Fredas, 24th Frostfall, 4E 201
to Sundas, 16th Sun’s Dusk, 4E 201
The civil war was over, but I had little chance to rest. I did not mind because I was helping people without killing people.
My orphanage in Markarth was now accepting children. The Governess, Naztari, is a Priestess of Kynareth. When she heard I was looking for somebody to run Stonehall Orphanage, she applied. Naztari’s enthusiasm and determination earned her the position. There is no bias against Khajiiti in Markarth.
Naztari recruited Lyra, a young Nord and recent graduate from Solitude’s Bards College, as an aid. The first children in the orphanage have named her Big Sister Lyra.
Gerard is an elderly Breton. Naztari recruited him to do the cooking and maintenance for the orphanage.
Some of the first children in Stonehall were orphaned when Stormcloaks murdered their Foresworn families.
Dragons Keep was also accepting children. I have not recruited a governor or governess. Wujeeta temporarily fills that role. If she does well, I will not hesitate to make her permanent. Wujeeta inspires others when they learn how she has overcome her Skooma addiction and grown in confidence over the last few months.
The younger orphans have left Aurane and joined Wujeeta in a house separate from the main castle of Dragons Keep. They attend classes with the other orphans and have a chance of adoption, which wasn’t possible at Aurane.
The children still living at Aurane have moved into the orphan’s old room. Larger beds were installed.
I visited Riften on the twenty-sixth of Frostfall. The deed to Honorhall Orphanage was given to me, and I paid for extensive renovations. They are expected to be completed within a month. Constance Michel is now the governess with a wage many times her previous stipend.
It was my first opportunity to visit Grelod in jail, so I went to her after arranging the work on Honorhall.
Some Legionnaires wore Riften guard uniforms. It was decided that would make it easier for a disgruntled minority of citizens to accept their presence. Most of Riften’s people sided with The Empire and couldn’t understand Laila Law-Giver’s backing of Ulfric. That is why the majority of the guards wore their legion armour.
The prison door guard asked, “Thane Welkynd, when can we get rid of the Grelod witch? All she does is complain and insult everybody within earshot.”
“I haven’t had a chance to question her about her crimes. Until I do, I am unsure what charges may be laid.”
“She was cruel to the children. That should be enough to earn her the chop.”
“She will be given a fair trial as is the right of all Imperial citizens.”
“Can we gag her in the meantime?”
I walked to Grelod’s cell and instantly understood the guard’s dislike for her.
She looked at me quickly and then stared at her midday meal.
I tried being civil and asked, “Hello, Grelod. Are they treating you well?”
“I didn’t think today could get any shittier, and here you are, proving I was wrong. Go away!”
“I will decide what charges are to be laid, Grelod. Therefore, I would try hard to keep a civil tongue if I were you.”
“I don’t care if I die! Have you seen what has happened to my Skyrim? Everywhere you look, there are lizards, cats, and elves! It is sickening!”
“I will leave you to your meal. But I warn you, Grelod, my patience is not infinite. The next time I visit, you will answer my questions without deviating into racism and other vitriol.”
“Yeah, now piss off!”
Grelod took a bite of cheese and whined, “How come my Eidar cheese tastes like goat cheese? Can’t you simpletons even make decent cheese?”
Grelod drank water and then slammed her mug down while gasping for breath.
It only took seconds for me to unlock and enter the cell. That was all the time the poison needed. Grelod had slumped in her chair. She was dead.
I sniffed the contents of Grelod’s mug. The smell of Chokeberry was strong. I could not smell Chokeberry on the cheese. However, when I nibbled a bit, it was there. Chokeberry was also evident in the loaf of bread. I quickly poured the contents of her mug into a bottle and sealed it. Then I gathered her meal and placed it with the bottle into my Journal Case.
I used my Thu’um and said, “I AM THANE WELKYND. NOBODY IS TO EAT OR DRINK! THAT INCLUDES THE GUARDS. YOUR FOOD OR WATER MAY BE POISONED!”
I knelt and closely examined Grelod. Most common poisons leave telltale signs and take longer to kill. There was no foaming at the mouth or broken blood vessels. Chokeberry Poison leaves no external signs, and I was confident it was the murder weapon. It combines Chokeberry, Scathecraw and crushed Elk antler and is the deadliest poison after Jarrin Root Poison. Chokeberry is rare but still far easier to obtain than Jarrin Root and costs a fraction of the price.
Grelod was dead when she swallowed the small amount of cheese. Gulping poison-laced water did not make her death any more likely or quicker.
Guards ran through the jail and announced that nobody else was dead. I collected the food from the different cells and placed it in my Journal Case.
I asked the door guard, “When was Grelod given her midday meal?”
“We gave them a wheel of cheese and several loaves in the morning. It is up to the prisoners how much they eat. All the water comes from Riften’s well. Us guards drink the same water, Thane.”
“Have there been any visitors apart from me?”
“Not since I have been on duty. Ahh…there is nothing in the visitor’s book.”
“I never sign the visitor’s book.”
“You’re our Thane.”
“It was her, wasn’t it?”
“You know. Her!”
“Oh, her! It might have been. Or it could have been whatshername.”
“Mmm, I hadn’t thought of that. That is very smart thinking, Thane.”
“Leave everything as it is. I will inform Jarl Horik.”
Horik was enjoying his meal till I mentioned poison.
“My Jarl, Grelod has been poisoned. She is dead.”
“Well, that is one way of silencing her.”
“I will test the poison, but I think I know what was used. I will report back shortly.”
I teleported to Aurane and went to work at my Alchemy table. Just over an hour later, I teleported into Mistveil Keep and approached the throne.
- Wulf: I found Chokeberry Poison in Grelod’s water, one of her loaves of bread and a wedge of her cheese. It wasn’t in the rest of the cheese wheel, her other loaves, or the other prisoner’s food.
- Mjoll: Do you think Maven Black-Briar wanted her silenced?
- Wulf: I have my suspicions but would prefer others to investigate. I suggest you contact The Penitus Oculatus and have them examine the prison and Maven’s connection to the orphanage. I don’t think the guards are involved.
- Horik: The citizens of Riften were quite thorough in culling the weeds.
- Wulf: There are likely ways of getting in and out of the prison known by assassins but unknown to us.
- Horik: Would The Dark Brotherhood have skilled people to make the poison?
- Wulf: I have no doubt a good alchemist would be something they would want and have in their ranks.
- Mjoll: We should raid The Thieves Guild and see if they know anything.
- Wulf: Mjoll, The Thieves Guild do not murder or arrange assassinations. If something untoward is done to orphans, they may even forget their pledge not to kill.
- Horik: You must put up with their existence for now, Mjoll. I don’t want to tackle The Thieves Guild till my arse is used to this damn throne.
- Mjoll: Yes, my Jarl.
- Wulf: The renovations of Honorhall should start in a day or two.
- Horik: Good. The citizens of Riften feel tremendous guilt over what happened under their noses.
- Wulf: Riften isn’t the only city where orphans are dumped and forgotten. Hopefully, other people of means will start to sponsor orphanages and schools. I think my four will become full reasonably quickly.
- Horik: Okay, Thane Welkynd, I shall contact The Penitus Oculatus. They can investigate this further, but if Maven is involved, there is no chance they will find evidence.
- Wulf: The Penitus Oculatus are experts at making suspects nervous.
- Mjoll: And nervous people make mistakes.
- Horik: Aren’t you afraid Maven will hire assassins and send them your way?
- Wulf: Those assassins would have to wait in line like all the others.
The next day, I visited Lyssia to see if she wanted to join The Dragonguard. Unfortunately, she had been ordered back to Cyrodiil by her Arch-Mage. The investigation into The Order of Light resulted in her father’s arrest and, to her dismay, several senior mages of The College of Whispers.
Lyssia seemed confident she would return to Skyrim one day, but I had doubts.
A few days later, I received a report from The Penitus Oculatus. A secret passage into the cell next to Grelod’s was discovered. It led to Riften’s sewers and The Ratway. How the assassin unlocked that cell door, opened Grelod’s and poisoned her meal is unclear. There were a few minutes of opportunity when Grelod was escorted to the privy. She refused to use the bucket provided. So far, there was no evidence of Maven’s involvement, and the investigation did not seem to worry her. However, they were following leads on some children who had left Honorhall without adoption. They feared they were sold into slavery or to brothels.
I lay in bed that night, waiting for my beloved to contact me. Rigmor was still enjoying Mede’s hospitality and was dizzy from endless meals with dignitaries. It was best I not contact her as it took great concentration on her behalf to act like a stick-up-the-arse noble.
Our presence through the rings was constant, like background noise. Only a rapid change of mood demanded attention. One amusing incident was when Rigmor went from panic to relief, and when I asked why, she told me she was bursting to pee, but a nice old man was talking to her, and she didn’t know how to escape with dignity.
Just after midnight, Rigmor said, “Phew, that was close. I almost used the wrong fork to eat my oysters!”
“Oh my! Imagine the scandal! Did you almost use your dinner fork? Or perhaps it was your salad fork?”
“Worse than that, I picked up my dessert fork!”
“Did anybody faint?”
“There were a few gasps from stuck-up bitches. However, I played the snotty noble to perfection. I stared at my dessert fork and held it up towards the chandelier. I tutted and pretended to scratch at one of the tines. I called a servant over and said, ‘It seems a bit of grime has escaped the usual meticulous cleaning of the utensils. Can I please have another, cleaner desert fork?’”
“Yes, I thought so. Anyway, the servant apologised profusely and hurried away with the offensive fork. One of the head servants hurried to me a minute later with a clean fork and more apologies.”
“You made a mistake by asking the servant politely instead of being a super snooty bitch.”
“Oh, the others think that showing manners to commoners is some eccentric habit I picked up in Elsweyr.”
“Being polite is an eccentric habit?”
“You have no idea, Wulf. Many of the nobles I have dealt with are the type that don’t think their shit stinks. I can assure you, after all the rich food they eat, the posh privies smell no better than the public ones. It seems Count Carvain and his family were the exception. Oh, and His Imperial Majesty is a delight and loved by all normal people. The nobles whine and whinge about everything he does.”
“Poor Freathof. He probably aged ten years trying to teach you cutlery etiquette.”
“It was a reduced set tonight, and the meals were served in the order of the utensils.”
“Let’s see if I remember. Starting from the furthest out on the right of the plate and heading inwards, it would be an oyster fork, soup spoon, general purpose spoon, salad knife, general purpose knife which is usually sharp enough to cut through whatever the main meal contains.”
“Okay, smarty, you have that side correct.”
“At the left of the plate, starting from the furthest out, it would be the salad fork and general dinner fork. A small plate with a butter knife would be at the top and left of the dinner plate. A few inches from the top of the plate, horizontally placed, would be a dessert fork and above that, a dessert spoon.”
“How do you remember these things?”
“You know my memory is quite amazing and was not a blessing of a god.”
“Have you ever needed to use cutlery etiquette?”
“Nope. On the contrary, it is only impolite in some circles if you use the same knife to stab people and cut your roast.”
“Are they the ones where you must burp after a meal?”
“Sometimes. You would have no difficulty being polite.”
“I think my record is seven seconds. Oh, I have got distracted talking about cutlery. Guess who was at dinner tonight?”
“Furry, scaley or smooth-skinned?”
“A certain Emissary from Torval, perchance?”
“Yes. Baa’Ren wants you to meet him at the Moonpath Caravan outside Falkreath on the first day of Sun’s Dusk around midday. He said to bring Kharjo, Inigo and Ko’rassa and that you may be away for a couple of weeks.”
“Before leaving Skyrim, he hinted he may want my help with something in Elsweyr.”
“We couldn’t talk much, and too many people were snooping for him to sneak into my guest room. So, I don’t know what it is all about.”
“I think Baa’Ren-Dar is involved with groups not pleased with The Dominion’s presence in his country.”
“The Dominion and some Khajiiti might regard them as rebels.”
“They need a Mane to reunite the country.”
“They have not hidden the birth of Forgotten Manes. It is pretty hard to hide them, so it is better to announce them. However, a Khajiiti declared the reborn Mane would be a prime target for assassination by The Thalmor. They want to keep Elsweyr divided.”
“Are the Forgotten Manes that different? In that painting I liked, Ja’darri looked to be of Cathay Furstock.”
“Females of Mane Furstock are about the same height as Cathay-Raht and could easily be mistaken for one. However, the males of Mane Furstock are more lion-like in facial features and taller than Cathay-Raht and tend to have large manes. A suspicious Thalmor agent who spotted a Forgotten Mane would make enquiries.”
“So, my Guardian, tell me about your day.”
As per usual, Rigmor and I spoke for hours until sleep beckoned.
At noon on the first day of Sun’s Disk, Inigo, Kharjo, Ko’rassa, and I teleported to the outskirts of Falkreath.
As we approached the Moonpath Caravan, Kharjo sighed and said, “It is too late to run, Khajiit. Perhaps that one won’t recognise this one.”
We stopped in front of Baa’Ren-Dar and three other Khajiiti. A petite Khajiiti in leather armour smiled and waved at Kharjo. He flinched.
Baa’Ren-Dar also smiled.
- Baa’Ren: Lord Welkynd, this one is pleased to see a close friend again.
- Wulf: It is good to see you too, Emissary. The green makes a change from your usual attire.
- Baa’Ren: This one must look like a wealthy merchant on occasion. Dragonborn would laugh if he saw Khajiit in courtly attire.
- Wulf: Nobody I know is nobler than you, Baa’Ren.
- Baa’Ren: Khajiit is honoured to introduce Forgotten Mane S’in Dunestride and that one’s accomplice, Lunar Guardian Do’Qua’Der.
- Wulf: And it is my honour to meet such esteemed Khajiiti.
- S’in: A Son of Alkosh is beyond any rank we possess. We are humbled to meet you, Lord Welkynd.
- Wulf: Your Tamrielic is excellent, S’in.
- S’in: I desired to be a diplomat for my people and have spent many hours perfecting the language.
- Wulf: You are of age to have been tempted by Namira and Lorhan’s heartbeat.
- S’in: Like Ja’darri the Endless, I defeated my dark side with the aid of Khenarthi and cannot become Dro-m’Athra.
- Wulf: Do’Qua’Der, seeing a Lunar Temple Guard travelling The Moonpaths is unusual.
- Qua’Der: Please, call me Qua’Der. Forgive me if my Tamrielic is sometimes less than S’in’s. He has been teaching me, but I am a slow learner.
- Wulf: I am pleased to dispense with titles and honorifics. Therefore, call me Wulf.
- Qua’Der: I am dedicated to serving the temple and protecting the people of Elsweyr. I believe in honour and duty, but an event changed my perspective.
- Wulf: Do you no longer believe in honour and duty?
- Qua’Der: See, my mastery of this language is incomplete. I meant to say that my perspective on serving the temple and my people has changed. I will always believe in honour and duty.
- Wulf: Please continue.
- Qua’Der: While on patrol, I was attacked by a group of bandits. I had taken down many, but I was rapidly tiring. S’in appeared like a whirlwind and scythed through the remaining bandits in seconds. I could see he was of Mane Furstock, and although we are not taught to revere them, I still bowed in humble thanks.
- S’in: I have told Qua’Der that I shall cut off his whiskers if he ever bows to me again.
- Qua’Der: S’in told me his plans to represent our people in Skyrim. I realised that dying at the hands of bandits was not how I wanted my story to end. I asked S’in if I could accompany him on his journey, and he agreed. That was six months ago, and I am comfortable that travelling with him is the best way for me to serve Elsweyr and its people.
- S’in: Qua’Der also wanted to see dragons. He was shocked to find them flying over Skyrim and nobody fearing them.
- Wulf: After the defeat of Alduin, Skyrim’s people tolerate the remaining dragons. They know most want to live peacefully and that aggressors will be quickly dealt with.
- Baa’Ren: That one wearing Ja’darri’s colours is Ko’rassa and is Dragonguard.
- S’in: You honour her, Ko’rassa. I am sure Nahfahlaar was pleased.
- Ko’rassa: He was initially unsure, as painful memories accompany any reminder of Ja’darri. However, he soon realised I was honouring his friend and expressed gratitude.
- Wulf: If it didn’t bring undue attention, I would summon Nahfahlaar to greet you. He wished us well in Elsweyr but will not fly in that province.
- S’in: That is understandable, and perhaps we can meet him another time.
- Baa’Ren: Inigo the Brave is also Dragonguard.
- S’in: Inigo is known as the outcast who became one of the most famous of all living Khajiiti. Be assured, Inigo, that the primitive prejudices that almost cost your life at birth are being slowly erased. Forgotten Manes were often dispensed of at birth, so, as another rare Furstock, I have sympathy for your situation.
- Inigo: I am always amazed that others know me. I look forward to swapping lies over a warm campfire, S’in.
- Baa’Ren: Kharjo was once a Moonpath Caravan guard. Then, that one became a guard for Ri’saad’s caravans. That one is also Dragonguard.
- S’in: Kharjo, I see you favour the weapons and armour of the Imperial blacksmith named Dickus. Oddly, an outsider created such perfect armour for Khajiiti.
- Kharjo: This one could never afford such finery. Wulf’s generosity allows Khajiit to select and use items from the museum’s collection.
- Baa’Ren: Lord Welkynd, as you can tell by Khajiit’s use of your title, this one is being cautious of prying eyes and ears. When you are travelling, S’in can explain the problem that needs resolving.
