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Chorrol.com _ Fan Fiction _ Outlanders (Morrowind Crossover)

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Apr 15 2022, 05:31 PM

Author's Note: This is a series I've posted at a few other places (SpaceBattles, The Skyrim Forge), where it's generally gotten a pretty good reception. This obviously means you can go ahead and read the entire thing if you're so inclined. However, I'll post it piecemeal here so you can follow along as it unfolds, if you're so inclined. I'll probably post a new chapter every few days.

And yes, this is a crossover. Yes, with the old '90s sitcom Daria. The characters from the show are re-imagined as natives to Tamriel in the late Third Era. Forget about the Nerevarine or the Hero of Kvatch--this is Tamriel as viewed through the perspective of normal-ish people. I've found that the 3E 420s and American 1990s are weirdly similar in a lot of ways: seemingly peaceful and seemingly prosperous, but with a lot of corruption bubbling under the surface. The characters still have their cynical '90s snark--but they have to be careful what they say and to whom, because Morrowind's a much more dangerous place where violence is always an option. I try to stay true to the characters while also adhering to the rule of the setting.

If you're not familiar with the show, don't worry. I don't think you need to be. Daria's a new arrival to Balmora, so the characters are introduced to the reader the same time they're introduced to her. People have enjoyed this without having seen the show. Finally, this does use Morrowind/Redguard-era lore. While almost the entire series takes place in Vvardenfell, it does make occasional reference to Cyrodiil being tropical.

Anyway, here it is!

Episode 1: Outlanders

Chapter 1

Daria decided that she hated Sera Ondryn's smile. Most of the Dunmer she'd seen preferred to scowl, and if a typical Dunmer smile was anything like Ondryn's, that was probably for the best. He kept it on as he introduced himself in a soft and tremulous voice, the solicitous expression made all the creepier by the fixed gaze in his red eyes. Standing at the head of his adobe classroom, its deep and dusty shadows somehow made darker by the flickering light of a half-dozen tallow candles, Ondryn smiled even wider. The students, seated at long wooden benches, writing slates on their laps, remained stone-faced.

"Outlander," he said. "It's a kind of a scary word, isn't it? Hearing it makes you feel like you don't belong."

No one had called Daria an outlander to her face but she'd heard the word plenty of times already.

Not, she reminded herself, that she particularly cared what anyone here thought. The boors in her old hometown had been one kind of stupid, and the ones here were a different kind. But stupid never changed.

Daria grimaced. The thick lenses of her spectacles seemed to warp her shadowy surroundings, blurring and stretching the faces of her peers—all outlanders like her, except for one Dunmer girl at her side. Daria took the glasses off for a moment and blinked a few times to re-orient her vision.

"But I'm here to help you feel like you belong. Great House Hlaalu is a friend to the Empire, and we believe there's a place for everyone, even outlanders! Outlander just means you're from somewhere outside Morrowind. It doesn't mean that we don't like you."

Daria checked herself. Daughter of an Imperial legal advocate and a Nord merchant. Reasonably well-connected. However xenophobic the Dunmer might be, the Empire still ruled them.

What the hell.

She put her glasses back on and raised her hand. Ondryn's eyes caught the motion.

"Yes, uh... Doria?"

"Daria," she corrected. "If being an outlander doesn't mean you're a bad person, why is it always used as an insult?"

Ondryn gulped. "Well, uh... look, just let me get through this part and we can have some discussions later. Anyway, everyone here is welcome..."

Daria narrowed her eyes. She'd hoped to offend him, at least, but Ondryn seemed too squishy to get angry at anyone. This would be a boring session.

The Dunmer girl leaned in.

"Don't expect him to answer any questions. He's got the speech memorized. Just enjoy the nice man's soothing voice."

"How am I supposed to follow him if he's so disingenuous?" Daria wondered again why this Dunmer was with the other foreigners.

"I can fill you in later. I've done this three times."



*********



The weather worsened as Daria stepped out of the Drenlyn Academy compound. Sheets of rain fell from the thick and curdled gray sky, smashing into the adobe roofs and turning the Odai River into a churning soup. Porters packed the streets, bent under the weight of crates and bulging sacks.

Suffused through the rain was the thick and sour smell of the local cuisine. It all came from kwama—kwama bugs and kwama eggs: smashed into paste, drained and served as soup, roasted in their shells, or served with bitter hackle-lo leaf. But always sour, like bad cheese left out for too long in the sun. The smell seeped into every mud-brick apartment and paving stone in Balmora, and she was pretty sure the rest of Morrowind smelled the same way.

She'd never wanted a loaf of bread so badly in her life.

A gaunt Dunmer farmer walked past, his gray hands clasping the reins of his two-legged pack lizard. Daria was pretty sure it was a guar—or maybe a kagouti? Its beady lizard eyes studied her for a moment, Daria's pink skin and round face perhaps a novel sight for such a creature.

The Dunmer girl from the orientation stood next to the lantern, her crimson eyes observing Daria. Her gray skin marked her as one of the natives, but her clothes, a shabby red coat and black trousers, were pure Imperial. Her first name, Janieta, more often called Jane, was also Cyrodiilic.

"What's your story?" Daria asked. "You're not an outlander, so why were you in the orientation?"

"Don't let the looks fool you," Jane said. "I'm as outlandish as you are."

"But you're a Dunmer."

"Yes, I'm Dunmer and an outlander." Her angular face hardened for a moment, but then relaxed. "Just being Dunmer isn't enough for Morrowind. You have to be born here, too. I spent my first five years in the Imperial City."

"Five years away from Morrowind and you're an outcast?"

"Oh, well those were five critical years. I mean, if you don't get potty trained in the traditional Dunmer way you'll just never fit in."

"Just so long as you are potty trained."

Jane smirked. "Come on, I know a place where they occasionally serve some outlander drinks for people like us. If nothing else, we can dry out for a bit."

Daria tightened her green woolen robe and followed Jane west along the river. Her mother had told her to try and make friends. Jane hadn't done anything to annoy her yet, so that was a start.

"What's that you're wearing over your eyes?" Jane asked, her smoky voice pushed to the limit to be heard over the crowd.

"They're called glasses. I'm basically blind without them."

And basically blind with them considering the rain. She raised a hand to keep the ungainly device in place. It didn't take much for the things to slip off the bridge of her nose. Her family had money, but not to the point where they could casually buy a replacement pair, especially not out here.

"Huh, I've never seen anything like that. Is it a Dwemer artifact? I've heard you can buy those if you're Imperial."

"No, it was made in Anvil by a specialist. If you want to judge me for them, go ahead. I'm used to it."

"Nah, they're a good look. Not often I see something genuinely new in Balmora."



*********



True to Jane's word, the Lucky Lockup was dry.

Daria and Jane sat at a table next to a support post, beneath a reassuringly familiar metal lantern. Faded tapestries covered the rough adobe walls to ward off the northern chill. The smoky air buzzed with murmurs in a dozen different languages. A free Argonian woman sat on a rug in a shadowed corner, her emerald-scaled hands gently beating a pair of hand drums, the percussion as steady and smooth as a spring rain back home.

The publican sold Cyrodiilic brandy but not at a price either of them could afford. Jane instead ordered a bottle of a local drink called shein, along with a loaf of bread and a bowl of sour-smelling scrib jelly.

"The food isn't bad, but it does take some time to get used to it," Jane said, as she dipped her bread into the mashed insect guts.

Her stomach churning, Daria sipped the shein from her earthenware mug. The drink wasn't bad, actually: bitter with a faintly sweet aftertaste.

Outside the building, the castle-sized silt strider standing at port let out its long and mournful wail, redolent of the ash-swept land it called home. The whole cornerclub seemed to shake at the noise. At least Daria didn't flinch that time. She must be getting used to things.

"I don't get it, Jane. You've been at the academy for years. Why do you keep retaking the orientation?"

"It's a good way to network. No self-respecting Hlaalu noble will hire an outlander like me to paint them, but there are plenty of upstart outlander merchants who'd just love to get their images captured by a native artist."

"A native?" Daria raised her eyebrows.

"As far as they know. I paint them in the usual Imperial style so they don't get all uncomfortable. Make the angles a little sharper. That way it seems suitably native and Morrowind-y. Then they hang it up in their homes and no one's the wiser."

Daria nodded. Life in Morrowind was a lot more complicated than she'd been led to expect.

"My family sent me here to be trained as a savant," Daria said. "That way I can use my knowledge to help rich families avoid taxes and skirt the law."

Jane's lips turned up in a hard smile. "Then you'll have plenty of opportunities here in Balmora."

"From what you say I'll have to stick with outlander families like mine."

"Oh, not at all."

Daria frowned. "Didn't you just say that Hlaalu nobles wouldn't hire outlanders?"

"They won't hire misfit Dunmer like me. They think I'm a traitor for not being born in Morrowind. You, on the other hand, are Imperial—"

"I'm only half," Daria corrected. "My father's a Nord."

"Trust me, it's all the same to them. The point is, the Hlaalu hate the Empire but love to ingratiate themselves with the Empire's rich—or failing that, the Empire's moderately prosperous."

"So, in Morrowind, corruption and favoritism are rampant, the nobles stack the deck against everyone else, and life is all around miserable?"

"Yup!"

"Nice to know some things are the same the world over."

Jane took a bite of bread. No longer able to deny her own hunger, Daria tore off a piece. Bracing herself, she stared at the bowl of scrib jelly, gray and glistening in the lantern light. Holding her breath, she took her bread and scooped up a big chunk of the stuff and jammed it into her mouth before she could chicken out.

A roiling shock ran from the tip of her tongue to the pit of her stomach the moment she tasted the jelly, thick and viscous and oh so sour. She forced her teeth to close on the bread, the familiar texture fighting a losing battle with the slick alien condiment. Something crunched—maybe a tail segment or a leg. She didn't want to know.

Somehow, she choked it down. She swallowed and then grabbed her cup, raising it to her mouth for a deep gulp. The harsh taste of fermented comberry obliterated the jelly's noxious flavor.

Jane gave a little cheer and clapped. "You did it! Trust me, it gets easier."

"How do you people eat this stuff?" Daria wondered. She drank some more shein.

"We people?" Janieta raised an eyebrow. "Far from me to defend Morrowind, but when bugs are all you have, you get creative with what you consider edible. This stuff will fill you up."

"I guess it was pretty hearty," Daria said, feeling a little abashed.

She didn't like the Imperials who looked down on the Mer, Beastfolk, and other races of Men. She was half-Nord herself. Dunmer society was awful—she knew they still enslaved Khajiit and Argonians in the remote parts of Morrowind—but it wasn't like the Empire forced them to stop.

It was just that nothing about Morrowind felt like home.

"The Lucky Lockup's not a bad place, as Balmora goes," Jane said, her eyes settling on a party of nervous gold-skinned Altmer, their narrow shoulders draped by mantles of still-fluttering dragonfly wings.

"I haven't seen many other places here, so I couldn't say."

"The Lockup gets lot of visitors. Caravaners from the South Gate, pilgrims spilling out from the strider port, Bitter Coast fisherman coming up the Odai. I sit here and I get ideas, and then I paint them. Or sketch them, at least."

Studying the transient population, Daria could see what Jane meant. The place felt like everywhere.

And also nowhere.



*********



The rain stopped by the time they left the cornerclub. Dark clouds fled at the rays of setting sun, red as blood in the west. The air was clean at least, no longer heavy with that doused campfire smell that usually hung over Balmora.

"I should probably get home," Daria said. "It was nice meeting you."

"Sure."

"Do you live around here?"

"My brother and I rent an apartment in Labor Town, not far from the Odai."

"Okay. I'm in the Commercial District. My mother—"

Daria paused as a familiar, high-pitched voice made itself heard over the chatter of the late afternoon traffic.

"... pastel yellow is so in right now! Everyone in Cyrodiil is wearing it."

The sight of Quinn's red hair, so bright and bold in the drab streets, confirmed it.

"Everything all right?" Jane asked.

"See that redhead over there?"

"The overdressed one?"

"Yeah. That's my sister," Daria said. "Overdressing is what she does."

Quinn walked with a quartet of Dunmer girls her age, all of them garbed in robes stitched with elaborate abstract patterns. They listened intently as Quinn neared the door of the cornerclub next to the Lucky Lockup.

"You said she's your sister?" Jane's voice tightened.

"Yes—"

"Daria, just trust me on this."

Jane bolted toward Quinn. The younger Morgendorffer didn't notice until Jane jammed her booted feet into a muddy puddle right next to her. Daria distinctly saw her new friend kick the filthy water right onto Quinn's gown before running off toward the riverbank crowd.

The resulting screech could probably be heard throughout the entire province.

Quinn looked down at her ruined yellow dress, and then to her friends. And then her eyes locked on Daria.

"You! This is your doing, isn't it!"

Daria just blinked, too confused to react.

"Come, Lady Morgendorffer," said one of the Dunmer girls. "We can get you cleaned up inside—"

"No! I can't be seen like this—I have to go! You can blame my... my cousin over there!"

Quinn stormed off with her face buried in her hands, her wailing audible at some distance until the silt strider repeated its lonely call. The Dunmer girls who'd been walking with her simply shrugged and walked away.

"What the hell was that?" Daria demanded.

She hurried toward the river market. Her supposed friend was still there, tightly gripping the fabric of her thin red coat.

"What was that all about?" Daria demanded. "Normally I'm thrilled when someone takes Quinn down a peg, but what did she do to you?"

Jane exhaled. "Nothing. I was doing that for her, not to her."

Daria hesitated. She sensed this was serious. "Okay, I'm listening. But I don't know if I can forgive you for temporarily rousing my long-dormant big sister instinct."

"Your sister was about to step into the Council Club. That's not a place for outlanders."

"So what? It's too special for some dirty Imperial to visit?" Maybe Jane wasn't as open-minded as she'd seemed.

"No, dammit! You aren't listening! That's where the Cammona Tong meet. They. Do. Not. Like. Outlanders. People disappear there, Daria. And whoever those friends of Quinn's were? They knew that. You need to tell her not to spend time with them."

Daria shivered in spite of her thick robe. Only now did she realize how far from Cyrodiil she really was.

"Thank you. Is Quinn in danger?"

"Maybe. Now that I think about it, the Cammona Tong would've probably just thrown her out. Even they wouldn't be bold enough to kill some Imperial teenager who wandered in. But you do not want to cross the people in the Council Club. Being an Imperial—or acting like one—won't always be enough to save your hide out here."

Jane had been smart about it, Daria realized. Quinn would have never listened to a warning from a total stranger, not when she was trying to impress her friends. Thus, best to make it look like an accident or a prank.

"I'd better get home and talk to her. Will I see you at school tomorrow?" Daria asked.

"That's the plan. Take care."

Daria hurried up the street, wondering how she was going to fix the damage.



*********



Daria returned home to find her mother, Helen, seated at the office, still poring over a stack of documents. Mom had spared no effort in ensuring that her base of operations befitted a legal advocate trained in the time-honored Imperial ways. Tomes and scrolls filled the polished rosewood bookshelves, and not so much as a speck of dust dared touch the flagstone floor. Candles burned in the small marble shrine to Julianos embedded onto the far wall, the god's symbol of a triangle over an open scroll recreated in a mosaic above a basin filled with scented water.

Mom did not look up from her work. Her scribe, a young Breton woman named Marianne, smiled and nodded at Daria's entry.

"I need to talk to my mother," Daria said, quietly.

"How important is this, Daria?" mom replied, still not looking up. "I'm up to my ears in cases from the local merchants! Honestly, I don't know why they think Imperial law will protect them from bad local investments!"

"Potentially very important."

That time, mom paid attention. She knew the tone of voice.

"Marianne, you can head home for the day. It's almost night, anyway," mom said.

Once Marianne left, Daria explained the situation. Her mother's face turned white as soon as she mentioned the Cammona Tong.

"Quinn!" mom shouted. "Get down here this instant!"

Even Quinn's footsteps sounded sulky as she descended the staircase. "What's wrong?"

"Were you at the Council Club today?" mom demanded.

Quinn's expression changed to one of calculating innocence. "Of course not, mother! I was studying—"

"I'm serious!"

She pouted. "Okay, fine! I was! But I made a really nice friend named Synda, and she wanted to show me around!"

"I don't want you spending time with this Synda!"

"Why not?"

"Listen to me, Quinn. There are some very bad people in Balmora, and they run the Council Club. It's a dangerous place for people like us."

"What? The only danger I was in was from that weird girl who was with Daria! She completely ruined my dress!"

"Jane did you a favor," Daria said.

Mom reached out and grasped Quinn's shoulders. "I need you to understand something: we are very, very far away from the emperor's light right now. Balmora is mostly a safe place, but there are dangers for people like us. I forbid you from going to strange cornerclubs."

"But mom! This is just some prank that Daria—"

"Daria, that goes for you as well."

Daria blinked. "What did I do?"

"Nothing, but restricting you both is impartial and it's common sense. Girls your age have no business being in sketchy taverns. Maybe when you're married and established professionals, but not now!"

Quinn drew back, eyes already filling with her on-call tears. "I hope you know you've ruined my social life!"

She spun around on her heels and stormed up the stairs. Mom leaned back in her chair and rubbed her temples.

"Where's dad?" Daria asked. "He should know about this too."

"Late night for him, they're having a networking session in High Town." She sighed. "I did not think living here would be so difficult."

"Wait, hold on. Why can't I go to cornerclubs?" Daria asked. "It's not like Jane's going to lure me into some seedy den and rob me. Well, she won't rob me at any rate."

"Like I said, it's not a good look. And as foreigners we are under scrutiny. I don't want the Dunmer to think Imperial girls are a bunch of cavorting hedonists! If you absolutely must go somewhere, I'll allow you and Quinn to visit Eight Plates, so long as you have an adult chaperone."

Daria crossed her arms. "I see. And I suppose you'd be giving me the same talk if I were your son?"

"I don't make the rules, Daria. I just try and live by them."

"Yes, because following rules is the best way to get them changed."

"I'm not in the mood right now. What's important is that you keep an eye on your sister."

Sighing, Daria nodded. "I will."

Posted by: SubRosa Apr 15 2022, 07:03 PM

I love the pic of Daria and Jane in Morrowind. I am a big fan of the show, so I am looking forward to reading about Daria's sarcastic escapades in Vvardenfell.

Posted by: Acadian Apr 15 2022, 08:44 PM

I confess unfamiliarity with the TV show and that I never played TES III. That said, my elf has tons of time in TES IV, V and currently makes her home in ESO. And those who have played TES III inform me that ESO’s rendition of Vvardenfel’s mer, culture and politics is quite accuarte. So I do understand the Great Houses, kwama, guar and pompous too common Dunmer view of ‘outlanders’.

Fabulous fanart of Daria and Jane!

The term outlander as used by the Dunmer is well worth the time you spent on it. Noting that it was a ‘free Argonian woman’ playing drums also speaks volumes about the culture in Morrowind. Though common to describe the sights and sounds of a place, it is less so to read of the smells. That you included this aspect of Balmora really strengthens our feel for the city.

You have a neat concept, and your style of writing is comfortably inviting. smile.gif

Posted by: Lena Wolf Apr 15 2022, 10:22 PM

I enjoyed that, thank you! biggrin.gif Hoping to read more in future! I don't know the TV show, but it seems indeed that it doesn't matter.

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Apr 16 2022, 03:01 AM

*SubRosa: Fantastic! There's not a lot of overlap between the two fandoms, so I'm glad there's another one of us who enjoys them both! There will be plenty more escapades to come.

* Acadian: I haven't played ESO myself (though I'm sometimes tempted, I'm a little burned out on MMOs in general these days), but I hear that its version of Vvardenfell has remarkable fidelity to the one seen in TES III.

And thanks! It's just a real simple Photoshop job I put together, but I'm happy with how it turned out. Also glad the writing came through. Part of the fun in writing this was to examine just how all these groups interact in the context of the late Third Era. And yeah, smell has a big impact on our impressions of a place for good or for ill.

* Lena Wolf: Thank you!

Episode 1: Outlanders

Chapter 2


"Maybe you've fooled mom, but you haven't fooled me!"

Hearing her sister's shrill voice behind her, Daria put down her copy of A Dance in Fire. She first looked out through the narrow adobe-framed window of the second story room they shared, the stars outside a gleaming halo around the bloated red moon of Masser. Taking off her glasses, she closed her aching eyes and massaged them through the lids.

"Quinn, I don't think you understand how serious—" she began.

"How serious? Daria, we're here to spread Imperial culture to these barbarians—I mean, people! How am I supposed to do that if I can't make friends with the popular Dunmer? Now the future of the Empire might be doomed because of you and mom!"

Daria put her glasses back on and pushed back from the desk. She turned around to face Quinn. They both needed to go to bed soon. Mom and dad wouldn't want them to use up more candles.

"Yes," Daria said. "The Empire survived the Akaviri invasion and the Simulacrum Crisis but is sure to fall apart if you fail to make enough vapid friends."

"You don't get it Daria. You might like being alone all the time." Quinn raised a hand to her brow and raised her eyes to the ceiling. "But I will wither and die without friendship." Her delivery was worthy of a performer's.

"That sounds like a personal problem. Look, maybe you weren't in as much danger as Jane thought, but even mom agreed you shouldn't be going into strange cornerclubs."

Quinn lowered her hand and smirked. "Neither should you."

"Damn impartiality," Daria said.

Hopefully Jane would be okay with spending time at a different place.

"And you're both being so unfair to Synda! She's from a very reputable family. Who knows how many opportunities we might lose if I don't hang out with her?"

Better losing opportunities than losing you, Daria almost said.

"We'll survive," she said instead.

"Maybe. But mom's right about one thing: we do need friends here. And if we don't get any, things are really going to suck."

Quinn refused to talk after that. Daria took off her glasses again, crawled into her bed, and blew out the last candle. Darkness sometimes healed wounds—she remembered Quinn occasionally, always indirectly and circuitously, admitting fear or error in the long winter nights back in their old Stirk home. Hell, occasionally Daria did.

But only silence that night, Quinn soon breathing peacefully in her own bed on the other side of the room. Unceasing, the sounds of the city rose up to their window. Porters spoke in harsh Dunmer voices and guar claws clicked on the paving stones. Worse than the noise was the endless sour smell, a hundred plates of insect mash letting off their stench into the night sky.



*********



"Hey there, kiddo!"

Dad didn't even look up from the kitchen table as Daria walked down to the first floor, still rubbing the sleep from her eyes. The morning sun, made lurid by Red Mountain's fumes, cast crimson rays through the kitchen's slot-like windows.

"Morning," Daria mumbled, her voice barely comprehensible.

"You know," dad said, "at first I wasn't so sure about the stuff the Dunmer ate. Bugs are so... ewww. But then I started thinking: Jake! Bugs are just protein, perfect for a strong and healthy man like you. So, I took the liberty of buying a fresh bug egg last night. Thought I'd surprise your mother."

He stepped aside and gestured at the veiny egg sitting on the table, big enough to hold a medium-sized dog.

"You're right about one thing. She will be surprised," Daria said.

Dad paid her no heed. "This is going to make a great omelette!"

"If that thing goes rotten, we'll never get the smell out of here. Not that I'm sure we could tell the difference," Daria said.

"Nonsense! It'll be in our bellies way before that'll happen. So let me see... the man said to open it at the top... or was it the bottom? I'm pretty sure he said the top."

Dad picked up the large butcher knife and eyed the egg the way a warrior might study a foe for a weak spot. He made a quick swing and the knife embedded itself in the surface.

"Huh, this looks like a tough one," he said.

"Do you want me to ask the neighbors?" Daria offered. "They might actually know how to prepare this."

"Nah, I got this. Let me try the mallet..."

He wrenched out the knife and picked up a wooden hammer from the table. That time, he pressed the knifepoint against the surface as he would a chisel and raised the hammer for a decisive blow.

"I really don't think that's a good—" Daria started.

Dad struck and the knife plunged into the leathery shell. "Got it!" Dropping the hammer, he grabbed the knife handle with his right and cut to the side.

A jet of sickly ichor sprayed out from the opening and into his face.

"It's attacking me! Daria, get your sister out of here! Save yourselves!"

Daria's stomach roiled once she smelled it, the stench like something you might find in an old boot buried under a butcher shop's offal heap.

It spurted again. "Gah!" dad shouted.

Deciding to get breakfast on the way to school, Daria made a quick exit.



*********



"Wait, was the egg fertilized?"

It was lunch, and Daria and Jane sat in the shade of the emperor parasol growing in the courtyard. The towering old mushroom smelled a bit musty but at least gave them privacy from their fellow outlanders.

Daria had been relating her father's encounter with the kwama egg.

"No idea," Daria said.

"It must have been if it was squirting like that. Ooh, that means there's a partially formed scrib in there that your dad can serve for dinner!"

"Dad's probably going to be taking a long recuperative break from kitchen duties after this. Very possibly at mom's insistence."

Jane nodded. "Tell him to get an unfertilized kwama egg next time. Those you can just open up and fry. They're pretty good, and cheaper to boot. And if he doesn't want the scrib, I'll take it! Scribs taste a lot better before they hatch."

Looking at her own lunch, a loaf of bread and a skin full of lukewarm water boiled last evening, Daria wondered how long she could last before embracing the local cuisine. She chided herself for being so myopic. Weirdness was only a matter of perspective. There was nothing intrinsically normal about eating steak and potatoes. She just wished Dunmer cuisine didn't smell so unwholesome.

Unwholesome to her, she reminded herself.

She glanced around the courtyard. Ten squarish adobe structures, the surfaces smoothed out in the stately Hlaalu manner, crammed together in an enclosure and surrounded by a wall made of the same. Six buildings for instruction, one for a library, one for administration, one for storage, and one for a privy. All of the students present that day huddled together in their little cliques. Outlanders gathered with outlanders and native Dunmer stayed with their own, with one notable exception: Quinn was still with that same crowd. The leader, Synda, listened as Quinn chattered on about the latest sartorial irrelevance. The hackles on Daria's neck rose.

"What do you know about Synda?" Daria asked.

"Her? She's the kwama queen of her little hive, all of them trying to be more stylish than each other—but never more stylish than her. Honestly, she's not that big of a deal, but her family is. I know her mother's a bonded agent to House Hlaalu."

"I don't like Quinn spending time with her. And I definitely don't like being made to show concern for Quinn."

Jane turned her eyes to Synda. "I might have overreacted yesterday. I don't think the Cammona Tong would've done anything worse than embarrass Quinn. But they aren't nice people. The whole reason they set up shop in front of the strider port is so they can watch who comes and goes, and occasionally bully a confused traveler who thinks he'll get a warm bed at their place."

A little annoyed, Daria turned her gaze to Jane. "So was she in danger or not?"

Jane just shrugged. "That's the problem with Morrowind. You can never be sure."

"Is Synda part of the Cammona Tong?"

"Nah," Jane scoffed. "She's just a rich girl with a mean streak."

Synda stepped closer to Quinn. Her pouty lips turned up in a faint and mirthless smile, a bit like Ondryn's when he was about to talk about togetherness or confidence. She spoke, and Daria imagined the verbal poison leaping out from her tongue.

"Hold on," Daria said, standing up from the ground.

"What's this?"

"I'm going to stop this the only way I know how: by embarrassing my sister in front of her friends."

Daria set off before she'd really figured out what to do. All the frustrations of the past month boiled in the back of her brain. The harsh looks, the weird food, the ugly words always spoken at the edge of hearing.

She was of the Empire, and she wasn't going to let some barbarian threaten her sister!

Quinn saw Daria approach and made a shooing gesture with her hands.

"Oh hi!" Daria said, trying to sound like an ingenue. "You never introduced me to your friends, Quinn!"

Synda cast a baleful glare her way. "Who is this... person?"

"She's, uh, my servant!" Quinn said. "My parents hired her because no one else would take her. Servant, would you—"

"Don't be silly, Quinn! Everyone, Quinn's my sister!"

Daria threw her arms around Quinn and squeezed as tightly as possible. "And we're the best of friends!" she continued, raising her voice as high as it could go (which still wasn't high).

"Stop it!" Quinn hissed.

Synda crossed her arms, her smile as sharp as a knife. "Your sister certainly seems interesting, Quinn. Perhaps you should introduce us."

Quinn finally disentangled herself and stepped back, her cheeks red. Exhaling, she faced Synda. "No, she's not my sister. I told you, she's a servant. I think she might've been out in the sun too long," she said, adding a false laugh at the end.

"Is she your sister, or isn't she?" Synda asked.

Quinn opened her mouth as if to speak, her face frozen in uncertainty.

"Because," Synda continued, "I certainly would not trust someone inconstant enough to deny their own family."

"Huh?"

"Come, I don't think there's room for Quinn in our society. Maybe the Imperials don't care about family loyalty, but we do."

"Wait—come back!" she called as the quartet raised their noses in the air and turned their backs to her, walking away on quick little steps that barely disturbed the dark fabric of their dresses.

Quinn whirled back toward Daria, her face livid.

"How could you?"

Daria had to admit that hadn't gone the way she'd expected. Quinn always tried to distance herself. No one had minded such things in Cyrodiil—just the usual backbiting common to young people.

"You're better off," Daria said. "Those people are not your friends. Mom warned you not to spend time with them."

"How would you know what a friend is? It's not like you've ever had any."

Daria sucked in her breath. She remembered all those years puttering around in her mother's darkened library listening to the laughter and jokes in the other rooms, everyone in Stirk adoring Quinn's rosy cheeks and pretty smile and bright tone. So unlike Daria's monotone voice and flat affect.

Like they weren't sisters at all.

Daria blinked away her tears. "I do have a friend now. This time, you don't. Find some. It's always been easy for you."

She walked away, no longer sure if she'd made the right choice.



*********



Daria spent a dusty afternoon under Ondryn's questionable tutelage, learning the tiresome etiquette of properly addressing a letter sent to a priest of Morrowind's Tribunal Temple.

"I have tremendous respect for all faiths," Ondryn said, at the beginning of the lesson, "but now that you are in Morrowind, it'll make things easier—dare I say, more fun—to learn about the three living gods who protect and guide the Dunmer. And who knows? Maybe they'll protect your people too! The important thing is that we can all be together and reach our full potential under the Tribunal!"

Nothing made sense. Quinn was in danger—except even Jane thought she might not have been. Synda was bad news—but probably harmless. And there Daria was, trying to navigate her way out of the mess.

She looked up to the ceiling, the adobe surface crossed with wooden support beams. Daria didn't miss her home, exactly. But she was starting to, and that worried her. Better the dry hills and red-shingled villas of Stirk than this endless morass of insects and fungus and volcanoes!

Somehow, the matter didn't feel settled. Daria hated to admit it, but part of her wanted to get back at Synda for what she'd said to Quinn. Foolish, perhaps. The issue was basically solved. Or was it? How could she be sure?

In the old days, she'd be able to think of a way around things. People's habits (usually their bad ones) created weaknesses she could exploit. Morrowind threw everything awry. The rules here were different for people like her. So maybe she'd just be direct this time. Direct, with all the weight of the Empire behind her.

Daria found Synda loitering in the courtyard after the session ended, the afternoon bright but cold. Synda might not be nobility but she carried herself like someone used to authority. Angular Daedric script ran along her dark blue gown, the hemline and the ends of the sleeves gilded. Fashion was foreign to Daria, but she knew expensive when she saw it.

"We need to talk," Daria said.

Synda looked at her but said nothing.

"Why did you take my sister to the Council Club yesterday?"

"Forgive me," Synda said. "For I'm not familiar with your sophisticated Imperial ways. Where I come from, it's customary to take your friends to interesting places. Perhaps Imperials prefer not to share such things with friends? Loyalty does not appear to be your people's strong suit."

"My sister had her reasons," Daria said, and almost couldn't believe she'd said it. "And my 'people' don't take friends to places run by criminals. Unless they're criminals themselves."

Synda drew herself up to her full height (which wasn't very much). "I don't know what you're talking about. The Council Club is run by some of the most respectable Dunmer in Balmora. You had best be careful what you say about them."

Daria suddenly suspected she was in over her head. But there was no place to go but forward. "And you'd best be careful where you take my sister."

"Oh, I will be."

They stared for a few moments longer. Daria felt a moment of gratification when Synda finally sniffed, made a motion as if to brush dirt off her dress, and took her leave.

The problem hadn't been solved. But maybe it was a step. She wished she could just make it disappear with a smart remark. The odds didn't favor her, here.

She'd just have to be smarter than ever.

Posted by: Renee Apr 16 2022, 02:42 PM

I know Daria! Pretty sure she is a Mike Judge creation, originally a side character on Beavis & Butthead, but she eventually got her own show. I always liked Daria, and how she was sort of haughty and totally different from B&B. They'd make fun of her and stuff. But nothing bothered her.

Is there a way you can make the picture smaller? Because what's happening on my screen is the entire page is stretched due to the size of it. And this makes it harder to read because I'm scrolling left and right, left and right, not sure if others are experiencing this. It's an imgur pic, so definitely possible. Up to you, of course.


Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Apr 16 2022, 04:12 PM

QUOTE(Renee @ Apr 16 2022, 02:42 PM) *

I know Daria! Pretty sure she is a Mike Judge creation, originally a side character on Beavis & Butthead, but she eventually got her own show. I always liked Daria, and how she was sort of haughty and totally different from B&B. They'd make fun of her and stuff. But nothing bothered her.

