ninety minutes, we heard somebody issuing orders. I switched to night vision and signalled The Sentinels to let me deal with the Thalmor.
I saw an Imga guard and brought him down with a single arrow.
I then yelled, “Thalmor vara wafa!”
The idiots came running. They could not see us, but it was like midday to me.
Eight enemies plus eight arrows add up to eight dead enemies.
As we searched the bodies, Rigmor asked, “My Ta’agra is terrible. What did you say to the Thalmor to piss them off?”
“Thalmor are dumb!”
“Well, that was not very inventive.”
“It worked, didn’t it?”
There was nothing of use on the bodies, so I decided to search inside the airship.
Everybody else stayed on the deck while I had a look below. We did not want to be found by another Thalmor patrol, so I did not explore the airship for long. I retrieved some orders from inside a small lockbox.
Once back outside, I read the orders to The Sentinels,
You are now in command of the airship ‘Whitestrake’ and are responsible for every soul aboard.
Your direct orders are to take the Whitestrake to Tenmar Forest, set up a base of operations and locate the source of the Moon Sugar suspected to be flowing out of that area.
You have complete jurisdiction to take any action you deem necessary. It is time the Khajiit paid for the curse that is Skooma!
Rigmor said, “It is good they only think this area is a source of Moon Sugar.”
“Yes, the rebels will be relieved.”
We made out way back to Mervar. I handed him the orders. After reading them, he looked worried.
- Mervar: Interesting! It appears their mission poses more danger than we thought.
- Rigmor: How so? They are looking for Moon Sugar, not rebels.
- Kharjo: Dovahkiin killed them all!
- Mervar: Thalmor scouts criss-cross Elsweyr constantly. This is the first indication they suspect Moon Sugar is coming from Tenmar Forest. The whole movement is now in grave danger of being discovered!
- Wulf: That is what I said earlier. This Thalmor interest was an almost certainty once you relied on Moon Sugar for finances!
- Mervar: We have been cautious and not used the same Moonpaths each time we transport it.
- Rigmor: They have probably been doing a grid search. It is now Tenmar Forest’s turn.
- Mervar: Den Mother is likely correct, no?
- Wulf: Yes, she is. So, what do we do next?
- Mervar: Khajiit think that the Thalmor are headquartered in the khaj near a place called Dune. We will send spies, and they will find this Justiciar. It may take some time. Meanwhile, Pahmar have informed this one that Erid’or, a priest of Baan Dar, needs your help. He is currently investigating something within the Cathedral.
- Wulf: We need to sleep. We have been traversing your waterways all day.
- Mervar: It is not wise to stay here as it is likely the next place for a Thalmor visit.
- Wulf: I agree. You look like a trading hub, but suspicions would rise if Nords and Imperials are found here.
- Rigmor: We will make our way back to Priderock and sleep there. We shall return in the morning and speak to Erid’or.
- Mervar: Before leaving for Priderock, Pahmar would be honoured to share a meal with you.
- Wulf: Elsweyr Chowder?
- Mervar: Aha, so it is true some of you find it more addictive than Skooma. I have made my special recipe hoping you would do this honour.
- Kharjo: It will be good to compare recipes.
- Rigmor: Kharjo and Inigo are responsible for the Dovahkiin’s chowder addiction.
- Mervar: I have heard of Inigo. He is of the cursed colour, correct?
- Wulf: How about we discuss my blue friend while eating?
We enjoyed another evening of Khajiit hospitality. The tales told around the fire got taller and taller, and then Deepclaw said, “The difference here is that the Khajiit exaggerate whilst the Bruna Den Mother and Dovahkiin play down their roles and the dangers they faced. Before Khajiit rest their heads to sleep and wake in the morning, Akatosh and Azura should be thanked. Akatosh gave us the Dovahkiin, and Azura guided these people to us.”
We were exhausted as we made our way to Priderock. Nobody complained. The natural beauty of Elsweyr was ample compensation.
The Sentinels crawled into their beds, thankfully one to each.
Rigmor laughed and said, “No pillows over the ears needed. The Sentinels are too tired for boot knocking!”
“I would hate to think Yura would get involved. She is barely past a kitten!”
“She will probably have her first child before the year is out. That should not be so shocking to you. In Tamriel, many societies have girls marrying at thirteen years of age.”
“I am so glad you have been with me. I killed at least sixteen people today. Every time you get close to me, it is like a cleansing of my mind.”
“Do you think the Emperor would write something telling my Mum and advisors that I may be called upon to do ‘things’ for The Empire at short or even no notice?”
“Yes, he could word it so that they should not ask any questions. Maybe even get Baa’Ren-Dar to advise them that what you are doing is important.”
“We would have to be careful not to leave too much of Bruma’s administration to them. It is my responsibility.”
“The people of Bruma would riot if their beloved Den Mother was away for too long!”
“Collin, my favourite barkeep, would worry about his diminishing profits. I am sure my drinking paid for the new roof he had installed last week. I should try and figure out how many pints of mead that would take.”
“One day, you will be able to introduce me to all the special people in your life.”
“I look forward to showing you all of the special places of my old life. Many I have not visited and will not do so till you are by my side in Cyrodiil.”
“Speaking of exploring special places…”
“Don’t you get any weird ideas!”
We snuggled underneath the blankets and stared at the stars.
I know not what time I fell asleep.