- Wulf: I understand, Baa’Ren. You would not ask for our help if it were unimportant, so I am comfortable with that arrangement.
- Baa’Ren: This one shall return to other duties. Please follow the traditions of Moonpath Caravans.
- Wulf: I shall ask permission to join and guard the caravan.
- Baa’Ren: Good. Ku’rana is the caravan owner. Verina is that one’s mate. Khajiit hopes to hear good news from Wulf and his friends.
Baa’Ren trotted away. When he is out of sight of people, he will use an Ayleid Waystone to teleport to his next destination.
As I headed to the other side of the wagon, Ko’rassa walked over to Verina. Kharjo stared at the pair in horror, then quickly followed me. As I spoke to Ku’rana, Kharjo seemed worried.
- Wulf: Greetings. Are you Ku’rana?
- Ku’rana: Indeed, that is true. And that one must be Wulf.
- Wulf: Yes, and we wonder if you need some guards for your latest venture.
- Ku’rana: Khajiit already knows S’in Dunestrider, Do’Qua’Der and Kharjo. Please introduce the other Khajiiti to this one.
- Wulf: The one speaking to Verina is Ko’rassa. She was an assassin for The Blades and is now a Dragonguard.
- Ku’rana: Khajiit wonders what is deadlier, Ko’rassa’s blades or mate’s stares and acid tongue?
- Wulf: The blue fleabag is Inigo the Brave. He is also a Dragonguard.
- Ku’rana: This one welcomes Inigo. That one’s story is becoming well known in Elsweyr.
- Inigo: I find it difficult to believe others have heard or care about me.
- Ku’rana: A Khajiiti that entered the realm of Nord gods becomes well known. That one accompanying a Son of Alkosh is a great honour for all Khajiiti. Battling Alduin is worthy of many fireside tales.
- Wulf: Kharjo has guarded your caravan in the past?
- Ku’rana: Many times, before the roll of dice and the taste of liquor lured him to the shadows. This one is pleased Ri’saad helped Kharjo return to his people.
- Wulf: Are you ready to travel?
- Ku’rana: Yes, Khajiit will soon step on the warm sands of our homeland once more. However, you must first speak to Verina, my mate. If you fail to do so, it will be as if you insulted our Clan Mother. Then Verina will be angry with this one, and warm sand on the feet is not as good if there is no warm body on the other parts.
- Wulf: I had better speak to Verina then. Other parts may fall off in this cold Skyrim weather if not warmed sufficiently!
Ku’rana laughed as I made my way to the other side of the wagon. Kharjo did not follow me, but I could tell he was listening.
I stood before a diminutive Khajiiti and could instantly tell she commanded respect. In that way, she was like my petite beloved.
- Wulf: Greetings Verina. Ku’rana says you are his mate.
- Verina: He called me his mate? Perhaps I am, mostly, but all cats stray occasionally.
- Kharjo: Some stray more often than others.
- Verina: Are you joining us, Kharjo? It will do you good, my chubby friend. I thought running from dragons and mean Nords would have made you skinny.
- Kharjo: This one is not fat! Do not insult one who has taken many scars for you!
- Verina: Pfft, they are only little scars.
- Kharjo: This one showed you once. They are not little!
- Verina: They are tiny, but I suppose they seem big when compared to other parts of that one.
- Kharjo: This one does not remember you complaining about the size, just mewing like a cub.
- Verina: That is true. It will be good to have Kharjo walk with us once more. That one was always the bravest of them all.
- Inigo: Ri’saad was sad to lose Kharjo to The Dragonguard. He told me Kharjo was excellent at making customers pay too much when they think they have a bargain.
- Verina: Indeed, that one’s fake cries of mercy when bartering are things of legend.
- Wulf: So, Verana, do you agree to us accompanying your caravan?
- Verina: Let Verina think. Do, Dar, Jo, no matter, all of you look strong. We can use the extra claws. Two is too few to travel safely! I accept your generous offer to pay so they can fight and die for us, if need be, at no cost! They can stow their gear in the back and jog alongside for the many miles we will travel before rest.
- Wulf: We are humbled to accept your equally generous offer and promise we will bleed and die without making a mess of your wagon.
- Verina: As it should be.
- Ko’rassa: A Son of Alkosh and a Forgotten Mane are more than strong, Verina.
- Verina: This one knows that. It is important to look down upon the males to maintain the correct order of things.
- Ko’rassa: Oh, of course.
- Verina: Our dear friend’s lost cub has grown to become a Clan Mother. When in Torval, I often visited, and for a long time, she would either stare ahead or have her head in my lap as I stroked her hair. That cub would never say a word. Then, on one glorious visit, she flew into my arms and talked till my ears bled. That one heard and saw all and had a keen mind. Baa’Ren said a visit to a library brought her out of that dark place. The transformation brought tears to many who had learned to love that hairless, silent cub. As have you, it seems.
- Wulf: That cub is now fully grown and is Clan Mother to millions. She is endeavouring to learn the tricks required. However, we must be cautious of what we discuss.
- Verina: Do not worry, Son of Alkosh. The emissary stressed the need for some things to be kept secret. We should start our trip so we can talk more freely.
- Wulf: We will discover many things that must be kept from our competitors.
- Verina: Indeed. We must be away now. There was a reason to meet at this hour. We travel with the Ja’Kha’jay moonstrings, first through Cyrodiil. This part is easy, but past Riverhold, the khaj begins, and caution will be needed.
It took ten days of travelling, eighteen hours per day, to reach the beginning of the desert. In that time, I learnt what was happening and why we were needed.
There is a Mane who has reached maturity. So far, The Thalmor do not know of his existence. There are several disparate groups of rebels spread over Anequina and Pellitine. Some groups do minor sabotage to attract the attention of The Thalmor. Other groups concentrate on recruitment and funding. The group we are aiding have various hideouts in the jungle called Tenmar Forest. We could have travelled directly to Pellitine and the Tenmar Forest from Cyrodiil, but Ku’rana was determined to travel the Moonpath, which led to the desert.
The hidden dens in the jungle were considered safe from The Thalmor. They rarely sent patrols into the jungle, and very few Thalmor who entered it ever exited it. However, things changed when some Khajiiti discovered plans for a Dwemer Airship and built two. When The Thalmor discovered them, they confiscated them. Now, they are patrolling the jungle from the air, and the dens are in danger of being discovered.
Although there was a sense of urgency, we obeyed the Ja’Kha’jay moonstrings, which dictated our course and travelling times. This deference to tradition differs from Ri’saad’s caravans, which move according to profit. Yes, they have a set routine of which Holds they visit and when, but changes can be made according to circumstance. That is something a Moonpath Caravan would not do.
We soon got used to random stops when plenty of daylight remained. Similarly, random starts in the middle of the night were not unusual.
It was explained that different clans have different attitudes to casual intimate relations. Verina would not dare try and seduce Inigo as that was not his and Ko’rassa’s way of things. Kharjo, on the other hand, would move away, thankfully out of earshot, with Verina, and Ku’rana was not fussed.
S’in’s tale of overcoming his dark side was inspiring. When he began to hear the beating of Lorkhan’s Heart, he prayed to Lady Kynareth. As she did with Ja’darri, she guided him to a pocket plane of Aetherius that was like a desert, except the sand was pure white. After wandering for hours, S’in saw an oasis in the distance with a small gold pyramid in its centre. When he reached the oasis, he drank the water, which he says was the purest and most refreshing.
A Dro-m’Athra appeared, and S’in was suddenly fighting for his life. His opponent easily parried or negated his attacks no matter what he tried. Similarly, he found himself predicting the Dro-m’Athra’s attacks and countering them with little effort. S’in was fatigued, while the Dro-m’Athra seemed fresh and unfazed by the energetic combat. S’in studied his opponent’s face and realised it was him but with the black fur and glowing eyes of a Dro-m’Athra. He was battling what he would become if he failed to return to The Path. Intuitively, he knew that to defeat the Dro-m’Athra, he had to rely on his will, not his sword.
S’in sheathed his weapon and told the Dro-m’Athra, ‘I will walk The Path. You will fade to nothing. Namira shall not have my soul or my obedience.’ He did not flinch when the Dro-m’Athra swung at him with his massive greatsword. The sword passed harmlessly through S’in’s neck, and the Dro-m’Athra faded.
A portal then appeared in the middle of the gold pyramid. When S’in entered, he found himself back on Nirn and could no longer hear the beating of Lorkhan’s Heart. Lady Kynareth then told him a Son of Alkosh would soon appear in Skyrim and that S’in should offer his sword in service. She told him no more than that, but it was enough for him to seek me. Baa’Ren-Dar was told by one of Azura’s seers to seek out S’in and help him find his way to me. It was fortunate that the timing coincided with the problems in Elsweyr.
Most of Azura’s claims were nonsense. But she did manipulate others to my advantage on occasions. Sethri was of enormous help, and S’in would add to The Dragonguard’s strength.
Do’Qua’Der was quiet at first. His ‘Do’ honorific is reserved for Khajiiti warriors of great renown. Inigo slowly drew Qua’Der out by swapping exaggerated tales of their exploits. I was forced to vouch for Inigo regarding how he received his scars and acquired Mr. Dragonfly. Even Qua’Der’s most outrageous fabrication could not compete with that weirdness.
Qua’Der became quite the storyteller, and I listened intently to his Khajiiti tales and lore. He could express them in terms easily understood by those not immersed in Elsweyr culture. Verina and Ku’rana spoke in terms that confused even my Khajiiti friends. Qua’Der provided interpretations for us. The Moonpath Caravan owners thought it was amusing that familiar tales and folklore had to be explained as if we were simpletons.
On the tenth day of our journey, we stopped a few miles into the desert. The air was full of swirling red sand, which lent a bloody hue to everything.
Verina and Ku’rana were so quick and efficient at setting up camp that it was decided early on that our aid would only slow and hinder them. Therefore, we kept out of their way and soon, several different meats were roasting over a campfire. They did not cook daily, only when they had enough supplies to provide several meals. We craved freshly cooked meat and appreciated the preserved meats covered in various spices.
Ko the Mooncow started to bleat in panic. A pack of hyenas decided she would be a fulfilling lunch.
We soon dispensed of them. Ko showed her anger by repeatedly stamping on one of the attackers until only a bloody pulp remained. I collected samples of hyena meat, organs, and bones for analysis. I was unsure of their alchemical properties.
Our hosts watched with interest as we saved Ko. Then Ku’rana said, “Wulf, please come with this one.”
Verina joined us, and we moved away from the others. When we stopped, Ku’rana pointed to a camp in the distance.
- Verina: The moonstrings lead us in this direction. But a blockade has been placed to stop Khajiiti 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: How populated is this part of the desert?
- Verina: There are very few Khajiiti in this part.
- Wulf: I can see overturned wagons and spilt goods. Therefore, it seems enough traffic passes this way for those behind the barricades to make a living. I can also see they have placed victims on spike poles.
- Ku’rana: These roads are filled with brigands. Our Thalmor overlords are more interested in heretics than bandits.
- Wulf: Heretics? We cannot have peace until The Thalmor leaders treat religious freedom as a fundamental right.
- 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 haven’t overthrown them.
- Verina: This one does not think there are many bandits.
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 without drawing a weapon or speaking.
A bandit yelled in Ta’agra, “Halt, hairless one. We have watched your caravan approach and eagerly awaited your representative. Two hundred gold coins will gain you passage. The other option is death.”
I laughed and replied, “Your threats are pathetic! There are only seven of you!”
“You will die before your friends arrive to save you.”
“No, you will all die before they reach here.”
The spokesman fired his bow. I dodged and ran towards the compound.
Unrelenting Force killed two of the bandits.
My Dance of Death eliminated the other five in as many seconds.
I returned to the caravan.
- Wulf: The bandits are no more.
- Ku’rana: When Khajiiti turns to Renrij, he has no reason to be. The sand will bury their shame, and we shall move along.
- Verina: That is the first time Khajiit heard The Voice.
- Wulf: I have hesitated to use it as some may hear and recognise it. Thalmor snitches are everywhere, and would expect payment for information relating to my whereabouts and companions.
- Verina: I could not see you fight from here, but what this one heard, the fight was brief.
- Wulf: Why would you want to watch me kill? There is no glory in what I do.
- Verina: This one apologises. Baa’Ren-Dar told Khajiit that Dovahkiin is the most skilled warrior yet does not like killing. 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: Why did you want them to attack?
- Wulf: From here, I could see the overturned carriages and goods stacked high. I could also see the impaled victims. They likely had robbed caravans and killed the merchants and guards, but that was speculation.
- Verina: Dovahkiin did not want to kill without reason. Therefore, that one waited till the bandits became aggressive.
- Wulf: Yes, and it was not very brave of me because the bandits stood no chance of defeating me. In contrast, I would attack a group of opposing soldiers during a 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 ensured any killing would be justified.
- 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 a wild moon to go there.
- Wulf: How long do you estimate that will take?
- Verina: After eating, it will be time to move on. The caravan should enter the forest early morning of the twelfth.
It was, as predicted, early morning on the twelfth when 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 one of their favourite pastimes, yet they remained trim!
Away from the camp, I summoned Silah. After the excitement of her first few visits, it became routine, and our hosts did not forgo their food to say hello.
Silah landed gracefully, and Ko said hello with her deep trilling.
- Wulf: Ko does not realise she would make a tasty snack for you.
- Silah: Many species have lost their fear of dragons. Those in Skyrim are starting to remember, which makes hunting far more entertaining.
- Wulf: Scared or not, no animal in Skyrim can escape a dragon or provide much of a hunt.
- Silah: There is still an element of conquering a foe when they run. It appeals to our base instincts.
- Ko’rassa: Do you bring news, Silah?
- Silah: The Penitus Oculatus have many informants and undercover agents. From scant information, they traced the whereabouts of two orphans who once resided in Honourhall Orphanage. Grelod told them that she had found places for them on a farm. They weren’t told they were sold as enslaved labour to a farmer in Arnima.
- Wulf: That is a city in Evermore which was once the most stable part of High Rock.
- Silah: It seems that part of High Rock has become a cesspool of corruption. The farmers there are no better than serfs, one level above enslavement. It is not surprising a farmer there would resort to enslaved labour and be able to hide it from authorities. He paid a pittance for the pair.
- Wulf: How old are the girls?
- Silah: Sakura recently turned fifteen. Zoe is closer to sixteen.
- Wulf: In some societies, they would be regarded as adults. How long have they been enslaved?
- Silah: Six months. The farmer was keen to turn informant but provided no evidence incriminating Maven Black-Briar. Grelod was the name of the seller. The farmer said many others were provided orphans of both genders by Grelod and provided a list. The Penitus Oculatus are preparing to raid them simultaneously so as to avoid other victims being hidden.
- Ko’rassa: How did the girls become orphans?
- Silah: Both girls have similar stories of being hidden by their fathers and listening as their family was slaughtered by bandits who attacked their farms. Their skills developed on family farms made them worth the pittance paid by the farmer. They were at Honourhall for several years and became close. It seems their bond kept them alive during the dark days of Honourhall and enslavement.
- Ko’rassa: Were they raped?
- Silah: Both girls said they were untouched. That was probably due to the farmer’s age.
- Wulf: What is happening in Evermore? It was once a shining example of how to live The Ten Commands of the Nine Divines. For an elderly farmer to resort to enslaved labour, things must be desperate.
- Silah: Lady Mara has often expressed dismay at Evermore.
- Wulf: His Imperial Majesty most likely wants to do something, but the politics of High Rock are volatile. Any increase in Legion presence within Evermore could cause other High Rock monarchs to rebel.
- Ko’rassa: Many orphans who come of age are thrown onto the streets with inadequate education or skills. Many end up selling their bodies out of desperation.
- Wulf: My orphanages will end that cycle, but what to do with girls such as these unfortunates?
- Ko’rassa: Educate them, Wulf. Take these two in and see what needs to be done. Perhaps a dedicated training school can be arranged for older orphans.
- Wulf: Where are Sakura and Zoe?
- Silah: I do not know.
- Wulf: Can you please ask Vayu to arrange for them to be sent to Kinghall Orphanage in Solitude? From there, he can transfer them to Aurane.
- Silah: I will do that.
- Wulf: Are orphans still arriving at Dragons Keep?
- Silah: Yes. It is just over fifty per cent capacity.
- Wulf: And the Mal Zeymah?
- Silah: Nearly all of them have come out of hiding and have been escorted to Dragons Keep by Valminoor. They were greeted warmly by dragons that hunt near the orphanage, and I think they will soon feel comfortable.
- Wulf: Rigmor has been holding court for a few days, and so far, she has resisted chopping any supplicant in half.
- Silah: Some of the more sceptical Dragonguard have been betting on how long her temper will last.
- Wulf: Sigunn has been teaching the coping methods she used as a teacher.
- Silah: Yes, I imagine some whining supplicants would react to such tactics.
- Wulf: Thank you, Silah.
- Silah: Do’Qua’Der, you talk too much!
- Qua’Der: Oh, have I offended you, pretty one?
- Silah: No, Do’Qua’Der, it was a humorous observation.
- Qua’Der: I am finding the language difficult enough. Do not expect me to understand the humour as yet.
Silah laughed as she launched into the air and spiralled to a great height before speeding towards Skyrim. No matter how often I watch a dragon in flight, their aerial skills always amaze me.