Is there a way you can make the picture smaller? Because what's happening on my screen is the entire page is stretched due to the size of it. And this makes it harder to read because I'm scrolling left and right, left and right, not sure if others are experiencing this. It's an imgur pic, so definitely possible. Up to you, of course.


Yes, she is a Mike Judge creation. He didn't have a whole lot to do with her namesake show, however. In fact, he was somewhat miffed that MTV hired someone else (Glenn Eichler) to make a spin-off, since he felt like MTV was doing this to prove that they didn't really need him.

Sorry about the picture! I fiddled with it a bit, but couldn't find a way to shrink it. Thus, I've removed it for the time being. I'll see what I can do. Thanks for letting me know, and hope it didn't cause too much inconvenience.

Posted by: Lena Wolf Apr 16 2022, 04:23 PM

QUOTE(WellTemperedClavier @ Apr 16 2022, 04:12 PM) *

Sorry about the picture! I fiddled with it a bit, but couldn't find a way to shrink it. Thus, I've removed it for the time being. I'll see what I can do. Thanks for letting me know, and hope it didn't cause too much inconvenience.

When I started posting my stories, I had the same issues. It seems that the picture should be no wider than 450px, which is pretty meager, I know. But if it is wider, it starts stretching the text making it difficult to read. Some people here prefer to just include links to their pictures, this way you can have whatever resolution you please.

Posted by: Renee Apr 16 2022, 06:44 PM

I think the problem you might be having Clavier is a little bug with Imgur. If so, try this...

Go into Imgur, find the picture, then select its little pencil icon. Select Edit. Change the picture's resolution (as Lena has stated, 450 seems to be the max width). The picture's height will automatically redraw itself.

Press Apply, and press Save. smile.gif Now, when you copy the picture's BB Code, and then post it here at Chorrol, sometimes the link will not post right. Here is an example...

[im g]https://i.imgur.com/36eKFXz.png?1[/img]

After the .png extension there is ?1 which shouldn't be there. Just delete that ? and that 1.

Voila. I would post the result of removing those two characters, but I don't want to clutter your story with my picture! biggrin.gif Anyway, hope that helps. And I'll have more time to read tomorrow for sure.

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Apr 16 2022, 07:15 PM

QUOTE(Renee @ Apr 16 2022, 06:44 PM) *

I think the problem you might be having Clavier is a little bug with Imgur. If so, try this...

Go into Imgur, find the picture, then select its little pencil icon. Select Edit. Change the picture's resolution (as Lena has stated, 450 seems to be the max width). The picture's height will automatically redraw itself.

Press Apply, and press Save. smile.gif Now, when you copy the picture's BB Code, and then post it here at Chorrol, sometimes the link will not post right. Here is an example...

[im g]https://i.imgur.com/36eKFXz.png?1[/img]

After the .png extension there is ?1 which shouldn't be there. Just delete that ? and that 1.

Voila. I would post the result of removing those two characters, but I don't want to clutter your story with my picture! biggrin.gif Anyway, hope that helps. And I'll have more time to read tomorrow for sure.


Thanks! Unfortunately, I tried that but still to no avail. Though the image looks smaller on Imgur, it's still enormous on the forum. Probably best that I just do a link. I appreciate the trouble you took.

https://imgur.com/jXRNVa7 - Here's the first Photoshop piece I did!

https://imgur.com/CV5axkB - And here's the second!

What I did here is take some screenshots, and then insert the characters (though Jane was obviously altered to look Dunmer). Then I modified the background to look as much like the show as possible. At one point, I tried to frame Morrowind clothes over their bodies, but I wasn't able to get this to work.

Also, I thought it might be helpful to give some information on the show's version of the characters. Might be fun for people already familiar with Daria, and could offer some context for those who haven't seen the show. I'm going to link to the DariaWiki. Reading the character histories might end up creating some (mild) spoilers for this series, so be aware of that if you want to go beyond the basics.

Generally speaking, Daria, Jane, and their family members have the same names they do on the show. All other characters' names have been changed to better fit in Tamriel.

https://dariawiki.org/wiki/Daria_Morgendorffer - Pretty similar to the version on the show.

https://dariawiki.org/wiki/Jane_Lane - Obviously different in that she's now a Dunmer. This version of Jane also has a different living situation, which will become more apparent in the next chapter.

https://dariawiki.org/wiki/Quinn - Also fairly similar to her show counterpart, at least at this point.

https://dariawiki.org/wiki/Helen_Morgendorffer - Daria's mother. Not too different from her show counterpart.

https://dariawiki.org/wiki/Jake_Morgendorffer - Daria's father.

https://dariawiki.org/wiki/Timothy_O%27Neill - Daria's ineffectual New Age English teacher is now an ineffectual Dunmer bigot who pretends to be open-minded. He was a pretty notable recurring character in the show, but he doesn't appear that often in Daria in Morrowind.

https://dariawiki.org/wiki/Sandi_Griffin - Now here's a pretty big divergence. In the show, Sandi was the president of the Fashion Club and Quinn's best friend/worst rival. In this series, the Fashion Club ends up having a different composition and Synda remains an enemy (not just rival) of both Quinn and Daria.

I'll provide links to other characters as they are introduced.




Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Apr 17 2022, 04:35 AM

The fourth chapter is on the short side, so I'm going to post it with chapter 3, bringing the first episode to its conclusion!

Episode 1: Outlanders

Chapter 3


School ended for the day. Daria pretended to read as she watched Quinn plead with Synda, her sister probably spinning all kinds of excuses in some desperate attempt to get back in her tormentor's good graces. Quinn never had trouble making friends. Why was she so fixated on this particular Dunmer?

Probably because Quinn was as alone, scared, and confused as Daria was. Jane at least felt like a lifelong friend by virtue of explaining the place to Daria in a way that made some sense. Could she be trusted, though? If Jane was planning something, there'd be no way for Daria to find out. Not in Morrowind.

She dismissed this as unlikely. Jane was Dunmer, but she was also a fellow outlander. That put them in the same benighted social stratum. Synda, on the other hand, was an insider.

Quinn finally gave up and left the school, with head held high but lips quivering. Daria caught up to her and Quinn's mouth suddenly straightened, her eyes hard. Of course, she blamed Daria for all this, but at least they maintained a stony silence as they walked home. Inside, the odor of spilled kwama egg still lingered in the air. Quinn gagged the moment she stepped across the threshold. No one else was home at the moment—Daria assumed that her mother was meeting some of the other advocates.

Putting her hand over her mouth and nose, Daria braved the kitchen. Dad had cleaned up as best he could, but smears of egg yolk still streaked the tables and floor. He'd tossed the ruined egg in the metal wash basin.

Trying to ignore the worsening stench, she looked into the jagged opening made by her father's clumsiness. Sure enough, some kind of gray fleshy thing coiled up at the bottom of the egg, encased in filmy yolk and other fluids.

She remembered Jane's comment about the larva. Not quite believing what she was doing, Daria went upstairs and grabbed some clean linens. Taking them back downstairs, she laid them on the table next to the sink, still trying not to breathe too deeply. She rolled up her sleeves, ignored her fear, and then plunged both her arms into the egg.

Her hands broke through the cold and oily film, fingers probing the slimy larval flesh underneath. Daria's gorge rose. Her cheeks puffed out.

If her glasses fell in there...

Daria gritted her teeth. Eyes watered from the smell and the feel, but she focused. At last, she found a harder surface. Digging in with her heels, she pulled, the larva loosening with a series of wet pops. She lifted it out, and moments later found herself cradling a curled pinkish-gray... well, it looked more like a centipede the size of her arm than anything else. A translucent, segmented shell ran along the back and a half-dozen tightly curled legs flanked the underbelly.

Daria Morgendorffer: Insect Midwife, she thought.

She decided she'd stick with her savant training for a while longer.

Daria laid it out on the linens and wrapped the thing up as best she could. Then she walked over to the pump and worked the lever to splash water on her slimy forearms, and then mixed in some soap for a second rinse. Getting the stuff off her made her feel a bit better about the whole thing.

Placing the scrib in a canvas bag, she headed off to Jane's.



*********



The endless adobe rows of Labor Town served as a shabby reflection of the Commercial District across the river. Workmen and porters crowded the streets cheek to jowl, trudging under the watchful eyes of bonemold-armored Hlaalu guards. Paupers sat cross-legged on threadbare rugs spread out across the flagstones, tracing the sign of the Tribunal on their sunken chests whenever a coin clinked into the waiting earthen bowl.

Furred Khajiit and scaled Argonians roamed purposefully in small groups, the Dunmer majority keeping as much distance as they could but letting them pass without comment. Faces looked harder there, worn down by work and cheap food. And cheap alcohol. Daria smelled it in the air, fighting a losing but never totally lost battle against the sour bug stench and the more quotidian odor of trash.

Not that different from the Commercial District, she reminded herself.

Daria still carried the canvas bag with the scrib inside. The weight of the thing dragged on her skinny arms. She held it closer to her body as she navigated the narrower streets of Labor Town. Some of the people here looked hungry enough to grab it from her.

Was it still good? Did scribs go bad if left in a broken egg for too long? She had no idea what counted as fresh. Jane would know, she was sure.

Daria found her destination where Jane had said it would be, just a few rows east of the Odai River. The apartment looked like its neighbors, a two-story adobe building with an exterior staircase running up to a cramped balcony where Jane sat in front of an easel, her red eyes watchful and a paintbrush gripped in her right hand. A wooden sign hung outside the front door below, marked with what looked like a barrel. Going by the description Jane had given her at lunch that day, it had to be the sign of J'dash, the Khajiit junk merchant who served as Jane's landlord.

Jane said nothing as Daria climbed the steps. Getting closer, Daria saw what her friend had created: an image of a woman painted in sharp black angles, her body contorted into a spiral and her exaggerated teeth clenched in a rictus grin. Fear and pain leapt straight from the image and into Daria's head.

She'd never seen anything like it before.

"Uh, I hope I'm not interrupting," she said, speaking loudly to be heard over the crowd below.

Jane looked over her shoulder and smiled at Daria.

"Oh! I wasn't expecting you. Well make yourself at home. I usually paint outside so the fumes don't get to me."

"Always sensible." Daria again felt a faint chill looking at the image. All the artwork she'd ever seen consisted of stately portraits and landscapes. Jane's was different. Pure feeling in paint.

Noticing that Daria stared, Jane shifted in her seat. "It's just a little experiment. Don't worry, I know exactly how to capture the figure of Man or Mer. But sometimes I like to practice with something less conventional."

"No, I like it," Daria said.

"You do?"

"Yeah. I've never seen anything like this before."

"My attempt to do something new," Jane said. "Traditional Dunmer art has bold black lines and lots of angles, but it's almost all religious or historical. What you see on this canvas is what I see whenever I look at people like Synda or Magistrate Lli."

"Twisted people going slowly insane under the weight of their hypocrisy and cruelty?"

"See, you get it! Not that I have anything against religious art. All respect to ALMSIVI, of course," Jane said, briefly bowing her head, "but I think that the Dunmer gods and saints are probably sick of people making the same images of them over and over again."

"Do you sell these?"

"I wish! Like I said before, I mostly sell portraits to rich merchants. Gallus got me started."

"Gallus?" Daria asked, noting the name as an Imperial one.

"An outlander art dealer in the Commercial District. He introduced me to a lot of my clients, and he's the one who pulled strings to get me into the academy. It's not like I'd have had the money otherwise. Stuff like what I'm painting now is just what I do for fun. When I have time."

"It's unique."

"Too bad unique doesn't sell," Jane said. "Here, let's go inside. It's starting to get cold."

Jane opened the door to her apartment and Daria followed. What looked like all of Jane's worldly possessions jostled for space inside. Pigments and canvas filled up a full half of the room, with other samples of her bold and bizarre personal art laid out on a narrow bench. A rug and pillow served as bed, spread out next to stacks of neatly folded clothes.

Daria barely had enough room to stand. Jane motioned for her to sit down on the bed. When Daria did, Jane moved aside some paints and rested herself on a tiny wooden bench.

A single narrow window let in the ruddy light of the setting sun. The light fell on a small and triangular stone next to the bed, its surface decorated with a carved robed figure pointing ahead.

"It's a shrine to St. Veloth," Jane explained. "A pioneer who led my ancestors to Morrowind, always searching for something new. I guess I could relate, a little bit."

"I didn't know you were religious," Daria said.

Jane smiled. "Not exactly. See, Dunmer religion's different from others. Our gods are right there in the flesh. You don't need to have religion to believe in something if it's standing in front of you."

"Have they ever stood in front of you?" Daria knew about Morrowind's three living gods—though all the documents she'd read described them as nothing more than powerful sorcerers.

Jane's piety disappointed her, somehow. The Tribunal Temple didn't think much of outlanders like Jane, so why would their supposed gods be any more accepting?

"No, they haven't. But my dad saw Almalexia make an appearance at a Midwinter's Feast down in Mournhold. He said when she spoke, you could feel the presence of all the Dunmer generations past in that very spot, back to Resdayn and beyond." Jane's lips twisted into a regretful half-smile. "This was before I was born. I know it probably sounds kind of crazy, but I believe him."

More likely, her father had just seen some Dunmer priestess painted in gold and covered in jewels. Daria decided to change the subject.

"I brought you a gift," she said. "But I don't know if it's still good."

Jane's expression brightened. "By all means, show me!"

Daria opened the bag, holding her face away to avoid the smell. "It's the scrib from the egg I was telling you about. I don't think anyone in my family's brave enough to eat it, but I thought you might appreciate it."

Jane gasped, her hands shaking in anticipation. "Appreciate it? Daria, you just made my day! Hell, my entire week. And yes, that's definitely still good. Here, let's take this downstairs. I bet J'dash will let me use his kitchen if we share a bit."

"Wait, if we share a bit?"

"You're eating this Daria, whether you want to or not!"



*********



Slimy as the scrib had been, Daria had to admit that something in the kitchen smelled good.

While Jane busied herself with the meal, Daria sat in the crowded little junk shop with J'dash, an older Khajiit with streaks of white in his russet fur. He rested in his chair, wrapped in a threadbare linen robe, his left hand grasping a clay cup filled with warm sujamma. J'dash's golden eyes fixated on the far wall, as if he could see through it to the distant jungles and deserts of sugar-blessed Elsweyr.

Daria sipped her own sujamma, the drink's earthy taste adding to the warmth. Candles flickered on the table, the flames like red jewels in the dark. Her family, Synda, and the Camonna Tong all felt very far away. J'dash's long tail swished on the dirt floor as meat sizzled against hot clay in the kitchen.

"It's almost ready!" Jane called.

Jane came out a few minutes later, the scrib coiled up on a big redware plate. Daria breathed in the smell, thick and buttery with a hint of herbs. But it still looked like a bug.

From the looks of things this was a rare treat for Jane. Insulting her friend by refusing wasn't an option. She'd already eaten scrib jelly, so this couldn't be much worse. Except seeing it there in front of her, its too-many legs glistening in the candlelight, just reminded Daria of exactly what she'd be consuming.

"Ahh, Dunmer is a good cook," J'dash said, his eyes on Jane.

"Oh, don't listen to him. Seriously, don't: life's easier when expectations are low. Anyway, cooking's not my strong point but I did pick up a few tricks over the years. Meals like this don't come often so you want to make the best of them.

Jane took a seat and uttered a quiet prayer. J'dash lowered his head in respect, perhaps thinking of his own gods. When she finished, he extended his left hand, fingers outspread. Polished white claws slid out from the fur and he stuck one into a gap between the segments. Daria's teeth clenched as she watched, wondering about the Khajiit's hygiene and feeling a bit guilty for doing so.

The scrib suddenly snapped, the soft flesh beneath the shell exposed to the air. A heavenly scent wafted out. Purring, J'dash motioned for Daria and Jane to dig in. Jane tore a chunk of scrib flesh from under the shell and popped it into her mouth with relish.

Not letting herself show her unease, Daria reached in. The sauce's heat stung her fingertips and she pulled back, more from surprise than from pain. Trying again, she gripped a piece of meat and ripped it free, not allowing for any hesitation before she put it in her mouth.

Hot, crisp, and tender with only a trace of the sourness. Juices burst between her teeth as she chewed, a bone-deep warmth spreading throughout her entire body.

"This is delicious!" she exclaimed.

"See, our cuisine has its high points," Jane said.

Daria tore off another piece, the many-legged monster before her suddenly as appetizing as a holiday feast in the old country. She'd never tasted anything quite like it before, the flavor alien but somehow perfectly aligned to her palate.

Maybe, she thought, there was something worthwhile in Morrowind. It wasn't easy to find, but it was there. And finding it ushered her into a very select group, one bound together by this knowledge of secret splendor.

They finished all too soon. Leaning back in their chairs, all uncomfortably full, they nonetheless accepted drinks as J'dash broke open another jug of sujamma. All of Daria's cares seemed to spiral away in the comforting darkness.

"This one is pleased, but thinks it is a shame that Dunmer's brother could not share in this meal," J'dash said.

"I'm sure Trent's having a grand old time up in Caldera. Assuming he's still employed. Which is a pretty big assumption."

"Trent?" Daria asked.

"My brother. The only blood relation I have in Morrowind. He's a musician, so he's on the road a lot. Usually, he plays for room and board at whatever cornerclub will take him. He'll come by here eventually."

Daria nodded. How long had Jane been on her own? Part of her envied Jane for it. How nice it'd be to not have to watch out for Quinn, or deal with her parents' relentless social climbing. Just shut herself away in a little apartment with a job for the day and books for the night. A fatherly landlord like J'dash might be a nice bonus.

Couldn't be easy, though. Not if Jane got that excited over what seemed to be a fairly basic food item.

"Where are your parents?" Daria asked. "If you don't mind my asking."

"They left for Cyrodiil oh, I don't know... eight years ago? No clue if they're still there. Dad's a painter like me, mom's a sculptor, so they go wherever there's work. I've allegedly got another sibling, Penelope, but no clue where she might be."

J'dash made a rasping sigh. "Khajiit had many kin once, in the land where the sun is warm upon the sands. But the world is a cruel place and drove this one to damp and chilly Morrowind. Strange place for Khajiit, yes?" He looked at Daria. "And where is Imperial's family?"

"In the Commercial District," she said, feeling a little abashed. She wondered if J'dash's journey to Morrowind had been a voluntary one but didn't think it was right to pry.

"Imperial is fortunate," J'dash said. "The world is cold, but shared blood makes it warmer."

"Uh, yeah. Fortunate." Daria took another sip of her sujamma, the alcohol in the brew warding away some of the awkwardness. She heard no judgment in J'dash's words. Just a statement of fact.

She was lucky in some ways.

Chapter 4

Jane refused to let Daria wander alone through the darkened streets of Labor Town and insisted on her staying the night. The two girls retreated up to the apartment. Daria, for her part, refused to let Jane give her the makeshift bed, so she sat on the narrow bench and leaned against the rough wall. Not an easy position to sleep in, but she'd had worse on the long boat ride to Morrowind.

She woke up to a sliver of dawn's light, reddened by a fresh plume of smoke from Red Mountain. A hint of brimstone in the morning air stung her nostrils and made her eyes water. Behind her, Jane yawned.

"Hope you slept okay," Jane said, her voice still sluggish from sleep.

"Well enough." Daria groped for her glasses and found them next to a set of brushes. The foggy world turned sharp once the lenses came over her eyes.

"Do you have to go to Drenlyn today?" Jane asked.

"No. This is one of the days where I help my mom provide legal protection for greedy Imperial merchants."

"Fun," Jane said, yawning again. "No sessions for me today, either. I'm not really a morning person, so I think I'm going to sleep a bit longer. Feel free to stay."

"I should probably go," Daria said.

Jane was already asleep.

Daria crept down the stairs on stiff legs, the morning streets already busy with workers. Following landmarks she'd noticed on the way there, she soon reached the stone bridges spanning the Odai River, the equally busy but slightly neater Commercial District on the other side.

She went past Drenlyn's campus where a few early risers already walked through the gates with their bookbags. Curiosity led her to scan the courtyard for Synda, but she saw no sign of the girl. Synda didn't strike her as someone who'd wake up any earlier than absolutely necessary.

The academy disappeared behind another row of adobe stores. Daria squeezed through a shaded alleyway that led behind the milliner's shop. Home wasn't far.

Pain exploded in her left side, just beneath the ribcage. Daria staggered, her arms flailing as she tried to reorient herself. Another hit, this time on her right, and she fell forward. Palms smacked painfully against the stone road as she halted her fall.

"I'll be taking these," came Synda's haughty voice.

A hand wrenched the glasses from Daria's face. The street turned into a muddle of harsh light and muted colors.

"Synda? Dammit, I need those!" she yelled.

"Oh, I'm sure you do."

A figure, blurred to little more than a shadow, stepped in front of Daria. Daria bared her teeth. Fear and rage coursed through her, her hands ready to strike.

If only she could see.

Another blow cracked against her back, and she dropped to her belly. Her teeth cut into the side of her mouth, blood rushing over her tongue and down her throat. Two figures went around her to flank their boss.

Fear started to overwhelm rage. She had to stay calm.

"What do you want?" Daria asked, words distorted by the swelling wound in her mouth.

"Want? It's not what I want, it's what I demand. You Imperials think you can just walk all over us. I'm here to tell you that we Dunmer do not respond well to threats."

"What was I supposed to do?" Daria wheezed. "You tried to take my sister—"

"Your sister was no more than a curiosity. What matters is your attitude. I will not accept your insults or threats. And neither will the Cammona Tong."

Daria froze. This couldn't be happening.

Something fell to the ground in front of her. Straining her eyes, she could just make out a glittering object on the street. Synda's foot slammed down, and the sound of splintering glass left no doubt as to what she'd just crushed.

"You insulted the honor of my people and family—not like you Imperials care about family. I could have killed you, but I decided to be forgiving and just destroy those weird things you always wear," Synda said. "I'll consider us even. But if you decide to escalate... make sure you're ready. And I don't recommend telling anyone about this, because that will most certainly escalate things."

Daria tried to scoop up the shattered spectacles. She gasped as glass cut her fingers.

She heard footsteps and laughter as Synda departed with her thugs in tow.



*********



"Here's your money, or whatever," Synda said, once they were a safe distance away. She handed a few septims to each of the two toughs.

"I'll take it, but I don't like you telling outlanders that we're part of the Cammona Tong," said the bigger of the two, Todis. "If the real Cammona Tong finds out that we've been pretending—"

"They won't. You did your job, and that's the last either of us will hear about it. She didn't see you, and I'm sure she'll be too scared to do anything."

Todis shook his head. "Still a dumb idea. You should've warned us you were going to do that."

Synda sniffed. She brushed off her dress once the toughs departed to whatever cesspit had spawned them. Sure she was clean, Synda returned to Drenlyn Academy.

All outlanders revolted her, but the Imperials most of all. Each was a tyrant and a liar, hiding steel with honeyed words and false treaties. And they brought their lackeys with them: savage Nords, half-breed Bretons, and even the decadent Altmer her ancestors had fled so long ago. So too came the taxes, her family's business now funding the war machine that suppressed them. Morrowind reduced to a sideshow, ancient bloodlines of honor and faith kowtowing for the pleasure of plump Imperial bureaucrats.

The Imperials couldn't even show basic decency to their own kind. Her stomach turned at the memory of Quinn denying her sisterhood with Daria. She'd been so willing to sacrifice the bonds of blood to avoid embarrassment. How did such a people survive long enough to conquer the world?

They might have conquered the world, but they'd never conquer her spirit.



*********



No one back in Cyrodiil had known how to deal with Daria. Her sharp tongue punctured even the proudest and boldest. She knew words.

She did not know violence.

Daria suspected her family's safety depended on her covering her tracks. She'd cast aside the handful of copper drakes in her pockets and stumbled around blind until a guard found her. She'd almost bolted at the sound of his voice, the throaty rasp unmistakably Dunmer, but he'd been kind enough.

A robbery. That's what she told her parents. And as they gasped and fretted and hugged her she burned inside, knowing it wasn't the truth. That for all of the Empire's might, her family was small and surrounded by hostility.

Daria lied, and she lied well. She kept the story simple and the details consistent. There was doubt in mom’s tone, but Daria had been her mother's best pupil.

Dad at least found a Dunmer glassmaker who said she might be able to recreate the lenses. So he took the shards to her while Daria waited.

Blindness rendered the world incomprehensible. She opened up a book and ran her fingers across the pages, as if she could feel the patterns of the ink and turn them into words and images.

"Uh, Daria?" came Quinn's voice.

"What?"

"That Dunmer girl at school was asking about you."

Daria turned cold.

"Which one?"

"Me."

Daria raised her eyes from the book. The hazy gray figure next to Quinn gave her pause. All Dunmer sounded so similar. She tensed, beads of sweat forming on her brow.

"Daria?" Jane said.

"Oh!" Daria blurted out, trying to regain her composure. The events of the last few weeks spun around Daria's head, and she took a deep breath to calm down.

"I noticed you hadn't been in for a while. I asked Quinn and she told me what happened."

"Uh, thanks Quinn," Daria mumbled, blushing as she did.

"Sure," Quinn said. "I'll leave you two alone."

Daria relaxed as her sister's footsteps grew more distant.

"I'd get up to hug you Jane but at this point I'm just as likely to knock you over."

"Hey, I like a bit of risk, but if it makes things easier..."

Jane put her arms around Daria, squeezing gently before letting go.

"Do you want to talk about what happened?" Jane asked. "Quinn said it was a robbery..."

Daria thought about it. Was it safe for Jane to know?

"Yeah. A robbery."

"That really sucks. I've never been robbed but it's happened to Trent a few times. Guess you just got unlucky. What about your glasses?"

"Dad says he might be able to finagle a new pair. Let's hope he's right. There's not much demand for a savant who can't read or write."

"Right. You know, since I'm here, I could read out loud for you."

Warmth welled up in Daria's chest. She'd been stuck in her own head for days on end.

"If you don't mind," she said, keeping her voice steady.

"Nah, it's fine. Which book do you want?"

"Could you get A Dance in Fire? It's the brown one with the red bookmark."

"I think I see it."

Daria heard the book being slid out from the shelf, and the comforting sound of rustling pages. She could escape once more.

And this time, take someone with her.



The End

Will be continued in Episode 2: On the Origins of the Fashion Guild

J'dash is an original character without a counterpart on the show.

Posted by: SubRosa Apr 17 2022, 07:32 AM

https://imgur.com/gallery/PO4sG9P

Posted by: Renee Apr 17 2022, 02:12 PM

Okay, it's probably your browser. I've had pics resize at Imgur, but then here at Chorrol they are still full size. But this only happened if I used Google Chrome.

So if you use Chrome, try Microsoft Edge, or even ancient Internet Explorer! Chorrol is old technology; an old version of I.E. will open our home just fine. smile.gif If you are using Edge or I.E., try a different browser. And if that doesn't work, sad.gif

Finally reading now. smile.gif Yes, don't post these chapters too fast. I won't be able to keep up, then! I'd suggest one a week, just because some of us have jobs and children and it's hard to keep up otherwise, but it's your thread of course.

I can totally hear Daria's voice as she speaks these words. She is always sort of matter-of-fact, and gets to the point, and here in Vvardenfell I get the sense she's playing a bit cautious, being an Outlander and all. It makes sense Hlaalu would try to recruit Daria, even though she's an outsider. They're the most open-minded of the Houses.

Yes, kwama. Dunmer culture is really centered around the kwama, right? It's like native Americans and bison.

QUOTE
She'd never wanted a loaf of bread so badly in her life.


Right?!? laugh.gif With my main Morrowind character (who is from Cyrodiil) it's sweetrolls rather than bread, but the same thought applies.

Daria's got her glasses, hey I won't judge. cool.gif Off-topic, but I like her glasses, and the way she dresses (on the show). Sort of hip, but not revealing too much.

Where did you get the Jane-as-a-painter inspiration? Just curious.

I lol'd when she forces down the nasty scrib jelly!

That's a clever way to keep the sister out of trouble. Yes indeed, you step into the wrong place in this game, and boy you're gonna pay for it. indifferent.gif




Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Apr 17 2022, 05:17 PM

QUOTE(Renee @ Apr 17 2022, 02:12 PM) *

Okay, it's probably your browser. I've had pics resize at Imgur, but then here at Chorrol they are still full size. But this only happened if I used Google Chrome.

So if you use Chrome, try Microsoft Edge, or even ancient Internet Explorer! Chorrol is old technology; an old version of I.E. will open our home just fine. smile.gif If you are using Edge or I.E., try a different browser. And if that doesn't work, sad.gif


Browser interactions can get kind of weird, to be sure. I'll try testing it with IE and see how that works. Thanks!

QUOTE(Renee @ Apr 17 2022, 02:12 PM) *
Finally reading now. smile.gif Yes, don't post these chapters too fast. I won't be able to keep up, then! I'd suggest one a week, just because some of us have jobs and children and it's hard to keep up otherwise, but it's your thread of course.

I can totally hear Daria's voice as she speaks these words. She is always sort of matter-of-fact, and gets to the point, and here in Vvardenfell I get the sense she's playing a bit cautious, being an Outlander and all. It makes sense Hlaalu would try to recruit Daria, even though she's an outsider. They're the most open-minded of the Houses.

Yes, kwama. Dunmer culture is really centered around the kwama, right? It's like native Americans and bison.

QUOTE
She'd never wanted a loaf of bread so badly in her life.


Right?!? laugh.gif With my main Morrowind character (who is from Cyrodiil) it's sweetrolls rather than bread, but the same thought applies.

Daria's got her glasses, hey I won't judge. cool.gif Off-topic, but I like her glasses, and the way she dresses (on the show). Sort of hip, but not revealing too much.

Where did you get the Jane-as-a-painter inspiration? Just curious.

I lol'd when she forces down the nasty scrib jelly!

That's a clever way to keep the sister out of trouble. Yes indeed, you step into the wrong place in this game, and boy you're gonna pay for it. indifferent.gif


Yeah, I probably jumped the gun in posting the first episode so quickly! I'll scale down to one or two a week.

As for Jane, she was an artist in the show, as well. The difference is that, here, she actually paints for a living as opposed to just a personal interest. One of the ways in which the fic's version of Jane diverges from canon is that she has a more pragmatic attitude toward art--it's less about following her vision, and more about putting food on the table (since her economic situation is far less secure than it is on the show).

And yeah, it was fun to write about adapting to the cuisine. It's a pretty big theme in the first episode.


Posted by: Lena Wolf Apr 17 2022, 05:25 PM

QUOTE(Renee @ Apr 17 2022, 02:12 PM) *

So if you use Chrome, try Microsoft Edge, or even ancient Internet Explorer! Chorrol is old technology; an old version of I.E. will open our home just fine. smile.gif If you are using Edge or I.E., try a different browser. And if that doesn't work, sad.gif

Well, not everyone is reading this on Windows. Some use Linux. Some read it on their phones! The constraint is simple: the actual picture that you are including needs to be no more than 550px wide (but that's pushing it, 450px is the recommended limit), or otherwise the text gets stretched and becomes uncomfortable to read.

As for the frequency of posting... just do what feels right. Everyone's schedules are different, and yes, even though some of us have jobs and stuff to do, and, dare I say it? - lives... phew... yeah, just don't worry about that. biggrin.gif Real life has no place on Chorrol! laugh.gif

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Apr 17 2022, 05:40 PM

QUOTE(Lena Wolf @ Apr 17 2022, 05:25 PM) *

Real life has no place on Chorrol! laugh.gif


And thank goodness for that!

Regardless, I'll scale down the post rate. As I mentioned in the OP, the entire series is finished, which means I'm not constrained by needing time to write chapters. At the same time, this is a pretty long series, so it's better if I pace myself. Give folks time to catch up (and the events of the first episode are pretty important in setting the tone).

Daria in Morrowind starts off as quite episodic (much like its source material), but settles into more of a continuing storyline in the second half. A lot of that does stem from events in the first episode. Given that I wrote the bulk of this during the pandemic (surprise surprise), I had to keep up with the stylings of peak TV to at least some extent laugh.gif

Posted by: Acadian Apr 18 2022, 08:46 PM

I’m among those preferring a slower posting pace for the reasons Renee outlined. Otherwise, it can become easy for readers to fall behind, especially those of us who follow the fiction efforts of several writers.

I’m also delighted to see you supporting the stories of some of our other writers here. I’ve found that is the best way to garner and maintain readers for your own story. smile.gif


Chapter 2

Haha, you do a great job of making us appreciate Daria’s challenge adjusting to the local buggy cuisine, with its sights, smells and squirts.

Ironic of Synda to pick on Daria’s family loyalty when the whole reason Daria’s created a bit of a sticky wicket is because of loyalty to her rather undeserving sister. Oh well.

Posted by: SubRosa Apr 19 2022, 01:08 AM

his adobe classroom

For a moment I was wondering if he has teaching Adobe Photoshop, or Illustrator... Then I remembered it is also a building style. laugh.gif

I liked Daria's observation about the term "Outlander" and how instantly Othering it is.

Ok, now I now who is Ondryn is from the show.

And I definitely know who that Dunmer Girl is. She has no friends. She walks alone.

Jane is definitely as outlandish as Daria! Just in different ways.

I love that both of their backgrounds have that nice, sarcastic, capitalist edge. Jane plays up to "outlanders" expectations, and Daria is there to make the rich people richer. After all, paying the taxes that actually make a society function is for the poor, right? At least so far.

Awesome description of how Morrowind sucks just like everywhere else! This story really, really brings back memories for me.