I made my way to Ku’rana and Verina, who, unsurprisingly, were eating and drinking. As I approached, I noticed the bridge’s damage resulted from sabotage.
- Wulf: It seems this sturdy bridge did not collapse without help.
- Verina: Khajiiti no longer maintain their manes, pride, or the roads.
- Kharjo: Seeing how many have given up so quickly is sad.
- Verina: Khajiiti 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 Khajiiti are conducting a covert war to divert Thalmor eyes elsewhere. But you can’t possibly remove the Aldmeri Dominion unless united under a single leader.
- Ku’rana: Right or wrong, Khajiit cannot discuss such probabilities.
- Wulf: We shall look for a shallow ford across the river.
- Ku’rana: You are very useful, my friends. 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!
I said, “Whoever wants to accompany me, come along. Some local wildlife awaits, including spiders.”
Inigo moaned, “Kyne’s peace is in effect, isn’t it?”
“Yes, Inigo, so there will be no spider squishing.”
A large boulder had been dropped to block the bridge. The saboteurs must have decided that was insufficient, so they collapsed the bridge.
In the river’s shallows, bipedal Zahilisk lizards attacked one of the native mudcrabs. The mudcrabs of Skyrim and most other places are coloured to allow camouflage amongst rocks and stones. Those of Tenmar Forest are bright orange and do not hunt prey through ambush. They are omnivores and will eat plants and scavenged meat.
We saw spiders as giant as those in Skyrim. However, we did not see a Jungle Queen, which is many times the size. Skyrim spiders are independent, whilst Elsweyr’s act more like small ant colonies with a queen. I have no doubt the queen of these spiders was watching from the dense jungle.
Inigo still grumbled about non-squishable spiders when S’in said, “Wulf, I believe this part of the river is shallow enough for Ko and the wagon.”
I joined him in the water and said, “Yes, I agree. Let’s interrupt their Riddle’Thar offering and tell them the news.”
The others were enjoying the cool water but reluctantly joined us.
I allowed S’in the pleasure of informing our hosts.
- S’in: 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. Ko is heavy. We feed her 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 Khajiiti must move on.
- Wulf: To where?
- Ku’rana: The Pahmar have invited you to their part of the jungle. Such an invitation 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. The civilised Pahmar guard the waterways. The others defend the jungle.
- Kharjo: The Pahmar honour you, Son of Alkosh. 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. Because of their ongoing persecution of Imperial citizens, I believe we are still at war with them. I kill them without pity or warning.
- Verina: Baa’Ren-Dar told us what Thalmor did to Rigmor and her family. That sort of persecution is rife in Elsweyr.
- Wulf: All territories of The Dominion suffer similar persecution. Nirn has a history of people who take such insults for so long before an uprising steeped in bloody revenge occurs.
- Ku’rana: We hope that The Dominion can be removed less violently.
- Wulf: It took years for The Redguard to remove The Thalmor from Hammerfell. I doubt Elsweyr will escape bloodshed in their push for autonomy. The best timing will be when The Dominion renews hostility with The Empire. They will not be able to spare the troops to keep your people suppressed.
- Ku’rana: Does that one think that the fighting will renew?
- Wulf: Inevitably.
We arrived at the jungle camp at about 6:30 AM on the thirteenth. It took thirty minutes to say goodbye to Ku’rana and Verina, who wept with my group. We had been travelling together for twelve days, and bonds had formed. No Pahmar greeted the caravan owners, which lent credence that they were isolationists.
As soon as Ku’rana Verina exited via some very hefty doors, a Pahmar approached us.
I met him halfway, and he lay down as he spoke Ta’agra with a deep baritone and slight lisp.
He said, “Greetings, Son of Alkosh. My clan’s honoured to welcome Baa’Ren-Dar’s friends to this part of Tenmar Forest. Our Pride Leader, Deepclaw, speaks highly of you and The Dragonguard. Likewise, we are honoured to host a Forgotten Mane and a revered Lunar Temple Guard. It has been long since Dovahkiin, Dragonguard, Forgotten Mane, or Lunar Temple Guard have visited these lands.”
“We are eager to aid our Khajiiti brethren in their struggle for independence.”
“Feel free to move around and introduce yourselves to others who dwell here.”
“Your trust humbles us.”
“Yura waits to guide you. She is barely out of cubhood, so forgive that one’s energy and enthusiasm.”
We were high above the jungle floor.
Yura spoke broken Tamrielic at a rapid speed. She reminded me of Latoria.
- Wulf: Greetings, Yura.
- Yura: Dovahkiin, you are so brave! If only I could come with you, I’d make a great dragon slayer!
- Wulf: When Dov invaded Elsweyr, your people defeated them without a Dovahkiin to assist. Khajiiti are fine warriors! But not all dragons are my enemies, and I do not enjoy killing any of them. Some are my friends, as they were with famous Khajiiti, such as Ja’darri the Endless.
- Yura: All Khajiiti learn of her.
- Qua’Der: Did you earn the Siligonder armour you wear, Yura?
- Yura: You must be Do’Qua’Der. Yes, this one was brave and skilful as I had to kill the Siligonder. This one did not enjoy killing the Siligonder.
- Wulf: Your reluctance to kill will make you an even better warrior.
- Qua’Der: That is a fine accomplishment for one of your age. Do you wish to travel the Moonpaths as a guard?
- Yura: Yes, but more knowledge of moonstrings is needed before this one will be allowed to travel the Moonpaths.
- Wulf: Is there somebody we need to speak to?
- Yura: We were expecting you, so Ameir told me to come and welcome you.
- Wulf: Does this place have a name?
- Yura: It is called Priderock. The Pahmar have gifted you this place as your home in Elsweyr.
- Wulf: That is very generous and unexpected. Ameir is a familiar name. Does she travel to Skyrim?
- Yura: No, but she is a close friend of Emissary Baa’Ren-Dar and is a Priestess of Azura. Her sister lives with that esteemed one in Torval and is his mate, but before that, she was one of his maids.
- Wulf: Would that be Dra’issi-Hasa?
- Yura: Yes. Do people other than Khajiiti enjoy gossip?
- Wulf: Oh yes, even dragons indulge in that pastime. But it was not gossip that told me of Baa’Ren’s fondness of Lizzy. Rigmor told me when recalling fond memories of Torval. Although Lizzy accepting his advances will be news to her.
- Yura: Is it true that Rigmor is now a Clan Mother?
- Wulf: Yes, Rigmor is Countess of Bruma.
- Yura: How many people is she Clan Mother for?
- Wulf: Several millions of people of many races.
- Yura: Haha, you play a joke on poor Yura.
- S’in: Lord Welkynd speaks the truth, young one.
- Yura: I cannot conceive of such numbers.
- Wulf: You wear the hood of a Psijic Monk. Did you find it somewhere?
- Yura: It is the only thing I have of my mother’s. She died when experimenting with a new type of portal. It was very messy!
- Wulf: I know some Psijic Monks. What was your mother’s name?
- Yura: I am Yura Ronai. Mother was Zav’i Ronai.
- Wulf: Oh!
A fond memory assailed me. It was a reminder of days surrounded by love, and not violence.
People I have known in the past and others who have known Rigmor are involved in various degrees with Baa’Ren-Dar’s rebels.
- Inigo: My friend, you seem taken aback by Yura’s news.
- Yura: Did you know my mother, Lord Welkynd?
- Wulf: Yes, Yura. Zav’i was the first Khajiiti I ever met. She tested me without my knowledge on behalf of The Psijic Order. She helped me while I trained with them. She was a friend. I was also fond of J’saad.
- Yura: He is alive, but I don’t know where he is. He writes to me.
- Wulf: If J’saad is on Psijic business, he would not reveal his location. I am pleased he still lives. I rode on his shoulders for miles once and felt like I was on the highest of mountains.
- Yura: My mother died doing what she enjoyed most. That is learning more about magical things. Yura cannot do magic, which relieved her as she said it can be all-consuming.
- Wulf: It can be, and Psijic Monks take many risks in their pursuit of knowledge.
- Yura: Is it okay for Yura to wear this hood?
- Wulf: Yes, it is okay, Yura. The Psijic are not without empathy.
- Yura: Ameir is in another part of the waterways. You will find the door. It is not the one you came in, making it easy.
- S’in: Wulf, the doors cannot be opened without the proper key. If you risk the jungle on either side, the wild Pahmar will inevitably find and kill you. They tolerate strangers in the waterways but nowhere else.
- Yura: True, so do not be sillies and enter the jungle!
- Wulf: I assume the doors were protection against snooping Thalmor.
- Yura: Yes, and now they are no good as Thalmor can fly.
- Wulf: We shall try our hardest to stop The Thalmor.
- Yura: Khajiiti here know of many things you and your friends have done and are confident you will remove the threat.
Yura handed me an intricate key and then wandered off while humming a song.
We proceeded to have a look around Priderock. Beds and crafting stations, bookshelves, chests, tables, and other amenities had been provided. 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 was that of The College of Winterhold. I suspect Khajiiti mages from Winterhold had been visiting and were part of the rebel groups. It took me a few minutes to determine what the mages had done wrong. They were close to having a working portal. I fixed the error and enabled the platform. I could teleport to it without memorising the surroundings or casting a Mark.
We went down to the water and met some of the local fauna. The orange crabs were in great abundance.
I asked, “Do these crabs have a name?”
S’in replied, “The Ta’agra name for them is ‘Esush Trevan.’”
“River Friend seems apt. They keep it clean, don’t they?”
“Yes, and that is why they are regarded as friends. A clean river is essential for those who live upon it.”
I examined the door, and a complex dweomer provided tremendous security. When I inserted the key, the doors silently swung open.
We entered the waterways and encountered spiders.
Inigo asked, “What do they feed on?”
S’in replied, “Mooncows and Zahilisk. The occasional hyena that mistakenly finds itself in a jungle and not a desert.”
We came upon a Jungle Queen, and Inigo wistfully remarked, “I bet she would make lovely crunchy sounds!”
The Jungle Queen we just passed decided a Zahilisk looked tasty. Unfortunately, it became enraged and then attacked Ko’rassa and Qua’Der. It’s brood obeyed the monarch and also attacked.
Showing no concern for Ko’rassa, as he knew she could defend herself, Inigo yelled, “Yeah! Spider crunching time!”
Before Inigo could reach the melee, Ko’rassa killed the smaller spiders, and Qua’Der ended the Jungle Queen with a mighty swing of his axe.
The surviving Zahilisk seemed confused by the whole incident as it wandered past.
As I collected samples from dead Zahilisk and spiders, Qua’Der ribbed Inigo.
- Qua’Der: Inigo, did you hear the crunch when I hit the Jungle Queen?
- Inigo: No.
- S’in: Are your ears broken? It was loud, like a colossal tree snapping in the wind.
- Ko’rassa: Even the smaller ones made wonderful, crunchy sounds. You should try squishing spiders, my beloved. It is fun!
- Inigo: I don’t want to hear any more.
- Qua’Der: CRUNCH! I haven’t had so much fun in ages!
- Inigo: My friend, can we please move on?
- Kharjo: Wulf is almost finished. It seems the spider carcasses are very hard. Khajiit thinks they might make great crunchy sounds when hit!
- Inigo: I hate all of you.
We continued on our way and eventually came to the rebel’s outpost.
I saw a Tojah-Raht guarding a door and was instantly reminded of J’saad. His kindness and that of Zav’i started my lifelong admiration for Khajiiti.
A naked female Khajiiti saw us, squeaked, and ran behind a column to dress. It is not that Khajiiti are prudish, but being naked in front of guests is terrible etiquette. That seems strange since Pahmar genitalia are not covered.
I placed a Mark before we entered the camp.
Other Khajiiti dressed in jungle finery watched as we approached. The Pahmar guards seemed disinterested.
The naked woman hastily donned a robe of Azura. I decided she must be Ameir, so we headed her way.
We passed a shaman, who, like many of his kind of all species, dressed more crudely than others around him. The idea is to project an aura of being one with nature. Many shamans are wise, but it has nothing to do with how many furs and bones they wear.
Ameir was sitting, pretending to be unconcerned that we approached and probably hoping we didn’t see her naked.
She stood and bowed.
Then, in contrast, she adopted a relaxed posture.
- Ameir: I am honoured to greet you, Lord Welkynd, and other distinguished guests.
- Wulf: I am honoured to greet a Priestess of Azura. Are you a seer, Ameir?
- Ameir: No, and in many ways, I am thankful. Many of them walk in a daze as reality and visions collide. Emissary Baa’Ren-Dar says you are Azura’s champion.
- Wulf: Rigmor was at first, then Lady Azura made me her champion when I needed to rescue Rigmor and close an Oblivion Gate.
- Ameir: We know much of what has occurred, Lord Welkynd, but some things are hidden. For instance, we know you entered Oblivion to close that Gate, but not which realm you travelled. Baa’Ren says this is necessary to keep you and others safe.
- Wulf: That is one reason. There is also information that could upset some societies on Nirn as it challenges the dogma of their religion. I am Champion of The Divines and other Daedric Princes, including Azura. The Nine do not want to be seen as opposing religious freedom. I do not want to cause consternation amongst devotees of particular gods.
- S’in: Priestess, may I enquire as to your function here? I doubt many devotees of Azura pass this way.
- Ameir: It is a sign of our paranoia that a Forgotten Mane does not know of our new Mane. The Pahmar are essential to the Moon Sugar. The Moon Sugar funds our resistance. We are the Mane’s emissaries for the Pahmar.
- Wulf: There will be no discussion of a Mane with others outside of Aurane. Even then, be cautious who hears such talk.
- Kharjo: It is a matter of conjecture amongst many. The Mane’s existence must not be confirmed.
- Ameir: You understand the gravity of the information I delivered. We trust the judgment of Emissary Baa’Ren-Dar, and he assured us of your discretion.
- Wulf: Are you the designated leader here?
- Ameir: As you know, every Khajiiti is their own pillar. We follow only the moons and the Mane. But in a sense, I command respect amongst the folk here. Baa’Ren-Dar acts as an advisor to this resistance cell and others.
- Wulf: Yura said you know Countess Rigmor.
- Ameir: Like many Khajiiti, I met Rigmor often when visiting Baa’Ren’s residence. Of all the things you have accomplished, Lord Welkynd, saving Rigmor and loving her is the most celebrated amongst us. Aleyt is probably Rigmor’s favourite, for she spoiled her more than others.
- Wulf: That is another name Rigmor has mentioned. Is Aleyt here?
- Ameir: Indeed, she is waiting for you over there. Now, shoo, I have more sleep to concentrate on.
Ameir pointed to a petite Khajiiti who waved enthusiastically at us.
I climbed aboard Aleyt’s boat, which didn’t rock. If it can carry the larger Khajiiti Furstock, I am not a challenge to its buoyancy or stability.
- Aleyt: Welcome, Lord Welkynd and friends.
- Wulf: Greetings, Aleyt.
- Aleyt: What does that one think is our situation?
- Wulf: You are one of several rebel groups. Your group aims to gather funds. Other groups are involved in sabotage and other activities. Those groups hopefully draw Thalmor attention away from this one. 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 Khajiiti are well aware of what it is used to create. Perhaps other goods from Elsweyr can be traded to Tamriel?
- Wulf: Cacao and its byproducts could become of great value if select distributors for The Empire are chosen. I believe a market for confections made with chocolate could become a great money earner for chocolatiers.
- Aleyt: And who would Lord Welkynd suggest might be given one of the distribution rights to our cacao and byproducts?
- Wulf: A hairless cub you once knew.
- Aleyt: Khajiit was a favourite among Baa’Ren’s visitors, for this one spoilt Rigmor the most. Gifting the new Clan Mother with such trade would be another example of such spoiling and agreeable to others.
- Wulf: Currently, you have a problem with flying Thalmor. Your doors in the waterways and wild Pahmar in the jungle were your protection. Now that The Thalmor can bypass those, you are in danger of being discovered.
- S’in: Wulf is very good at summarising things!
- Inigo: Sometimes. However, all brevity is forgotten if my friend starts lecturing on a subject.
- Wulf: Oops, there seems to be an extra stipend. I will put the money back into my account as there is no way I would forget to pay one of my friends.
- Inigo: My friend’s lectures are always informative, and I look forward to them.
- Wulf: Forgive us for that diversion, Aleyt.
- Aleyt: Khajiiti enjoy levity. This one is pleased to see that one and friends are not always so serious.
- Wulf: Do you arrange the trade with other provinces?
- Aleyt: No. It would be best if you spoke to Qa’mel. That one handles trade for us. He is one boat over.
- Wulf: I find it disconcerting that many of this group know Rigmor.
- Aleyt: Emissary Baa’Ren-Dar is involved with many aspects of Elsweyr politics. Logically, many Khajiiti have visited that one’s home in Torval. All cubs and kittens are of interest to female Khajiiti. Rigmor’s story tore at Khajiiti heartstrings. It pleased Khajiiti when Rigmor made progress for two reasons. Many Khajiiti learned to love the hairless cub, so Rigmor’s progress touched many hearts. Such progress made Baa’Ren smile, and that pleased Khajiiti as well.
- Kharjo: And Rigmor took revenge on The Thalmor. That must be a third reason, no?
- Aleyt: Indeed, that is true.
- Wulf: I shall visit with Rigmor once this danger is dealt with.