"... pastel yellow is so in right now! Everyone in Cyrodiil is wearing it."
I know who that is! laugh.gif

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Apr 19 2022, 03:05 AM

QUOTE(Acadian @ Apr 18 2022, 08:46 PM) *

I’m among those preferring a slower posting pace for the reasons Renee outlined. Otherwise, it can become easy for readers to fall behind, especially those of us who follow the fiction efforts of several writers.

I’m also delighted to see you supporting the stories of some of our other writers here. I’ve found that is the best way to garner and maintain readers for your own story. smile.gif


Chapter 2

Haha, you do a great job of making us appreciate Daria’s challenge adjusting to the local buggy cuisine, with its sights, smells and squirts.

Ironic of Synda to pick on Daria’s family loyalty when the whole reason Daria’s created a bit of a sticky wicket is because of loyalty to her rather undeserving sister. Oh well.


Thanks! Really wanted to get those sensory details across. So Quinn pretending Daria's not her sister is something taken from the show. There, she does it throughout almost the entire series, since she doesn't want to be associated with someone as odd as Daria. Here, she learns the hard way that Dunmer take family seriously and that denying Daria won't win her any friends (granted, Synda would have found some reason to go after Quinn regardless).

And yeah, I'll wait until more people have finished the first episode before I go further (so once you all finish the fourth chapter, please leave a note so I know!). And I'll only post one or two a week (is two too many?).

QUOTE(SubRosa @ Apr 19 2022, 01:08 AM) *

his adobe classroom

For a moment I was wondering if he has teaching Adobe Photoshop, or Illustrator... Then I remembered it is also a building style. laugh.gif

I liked Daria's observation about the term "Outlander" and how instantly Othering it is.

Ok, now I now who is Ondryn is from the show.

And I definitely know who that Dunmer Girl is. She has no friends. She walks alone.

Jane is definitely as outlandish as Daria! Just in different ways.

I love that both of their backgrounds have that nice, sarcastic, capitalist edge. Jane plays up to "outlanders" expectations, and Daria is there to make the rich people richer. After all, paying the taxes that actually make a society function is for the poor, right? At least so far.

Awesome description of how Morrowind sucks just like everywhere else! This story really, really brings back memories for me.

"... pastel yellow is so in right now! Everyone in Cyrodiil is wearing it."
I know who that is! laugh.gif


Heh, glad I captured the voices! And I remember Jane saying those lines!

This series takes a pretty close look at what life would be like for normal-ish people in Morrowind, so yeah: it goes a lot into corruption, class differences, etc.

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Apr 19 2022, 07:45 AM

Sorry for the double-post, but I wanted to get some feedback on scheduling.

Would two chapters per week (once folks finish the first episode) be too many? The reason I ask is because the series is pretty long--about two novels' worth of content spread across 32 episodes. Episodes vary in length. Some (like the next one) are just a single chapter. Most, however, are six chapters long. This means it's up to a month and a half per episode. My inclination is two chapters per week, but if you all prefer one, I can do that instead!

Let me know.

Posted by: Lena Wolf Apr 19 2022, 08:04 AM

There is a balance to be struck between too frequent postings and not frequent enough. You want your readers to remember what they've read last time, or else each post must be sufficiently self-contained. On the other hand, I understand that not everyone has the time to read things promptly. When I started posting Lena Wolf story, I did a post every day because I post as I write, this was especially true in the beginning - no backlog at all (I have a small "skeleton" backlog now). This was too frequent for most readers, but then I try to write in such a way that posts could be skipped without missing anything important. It's like in life - some things just pass you by.

Your story is already written of course, so perhaps you need to ask yourself over what length of time do you want it posted? Months or years? This will determine the gaps between posts.

PS. I read your story but I don't often post replies. I am a silent reader. biggrin.gif

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Apr 19 2022, 08:14 AM

Thanks!

So I did a bit of math, and it looks like if I go by one chapter per week, we'll be doing this for three years (which is about how long it took to me to write this). Two chapters a week, and it's a much more manageable year and a half.

Thus, I'm strongly inclined to do two chapters a week, unless there's a great preference among readers for only doing one.

Alternately, I could do one update a week, but have each update consist of two chapters (assuming it's from a multi-chapter episode).

Posted by: Lena Wolf Apr 19 2022, 09:14 AM

Personally, I think that shorter posts more frequently are better than very long ones less frequently. Your current post length seems to be good. Did you do a word count? 2000 appears to be the advisable upper limit, give or take a hundred or two. Although you will find stories here with much longer or much shorter posts - there is no universal recipe, of course. It must make sense - breaking up a logical unit is probably even worse. Unless of course it introduces a cliffhanger... wink.gif

Posted by: SubRosa Apr 19 2022, 07:24 PM

I found one post a week to be the most manageable. I usually shoot for a word count of 1,000 - 3,000 words. Usually somewhere in the 2k range. Sometimes it can be hard to find a good spot to split it up.

I do not write post by post though. Instead I write an entire book/chapter of 50k - 80k words. Then after it is done I go through it and break it up into post-sized chunks. If possible I make each one entire scene. But often times scenes run long, and might take multiple posts (or even dozens if a lot is going on.).

Posted by: Acadian Apr 19 2022, 09:08 PM

Although my first book was posted as I wrote it at two episodes a week, I moved to the same thinking as SubRosa for my subsequent ones. I now draft a full book before announcing it, then go into a posting phase where I continuously edit the draft and post one episode a week. As a writer, I found that once a week makes it easy and predictable for readers and, I’m convinced, helps them stay with me and provides plenty of flexibility to not fall behind. I also find it useful to post a one or two sentence ‘In our previous episode’ summary before each episode. That not only refreshes readers but also makes where you break the story for each episode less critical.

I often don’t make final episode breaks until right before posting, since I try hard to stay under 2000 words per episode and, for me, the story tends to change length a noticeable amount via editing. I actually aim for about 1400 words per episode. What I found is that when episodes get too long, readers tend to skim instead of savor them.

I do admit that once I begin the 'posting phase', it can be sobering to realize that my leisurely posting pace can translate to many months to post a book. That said, I've actually learned to appreciate separating my drafting and posting phases. In my case, my writing follows the life of my elf. She plays so much faster than I can write however, that I think of our fiction efforts as highlights from her neverending memoires.

*

Chapters 3 & 4

’While Jane busied herself with the meal, Daria sat in the crowded little junk shop with J'dash, an older Khajiit with streaks of white in his russet fur. He rested in his chair, wrapped in a threadbare linen robe, his left hand grasping a clay cup filled with warm sujamma. J'dash's golden eyes fixated on the far wall, as if he could see through it to the distant jungles and deserts of sugar-blessed Elsweyr.’
- - I found this description to be wonderful, the way you efficiently yet artfully wove in lots of relevant detail about this older Khajiit.

By Julianos little teapot! I’m surprised and delighted that Daria actually enjoyed something she was convinced was so disgusting once Jane turned it into dinner. tongue.gif

Damn that Synda – an ambush, targeting Daria’s glasses. I can imagine those’ll be hard to replace. kvleft.gif

Methinks, Jane has quite earned a spot in Daria’s heart by looking in on her temporarily blind friend and offering to be her literary eyes for a time.

I confess a soft spot for character-driven fiction and this story certainly fits that description. happy.gif

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Apr 20 2022, 02:39 AM

@ Lena Wolf, @ Sub Rosa, @ Ascadian

Thanks! On that case, I'll probably just do one chapter a week. Most episodes are about 10,000 words in length, and most have six chapters. Going by this, the average chapter is probably between 1K-2K words.

@ Ascadian Glad you enjoyed the description! I really wanted to paint a picture of the place, so to speak. And yes, the whole series is pretty strongly character-based, so there's more of that on the way.

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Apr 23 2022, 05:39 AM

This is the first of the single-chapter episodes.

Episode 2: On the Origins of the Fashion Guild

Quinn started planning for battle from the very moment she awoke.

That's what Imperials did, right? It's not like you could just snap your fingers and get the biggest empire ever. You had to plan and think and plot to win your battles.

And she had one doozy of a battle before her.

Quinn resisted the urge to squint as she looked into the mirror. Squinting created wrinkles. She had to stay calm and relaxed and perfect. She adjusted the mirror to catch some of the morning light, her mind already running through a hundred different possibilities for hair. There were just so many choices!

Making the wrong one wasn't an option.

Especially now, with how things fell apart with that one girl Synda, who was from exactly the kind of family you were supposed to make friends with in Balmora! Quinn still didn't know why things went wrong, whether it was something she did, Daria did, or Daria's creepy friend did.

Quinn listened to her sister's quiet breathing in the next bed over. Not like Daria ever cared about what happened to the family. Figured that the only friend Daria made was another weirdo who didn't have any other friends and who wasn't even rich for goodness' sake!

The Morgendorffers were outlanders. To survive, they needed to make friends with native Dunmer. Synda was mad at Quinn, and that meant a lot of the other Dunmer were also mad at her. Not all of them—just enough to make things a lot tougher.

"Oh Talos Stormborn," she sighed, bowing her head and clasping her hands in prayer. "I know I'm not a big general or battle-mage or anything, but I am fighting for the Empire in my own way. And fashion's something that affects everybody so it's actually a lot more important than swords and stuff! And I could really use some divine aid about now."

Raising her head, she studied her blurry reflection in the mirror's smudged surface. Maybe it would have been better to pray to Dibella, but right now she needed the backing of the biggest and toughest god of all time!

Quinn had two things going for her. First, she knew fashion better than anyone else. Second, she came from Cyrodiil, the Heart of the Empire and the fashion center of the known world. Sure, she was from a really faraway part of Cyrodiil, but it's not like any of the Dunmer knew the difference between Stirk and the Imperial City!



*********



You could learn a lot if you kept your mouth shut and your ears open, and that's just what Quinn had done for the past week when she was on school grounds. Most attendees were outlanders like her, from all over Tamriel. But if the Morgendorffers were going to make any impact on Morrowind, she needed to get in with respectable Dunmer!

Books were boring. But sometimes they were useful and she'd found a big yellow one (the ugliest shade of yellow, too) that listed all the important Hlaalu families. She paid attention to names and places of residence, making up a chart in her head of who was connected to who and how they mattered.

Between that and keeping a careful eye on things, Quinn had three prospects in mind. First, Briltasi Talori. From a minor noble Balmora family and super-nice, but already had like a million friends, both Dunmer and outlander. Quinn would just be a drop in the ocean in her crowd.

Second, Torosi Jerylso. Also really popular but was a total mystery beyond that. Everyone seemed to say something completely different about her, though what they said was almost always good.

Third, Vidrene Servo, who people liked but whose family might be friends with Synda's family or something. Quinn wasn't completely sure, but she didn't want to take that chance.

Quinn sat down in Sera Benniet's classroom. Benniet went on and on about investing in glass mines or something really boring like that. Quinn didn't even get why she needed to learn this stuff! It's not like she'd ever spend her life doing something so dull.

Next to her was a Dunmer girl with her shoulders bunched up and her round red eyes fixed on the sleeve of her blue gown. Her Imperial-style blue gown—so she probably wasn't one of those Dunmer who was all rude to outlanders. She smoothed the sleeve, like she was trying to get it just right.

Satheri Rowleni, Quinn remembered. The Rowleni family was loaded. Didn't the dad own like some kind of big jellyfish (or whatever those weird flying tentacled things were called) farm out in the Ascadian Isles? But even though the Rowlenis had connections, Satheri didn't.

Quinn smiled. This smelled like an opportunity!

"I really like that dress," Quinn whispered.

Satheri gasped. "Really? I got it imported from Cyrodiil. But I'm worried it doesn't match my eyes."

"It totally does!" Quinn insisted. "Color contrast is so in right now! I bet if this were the Imperial City you'd have guys, like, all over you. Plus, blue's a great color in Cyrodiil these days. Being from there, I would know!"

Okay, maybe color contrast wasn't in—but it's not like anyone would know way out here.

"Oh wow! We never hear anything about the styles in Cyrodiil out here. You're so smart!"

"Only about the important things."

"Do you know Tiphannia Blumius?" Satheri asked. "She's human like you and she's like my best friend—well, a really good friend."

Satheri suddenly seized up, the way you would if you saw a bug crawl out of your dress, except this was Morrowind and bugs weren't a big deal.

"Wait, don't tell her I called her a really good friend!" Satheri begged. "I meant she's my best friend but I didn't want to say that and make you think I didn't like you—"

"Satheri?" came Sera Benniet's voice. "Is everything all right in the back row?"

Satheri just quivered in place.

"Sera," Quinn said, "Satheri was saying she had like a fainting spell this morning, and she came here because she really wants to learn but it's acting up again."

Fainting spells were perfect for an excuse. They weren't gross like food poisoning or fevers. When guys heard "fainting spell" it just made them want to protect you.

"Could I go outside with Satheri? I think some fresh air might help," Quinn said.

Benniet shrugged. "Fine. Better that than a classroom disruption."

Satheri was still freaking out when Quinn walked her outside.

"Calm down!" Quinn said. "We're out of that stuffy classroom."

"Please don't tell Tiphannia what I said, because I really didn't mean it that way, except I sort of did—"

"I won't say a thing." Not like she could even figure out what Satheri was going on about.

Satheri brightened up. "Thank you so much! You are my best friend, Quinn, and I mean that!"

Okay, that was a little weird. But whatever. Best to have someone who was gracious.

Satheri kept going. "And I'll introduce you to Tiphannia later on. I think you'd really like her. She knows all about fashion. Plus, she's actually from some big family in the Imperial City."

"Wait, the Imperial City?"

"Yeah. Are you from there too?"

Time to change the subject and not mention coming from a city out on an island in the middle of nowhere. "Oh, you know what else is in? Ruffles," Quinn said, and really hoped it was true.



*********



Quinn wanted to freak out, but the problem was she couldn't. Not if she wanted to be popular. Yes, there was a time and a place where a girl could do that, like at the right dramatic moment to prove a point to mom and dad, but not when she was trying to make friends.

And why hadn't Quinn heard of Tiphannia if she was some big deal from the Imperial City?

She just about froze when Satheri pointed Tiphannia out, standing outside of Instructor Ondryn's class and looking at her nails. Perfect jet-black hair, her face round and fine-boned, with a cyan dress that was just right for her figure. Tiphannia wasn't an Imperial—Quinn couldn't quite figure out her background—but that didn't matter when she already looked so good! Quinn was just some backwater hick. No way she could compete with someone who'd grown up in the capital and probably knew all of the latest fashions by heart. It wasn't fair!

"Hi, Tiphannia! This is Quinn, I met her in Sera Benniet's class today. She's super-smart—like in a good way—and knows all about fashion."

Tiphannia slowly looked up at Quinn, her face serene and incurious.

"Hi," Quinn said, standing straight and tall.

"Hi," Tiphannia responded, drawing out the greeting.

Go ahead and judge me, Quinn thought, as Tiphannia eyed her up and down. And then all of a sudden Tiphannia looked back down at her nails. Like Quinn wasn't even worth judging.

"So Quinn was saying that all the popular girls in Cyrodiil are wearing blue and ruffles right now," Satheri went on. "And that color contrast is in, so blue goes well with Dunmer eyes."

"Blue... goes really well... with my hair..." Tiphannia said, and she spoke so slowly that listening to her talk was like watching molasses drip from a spoon. And she still didn't look up from her nails.

Something about Tiphannia seemed off. It wasn't like she was making fun of Quinn—even if she was, there was no way Satheri was in on the joke. Maybe Tiphannia was just like that for some reason.

"Exactly!" Quinn said. "Which is why it's such a popular color right now."

"And ruffles, too!" Satheri added, beaming.

"Ruffles... are so like... complicated..."

Okay, so Tiphannia was really weird. That must have been why Quinn hadn't heard of her. But this was even better! Unpopular friends from very popular families!

Quinn kept up the attack. "Which is also why it's crucial that they be perfectly matched to the outfit! Too many and they just look too busy, but the right amount totally gets attention. A little around the sleeves and maybe around the back of the neck—they can be really slenderizing like that."

And sure, Quinn didn't know for sure if that was true. But all that mattered was that people thought it was true! It's like mom said—you needed the right story to win a court case, and fashion was no different!

By the end of the day, Quinn knew she'd found her place.

"I think it's clear that Morrowind's been neglected for too long," she said. "So I say we form a Fashion Guild to make sure that the ladies of Balmora get the style that they deserve! And as founders, we get first dibs."

"Oh wow! That's so great! I never thought I'd be in a guild!" Satheri exclaimed.

"Gilded sleeves are like... so slimming..."



*********



"I do applaud your ambition," mom said, back at home. "But legally, to call yourself a guild, you need an imperial charter."

"And you can get one, right?"

Mom looked thoughtful for a second. "That would be an interesting legal challenge—but obtaining a charter is a long, drawn-out process. It took the scenarists decades to get theirs."

"Decades!? I'll be all old and wrinkly then!" Quinn protested. "This is important. By spreading Imperial fashion I'm spreading the Empire!"

Mom sighed. "Yes, but you'll have to convince the emperor of that. I think you're off to a great start! This is a wonderful way to make yourself known in the city, and both the Rowleni and Brolius families are well-connected. In fact, I met Junius Brolius a month ago, he does a lot of business with the East Empire Company."

"Is he Imperial? Because I don't think Tiphannia is," Quinn said.

"He is, but Tiphannia's adopted. She's an orphan from Esroniet—Junius and his wife were stationed there and took Tiphannia in just before they were sent back to the capital for reassignment. Regardless, you can't call yourself a guild, and professionally, I can't defend you in court for false representation."

"Fine," Quinn sighed.

So, Fashion Guild was a no-go. Thinking about it a bit, she decided Fashion Club was a good start.

In the meantime, she needed to figure out how to get an imperial guild charter. If it took decades, she had to get started now!

The End

To be continued in Episode 3: An Invitation

https://dariawiki.org/wiki/Stacy_Rowe - She's Quinn's highly neurotic friend in the show, and is so here as well (also a Dunmer).

https://dariawiki.org/wiki/Tiffany_Blum-Deckler - The presence of East Asian-looking people in TES is kind of ambiguous. Rather than have her be a human of Akavir, I decided here she's from the obscure archipelago of https://en.uesp.net/wiki/Lore:Esroniet, which is still an Imperial province (though only in name at this point).

Posted by: Acadian Apr 24 2022, 08:34 PM

’Quinn resisted the urge to squint as she looked into the mirror. Squinting created wrinkles.’
- - What a fun idea to write this episode from Quinn’s perspective. Being immersed in her mind, I was expecting a walk in the shallows. . . . wink.gif I was pleasantly surprised at the level of strategic brilliance in there!

Nicely done foot-in-the-door maneuver with Satheri – and it paid off. Uh-oh, could this Tiphannia see through Quinn’s self-generated fashion diva credentials? Whew, it looks like no problem there, so far.

The Fashion Guild is a brilliant idea. Too bad about those darn Imperial bureaucrats. . . . Oh well, Fashion Club will have to do for the nonce, and hopefully serve Quinn’s purpose. She has established a beach head. I’m sure she’s hopeful that Daria doesn’t screw it up for her. tongue.gif

Posted by: SubRosa Apr 25 2022, 02:27 AM

Every time I read the title of this fic, I hear it in the gravelly tone of the Morrowind (game) Dunmer.

Oh no, the future of the empire might be doomed. Sure Quinn...

Kwama and scrib, yum!

Poor Daria, up is down, down is up, and life has really gone sideways since they moved to Morrowind.

So I am thinking that the Commercial District is on the west side of the river, with the Fighters and Mages Guilds, and LaborTown is on the east side, where Caius Cosades lives?

And now I just read that Jane's house is just a few rows east of the Odai... Ope!

Wow, is Jane doing a portrait of Boethiah?

"Twisted people going slowly insane under the weight of their hypocrisy and cruelty?"
Ok, I was close...

That fried scrib is making me hungry now. I'll have to check the pantry to see if I have any kwama or guar steaks...

Synda is really escalating things. Time for Daria to learn a frenzy spell, and a wait for her to walk past a guard...

I really enjoy how you took the (minor?) antagonists of Quinn and Sydna and gave them depth when you portrayed things from their points of view. That is one of the most difficult things to do as a writer.

Wow, Tiphannia is exactly as I remember her from the show. So is Satheri.

And the Fashion Club Guild Club was born!

Posted by: Renee Apr 25 2022, 12:52 PM

A Fashion Guild! Hey, why not? Dibella would certainly approve. wub.gif

There's a lot of thinking and in-game moments of societal strife in this chapter! It's cracking me up. Like, it's all very quaint and subtle. Bizarre inspirations. How do you think this story up, Clavier? biggrin.gif

QUOTE
Fainting spells were perfect for an excuse. They weren't gross like food poisoning or fevers. When guys heard "fainting spell" it just made them want to protect you.


Ain't that the truth? Especially in old-time movies. We women really have lost the art of a good faint, if those movies are to be believed.

This story's a blast. Let's see if the Fashion Club can get a good start, or not.

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Apr 28 2022, 05:08 PM

@Acadian I re-watched the show a few years ago. What's interesting is that, even though Quinn's mostly a target of mockery in the early seasons, those episodes still hint that she's a lot more thoughtful than is immediately apparent. It doesn't become obvious until the later seasons, though.

@Subrosa Heh, I guess "outlanders" does bring that voice clip to mind. FWIW, Jane already kind of sounds like a Dunmer in the show.

And you were right: Labor Town's on the east side. I did actually make a map of Balmora. Sadly, the software I used (Inkarnate) didn't really have a tileset that looked like Balmora, so I had to use a standard medieval setup. But it'll give an idea of where everything is in relationship to each other (I assume Balmora's much larger than what we see in the game).

https://imgur.com/a/GZkm1wD

And thanks. Synda's not a good person, but there's a reason she acts the way she does.

@Renee Thanks! Mostly, I just wanted to write about Balmora from the perspective of a normal-ish person (as in, not an adventurer). I also wanted to get across the idea of danger being omnipresent while still keeping it somewhat grounded in the tone of the show.

Episode 3: An Invitation

Chapter 1


Daria took off her heavy glasses and closed her eyes, then raised her right thumb and forefinger to massage them through the lids. Dad had said the new pair was just about the same as her old one, but she saw the differences—the lenses got blurry at the top instead of at the bottom, and the ache always started in her right eye instead of her left.

At least Daria could see. Could see, read, and walk without stumbling into somebody. Which also meant she could return to the dreary instructions at Drenlyn Academy.

She hid from the sun as she so often did, taking shelter in the surprisingly well-stocked Drenlyn library. Safe amidst the dry smell of old paper, the same in Morrowind as it was in Cyrodiil, she returned to work. And to actually see letters again, clear and precise and ordered! Reading felt like breaking a long and unwanted fast, and her eyes devoured page after page as she committed the facts within to memory.

Which in this case meant memorizing the names of nobles whose greed and ambition had earned them grand titles and places of honor in Great House Hlaalu's semi-annual Yellow Book.

"Mistress Nevena Ules," she mouthed, "by Grace of ALMSIVI, Honored Councilor of Hlaalu Council, Vvardenfell District, Free Trader, Ules Manor, Suran, Ascadian Isles, Bal Ur, District of Vvardenfell, Province of Morrowind."

She looked up from the text.

"And exploiter of forced labor," she whispered.

"Exploder of forced labor? Huh?" chirped a high-pitched voice behind her.

Daria flinched. Bad idea to say that part out loud—no way to know who was listening. She slammed the book shut and shoved it to the stack of finished texts. Turning around, she saw Briltasi Talori and let herself relax a bit. The Dunmer girl's saucer plate-round eyes looked bigger and more vacant than usual. She twirled the strands of one crimson ponytail around her finger as she stared, waiting for an answer.

"It's an Imperial joke, Briltasi," Daria said. Doubtful that Briltasi understood anything, but she had to be careful. Synda still watched. As did the Cammona Tong.

"Gee, outlander jokes are weird. I don't know why you keep making them when you're in Morrowind!"

"We Imperials are simple folk who only run a vast continent-spanning polity, far too uncultured to understand the complexities of Dunmer humor," Daria said, not allowing so much as a quantum of emotion into her voice.

"That is sad." Briltasi's full lips pouted, her eyes thoughtful as if pondering some unquantifiable and slightly tragic mystery of life.

She really does feel bad thinking that I can't understand things here, Daria thought.

"Well, it's tough for me too, sometimes," Briltasi said, perking up. "Like right now I can't understand what Sera Benniet wants me to say. Maybe you could help? You and she are both outlanders, so you probably think really alike!"

"I'll see if I can tap into the vast gestalt that animates all non-Dunmer."

Briltasi turned her head to the side. "Is that a yes?"

Daria sighed. Annoying though Briltasi was, there was no chance she'd ever understand Daria's mockery. Which made her safe, or as safe as anyone got in Morrowind.

"Yes."

"Great! Benniet wants me to write something about how many people it takes to make a quill pen. I told her it was just one, because usually only one servant brings a quill to you, but she said I should think about it harder. But I've already thought about it really hard, and I have to go to a party tonight! Are there really heavy quills that you need two people to carry, or something?"

Daria sighed. This was going to be tough. Part of her just wanted to give some flippant answer, but she knew the Talori family had some influence in Balmora. It wouldn't hurt to have powerful friends after what had happened with Synda.

"Well, think of it this way," Daria said. "Where does the feather for a quill come from?"

"Um, a bird?" Briltasi said, as if she genuinely wasn't sure. She actually might not be. Few birds lived in Morrowind, their ecological role instead assumed by big bugs.

"Right. Now are you the one who takes it directly from the bird? Or does someone else do that?"

Briltasi put a finger to her lips, tapping twice.

"I guess someone else does that. I feel bad for the bird though."

Suddenly a bit more sympathetic, Daria continued. "Quills are usually made from molted feathers, so the bird won't mind."

"That's a relief!"

"Anyway, a fowler or a bird keeper might collect the feathers."

"Okay. Isn't that just one person though?" Briltasi asked.

"Sure. But you can't just use a regular feather as a quill pen. A penturner has to cut it so that it can hold ink."

"Got it! Two people!"

"Maybe more than that. Remember, the penturner has to use a knife to cut the quill. Where did he get the knife?"

"Uh... from his dinner set?"

"My point is that the penturner has to rely on tools, which in turn are made from materials mined from the ground, forged by smiths, delivered to merchants, and so forth."

Briltasi looked down, her ponytails limp and her brow furrowed. "I don't think I understand this."

Daria resisted the urge to roll her eyes. "Just say that a quill pen needs lots of people working in lots of specialized tasks to create. If she asks for more detail, say it needs a fowler, a penturner, a miner, a smith, and probably some more. She'll get it." Maybe. But it was unlikely that an outlander instructor like Benniet would put undue pressure on a Dunmer client. A noble Dunmer client, at that.

Briltasi's eyes brightened as she scribbled down the simplified notes.

"Thanks! I wish I could help you with schoolwork, but I only know about important things."

"If I ever need to know how to look..." Daria had been about to say vacuous, but immediately realized how bad of an idea that was. "...glamorous," Daria finished, the word as foul as oil on her tongue, "I'll be sure to ask."

"Is your family important?" Briltasi asked. "Like important here, not important back wherever you came from."

Daria hesitated. What was Briltasi getting at? She decided to be direct.

"My mother's an advocate with the Imperial Guild of Barristers and my father is a consultant for local merchants seeking to do business with other non-Dunmer."

"Hmm, I don't know what all that means but it sounds pretty important! My dad does a lot of business with outlanders and he's holding a banquet on Loredas evening. Why don't you all come along?"

Daria thought about it a moment. A party sounded dreadful, but her family needed allies. Did the Taloris really amount to much? 

"Is your dad going to be okay with it?" Daria asked. Seemed odd that he'd allow Briltasi to make decisions, given what she'd heard about Dunmer parents.

"Daddy says I'm an excellent party arranger! I'll ask him, but I'm sure he'll say yes."

"Sure, on that case." Not that she wanted to go. But a connection was a connection.

"Great! I probably won't talk to you too much since you're not really, well, popular, but that's not because I don't like you. I just don't have much time for you."

"Believe me, I'm completely fine with that."

"There will be a lot of important people there. Kavon, of course," she giggled. "Then there's Elmusa and Llemisa and Synda..."

Hearing the name "Synda" brought back the blows suffered in that alley, the crack of her old glasses and the weeks of blindness. Daria sucked in her breath, suddenly faint.

"Don't worry!" Briltasi said, interrupting her endless guest list. "There will be plenty of outlanders too, so you can hang out with your own kind! I wouldn't want you to be lonely."

Daria could only stammer out a mumbled thanks.




*********




The day drew to a close and Daria put the books back on the library shelves. She looked out the bulbous green-glass window, so much like an insect's eyes. No sign of Jane in the courtyard.

Or of Synda.

Quinn had already found protection. She'd had no trouble winning a new group of friends, not to mention a trio of male admirers: an Imperial, a Breton, and a Bosmer. Nice to know that blind adoration of Quinn crossed most cultural divides. At any rate, Synda no longer seemed to care about Quinn.

Daria had always surpassed her sister when it came to earning enmity.

Probably safe to leave without waiting for Jane, she thought. Just stick to the crowded streets, don't go out of sight of guards...

Daria leaned against the adobe wall, taking deep and measured breaths until the fear went away. Of course, Synda would be at the party. Her family possessed wealth and influence.

And, as Synda had demonstrated, connections to a xenophobic criminal organization active throughout the entire province.

She saw Jane leaving Sera Defoe's atelier, Defoe being the only other outlander instructor besides Benniet. Daria hurried out of the library and fell in next to her friend, the two of them soon navigating the dense crowds on the flagstone-covered banks of the Odai River. The late afternoon sun gleamed off the river's murky current.

"Briltasi invited me to a big Talori family banquet." 

Jane whistled. "Not bad. Between you and your sister, social climbing must run in the family."

"If it were up to me, I'd have declined. But mom would kill me if she found out I didn't take advantage of this 'opportunity'. You don't think Briltasi's just setting me up, do you?"

"Nah. Planning something like that requires more brains than she has. And her dad does do a lot of business with Imperial interests. East Empire Company, I think. They made him rich."

"Nice to know that the most craven of Dunmer natives can find their equivalents among the Imperials. This whole banquet's probably going to be an endless cavalcade of flattery and networking. I wouldn't mind some sane company. I could try to get you in," Daria said.

"Hmm, that's kind of a long shot. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to go—I could probably get a bunch more clients there. But menials like me usually don't get invited anywhere."

"You paint awfully well for a menial."

"A skilled menial is still a menial. Look, I usually only get commissions from outlanders. People like the Taloris don't want to be around foreign-born Dunmer like me," Jane said, the two of them briefly parting ways to make room for a line of barefoot Dunmer pilgrims in rough robes, their smoky voices joined in prayer.

"What if I talked to Briltasi about letting you in?"

"It's just not done, Daria."

"Maybe if..." Daria scanned the crowd, its sea of sharp gray faces and red eyes. Her heartbeat picked up, a cold sweat forming on her back.

"Is everything okay?"

Daria turned her gaze forward, her world shrinking to the space within the copper rims of her spectacles. Nothing bad would happen along a main road during the day. "I'd just feel a lot better with you there."

Jane's head lowered for a moment. "Right, sorry. I forgot. But I don't think anyone's going to rob you at a High Town manor party. If they do it'll be with bad deals and legal forms, not cudgels."

Probably true. But Jane didn't know the truth of the attack. More importantly, she couldn't know. Telling Jane about Synda and the Cammona Tong might put her in danger. Daria gritted her teeth and stilled her tongue, fear and rage boiling to be let out to knock some deserving heads.

They passed through a veil of smoke drifting from an outdoor oven, the scent of baking deshaan bread a peppery and momentary delight.

"How powerful are the Taloris, anyway?" Daria asked.

"They've got a lot of money. I don't think they're that powerful, though."

Daria groaned. "Great. So the one time I surrender my ethics for the rat race of social climbing I pick the wrong family to suck up to."

"Hey, it definitely wouldn't hurt to have them on your side. None of the big Hlaalu movers and shakers live in Balmora anyway. This whole city's just a show they put on to impress foreigners."

"Can I at least throw rotten fruit at the players?"

"Sure, just make sure you have an escape plan for when they set the guards on you."

Everyone back home had described Morrowind as a remote and barbarous province. Some small part of her had hoped there'd fewer rules to hold her back.

If anything, it had more rules than Cyrodiil.



https://dariawiki.org/wiki/Brittany_Taylor - Popular, cheerful, and without a brain in her head (or maybe she does and is just good at hiding it), Brittany's almost an archetypal nice cheerleader. Here, she's the daughter of a very minor Dunmer noble family.

I actually wrote this story pretty early on, before I'd even conceived of writing an entire series. Looking back on it now, I think that Briltasi, nice as she is, should be a little more distant. The class structure's a big deal, after all. As it is though, I suppose her behavior can be explained by her personality and maybe her father being too busy with work to really raise her (and her stepmom, to whom she's close, is a rich human outlander).

Posted by: Acadian Apr 28 2022, 08:32 PM

Once again, I like the way you incorporate smells into your descriptions. In this case, it was the comfort Daria got from the smell of paper and its familiarity, whether in Cyrodiil or Morrowind.

"We Imperials are simple folk who only run a vast continent-spanning polity, far too uncultured to understand the complexities of Dunmer humor," Daria said, not allowing so much as a quantum of emotion into her voice.’
- - By Kynareth’s wings this was superbly crafted and delivered by Daria! Ironic that her target did not really understand it. Briltasi is a welcome addition to the intrigue in this story – her childlike intelligence makes it easy to keep track of what she’s thinking.

And a party upcoming. That will be attended by Synda the spectacle smasher. Jane’s right though in that physical confrontation should be unlikely.

Posted by: SubRosa Apr 29 2022, 05:16 AM

That is a really cool map of Balmora!

Brittany!

You really are nailing Daria's completely deadpan sarcasm. At least she is making friends. Or at least allies. In spite of herself.

Wow, Daria really is dealing with some serious side-effects from the attack. Which is only natural. Hopefully she will be able to overcome her fears. Maybe she just needs a self-esteem class... After all, Jane likes having low self-esteem. It makes her feel special...


Posted by: Renee May 3 2022, 03:10 PM

Awesome, so it's sort of like when some gamers like to roleplay as themselves when they play these games, instead of an adventurer.

Hlaalu has a Yellow Book. biggrin.gif Jeez, even in real-life here in Earth we don't have those any more.

Their dialog is making me giggle. laugh.gif I hope this okay! This story's funny. I still haven't watched Daria, but the way they speak reminds me of those '90s-era cartoons which Outlanders is inspired from.

Daria contemplates the presence of the Cammona Tong as she tries to schmooze her way into this gala event. Yikes.

QUOTE
"Great! I probably won't talk to you too much since you're not really, well, popular, but that's not because I don't like you. I just don't have much time for you."

"Believe me, I'm completely fine with that."


Ha ha!


Posted by: WellTemperedClavier May 3 2022, 03:41 PM

@Acadian Thanks! And yeah, Daria talking over people's heads (intentionally or otherwise) happens a lot in the show, and in here.

@Subrosa Thanks. Heh. The attack in the first episode does cast a long shadow throughout the series. I found it useful as a way to remind readers that Morrowind can be a pretty dangerous place, even for someone in a relatively secure position like Daria. Granted, this is true of the real world, too.

@Renee That was part of it. Mostly, I'm trying to write from Daria's perspective, but the reason I'm having her still basically be herself is to theorize what the setting might be like from a normal perspective. Granted, this isn't the most lore-friendly interpretation of Tamriel (while it's darker than anything you see on Daria, it's generally lighter than the actual games), but it still lets me explore the more mundane aspects of a fantasy setting.

Episode 3: An Invitation

Chapter 2


"Let's see how this works out," came dad's voice from the kitchen. "A hearty Skyrim recipe with exotic Morrowind ingredients!"

Daria sniffed and caught the scent of fish mixed with local herbs. Mom paid her husband no heed, her eyes intent on a legal document she'd taken to the table with her. Quinn, meanwhile, chattered on about her friends.

"... and I told Satheri that she looked really good in blue, but that she'd look even better if she added some gold trim."

"Oh for goodness sake!" mom exclaimed. "It's like the guild still thinks we're in Cyrodiil! I have half a mind to go down to Old Ebonheart and tell them what we're dealing with up here."

"The secret," dad said, "is to use just the right amount of hackle-lo. Too much and you can't taste the fish anymore. Too little and you only taste the fish!"

Daria wondered when she should bring up the invitation. It wasn't something they expected of her. Quinn would just go right into it without hesitation, any invitation just one of many, to be considered and weighed like a new outfit for her ever-growing wardrobe.

Best for her to follow suit and be direct. It'd impress them, at least.

She opened her mouth to speak.

Quinn spoke first.

"By the way," Quinn said, "I was talking to Briltasi Talori, you know, of the Talori family, and she invited us to this big party she's having on Loredas. It sounds like everyone's going to be there, so it'd be great for me. And the rest of you, of course. Maybe not you," she finished, looking at Daria.

Dammit so much.

"The Taloris? They are an important family here," mom said, finally putting down the papers.

"Not that important," Daria said. "They don't even show up in the Yellow Book." Quinn had already stolen her glory. A bit of snark was the least she could do.

Mom rolled her eyes. "Nonsense, Daria. The Taloris might not be the most influential, but they are at least connected to everyone in Balmora, and they work closely with outlanders. Jake, did you hear that?"

"I sure did! That's why I added in just a dash of russula. Really adds that Morrowind-y flavor—"

"Jake! Are you paying any attention at all?"

"I am!" Dad rushed out of the kitchen. "Um, I totally approve of what you just said."

Mom sighed. "Quinn just informed me that the Taloris have invited the family over to a banquet on Loredas evening. I think it'd be a great opportunity for all of us."

"The Taloris? Sure, that's a great idea!"

He vanished back into the kitchen.

"It'd be a particularly good opportunity for you, Daria. You could meet a lot of potential employers at this party," mom said.

Daria feigned a thoughtful expression. "I don't know. I hear that Daedric cults are hiring a lot of savants right now. We're the only ones who can keep track of all the pesky details that go into a good ritual summoning."

Mom sighed. "Just don't embarrass us! Like it or not we need to make connections here."

Later that evening, Daria walked up to her room to find Quinn practicing the steps to an Imperial minuet. She hummed as she glided back and forth in the constrained space, visions of grand ballrooms and handsome suitors doubtlessly flitting through her mind.

"By the way, Briltasi invited me, too," Daria said.

Quinn stopped mid-step and stared.

"Is this some kind of joke?"

Daria kept at it. "Normally I wouldn't care enough to bring this up, but does Briltasi know we're sisters? Since I remember Synda being less than happy about you denying that. Dunmer take family relations very seriously."

"Of course, I told Briltasi!"

"So why did she invite me separately?"

Quinn tapped her cheek with an index finger, eyes intent. "Oh, probably because I didn't mention your name. I just said I had a sister and that she'd be coming along."

Daria let herself relax. "Good."

"Why would Briltasi invite you? You don't know anyone. Except that one girl."

"I gave Briltasi access to my extensive network of loyal assassins. Already she's climbing to the top of the Hlaalu hierarchy, a trail of dead bodies in her path."

Quinn shook her head. "You are so weird, Daria."

With that, Quinn returned to her dancing. Daria watched for a while, trying and failing to remember the nimble steps. She'd have to practice but was too tired to even consider it that night. Another thing about parties she hated. Did Dunmer even dance?

One thing was sure: she needed to get Jane to that party.



*********



Briltasi found Daria early the next day.

"My dad said he'd be happy to have a lawyer's family at the banquet, so you're in!" she squealed.

Daria inclined her head slightly, the world feeling slightly surreal. "Thank you," she said. After giving it some thought, she decided it'd be best for Briltasi to know the truth. "Did you also invite Quinn yesterday?"

"Sure! She's really popular, and she said her mom was a lawyer. Huh, kind of like yours! Are your moms friends?"

"In a manner of speaking. Quinn and I are sisters."

"Ohhh, so you're the sister she mentioned!" Briltasi said. "Wow, you two don't look alike!"

"Well..." Daria wanted to finish her line. To say: "... we used to, but we had to hire a wizard to alter her face after going into witness protection."

But she couldn't. Because like it or not, Quinn was an asset for the family and for Daria's future well-being. Everything depended on who you knew, and the world was a vast prison of gossip and backslapping and flattery. Undermining Quinn would make things worse.

"Quinn got a lot luckier in the looks department," Daria blurted out, knowing it was true and completely believable. Cheeks burned at the admission. Gods this was humiliating!

"One more thing," Daria said, steering the conversation to a new subject. "Would it be all right if I brought a friend?"

Briltasi frowned, like someone asked to do something not entirely legitimate. "Maybe. Who?"

"Jane Llayn."

"I don't think so, Daria. Her family's not reputable. I don't even know if she has a family."

Daria thought about it. "Well, you'll have servants at the party, right?"

"Of course!"

"So would one more menial really matter?" Didn't really feel right to call Jane a menial... but it was technically true.

Briltasi made a frustrated sound, halfway between a hum and a squeak.

Maybe it was best to drop it. Dealing with a boring party wasn't worth risking Morgendorffer status. Except that Synda would be there, cruel and ruthless Synda, connected to the Cammona Tong and all of Morrowind's barely hidden violence...

"Here's the thing," Daria said, speaking faster than she normally did, wanting to say her piece and see if it worked so she could stop worrying. "My family really wants to commemorate being invited to your fine, uh, party. And I thought Jane could paint a picture to capture the event."

A hell of a lie. But now she was sweating. Would Jane be all right with this?

Briltasi thought about it for a bit. "I guess it's okay if you bring her as a menial. But she should only talk to other outlanders."

Perfect. Those were the kind who'd give Jane business, anyway.

"Fine, I'll let her know," Daria said hurriedly, exhausted from the effort of the lie. "And thanks. I appreciate this. I mean that."

Posted by: Renee May 3 2022, 03:58 PM

Hee! You posted the next chapter before I finished commenting! Sorry, I got interrupted as I was reading and didn't want to lose my place. Final comments up above.

I'll check out Chapter 2 in a few...


Posted by: Acadian May 3 2022, 08:21 PM

Jake (Dad) is wise to focus on his herbs and spices and stay out of the social and family infighting. wink.gif

"I gave Briltasi access to my extensive network of loyal assassins. Already she's climbing to the top of the Hlaalu hierarchy, a trail of dead bodies in her path." laugh.gif

Well, the need to make sure Briltasi knows Quinn and Daria are sisters went okay. The push to get Jane there - though quite understandable – is getting a bit complicated it seems. Daria managed to get Jane invited (sort of) but now has to sell Jane on the painting gig she just signed her Dunmer friend up for. Hope Jane’s okay with that.

Plenty of fun social intrigue here and you manage all the interactions very well, making for a very fun read.

Posted by: SubRosa May 3 2022, 11:46 PM

Is dad going to make his macaroni I mean Pesto? laugh.gif

This sounds so much like a conversation at the Morgendorfer dinner table! Which is to say, three different conversations at once that is obliged to include mom yelling at dad for not paying attention.

I love the jokes about Daedric savants and Hlaalu assassins, because this being Morrowind...

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier May 7 2022, 07:14 PM

@Renee Oops! Sorry.

@Acadian Jake tends to do that in the show as well. It has mixed results as a strategy--it does let him avoid some fights, but it also means he's not seen as especially reliable. I get it, though. And yeah, social class is an even bigger deal in Morrowind than it is here (and really, I'm blunting it quite a bit compared to what the lore indicates), so that's something the characters have to navigate.

@SubRosa Heh, good to hear that I've captured the tone.

Episode 3: An Invitation

Chapter 3


Loredas evening arrived, the rosy sunset haze carrying with it a whiff of brimstone. The sulfurous quality struck Daria as weirdly fitting as her family trekked to the elegant manors of High Town.

"Isn't this great? We're finally making our mark in Morrowind," dad said. "Soon these Dunmer will know that Big Jake's the man they need to do business with the Empire!"

"Not so loud," mom cautioned. Locals, mostly Dunmer, still crowded the market stalls negotiating last minute deals for dinner's kwama eggs.

Like a gray sea with red shark eyes, Daria thought.

Daria struggled along as best she could, wrapped up in a blue woolen robe so stiff and starched that she could probably fall asleep in it and remain standing. Wearing the damned thing felt like wearing a box that gave just enough room for her feet to shuffle across the flagstones. Quinn had something perfect for the occasion of course, a pale rose gown that hinted at her figure while staying within the bounds of modesty.

"Thanks again for getting me in," Jane said, walking behind the Morgendorffers with an easel under her arm and a backpack full of pigments. She wore one of Daria's older dresses, green and faded, baggy on her angular frame.

"Sure. You're the only one making this ordeal tolerable."

"Just sit back and enjoy the party favors," Jane said. "These things go by a lot faster after a few cups of mazte."

"I'll do what I can to get you the best booze."

"I knew you'd come in for me," Jane said, with a smirk.

They turned a corner to a pair of steep and high staircases cutting a straight path up the rocky slope to High Town. Rectangular adobe towers stood watch on either side at the top of the stairs and Daria could just see Hlaalu guards observing traffic through the vertical slot-like windows.

"Ugh, I thought this place would be elegant!" Quinn complained. "It looks like a big blocky fortress."

"That's because it is one," Daria said. "Nobles need lots of protection for when people get tired of their shenanigans."

"Enough, Daria," mom warned. "And maybe spend some time thinking about which side of the barricades you'd actually be on. You're not exactly part of the underclass."

Daria blushed, suddenly conscious of Jane standing next to her. Jane hadn't seemed to notice the comment though, her crimson eyes on the architecture ahead.

Climbing the stairs brought them to a broad and clean plaza shaded by a few well-trimmed plane trees. The homes of the rich surrounded them, stout doors facing each other across the plaza. The houses there didn't actually look all that different from the ones below—definitely bigger but more or less in the same style, just with fresher adobe and the ovoid windows filled by actual glass. More modest by far than the wealthy Imperial residences back in Stirk.

Stony hills clambered up behind the manors. High Town occupied the farthest northwest point of Balmora, between rocks and a hard place. The sour kwama smell hovered here, too, but not as strong. The murmur of the marketplace was long gone, replaced by a cold and stately silence.

Dad checked his map while mom motioned for Daria to come closer. Not sure what to expect, Daria obeyed.

"Remember our deal?" mom said.

Convincing mom to let Jane tag along hadn't been that hard. Her parents liked Jane well enough, lacking though she was in social links. But in return for this charade Daria had promised to at least try and network. Make two well-connected friends, no more than that.

"I remember," Daria said, the two words grudgingly enunciated.

"I know this isn't what you like to do. But it's just how things are."

"This one must be the Talori manor," dad said, pointing to a nearby house. A sharply rectangular second story peeked out from behind an elegantly curved balcony wall. Next to the door stood a Hlaalu guard clad head to toe in yellowing bonemold armor, a too-large sword waiting in his scabbard.

"Who goes there?" the guard asked, his raspy voice deep and echoing behind the helmet. Daria could just see red eyes peering through the slit of his visor, which reminded her of some strange animal's mouth.

Dad stuck out his hand. "We're the Morgendorffers! We've been, uh, invited to the party. I'm Jake, this is—"

"Father, mother, two daughters, and a menial," the guard said, as if reading off a checklist. An edge crept into his voice at the last bit. "You may enter."

He waited a bit for the guard to open the door, an expectant smile on his face. The guard offered only silence.

"Uh, I guess I'll show myself in."

Dad took the handle and pulled, the heavy wooden door barely budging. He grunted in surprise and tried again. Now grabbing it with both hands he wrenched it open and leaned a bit to the side so his weight would keep it that way, his teeth clenched with strain.

He let it swing shut once they were all in. The door hit the frame hard enough to rattle the entire building.

"What the hell was in that door?" he wondered, rubbing his back.

Daria took a quick look over her shoulder, noting the horizontal slats on the door's inner side.

"Reinforced. Helps against battering rams," she said.

"Not very welcoming," dad muttered.

"That's the idea."

They stood in vast square room. Curved wooden support beams wound in and out of the adobe walls to connect with a massive wooden column in the center. Leafy bittergreen vines hung from the rafters, the bright color indicating that they'd recently been plucked. The place reminded Daria of a forest.

Five long wooden dining tables with accompanying benches had been arranged in a semi-circle around the central column, surfaces already laden with lit candles and bowls of dark blue glass. Imperial-style glass-and-metal lanterns glowed from between the beams, like fairy fire burning in the darkest woods. Narrow windows on the west wall let in the last of the day's dying light. Massive serving tables along the eastern wall bore rows and rows of clay vessels while the savory smell of some kind of roast drifted out from behind a paper screen placed in front of a doorway leading to the kitchen.

A number of guests were already present. The smaller and slightly more lavish dining table at the center of the semi-circle, presumably reserved for the Taloris, remained unoccupied. Dunmer sat at the tables next to it, decked out in brightly colored frock coats and gowns cut in the latest Imperial styles. Outlander guests took positions at those farthest from the center, some with fine clothes like the Dunmer, others with drab outfits a la the Morgendorffers. Their placement around the big central pillar made it difficult for the occupants of one table to converse with any other not directly to their side. Menials, working for either the Taloris or the guests, took standing positions around the room with hands clasped and heads bowed. Jane had already moved to join them, and part of Daria wanted to stand next to her and enjoy the comparative remoteness.

Daria recognized several attendees from Drenlyn Academy. There was Jolda, a Redguard girl reputed to be one of the smartest students, clothed in a flowing pink cotton dress and her long black hair done up in cornrows. She sat between her parents, whose bejeweled golden bracelets proclaimed their wealth. Next to her father was another Redguard, this one in the smart dress tunic of a junior legion officer.

Quinn's current crop of suitors, Jonus, Julien, and Jeval, made themselves known at the table farthest from the door, eyes bright and already waving their hands to get their goddess's attention.

Quinn only smiled and gave a brief curtsy, sending the trio in paroxysms of hopeful glee.

And finally, Synda, dressed in darkness with her gray hands folded on the table. Next to her, her mother, Lynda Grilvayn, Bonded Agent to Great House Hlaalu. Synda didn't so much as look at the Morgendorffers, her lips curled in disdain.

"I hate her," Quinn whispered.

Daria froze up. Quinn still didn't know how dangerous Synda might be.

"Tempting as it might be to go after her, I suggest keeping your dislike to yourself," Daria warned.

"Oh please, Daria, how old do you think I am? I'll just gently tear her apart with insults that sound like compliments. Watch and learn."

Daria's heart skipped a beat. She wanted to tell Quinn everything—how dangerous Synda really was. But there was no way Quinn would keep that a secret. "Don't. This isn't some Cyrodiil tea party," Daria said, voice trembling slightly as she made sure to look away from Synda.

Dad ushered them to the table occupied by Jolda's family. Daria took a seat, muscles tensed as if in expectation of a blow.

Synda wouldn't hurt her here. Not in front of everyone.

But what about on the walk back home, with her whole family and Jane as targets...

"Presenting!" thundered a harsh voice, and Daria turned her head to see a tall Dunmer in what she took to be traditional robes colored a lurid yellow. His arms were crossed over his chest, eyes bulging with a fanatic's glare.

"Serjo Sedrane Talori, by Grace of ALMSIVI, House Cousin and Tradesman of Great House Hlaalu, Patriarch of Family Talori, Officer of the East Empire Company, and Gentleman of Balmora Currently and Originally, and Cheydinhal Formerly!"

The herald stepped aside. From behind him strutted forth a short-haired Dunmer who was anything but traditional, suited in a splendid deep blue coat. The skin beneath his eyes was lined with dots of raised flesh, an example of the subtle scarification seen in many highborn Hlaalu Dunmer. Next to him stood a tall human blonde in a shimmering gown. Only when Sedrane put his arm around her waist did Daria realize that the woman was actually his wife. Dunmer didn't often marry outlanders, even for money.

No wonder Briltasi seems so comfortable with us outlanders, she thought. Of course, the outlanders were still relegated to the far tables.

A smiling Briltasi followed close behind, along with a young boy wearing a coat much like his father's. A scowl flashed across the boy's face before freezing back into a more restrained expression.

Sedrane smiled and raised his arms. Most of the guests bowed their heads in response, the Morgendorffers only doing so belatedly.

"Ladies and gentlemen, visitors and natives: welcome to my humble home!" Sedrane said. "It's my honor to present you with the very best in Hlaalu hospitality on this day, which symbolizes the growing union between Morrowind and the Empire, a union reflected in my recent marriage to the lovely Asciene-Amarie."

Sedrane lifted his wife's hand to polite applause and a few stony glares from the Dunmer tables. Briltasi beamed. A good sign, Daria supposed.

"But for all these glories let us not forget those greater than us. Let us humble ourselves in honor of our deities, whether they be the tripartite gods of Morrowind or the other gods from the many kingdoms within our glorious and eternal empire."

He bowed his head and the rest of the room followed suit. Daria tried to ignore the heavenly smells drifting from the kitchen. Was Synda plotting something right now? Or was her head bowed in worship of the three mortal wizards who passed themselves off as the gods of Morrowind?

"And may we walk in ALMSIVI's grace," Sedrane announced as he finished. Smiling, he flexed his shoulders. "Back to more earthly matters. I achieved my success in the Imperial entrepôt of Cheydinhal..."

Sedrane went on to detail his history of helping the East Empire Company find the most profitable ebony and glass deposits in which to invest. Daria tuned out, hoping the drinks would soon be served.

https://dariawiki.org/wiki/Jodie_Landon - Much like her canon counterpart, Jolda is one of the very students capable of matching wits with Daria. Fortunately, they're (usually) on the same side. She also faces a lot of pressure from her demanding and upwardly mobile parents, and from being one of the very few Redguard students in Drenlyn (reflecting her canon version being one of the very few Black students in Lawndale High).

https://dariawiki.org/wiki/Joey - One of Quinn's single-minded suitors.

https://dariawiki.org/wiki/Jeffy - Another of Quinn's single-minded suitors.

https://dariawiki.org/wiki/Jamie_White - The third of Quinn's single-minded suitors. However, Jeval ends up becoming a more important character here than he does in canon. That's still a way's off, however, so for now he's just one of the boys.

https://dariawiki.org/wiki/Steve_Taylor - Briltasi's father. He's wealthy and unpleasant, much like in the source material.

https://imgur.com/a/zRsXMdP

Posted by: SubRosa May 7 2022, 08:18 PM

It's the night of the big party. It reminds me of the party in the show that Brittney threw, except without the parents.

Mom makes a good comment about whose side Daria might be perceived as being on when the revolution happens. But Mom is not the best observer of history. Mike Duncan's Revolution podcast really brings out some commonalities in successful revolutions. For starters they are formed of two groups. 1 is the exploited underclass who do the fighting in the streets. 2 are members of the professional, middle class. People with an education who can both organize, but also can talk to the upper class in a language they can understand. You know, lawyers. If you only have #1 you just have riots that burn out after a little while. If you only have #2 you just have people talking about change but never taking action. I could easily see Daria as a future John Adams.

I love Daria's continued comments on the fortified nature of the manors.

I have to admit to wanting to hear Quinn play mean girl "frenemies" with Synda. I don't know how "popular" people have the energy for that.

I loved Daria's unspoken jab at the three mortal wizards.

Posted by: Acadian May 8 2022, 08:47 PM

Let’s party! Um, no, this is entirely too stuffy an affair where tense politicking and maneuvering overwhelm the savory smells wafting through the air. I do find it a hoot to note that the pompous Dunmer of the ‘Great Houses’ go to great lengths to be seen in the latest Imperial (not Dunmer) fashions. In the case of our host, that even includes sporting trophy Imperial on his arm. Quinn has already learned to put their fashion festish to use.

Despite the restrictions, Jane seems happy to be coming along – that is good.

Nice job setting up and describing this tense situation.

I learned a couple new words from you - paroxysms and entrepôt. Neat! smile.gif

Posted by: Renee May 9 2022, 01:27 PM

QUOTE
"By the way," Quinn said, "I was talking to Briltasi Talori, you know, of the Talori family, and she invited us to this big party she's having on Loredas. It sounds like everyone's going to be there, so it'd be great for me. And the rest of you, of course. Maybe not you," she finished, looking at Daria.


Oh gosh that's rude! Briltasi's really full of herself.

Do Dunmer dance? If you're in Suran they certainly do sometimes. embarrased.gif

Daria's Speechcraft goes up a notch with the success of her lie at the end of C2. Okay now let's read this party. I can already sense... I don't know... disaster? Plenty of faux pas moments? laugh.gif Whichever, you really describe the atmosphere at this party well. Sort of elegant, sort of stuffy. But also retaining the Dunmer style of slight contempt and haughtiness.

Oh goodness, I wonder what's going to happen. Something definitely disturbing, right?

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier May 9 2022, 05:00 PM

No story update today (that'll be on Wednesday), but I wanted to respond to everyone's thoughtful comments!

QUOTE(SubRosa @ May 7 2022, 08:18 PM) *

It's the night of the big party. It reminds me of the party in the show that Brittney threw, except without the parents.


Yup! It's basically that episode. That said, this story is the only one that patterns itself off a show episode so closely. While future stories will take a lot of the events seen in the show, they'll typically happen in different ways or even to different characters. Diverging from canon makes it more fun to write (and hopefully to read, as well).

QUOTE(SubRosa @ May 7 2022, 08:18 PM) *

Mom makes a good comment about whose side Daria might be perceived as being on when the revolution happens. But Mom is not the best observer of history. Mike Duncan's Revolution podcast really brings out some commonalities in successful revolutions. For starters they are formed of two groups. 1 is the exploited underclass who do the fighting in the streets. 2 are members of the professional, middle class. People with an education who can both organize, but also can talk to the upper class in a language they can understand. You know, lawyers. If you only have #1 you just have riots that burn out after a little while. If you only have #2 you just have people talking about change but never taking action. I could easily see Daria as a future John Adams.


Very good point! I haven't heard the podcast, though your description does remind me (oddly) of the Theory and Practice of Collective Oligarchism, the book-within-a-book of Orwell's 1984. Sadly, this Tamriel follows a pretty similar course to the Tamriel of the games. But one wonders what might have happened if the Septims had continued reigning. The Third Empire under their rule seemed at least to have pretty widespread literacy. High expectations combined with a slow and ossified ruling class could have led to a Tamrielic Enlightenment of sorts.

Might be a good AU fanfic in there for someone.

QUOTE(SubRosa @ May 7 2022, 08:18 PM) *

I love Daria's continued comments on the fortified nature of the manors.

I have to admit to wanting to hear Quinn play mean girl "frenemies" with Synda. I don't know how "popular" people have the energy for that.

I loved Daria's unspoken jab at the three mortal wizards.


Yeah, I never understood how people had the energy for that, either. It sounds exhausting.

Daria's opinions on the Tribunal will lead to some conflict with Jane farther down the line. I try to walk a balance in the presentation, since while I detest the Tribunal, I also realize that the vast majority of Dunmer have no idea what their gods are really all about. And, given that she's a representative of a colonialist and expansionist state (however reluctantly), Daria's probably not the best person to correct the Dunmer since anything she does will look like Imperial propaganda (and, in effect, be Imperial propaganda even though she's correct).

QUOTE(Acadian @ May 8 2022, 08:47 PM) *

Let’s party! Um, no, this is entirely too stuffy an affair where tense politicking and maneuvering overwhelm the savory smells wafting through the air. I do find it a hoot to note that the pompous Dunmer of the ‘Great Houses’ go to great lengths to be seen in the latest Imperial (not Dunmer) fashions. In the case of our host, that even includes sporting trophy Imperial on his arm. Quinn has already learned to put their fashion festish to use.


Heh! From my understanding, "teenagers" as a distinct group are kind of a modern marketing invention. Since this is still a vaguely medieval/Renaissance/early modern setting, I figure that there wouldn't be such a sharp distinction. Which is also why Daria and Jane can drink booze without anyone batting an eye.

The Imperial fashion is really more of a Great House Hlaalu thing. The other Great Houses wouldn't be caught dead in anything but traditional Dunmer clothing (save for Great House Telvanni, whose wizard lords will wear whatever they want--or nothing at all--as the mood strikes them). But yeah, shows how Hlaalu sucks up to the Empire.

QUOTE(Acadian @ May 8 2022, 08:47 PM) *

Despite the restrictions, Jane seems happy to be coming along – that is good.

Nice job setting up and describing this tense situation.

I learned a couple new words from you - paroxysms and entrepôt. Neat! smile.gif


Thanks!


QUOTE(Renee @ May 9 2022, 01:27 PM) *

QUOTE
"By the way," Quinn said, "I was talking to Briltasi Talori, you know, of the Talori family, and she invited us to this big party she's having on Loredas. It sounds like everyone's going to be there, so it'd be great for me. And the rest of you, of course. Maybe not you," she finished, looking at Daria.


Oh gosh that's rude! Briltasi's really full of herself.

Do Dunmer dance? If you're in Suran they certainly do sometimes. embarrased.gif


Ha ha! I actually slightly regret not having dancing in this party. Even if it's not normally associated with Dunmer, these are Dunmer closely linked to the Empire, so they might pick up some Imperial habits.

QUOTE(Renee @ May 9 2022, 01:27 PM) *

Daria's Speechcraft goes up a notch with the success of her lie at the end of C2. Okay now let's read this party. I can already sense... I don't know... disaster? Plenty of faux pas moments? laugh.gif Whichever, you really describe the atmosphere at this party well. Sort of elegant, sort of stuffy. But also retaining the Dunmer style of slight contempt and haughtiness.

Oh goodness, I wonder what's going to happen. Something definitely disturbing, right?


That's what I was trying to do. The party is essentially work, since so much of it relates to networking. Goes right down to the table arrangements.

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier May 11 2022, 05:19 PM

Episode 3: An Invitation

Chapter 4


*****

Musical Intro - Daria was known for using a lot of pop and alternative songs to help set the tone of the series. Since this is a Daria fanfic, I figured I'd do the same and add musical intros/outros to some chapters. I'll try to lean toward stuff that was already around in the '90s and early '00s, including some that were featured on the show, but I won't strictly limit myself to those. Anyway, for this chapter, it's going to be:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LvCzxhvpfsA

*****

The Taloris went all out with dinner. Appetizers of fried saltrice strands and gelatinous eyestars paved the way to a heroic main course of ornada (an ornada resembling a cat-sized ant that tasted like lobster) braised in comberry wine and served in its still bright-red carapace, its fat legs curled tightly under its thorax. Bowls of marshmerrow pulp mixed with shredded ash yams served as dessert. Servants refilled emptied cups with imported rice wine from central Cyrodiil. Having grown up off Gold Coast, not too far from western Cyrodiil's grape country, Daria reasoned that she probably found the drink just as strange as the Dunmer did. Strange, but by no means bad.

And a welcome relief.

Some of the families put aside bits and pieces of their meals for their servants, who stood in a state of famished torment as the feast's riot of sweet and sour smells filled the enormous room. Other families didn't bother.

Daria kept staring guiltily at Jane, who looked completely absorbed in her artwork. Jane's plan had been to make a quick and flattering painting of the Morgendorffers and show it around to advertise her skills. Never a big eater, Daria put aside a generous amount for her only friend.

All the while the room buzzed with conversation. Words snapped in and out of her ears, never enough to piece together a full conversation. Mom took note of every missed opportunity, she was sure, but how could anyone talk on and on about getting good deals on Solstheim furs or exactly how much money the Sloan family really had? Quinn and Jolda talked, or at least Quinn did, Jolda nodding and smiling in response. Dad seemed interested in whatever Jolda's father had to say.

Thoughts of the attack kept replaying in Daria's mind, undeterred by her one and a half cups of rice wine. All the while Synda ate her meal at the neighboring table in complete serenity, Daria's pain no more than an amusement.

How many of the other Dunmer would find it equally amusing?

Not fair to think that, she noted. But she couldn't quite get it out of her head.

Finally, the meal ended, and the social mingling began. Daria stood up and took the bowl she'd reserved for Jane, complete with a full ornada leg.

"Hey, give Jane some of ours, too," dad said, piling some marshmerrow into the bowl. Mom and Quinn followed suit until the small vessel threatened to overflow.

Pleased at her family's generosity, she added a spare fork to the meal and walked over to Jane, who was still busy at work.

"Got this for you," Daria said. "Sorry it's so late."

Jane's eyes widened as she took the bowl. "Wow, I was not expecting a whole ornada leg?"

"I think so?" Daria said. "Hard to know given I've never seen an ornada before tonight."

Jane grabbed the segmented leg and ripped into it with her teeth, tearing off the translucent red carapace before biting into the white flesh beneath, flecks flying off the side of her mouth.

Daria blinked in surprise. "Uh, I also brought you a fork," she said.

"Forks are for rich people," Jane mumbled between bites.

"I don't think socioeconomic status really affects one's ability to use utensils."

Jane paused. "Seriously, Daria, I don't know how to use one. And I'm not going to waste time learning when there's this delicious meal in front of me! And thank you again for bringing me this!"

Daria looked at the drying painting while Jane ate. Jane had made the image in swift broad strokes, trying to capture as much as she could in the limited time available. For all that, her intent had come through: the Morgendorffers as refined and tasteful members of the merchant class. The painted Daria, smiling and sans glasses, engaged in conversation with a Quinn who noxiously managed to look even more graceful and lovely on canvas than in reality.

"It's beautiful. But if you think that's how we look then I think you might be the one who needs glasses," Daria said.

Jane shrugged. "Hey, a lot of the people in these walls hire artists to flatter. Not many want paintings of what they really look like."

"Kidding aside, it is excellent. How did you do it so quickly?"

"I took a few shortcuts. Most people won't notice." Jane tossed the now-empty carapace on the floor. "That's the nice thing about selling to the artistically illiterate."

"Not to mention ethically bankrupt," Daria added.

"Now come on, I need your help once this dries out," Jane said. "Remember, I'm your menial, so you need to break the ice for me. Wouldn't look good to have a lowborn like me pestering all these good people. Plus, it gives you a chance to network."

"Mutual exploitation is the foundation for any good friendship."

Jane shrugged. "Seems to work for Hlaalu and the Empire."

"Let me get another one of these, first," Daria said, taking her empty cup and filling it to the brim with warm rice wine. A nearby servant watched her initiative with a disapproving frown, which she chose to ignore.



*********



Karl the Unctuous (though he knew he'd one day be called Karl the Lover, or perhaps Karl the Golden like his father) observed the wondrous array before him and hid his gut-wrenching terror behind a smile.

Dinners like this were the perfect opportunity to meet new and interesting people. And from there, well, anything could happen, and his heart soared at the thought of soft kisses and perfumed arms. He'd left nothing to chance, styling his curly red hair and shaving with great precision to avoid any unsightly nicks or scratches. His extravagant yellow coat gleamed in the lantern light.