- Aleyt: That would please many here, Lord Welkynd.
- Wulf: We had better talk to Qa’mel and then find out what can be done about flying Thalmor.
I clambered off Aleyt’s boat and then boarded Qa’mel’s.
- Wulf: 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.
- S’in: Your trade is crucial to the current undertakings?
- Qa’mel: Indeed, Forgotten Mane. The coin from the Moon Sugar is going straight into our new Mane’s coffers and ours to fund these undertakings. Hence, the extraordinary caution you will find amongst my colleagues. Thalmor spies are everywhere.
- S’in: Is there an increase in this undertaking?
- Qa’mel: You are aware of our history. However, I will summarise it for clarity. 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 Khajiiti 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 they were born. That they believed we would somehow have Mer children. Our cubs did not survive as no moons determined their Furstock.
- Wulf: I doubt The Dominion know Dawn Magic, as they have never used it in battle. If they are somehow responsible for The Void Nights, they have shown once again how their claim of racial superiority drives them to commit atrocity after atrocity.
- Qa’mel: Each day, more Khajiiti question The Thalmor claim about restoring the moons with Dawn Magic. Some believe they created The Void Nights and knew how to restore them without Dawn Magic. 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.
- Inigo: This uncertainty and suspicion would create more recruits for rebel actions.
- 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. Therefore, whatever they do is permitted. We should be grateful to be under their loving care. Even a Khajiiti 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 are the only rebels with knowledge of 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.
- S’in: It would benefit this group if Moon Sugar were not the only thing traded. If other goods are traded openly, there would be less suspicion and, therefore, less chance of discovery.
- Qa’mel: I agree. There is way too much jungle and desert for The Thalmor to patrol. They concentrate where they suspect rebellion 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. Their flying boats allow them to bypass doors and jungle and cover more ground. We must know if they are looking for rebels or the Moon Sugar.
- Wulf: We will investigate and possibly deal with The Thalmor first. Then, we shall have time to consider less risky trading at a later date.
- Qa’mel: That is what Khajiiti hope you achieve. Speak to Mervar Denfriend, the grumpy-looking Tojay-Raht over there. He has information about The Thalmor.
We sloshed through the water and climbed a ladder. Mervar stared down at me, and like all tall people, he thought that was intimidating.
“Greetings, Mervar, I am Lord Welkynd. Are you 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. Mervar might turn his ears to you if he vouches for you.”
I smiled at Mervar and heard Inigo whisper, “This will be fun!”
Using a 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 me with disrespect. He mumbled, “Ah…this…” but I did not allow him to apologise. I was having too much fun!
“We have been here for many minutes, yet no Pahmar or other Khajiiti has challenged us. I am a Son of Alkosh and Champion of Azura. I am a Dragonlord of The Dragonguard and have travelled far to help the Khajiiti. Do you have some nobility or other rank that justifies your insolence?”
“Did you know Pride Leader Deepclaw and Emissary Baa’Ren-Dar invited us here? Or were only the important Khajiiti informed of this?”
“What gives you the right to question my honesty or the right to speak to you? Do you know something about me that those above you do not?”
Mervar started to look around for help from the other Khajiiti. They just watched the spectacle with barely hidden amusement.
“You called me ‘little-one.’ Do you think you would last more than a second because you are taller than me if I decided to slay you? You are a tiny spec compared to the dragons I have killed and the gods I have faced!”
Mervar’s eyes grew wide at the hinted violence.
I continued, “Your poor mother would weep if she saw you demand a guest of the Pahmar seek validation! Bend over so I can twist your ears for being a naughty kitten!”
Mervar was on the verge of bending for an ear twist. However, he halted when laughter broke out.
When he saw my mood change to merriment, Mervar realised I was having fun and laughed as loud as anybody.
When the laughter died out, we got back to the serious business.
- Wulf: Relax, Mervar. It is good you take security seriously, but your manners need improving.
- Mervar: I know of your deeds, Lord Welkynd. I would not want my ears twisted by you.
- 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 very close. 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?
- Inigo: 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 in Nirn. Even flying ones are not a problem.
I took the key from Mervar, and we entered the waterway to Tenmar Den.
When the huge doors clanged shut, Inigo said, “My friend, you made Mervar shake like a frightened kitten. It takes a certain level of bastardry to do that to a Tojah-Raht.”
“I was taught expert bastardry by life’s experiences, Inigo.”
“It is always fun to watch.”
Just over an hour into our sloshy trek, we heard the unmistakable arrogant tones of a Thalmor officer arguing with a deep baritone Khajiiti in Ta’agra.
“Yava zuubka!” were the final words from the Khajiiti’s mouth before weapons clashed.
We rushed forward and saw Pahmar and Dervar tackling Thalmor soldiers and wizards. To my surprise, an Imga was fighting beside the rats.
I Blinked to two soldiers and cut them down before leaping towards a wizard.
He hit me with his best spell and died as I laughed.
Two soldiers and another wizard badly injured a Pahmar.
Before my friends arrived, I killed all three Thalmor and the Imga. Just before I cut down the Imga, Lady Kynareth had marked it. She only does that with beasts, so she regards Imga as such.
I healed the injured Pahmar. The Imga’s corpse blocked our progress, so I quickly lifted it and tossed it into the water.
We climbed to where the Tojay-Raht waited for us.
- Wulf: Dervar, I assume?
- Dervar: Wait, who are you?
- Wulf: I am Lord Welkynd, Son of Alkosh and guest of the Pahmar. Mervar asked us to see if you needed help and if there were any Thalmor around.
- Dervar: Ah, only one breath older, yet he already feels like an old man. Tell him he needs to stop napping near the fire and come help us out.
- Inigo: 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!
- Inigo: You are fortunate Mervar sent us!
- Kharjo: Our Pahmar brothers would not have reached that one in time.
- Dervar: But Lord Welkynd did. I think Deepclaw was impressed by how quickly that one cut them down.
- Inigo: The Imga would have ripped your head off while Thalmor distracted you.
- Dervar: Imga like the Thalmor. This one could never figure out why.
- Inigo: The Thalmor are the only people uglier than the Imga.
- Dervar: Ahh… that makes sense!
- Wulf: Why were Thalmor here?
- Dervar: They did not say. We are still investigating these Thalmor. Maybe there are orders to be found?
- Wulf: There is no Justiciar amongst them, but I will search the bodies.
- Dervar: This one is grateful for your assistance. Ahh, why is the Imga glowing and transparent?
- Wulf: It is a game Khenarthi and I play. She marks a beast and gives me a few seconds to despatch it.
- Dervar: Khenarthi thought the Imga was a beast?
- Wulf: It seems so.
- S’in: How did The Thalmor get here? I thought the doors and jungle secured the area.
- Dervar: One of their airships hovered close to the ground, and they slid down ropes. The Imga jumped from twenty feet without harm. If I had a bow, they would have made excellent target practice.
- Wulf: They may return for their patrol. I will advise Mervar that more Khajiiti must be stationed here, or he should abandon it.
- Dervar: Now we know of the trick with climbing down ropes. So now Pahmar will come in numbers and hide in the jungle. Thalmor will not hesitate to attack a lone Khajiiti, and then they will be overrun.
- Wulf: That sounds like the better plan. Stay alive, Dervar. Your brother needs advice on manners. Perhaps you can help him.
I searched the corpses as we made our way to the water. None of them had anything worthwhile.
A large Pahmar was inspecting the first two Thalmor I killed. He lay down when I approached. We spoke in Ta’agra.
- Wulf: Do I have the honour of addressing Pride Leader Deepclaw Denmaster?
- Deepclaw: Yes, you do, Dovahkiin. I am the leader of The Tenmar Pride. We are pleased to welcome a Son of Alkosh to these parts.
- Wulf: Dervar was fortunate we arrived in time.
- Deepclaw: So were my pride members. We did not foresee them abseiling down from the airships. That is a new tactic and increases the urgency. They are too close to discovering our hideout.
- S’in: What do we do now, Pride Leader?
- Deepclaw: A Dovahkiin, Forgotten Mane, Lunar Temple Guard, Blade Assassin and Cursed Born together in our home. I don’t think the most revered seer would have been believed if they foresaw this.
- Inigo: It has been many years since I have heard the term Cursed Born.
- Deepclaw: And hopefully, Inigo, you will never hear it again. The superstitions that led to the murder of newborns like yourself are not part of The Path. Education is reducing the number of primitives amongst Khajiiti.
- S’in: And the answer to my question is?
- Deepclaw: Forgive me, S’in Dunestrider. I was distracted by the uniqueness of our guests. Many Pahmar are searching for airships. They are to report to Mervar with any information. Check with him and see if they have been found.
- Wulf: By teleporting, we shall be there in no time. First, I want to inspect the Imga.
- Deepclaw: No Imga has ever been seen in this part of Tenmar Forest. This day is full of firsts!
We gathered around the no longer transparent Imga, and my anger was great. Rigmor tried to talk to me. I asked her to wait till later and assured her I was okay.
S’in looked at me and asked, “This is the first time I have seen an Imga. What can you tell me about them, and why does it bring such anger out in you?”
I replied, “Imga worship Altmer and are, therefore, a favourite of The Thalmor. They can be refined people as they try to emulate their idols. This one is an Imga Brute. A simple soldier of The Dominion who thinks it is an honour to die for them.
An Imga prophet called Marukh claimed Saint Alessia visited him in spirit form. He said Alessia’s spirit danced while saying she disliked any Mer existing in Tamriel. Saint Alessia fought against the Daedric worshipping Ayleid, but not all members of that race. Many of her friends and allies during and after The Slave War were Ayleid. She never expressed anti-Mer sentiment in her lifetime and created The Divines pantheon to unite Man and Mer. Many Ayleid lords ruled in her fledgling empire.
After this alleged visitation, Marukh formulated The Seventy-Seven Inflexible Doctrines, later called The Alessian Doctrines. The racist elements of Tamriel seized upon these blatant lies and formed The Brothers of Marukh. Eventually, it would become The Alessian Order.
In 1E 361, they staged a coup and seized control of The Alessian Empire. Worship of The Divines was subsumed and altered. Saint Alessia became the dominant 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 being abused by blasphemy and lies! Such was the ferocity of the battles in the War of Righteousness that more than half the citizens of High Rock were killed!
Correct 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.”
“And why does this upset you so much, Wulf?”
“There are personal reasons, but this is not the place or time to discuss them. Part of my deep anger derives from how Saint Alessia’s empire was turned into the opposite of what she began. Also, part of my anger derives from answers hidden from me by the gods I love.”
“You are not angry with the Imga race or Marukh?”
“No, he was a puppet of a scheme most likely devised by a Daedric Lord. He was already insane through the ravages of venereal disease, and his ramblings should have been ignored. Instead, racist elements used them to seize power. Daedric Lords start a plan and rely on mortal flaws to execute it.”
Inigo asked, “What are you doing, Qua’Der?”
“Unlike S’in, I have some experience with Imga. I am collecting his testicles because they are a prized aphrodisiac and quite delicious when fried with onions and potatoes.”
“Okay…I will look the other way and pretend I did not hear what I just heard.”
I tossed Qua’Der a jar, and he smiled as he popped his two prizes inside and sealed the lid. He passed the jar to Ko’rassa, who said, “Your balls were this big once, Inigo. Remember when you were showing off when crossing that slippery log and landed on it, legs spread wide.”
Inigo cringed at the memory as we laughed at his discomfort. I was in danger of a persistent dark mood, and the humour dragged me back to the sunshine and enjoyable company of friends.
I used Recall to teleport us to the Mark placed earlier.
We then reported to Mervar.
- Wulf: It is fortunate for Dervar that you asked us to check on him!
- Mervar: Ah, so The Thalmor found Dervar, yes?
- Inigo: Dervar was outnumbered, and the Pahmar had difficulty reaching him.
- Mervar: This one takes it that The Thalmor are no more?
- Kharjo: Wulf cut them down without pausing. Khajiit is always impressed at that one’s skills.
- Ko’rassa: 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 Thalmor were there. Nothing on the bodies gave us a clue. The Thalmor had abseiled from one of the airships.
- Mervar: Pahmar scouts have found one of the stolen Khajiiti airships at Pillar Falls.
- S’in: Please explain how Khajiiti built the airships and how The Thalmor obtained them.
- Mervar: Members of this resistance movement discovered ancient Dwemer plans for ships that fly. Khajiiti 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 think it was clever Khajiiti who did all the inventing, although many components are of Dwemer metal. The Thalmor cannot control them like Khajiiti mages. However, they have managed to set up simple controls to fly them.
- Inigo: Was this movement’s cover compromised?
- Mervar: No, the construction of the airships was done away from here. Khajiiti, who worked on the airships, fled and were not captured.
- Wulf: I assume that Khajiiti mages use telepathy to fly and navigate the airships.
- Mervar: I do not know what telepathy is. All magic is confusing to me. I don’t think there has ever been a Tojah-Raht mage.
- Wulf: How far is Pillar Falls, and how do we get there?
- Mervar: Take this key and use the passage near the fireplace. It will take several hours of walking, or more accurately, sloshing, before you reach Pillar Falls. You will reach them close to sunset.
- Wulf: We shall leave immediately and hopefully find The Thalmor still there.
- Mervar: Try not to destroy the airship. We want our new toys back in one piece.
- Inigo: My friend, that Mervar person is trying to spoil our fun!
We entered yet another part of the waterways.
After two hours of sloshing, we heard Aldmeri being spoken.
Luckily, there were plenty of rocks to allow a silent approach.
Several enemies stood guard between us and the airship. I caught glimpses of several Thalmor aboard the airship. If I killed quickly with my bow, we may catch those aboard unaware.
I decided an Imga Brute would be my first target.
My arrow flew true, and the Imga dropped dead with barely a grunt of surprise. I quickly disposed of a Thalmor wizard with my second arrow.
Instead of calling for help, the remaining Thalmor on the ground charged towards us.
Two more arrows disposed of them.
S’in whispered, “How does he do it, Inigo?”
“Wulf is a smartarse in all matters, S’in.”
A wizard and two soldiers on the airship deck were unaware of the carnage below.
Three more arrows disposed of them. Heat Vision showed nobody in the cabin, and we inspected the airship at leisure.
I searched the corpses and a chest but found nothing of use.
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 group,
You are now in command of the Whitestrake airship and are responsible for every soul aboard.
Your 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 Khajiiti paid for the curse that is Skooma!
Inigo commented, “My friend, it is good they only think this area is a source of Moon Sugar.”
“Yes, the rebels will be relieved. It seems this dead wizard was the captain. It is an odd name they have given this airship.”
“Why is that?”
“Pelinal Whitestrake was an insane demi-god slaughterer of Mer. He even killed many Khajiiti when he mistook them for Mer. It is like The Imperial Navy naming a ship after an Altmeri hero.”
“Yes, that is odd. What next?”
“We head back, give Mervar the orders and see if he has anything else for us to kill. I assume some Khajiiti will hurry here and claim this airship.”
I was more familiar with the rebel outpost now and teleported instead of using Recall.
We appeared out of the ether and approached Mervar. I handed him the orders. After reading them, he looked worried.
- Mervar: Interesting! It appears their mission poses more danger than we thought.
- Inigo: How so? They are looking for Moon Sugar, not rebels.
- Mervar: Thalmor scouts crisscross Elsweyr constantly. These orders are the first indication they suspect Moon Sugar is coming from this part of Tenmar Forest. The whole movement is now in grave danger of being discovered!
- Wulf: Thalmor interest was an almost certainty once you relied on Moon Sugar for finances!
- Mervar: We have been cautious and have not used the same Moonpaths each time we transport it.
- S’in: They have probably been doing a grid search using the airships. It is now this part of Tenmar Forest’s turn.
- Mervar: S’in is likely correct, no?
- Wulf: Yes, he is. So, what do we do next?
- Mervar: Khajiiti think that the Thalmor are headquartered in the khaj near Dune and have sent spies. They will find this Justiciar, but it may take some time. An experienced airship pilot will be escorted to Whitestrake and steal it back.
- Wulf: We need to sleep. We have been traversing your waterways all day.
- Mervar: Then come and enjoy our hospitality. There are many spare sleeping rolls.
- Wulf: I can smell Elsweyr Chowder.
- Mervar: Ameir has a unique recipe guaranteed to clean one’s insides. The crabs enjoy our deposits the following morning and will watch us eat, patiently waiting for the inevitable.
- Ko’rassa: Is this wise, Wulf?
- Wulf: How spicy can it be?
- Ko’rassa: You have no idea. Do not say you were not warned!
The Pahmar were always on guard, so we relaxed and enjoyed the hospitality offered. There was a lot of singing, including a few songs from me, and a lot of eating.
We placed our sleeping rolls close together when it was time to sleep. That proved a mistake when the Elsweyr Chowder had time to ferment in our stomachs, and severe flatulence resulted. S’in took great pride in producing the most prolonged and most pungent emission.
I tried to speak to Rigmor, but the cacophony of rectal emissions and inhalation of pungent gases made it impossible to converse. She asked me to speak to her and discuss her Khajiiti friends from Torval the following night.
The Elsweyr Chowder was hot going in but even hotter going out the following morning. In the future, I will listen to Ko’rassa’s wise advice.
After feeding the crabs, I approached Mervar to see if there was any news.
“Good morning, Mervar.”
“A Pahmar reported that Khulan has retrieved the airship and is waiting for you at Priderock Hideout.”