And he had one more way to make himself (hopefully) sound and look like the man he wanted to be.

The three lunkheads from Drenlyn were again drooling over Quinn and arguing as to the best way to woo her.

"Girls like dancing, so we should ask her to dance!" Jonus said, perspiration causing his lank black hair to stick to his brow.

"There's no music, dummy! I don't think this is that kind of party," Julien disagreed, drink and heat rendering his face almost as red as his coppery hair.

"So two of us could like, sing or something," blond Jeval suggested, his black Bosmer eyes fixed on the object of his fascination, "and the third one dances with her."

"Sure," Julien scoffed. "I volunteer to dance with her while you two suckers sing!"

"No way!" Jeval protested. "It was my idea, I should be the one to dance with her."

Karl announced his presence with what he hoped was a knowing chuckle. It got the trio's attention, at any rate.

"What's so funny, weirdo?" Jonus demanded.

"Simply observing your intense but perhaps myopic ardor for the admittedly stunning Quinn Morgendorffer."

"Does anyone know what the hell he's talking about?" Jeval asked.

Karl straightened up and tugged at his coat's silver-threaded lapels. If he spun this the right way, he could make a tidy profit from his plan.

"Gentlemen, I believe we pursue the same goals," he announced, thrusting a bony index finger into the air.

"Get lost! We saw Quinn first!"

Karl cleared his throat and let his arm drop. "I mean, we'd all like to win the hand of a lovely maiden. I certainly would not intrude on your quest for the luscious younger Morgendorffer. But mortal Men and Mer that we are, it'd certainly behoove us to smell our best, so to speak."

The three stared at him with blank expressions. Karl waggled his eyebrows and reached into his coat, taking out a long-necked porcelain bottle he'd carefully tucked away.

"I present to you none other than genuine Telvanni bug musk, the finest cologne in all of Morrowind--nay, all of Tamriel!"

He uncorked the bottle and held it out, just a bit so that he could pull back if any of the goons tried to grab it. A spicy and prickly scent drifted out from the open vessel, redolent of eastern Morrowind's arcane darkness.

Jonus sneered. "There's no way you got your hands on the real thing."

"On the contrary, my good man. My father's a deputy of the East Empire Company after all, and I am something of an, ahem, unofficial company agent," Karl said, following his words with a grin.

Being an intern was just like being an unofficial agent, he was pretty sure.

"So, are you going to share that with us?" Julien demanded.

"Share? No, not share, there are limits to even my generosity. But I may be willing to sell some portion of this enchanting aroma. There should be enough here for the four of us."

That way, even if wearing the musk failed to win him any lovelies, he'd still have coin to go toward a finer suit of clothes. Another brilliant plan!

The three went into a huddle, voices low and murmuring. They turned to face him once they finished, eyes wide with hope and mouths set in doubt.

"Before we pay for this, we want to see you try it out. Put some on yourself and then ask Quinn to dance," Julien said.

"No, you idiot! What if Quinn decides she likes him?" Jonus interjected.

Jeval settled it. "Put some on yourself and ask some other girl. Maybe that sister of hers or whatever."

Karl smiled and bowed. "Very well. Prepare to see the power of bug musk in action!"

He didn't actually know if this would work. Everyone said it smelled enchanting though it hadn't smelled all that great to him. Taking it from his father's cabinet had been a big risk--but how could he deny opportunity?

Karl opened the bottle again and poured out some of the clear liquid on his right hand. He dabbed it on his neck and brow, stifling a sneeze as he got a stronger dose of the stuff.

Now or never. Puffing out his chest he headed straight toward Daria Morgendorffer and the Dunmer girl she was often with. He ran his fingers through his hair, dreaming of the passion the two (or maybe three) of them would soon enjoy. Daria was no beauty but she certainly wasn't unattractive, in spite of the awkward spectacles barely balanced on her nose.

"Ah, if it isn't the lovely Miss Morgendorffer," he said, giving a florid bow. Already he imagined her senses intrigued by the powerful fragrance that clung to his body. "So often I've seen your beauty gracing the drab halls of Drenlyn Academy, yet we've never had the chance to interact. So, pray tell, where have you been all my life?"

He leaned close. Would she just go in and kiss him after the preamble? Did girls do that?

No expression stirred her stoic face, eyes cold and distorted behind the thick lenses. "I've been staying as far away from you as humanly possible, something I intend to continue doing for the rest of your life."

She turned and walked away with her friend.

Karl tried to halt the panic rising within his chest. "I'll be here when you lovely ladies are ready," he said.

The trio was already jeering.

"I knew it! Whatever he has in that bottle isn't the real thing," Jeval huffed.

"It absolutely is the genuine item!" Karl protested, his voice getting reedier as his words quickened. He knew that for a fact!

Brainstorming for an excuse, he continued. "But perhaps I didn't use enough. I know exactly what to add to the mixture to make this bug musk live up to its reputation. Rest assured, I am a proficient alchemist!"

He'd taken a few alchemy lessons, at any rate. Karl looked for an escape route. "I'll be back shortly!" he said, hurrying deeper into the manor home, heart pounding and very much needing a few moments to recalibrate himself and his cologne.



*********



"I guess you had to run into Karl the Unctuous sooner or later," Jane said, as the skinny Nord hurried away.

"Whatever connections he has can't be worth it," Daria said. "And I think even my mom would back me on that."

"His dad does run the East Empire Company's Balmora office."

"All the more reason to avoid him."

"It's a pretty dinky office, anyway. So one unworthy prospect shot down, a few dozen more to go." Jane eyed the crowd.

Daria sighed. "You know these people better than me. Who isn't awful?"

Jane frowned. "Hmm, that might not be the best metric by which to pick. Hey, how about Serjo Talori himself? Since you're already giving into corruption you might as well go all out."

Daria glanced at the master of the house, who was chatting with a wealthy-looking Imperial couple. He did seem at ease with outlanders. Though his own wife had still been seated at the other outlander table, matrimonial bonds be damned.

"I guess I don't have a choice."

"Just remember to bow," Jane said. "Both when you meet him, and when you leave. Refer to him as Serjo Talori--nobles always get the 'serjo'. Keep your eyes a little downcast, like you can't quite bear to bask in his radiance. Give your parents' names before you give yours. Talk him up on being part of Hlaalu, he'll love that. Make sure your hands are open, not balled up in fists like they are right now. I think that's it?"

"You think? Maybe you should do this, Jane."

"You're not noble, but you are respectable. Us Llayns are proud menials. Come on, you'll be fine. Serjo Talori does a lot of business with outlanders, so he's used to the occasional screw-up."

Jane put her hand on Daria's back and nudged her forward. Daria's booted feet shuffled on the flagstones.

"Oh, don't shuffle either," Jane warned. "Forgot to mention that."

Resigned, she took proper steps, her stiff clothes fighting her every inch of the way. When she reached Sedrane she bowed and waited expectantly. He continued chatting.

Daria glanced at Jane, hoping for a hint. But Jane had her gaze on the floor, hands clasped around the painting.

"Excuse me," Daria said, a bit louder than she'd intended to.

Sedrane stopped in the middle of describing saltrice investments in the Ascadian Isles.

Trying to strengthen her position, Daria met Sedrane's gaze head-on. "Uh, good evening Serjo Talori. I'm Daria Morgendorffer, and I wanted to thank you for this lavish meal and for inviting me and my family. Uh, congratulations on being a part of House Hlaalu."

Only then did she remember that she wasn't supposed to look him in the eyes and that she wasn't supposed to have her hands clenched. She released her grip but didn't turn her gaze.

"And who are you?" Sedrane asked.

"I just said--" she stopped, remembering that she was supposed to introduce her father. "I mean, I'm Jake and Helen Morgendorffer's daughter." Her words came out more acidly than she'd intended.

"Ohh, of course. My daughter suggested your family." Sedrane chuckled. "I've heard of your father, he helped the Hlerso family close that deal in Seyda Neen a few months back. Impressive work."

"He did," Daria said, remembering the transaction in question. "Anyway, I'm training at Drenlyn to be a savant. And uh, this is my friend Jane, who is an artist."

Weight lifted from Daria's shoulders the moment she diverted Sedrane's--she'd be damned if she ever thought of him as Serjo Talori--attention to Jane.

"Thank you, Mistress Daria," Jane said, her voice suddenly crumpled up like old parchment. "The Morgendorffers were kind enough to request my services so that I might capture the honor of your invitation in paint. This is but a practice draft, but I pray I was able to portray the refinement and grace of my employers."

Chills ran down Daria's spine. The confident Jane was gone, replaced by a bowing and cringing girl she barely recognized. Sedrane leaned in for a closer look at the painting.

"Not bad," he said. "The brushwork gets a little lazy at the edges."

"My apologies, Serjo Talori. And to you, Mistress Daria. I assure you that the finished product will not be marred by such carelessness."

"I'm a bit of an art aficionado myself," Sedrane said. "I tend to prefer traditional Dunmer styles. In painting, if not in wardrobe," he added, with a chuckle, turning slightly to show off his coat.

"I've seen some more traditional work from Jane. It's excellent," Daria said.

Sedrane faced her. "Given that you're an outlander, how would you know what makes for good Dunmer art? Anyway, I have plenty of native artists I can choose from. I can tell that your artistic menial isn't from Morrowind. But I'm sure plenty of other outlanders would love to hang her scribblings on their walls. Good evening, ladies."

Daria was too angry to remember to bow.

"How could you stand that?" Daria demanded, as they walked away.

"It's just how it is."

"And how did he know you're not from here? You're both Dunmer. You're wearing Imperial clothes, but so is he."

Jane shrugged. "They always know, Daria. Don't ask me how, they just do. Anyway, one more on the reject pile. Who else?"

"Is 'nobody' an option?" Daria asked.



https://dariawiki.org/wiki/Charles_Ruttheimer_III - Easily the most loathed student in the show's Lawndale High, Karl the Unctuous is similarly hated. He's sleazy, but too inept to be terribly harmful.

https://en.uesp.net/wiki/Tamriel_Rebuilt:Beasts#Ornada - This is an antlike critter. It's only found in the Tamriel Rebuilt mod, which is loosely canonical to this series (in broad geographic and cultural strokes, anyway).

Posted by: Acadian May 12 2022, 08:45 PM

"Mutual exploitation is the foundation for any good friendship."
Jane shrugged. "Seems to work for Hlaalu and the Empire."

tongue.gif

Oh, bug musk. . . . That sounds like quite the way to win the heart of an Imperial lass from Cyrodiil. blink.gif

Well done to Daria on her appropriate response to Karl.

Thank Kynareth that Jane is there for Daria. Despite the coaching and reasonable performance from Daria, Serjo Talori quickly reveals himself to be a pompous jerk typical House Hlaalu Dunmer. Ugh. Looks like a long evening ahead for Daria.

Posted by: SubRosa May 13 2022, 12:24 AM

I look forward to hearing some Mystik Spiral tunes, like https://youtu.be/QLD8InxxZG4, or https://youtu.be/husIwFEaFqc. I wish Trent's band was real, because I'd love to go see them.

Once again, I liked the not so subtle nod to the Classism in evidence. The servants literally eat the scraps from their master's plates.

Wait, Jane painted Daria smiling, and without her glasses! Nine Divines save us! laugh.gif

I know he is an absolute creeper, but I always had a soft spot for Upchuck. I guess unlike modern Incels, he always felt harmless to me. Granted, it is animated. All the characters are "better' than their counterparts would be IRL. Even Kevin and Brittany are often nice to Daria. They insult her without even knowing it. Where the real jock and cheerleader would be mocking her on purpose.

Upchuck has a secret weapon! The (in)famous bug musk! Now I see his plan. He's going to sell it to the Three Stooges. Now I really do respect him. That is how to do Capitalism. Erm, I mean entrepreneurship.

But not even the mighty Bug Musk of the Telvanni Wizard Lords can make a dent against Daria's cool demeanor. Only Trent can do that.

Wow, Jane knows how to lay it on thick for the snobs. But to no avail. Snobs are snobs everywhere.

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier May 14 2022, 04:40 PM

So I've settled into an update schedule of Wednesday and Saturday. Does this work for people? I can change it if not.

@ Acadian - The first of many long evenings...

@ SubRosa - Don't fret, Trent will appear... in the next episode, as a matter of fact. He's a bard here (surprise, surprise).

At the very least, Upchuck doesn't have the stewing anger and resentment seen among some incels. He's just a really inept '90s style pickup artist who believes his own hype.

Episode 3: An Invitation

Chapter 5


Karl had disappeared somewhere. Jonus, Julien, and Jeval argued about what to do next.

"Maybe Karl just screwed up the delivery. Maybe that bug musk was real!" Julien hadn't quite given up on the idea.

Jeval sniffed in disapproval. "No way. Karl's always full of it."

Jonus settled it. "Even if it was real, we're not creeps like he is. We don't need some crappy perfume. But we still gotta do something!"

"So we just all ask her out now?" Julien wondered.

Jeval wasn't satisfied. "But which of us gets her?"

"That's up to her," Jonus said. "Look, if none of us gets her, some other guy will, so we better make a move! There she is now, headed toward the refreshments!"

Sure enough, Quinn was walking toward the drinks table, so graceful that she seemed to hover above the floor, her feet untainted by its dust.

Jonus got there first, cutting in front of her. "Hey, Quinn! Do you want me to get some wine for you?"

He'd scarcely finished when Julien made his pitch. "I'll get you two goblets of wine!"

Jeval stood on his tiptoes to be seen over his friends. "I'll get you three!"

Quinn's irresistible lips turned up in a goddess's smile.

"Hmm, I guess you could get me some water," she said.

Immediately all three rushed to the table. Julien lunged only to be blocked by a quick parry from Jonus. Agile Jeval darted in and grabbed a clay flask, light fingered hands closing around the neck only to have Julien pull it out of reach. Julien grunted in pain as Jonus stepped on his foot and grabbed the flask.

Jonus spun around on his heel, dropping on one knee and holding it out.

"Here you go!"

"No fair!" Jeval bellowed.

"That should've been me!" Julien insisted.

But their goddess had already picked up the flask and raised it to the pink bow of her lips. She gave a contented sigh of satisfaction as all three watched in awe.

"That was nice. Now I'm hungry. Who wants to get me a snack?"

Again, all three volunteered.



*********



"Let's see," Daria said, as her headache worsened. "So far, I've inadvertently insulted at least three local notables, including the host, and completely alienated a fourth."

"All in a night's work," Jane said. Her cheerful tone belied her furrowed brow and tense jawline.

Daria knew she hadn't actually done anything to help her friend. Social niceties always eluded her, their rules as inconstant as quicksilver. Easier by far to focus on the facts of history and geography and law, which only changed slowly and through proper channels.

Somewhere in the distance Daria heard Quinn's high-pitched and delicate laughter, the kind she practiced in front of the mirror and not the lower-toned laugh she made when she actually found something funny. Never hard for her to play a role. Hopefully Quinn's efforts would make up for Daria's failures.

"Hey, what about Jolda?" Jane pointed at the Redguard girl, who was chatting with the legion officer she'd been sitting next to.

Daria had avoided Jolda, too embarrassed at having barely said a word to her over dinner. But with the night coming to a close, she needed to try. "What do you know about her?"

"Her parents are both wealthy." Jane stepped in close, her raspy voice lowering to a whisper. "There's a rumor that her dad has a charter to tinker with Dwemer artifacts."

"Okay, that's actually legitimately impressive."

Jane stepped back. "Don't ask her about it, though."

Daria decided to try talking with Jolda. She was almost at the end of her rope, though. Worse, her cumbersome robe was practically cooking her in the now hot and crowded feast hall, its air dense with droning conversation and alcoholic fumes. How could anyone network in this kind of environment?

She reached Jolda and paused for an awkward moment of silence before speaking. "I didn't properly introduce myself earlier," she said, her words flat and quick. "I'm Daria Morgendorffer."

"Jolda at-Armand," she said. "Your family seems really nice."

"Don't worry, it's just a facade. They're as venal as everyone else in Balmora," Daria remarked, her tongue outpacing her brain. Instantly she realized her own stupidity, red blooming across her cheeks. "Uh, sorry, can we forget I said that?"

Jolda laughed. "It's okay. The corruption here is pretty galling."

Daria relaxed. This might not be so bad after all.

"I'm Maiko," the officer said, with a curt nod. "Agent of the Imperial Legion."

"He's stationed in Moonmoth Legion Fort," Jolda explained, "attached to the diplomatic corps."

"That last bit's why they sometimes let me out to mingle with the locals. Sure beats another night in the barracks!"

"He's my... escort for the evening, but we've met a few times before," Jolda added, eyes furtively darting back to her parents, who were engaged in discussion with Sedrane.

"Uh, great," Daria said. "So what do you do in Balmora?"

Jolda took on a thoughtful mien. "I keep a relatively busy schedule. In addition to my historical and legal research at Drenlyn Academy, I'm an intern at the East Empire Company and a guest scholar at the Balmora Mage's Guild. When I have time, I go down to Moonmoth and help out at the Imperial Cult chapel."

Daria nodded. "I like to read," she said.

"Me too. What are some of your favorite books?"

"Well, I really liked the works of Zylmoc Golge growing up. Something about entombing people alive just sits right with me." Daria tensed at the last moment, anticipating another faux pas. Golge wasn't a respectable writer. But Jolda just smiled.

"You have an interesting sense of humor," she said. "But yeah, I like Golge, too. 'Chance's Folly' is one of my favorites, even if it is pretty dark."

Still a little anxious, Daria decided to change the subject. "The Dunmer you see next to me is Jane, a skilled artist." Daria took a deep breath. How was this going to work? Jolda didn't seem to like the hypocrisy that was in vogue, and Jane's art was anything but an honest portrayal. "My family hired her to capture our likenesses at dinner. You can, uh, see for yourself."

Daria heard her own words falling flat as she spoke. Dammit, Jane deserved better! And the painting was magnificent on technical terms, especially considering the time constraints. But Jane had already stepped up with her finished canvas, showing it to her new audience.

"That's amazing!" Jolda said, admiring the work.

But did Jolda mean that? Hadn't she just complained about corruption?

Daria's headache got worse and she squeezed her eyes shut. Noise and the distortion of her lenses made for a nasty combination. The three cups of rice wine probably hadn't helped either.

"I've done some work for the Morgendorffers before, along with the Hastiens, Clanlers, and others," Jane continued. "So if you need anyone painted, I'm your gal."

Jolda met Jane's gaze. "My dad's always saying he wants a good artist to paint his portrait, so I'll let him know."

"Please do! I'm at Drenlyn Academy a lot, so just let me know when he's ready."

They talked for a bit longer, Jane leading the conversation as Daria's headache deepened. Maiko didn't talk as much, other than saying that bulky Moonmoth Legion Fort, east of Balmora, was pretty boring.

"Speaking as a soldier, I guess boring is better than the alternative. Besides, Balmora's got its charms and I get sent here more often than most."

Finally, they drifted apart. Daria's head was pounding, as if she'd skipped past inebriation and straight into the hangover. Parties had that effect on her.

"That went well!" Jane said.

"How did it go for you?"

"Maybe she'll tell her dad, maybe she won't. There aren't many guarantees with this sort of thing."

"Was I able to help or not?" Daria asked.

"You helped some. Now I'm better known. And you gave me the best dinner I've had in years."

Daria had forgotten all about the leftovers.

"You still need one more connection," Jane said.

"No," Daria said. "I made two. I'm counting Maiko."

"I'm pretty sure your mom wanted you to make two rich friends," Jane said.

"Sure, Maiko's rich. He's rich in the discipline and spirit of the military that's protected the Empire's hegemonic ambitions for so many centuries. And if mom's bothered by that she can take it up with the emperor."

Daria leaned again the wall. She took off her glasses and rubbed her aching temples with her free hand. This pair definitely wasn't as good as her old one.

"Gee, Daria, are you okay?"

Daria blinked at the tell-tale squeak of Briltasi's voice. She searched the haze of her vision.

"Briltasi's a little to your left, Daria," Jane said.

Grunting, Daria gave up and put her heavy, painful glasses back on, the world lurching back into focus. "Hi, Briltasi. I'm actually not feeling that great."

"Hmm. You could go up to my room and lie down for a while. You're not going to get... sick or anything, are you?"

"No, I think I just need some quiet."

Briltasi reached into her sleeve and took out a metal key, offering it to Daria. "Here. My room's upstairs, first door on the left. Just lock it when you go in. I don't want anyone else going in there."

Daria realized that, whether she'd intended to or not, she had made another connection. Briltasi might not be the brightest, but she was friendly. That counted for a lot in Morrowind.

"Thank you," she said, bowing slightly and then taking the key. "By the way, did you see my friend's art?" Daria asked, pointing at Jane's canvas.

Briltasi blinked. "Why would I look at a menial's—oh wow, that's really pretty!"

A guileless smile brightened Briltasi's face. "Did you just do that tonight?" she asked.

"Sure did!" Jane said, flashing a grateful smile to Daria. "You like Imperial-style art?"

"I really do! My stepmom likes it too, but my dad doesn't."

"Do you and your stepmom have any financial independence?" Jane asked.

"Huh?"

"Would you two be able to pay me if I painted a picture of you?"

"Sure! You even figured out how to make Daria look pretty, so I can't wait to see how you make us look! You should meet my stepmom!" Briltasi said, grabbing Jane by the forearm.

"Have fun," Daria said. Satisfied with having helped her friend, she wove through the crowd to the hallway that led deeper into the manor, the key pressed against her sweaty palm.



*********



"Did Serjo Talori give you permission to be here?" the glowering Dunmer servant demanded.

Still with his partially empty bottle of bug musk, and a new layer of sweat on his skin, Karl the Unctuous made an indignant sniff from his hiding place next to a mostly full clay washtub in a damp storage room.

"I don't think Serjo Talori would care for his menials interfering with the son of a key business partner," Karl said, raising his nose in the air. "Of course, as long as you respect my privacy, I'll keep silent about your little breach of etiquette."

The servant grumbled but walked off, leaving Karl alone. His mind turned back to ingredients and portions and mixtures. None outside of Great House Telvanni knew exactly what went into bug musk—well, other than bugs and musk, but which bugs and whose musk?

He reached into his pocket and took out the ingredients he'd nicked from the kitchen: kreshweed fibers, sweetpulp, and an ash yam.

This probably isn't a good idea, he thought.

But how could he know unless he tried? Maybe he'd improve on the bug musk formula and in so doing make himself one of the wealthiest men in Tamriel!

Standing up, he laid the ingredients and the bug musk next to the tub and prepared to make history.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d73tiBBzvFM


https://dariawiki.org/wiki/Mack_Mackenzie - Mack was the token "smart jock" in the show, a general all-around decent guy. Football obviously doesn't exist in Morrowind, so I re-imagined him as a promising young legion soldier.

The rice wine references come about because I'm using the First Edition PGE/Project Tamriel as a basis for the rest of the continent. Here, central Cyrodiil is tropical with rice paddies instead of the forested land seen in Oblivion.

Posted by: SubRosa May 14 2022, 07:23 PM

You really nailed Jeffy, Joey, and that other J guy who are always orbiting Quinn.

Zylmoc Golge sounds like Poe. I wonder if they wrote The Fall of the House of Ushiel?

I loved Daria's quip about Mack being rich in the hegemonic traditions of the Empire! laugh.gif

"Sure! You even figured out how to make Daria look pretty,..."
Now that is exactly the sort of oblivious insult that Brittney and the other popular kids in the TV make all the time.

Upchuck is going to make his own bug musk? Hilarity is bound to ensue with that!

Posted by: Renee May 15 2022, 01:29 PM

I love Daria for all her verbal foibles. She's trying to do this yet keeps screwing up.

Maiko speaks exactly like an NPC stationed with the Imperial Legion. laugh.gif It's just like the dialog which returns when we click on Background or My Trade.

Oh man, this is awkward. Yes, the part when she tries to introduce Jane as a painter; it's just the sort of networking moment which really demands the right amount of boasting, without seeming to boast, if that makes any sense?

Poor Daria. I wonder if she's been poisoned.

QUOTE
"By the way, did you see my friend's art?" Daria asked, pointing at Jane's canvas.

Briltasi blinked. "Why would I look at a menial's—oh wow, that's really pretty!"


Oh my gosh. No!


Posted by: Acadian May 15 2022, 08:38 PM

Silly boys! Work it, Quinn!

Jolda seems refreshingly open to Daria’s sense of humor and honest opinions. And Maiko seems like a good sort as well.

Briltasi is charming in her own inept way.
"Sure! You even figured out how to make Daria look pretty,’
As SubRosa said, oblivious to the fact that this is an insult to Daria. Actually makes her rather likable.

Jane finally gets some deserved attention for her art.

Daria has scored a couple small wins here, but it looks like it’s taken its toll on her. Hope the rest helps.

Karl. Somehow, methinks this bug musk experiment will not turn out well. . . .

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier May 18 2022, 05:18 PM

@ Subrosa Heh, the book they referred to, https://en.uesp.net/wiki/Online:Chance%27s_Folly, did first appear in Morrowind. Sadly, I don't think Bethesda ever had any other in-game books by him.

The show often let viewers see the titles of the various real books Daria would read. Here, most of the books mentioned in the text are also in-game books (though one exception appears in this chapter).

@ Renee Networking even shows up a bit in Morrowind the game, mostly because of how the faction system works. Hang out with one group long enough, and rival groups might not want much to do with you (this is most notable with the Great Houses, but can pop up among the guilds in at least one case).

@ Acadian Much like Brittany on the show, Briltasi doesn't have a (deliberately) mean bone in her body. But she's also so well off that she doesn't much notice that others might have it worse.

Episode 3: An Invitation

Chapter 6


Jonus had succeeded in the quest to get Quinn some water. Jeval took the lead when it came to finding her the choicest hors d'oeuvres. When she claimed to have lost an earring, it was Julien who found her adornment, or at least an adornment that met her approval.

The three switched between watching each other and watching Quinn. She stood as lovely as a work of art, her smile impish and oh so beckoning.

"So uh, do you want to go out sometime?" Jonus asked. "We can check out the, uh, Fighter's Guild. They have some cool stuff there."

"Quinn's not going to wanna go to the Fighter's Guild!" Julien interrupted. "Hey, Quinn, we can go hang out at the riverside tomorrow. I can buy you some scrib jelly and we can throw stones in the Odai."

"Amateurs," scoffed Jeval. "My mom's making dinner tomorrow. Quinn, you want to join us? Traditional Bosmer cuisine's really good. No vegetables."

"You guys are all so nice," Quinn said.

They looked at each other in a moment of dawning panic, and then back at her.

"Nice?" they cried as one.

"And I really appreciate all the nice things you did. But I just think we're spending too much time together. I mean I've spent almost an hour with you guys, and there are still other cute guys I'd like to meet."

Julien whirled on his feet to face Jonus. "This is your fault, idiot! Fighter's Guild? She probably thinks we're a bunch of meatheads."

"My fault? If you guys hadn't taken your sweet time in getting her snacks and that earring, she'd totally have gone out with one of us!"

"Hey!" Jeval shouted, his reddened face now inches from Jonus's, "I got her that stupid earring right on time!"

"Guys, guys, you don't need to fight over me," Quinn cooed as the confrontation intensified.



*********



A bulbous paper lantern lit the second floor's narrow central hall, hanging from the ceiling like a glowing fruit. Spidery red and black Daedric script marked the paper, promising safety to residents and death to intruders.

Standing in the earthen hall, carrying a lit candlestick taken from the first floor, Daria felt like she was entering a cavern. The lantern's glow barely penetrated the hallway's gloom. Through an open window at the far end she saw the massive watchtowers around High Town, torches burning bright in the distance as the guards within kept their vigil in the darkened town.

Noise from below still emanated through the adobe floor and its thick rugs, adorned with stylized insect images, but Daria already felt better in the second story's comparative quiet. Turning to face the door, she inserted the key in the lock. Darkness and the distortion of her lenses made it impossible to see exactly what she was doing, but she heard a click after a few moments of fumbling.

Briltasi's room was more modest than she'd expected. A small but comfortable bed stretched out beneath a window of foggy glass. A heavy dresser stood at the foot of the bed, while pink willow anthers wilted in a vase by the windowsill. Western style tapestries of bounding deer and interlocking flowers hung over the rough walls. Next to the door squatted a stone triolith much like the one in Jane's apartment, showing Morrowind's Tribunal in all their stark and angular glory.

A book lay on the mattress and Daria lowered the candle for a closer look. The Romance of Sir Aethelred of Wayrest, and His Love the Lady Dufont of Daggerfall, and the Lamentable War Between the Western Kings. A classic within the fine Breton genre of trashy chivalric romances. Apparently Briltasi was the mushy type.

Walls suddenly shook and Daria jumped out of the bed. Earthquake? Something scuffled outside, just loud enough to be heard over the buzzing conversation beneath her feet. Daria lifted the heavy candlestick, tired eyes straining to see in the darkness.

Someone knocked on the glass.



*********



Karl the Unctuous held his breath. It was do or die.

The bug musk and his desperate last-ditch ingredients were lined up along the washtub. He put the kresh fibers in the bottle first, followed by the lichen and then some chunks of ash yam. Deciding to mix, he picked up the bottle and shook it around. The smell changed, slightly.

Then the bottle slipped from his hand and splashed into the tub. The placid surface erupted into a bright green foam as the diluted bug musk mixed with the water, which bubbled violently and spilled over the rim.

Hands in pockets, Karl made a quick exit as the hissing sound grew louder.



*********



The knock at the window came again. Cammona Tong? No, they wouldn't knock. They'd just kill.

"Uh, a little help?" came a voice from outside, unmistakably Dunmer but higher pitched than usual.

It didn't seem likely that an intruder would ask for help. So whoever was knocking probably thought he was supposed to be there.

Daria walked to the window, the glass too opaque to see through. She opened the one moving pane and stuck her head outside.

To her left was a young Dunmer man about her age, too skinny for his bulky bonemold armor. He'd placed a rickety and slightly too short ladder against the Talori manor's wall. He too leaned against the wall, his feet balanced on the ladder's top rung.

"Who the hell are you?" Daria demanded.

His face contorted in confusion.

"Uh, who the hell are you? Where's Briltasi, outlander?"

"I may be an outlander but you're the one trying to sneak in like a second story man. You answer first," Daria insisted.

"Oh, well I'm Kavon!" he said, taking one hand off the wall to point to himself with his thumb. His face registered the mistake a moment later, arms pinwheeling as he tried to keep his balance. Daria froze—no way could she stop him from falling.

Luckily, he managed to crash back into the wall.

"Whew! Anyway, Where's Briltasi?" he asked.

"Why should I tell you?"

"I answered your question, outlander!" he said. "So you gotta answer mine!"

"Like I said, you're the one who looks like a thief. Which means I ask the questions."

"I'm no thief! I'm a Hlaalu soldier. You know. Kavon Thanlen. I'm a pretty big deal around here."

Strange as the situation was, Daria did not feel threatened.

"A pretty big deal, huh? Which is why you're trying to sneak through a window on the second floor instead of joining the big party on the first."

"Aw, man! Look, Serjo Talori... well, I don't think he likes me because I'm not highborn. But Briltasi does like me, so, you know..."

Daria had somehow stumbled onto a lovers' rendezvous.

"I'll let her know you're here. Stay there on that ladder."

"Hurry up! It's hard to balance in this armor!"

Daria took the candle and walked down the stairs. The party seemed like it had gotten louder, harsh shouts mixing in with the regular chatter.

She reached the first floor just as a stinking mass of frothy green liquid spilled out from under a closed door and flowed into the feast hall. Shrieks erupted as a noxious odor, like soiled peppers, clogged every nostril.

Daria made a face at the smell.

Sedrane bellowed in rage as the foamy liquid spread across the stone floor. Quinn's three suitors grappled with each other in the liquid while Quinn shrieked about her ruined shoes.

Spotting Jane near the refreshments, Daria rushed over.

"Why do I always miss the good stuff? What happened?" Daria asked.

"Beats me! Those three idiots got into a fight and then suddenly... bubbly green slime everywhere! I kind of like the artistic boldness of it all." Jane made a face. "Though I could do without the stink."

"Oh no!" Briltasi wailed, nearby. "The party's ruined."

"By the way, Kavon's at the window to your room," Daria said.

"What? He has the worst timing!" she complained as she ran down the hall.

"Kavon?" Jane asked.

"Briltasi's secret friend," Daria said, as she watched Sedrane spew invective at every outlander who'd ever stepped foot on Morrowind.



*********



"Is that normal for parties here?" dad wondered as they walked down the darkened streets. He'd helped himself to a torch. The Commercial District was safe enough, but no point in taking chances.

"Dunmer celebrations can get pretty weird, but green slime that smells like bad cologne is weird even by our standards," Jane said.

"I just got these shoes and now they stink of whatever that awful stuff was! Oh, I should've stayed home!" Quinn lamented.

Daria enjoyed the cool night air, a welcome relief after the noxious party.

"Jane, would you like to stay with us for the night?" mom asked. "I'd rather not have you walking through Labor Town alone."

"That'd be great, Mrs. Morgendorffer."

"Splendid! You can join us for breakfast, too. And how did the party go for you, Daria? I trust it was productive?"

"I took a break in my busy schedule of alienating people to make a few new friends. Jolda, Maiko, and maybe Briltasi. And maybe Kavon."

Silence for a moment.

"Well, I'm proud of you," mom said. "That's a good start."

"I was hoping this would be a good finish. But thanks."



The End

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjTjtJDZomw

To be continued in Episode 4: The South Wall Cornerclub (single-chapter)

https://dariawiki.org/wiki/Kevin_Thompson - Lawndale High's preeminent jock is now a lowly city guard since Morrowind doesn't have football. Like Briltasi, Kavon's nice almost to a fault. Unfortunately, he's dumb. Really, really dumb.

https://en.uesp.net/wiki/Morrowind:Bonemold - For those curious, bonemold armor is the default armor of Dunmer guards throughout Morrowind. It's perfectly adequate as medium armor, and is mostly notable for its weird appearance.

Posted by: SubRosa May 18 2022, 08:23 PM

Kavon could be some form of athlete. Ancient Greece practically deified their Olympic athletes. Actually, not practically, they did. Even wars were sort of put on hold, and even people from enemy nations were allowed safe passage to attend the games.

Bethesda simply never bothered going into what sports people play in any of their games. But you could make something up. Or for that matter, Kavon could be a gladiator. They do have those in Morrowind, though granted that is in Vivec City in the Arena district. But Kavon could be a gladiator in training.

And the Three Stooges are fighting over Quinn. How terrible. I am sure she is just completely broken up over it. wink.gif

So it was UpKarl that caused the washing machine to boil over and cover the house with laundry detergent I mean, his experiment with creating Bug Musk that did that. Perfect!

Posted by: Acadian May 18 2022, 08:56 PM

Dunmer parties may be many things, but it seems boring is not one of them!

What a futile hoot as the Three Amigos stumble over themselves trying to woo Quinn.

Daria’s chance to rest bit is not in the cards. Looks like Kavon picked a bad night for a tryst.

Karl’s cologne mercifully gave Daria the chance to escape the party. Trashing Quinn’s shoes was just a bonus. whistling.gif

The only way to top this event would have been with a Sanguine ‘remove all clothing’ spell. . . oops, wrong game. wink.gif

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier May 21 2022, 04:40 PM

@ Subrosa - Okay, I'm not going to be able to get anything past you, am I? biggrin.gif Yeah, I took the ending from "Groped by an Angel" rather than "The Invitation".

And that's a good point about Kavon! Now I'm kind of wishing I'd written him as an arena fighter trainee. There's no arena in Balmora, but there's one in Vivec which is pretty close. One of the later stories does involve a short-lived arena popping up in Balmora, but more about that when we get to it.

@ Acadian - Daedric involvement always makes things more memorable.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hGcJA8fXvU

Episode 4: The South Wall Cornerclub

"Just watch your pockets," Jane warned. "There are a lot of greedy hands here."

Daria's right hand closed around the ten-septim piece in her lower coat pocket as Jane ushered her through the doorway of the South Wall Cornerclub. The smoke hit her before anything else, a dozen times worse than the smoggy evening outside, stuffed into a single adobe building, and strong enough to make her eyes water to the point of blindness. With that came the acrid stink of alcohol and other, less pleasant smells.

"You know, the only reason I agreed to go to this place with you is because my mom would be furious if she found out," Daria said, taking off her glasses to clear her teary eyes. "And she better not find out."

"Hey, I'm about to show you the real Balmora. Not the picture-book fantasy of Talori manor and Drenlyn Academy."

"And if I get knifed in a dark alley during this visit to the real Balmora?"

"Consider it another experience you can add to your resume. Aren't savants supposed to be worldly?"

"I try to become worldly by reading a lot," Daria said. "It's safer. More importantly, I don't have to work hard."

"Come on, let's go."

Jane waited just long enough for Daria to put her glasses back on before taking her hand and leading her through a dark and surprisingly twisty adobe corridor. Specks of candlelight revealed limp and torn tapestries hanging on the walls, their images long since blotted out by too many carelessly held drinks.

A red-and-white Khajiit woman leaned in the shadows of a corner, her golden eyes the brightest things in the hallway. Her tail twitched as Jane neared.

"Ah, Dunmer is here to see her brother play," she said, her words running together in a throaty purr.

"And I brought a friend this time," Jane said.

"Then Khajiit will be friendly to friend," the woman promised, gesturing down the bend in the hallway to a staircase leading down.

"What was that all about?" Daria asked, as she carefully navigated the uneven steps, the smoke getting thicker the deeper she went.

"Oh, that was Sugar-Lips-Habasi. She practically runs the joint, so I stay on her good side."

"I'm not sure it's a good idea to have a staircase right outside the drinking parlor," Daria said.

"Sure it is!" Jane said. "The rest of us get to take bets on which of the drunks will stumble and fall!"

Daria's foot dropped a bit further than she expected, the jolt sharp but momentary. "I'm getting the feeling it's pretty easy to stumble down this while sober."

"Sobriety's not something you'll have to worry about tonight, my friend."

Glass lanterns burned blue and dreamlike in the parlor's smoky haze, the foul air quivering with dozens of voices: Dunmer rasps, Argonian hisses, and the more familiar enunciations of human tongues mingled together in a lively babble. The mix of peoples made her think of the Lucky Lockup, but the rough-spun clothes of the patrons and the air of familiarity told her that the South Wall was a place for locals, not for travelers.

She supposed she counted as a local of some sort.

Jane guided Daria through the densely packed little room, seating her at a wooden table that probably had dozens of splinters poking out the surface.

Daria blinked again, light-headed and wondering if she was going to pass out. Dunmer buildings tended to be poorly ventilated, the race's throats and lungs already hardened by living in Tamriel's most volcanic region. Sure made things tough for non-Dunmer, though.

"Is your brother here yet?" Daria asked, speaking louder to make herself heard.

"Don't see him," Jane said. "He'll show up sooner or later. Probably later."

"What kind of music is he going to play?"

Jane shrugged. "With a crowd like this he's mostly just playing to make noise. Trust me, it suits him well."

The parlor was still uncomfortably dark, but Daria could at least make out the interior. Pretty standard set up: tables and benches, a publican's bar, and big clay bottles of alcohol. Dried up bittergreen vines hung from one corner, serving as both decor and a fire hazard.

Daria took the two pewter cups she'd brought from home and set them on the table. Jane had warned her that nothing in the South Wall was particularly clean, so she chose to bring her own drinking vessels. A Dunmer serving woman came by with a large jug, tilting it to pour some frothy mazte into the cups.

"I'll keep track of the tab," Jane offered.

As she spoke, a tall and thin Dunmer made space for himself at the corner framed by dehydrated plant-life. His hands, oddly delicate, held a worn Imperial-style lute.

"I'm Trent Llayn," he said, his tone almost bored. "And this is a song I call 'Fire-Eyed Woman'."

He raised his hand to cover a cough, and then let it fall to the strings. Daria watched, fascinated by the ease at which he performed, the dark and smoky room probably nothing to someone like him who'd traveled the length and breadth of Morrowind's Vvardenfell District, turning its ash-choked foyadas and jagged coasts into poetry...

Daria blinked again. The smoke must be getting to her. She took a sip of her mazte, which she knew would probably only make it worse.

Fingers stormed across the strings, the lute erupting into tune both angry and mournful. He played loud to be heard, not willing to let the mob shout him down. Daria leaned forward to get a better look, taking in his tousled black hair and seen-the-world red eyes.

"You singed me at the park, when I asked you for a dance,
You burned me when I wept, didn't care about my stance.
You're a fire-eyed woman as sweet as the moon.
But darling, oh darling, you'll doom me soon."

He snarled the lyrics with feeling ripped from his heart. The song was worlds away from the lugubrious bardic ballads and jaunty drinking songs she'd heard back on Stirk. Trent didn't recite the tales of others; instead, he turned his pain into song. A song with somewhat questionable lyrical construction, she admitted. But she loved the directness.

He said what he thought, just the way she wanted to.

No one in the crowd listened.

Daria watched transfixed until he finished his first song. A tap on her back got her attention and she turned around.

"You sure seem pretty interested in music all of a sudden," Jane said. "I tried to talk to you three times during that song."

"Oh, sorry. I'm just intrigued by the kind of music he plays. Is this the normal style in Balmora?"

"Normal here means temple hymns or war songs celebrating the horrible things we Dunmer did to our neighbors a few centuries ago. Trent can play those, but he likes to follow his own muse and South Wall's one of the only places that let him get away with it."

Daria's gaze had already turned back to Trent.



*********



Balmora roasted under the stars, hotter than a summer night in Stirk even though it was only mid-spring. Red Mountain's caldera glowed sooty on the northern horizon as it puffed volcanic toxins into the air and into the nostrils of everyone downwind.

Daria leaned back against the balcony walls around Jane's apartment, dizzy and sweaty and content for the first time she could remember. The darkened city seemed to spin merrily around her, its torches and lit windows like a sparkling kaleidoscope.

She, Jane, and Trent sat around a lantern, its brightness hemmed in by the smoky night. Jane was next to Daria, her eyes to the dark sky and with her hands clasped behind her neck. Trent rested on the other side, long legs sprawled out on the floor while he fiddled with a three-stringed instrument made from an insect carapace. He'd just taken it out from storage.

"What is that?" Daria asked, still letting the world spin around her.

"It's an Ashlander harp," Trent said. "Really old school. Not everyone likes it, but I think it has a richer sound."

"Ashlanders," Daria repeated, letting her thoughts settle. "Nomadic Dunmer, uh, pastors, I mean pastoralists who herd bugs. Big bugs. Transhumance."

"Hey, yeah. You're pretty smart!" Trent said.

"Uh, thanks," Daria said, wondering if her blush could be seen through her red-cheeked inebriation. "Have you spent a lot of time with the Ashlanders?" she asked, suddenly wanting to hear about Trent braving the toxic Ashlands and smoldering Molag Amur, needing only his poetry to keep darkness at bay.

"Heh, nah," Trent said. "I picked this up at a pawnshop in Ald'ruhn. Don't really know how to play it but it's fun to mess with sometimes."

"Oh. Well at least you're honest about it."

"I'm all about keeping it real."

Daria tried to get herself together. "Some philosophers say that it's better to be honest than to deal with the double-speakings of the rich and powerful. So in that way I think you're really philosophical."

She blinked. That wasn't quite what she'd wanted to say.

Jane clucked. "Hmm, I think you need some water, Daria. Luckily I still have some leftovers from the well this morning." She stood up and entered her apartment.

"How long will you be in Balmora?" Daria asked, turning back to Trent.

"A month. Maybe two. I like to keep it loose."

"You must have traveled a lot."

He shrugged. "I'm pretty local. Can't afford to go much farther than that."

"Is it dangerous to travel?"

"Can be. Got robbed a couple of times. Had to fight off a pack of nix-hounds another. I usually travel with a troupe these days. We're called Mystik Spiral, but we're thinking about changing the name."

"Where did you get that name?"

"I liked the spiral, 'cause it shows how everything comes back on itself, so you gotta go back to the source to get to what's real."

Daria tried to figure out what that meant. Somehow, even in her state, she was pretty sure it meant nothing.

Trent continued. "And mystic because mysticism is the best form of magic. Fireballs and lightning and stuff."

"Uh, actually," Daria corrected, "you're thinking of destruction. Mysticism is the use of magic to manipulate spiritual forces."

Trent nodded. "Right, what you said."

Jane came back with a jug of water.

"Now can you actually hold this and drink it, or should I pour it down your throat?" Jane asked.

"I'm fine!" Daria exclaimed, reaching out to grab the jug and missing it by a mile.

"Uh huh. I'll just put it down on the ground until you're ready to pick it up."

"You're a jerk sometimes. But thanks," she mumbled. Waiting a bit, she took the jug by the handle and lifted it up, drinking deep. The bitter ashen water cooled her dried lips and seemed to restore some clarity to her mind.

Trent started playing the Ashlander harp, his fingers more careful than they'd been with the lute, plucking each string as they danced up and down the neck. The tone, deep and mournful, somehow sounded a million miles away. She felt the music more than she heard it, the sound a quivering in the smoky air.

"I like the sound," Daria said. "But it's a little hard to hear."

"It is? Seems normal to me. Janey?"

"I can hear it fine. Wait, human ears might not be able to pick up the sound of an Ashlander instrument."

Trent stopped and looked up, his expression cool. "Sorry. Should I get the lute, instead?"

"No, it's fine," Daria said. "I still enjoy it."

"Let me tune this a bit more," Trent said, tightening the pegs at the top. He strummed the harp again, the sound clear. "Better?"

"Much. Uh, thanks."

Trent continued playing, his tune meandering between major and minor, slow and fast. No words that time. Probably for the best, Daria thought, even as she lost herself in the music.

They stayed out a while longer as the drink left Daria's head and the lantern dimmed. She tensed up for a moment, wondering what stupid things she'd said to Jane or Trent back at South Wall. But seeing them there, insouciant and relaxed, she realized it didn't matter.

As she sat there in the smoggy night, in the middle of a foreign world, listening to an instrument never intended for human ears, she realized Morrowind no longer seemed so bad.



The End

To be continued in Episode 5: The Guilded Age...

https://dariawiki.org/wiki/Trent_Lane - Jane's older brother, Trent, is the grungy, laid-back magician that set many hearts a-flutter back in the '90s, and Daria herself is no exception. I will say this version of Trent plays a much smaller role than he does on the show, but he's still around with his band...

https://dariawiki.org/wiki/Mystik_Spiral - Trent's band! And they're adequate. The music's fine enough for what it is, but marred by some of Trent's questionable lyrical choices. Examples below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3ITYLchLpU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18fMjSC7b48

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UA3UcxlIzPI

https://en.uesp.net/wiki/Morrowind:Sugar-Lips_Habasi- Very few Morrowind NPCs actually show up in this series, but she's one of them. As the link shows, she's actually really high up in the Balmora Thieves Guild.

https://en.uesp.net/wiki/Morrowind:South_Wall_Cornerclub - This cornerclub is actually the base of the Thieves Guild, but also serves its role as a kind of sketchy cornerclub. It's a stand-in for...

https://dariawiki.org/wiki/The_Zon - The grunge/alternative club in Daria's Lawndale.

Posted by: SubRosa May 21 2022, 09:11 PM

I love Daria's observation about reading being less work than experiencing things first hand! laugh.gif

Trent is singing. Oh boy, here comes some of that poetry...

Aaaaand there goes Daria's heart, all pitter patter for the musician. smile.gif I did like how it is not just youthful hormones, but the raw passion and forthrightness of Trent's performance that draws her in. Like every good punk band, what Trent lacks in polish, he more than makes up for with emotion.

You really nailed Trent, from keeping it loose, to thinking of changing the name of the Spiral. He was always one of my favorite characters in the show.

Posted by: Renee May 22 2022, 11:54 AM

Wow. So okay, I know it's just a paper lamp. But the way you go into describing it in the second part of this week's chapter... blink.gif It's just that I've often looked at those colorful lamps, but not really put into words how incredible they are. Uh oh.

Daria's in a cavern-like hallway??? Yikes. Let me shush for a few...

Uh oh.

QUOTE

The knock at the window came again. Cammona Tong? No, they wouldn't knock. They'd just kill


This made me laugh & intrigued at the same time. Hey, seems like Daria's headache is gone, or diminished. But she really does keep getting into all these oddly-adventurous moments. Other peoples' messes, and so on. And it's funny to me because Balmora (in fact, the entire base game) is so devoid of humor. Yet I keep giggling as I read this story here and there.

"I took a break in my busy schedule of alienating people to make a few new friends. "

laugh.gif

311 is great. Amber's my favorite.

Oh gosh. She just met Sugar-Lips. This is intriguing. Uh oh... don't drink the matze.

Trent speaks exactly like a Gen-Xer. Ya know, sort of vague. Like, I just hang here, man. Don't need to go too far... got my money, got my friends... got my lute. I'm good like that.

Ow! My face! laugh.gif

Posted by: Acadian May 22 2022, 08:46 PM

"With a crowd like this he's mostly just playing to make noise.”
- - I remember a conversation with SubRosa (I think it was SubRosa) about heavy metal bands and her remarking, “If you can’t be good, be loud.” I think Jane’s right though; in a little drinking bar like this, the crowd is probably looking mostly for background noise.

’Dried up bittergreen vines hung from one corner, serving as both decor and a fire hazard.’ laugh.gif

And it seems Daria be rather smitten by Jane’s musical brother. Nice to see her relaxing some, and even beginning to like Morrowind a little more. smile.gif

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier May 25 2022, 05:08 PM

@ Subrosa - Thanks! Daria's crush on Trent was a pretty big part of the show. It's actually not that major a part of this series, but I'd be amiss if I didn't at least acknowledge it.

I find that when someone falls for another person, it's not usually just looks. Yes, the presentation matters. However, there's often some other element that really triggers the attraction.

@ Renee - Aw, thanks. I really love the general vibe of Morrowind, so I try to do the best I can in translating the visuals to text. And it's good that you're giggling! This is supposed to be a comedy after all. Maybe it's more accurately called a dramedy (especially as it goes on). I don't really like the word 'dramedy' that much, but it does fit pretty well, I think.

@ Acadian - Much like the game itself, Morrowind takes a little while to get used to. But Daria's finding that there's a lot to enjoy if she can put up with some of the BS that comes with it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zhS3YP04Fjk

Episode 5: The Guilded Age

Chapter 1


Someone had tied a big slate to the sinuous beige stem of the academy's emperor parasol. Bold white letters on the slate proclaimed the following:



All Honored Students of Drenlyn Academy:

I am pleased to announce that many of the most esteemed families and notable institutions within Balmora are opening their doors to Drenlyn students this month. You are being presented with a fantastic opportunity to apply the skills you have learned within these walls, and to make valuable connections which will serve you (and the academy) well in the future.

I urge you all to take this chance to bring honor, and glory, to Drenlyn Academy, Great House Hlaalu, and the Empire that we all serve.

Application is voluntary but failure to apply will certainly harm your reputation.

- Magistrate Lli




Beneath that was a long list of families, guilds, and companies eager for fresh young minds to exploit. Standing next to Jane, Daria didn't do more than skim her options.

"If my reputation wasn't already as low as it could be, that last bit might actually sound like a threat," Daria said.

"Come on, Daria, this is a great chance for you to alienate new people."

"That still sounds like too much effort."

Jane stepped forward to get a better look at her options. "Not much here for me."

"You don't think you could wheedle a commission out of any of them?"

"Oh, I know I could. But look at this—the EEC wants a clerk, the Sloan family wants a scribe, the Shulk Egg Mine wants an egg miner. Wouldn't have much time to do commissions if I was doing any of those jobs."

"I'm sure that transcribing endless lists of assets for the Sloan family would be a rich source of artistic inspiration," Daria said.

"I think the only thing rich in that equation is them. Anyway, I have a professional excuse to not participate and I'm not even sure Magistrate Lli knows I attend this place."

Considering that Jane rarely left Defoe's workshop, she might have a point.

Daria smiled. "As for me, I look forward to seeing just how low my reputation can go."

The two went their separate ways that afternoon, Jane headed off to a client and Daria happy to go home. She dawdled at the river market for a bit and watched a burly Dunmer netchiman use a rope to pull his airborne beast above the crowd, its wiggling leathery tentacles colliding with the heads of annoyed passersby. She followed the netchiman from a healthy distance until one of the bull netch's tendrils hit the shoulder of a silk-robed Altmer and knocked him into the Odai's muddy waters. The resulting shouting match was a pretty good one by local standards.

Once home, Daria retreated up to the room she shared with Quinn (her sister mercifully still about town) and took a seat by the window with her copy of Jarth's The Argonian Account. As the setting sun's rays reddened Balmora's flat roofs and narrow alleys, she lost herself in the text's descriptions of Black Marsh's tangled jungles and the way the native Argonians got from place to place by traversing the spacious digestive tracts of miles-long worms.

Daria almost didn't notice when it got too dark, the black ink on the page becoming part and parcel of the shadows around it. She closed her eyes and massaged them through the lids. Time to get a candle.

"Daria!" dad called from below. "Dinner's ready! I made some ash yams!"

Great. More of dad's questionable cooking. And right when the story was getting interesting. Resigned, she put the book on her bed and walked down to dinner.

"One of my associates said ash yams make for great brain food," dad said down below, as he gave each family member one of the spiky tubers. "Perfect to make my already brilliant daughters even smarter. I cooked it with some—"

Quinn scooted closer to the table, her chair's legs scraping against the flagstones. "So the academy's having this big volunteer thing where you can make connections and stuff. I thought it sounded pretty boring but then I found out that this big cloth importer was looking for someone. I'm sure she'll appreciate my fashion advice."

"I'm proud of you, Quinn!" mom said. "That shows a lot of initiative." Her eyes swiveled to Daria. "And what have you volunteered for?"

"I've volunteered my time for solitary self-cultivation," Daria said. Steam from the ash yam fogged her glasses and she took them off, blinking in the dim candle-lit kitchen.

Mom made a disappointed sound halfway between a sigh and a groan. "Daria, you need to be more outgoing. How do you intend to be a savant if you have so few social connections? You can't get by in that field just by knowing a lot of trivia!"

Without her glasses her family became little more than vocal blurs sitting around the table. Steam still wafted in her eyes, thick with the yam's bittersweet aroma.

"I'll just find some noble who's as anti-social as I am. Not like there's a shortage of weird aristocratic recluses."

Without even being able to see her mother's face, Daria immediately knew she'd said the wrong thing. Mom's slow exhalation confirmed it.

"Daria, we aren't in Cyrodiil anymore. This is not a friendly place for people like us."

"I think it's friendly! I've made lots of friends here!" Quinn interjected.

"Doesn't anyone want to try my yams?" dad asked.

"Oh?" Daria decided to push back. "If it's so unfriendly here then why didn't we just stay back home? That way we wouldn't have to work double-time just to be accepted."

"You weren't accepted back home, either! Just what is your long-term plan, Daria? Sit around the house reading for the rest of your life? Do you know how much we have to pay the Hlaalu Council Company to live here? What do you intend to do when we die? Hope some rich Dunmer will marry you?"

Quinn laughed. "Good luck with that! I'll be the one who marries a handsome Dunmer aristocrat with a big country house out in the Ascadian Isles. Maybe if he has a nice brother or something I'll introduce you."

"The yams are getting cold!" dad fretted.

"Quiet, both of you!" mom ordered. "Daria, you will find something to volunteer for tomorrow and I expect you to make the most of it. That's final!"

Daria gulped. How the hell was she supposed to network in a place like this? It was worse than back home. She recalled the crunch of her old glasses breaking beneath Synda's foot, the pain of the clubs hitting her back...

Sitting in her room reading might not be a good long-term solution but it worked for the short term.

Daria slipped her glasses back on. Mom's face was red. Quinn watched, waiting for one or the other to make the first move. Dad stared at his yams, brow knitted in worry.

"What were some of the volunteer options?" mom asked, her voice level again.

"Daria should try the Mages Guild," Quinn said. "All those guys do is read books in dark rooms. She'll fit right in."

"I think that's an excellent idea, Quinn. And Daria, the intellectual atmosphere might make it easier for you to find like-minded friends."

"I barely even know magic!" Daria protested. "Don't I get a say in this?"

"Volunteers aren't expected to know much."

Daria crossed her arms. "And I don't suppose the fact that you've represented the Mages Guild a few times has anything to do with this?"

Mom met her gaze. "Why yes, as a matter of fact, it does. The Mages Guild is an Empire-wide institution that offers countless opportunities. And if, while volunteering there, you find out they need legal advice then please tell me. That way I can get more work with them which is something that would benefit everyone at this table. Daria, see what you can do there. You might even have some fun!" Her voice turned unnaturally sweet at the last few words.

"If no one else is going to try these yams I've been cooking since afternoon then I guess it's up to me to take the first bite!" dad fumed.

He grabbed the yam off his plate and ripped off a big chunk with his teeth. He chewed, jaws working and neck strained, staring at the family as if daring anyone to interrupt.

Dad's eyes suddenly went wide. He spat it out onto the plate to the sound of Quinn's disgusted cry. Then he threw the rest of the yam with enough force to send it sailing across mom's office and through the window into the street beyond.

Posted by: Acadian May 25 2022, 08:31 PM

"Come on, Daria, this is a great chance for you to alienate new people."
Well put, Jane! tongue.gif

A wonderfully done family dinner scene. Regarding the academy’s networking event, it rather sounds like an opportunity for nobles to get some free labor for a time. Quinn seems a natural at this networking/schmoozing stuff, though I wonder if her visions of being solicited for fashion advice will translate into the work of carrying and stacking bolts of cloth and such. Daria remains convinced that any such volunteer attempts on her own part will lead her to more problems. Mother really does seem to have the best interest of her daughters and family in mind with her manipulations and makes a rather convincing case for Daria to consider the Mages Guild. Meanwhile, Dad wisely knows how to stay out of arguments amongst womenfolk – probably from lots of practice. Finally, despite the superb build up, the poor ash yams end up as a ‘Fail’.

Posted by: SubRosa May 26 2022, 10:13 PM

"Application is voluntary, and all of you have been pre-registered to attend so that I receive the 100% attendance bonus payment."

- Magistrate Lli


Fixed that for you... wink.gif

Great, Internships! Lets get some free labor from college students. Capitalism, Capitalism never changes...

I love the little slice of Morrowind life, with the netch-wrangler and unintendedly aquatic Altmer.

Not like there's a shortage of weird aristocratic recluses
Now where do I apply for that job? It's right up there with Scoundrel in my dream careers.

Yep, that went the way a typical Morgendorferr dinner usually goes! Mom volunteers Daria for some chore, Quinn is self-absorbed, and Dad is completely oblivious to it all.

Wow, the Mages Guild! Quinn sometimes stumbles on a good idea, even if for all the wrong ideas. I have been wondering when Daria would start doing magic stuff. It seems right up her alley.

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier May 28 2022, 04:43 PM

@ Acadian - Yeah, ol' dad knows when not to get involved. In the show, Daria once describes him as "hiding behind a smokescreen of cluelessness". It's not that he doesn't know what's going on. Just that sometimes it's easier to pretend he doesn't.

I'll say right now that this story doesn't really touch on Quinn at all (beyond the first chapter). I suspect you're right, though: it won't be as fun as Quinn thinks.

@ SubRosa - That is 100% in-character for Li/Lli.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPfmNxKLDG4

Episode 5: The Guilded Age

Chapter 2


"You never told me you were a practitioner of the arcane arts," Jane said. "What else have you been hiding, Morgendorffer?"

It was two days after mom's ultimatum. Noontime's bright sun revealed every worn-down speck of filth on Balmora's adobe homes. Darkness suited most cities better, and this one was no exception.

Walking with Jane, Daria turned the corner to Guild Row where most of the chartered guilds kept their offices.

"I'm barely a practitioner! Back in Stirk I had this soft-headed tutor named Vandries who somehow managed to explain the basics of alteration, mysticism, and restoration. I can cast a few spells but magic's not something I know that well."

"Those aren't bad skills to have."

"I asked Vandries to teach me destruction and got a long lecture about how we should all love one another. Some time in Balmora would probably change his opinion."

They passed a black-robed Temple preacher, his hoarse voice praising Almalexia's virtue to the uncaring crowd.

"This might not be so bad for you. Aren't mages all about collecting books and secluding themselves from the world?"

"I wish they were." Daria sighed. "The Mages Guild is just another example of a corrupt imperial monopoly that abuses its power for self-enrichment and to bully competitors."

"Speaking as someone who's lived here a while... I don't know if I mind them all that much."

Daria looked over at her friend, a little surprised to hear her defend the Empire. Jane held up her hands.

"I'm not saying the guild isn't corrupt," Jane continued, letting her hands fall, "but at least they keep Great House Telvanni's wizards restricted to their weird little corner of Morrowind. I can put up with some corruption if it means not having to worry about a Telvanni lord deciding I'd be a good experimental subject."

Not sure how to process the information, Daria just grunted. She'd heard pretty awful things about Telvanni. But it wasn't as if Hlaalu was much better. Both profited from slave labor and double dealing.

"Corrupt or not, I don't have a choice."

"Isn't Jolda part of the guild? It can't be too bad if a goody-two-shoes like her works there."

"She's only in the guild as a guest scholar from the School of Julianos. The guild probably keeps Jolda at arm's length from anything corrupt. Here we are."

Daria stopped. The earthen buildings on both sides had gotten close enough together to almost squeeze out the sunlight. To her left hung a wooden sign emblazoned with the stylized eye of the Mages Guild.

"Well, good luck!"

"I'll need it," Daria said.

"Hey, if you learn some cool spells maybe you can go with Trent next time he tours! Mystik Spiral's always looking to add some pizzazz to their shows!"

"I hate you."

Jane's laughter rang in Daria's ears as she walked through the arch and into the cold shadowed space just before the front door. The place didn't look promising.

Why was it so hard to be left alone? Sure, her social skills weren't the best. But that didn't mean she had to throw herself headfirst into the guild. Except with mom nipping at her heels she basically did have to.

The thought of a secretive wizard's conclave conjured images of mystery and magic, of floating flames and arcane chants. But the hallway beyond the door could've belonged to any Balmora office, tapestries and rugs with abstract designs covering up the bland earthen surfaces. She followed a winding hallway down a steep ramp and into a vast basement too well-lit for the small number of candles within. An oak tree grew from a planter in the center, its leaves untouched by sunlight but somehow still green and vibrant.

So there was some magic, at least. But the rest looked mundane. Movable paper screens in wooden frames divvied up the room into a dozen or so smaller workplaces, each one occupied by a desk and a bored-looking wizard. No unidentifiable noises or auras here, just the sounds of sighs and quill pens scratching on parchment.

Only the Empire could make magic so boring.

Magistrate Lli had told Daria to look for one Associate Hetheria. She found Hetheria in a cramped office wedged between a monstrous desk and another of the ubiquitous partitions. An auburn-haired Imperial slightly older than Daria, she was busy writing a letter when Daria stepped up to her.

"Excuse me?"

Hetheria looked up, eyes uncomprehending. "You don't work here."

"I'm the volunteer from Drenlyn, Daria Morgendorffer. Magistrate Lli said she talked—"

"Oh, you're the new meat." Hetheria put her quill back in the inkwell.

"And it looks like I've just been served."

Hetheria waved airily. "Don't sweat it. So why did you volunteer for the Mages Guild?"

She decided to be honest. Maybe that'd annoy them enough to let her go. "Networking opportunities. At my mother's insistence."

"That's why a lot of us are here." She motioned for Daria to come in closer, which she did. "This whole volunteer thing is basically a crock, anyway. We take Magistrate Lli's clients to make her look useful to her bosses in Hlaalu. In return, the local Hlaalu bosses make sure to use this chapter's services when they want to look good for the Empire."

"And when they don't care about looking good?" Daria had to admit she was starting to like this woman.

"Then they get one of their own wizards to do the dirty work.

"That does sound like Hlaalu."

"You're catching on fast. Anyway, Drenlyn Academy's part of the system. At least you guys are all literate."

"That strikes me as an overly optimistic assessment."

"Ha! Anyway, I don't actually have much for you to do. We have some papers that need to be rolled up into guild-standard scrolls."

Daria considered it. Boring, but she probably wouldn't have to talk to anyone. Then again, her mom might get on her case for not networking enough. "Do you have any tasks that might require the literacy for which Drenlyn attendees are so famed?"

Hetheria smirked. "You don't get to pick assignments, kid. The Balmora chapter doesn't have enough people because Steward Artorius puts most of our resources into personal projects. And right now, there are a lot of scrolls that need to be rolled."

She pointed to another workspace, filled almost to capacity with a massive desk buried under a small mountain range's worth of papers. Next to it was a narrow cot where an elderly Orc woman slept on top of the sheets and shook the bed with her snores.

"Try not to wake Sharn up. She can be cranky. Get to it, volunteer."

Resigned, Daria crept to the desk and pulled the chair out with as little noise as possible. One of the legs scraped against the stone floor and Sharn made a rolling snort as loud as thunder, her massive body jerking with the effort. Daria sucked in her breath, but Sharn returned to her slightly-less-loud snoring a moment later.

Daria carefully sat down. A nearby candle on a brass holder burned but let off no smoke. Suspicious, she held her hand close to the flame. No heat: the candle was real, but the light was an illusion. She guessed it was cheaper than having to buy new candles each time an old one got used up.

She opened the drawer to her left which was filled with a hopelessly tangled mess of twine. She looked at the paper at the top of the nearest stack, wondering if it contained the secrets of a powerful spell.

The title read: Requisition Form for Ink Produced by Chartered Imperial Ink-Mixers and Reagent Extractors in Cyrodiil and Sent by Great House Hlaalu Merchants Using Animal and Ship Transport to Morrowind Province for the Purposes of the Approved and Chartered Guild of Mages Whose Practice of the Arcane Abides by Law as Determined by the Emperor and Interpreted by the Imperial Curia, and by Ethical Custom as Determined by the Priesthood of the Nine Divines and the Cult of the Ancestor-Moth.