“I am used to flying on dragons. An airship will be an interesting change.”
“You fly on dragons?”
“Yes, of course I do. Doesn’t everybody?’
I cast teleport, and we appeared on the teleport platform.
Inigo tapped me on the shoulder, so I turned to him.
He quietly asked, “My friend, will we be inside the ship when it is high in the air.”
“Yes, Inigo, we shall be inside, so there is no need to panic.”
“If the gods meant us to fly, we would have wings.”
“If the gods meant us to eat spicy Elsweyr Chowder, we would have more robust rectums.”
“Haha, that is true. It was delicious, and Ameir has given me her recipe.”
“Oh, the poor privies in Aurane! Luckily, they are made of marble and won’t melt.”
We made our way to the deck of Whitestrake and were met by a one-eyed Khajiiti.
- Wulf: Good evening, I am Lord Welkynd. And you are?
- Skullcat: Ahoy! ‘Tis cat just be a simple sailor, my noble sir. Ye may call him… captain. Aye, ‘tis Captain Skullcat at yer service.
- Wulf: If ye be a cap’n, I am the Queen o’ Tamriel!
- Skullcat: Shiver me timbers! Ye be right! A captain, I ain’t. Yarr! Now, ain’t that a shame? Ye be the Dovahkiin, then?
- Wulf: Ye be a pure genius! How did ye figure that out wit’ the vast number o’ Scallywags’ that travel these waters?
- Skullcat: Long time ‘go, I had a shipmate by the name, arr, Dogborn, aye. Ugly as a Daedra, I’m tellin’ ye.
- Inigo: He reminded ye o’ yer mother?
- Wulf: ‘Tis a good’un, Inigo!
- Skullcat: Hey, ‘tis my story!
- Wulf: Please continue. ‘Tis rivetin’ so far!
- Skullcat: Dogborn, he be dead in a messy way. Skullcat’s very own bloody claws tore him ‘part!
- Wulf: Did ye kiss ’im ‘n then realised Dogborn wasn’t yer mother?
- Inigo: That was a good’un as well!
- Skullcat: He died ’cause he asked too many questions, hahaha!
The idiot drew his sword, a hefty cutlass.
I drew my katana and sent Scullcat’s sword clanging onto the deck. Simultaneously, my friends knocked their bows and aimed for Skullcat’s head.
The point of my sword pricked the cowering Khajiiti between the eyes.
- Wulf: If ye don’t wants me t’ slit yer throat, be more cautious!
- Inigo: Or we could jus’ fill yer head wit’ arrows.
- Skullcat: Now hang on! Skullcat was jus’ goin’ t’ inspect his cutlass fer rust!
- Inigo: Ye drew yer cutlass in front o’ the Dovahkiin. Ye be lucky he didn’ cut yer head off!
I sheathed my sword, and my friends placed arrows back in their quivers.
Skullcat slowly straightened with a quick, nervous look at the killers surrounding him. I handed him his cutlass, which he quickly sheathed.
- Wulf: That is enough of playing pirates. I was told to meet Khulan. Do you know where he is?
- Skullcat: Jungle witchcats, phew! Merrunz burn ‘em all! And ‘tis cripple squid schemer is hidin’ underhatch, o’ c’rse.
- Wulf: Placing a curse of Mehrunes Dagon on your captain sounds like mutiny to me.
- Skullcat: Skullcat be merely complainin.’ I am loyal t’ Khulan’ n the cause.
- Kharjo: This one hopes that is so. Or it will be Kharjo who kills Skullcat with his bloody claws.
- Skullcat: ‘Tis a bloodthirsty crew ye command, Dovahkiin.
- Wulf: They are very efficient at slicing and dicing, Skullcat.
We entered the airship. I was surprised to find a single Khajiiti inside. I thought there would be more crew needed.
- Wulf: Are you Khulan?
- Khulan: Ah, yes. Khulan welcomes Dovahkiin to Whitestrake, his airship.
- Wulf: You are giving me this airship? Why?
- Khulan: You captured it, and our Mane gifts it to you. It may aid in your tasks here and in other places. Thalmor will likely try to steal it again if it stays in Elsweyr. With an airship, they can find us easily. It is better if they have to walk through the jungle and desert, no?
- Wulf: Surely, if there is an uprising, you would need such airships.
- Khulan: We have the Dwemer plans and experience. We can build more when needed.
- Wulf: I am not comfortable with the name Whitestrake.
- Khulan: It is Dovahkiin’s airship. What shall it be called?
- Wulf: I think Rava is better, don’t you?
- Khulan: Indeed. Our word for freedom is an excellent choice.
- Wulf: I see no controls, so how do you fly Rava?
- Khulan: This one is a mage who also can read the moonstrings. This airship responds to telepathy. If Khulan has been somewhere beforehand, it takes seconds to get there. All this one has to do is think of the destination.
- Wulf: But I don’t know the magic of Moonpaths and moonstrings. How would I fly it?
- Khulan: Dwemer did not know them either. Khajiiti could fit the airship with their devices. Then, any mage can fly Rava. But Khajiiti would need help from somebody with more knowledge of Dwemer.
- Wulf: I will ask Professor Marassi if he is interested. He is probably the most respected authority on Dwemer.
- Khulan: Yes, I have read books by Marassi. He would be most helpful.
- Wulf: Do the Thalmor know how to modify the other one they took from you?
- Khulan: No, they do not have the Dwemer plans. Thalmor put crude controls in the one they still have. They have to fly in Mundus. Still, the airships are fast and cover much ground each day.
- Wulf: But you can make this entire airship and contents go via the ethereal plane?
- Khulan: Yes, but unlike dragons, it is not natural for a large artificial structure to travel in that plane. It takes Khulan a few minutes to create a barrier that envelops the airship and protects against the cold. The Dwemer machinery may be able to do that in seconds.
- Wulf: The airship is only in the ether for a few seconds after the barrier is created?
- Khulan: Yes, so it takes a few minutes to travel somewhere this one has been to. Maybe seconds when the other Dwemer parts are added.
- Wulf: Is there anything else that will change when you add other Dwemer parts to Rava?
- Khulan: According to the plans, the inside will be bigger than the outside.
- Wulf: Fourth-dimensional? That will be handy!
- Khulan: The Dwemer were clever but not wise.
- Ko’rassa: That is why the Dwarves are no longer on Nirn. They were so bright they disappeared up their rectums.
- Khulan: Some Khajiiti can do that and not disappear. But the Dwemer indeed spent too much time thinking and not enough time understanding.
- Wulf: Have the scouts located the Justiciar?
- Khulan: New Elsweyr spies tracked him close to the city of Dune. That damned Justiciar is raiding our caravan supply posts! He must pay for his crimes!
- Kharjo: This group has called itself New Elsweyr.
- Khulan: Yes. Not very original, but it will do.
- Wulf: Maybe you can tell me about Skullcat?
- Khulan: Oh yes, that is a good tale worth a few minutes for the telling.
After telling me how he met Skullcat, Khulan explained that he needed to weave protection against the cold of the ethereal plane around the ship. He sat still and went into a trance. This spell was magic beyond my knowledge. Like the Hist provides magic to Argonian, the Moon Lattice, the ja-Kha’jay provides magic to Khajiit.
A few minutes later, there was a slight rocking of the airship as it anchored at its destination.
Khulan came out of his trance and stated, “Rava has arrived. If Dovahkiin is wondering, that one did not feel the ether because of Khulan’s barrier.”
A few seconds later, Skullcat stuck his head through the trapdoor and warned, “The Thalmor are attacking the supply post!”
Khulan growled, “Hurry and save the supply post!”
We rushed outside and saw a squad of Thalmor about to overwhelm two Khajiiti. Skullcat leapt over the rail, stumbled, got up cursing, and ran to join the melee. We soon overtook him.
Within seconds, the enemy was dead.
Skullcat walked away while murmuring about landlubbers stealing the glory.
I approached one of the Khajiiti.
- Wulf: It appears we arrived just in time.
- Jelikirr: This one is Jelikirr. You are the Dovahkiin?
- Wulf: Yes.
- Jelikirr: Many supply posts have fallen to Justiciar Lenial. This one is sure that bastard has already left this area. But there may be more Thalmor nearby. It was not an entire raiding party we just eliminated.
- Wulf: He drops off the patrols to do their work, then picks them up later. He is making a nuisance of himself with the airship.
- Kharjo: We shall hunt him down.
- Jelikirr: Kill them all for what they have done to Elsweyr.
- Wulf: I assume water is one of the essential things the caravans need in the khaj?
- Jelikirr: Yes. The water is hidden. Shi’ara helps us find new water and is in the room out the back.
- Ko’rassa: That is an Argonian name!
- Jelikirr: That is good because Shi’ara is Argonian.
- Wulf: We had better search for the rest of the patrol. We might visit Shi’ara another time.
The reddish tinge of the desert made everything seem dull compared to the vibrant colours of the jungle. If the swirling sand ever eased, the sunlight would be unbearable.
When we reached the airship, I noticed Skullcat had a deep laceration. It must have happened when he leapt over the side of the airship.
- Wulf: You are wounded. Let me heal you.
- Skullcat: Phew! Hang all witch doctors! Skooma, matey. Skooma will do.
- Wulf: Sorry, I don’t carry Skooma. How about a nice warm saucer of milk instead?
- Skullcat: Milk! Are ye trying t’ poison ole Skullcat?
- Wulf: Wait, and I shall conjure up some Skooma for you.
Skullcat waited for Skooma to appear magically. Instead, I cast Grand Healing on him.
- Skullcat: Ye scurvy witchdoctor! Ye tricked me wit’ all that hand wavin.’
- Kharjo: That one should say, ‘Thank ye fer healin’ me, Dovahkiin. That was kind o’ ye.’
- Wulf: The Thalmor are dead, and I have spoken to Jelikirr. He said many supply posts have been raided.
- Skullcat: Aye, they have. I’ve to admit; ye be s’pris’n’ly good at killin’ em. Ye fought like a tiger!
- Wulf: I heard an interesting story about you, Khulan and a rope. Was having your neck stretched for being a pirate the start of a new life?
- Skullcat: A pirate, say ye? Skullcat ain’t no scurvy pirate! He be the Scourge o’ the Topal Sea! Merrunz in disguise! Bloody legend, I’m tellin’ ye!
- Wulf: So, are you part of New Elsweyr because Khulan saved you as you dangled from the gallows or because you believe in the cause?
- Skullcat: Vaba? Can it be? Aye. One li’l story in the ocean o’ life. Time passes over like tides o’ the sea. So do stories, and so do people!
- Wulf: You didn’t answer my question, and your words sounded like a threat.
- Skullcat: By the thunder! Smart like a picture, are we?
- Kharjo: Should I tear his throat out with my teeth or claws?
- Inigo: Claws. You don’t know what diseases he carries, so biting is a poor option.
- Wulf: You say you are Merrunz in disguise. Well, I am a Son of Alkosh. If you remember your history, Alkosh beat the shit out of Mehrunes Dagon. I don’t like that Dark Lord very much.
- Skullcat: Ole Skullcat was jus’ boastin.’ He ain’t Merrunz!
- Wulf: Khulan’s judgment might be flawed. You just threatened a vital ally of New Elsweyr.
- Skullcat: Skullcat, he be loyal t’ Khulan’ n New Elsweyr!
- Wulf: Kharjo, do you believe him?
- Kharjo: Give that one the benefit of the doubt. But this one will keep his claws sharpened, just in case. You rarely give people more than one chance.
- Skullcat: Skullcat apologises fer the disrespect. The past be behind ’im ‘n does nah like t’ be reminded o’ wha’ he was.
- Wulf: I would not have hurt you over an insult or threat. I did question your loyalty, but now we are starting anew.
- Kharjo: This one knows that when one becomes more than one was, the past should not embarrass Khajiit.
- Wulf: We are the sum of our experiences. Khulan has provided the chance to better yourself, but you would never have met him without those shameful events.
- Skullcat: ‘Tis a wise thing bein’ told t’ Skullcat. Kharjo, be ye a victim o’ Skooma?
- Kharjo: No, this one was a gambler and drinker. Good people have helped me overcome that shameful past.
- Inigo: I was addicted to Skooma but am not the victim. Those I hurt when under its influence are the victims.
- Wulf: Skullcat, Jelikirr agrees with me. That was more like a scouting party than an entire patrol. Do you know of any other Thalmor in the area?
- Skullcat: Skullcat ain’t no cut-throat if that be no Thalmor camp up thar, aye? ‘Tis cat be smelling their boy-lover perfumes, phew!
Skullcat pointed towards some ruins to the west of the airship.
- Wulf: Forget their perfume. You saw them from the air.
- Skullcat: Aye, that may be the truth as well.
- Kharjo: The Thalmor do wear distinctive perfumes. This one can smell them.
- Wulf: We will be back soon. Hopefully, the Justiciar is still there.
The ruins looked like an old Imperial fort of the Second Era. As we got closer, we could hear the sounds of fighting.
A large Siligonder had attacked The Thalmor and was killed.
Heat Vision and Zoom Vision showed several Thalmor behind a barrier. Hungry hyenas circled the fresh corpse. I took some samples of meat and chitin.
We snuck closer to the encampment and rapidly disposed of The Thalmor with several volleys of arrows.
We searched the corpses and camp but found nothing of use.
I found Justiciar Lenial’s journal in a chest and read the relevant sections to the group.
“Campaign logbook of Justiciar Lenial. Elsweyr Protectorate.
12th Sun’s Dusk, 4E 201
I’ve disembarked a patrol to part of Tenmar Forest, a suspected source of the heretical ‘Moon Sugar’ substance. I am awaiting their report.
13th Sun’s Dusk, 4E 201The patrol to Tenmar Forest failed to return, 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 the other airship after killing it’s crew. That will put a strain on my resources.
14th Sun’s Dusk, 4E 201
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.
Part of my force attacked a nearby supply post when the other airship touched down. Khajiiti, accompanied by a foreign mercenary, disembarked.
The partial patrol was easily defeated. My scouts report that the mercenary tore through our troops in no time. My forces are meagre, and I must make a tactical retreat.
I have ordered the remaining troops to attack and delay the other airship once I have left.
This shame will hang above my family for generations unless I redeem myself by taking the heads of the rebels aboard that airship.
I will leave this journal here so others know of my shame and glorious attempt at redemption.”
I told the group, “The Justiciar plans to attack our airship. We shall take our time and see if he attacks us on the ground. If he doesn’t, he may try an aerial assault.”
Kharjo replied, “Fighting in the sky would be a new experience!”
Inigo added, “I would rather fight a room of zombies!”
We headed back to the airship, and I spoke to Skullcat.
“All the boy lovers are dead. However, Justiciar Lenial was not there. I do have his journal if you want to read it.”
“Aye, hand it over.”
Skullcat read the journal, and anger crossed his face.
I asked, “Well, what do you think?”
“Arr, by the Merrunz’s twice twisted tail n’ elvish curlicues! Show ‘tis t’ squid.”
Skullcat handed the journal back, and we entered Rava.
Khulan was studying some maps when I handed him the journal. After reading it, he, too, displayed anger.
- Khulan: Baan Dar! Let us head back to the Tenmar Forest and try to figure out what to do about this, yes? There is not enough water around here, just warm sand.
- Wulf: Lenial knows we are here and plans revenge. Do not go via the ether. Let us give him a chance to attack us in the air.
- Khulan: Yes, that is best. That one can’t have many troops left.
- Inigo: He does not know about New Elsweyr. Wouldn’t killing a justiciar cause many more Thalmor to come snooping?
- Khulan: Lenial must pay for his crimes!
- Wulf: We can’t let him live. He won’t be the first or last Justiciar killed by disgruntled Khajiiti. If they find the burnt wreck of his airship far from any Khajiiti outpost, who will the Thalmor blame?
- S’in: Baa’Ren-Dar expressed the need to eliminate the Thalmor presence.
- Khulan: Does Skullcat know?
- Wulf: Yes. I am sure he will spot them in plenty of time.
- Ko’rassa: I suggest we remain hidden. If Lenial sees too many of us on deck, he might not attack.
- Khulan: Excellent idea. I will tell Rava to fly slow and straight so even the clumsy Thalmor can grapple her.
- Inigo: The railings are not very high. What if I fall off?
- Qua’Der: You will make an interesting smear on the warm sands of Elsweyr.
- Wulf: Try and land on your head. That way, no harm will be done.
- Inigo: Ko’rassa, why aren’t you telling them off for mocking me?
- Ko’rassa: My dear Inigo, they are being humorous. That is such a rare event for Wulf that I am too shocked to come to your defence.
- Inigo: If you smell last night’s Elsweyr Chowder, you will know the strength of my fear!
Khulan went into his trance-like state. The ship slowly rose and started moving towards the Tenmar Forest. We waited in silence for a Thalmor attack.
About fifty minutes into the flight, Skullcat stuck his head through the trapdoor and said, “The Thalmor fly thar ship like the landlubbers they be. Thar be plenty o’ ’em t’ go around. Don’t fear that Skullcat will scuttle ’em all afore ye ‘ave a turn. Wait fer thar bump ‘n grapple.”
A couple of minutes later, the airship shook.
Khulan emerged from his trance and growled, “Oh good, the Howling Banshee, Justiciar Lenial’s ship.”
I replied, “That is a worse name than Whitestrake!”