This was going to be a long volunteer gig.

https://dariawiki.org/wiki/Mr._Van_Driessen Only mentioned in passing, but Daria's arcane tutor back on Stirk is based off her hippy teacher in Beavis and Butt-head.

https://dariawiki.org/wiki/Heather Heather only appears in one Daria episode (S1:E3 College Bored), as a cynical and extremely lazy college student. Her personality here is similar, but will get Daria in considerably more trouble.

https://en.uesp.net/wiki/Morrowind:Trebonius_Artorius In-game, Trebonoius is the head of the Mages Guild on Vvardenfell. This story, which takes place in 3E 424, so a few years before the game, has him as the steward of the Balmora office. In general, very few Morrowind NPCs have any speaking parts in this series. Artorius is annoying and useless as arch-mage, and is presumably no better as a steward.

https://en.uesp.net/wiki/Morrowind:Sharn_gra-Muzgob Mostly just mentioning her for completion's sake. She is pretty irritable, so Hetheria's warning is well-founded.

Also, for those wondering (probably SubRosa, since she's seen the show), this episode is based on elements of both "College Bored" and "Cafe Disaffecto". It ends up going in a much different direction than either episode, though.

Posted by: SubRosa May 28 2022, 09:35 PM

"This might not be so bad for you. Aren't mages all about collecting books and secluding themselves from the world?"
Ahhh, the classic mage from literature.

"The Mages Guild is just another example of a corrupt imperial monopoly that abuses its power for self-enrichment and to bully competitors."
The mages from Capitalism!

Neat to hear that Jolda is a sort of half-time MG member. Probably one of a dozen other things her parents are forcing her to do in addition to her regular school work. *sigh*

Poor Daria really is dreading the mages guild. It is either not cool and flashy enough, or too bookish! Of all things. Methinks she is just looking for superficial things to confirm her original low opinion of the MG. Who knows, maybe she will actually like being a magic user, if she just gives it a chance? Oh no, now I am sounding like her mother! laugh.gif

Oh joy, looks like Daria was right all along. Scroll rolling duty, yay! Maybe Mr. Miagi will come along later with his wax on/wax off lessons...

I loved the guild's version of an electric light with the illusory candle.

Posted by: Acadian May 29 2022, 08:29 PM

This is a cruel world. Mages are envied their power then reviled for using it.’ - - Shalador

Ironic that Vanus Galerion became frustrated with the rather exclusive arcane monopoly held by the Psijic Order and, during the Second Era, formed the Mages Guild primarily to make magic much more accessible to all. But like any organization, over time sometimes things don’t work out exactly as planned.

Too early to tell if Daria will warm up to the guild, but it ain’t lookin’ great so far. Rolling scrolls is about what I expected the guild to task temporary volunteers with. Oh well, at least her office mate is snoring, not talking.

Like SubRosa, I was intrigued but the guild’s use of flameless lighting – extremely prudent in a facility full of flammable books and scrolls. Buffy found the same concerns among those living in the highest branches of Valenwood’s graht oaks. There, the need for light at night without flame to risk a tree fire was addressed primarily by such inventive things as torchbug lamps and the cultivation of a variety of glowing lichens.

Posted by: Renee Jun 1 2022, 03:01 PM

Okay, this is a comedy. I feel better for constant chuckles on my end, then. smile.gif

I meant what I said though last week, which is, Morrowind is an awesome game, yet it's also mostly devoid of humor. I don't get the naked Nord thing, for instance, so I never laugh when I see one. It's something I did not even realize until starting to read this story. Oblivion has me constantly laughing, especially at their conversations and general glitches. Same for Fallout 3. All the '50s-era glorification, the things enemies say (especially the robots) I laugh a lot in that game, too. Heck, even Skyrim has its moments!

New Vegas? Mrm.... not a humorous game (for me). Anyway...

Floating a netch like a balloon sounds fun. Until it knocks somebody over, that is. Ha.

QUOTE
Great. More of dad's questionable cooking.


laugh.gif Like... how can somebody screw up ash yams? laugh.gif

QUOTE
"Daria should try the Mages Guild," Quinn said. "All those guys do is read books in dark rooms. She'll fit right in."


Oh gosh, I'm in stitches, Clavier! Every line this week is lol-worthy.

Seriously though, I could totally see Daria performing some magic. She's got the focus for it, surely. What would her Birthsign be? Maybe not Atronach. redwizardsmile.gif She sleeps a lot and seems pretty laid-back. That'd be her best way of recharging.

Poor dad!

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Jun 1 2022, 04:58 PM

@ SubRosa - You'll find that the mages from capitalism (mercantilism, I guess?) are the ones Daria runs into.

And yes, Jolda's just as busy and as underappreciated as her show counterpart. As for the guild, I figured that it'd be as much of a bureaucratic organization as an academic/arcane one. So yeah, lots of scrolls need to be rolled.

@ Acadian - Funny how that works out, isn't it? I guess it's hard to avoid becoming what we seek to avoid, sometimes. Gets even harder over a long timeline.

Good thinking on Valenwood! Later on, Daria will get to visit some of Morrowind's more peculiar locales. In those stories, I had some fun figuring out how folks would make do with their unusual living situations.

@ Renee - Morrowind is pretty dry (both figuratively and literally). Which maybe helps in some ways, since it gives me more of a blank slate in regards to humor? Anyway, I'm thrilled to hear you find it funny. That was part of the goal.

You know, I hadn't really thought of birthsigns for the characters. They felt very game-esque, and a little tricky to translate into prose. The Lady is probably the best for Quinn. As for Daria, maybe the Mage?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lXP8WiIf8LQ

Episode 5: The Guilded Age

Chapter 3


Sunset was no more than a sullen red glow in the west by the time Daria emerged from the Mage's Guild with a headache clamoring in her skull. She took off her glasses and massaged her eyes through her lids, fingers sore from rolling scroll after scroll.

And she'd get to do it again the day after tomorrow.

Quick steps took her to the Odai where riverfront merchants finished up the day's business, the cool air rumbling with guttural Dunmer voices. That sound mixed with her exhaustion and loneliness to conjure physical memories of pain, and then of Synda's gloating voice.

Stupid to worry about that here. The streets were packed with onlookers and guards. The attack had happened in the morning, anyway. Still, for all their obnoxiousness, places like Drenlyn and yes, the Mages Guild did offer a sense of cosmopolitan sanctuary. No one took notice of an Imperial there. Outside, the whole city seemed to draw away and stare at her with those unreadable red eyes.

She shook her head. Best just to get home.

Daria returned to find her mother lighting a wax candle before the small household shrine to Julianos. The flame's light reflected on the beads of white and green glass so that the entire mosaic glowed in the evening's soft darkness.

Mom put her tinderbox back on the shelf next to the shrine and turned to her daughter, her face as remote as a saint's in the candle's glow.

"Well if it isn't my daughter the volunteer! How was your first day?"

"Great. They put me in a dark basement where I rolled papers into scrolls to see whether my eyesight or fingers would give out first. It was my eyesight."

"Oh, it couldn't have been that bad."

Daria looked her mother right in the eyes. "That's all I did. No learning. No magic. Certainly, no networking. But hey, if you wanted a scroll-roller for a daughter, you got one."

Silence for a moment. "I know it's frustrating. But it's only your first day. I worked with the guild when I was your age, and—"

"You wanted me to do this to learn how to network, right? Because there doesn't seem to be much of that going on."

"Be patient. Balmora doesn't have that many options outside of Hlaalu, and I don't think you want to join them. The guild's one of your best options. You can't do it alone, Daria, even though you might like to. When's your next day?"

"Fredas. Most weeks that'd be time spent with Jane, but I guess it's more important for those scrolls to be rolled, my social development be damned."

"You'll still have time for Jane on Loredas," mom said, annoyance creeping into her voice. "Anyhow, I made dinner tonight! Bread and tripe, with some Cyrodiilic olive oil just like what we used to have on Stirk! Your father got the oil from one of his associates and I can't wait to open it up. It'll be nice to have a condiment that isn't made from mashed-up bugs."

Daria had to admit it did sound pretty good.



*********



Daria returned to the guild at noontime that Fredas. An unexpected and persistent drizzle had soaked her clothes on the way there and she conceded a certain relief at the dry interior.

The paperwork pile on top of the desk had renewed itself and she wearily set about rolling each sheaf into a scroll. Her finger bones ached as soon as she began. At least no one slept on the cot that day.

Time stood still in the untangling of twine and the crinkling of paper. A pyramid of scrolls grew on the floor next to Daria's chair. The contents of the papers offered no relief, memo following requisition following memo. She imagined the immensity of Tamriel's forests, mighty timbers fallen and rendered into pulp then dried out in the heat of the sun, refined and processed into usable sheets and then sent to dozens of offices across the Empire just like this one so that an exhausted guild associate could write out a request for more paper. And so the cycle continued.

After some time—how long, she had no idea—she heard Hetheria's low voice. Daria turned to see the associate talking to a Dunmer woman in dark velvet robes.

"Given my already considerable tasks," Hetheria said, "it's difficult for me to pursue my research—"

"That's not my problem. Your research is to be done on your own time. We aren't going to coddle you just because of your family."

"Certainly not, Warlock Athrys. Forgive my impetuousness."

Athrys made a dismissive gesture. "I expect the report on my desk by tomorrow morning."

Hetheria waited until the Dunmer woman turned away before she made a face, and then leaned against the backrest of her chair to stare at the ceiling. As if sensing Daria's observation, she turned to look.

"Hey, Volunteer... Daria, right?"

"I am called by that name."

"Yeah, so maybe you could help me with something?"

Daria pushed back from the desk and walked over to Hetheria, who was suddenly all smiles and light. "So you can write and stuff, right?"

"I possess basic literacy. And stuff."

"Warlock Athrys needs me to write a report, but I just don't have time. I'm working with other associates to refine the recall spell, plus I'm running behind on my original research—and I did not settle for Balmora just to stay an associate for the rest of my life! Maybe you could write these reports?"

"Maybe. I know some of the theory behind magic, but I don't have much personal experience with it."

"You don't need to for this."

"What's the report about?"

Hetheria raised herself from her chair and glanced over the nearest partition. Satisfied, she sat back down. "It's about unlicensed use of magic in Balmora," she whispered. "So it's not really work for volunteers, but I figure you're really smart—"

"Not for volunteers, huh?" Daria crossed her arms. "I guess that means I can't do it for free." She didn't like flatterers, anyway.

Hetheria's face suddenly hardened. "All right. I have money."

"Judging by that Dunmer woman's remarks about your family, I'd gather you have quite a lot of it."

Her glower intensified. "I do."

"Great. Let's talk shop. How long does this report need to be?"

"Four or five pages. It's just a summary, really. The information you need is all here," Hetheria pointed to a slender packet at the edge of her desk. "You won't have to do any original research."

"What about handwriting? I haven't learned forgery. Yet."

"I'll copy what you write."

"Okay. Twenty septims," Daria said.

"Ten."

"Fifteen."

"Fine!" Hetheria's eyes narrowed. "But you have to make it look like something I'd write. You can use this old report as a sample."

Hetheria reached into a desk drawer and took out another stack of papers. With her free hand she picked up the packet from before and handed both to Daria. "Don't tell anyone about this."

"Your secret's safe with me."

"And you still have to roll those scrolls, by the way."

Daria frowned. "Wait, what?"

"Look, that's your job here! If you don't do that, people will wonder what you're doing. Stay late to finish that but do the report now."

"I should've stuck to charging twenty," Daria muttered as she headed back to her desk.

At least this work promised to be a bit more interesting. She first looked at Hetheria's sample report which began with a lengthy preamble giving the date, location, and the guild's official title. The contents dealt with the slow progress of an associate named Ajira. Daria noted elements of Hetheria's style—her preference for multiple redundant adjectives and her omission of the Imperial comma. The layout was simple, each section getting its own overly elaborate heading.

Satisfied, Daria put it aside and started looking at the notes for the not-yet-written report. Those offered something a bit more interesting. Rumors had been swirling about a Nord woman, one Johanna, offering cheap arcane services to residents in Labor Town. Whoever had assembled the notes seemed pretty sure that Johanna was not a member of the guild and that by providing services—worse, charging for them—she was in violation of standard practices.

"Surveillance recommended," it read.

Daria went about turning a single sheaf of notes into a needlessly verbose four-page report in Hetheria's style. It was not always easy to expand on the document's terse observations, but she did her best. Hetheria's own wordiness helped, though Daria winced at some of the extra adjectives she had to insert for authenticity's sake.

When finished, she walked to Hetheria's desk and showed her the report. The associate gave her a startled look.

"That was fast! This better be worth what I'm paying."

"Hand it over and you'll find out."

Hetheria scowled. They made the exchange and Hetheria scanned the report's contents.

"Huh, you did a pretty good job," Hetheria said.

"Like any good counterfeiter, I take pride in professionalism."

"Great. Go back to rolling scrolls."

It was night when Daria left the office. Spent rainclouds blotted out the stars and the moon, the air damp and heavy on her shoulders. Oily shadows submerged the narrow street outside the guild, the darkness barely kept at bay by the feeble glow of dirty lanterns.

The deal she'd made with Hetheria suddenly seemed very foolish. But it didn't sound like copying was such a big deal. Everyone knew that guilds swam in corruption. Daria had failed to network. If anything, she'd annoyed Hetheria. She'd gotten paid though, and wasn't money the whole reason mom wanted her to network? The only difference was that Daria knew how to get straight to the point.

She gripped her coin purse to keep it from jingling as she made her way back home.


https://en.uesp.net/wiki/Morrowind:Ranis_Athrys - Morrowind Mages Guild questers might remember Athrys as the rather vicious steward of the Balmora chapter. She's ruthless in pursuing the guild's aims. Here, she's not yet at the steward rank but still pretty unpleasant.

https://en.uesp.net/wiki/Morrowind:Ajira - Ajira, on the other hand, is one of the friendlier faces at the guild. She doesn't seem to be doing that well within its hierarchy as of the game, so it's suggested she's struggling here as well.

Posted by: Acadian Jun 1 2022, 08:30 PM

Isn’t Scroll-roller a rank in the Mages Guild?

’… mighty timbers fallen and rendered into pulp then dried out in the heat of the sun, refined and processed into usable sheets and then sent to dozens of offices across the Empire just like this one so that an exhausted guild associate could write out a request for more paper.’ laugh.gif

Urg, even helping Hetheria by writing her report doesn’t count toward her scroll-rolling. I wonder if charging Hetheria undermined her chances of ‘networking’ with said rich mage? Hmm, is potential extortion a form of networking? Nah, probably not a wise path. On the other hand, to have not charged would have made her appear naïve and gullable. Oh well, perhaps she will be seen as a clever entrepreneur? And she has demonstrated that she knows literacy and stuff.

Posted by: SubRosa Jun 2 2022, 12:03 AM

I see Daria is still living with the trauma of the attack. I hope she can move beyond it. But of course outside of videogames, being the victim of violence is not something you just forget about overnight and live happily ever after. Maybe she would feel better if she hired the Morag Thong to kill Sydna?

She imagined the immensity of Tamriel's forests, mighty timbers fallen and rendered into pulp then dried out in the heat of the sun, refined and processed into usable sheets and then sent to dozens of offices across the Empire just like this one so that an exhausted guild associate could write out a request for more paper. And so the cycle continued.
The War scrolls feeds itself!

I really hated Athrys. All of her quests are about murdering people or forcing them to join the guild.

Daria's extortion of Hetheria reminds me of all the times she did the same with her mother!

Well at least Daria got to exercise her writing skills, even if it was for rather dubious reasons (doing someone else's work for them, and outing other mages not in the guild).

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Jun 4 2022, 05:14 PM

@Acadian - The lowest official rank in Morrowind is associate. And Daria's somewhere below that. As for working with Hetheria, let's just say that Daria's gotten in way over her head here.

@SubRosa - The trauma's definitely something I wanted to portray well. Like you said, it's not something that'd really apply in many video games (particularly not a TES game), but it has to be addressed in literature. And it definitely affects the way Daria approaches her surroundings. Violence isn't something she has any experience with.

Yes, Athrys is a very nasty piece of work. I always tried to find creative/less awful ways to complete her quests.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2BW6CVqJNdU

Episode 5: The Guilded Age

Chapter 4


"Wait, weren't you complaining about guild corruption a few days ago?" Jane asked at the Lucky Lockup the next day.

Lunch was on Daria, of course, and she'd ordered the best the cornerclub had to offer: hot scrib pie and boiled ornada eggs, along with some of the rarely available coffee brewed from beans shipped in from Elsweyr's humid coasts.

"I only have a problem with corruption when I'm not benefitting from it," Daria said. The croon of a silt strider from the port briefly drowned out the noise of conversation.

"As a fellow beneficiary," Jane said, holding up a slice of pie, "I'm okay with that!"

Seeing her friend eat a good meal assuaged Daria's uncertainty a bit. She knew she wasn't the first person to help a guild associate cheat. But the nature of the report bothered her. Guild security wasn't something she wanted to interfere with. At the time she'd just been relieved to have something interesting to do—and she was reasonably sure she'd done a good job.

"Jane, have you ever heard of someone named Johanna? Over in Labor Town?" Daria hadn't mentioned the notes on which she'd based her report.

Jane's eyes took on a searching look. "Nope, don't think so," she said around a mouthful of sweetened insect bits.

"Hm, okay. Just wondering."

"Labor Town's a big place. I only really know my little corner of it."

They wiled away the rest of the drizzly Loredas afternoon in shops and plazas. Daria bought a big green beetle-shell hat of the same type she'd seen the locals wear to keep their heads dry during rainstorms. The new headgear proved its worth as the light sprinkles turned to rain during her walk home. The next day passed quietly but nervously in the Morgendorffer house, with Daria and Quinn both helping out at their mother's office.

What would happen if someone higher up in the guild found out? Daria wondered, as she sorted papers. The Mages Guild was an Imperial institution, bound by law and custom. Still, she'd heard the occasional rumor of people within the guild simply disappearing. It used to be easy to dismiss such thoughts but now, with her recent deeds heavy on her mind, such tales no longer seemed far-fetched.

Morndas afternoon brought her back to the guild office, her mouth dry and her heart pounding as she passed through the door and walked down the ramp. She eased up a bit once she saw Hetheria looking relaxed and glamorous at her desk. Maybe this sort of thing happened all the time.

Then again, she didn't have Hetheria's background. Coming from a noble family offered the kind of leeway that a Morgendorffer would never get.

"Well?" Daria said, once she reached Hetheria's desk.

"Oh, hey."

Daria stiffened, bracing herself for bad news.

"Athrys liked the report." She lowered her head. "And she doesn't suspect a thing," she whispered.

"Great." Daria didn't let herself relax, though. Something in Hetheria's eyes hinted at deeper calculations.

"And she has a job for you."

"Wait, for me? Doesn't Athrys think that you wrote the report?"

"She told me to let you do it since you've shown up for all your volunteer sessions."

"All two of them?" Either Athrys was the softest touch in the history of the guild, or Hetheria was up to something. Daria decided to play along for a bit longer.

"Well, yeah."

"And consistent with me being a volunteer, I suppose I can't get Athrys to pay me for this."

"You'll get some fresh air at least. Fresh as it gets here, anyway," Hetheria said, making a face. "Anyway, your job is actually to go to Johanna's place with this."

Hetheria picked a tin ring up from her desk and held it out to Daria, who took it. Faint markings gleamed on the surface, but the distortion of her glasses made it impossible to see them in any detail.

"What is it?" Daria asked, squinting to try and glean some hint as to the ring's purpose.

"We're extending Johanna a formal invitation! You know, so she can practice her magic legally."

"I'll admit my eyesight is pretty bad, so maybe there's something I'm missing, but aren't invitations usually written on paper? How does a cheap ring communicate that?"

Hetheria gulped. Daria stared at her through her glasses. "There's something you're not telling me."

"Okay, so it's not an invitation." Hetheria's jaw clenched for a moment. "There's an enchantment on that ring that will tell us how much residual magic is in Johanna's house. Not conclusive but helps us build a case. Just go to her home while wearing the ring, then twist it to the right to activate the enchantment. We'll get the information we need and no one will be the wiser."

Daria shook her head. "You've got to be kidding me. Hetheria, I barely know magic. I can only cast five spells, maybe one of them reliably. And the guild wants me to spy on a wizard? Forget it. Let me talk to Athrys."

Hetheria gasped and waved her hands, making shushing noises, her eyes wide and frantic.

"Don't talk to Athrys."

"Why?"

"Just don't."

"You're making me want to talk to her even more," Daria countered.

"No! It's—okay, I'll admit it. I didn't think this through. She wanted me to spy on Johanna. Look, I don't want to get involved with any of this crazy magic stuff. I just joined the guild to coast my way to a sinecure!"

Scowling, Daria stepped back. "No. I won't. Do your own dirty work."

Hetheria's lips turned up in a hard smile. "Look, Daria. I tried to be nice about this. But I've come too far to risk it all. If you don't do this, I'll tell Athrys that you wrote the report."

"And you'd get in trouble, too."

"Sure. Except my family owns a nice big chunk of Cyrodiil and is a generous donor to the Mages Guild. Your family, well, doesn't and isn't. So at worst I might get a lecture. You, on the other hand, will be expelled from the guild and probably charged with a crime. Yeah, that's right: the guild is government chartered, so by counterfeiting that report, you lied to the Empire!"

Daria's mind raced. Was that true? Mom talked about low-level corruption going on in guilds all the time. Usually, it was stuff they handled in-house if at all. Most guilds kept secrets they didn't want the authorities knowing about, so it was rare that they'd report problems to anyone outside.

Yet all that suddenly seemed very abstract. And she couldn't ask mom about this without revealing herself as a cheater.

She'd been played. And now this spoiled child of privilege held Daria's future in her hands. None of Daria's intellect or wit mattered compared to Hetheria's connections.

"Look, I am sorry. I didn't think Athrys would move so quickly. But it's not a big deal. Just stick your hand through a window and activate the ring. She'll never know. Johanna might not even be a wizard—wouldn't be the first time the guild's screwed up on something like that."

Daria couldn't think of a response. She stretched out her right hand and pressed it against the wall, leaning against it for support so that she didn't fall onto her knees.

"Come on, it's not that bad," Hetheria said, sounding a bit guilty. "I'm usually a nice person. It's just that things got kind of weird and well, I have to look out for myself."

"How nice of you." Daria drew in her breath. She wasn't going to waste time being afraid. If she'd gotten stuck with this, so be it.

She pushed off from the wall and stood up straight, forcing her features back to sphinx-like placidity. "Since I'm doing personal work for you again, shouldn't you at least pay me for it?" That ought to keep her on the defensive, at least.

Hetheria looked disgusted. "I would've paid if you'd done what I asked when I asked. You made me threaten you and I don't appreciate that. Now go do this. Athrys needs it done today. I'm going to hide out at Eight Plates so that Athrys thinks I'm out working. Meet me back here when you're done. The notes from yesterday have the directions to Johanna's place."


Posted by: Acadian Jun 5 2022, 08:26 PM

Daria’s discomfort over what she did to help Hetheria is not conscience as much as it seems to be fretting over the possibility of getting caught. She’s probably not cut out for cheating and perhaps better off sticking to ‘lawful good’. tongue.gif

Learned a new word from you: ‘sinecure’. Thanks!

Wow, it seems Daria’s concerns were valid. She finds herself outplayed and placed into a deeper hole. As she points out, she can’t even really ask her mom for advice here. And Hetheria is both selfish and ruthless enough to throw Daria under the silt strider at the drop of a bug shell hat.

Posted by: SubRosa Jun 6 2022, 08:36 AM

Wow, talk about guild corruption. They want Daria to be their snitch on Johanna? All Guilds Are Bastards. Wow, and its deeper than that. Hetheria is even worse than Athrys.

I suppose that Daria could go to someone else's house - someone who doesn't use magic - and use the ring there. That would let both Johanna and her off the hook.

Too bad Daria did not learn that Enemies Explode spell from Delphine Jend...

Posted by: macole Jun 6 2022, 04:16 PM

Cake... I like Cake. Think I'll go get me some cake.gif

How do you afford your rock and roll lifestyle?
You find…

a girl who gets up early
a girl who stays up late
a girl with uninterrupted prosperity
Who uses a machete to cut through red tape
With fingernails that shine like justice
And a voice that is dark like tinted glass
You find a girl with a short skirt and a lonnnnng.... lonnng jacket

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Jun 8 2022, 04:38 PM

@Acadian - In the show, Daria's sometimes a bit of a hypocrite in how she holds people up to high standards that she herself doesn't always uphold, and I try to stay true to that here.

Minor Spoilers for a 20+ Year-Old Show:

I got the idea from the third episode, "College Bored", where some college students hire her to write their essays for them. In that case though, Daria doesn't get in any trouble worse than being grounded, and doesn't fret about it either. Here, the stakes are higher.

End Minor Spoilers.

And yup, Daria's in a very bad position. Nobles don't play the same game as everyone else.

@SubRosa - That is actually something that might work! Though I have Daria being a little too paranoid to try, given how thoroughly Hetheria outplayed her. More powerful magic would be nice. Since Daria's going to see it firsthand in this chapter...

@Macole - Cake made some great music.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DExBeFCx3mQ

Episode 5: The Guilded Age

Chapter 5


Daria made her way across the St. Roris Bridge on the way to Labor Town, still not quite believing the situation in which she found herself.

Not too late to run home and tell mom everything that had happened. It might be a life-saving choice. Daria had no idea what Johanna was really like. She might just be a regular citizen victimized by the guild operating off bad information. Or maybe she really was a wizard who could fry Daria with a gout of arcane flame.

But that felt too much like admitting defeat. Bad enough that the guild was on her case. The last thing she needed was the disappointed look in mom's eyes. Mom getting angry wasn't that big of a deal. She'd blow up, yell and let off some steam, and then go back to normal in a bit. When she was actually hurt, she got quiet, her voice low like she didn't want to make the effort to speak.

Maybe if Daria did this one task, she could just go on as a volunteer and forget this whole thing ever happened.

Daria stopped at the end of the bridge and leaned against the railing. Next to her, a guar pulled a wagon laden with bundles of saltrice. The Dunmer farmer on the wagon coaxed the beast along while a little girl who might've been his daughter sat amidst the produce, cradling a many-legged scrib in her skinny arms.

Daria could just throw the ring into the Odai. Say she lost it.

Except she doubted it'd be that easy. The guild would track it, she was sure. With that realization she resumed her walk into Labor Town. The northern side was not much different from the southern one, still a warren of narrow streets running between adobe blocks stacked two or three stories high. The sounds of industry were constant: foremen calling orders, hammers striking anvils and butcher knives striking wood, the smoke of furnaces soiling the sour smell of kwama meat.

Daria followed the directions to a meandering back alley at the edge of Labor Town, where the ground sloped up to the rocky hills north and east of Balmora. Patches of dirt showed through the crumbling flagstones. The only person there was an old bald Imperial sitting on a crate at the end of the alley. Gray smoke coiled out from a wooden pipe in his hand.

If something bad did happen, there wouldn't be many people around to make a fuss.

The second house on the right was Johanna's, according to the directions. Weathered and run-down, the place looked like any other Labor Town home. Daria stepped up to the window, remembering Hetheria's suggestion of just sticking her hand inside. Johanna had repurposed a hide tarp as a curtain, blocking Daria's view of the interior.

She sniffed as she neared, noticing a damp and earthy small around the house. Like fungus, she thought, which wasn't exactly unusual in Morrowind.

"Help!" wheezed a woman's voice, faint but forceful.

Daria froze. Heart pounding, she looked around. No one was there.

"Is this when the stress-induced hallucinations kick in?" Daria said out loud.

"Help!"

No doubt about it: the voice came from inside Johanna's house. Daria realized she could leave, wash her hands of the mess. If Johanna died the guild would be fine with it. The woman was probably just another poor outlander who'd drifted to Morrowind, far from home and half-forgotten by her family. No one in Balmora would know or care.

Daria remembered Synda's mocking voice and the pain of clubs and fists. She remembered Hetheria's casual cruelty that day, borne by her social connections.

Screw them!

She ran to Johanna's front door and opened it. Carnage awaited her inside. An obese woman lay slumped against the wall, blood pumping from a wound on her neck and running down her body. More blood was spattered on the walls, on the rugs, and on the caps of the brown mushrooms growing in planters placed along the shelves.

Daria almost ran out again. The woman raised a shaking left arm, fingers outstretched.

"Bastard stuck me!" she gasped.

Daria did know a bit of restoration magic, but it had been years since she'd cast a spell. Mouth dry, she stepped over the bloody trail and hoped she still knew how to do this. A second body lay deeper in the house, a Dunmer. No movement from this one, nor would there ever be. A white sheen of ice covered his face, his right hand still gripping a bloody dagger.

Killing frost on a spring afternoon. Johanna was definitely a mage.

More importantly, she was dying.

"I might be able to heal you," Daria said, her voice sounding far away.

She knelt next to Johanna and focused, thinking of the light of Aetherius as Vandries had taught her all those years ago.

Draw out the current of magic, place it within the formula, she thought. And the formula for healing is—

The spell fizzled out at her fingertips in a burst of white-blue light.

"Dammit," she uttered.

"Get that green bottle over there!" Johanna pointed to a nearby shelf packed with clay vessels. The woman tried again to move, only for more blood to seep out.

Grateful for the direction, Daria obeyed. She grabbed the bottle and ran back to Johanna's side. It uncorked easily and she guided it to Johanna's lips. The woman drank the potion and shuddered as her wounded skin stitched itself together. Some of the color returned to her craggy cheeks.

"Thanks, girl," Johanna said. "I really appreciate that."

"Uh, yeah."

A good deed had been done. Maybe. But if anything, she was in deeper trouble than before.

"Now maybe you can tell me what you're doing here," Johanna said.

Johanna seemed remarkably self-possessed for a woman who'd been near death a few moments ago. She looked like a mountain somehow given life, her eyes dark gemstones within a face that might've been carved from rock.

Daria suspected that she wouldn't respond well to meekness.

"Saving your life, obviously," Daria said, trying to sound as blasé as possible while thinking of an escape route. She stood up. Easier to run to the door that way.

"You just go around saving people's lives?"

"I try to fit it into my busy schedule of slaying dragons and rescuing princesses from questionable marriages."

It was hard to tell in the dark, but it looked like Johanna smiled. "Nice act. But enough of that. Why are you here? Well-dressed little Imperial gal, folks rich enough to buy her glasses? Labor Town's no place for you."

"Yeah, well you're the one who just got stabbed, not me." It took a moment for Daria to realize how brazen she sounded.

Johanna chuckled. "You don't scare easy. The guild sent you, didn't they?"

Daria hesitated. Her eyes strayed to the corpse. That might be her in a few seconds.

This would be a bad time to faint, she thought.

"Don't you fret," Johanna said. "That frozen fella over there wasn't from the guild. Not their style. He's just a criminal. I killed him because he tried to kill me."

"And came pretty close," Daria said.

Johanna scowled that time. "Don't push your luck, girl!"

Now, the fateful moment: admit the truth, or try to lie? Daria's counterfeiting ability didn't extend to verbal falsehood. And somehow, she suspected Johanna would figure out the truth one way or another.

Daria noted Johanna flexing the fingers of her left hand, as if prepping a spell. Escape might not be an option.

"First, I don't want to be here. I'm only here because a corrupt noble in the guild twisted my arm and made me go. Second, I have no loyalty to the guild at this point, so I'm perfectly happy to head back home and lie to them about what happened here."

"Yeah?"

"They gave me this ring to see how much residual magic you have in your home. I won't use it, but if I don't come back they'll send someone else."

"Hmm. Let me see that."

Knowing she had little choice, Daria took off the ring and handed it to Johanna. The woman chanted something under her breath.

"Hand me the blue soul gem up there on the shelf, the one between the sadrith saplings," Johanna said.

Daria found it hiding amidst sadrith fungus' growth. She gave it to Johanna, who chanted again and waved her hands. The gem crumbled into dust and the ring glowed briefly.

"There you go," she said, handing it back to Daria. "Fixed this ring to give a false reading."

"Thanks. On that case, I guess I'll be going."

"Probably for the best. What's your name?"

She hesitated for a moment before saying: "Daria".

"Sorry to be so suspicious. I owe you one. I don't forget a debt."

"Sure. Anytime."

Daria kept her panic attack at bay until she'd reached a healthy distance. Then she leaned against the side of an anonymous house, shaking and taking in deep gulps of air until her heartbeat slowly returned to normal. She stood there a while longer, covered in sweat and taking in the little sensory details that let her know she still lived.

https://dariawiki.org/wiki/Mrs._Johannsen - Mrs. Johannsen is a minor recurring character in the show. She's not a very funny one, honestly, mostly being a joke at the expense of the overweight. I tried to do something more interesting with her here.

https://en.uesp.net/wiki/Morrowind:Caius_Cosades - Yup, that's supposed to be Caius sitting there. Daria's very close to his house.

Posted by: Acadian Jun 8 2022, 08:19 PM

What an unexpected turn of events!

I’m glad Daria made the choices she did during this episode, both in helping Johanna and being truthful. And in turn, Johanna’s cooperation might well allow Daria to complete her task while freeing Johanna from guild harassment. Finally, having someone who seems to be a powerful mage beholden to Daria can’t be a bad thing either.

Posted by: SubRosa Jun 8 2022, 11:18 PM

If Dara threw the ring in the river, then the next Mages Guild applicant would be sent to retrieve it in return for a letter of recommendation to the Arcane University...

I was trying to follow Daria on https://imgur.com/a/GZkm1wD, and I think I found an oopsie. In the text you have Johanna as JH, but I think she is on the map as J, in the upper right corner. And Jodie is listed in the text as just J, but I think her house is JA in the upper left corner.

Yikes! I was not expecting to find that Johanna had been assaulted!