“This must end now. Go and kill the loathsome coward!”
I told the group, “You heard the captain. Show no mercy, but nobody will enter the other airship’s cabin until I do. Let’s go!”
We exited and found Skullcat laughing as the surrounding Thalmor found his cutlass slicing and parrying at impressive speed.
We soon disposed of The Thalmor on deck. However, during the melee, a wizard had cast a Fireball and set alight to the airship.
I said, “Follow me inside!”
I slit Justiciar Lenial’s throat when he tried to flee.
By the time a few of my friends entered the cabin, Justiciar Lenial lay dead at my feet.
I told S’in, “We should throw the bodies in here with their weapons sheathed. Then, we cut the lines and let the airship float away. I will then sink it with a few Fireballs.”
“Yes, that is good. When it finally crashes to the ground, The Thalmor will find charred bodies and no evidence of our involvement.”
We climbed to the deck and tossed the bodies through the trapdoor.
We cut the grappling ropes and pushed the other airship away when the last body was disposed of. I then hit it with a few Fireballs to ensure it burnt quicker and fell into a remote part of the desert.
As I passed Skullcat, I said, “You did mighty fine when surrounded by the boy lovers.”
Skullcat beamed at the compliment.
We entered Rava and saw relief on Khulan’s face.
- Wulf: Justiciar Lenial is dead.
- Khulan: Good! He did as you predicted. He stalked Rava and launched a desperate attack to avenge his Thalmor pride!
- Ko’rassa: An attack that failed miserably.
- Khulan: New Elsweyr will have to be cautious. Khajiiti cannot kill a Justiciar without retribution. But for now, the forests and desert will be calm. We will enjoy the peace while it lasts.
- Inigo: The Thalmor will not suspect that Khajiiti caused Lenial’s death.
- Ko’rassa: We placed the bodies back into the airship with sheathed weapons.
- Inigo: Then my friend cast Fireballs at the airship. It will soon fall to the ground.
- Ko’rassa: When found, the Thalmor will think all onboard died in an accident, not a battle.
- Khulan: Yes, that will work. This part of the desert is far from our outposts. No blame could be directed at Khajiiti. That was clever, Dovahkiin.
- Wulf: Is there anything else we can do to help?
- Khulan: Perhaps there is something this old Khajiiti could use your help with, hmm? Jo’ran, a senior mage of the New Elsweyr movement, has been captured by Argonian pirates.
- Wulf: Do you know where he is being held?
- Khulan: Jo’ran sent a message attached to a bird to tell us what happened. At least he did not try to use a toad.
- Inigo: Use a toad?
- Khulan: Ask Jo’ran about it.
- Wulf: How quickly can we get there?
- Khulan: This one took Jo’ran to an island near the pirate island. As I have been there before, I can get to that island quickly.
- Wulf: Then we fly the rest of the way.
- Khulan: The winds of Khenarthi will carry Rava to the other island. Once there, you will free Jo’ran from his chains!
- Wulf: We will be glad to help rescue Jo’ran!
- Kharjo: This one will prepare lunch!
- Inigo: I don’t think Elsweyr Chowder would be advisable in this closed space.
- Kharjo: No, Khajiit will do spiced vegetables. Gas free and tasty!
- Khulan: Let me get us moving, yes?
We arrived at the island minutes later. Jo’ran was assessing its possible use as a New Elsweyr outpost when the pirates captured him.
It took another three hours for Rava to fly to the pirates’ island.
The airship slowly glided into the docks with a slight bump informing us of our arrival.
Then we heard muffled explosions.
Skullcat stuck his head through the trapdoor and said, “Thar seems t’ be Sakhliit witchdoctors castin’ spells at Jo’ran. Skullcat does nah fear anythin’ ‘cept magic. This one will bravely guard the airship against sneaky attacks. Dovahkiin’ n friends can save Jo’ran, savvy?”
“It is time this Dovahkiin flexed his muscles.”
Inigo asked, “My friend, will you use The Voice?”
“Yes. We are a long way from any Thalmor.”
We climbed on deck and beheld the waters of the Topal Sea.
However, there was no time to enjoy the beauty of our surroundings. We could hear explosions and cracks of lightning that signified a battle of mages nearby. We hurried to join it.
It felt liberating to use the Thu’um. I quickly disposed of the pirates.
An elderly Khajiiti looked a bit bewildered as we surrounded him.
- Wulf: Greetings Jo’ran. We have come with Khulan to rescue you.
- Jo’ran: This one heard the Thu’um. You are Dovahkiin, yes?
- Wulf: Yes, I am he.
- Jo’ran: Praise Alkosh, finally. Jo refused to teach pirate mages and was chained to the deck and sometimes put in a cage. Jo was bored at the other island, so this one experimented with flying toads. This one got the idea after seeing Waning Moon fly last week.
- Inigo: We have renamed the airship as Rava.
- Jo’ran: That is a good name.
- Wulf: So, you continued your experiments here, and most of the blood we see is not from dead pirates but poor toads that failed to stay in the air?
- Jo’ran: Jo filled toads with different gases. Some would fly and then explode. Some would fly, then land hard and explode. Jo can say with certainty that toads are deficient in flying. They fly worse than Khajiiti swim, which is truly bad.
- Wulf: Did you consider that the gases inside expanded as a toad’s altitude increased? If you observe the gasbags on the airship, you will see they are flabby on the ground but strain against their ropes as you climb.
- Jo’ran: Jo had not thought of that. This one needs gas with more lift and less volume. Maybe helium, but then the toads would sound funny. Jo also needs more toads but thinks they are all dead around here.
- Wulf: The toads need a valve to release the gas to land softly.
- Jo’ran: Ahh, Jo will tell them to fart!
- Ko’rassa: Why did the pirates let you send a message via a trained bird?
- Jo’ran: It was not a trained bird. Jo talked to the bird and explained where to go and what to tell Khulan. The bird agreed in exchange for tasty bugs Jo had caught. Pirates thought Jo was crazy speaking to the bird and let us be.
- Wulf: Qua’Der, your mouth has popped open, and you look confused.
- Qua’Der: Gobblygook. I can tell the answer would be gobblygook. That is a most useful word.
- Wulf: It is gobblygook. It has to do with telepathic abilities and the moonstrings. Some birds can navigate by the moons, and some by the stars. Others have a little magnet in their head that acts as a compass.
- Inigo: That is gobblygook-sounding science.
- Qua’Der: Science? Oh, that is what made the Dwemer disappear up their backsides.
- Inigo: I thought you were asleep when my friend lectured about Dwemer.
- Qua’Der: I closed my eyes to concentrate.
- Inigo: And the snoring?
- Qua’Der: Okay, I was asleep, but Wulf has whined about them a few times on our travels.
- Inigo: Yes, we learn a lot from my friend’s whining.
- Wulf: Jo’ran, we had better get you out of here before the rest of the pirates arrive.
- Jo’ran: There are no more. They have slowly died over the last week from poisons in their food. Jo could not be responsible as Jo was locked in his cage.
- Ko’rassa: Then how do you know they died of poison?
- Jo’ran: Some flying toads might have had natural poison on their skin and accidentally landed in pirates’ water barrels.
- Ko’rassa: But Argonians do not drink water.
- Jo’ran: Jo knows this. But when the water made stews, the poison entered all meats and vegetables.
- Ko’rassa: An unfortunate accident!
- Jo’ran: Several unfortunate accidents happened to the not-very-smart pirates. When toads full of volatile gas landed heavily and then exploded on the deck of their ship, it set alight. They cut the burning ship loose from the docks, and it was last seen blazing brightly on the horizon.
- S’in: You are a devious Khajiiti!
- Jo’ran: Dovahkiin, this place has some scent of mystery, and Jo wants to investigate. Perhaps Jo could turn this island into a valuable New Elsweyr stronghold? It would be hard to find amongst the thousands of little islands in this part of the Topal Sea.
- Wulf: If the bird did not tell Khulan where you were, we might not have found you for days.
- Jo’ran: As a kitten, Khulan was my apprentice. That one has some powers beyond Jo. Khulan could have told Rava to travel to Jo and not a destination on a map. Khulan told me he was going to experiment with doing such things. So maybe that one didn’t need the bird’s instructions?
- Wulf: What do you want me to tell Khulan?
- Jo’ran: This island is better than the one Jo was inspecting. If Khulan returns with my apprentices, craftsman and basic building materials, this place will be cleaned up faster than Dovahkiin can say meow.
- S’in: Why did the pirates attack you? Did they finally figure out that poison toads accidentally landed in their water?
- Jo’ran: No, they were not smart, as Jo said before. Jo detected Khulan nearby. This one guessed the airship would want to dock without Argonian fireballs setting it alight. So, Jo melted the cage lock and attacked the pirates to distract them. With my wards up, they could not hurt Jo with spells. Jo would have been in trouble if they used stabby things instead.
- Wulf: I doubt you will be in danger while Khulan makes a quick trip to gather what is needed.
- Kharjo: This one is curious. How did the pirates capture Jo?
- Jo’ran: Jo went for a walk on the island where Khulan had left him. This one was so busy solving a mathematical equation in his head that he did not notice a cliff suddenly jumping out in front of Jo.
- Wulf: You have to watch out for those sneaky cliffs!
- Ko’rassa: That must have been terrifying!
- Jo’ran: The trip down was not bad, and Jo solved for X before hitting the water. Did Jo mention Khajiiti are not very good at swimming? Jo knew this, so instead of swimming, he floated on Khajiit’s back and let the tide take Khajiit out to sea. That is where the pirates found Jo. They thought this one might be worth some ransom. The circling shark was furious his lunch was stolen!
- Wulf: It is a privilege to meet somebody weirder than me!
- Ko’rassa: Wulf, we all know that is not possible. Your weirdness is a gift of the gods.
- Wulf: Albatross!
- Jo’ran: That is an excellent word!
- Wulf: You will see Khulan as soon as he has gathered your apprentices and materials.
- Jo’ran: Jo will start the cleanup by feeding crabs. They told me they liked the taste of Argonian.
When we entered Rava, Skullcat exited the cabin to prepare for our next trip.
- Wulf: Jo’ran is safe. He wants to turn this island into a stronghold. It is an excellent idea since the Tenmar Forest might be crawling with Thalmor for some time. He says it is much better than the other island.
- Khulan: The waters are treacherous here. That is why the pirates chose this island for their base. Even if the Thalmor searched for us here, they would have to risk many ships to try and find one island among thousands. I could plot a safe course for our ships to follow. It is an excellent strategic plan, yes?
- Wulf: I think so. Most of the basic infrastructure is already in place, saving you money and time.
- Inigo: Jo’ran needs his apprentices, basic building materials and other craftsmen.
- Khulan: This one suggests Dovahkiin and friends stay at Priderock once more. Khulan will gather things and Khajiit for Jo’ran and fly them to the island.
- Wulf: Okay, we will stay one more night to see if we might be needed for anything else.
- Ko’rassa: I would like to revisit the island. It is a pretty place, but it will be even better without dead Argonian pirates!
- Khulan: Then we are set. I will transport you to Priderock, and perhaps tomorrow, we can visit the new base.
When we disembarked at Priderock, my friends spread around and spoke to its residents.
Meanwhile, I immersed myself at an alchemy table and experimented with the gathered reagents. From a young age, my Mother would hand me reagents I had never seen before and ask me to ascertain their four characteristics called Primary to Quaternary Effect.
By the time I finished hours later, it was time for supper, and the strange fruits and vegetables of the jungle were made into a beautiful salad.
We all slept on beds that night and woke relaxed the following morning.
After breaking our fast, Rava appeared from the ether. Skullcat quickly tethered the airship to its mooring.
We made our way onboard.
Khulan was more relaxed. The Thalmor had come close to finding the rebel hideouts, but the danger was passed.
- Inigo: Khulan, how is the new encampment going?
- Khulan: The cleaning up is almost complete, and the construction of the new buildings has started. Jo’ran is pleased you are to see what has been accomplished. That one is rightfully pleased with the resourcefulness of New Elsweyr Khajiiti.
- Wulf: Jo’ran should be proud. Your people are remarkable in many ways.
- Khulan: Apart from lacking a tail, whiskers, fur, and pointy ears, you are a Khajiiti!
- Wulf: Well, since Khajiiti think Alkosh is a large cat wearing some weird armour and he is my celestial father, I suppose I could be.
- Khulan: Why else would Azura make Dovahkiin her champion?
- Inigo: Even I know many of Azura’s previous champions were not Khajiiti.
- Khulan: Bruma’s Clan Mother can also be regarded as Khajiiti.
- Wulf: I am sure Rigmor would accept her Khajiitiness with pride.
- Ko’rassa: Khajiitiness?
- Wulf: I am sure that is a perfectly sensible word.
- Khulan: Let us get underway.
A couple of minutes later, Khulan came out of his trance. Skullcat stuck his head through the trapdoor and said, ‘Tis a pretty place.”
Khulan growled, “That one is denied shore leave. Scrub the decks!”
Skullcat grumbled as he slammed the trapdoor shut.
I asked, “Did Skullcat do something wrong?”
“That one discovered a barrel of rum. The amount consumed would have killed other Khajiiti. It just prepared that one to fight all comers on the island.”
“He doesn’t seem the worse for wear.”
“That one has the constitution of a giant.”
“You seem pleased with the turn of events.”
“Topal Sea and Tenmar Forest. Jone and Jode smile brightly on the birth of New Elsweyr!”
“I do not doubt there is a long path to freedom from The Dominion. But your people will achieve it, Khulan.”
As soon as we exited, the sounds of progress mingled with the songs of seabirds and the lapping of waves.
Khajiiti artisans were busy at work. I approached a blacksmith stoking a furnace and asked, “What do you think of the new stronghold?”
He turned to me and snarled, “If you told me that I was not a cat, and I told you that you were not bothering me, we would both be lying.”
“Can you swim?”
“Of course, not all Khajiiti are scared of the water.”
“Can you fly?”
“Are all smooth skins as stupid as you?”
“If Jo’ran can make toads fly, perhaps I can make turds fly?”
I cast Telekinesis on the obnoxious Khajiiti. I had more control of where he would land than if I used Unrelenting Force. He screamed as he flew through the air and dived headfirst into the sea.
He came up spluttering and was greeted with laughter and applause from an appreciative audience.
Another blacksmith said, “We are busy, Dovahkiin, but Kesh’jo had no right to be rude. We owe great thanks and respect to you and your friends.”
As we made our way to Jo’ran, it was evident how rapidly the New Elsweyr Khajiiti had made the island into a home.
A Khajiiti Battlemage approached me.
- Rakis: Dovahkiin, I am Rakis. I have found something you may wish to take with you.
- Wulf: I am pleased to meet you, Rakis. What have you found?
- Rakis: When Rakis sorted through some pirate treasure, Khajiit discovered this amongst other minor trinkets.
Rakis handed me a staff. It was constructed from a wood I did not recognise, with leaves growing out of it. I detected a very strong dweomer. It was a highly potent Staff of Chain Lightning and much more powerful than any I had encountered. In the hands of a Master of Destruction, it could quickly devastate dozens of enemies with each strike and from a great distance.
- Wulf: Rakis, this is a remarkable discovery!
- Rakis: This one thinks it is the Staff of Indarys.
- Wulf: I agree. It matches the descriptions I have read.
- Ko’rassa: That name sounds familiar. Does it have something to do with Bruma during the Oblivion Crisis?
- Wulf: If it is indeed the Staff of Indarys, then The Hero of Kvatch once owned it. It was given to him by The Count of Cheydinhal, Andel Indarys, as a reward for rescuing his son from within an Oblivion Gate. That was a crucial stage in the war against the Daedra as Indarys then provided troops to help break the siege of Bruma. The remains of that Oblivion Gate are not far from the front entrance to Bruma city.
I tried to hand the staff back to Rakis, but he refused to take it.
- Rakis: No, Dovahkiin. The Staff of Indarys belongs to Cyrodiil. Besides, if New Elsweyr ever used it against Thalmor, they would tear our country apart to find it. They are forever seeking relics of such power to aid in their suppression and conquering of other people.
- Wulf: I will ensure it is placed where nobody can obtain it.
- Inigo: The Dovahkiin has already locked away dozens of powerful weapons and other artefacts.
- Rakis: Ah yes, the new museum in Solitude.
- Wulf: Feel free to visit Dragonborn Gallery. I can give you access to the many items in storage if you want to study them.
- Rakis: This one may do that if the opportunity arises.
- Wulf: Azura watch over you
Jo’ran was staring at a goat.
He smiled when he we stopped to talk.
- Wulf: Does Jo’ran think the goat is desirable or perhaps a candidate for flying experiments?
- Jo’ran: Jo does not need goats for intimate pleasures. Females are pleased with this one’s long stave.
- S’in: Jo’ran, New Elsweyr is very efficient at building and repairing. I am very impressed!
- Jo’ran: As friends can see, it is a good place for a hideout.
- Inigo: Do you think The Thalmor will ever find this base?
- Jo’ran: Hmm… for sure, The Thalmor will try hard to find us if they hear about us. But there are thousands of tiny islands in the Topal Sea, and every last one has its own dirty story.
- Wulf: What would help is some teleports so that ships do not have to risk being followed or the reefs.
- Jo’ran: Like much of Nirn, Khajiiti no longer have that knowledge. We hoped to study the airship’s capabilities more, but we should keep the airship and Dwemer technology out of Thalmor hands.
- Wulf: Professor Marassi will visit to help with the Dwemer technology of Rava.
- Jo’ran: Elsweyr will never rejoin The Empire, but we cannot remain part of Aldmeri Dominion. Perhaps an ally is what we can aim for, yes?
- Wulf: The Empire has consistently lost its way when the sword overrides diplomacy. It has found itself shrinking, not expanding. It needs friends, not more territory, and Emperor Mede II would welcome Elsweyr as a friend and ally. Of that, I am optimistic.
- Jo’ran: Please visit Jo when you have a chance.
- Wulf: I will undoubtedly visit again with Bruma’s Clan Mother.
We mingled with the rebels for some time before returning to Rava.
As we were about to walk the gangplank, Kesh’jo called out, “Dovahkiin and friends. Please listen to contrite Khajiiti.”
We walked over to Kesh’jo.
He said, “Dovahkiin and friends, Kesh’jo humbly asks forgiveness for earlier disrespect.”
I replied, “It doesn’t matter if you are a peasant, king or in between. All people deserve respect.”
“Khajiit has known that truth since this one was a mewling kitten. Kesh’jo has no excuse.”
“Do not fret, Kesh’jo. I am certainly not one who claims to have a perfect temperament.”
“Next time you visit, perhaps Dovahkiin can share some wine and tales with Kesh’jo?”
“That is a deal. Until then, Azura bless you.”
Skullcat was nowhere to be seen. We entered Rava, and the pirate was not inside either.
Khulan was sitting at his desk.
- Wulf: You felt sorry for Skullcat, didn’t you?
- Khulan: That one has had a hard life. Khajiit should not be harsh when he occasionally turns to drink. That one is not a chronic drunk but sometimes needs to drown memories in liquor.
- Wulf: What is next?
- Khulan: Rava will stay here till Jo’ran instructs this one on needed supplies. However, when finished here, New Elsweyr’s shaman and priest of Baan Dar, Erid’or, requested your presence. There seems to be some disturbance within The Cathedral where Khajiiti burial grounds reside. Pahmar are investigating further.
- Wulf: So, he may need our help.
- Khulan: He was unsure this morning, but with teleport, it takes no time to find out, no?
- Wulf: We shall talk to Erid’or.
- Khulan: Khajiit was told Dovahkiin summons dragons to give that one news of home.
- Wulf: Yes, but I have not summoned them to the jungle. Many Khajiiti, especially the wild Pahmar, would not appreciate a Dovah’s presence.
- Khulan: That is true.
- Wulf: Emissary Dar will inform us if we can provide further help.
- Kharjo: Together with Ri’saad, Qa’mel and a few others, a safer way to finance New Elsweyr may be discovered.
- Khulan: Ri’saad is a respected caravan owner but will not sell Moon Sugar. If New Elsweyr can provide goods that one is willing to carry, it will benefit our cause.
- Kharjo: Wulf thinks that cacao might be a good that has potential.
- Khulan: It is easy to grow in the jungle, and The Thalmor don’t care for it. That is a good option. Dovahkiin, will Professor Marassi come to help Khulan and other Khajiiti mages?
- Wulf: I am confident he will, Khulan. He will be keen to do so as new Dwemer discoveries await.
- Khulan: Khajiiti are fortunate to have such friends.
- Wulf: Blessings of The Nine on New Elsweyr.
- Khulan: You are going to vanish now?
- Wulf: Yes.
We teleported to the outpost and made our way to Erid’or.
- Wulf: Good afternoon, Erid’or. We were told you may need some assistance.
- Erid’or: This one welcomes Dovahkiin and friends.
- Wulf: What is your role within this rebel group?
- Erid’or: This one is a priest of Baan Dar. Khajiit is an explorer and famous expert in all matters of spirit and magic.
- Wulf: Baan Dar is an appropriate god to learn from when combatting oppressors.
- Erid’or: You know of him?
- Wulf: I have spent many days studying the gods worshipped on Nirn.
- Erid’or: The Dovahkiin does not argue that The Nine are the only true gods.
- Wulf: Not at all. I must protect all mortals and respect all true gods and religions.
- Erid’or: Ah, if only The Thalmor were as wise.
- Wulf: Have you visited the Five Fingers Dance?
- Erid’or: Only once has this one travelled to Thormar to participate in Baan Dar’s Boast and been noticed. Khajiiti pranks that year were legendary, and the Wood Elves were soundly thrashed. Baan Dar does not always invite the winners to his realm, but that year, he did.
- Wulf: I have read and heard about its beauty. A vast forest full of food, music, and festivities.
- Erid’or: It is much like Jodewood, where the ruins of Thormar lie. It is stunning, and the sheer joy of those participating in the feasting and eternal celebration of life is a memory this one will always cherish.
- Ko’rassa: Wulf often sings a song about two young Khajiiti and their enviable sense of freedom.
- Erid’or: It it ‘Val Vijah Va Rhook, Baandari’?
- Ko’rassa: Yes, and the carefree life of Baandari Pedlars appeals to many.
- Erid’or: Living the Baandari Code by some has made Khajiiti unwanted in many places.
- Ko’rassa: It is a clash of beliefs. The code says anything that is not in the physical possession of somebody can be ‘salvaged.’ Other people call that theft. The Baandari also provide services as seers or fortune-tellers. Yet they are not acolytes of Azura and do not have foresight.
- Erid’or: But Baandari must tell paying clients what they want to hear. The client must walk away satisfied. Providing false but happy prophecies is very profitable.
- Wulf: They also stretch the truth a little when bargaining. It does not matter how poorly made a product is or its wretched condition. A Baandari Pedlar’s banter will make it seem terrific value, of the highest quality and in superb condition. They can make a plain rock seem highly versatile and different from the billions within sight.
- Kharjo: This one learnt much from watching their bargaining.
- Erid’or: It is like the pranks that Baan Dar enjoys. There is great skill in such bargaining.
- Ko’rassa: Unfortunately, to other people, such as Nords, they steal and lie no matter the context.
- Wulf: It is a matter of perspective. They are doing what pleases their chosen deity. Some parts of Tamriel are more tolerant of their ways, and customers know their methods. But still, they flock to deal with them. In Skyrim, the prejudices against Khajiiti, Argonian and other races have much to do with racist attitudes, not perceived dishonesty.
- Inigo: The Baandari Pedlars’ reputation is used as a generalisation for all Khajiiti amongst the ignorant. Hence, the thankfully defunct habit of forcing them to trade outside of city walls in Skyrim.
- Erid’or: Dovahkiin, you are responsible for that change in Skyrim.
- Kharjo: The Dovahkiin has worked hard to stop prejudice and aid Khajiiti where he can.
- Erid’or: Is this why Azura made Dovahkiin her champion?
- Wulf: No, but that is a long story that must wait another day.
- Ko’rassa: Azura named Rigmor her celestial daughter!
- Erid’or: So, the Clan Mother is also favoured by Azura! We hear of the incredible things achieved, and I am not surprised that gods take notice.
- Wulf: Erid’or, did you ever have an apprentice?
- Erid’or: Yes. He left me to pursue different knowledge in Skyrim.
- Wulf: Is his name J’zargo?
- Erid’or: Ah, have you met him?
- Wulf: I met him briefly when visiting The College of Winterhold. J’zargo has a reputation for pocketing small magical items. They would have dismissed him from the College, but I explained to the Arch-Mage why he ‘salvages’ things. They could not expel him since they tolerate many other religious beliefs. But thievery will not be encouraged, so some penalties have been given to J’zargo.
- Erid’or: Something to dent J’zargo’s colossal ego, this one hopes.
- Wulf: He is now an expert on cleaning the College’s privies! He has to do so without using Magicka and no dweomer to protect against the lovely fragrances encountered.
- Erid’or: Oh, this one would love to hear the complaints! And this punishment has worked?
- Wulf: I do not know, for I have not visited since the punishment was given. I hope they have, for J’zargo showed tremendous promise, especially in the School of Destruction.
- Erid’or: Khajiit was initially angry, but that one was correct. Khajiiti need to combine the wisdom of our ancestors with the newer magics of Man and Mer. This one feels great pride in the compliments for J’zargo.
- Inigo: My mother once gave me The First Scroll of Baan Dar. From it, my brother Fergus and I learnt the crucial lesson of Baan Dar.
- Erid’or: The proper way to repay a favour is not to. Khajiiti should pass it on instead.
- Ko’rassa: That is a beautiful sentiment! If more people adopted that attitude, the world would be better.
- Wulf: Erid’or, can you describe the problem in The Cathedral and how we might help?
- Erid’or: The Pahmar told this one that a Sload had been spotted in the Cathedral. Erid’or went to investigate, but it was perilous. This one needs to know more so he can plan a solution.
- Wulf: Of all the intelligent species on Nirn, they are the least liked. They have no morals or empathy and are smelly, ugly, and evil beyond words. We will investigate the Sload for you.
- Erid’or: 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.
- Inigo: I recall little about what I was taught about them.
- Wulf: 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 that caused the deaths of more than fifty per cent of the population! It required all of the nations of Tamriel combined to create a single navy to defeat and subdue them.
- Inigo: One in two people died? That is horrific!
- Erid’or: The Sload cities, armies and navies were destroyed. They used magic to sink their island to prevent their annihilation. It was a surprise when they returned to the surface. It is a bigger surprise to find one interfering with Elsweyr!
- Wulf: It is claimed they never forget a single thing.
- Erid’or: Any Sload that knows the history of The All-Flags Navy will be full of anger.
- Wulf: The Sload would be idiots to seek revenge. Any attack on another country would result in a backlash far more significant than they experienced in the past.
- S’in: Where do we go? To whom do we speak?
- Erid’or: Go to the Tenmar Cathedral. Clan Mother Silkskin has tracked the abomination and can tell you more. Be vigilant, Son of Alkosh and friends. Sload can be very, very tricky!
- Wulf: We have a priest of Baan Dar on our side!
- S’in: Surely Erid’or is trickier than a slug?
- Erid’or: To receive Erid’or’s wisdom, New Elsweyr’s friends must return alive, yes?
- Wulf: How do we get to Tenmar Cathedral?
- Erid’or: Climb those steps. At the top, there is a trapdoor. It is a portal made when Khajiiti still had such knowledge.
Erid’or pointed to a steep set of stone steps.
As I turned to leave, S’in growled and said, “A Sload desecrating a Khajiiti burial ground is not something I expected to face, Wulf.”
“When travelling with me, The Dragonguard face many evils. Being of diverse races and religions, we understand when a member may become angrier or more upset than others. However, at all times, we must not allow anger to dictate our actions. When resolving an issue, we also try to prevent similar occurrences.”
“We will stop this Sload and send a message to his kind.”
“That is the ideal outcome. This desecration is an example of the Sload’s lack of empathy. They are a narcissistic and hedonistic race who pursue pleasure without consideration for others. Do not be surprised if the Sload is here for purely selfish and shallow reasons.”
We made our way to the trapdoor. It is a type of portal that can confuse people. We climbed up and then through it, only to find ourselves climbing down. To return, we would have to climb up, go through the trapdoor, and climb down again.
Inigo asked, “My friend. When you install portals, they will make sense, won’t they?”
“Yes, Inigo. There was no need to make that portal a trapdoor. A glowing doorway or a platform like The College of Winterhold symbol would be less confusing.”
Zahilisk, spiders, crabs and Mooncows seemed to be in perpetual brawls. They were not hunting, and those killed were never fed upon. It was as if something had made them, or some of them, berserk without reason. I could detect no dweomer but was sure that was the cause of the abnormal behaviour.
We approached a vertical entrance surrounded by small obelisks. Each obelisk marked a Khajiiti burial. In this part of Elsweyr, some deceased are buried horizontally under rocks but not in a coffin.
I assumed the entrance led to an underground crypt. In such crypts, deceased Khajiiti are entombed in coffins, like Nord Halls of the Dead.
I told the group, “I would say this entrance belongs to an Imperial structure from The Second Era and is the entrance to a burial crypt.”
Ko’rassa remarked, “Whatever is in there smells worse than we did after that Elsweyr Chowder.”
Even though the wildlife, or parts of it, seemed berserk, we were not attacked. Kyne’s Peace does not always work against ensorceled beasts, but in this instance, it did.
We heard a Pahmar roaring, so we headed in that direction. It did not take long to find Silkskin.
She was battling a couple of Zahilisk.
We rushed to her aid and eliminated the attackers.
I then healed Silkskin, who had suffered some minor wounds.
Silkskin said, “Thank you. Please, follow me to my den.“
Her den was not far from where she fought for her life.
- Wulf: We are honoured to meet you, Clan Mother Silkskin.
- Silkskin: I detected your presence and called you to me. It seems your arrival was fortunate.
- Wulf: You have an affinity for what creatures roam the Cathedral?
- Silkskin: This one guards The Cathedral and knows what lives here. That is how the Sload was detected. Now we hunt it together, yes?
- Wulf: Of course. Where is it hiding?
- Inigo: Why do you call the Sload it? Do you not know its gender?
- Silkskin: It is both.
- Inigo: Huh?
- Wulf: Sload are hermaphrodites. Both sets of sex organs are external until they reach a certain age, and all genitalia are absorbed into their stinky, blubbery body. They are massive creatures but start as small, wriggly worm-type things the size of your thumb.
- Inigo: How repulsive are they?
- Wulf: Think of Maven Black-Briar with three hundred pounds added.
- Inigo: Ugh!
- Silkskin: You do not need the hunter senses of a Pahmar to track their scent. A rock could probably smell them. It is underneath our ancestor’s burial site, deeper in The Cathedral northeast of here. I cannot go there in anger. Dovahkiin must deal with the Sload. Khajiiti dead should be protected against its foul use of necromancy, but it probably brought some undead as protection.
- Wulf: We saw an ancient entrance.
- Silkskin: It is the entrance to a crypt where some Khajiiti are interred. That is where the Sload resides.
- Wulf: Is the Sload causing the animals to behave oddly?
- Silkskin: Khajiit believes so, but Sload magics are foreign and well hidden from this one’s senses.
- Kharjo: Should we all enter the crypt to help deal with it?
- Wulf: Yes, you can observe, but do not approach it. My dragon blood and soul provide natural protection against many things, including Blood Magic and most poisons. An angry Sload can generate gases that can kill or incapacitate. The dweomer I have placed on your armour is no guarantee against them.
- Silkskin: The Thrassian Plague affected all sentient beings except Sload and Dov. The small crypt in which the Sload resides could prove deadly to others if the Sload emits its gas.
- Inigo: It couldn’t be worse than sitting in a room with Sethri!
- Silkskin: That one is an acolyte of Azura, yes?
- Inigo: You have heard of him?
- Silkskin: When Emissary Dar mentions that one, the language is colourful!
- Inigo: Whilst many would be embarrassed, Sethri would regard that as a compliment.
- Wulf: I will not use destructive spells or Thu’um within the crypt. Please do not be concerned about desecration or damage on my part.
- Silkskin: Be cautious, Dovahkiin. The Sload may make you angry.
- S’in: It is me who holds great anger, Clan Mother.
- Silkskin: Then it is fortunate you are not Dro-m’Athra.
I cast a Mark so we didn’t have to use the disorientating portal.
Then we returned to the circular entrance.
We then climbed a ladder to a natural cavern.
An overpowering stench assailed us. It was not decay, flatulence or sewerage. It is so unique the smell has the same name as its origin. It is Sload.
The Sload could be heard muttering to itself in its guttural voice.
S’in remarked, “It sounds like the Sload needs to cough up a wet furball!”
“It reminds me of Hermaeus Mora’s hideous voice.”
The natural cavern led to Dwemer ruins, which I did not expect. Mind you, the architecture on Jo’ran’s island was Dwemer.
When the Sload came into view, I put my hand up to signal a halt. The others stayed where they were while I continued.
Glowing, floating mushrooms similar to those in Blackreach, but not as large, floated within the sizeable room.
The Sload did not seem concerned as I approached.
I closely examined its undead guards, and they were weak and of no danger to me. They wore First-Era Imperial Armour similar to those within Meridia’s Temple.
I stood before the Sload and looked up to its jowl-dominated face.
I asked, “Who are you, and why do you defile this sacred place?”
It answered in a deep voice constructed of disturbing gurgling sounds, “Malseka! Malsato! I am the Magnificent! And you are insignificant. Bow now, hairy ape, and you may survive the first course. Malsato! Malsata! I am hungry, and the dinner is served.”
“You dare you to tell me to bow! Gods have demanded such and got the same reply which is, ‘Go fuck yourself!’ Being a hermaphrodite, you are capable of doing that. Keep being rude, and I will pour salt on you and watch you writhe in agony.”
I stepped back to avoid being drooled on. Inigo stood next to me despite my warning.
“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? Will you threaten to breathe 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!”
That last word sounded like it was clearing its throat! I decided to play nice since I suspected the threat was not hollow. Sloads sometimes use a dweomer that triggers distant spells upon their death. Slicing open its belly was not an option, but I could still have some fun by making it burst with anticipation.
“Forgive me, Malsato the Magnificent! For you, I shall prepare a meal both artisanal and raw. The mouthfeel is superb, and everything will be oh-so delicious. Unctuous and succulent yet piquant and moist. Redolent with juices worth quaffing.”
Deep rumbling emanated from its stomach, and strings of drool reached from its foul mouth to the shallow water below. My stomach wanted to remove its contents in a spectacular multi-coloured yawn. I fought the compulsion, bowed low to Malsato and rapidly exited the crypt with my friends in tow.
Once outside, we moved away from the entrance and breathed in the gloriously fresh air of the waterways.
We quickly made our way to Silkskin.
She complained, “Dovahkiin, even the freshwater surrounding us had not cleaned the stench from your bodies.”
“No, Clan Mother, I don’t think soap and water would help either.”
“What does the fat sack of slime want?”
“Its name is Malsato. It wants me to bring it a meal. If I don’t behave like a good slave and please it, the Sload will release a plague in Tenmar Forest.”
“If that toadskin has known hunger, I am a house cat. Go and see Erid’or. He may develop a crafty scheme.”
We then teleported to Priderock and spoke to Erid’or.
- Wulf: Malsato the Magnificent is blackmailing us. It threatens to release a plague if we don’t feed it.
- Erid’or: If we feed it, it might decide to stay a century or more. It will grow big enough to eat Mervar, yes?
- Inigo: If Mervar is as spicy as the Elsweyr Chowder we ate, that might be enough to kill the kill Malsato!
- Wulf: Or at least regret it when it poops him out.
- Ko’rassa: Eww!
- Erid’or: You did not kill it?
- Wulf: No. Malsato might have a dweomer that will release the plague if we kill it.
- Erid’or: Mmm, it might have infected an animal somewhere in the forest and created a connection to it. That is possible with the necromantic skills Sloads possess. The connection could trigger the plague by will or automatically upon death.
- Wulf: There are many creatures in the Cathedral, and they are randomly attacking each other. I think they have detected something is amiss. Is it possible I could detect the infected one via Thu’um or spell?
- Erid’or: I think Sload magic would mask the creature’s corruption even from the nose of Silkskin and your magics.
- S’in: If we did find the right creature and kill it, would that trigger the plague release?
- Erid’or: This one believes that is a possibility.
- S’in: What if another creature kills the infected creature, or it dies from old age or disease?
- Wulf: That depends on the Sload. It may infect another creature if it realises the Khajiiti did not kill it.
- Erid’or: The Sload might not care what caused the creature’s death and allow the release of the plague. It would then move elsewhere and extort new people.
- Ko’rassa: The Sload must be stopped!
- Wulf: If we can disrupt the connection between Malsato and the infected creature, we may be able to slay both if we hurry.
- Ko’rassa: But we can’t slay all the creatures. We must know for sure which one is infected.
- Wulf: Do you have any suggestions, Erid’or?
- Erid’or: Hmm, this is a puzzle solved by alchemy. Could you bring this one some hyena meat and Jungle Queen venom?
- Wulf: I have collected those things for testing of alchemical qualities. I have plenty left over.
- Erid’or: Give me some of each and put the rest in today’s stew. That will do for its lunch. The added ingredients will help mask the taste of the poison I will make that Dovahkiin will add later.
- Wulf: Instruct me on the poison creation. I am a Master of Alchemy taught by the best Alchemist ever.
- Erid’or: And who is that?
- Wulf: Saint Alessia.
- Erid’or: Dovahkiin is not jesting, is he?
- Inigo: You would not believe my friend’s interactions with famous people and gods.
I opened my Journal Case, and Erid’or stared in awe as I reached up to my shoulder to reach the reagents. I gave some of the hyena meat and Jungle Queen poison to Kharjo, who hurried over to a simmering cauldron of stew and stirred them in. Erid’or stared into my open Journal Case, hissed, and stepped back.
- Wulf: The Journal Case has four dimensions. It is a gift from The Psijic Order.
- Inigo: The airship will be four-dimensional when all the Dwemer bits are added.
- Erid’or: Khajiit’s brain hurts contemplating four dimensions.
- Wulf: Okay, what do we do?
- Erid’or: We can’t just break the connection between Malsato and the creature. That disconnect may trigger the plague release. I will instruct Dovahkiin on creating a mixture that weakens the connection. Malsato will hopefully think something is wrong with the creature and not blame Khajiiti.
- Wulf: Will the weakened connection allow Silkskin to detect the infected creature?
- Erid’or: Yes. That one detects the Lifeforce, the aura, of the creatures in the Cathedral. The infection would make the creature’s aura seem wrong to her.
- Wulf: I can detect auras only if I see the target. If Silkskin can tell us where to search, I could tell which is the infected creature.
- Erid’or: We must mix the reagents in the correct proportions and temperature so that the Sload does not realise that magic compromises the connection.
- Ko’rassa: Are you confident this will work?
- Erid’or: This one is the best poison cook in all of Elsweyr! Such skill is in great demand because divorce is so expensive.
Ko’rassa looked shocked till Erid’or laughed hard and long.
After just over an hour of intense concentration following Erid’or’s instructions.
When finished, I poured a tiny amount of liquid into a vial.
- Wulf: Erid’or, that was fun. It reminded me so much of my training beside Saint Alessia.
- Erid’or: How old were you when you apprenticed with Saint Alessia?
- Wulf: Oh, I wasn’t an apprentice. Saint Alessia taught me many things. I was eight summers old when I started learning Alchemy.
- Erid’or: Your skills, Dovahkiin, are equal to any alchemist Khajiit has encountered!
- Wulf: But it is your unparalleled knowledge that created the formula.
- Erid’or: That is high praise, and this one humbly thanks you.
- Wulf: What sequence is required?
- Erid’or: Heat the stew and then add the potion. You must allow a minute or two for it to infuse the meal. Feed it to Malsato and watch to see if it becomes suspicious.
- Wulf: I assume the desired effect will take some time to manifest.
- Erid’or: Yes. It would be best if you quickly made your way to Silkskin. The Clan Mother can hopefully guide you to the infected creature’s location. Slay it as quickly as possible.
- Wulf: Then we must rush back to Malsato and kill it.
- Erid’or: That is correct.
- Inigo: How do we get that cauldron of stew to the Sload?
- Wulf: S’in and I will lug it there.
Luckily, I could cast Recall with one hand. That allowed us to materialise near Silkskin with the full and hot cauldron. I immediately poured the poison in, and S’in vigorously stirred the stew.
Silkskin asked, “Is that stew a trap for Malsato?”
“Yes, Clan Mother. The poison will weaken Malsato’s connection with a creature carrying the plague. Erid’or thinks you will detect its corrupted Lifeforce and direct us to it. Malsato should think the creature is ill and take no aggressive action.”
“If you and Erid’or are confident of success, I will allow this.”
“It is a sound plan.”
We made as quick a pace as we could to the entrance.
- Wulf: S’in will help carry the cauldron to Malsato. He will not be aggressive if he enjoys his meal.
- Inigo: There is room for us to attack with bows if fatso does get out of hand.
- Wulf: Do not knock your bows or draw a weapon unless Malsato attacks.
- Kharjo: We have missed lunch.
- Wulf: Don’t worry. Your appetite will abandon you after watching Malsato the Magnificent eat.
I used Telekinesis to lower the cauldron. I reheated the stew slightly with Magicka, and then we proceeded towards Malsato.
We entered the Sload’s chamber and placed the cauldron on the floor. S’in retreated and joined the others as I bowed low to Malsato.
Using a bit of Thu’um, I stood, pointed to the bubbling stew with an exaggerated flourish, and said, “Oh, tremendous one, I bring you a delicacy. A dish I call ‘Volcanic Rectum Hyena Stew.’ It is made from local wildlife and the finest spices of Elsweyr!”
It replied, “Malsato! Malsata! I can’t hold my joy at your grovelling servitude! Get out of my way and go before I regurgitate at the sight of you. Return with new tastes. Quickly!”
I realised Malsato could not bend far enough to eat the stew, so I lifted the cauldron and placed it on a stone table.
It was a meal that would feed a dozen Khajiiti. I watched in awe and disgust as Malsato’s long, curved tongue flicked out and returned with large amounts of stew attached. Loud slobbering and what must have been sounds of contentment were more than a little disturbing! It emptied the cauldron in seconds. The burp that followed was incredibly loud and long. As the smell wafted to my friends, they started gagging. I gave a hand signal, and they ran to the exit.
I stayed and observed Malsato. It showed no suspicion or other reaction to the poison.
It commanded, “You are still here, lazy slave? Bring me something I have never tasted, now! Or this forest will be a disease-ridden swamp!”
In my most grovelling voice, with head bowed, I replied, “Forgive me, Malsato the Magnificent. I promise I will fill your stomach with a new sensation to die for on my return!”
We made our way outside. I couldn’t help but laugh as some friends spent a few minutes gagging and vomiting.
I said, “There is no time to measure, but I think Inigo made his carrots fly the furthest.”
He groaned, “That is not funny, my friend. And those carrots are at least a week old!”
We ran to Silkskin.
I asked, “Clan Mother, can you detect the corrupted creature?”
“Yes, Dovahkiin. It is a Zahilisk and is currently near the mammoth skeleton.”
“I remember passing the skeleton and thought it must be old. Mammoths have not been in Elsweyr since The Third Era.”
“Will you be able to tell which Zahilisk it is?”
“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 plague carrier and Malsato immediately.”
We travelled to the mammoth skull and saw many creatures surrounding it. I used the Aura Whisper Shout. As the name suggests, this was not a ground-shaking use of the Thu’um but an actual whisper of three Words of Power.
I could see corruption around a Zahilisk. However, the muted lighting of the jungle made me cautious.
The Zahilisk was randomly wandering behind rocks and plants.
When I used heat vision, the corruption was unmistakable.
I pointed to the Zahilisk and gave the hand signal to attack. A chorus of bow twangs announced the corrupted Zahilisk’s impending death.
It died, and its corruption faded.
We ran to the crypt entrance and descended the ladder.
I quickly killed the two undead and ran at Malsato.
It growled, “I sensed your betrayal. Do you think minor indigestion will stop me? Now we’ll see how you taste!”
“I probably taste like chicken, but you will never have a chance to find out.”
I plunged my sword into Malsato’s stomach and twisted it. The Sload howled in pain and anger.
I laughed and said, “You are probably considering releasing a poisonous gas. I am Dragonborn, and there has never been a plague or poison that can harm a dragon.”
“You cannot kill me!”
“I know all about the dweomer to teleport you home when near death. I could set your soul alight or put you in stasis before killing you. Both would result in your corpse rotting in Elsweyr.”
“Remove the sword, and Malsato will reward you with untold treasures.”
“I promised to fill your stomach with a new sensation to die for. Your little slave is merely fulfilling his promise to Malsato the Magnificent.”
“Little one, I shall remember this!”
“Yes, and that is why I let you live. Rush back to Thras with a warning for your people. The leaders of Elsweyr will tell Nirn’s diplomatic channels of your attack. Expect a warning to be issued by the leaders of many nations. If a plague ever appears on Nirn that can be traced to your people, the punishment will be severe. Thras will be reduced to rubble once more, and your population will be decimated. Tell them Wulf Welkynd, Dragonborn and Champion of The Divines, does swear this.”
I removed my sword, and seconds later, Malsato vanished.
I used Magicka to clean my sword before sheathing it.
- S’in: I have not seen you enjoy violence before.
- Wulf: I am a dragon in a mortal’s body and have the same compulsions. If I do not let my Dovah personality to the fore occasionally, it will force its way at the most inconvenient times.
- Inigo: My friend will sometimes issue the most vicious and brilliant taunts in battle. He can sound like a bloodthirsty maniac when we all know he is not.
- S’in: My dark half is gone, and I no longer have to fight to stay on The Path.
- Wulf: I no longer regard my Dovah compulsions as a dark half. I am a complex being made of many parts. They are just a fraction of what makes me Wulf.
- Qua’Der: We are approaching the end of this task. Are we to be accepted into The Dragonguard?
- Wulf: Vayu, our shaman, must approve but will not contradict my choice. So yes, Do’Qua’Der and S’in Dunestrider, you are now Dragonlords of The Dragonguard. As such, you will learn many things about Valdr Septim.
- S’in: Who is Valdr Septim?
- Inigo: My friend, Wulf Welkynd, is Valdr Septim. He is the son of Lord Talos and Saint Alessia.
- Ko’rassa: Son of gods he may be, but he is a mortal.
- S’in: This revelation. It must be kept secret like the new Mane’s existence.
- Wulf: Yes, and for many of the same reasons.
- Qua’Der: Being of Septim blood, does that make you the rightful Emperor after Titus Mede II?
- Wulf: Legally, yes. I am the son of an Emperor and Empress. The Greybeards have declared me Ysmir, Dragon of the North, as they did with my father, Tiber Septim. But the role of Emperor is incompatible with my duties, and I do not desire it. That is one reason why my identity and parents must remain secret.
- S’in: There must be much to discuss about this and other secrets.
- Wulf: Indeed, there is, and we shall do so in the comfort of Aurane, a marble palace and gardens created by Saint Alessia.
- Qua’Der: I thought these new friends were being very cautious during our long talks.
- Ko’rassa: Even though Wulf greatly respects Emissary Baa’Ren-Dar, that esteemed Khajiiti is unaware of many secrets. That is the level of paranoia we must maintain.
- Wulf: The need for secrets is understood by us. This understanding is why we have not enquired about the new Mane’s identity or location. You will learn there are many reasons for being cautious.
- S’in: My curiosity is peaked. Let us say goodbye to our Khajiiti hosts and travel to this Aurane.
I laughed at S’in’s eagerness to get immersed in secrets, gobblygook and mumbo-jumbo. My old friends recognised the phenomena and laughed as well.
S’in asked, “Did I say something amusing?”
Ko’rassa replied, “Yes, but only later will you recognise the humour.”
As we made our way to Silkskin, residents of The Cathedral were no longer at war. It was a place of peace, as the grounds and buildings of eternal rest should be.
- Wulf: Clan Mother, I am pleased to report that Malsato has returned to Thras with a warning. The infected Zahilisk is dead.
- Silkskin: Did the Sload have a protective teleport?
- Wulf: Yes, but I could have killed Malsato if I desired.
- Silkskin: Please explain, Dovahkiin, why you let Malsato live.
- Wulf: Killing Malsato may have been justified and perhaps satisfied the need for revenge or justice. However, I must think of what is best for all mortals. The warning I gave will make all Sload hesitant to interfere with others.
- S’in: Lord Welkynd will work via Emissary Baa’Ren-Dar and Emperor Titus Mede II to inform the nations of Nirn of Malsato’s actions.
- Ko’rassa: The threat issued by many nations will be the destruction of Thras and the decimation of the Sload population if another of their kind threatens innocents.
- Wulf: The Sload remember everything. Memories of what The All-Flags Navy did to Thras will be as fresh as if it occurred yesterday.
- Silkskin: I understand. Once again, Dovahkiin, you have proven wise. We know many things you have done with the aid of The Dragonguard and others. We don’t know everything, but that is to be expected.
- Wulf: I endeavour constantly to aid all mortals, Clan Mother.
- Silkskin: Please bring Bruma’s Clan Mother to visit. Many within New Elsweyr learned to love Baa’Ren-Dar’s lost cub. I have never met her, but we could gossip about our mates for many long hours.
- Wulf: Rigmor and other females have patiently explained that gossiping is a natural and essential phenomenon.
- Silkskin: You can sit with Pride Leader Deepclaw Denmaster and lament the poor circumstances of having strong females as mates.
- Wulf: I think you will find, Clan Mother, that we do not lament but express our good fortune.
Silkskin was laughing as we teleported to Priderock.
We found Erid’or bent over his alchemy table. He was pounding some reagents to mush with a mortar and pestle.
- Wulf: Your formulae worked perfectly. I allowed the Sload to live, which has returned to Thras badly injured. It will serve as a warning to others. Emissary Baa’Ren-Dar will inform both of Elsweyr’s governments and other nations, as will His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Titus Mede II.
- Erid’or: Did Dovahkiin tell Silkskin?
- Wulf: Yes, she is content with this outcome.
- Kharjo: Will that one cleanse the crypt?
- Erid’or: Yes. Khajiiti ancestors do not like foul smells.
- Kharjo: This one had never met a creature so foul as the Sload!
- Wulf: You have met plenty of Thalmor. They are slimier and fouler.
Erid’or laughed as he handed me handwritten notes about Tenmar Forest’s reagents and their four properties.
- Wulf: This is a wonderful gift. Thank you!
- Erid’or: It is but a fraction of what Khajiiti’s owe. Perhaps new trade possibilities are to be found amongst those reagents.
- Kharjo: This one will talk with Ri’saad and others.
- Erid’or: That old trader has a nose for profit.
- Wulf: Yes, I have no doubt he can help us devise a plan.
We did the rounds and said goodbye to everybody.
Then we teleported into Aurane. Kharjo and the others took our new Dragonguard members for a tour and meet and greet.
I was attacked by the children who had a billion questions.
It was good to be back home, and when I retired to bed, Rigmor and I discussed what must happen.
We decided that Cerys must learn the summoning and teleport spells. When that is accomplished, we shall sit with Seguun, Freathof, Malasam and Cerys to explain why Rigmor must spend time with me. They do not need to know about my parentage or other secrets. However, they must understand the need for secrecy around Rigmor and my relationship. Malesam’s mistress may push for details, but none will be forthcoming.
Rigmor and I will discuss our plans further when she is with me in Skyrim.
In a few days, those who should never be apart will be together as they should be.