"I try to fit it into my busy schedule of slaying dragons and rescuing princesses from questionable marriages."
Now there is that trademark Daria sarcasm.

I really liked what you did with Johanna, inserting her into the story with a good role, rather than just using her as the butt of fat people jokes *sigh* like in the TV show.

Posted by: Renee Jun 9 2022, 07:21 PM

Phew, I've fallen way behind. whistling.gif Yikes, four new posts! I'll try to catch up (ha, Lena Wolf has heard me say that before). I'll try to read a couple new chapters, at least.

Chapter 2: Oh gosh... "I'm not saying the guild isn't corrupt," Jane continued, letting her hands fall, "but at least they keep Great House Telvanni's wizards restricted to their weird little corner of Morrowind. I can put up with some corruption if it means not having to worry about a Telvanni lord deciding I'd be a good experimental subject."

The laughter starts. laugh.gif

Oh cool. Daria's about to try joining the Mages. Let's see if she meets their requirements. Ha. Looks like she's in.

The "candle which gives off no heat" seems to be using the same magic as the gigantic fire pits in Skyrim's inns which do nothing if we step into them by accident. So now I can explain in RP terms why those pits don't burn our characters to a crisp.

Chapter 3: Sonic Youth, nice!!! Gotta get my headphones. Wow, never heard Sunday before. Pretty sure my brother was once in a band which opened for SN.

That's a good point. Outlanders do fit right into the Imperial guilds. Again, it's something I never really thought about, but it's very true.

QUOTE
"Like any good counterfeiter, I take pride in professionalism."


Nice. And good that she got paid, even though it's not in the fashion wanted by her madre.

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Jun 11 2022, 04:59 PM

@ Acadian - Daria definitely made the right call(s).

@ SubRosa - Nah, retrieving the ring would just be the first tedious step in a long string of them, all required to get so much as a recommendation letter.

Good catch on the map! Unfortunately, I think I'll have to renew my Inkarnate account to fix that. Sorry for the mix-up.

Daria's my favorite show, but there's no denying that it was very much a product of its time, and not always in the best ways. I try to address those issues a bit better in my own fanwork. Plus, Mrs. Johannsen is pretty boring on her own, so I almost can't resist doing something more interesting with her.

@ Renee - Thanks for reading! I actually never thought about that for Skyrim, but you do bring up a good point. Just how common is magic? If it's frequent enough, it starts to take the place of modern convenience. There's actually a good AD&D campaign setting called Eberron which revolves around that. Basically, there's tons of magic and magical items, which means the overall lifestyle is more like the 1920s than the 1220s. But I digress.

Writing this, I did want to focus heavily on how life would be for regular people. So yeah, elements like where outlanders would or wouldn't fit in were very much on my mind.

Episode 5: The Guilded Age

Chapter 6


"So everything went smoothly with Johanna? And the ring?"

Hetheria's breath reeked of booze, though she otherwise seemed sober.

"No trouble at all. I just knocked on the door and pretended to be raising funds for the Imperial Cult."

Hetheria laughed. "Did she slam the door in your face? 'Cause that's what I'd have done!"

More than anything, she wanted to slap Hetheria. Daria had seen death before. She remembered the first time, a pale and bloated fisherman's corpse that had washed up on the beach when she was about three or four years old. Drowning, dad had said. Deliberate death was new to her, however. The dead Dunmer's frozen face would be another memory she'd never totally escape.

"Not before I was able to take a reading." She handed the ring over to Hetheria.

Daria had gone to the local Tribunal temple before coming back. Jane had told her that the temple ran an enchantment service, mostly to bless items with healing magic. Being under the Tribunal protected the priests from guild interference. Daria had asked them to check the ring because she knew better than to trust Johanna. Who knew what kind of enchantment she'd actually put on the ring? For that matter, how good a job had Johanna done? Daria wanted to be sure that neither Hetheria nor Athrys would find out about the deception.

Fortunately, the Dunmer enchanter at the temple had said nothing was out of the ordinary. So far as he could tell, it was a ring designed to detect other enchanted items, had been used exactly once, and had not found any signs of arcane usage.

She hoped he knew what he was talking about.

"Thanks!" Hetheria said. "See, that wasn't so hard was it?"

"Maybe not hard, but I don't enjoy being used like that."

"Well, get used to it. That's how guilds operate."

That was all Daria needed. "Which is why I quit," she said, standing up.

She knew she'd made the right choice as soon as she spoke. Hetheria's startled expression was simply an extra reward.



*********



Daria didn't tell mom the whole truth. Instead, she said that the guild had stuck her in a dark room to do busywork and that she'd quit before having any more of her time wasted.

Mom didn't get as angry as she would have if she'd learned the whole sordid story. But she definitely did get angry.

The ringing in Daria's ears had not yet subsided by dusk. She sat on the tiny balcony space outside of her room, watching the sun fade into the west. It was still mid-afternoon back home in Stirk, where the sails of docked ships rippled in a cool ocean breeze.

Daria heard footsteps, followed by the door opening and closing. She sensed her mother's presence next to her.

"Lovely evening, isn't it," mom said, her voice subdued.

"Perfect for platitudes." Daria didn't really want to talk to her. Except she did. She wanted to explain what really happened.

Maybe that way mom would understand how hard it was to network in this place.

"I'm sorry I yelled at you earlier. I shouldn't have."

Daria shrugged and made a noncommittal sound, pretending to be very interested in the empty roof next door.

"You know, the Mages Guild might take you back if you wait a while."

"I'm not going back there," Daria said.

"Hm. I had a feeling you'd say that. And you don't have to go back. But where are you going to go?"

"I was thinking about this," Daria said. "Jane gets by as an artist. I could do something similar as a freelance scribe or writer."

"Jane barely gets by."

Daria turned to look at her mother, annoyed. "How can you say that?"

"I'm not criticizing her. She works very hard. Her life isn't an easy one, however."

"So? I'm not afraid of some hard work," Daria protested. And at least as a freelancer she wouldn't have to deal with a bunch of annoying coworkers.

"Freelancers have to do busywork, too. Not to mention network with clients. Being part of a guild, on the other hand, creates opportunities and gives direction. Spend enough time there and you can get a secure job that offers flexibility and respect. I suppose you could try joining Hlaalu. There are a few high-ranking outlanders there. But I don't imagine you'd enjoy their company."

"I wouldn't. All of the factions here just want you to play their endless games of social one-upmanship and networking. It's like Morrowind was made for Quinn."

"It is what it is, Daria. You need to find a way to survive and contribute. I can offer suggestions, but I can't decide for you. You'll need to think about how you want to make your way in the world."

Mom turned around and headed back into the house. Night had almost fallen, and the stars smoldered in the sun's final rays.



*********



Daria woke up before the rest of the family. No need to be in Drenlyn that day, which meant she'd help out at mom's office.

But she had something else she needed to do first.

The damp and gray morning promised rain, so Daria donned her new bug-shell hat. She spent a few minutes balancing the oversized green shell, finally tying together the chin strap to keep it in place.

She retraced her steps back to Labor Town. Thick and scattered raindrops splashed against the flagstones once she crossed the Odai and picked up in intensity the deeper in Labor Town she got. The morning crowds bent their heads under the lashing rain. Water splashed onto her dress and rain soaked her sleeves, but the hat kept her head dry. Thunder rumbled from beyond the rocky hills to the east.

Daria walked to Johanna's door but hesitated before knocking. It might be better to leave well enough alone. Who could say how Johanna might react to seeing her again?

The door opened, revealing a smiling Johanna who looked much recovered after the other day's incident.

"Well! I didn't expect to see you here again! Come on in."

"Thanks."

Johanna's house didn't look all that remarkable when viewed through calm eyes. Just another modest Labor Town home with rough wooden furniture and threadbare rugs, all conveniently void of bloodstains. The corpse was long gone, and Daria decided not to ask how Johanna had disposed of it.

"You can take off that hat if you want," Johanna said. She walked over to an enormous wooden stool and settled down on it.

Daria marveled at the immensity of Johanna's arms, which looked heavy enough to break through the wall if she applied any real force.

"That's okay," Daria said. "I'm not going to spend much time here. I came here to let you know that the plan worked. The guild doesn't think you use magic."

"That's awfully considerate of you."

"Don't get too excited," Daria warned. "They could still be investigating you. But I quit the guild, so it's not my problem anymore."

"Doesn't surprise me. Bright young thing like you doesn't need what they have to offer, no ma'am."

"I'm not sure it was that bright of me to quit," Daria admitted, "but it's already done." She took a deep breath. "I've been trying to figure out why you're selling magical services from outside the guild."

Johanna chuckled. "Well you worked there. You think I want to deal with that nonsense?"

"I'm sure that nonsense can't be worse than dodging guild surveillance. Maybe you're just too cheap to pay the dues, but given how you killed your assailant with magic the other day, I'd say you're skilled enough to earn decent money. Which leaves one other option."

Her rocky face broke into a self-satisfied smile. "You are a clever one. Say it."

"You're with Great House Telvanni."

"And proud of it! Of course, I'm sure you ain't dumb enough to tell anyone else that."

"I know enough to keep my head on my shoulders," Daria said. "I've heard the Telvanni are pretty xenophobic toward non-Dunmer. Why would they accept a human like you?"

Or like me, she thought.

"Xenophobic? Oh, come on, girl, you should know better than to listen to what the Hlaalu say! Sure, there were some Telvanni Dunmer who called me outlander and n'wah when I started out." She grinned. "Not too many of them are still breathing!"

Johanna raised her head and laughed, the sound booming in the enclosed space. Her body still shook with mirth as she quieted down, her face red.

"The Telvanni respect talent and power. It's not like here where you have to make nice with every spoiled noble's son," she said.

"That does sound pretty tempting," Daria said.

"Are you interested?" Johanna's expression turned serious. "It's a lifetime commitment. Your magic skills aren't up to snuff, so you'll have to do a lot of work on those—a lot more than you'd have to do at the guild. But I think you'll learn quick. Maybe I can teach you a few tricks. You won't have to deal with Imperial red tape, neither!"

"Except Telvanni lands are still under Imperial jurisdiction," Daria said.

"Don't be naïve, girl. Sure, the wizard lords bowed their heads to the emperor, but he holds no real power in our lands. We're too far away. And the Empire's grip gets weaker by the day."

It might be true. It might not.

Johanna kept going. "When you're Telvanni, you're free. You can do whatever you want as long as you have the smarts and strength to back it up. You have the smarts—I can tell—and you'll get stronger. Survive long enough and you can grow your own sadrith tower and tell the world to go to hell. You'll be free from nobles, free from guilds. Free from gods!"

The hair on the back of Daria's neck stood up. Johanna hadn't been joking about that last bit. Scary, but it sounded like Daria. No social niceties, just the pursuit of her passions.

She imagined her own domain in the fungal wastelands of the east, one forged through her intelligence and unmarred by nepotism or networking.

Then she thought back to her conversation with Jane the previous week, the disgust her friend had shown in regards to the Telvanni lords.

"Free to use annoying people as test subjects for arcane experiments?" Daria asked.

"If that's what you're into, sure." Johanna sounded like a salesman.

And what if Daria was that annoying person to someone else? What if Hetheria had simply had the power to obliterate her for disobedience?

"Well, thanks," Daria said. "But I'm not sure I'm at the point in my life where I'm comfortable making that decision."

Johanna held up a hand. "Joining a great house is a big choice and you don't want to make it before you're ready. Now, I can't stay in Balmora much longer, but I do owe you a favor and I take that sort of thing seriously. So if you ever find yourself in Sadrith Mora, ask for me. I got a place where you can stay and can help you meet some interesting people. The offer to join Great House Telvanni is open as long as I'm around."

"Thank you. Truly. But I should get back to my parents."

"All right then. Thanks for paying me a visit. Take care now, you hear?"

Daria emerged into the driving rain, the drops drumming on her hat. She'd never join the Telvanni, she knew. But it'd be unwise of her to burn any more bridges.

Hungry for breakfast, she set off for home.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J8J9HXcOxrs

The End

To be continued in Episode 6: The Artist's I

Posted by: SubRosa Jun 11 2022, 10:08 PM

Hetheria is just so very dislikeable. Though granted, she does not know about the dead burglar.

Wow, Daria was face to face with death in all its ugliness at a very early age. I had a lot of grand parents and grant aunts and uncles die when I was a child. But seeing them dead in their coffins was different. They were all serene and made up to look nice, like they were sleeping. Even though I knew better. A dead body that just washed up on the beach is a lot different. Poor Daria.

Daria is going back to Johanna? Is she going to join House Telvanni? Well, they are a bunch of lunatics and misanthropes. She might fit in there. If she does not mind the slavery, and murder, and other things...

I think she made the right choice in not joining Telvanni.

Posted by: Acadian Jun 12 2022, 08:42 PM

Poor Daria, encountering a corpse at such a young age.

Prudent to check out that ring with the temple’s enchanter before surrendering it and announcing her findings.

I wanted to cheer for Daria when she announced, “I quit”. I wonder if this was just a corrupt guild branch or if the entire guild is similarly tarnished in Daria’s world.

I kind of wish Daria had told her mother the truth during her second, more subdued chat with her. If would be nice if her mother new the whole story and why Daria quit.

I chuckle every time I try to envision Daria in her bug-shell green hat. tongue.gif

Johanna makes an interesting case for the Telvanni but I’m pleased Daria told herself that joining them was not going to happen.

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Jun 15 2022, 05:06 PM

@ SubRosa - Hetheria's pretty nasty. Her show counterpart, while kind of lazy and spoiled, wasn't nearly as bad.

I figure that, even though healing magic is pretty common, the average person on Tamriel would be a lot more familiar with seeing death than would, say, the average person in the developed parts of Earth. This is particularly the case in the USA, where there's kind of a cultural denial of death. Death's something that we try to hide away in hospitals as best we can.

Seeing the drowned body was definitely troubling for Daria. But it's probably not that unusual an experience in Tamriel. People die. It's part of life.

I don't think Daria would survive for long in Telvanni. They're particularly dangerous for her, since there's just enough that she might initially find it appealing, only to find that it's far crueler and more violent than she's able to withstand. Fortunately, her natural caution and the wisdom she gleaned from her recent experiences steered her clear.

For what it's worth, the only great houses I can see her surviving in are Hlaalu and Redoran. I doubt she'd be happy in Hlaalu, but she might do okay in a lower or mid-rung position. She lacks the right skills to get far in Redoran, but she could help them with organization or finances--both things they struggle with. While that won't earn her much respect, it'd probably be a reasonably secure position.

Indoril's as bad as Telvanni, and Dres is somehow even worse, so those are both out.

@ Acadian - Yup. Though as I mentioned in the earlier comment to SubRosa, it's probably not an uncommon occurrence in Tamriel.

I wondered if I was overthinking in having Daria get the ring checked. But it does seem like something she'd do.

Broadly speaking, the guilds are all somewhat corrupt. But a lot does boil down to what goes on in the individual offices. Some are pretty clean and straightforward, others are crooked. Balmora's Mages Guild... isn't great. The Fighters Guild is actually way worse.

Part of Daria probably wanted to tell her mother as well. But for now, this is one of the many secrets she keeps during her time in Morrowind.

Episode 6: The Artist's I

Moonmoth Legion Fort didn't belong.

It proclaimed this fact in the artificiality of its construction. No adobe or insect shells, just massive blocks of stone piled one on top of the other. This being the Empire, one could be sure someone in charge—probably multiple someones—possessed reams of paperwork documenting every stone, tracing each from its origin within a particular pit within a particular quarry, its shaping beneath the chisels and calloused hands of foreign masons, its long journey by guar- or ox-pulled wagon, its time spent in storage, the name of the foreman who oversaw its placement within a particular wall or tower, and how well it held up to the rain and wind and ash over the intervening years. The fort implied a world set in clear and explicit rules, displayed for all to see so long as all were willing to take the time.

Moonmoth Legion Fort didn't belong. But that was okay. Jane didn't belong either.

Standing between the squat entry towers, strange in their angular rigidity, Jane looked back over her shoulder. No sign of Balmora, its towers and plazas behind the barren hills. Moonmoth wasn't that far from the city physically, but it was a whole world away in every other sense. Atop the towers fluttered the Empire's banner, and on that its sigil: a sinuous red dragon in flight but bound and restricted within the straight lines of a larger red lozenge.

"What's your business here, citizen?" the guard inquired, the sun glinting off the rearing horses emblazoned on his cuirass. He had the mindless look of someone bored half to death but too professional to show it.

"Hi, I'm Jane Llayn. Sir Larrius Varro hired me to paint a portrait, so here I am."

"Ah, I remember seeing your name on the schedule." He took a wooden slat and a charcoal pen from his belt, using the latter to mark the former. "In you go. Sir Varro should be in the keep."

"Thanks." Jane walked beneath the jagged teeth of the portcullis set within the arched gate.

The legion was the Empire's heavy hand. Jane found legion troopers to be less objectionable than the Hlaalu guards in the city, who tended to be idiot youngsters wielding weapons and far too eager to use them. Legionnaires were about the same age but with the stupidity trained out of them. Most of the time.

Plus, if worse came to worst, it'd be the legion that protected outlanders like her. They'd protect her the same way they protected an entire continent and all of its teeming kingdoms, tribes, cults, and guilds: by sword-point and on their terms, no questions asked. But it was better than nothing.

She found Varro at his desk within the keep. He looked how she'd imagined a life-time Imperial soldier would look: uniform perfectly arranged, his frame lean and tough, not an ounce of excess flab daring to distort his rugged features. They exchanged pleasantries, his responses polite and economic. She confirmed his expectations: a head-and-shoulders portrait at three-quarters view. Legion commissions usually went full-length and full face, which meant Varro probably intended this portrait for personal use.

He sat for her at the top floor of the keep, in an unadorned stone room where sunlight shone through the narrow window slits. Jane set up her easel and canvas as she studied her client. Most of her clients were outlanders like her.

That meant they wanted to be painted in Imperial style. Trick was, that meant different things to different people.

Varro was an Imperial from the Colovian west, trained in the harsh ways of war and discipline. A client like him would be offended if she elided a wart or a scar. The Colovian Imperials took pride in presenting themselves as the eye saw them. Daria had probably fit in there better than she'd been willing to admit. And Quinn already looked perfect without embellishment.

When painting Varro, Jane was no longer Jane. She imagined herself as nothing more than a disembodied pair of eyes and hands, reproducing exactly what she saw in the physical realm. Varro existed in three dimensions, so she incorporated the vanishing point, and the interplay of light and shadow to show the furrows of his brow, the gauntness of his cheeks, and the straight line of his mouth. She counted each detail, just like the Empire counted stones for its forts.

She finished as the light waned, adding her signature in the lower right-hand corner. Jane returned, her body providing connecting tissue for the eyes and hands that the Empire, through Varro, had hired. She showed him the work and he nodded. Something that might have been a smile crossed his lips.

"Good work," he said. "Tell me: you're Dunmer but you bear an Imperial given name. Are you from Morrowind?"

"Actually, I was born in the Imperial City. Wasn't there for long, though."

"Ah, so the natives still see you as a foreigner. Is life good for you in Balmora?"

Jane thought a bit before answering. Why did people like Varro think anyone felt safe answering such questions honestly? "It's home. With all the good and bad it brings."

"Do the native Dunmer ever hire you?"

"Usually it's humans or other Mer. Got an Argonian client, once."

"Why don't you move to Pelagiad? Everyone there was born outside of this bleak land, the way you were, so you'd have no shortage of clients."

She knew the place. A little Imperial charter town nestled in the green hills of the Ascadian Isles, a few days to the south. A safe and cheery place where nothing much happened, where the bright streets and tidy farm plots gave no place for the imagination to hide.

Best to deflect.

"Pelagiad's a little rich for my taste. Maybe when I get more money," she said.

"Nonsense! Marry some jolly old sergeant who's just turned in his commission. You can live off his pension while you get more clients. And when he's dead and gone, well you're a Mer, so you'll be in the prime of your life. Marry for love the second time, when you can afford to."

Varro's advice sounded more like misguided paternalism than a come-on. But she didn't want to play along any further. "Maybe someday. I get a lot of business in Balmora, actually."

"True. Most of the business is in the big cities. Just be careful. It's not always a friendly place for citizens like us."

She faked a chuckle. "Don't worry. I was born far away, but I'm still Dunmer. I blend in."

Which was a lie. But one that would satisfy him.



*********



She spent the night curled up in a cot placed in a small but surprisingly cozy basement cell. The next morning, she ran into Maiko, the Redguard soldier she'd met at the Talori party. He procured some breakfast for her: thick saltrice porridge and thin wine.

"Varro's all right," Maiko said. "Sometimes he gets a little nosy."

"I didn't know you legion types were allowed to speak your mind like that," Jane said, raising an eyebrow.

"You can say what you want here. You just have to be smart about when and where you do it."

"Hmm. He seemed worried about Balmora. Is there anything I should know?" Jane asked.

"That's 'cause worrying about Balmora is literally Varro's job."

"Are you worried about it?"

Maiko shook his head. "Nah, not really. It's got problems, but I've seen worse. I used to be stationed in Taurus Hall, out in the Reach. That place was way more tense."

With that done, she walked back home to Balmora, the pleasing weight of a full coin purse added to her pack.

Jane got back in the early afternoon and rested for the remainder of the day. She thought about visiting Daria, but the long trek had tired her and she had more work tomorrow. Work she wouldn't get paid for but still needed to do.

She arose early the next day and reached the temple as the sun rose behind Red Mountain's smoky veil. Walking through the door returned her to darkness, the anteroom's rounded corners and uneven surfaces much like the adobe homes that the Dunmer had lived in for centuries. Dunmer homes were extensions of the land, mixed from mud and water and ash. It would not take much for that land to reclaim them.

Morrowind was not a forgiving place.

Feldrelo Sadri, the priestess and master of the Balmora temple, stood with bowed head before a tapestry woven with sacred words. She turned slowly at Jane's arrival. Feldrelo was a Dunmer woman whose skin was light almost to the point of translucence. Her gaunt and careworn face seemed pulled back by her tightly wound bun of black hair, and her eyes bulged slightly as if from trying to see in her dark home. Her blue robes and gilded vestments conveyed authority but not luxury.

"I am here to offer my services," Jane said as she lowered her gaze, adopting the formality the temple expected. Insincere formality—she knew it, and the temple certainly knew it as well—but they appreciated the effort.

"Of course, child," Feldrelo said, her voice dry like old bones. "Please, come to my office. Your concerns are mine."

Jane hesitated. She could lie and say she had other work later that day and needed to get started. But while Imperials loved to finish tasks and move on, Dunmer preferred to dawdle. Not to say that Jane disliked dawdling, but she'd rather do it at a cornerclub or in her room.

So she followed Feldrelo, who'd already started her slow and shuffling walk to an adjoining room. A pot of tea steamed on her desk. The starchy smell confirmed it as brewed from a spiky trama root.

A polite interrogation followed. It started with praise of Jane's intermittent temple attendance that also stressed her more frequent absences. Then questions about her family. Jane tried to find a way of admitting she had no idea about them (other than Trent) while still sounding like a good Dunmer daughter. Then some talk about the saint-scrolls she'd made for the temple in the past, and how those indicated a piety that she really ought to express by being more involved in matters of faith.

"The Tribunal Temple is your home, Jane. Though you were not born in Morrowind, our blood does flow through your veins," Feldrelo said, pouring herself another cup of now-cold trama root tea.

"And I feel that, Muthsera Sadri. Absolutely." And thanks for reminding me about not being born here, she thought. "That's why I'm here. To show my respect. Just give me the word and I'll start—"

Feldrelo clucked and shook her head. "You still behave like an Imperial. I fear Balmora is probably the worst place for someone like you. Great House Hlaalu cavorts with the Empire, adopting its thoughtless ways. Perhaps you should go instead to Ald'ruhn, or even Vivec City. Yes, Vivec City would be a good place, I think. I can sign a petition so that you'd be able to live somewhere other than the Foreign Canton."

"I am honored. But..." Jane trailed off, trying to think of an excuse. Imperials usually understood when you weren't interested. Because in the end, they were too self-absorbed to pester you more than necessary. Dunmer didn't get that. They never stopped. "Balmora is my family's home. And even though we don't have the old house anymore, my brother and I still have to take care of things until dad gets back."

In the unlikely event that he did.

"Let your brother stay. He has given himself to the ways of the outlander."

"He has," Jane sighed, trying to sound sad. "But he's still kin. And I'm a little worried what might happen if I'm not looking out for him. He's picked up some bad habits."

Some of which she partook in and enjoyed.

"You are truly a Dunmer," Feldrelo said. "Our people are a family gathered around a flickering hearth, a lone warmth in the endless ashen night. You understand that. How sad a sign of these times that an outlander like you would know what so many natives ignore."

Finally, Feldrelo led Jane to a hallway deeper in the temple. Jane had no idea how much time had passed in the woman's office. Thoughts of day and night had vanished, replaced only by the fire of flickering braziers and the shadows that danced about them. It might be evening for all she knew. No, no way they'd been there that long. Probably just late morning.

Her workspace was a bench placed before a blank adobe wall. A big pot of black paint, sanctified with ground beetle shells and dust from Necrom's holy corpses, waited for her brush.

"I will leave you here to work."

Work, in this case, meant a painting of St. Delyn the Wise done in the traditional Dunmer style. Not really for piety's sake, she knew. Like so much else, it was for show. Because if she did need Dunmer patrons one day, it'd look good for her to have done some temple work. Because if worse came to worst and the legion bugged out, she needed to show she could be part of the community.

And maybe because, for all its faults and xenophobia, the Tribunal Temple had fed her and Trent in the lean years after they lost the house. Before J'dash took them in. Hunger deepened gratitude.

Imperials saw the world for what it was in form. But the Dunmer world consisted of saints and gods and spirits.

When painting St. Delyn, Jane was no longer Jane. She instead became the Dunmer people, driven by faith across ash and salt. What St. Delyn looked like didn't matter. What mattered was what he represented: law, wisdom, and benevolence.

Her strokes were thick and bold, following the patterns of long-dead masters. Abstract on their own, they took shape only in aggregate. Robed St. Delyn soon stood tall with an open book at his feet, uncompromisingly two-dimensional. Imperial art privileged the viewer and the naked eye. Dunmer art privileged history and ritual.

She could do this blind. And she was sure some Dunmer artists had done just that. Temples were never very well-lit, and her vision already strained from the effort. But who needed eyes for this art? Muscle memory—perhaps ancestral memory—guided her hands. This image of St. Delyn was like all others, and it would take supreme arrogance for any artist to make a saint—whom all believers served—their own.

Was she a believer? Jane didn't know. Sometimes. And painting a saint was one of those times.

Jane returned, standing in the present day, in the Third Era and 424th Year of the Imperial Calendar. The wall now proclaimed St. Delyn's glory. No signature this time. She'd just have to trust that Sadri would acknowledge her work and, if asked, mention it to others.

Exhausted, and quite certain it was late in the night, Jane went in search of Muthsera Sadri to report that she'd finished.



*********



Jane tried not to slack too often. Laziness was a bad habit, one she enjoyed but could not often afford. She'd earned it this time, though. Varro had paid a tidy sum, and the temple work was a nice addition to her portfolio. At least the temple had paid for her materials.

Thus she spent the next day idling in the Lucky Lockup with Daria, the Empire and Tribunal Temple both feeling reassuringly distant and absurd. Later on they returned to Jane's apartment. Stretched out on the balcony, the sun bright and warm, Daria took out the book she'd brought while Jane sketched on a piece of paper.

She drew without thinking, translating the harsh angles of Moonmoth Legion Fort and the equally strict curves of the temple into new shapes, spiraling around a slender figure curled up in a fetal position, bound by what was around her but still apart from it. Unique, vibrant, and her own.

When painting her own work, Jane was only Jane.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dfXqxjMkyQ4

The End

To be continued in Episode 7: The Pilgrim's Inertia



https://en.uesp.net/wiki/Morrowind:Larrius_Varro - Varro is a high-ranking officer in Legion Fort Moonmoth. Those who've played the game will know that he's unusually proactive for a Legion officer. Whether that's a good or a bad thing, I leave up to you.

https://en.uesp.net/wiki/Morrowind:Feldrelo_Sadri - Not much to say about her really, but she does run the Balmora Temple in-game. I presented her as caring but also pretty condescending and bigoted.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEBTapxuouY - The Reach is the southwestern part of Skyrim. A land of craggy mesas and thick forests, it was the site of the War of Bend'r Mahk, between the Nords and the Redguard (with Reachmen and Orcs caught in between), during the Imperial Simulacrum Crisis. The Nords won, but the peace has been uneasy at best. This story uses the version of the lore presented in Project Tamriel, in which Taurus Hall is a lonely fort by the divided city of Dragonstar (link goes to a trailer for the Dragonstar release).

https://en.uesp.net/wiki/Lore:Saint_Delyn_the_Wise - One of the Dunmer saints, associated with wisdom.

I should also note that some of the inspiration for this story, specifically in how it explored art and cultural differences, came from the novel My Name is Red, by Orhan Pamuk. This novel examined the differences between Western and Islamic art in the context of a murder mystery in 16th century Istanbul. It's a dense and, at times, pretty disturbing book, but it really left an impact on me. Pamuk himself is Turkish, though he moved to the United States because he got in trouble in Turkey for acknowledging the Armenian genocide.

Posted by: Acadian Jun 15 2022, 09:31 PM

A neat interlude from Jane’s perspective.

I found myself rather liking Varro. Straightforward, professional and, it seems, interested in trying to help others.

Feldrelo was quite the contrast to Varro and provided a great ‘other half’ to compare aspects of Imperial and Dunmeri culture.

Finally, the episode artfully went full circle as Jane ‘became’ Imperial while painting Varro, Dunmer while painting St Delyn and simply Jane when doing her own work.

Posted by: Renee Jun 18 2022, 11:21 AM

Okay, I need to start keeping bookmarks, I refuse to skip any of this. Rock 'n' roll lifestyle by Cake. Haven't seen that yet. Post 68. Here we go. They're eating weird food for lunch. I'm already Lol'ing! ... Even the part when the silt strider drowns out their conversation! laugh.gif How do you think of this stuff? laugh.gif

Omg... "Daria bought a big green beetle-shell hat".... laugh.gif That just floored me! One thing I can tell you, Clavier, is that some of this humor is rubbing into my own Morrowind story. I wrote a new Joan a couple days ago and there's a bit of laughter in it (for me, anyway). Can't help it!

Loling aside, I totally get Daria's concern. I'd hate for her to get caught. And the thing is, she wouldn't even get blamed for her forgery, right? Her boss would somehow make sure to cast all blame on Daria, somehow.

She showed up for all two of her voluteer sessions! And because of this, she's got an actual assignment now!

She can cast five spells! I didn't know she can cast spells! Of course, most of them probably fizzle. This is going to be interesting though. She's got an actual caper to embark upon. Like, Daria's a secret agent now.🥷

Damn. Well this is intriguing. I'll read more later. Just one chapter today. Don't want to skim your work, Clavier, and don't want to miss one word.


Posted by: SubRosa Jun 19 2022, 12:00 AM

Like Acadian, I thoroughly enjoyed this look at the world from Jane's perspective.

I always thought it was odd how the forts (not castles) in Morrowind has the -moth suffix. Moonmoth, Frostmoth, etc... I wonder why the Imperials chose that? Except Fort Darius. That is weird.

I always saw those forts as being naked icons of Imperial aggression. They are always located next to Dunmer settlements. But they are not there to guard them. They are there to control them. Their Brutalist architecture only reinforces that feeling, when set beside the organic look of the native Dunmer buildings.

I keep forgetting that while Jane is a Dunmer, she is an outlander as well. Not an easy circumstance to be in.

She does show her chops in her assessment of Varro (his name always makes me think Varus, and I wonder if Emperor Uriel haunts the corridors of the palace late at night saying "Varro, bring me back my legions!"). In any case, she sizes him up not simply physically but culturally as well.

I enjoyed Varro's advice to marry for pragmatic reasons at first. Then outlive your spouse and marry for the love the second time around.

Wow, it seems like everyone is Oblivion-bent upon telling Jane how to live her life, and where.

I liked how you contrasted the differences in culture between Jane's visits to the fort and temple. While Jane is caught in the middle, and not belonging in either. She has to create her own space to belong within.

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Jun 19 2022, 08:06 PM

Sorry for the late reply, just been dealing with some IRL stuff. Still am, but since I've already written these and only need to copy and paste them, I'll go on and update.

@ Acadian - Varro's interesting. In-game, he actually gives you a quest to kill the Camonna Tong in Balmora. You may remember them as the gang Synda falsely claimed to have connections to. What's interesting is that, due to his position, he can't outright tell you to kill them, so he does it in a really roundabout way. He can also end up the target of an assassination in a different quest, though it's not clear if this is connected to his hostility toward the Camonna Tong.

And thanks. I wanted to explore how Jane being a part of two cultures would affect her art. She tends to go her own way in the show, so I figured she'd be the same here.

@ Renee - Glad it's tickling the funny bone! A lot of it is I just try to imagine living in Morrowind as a normal person. And if you're in a decent-sized city, that probably means hearing the silt strider a lot.

Daria's definitely in the more vulnerable position here, and absolutely would get pinned with all the blame for the forgery. At worst, she'd probably just be kicked out of the guild if caught. It's not worth the time and effort to prosecute her. But Hetheria is right in saying that she committed a crime. Unfortunately, in Tamriel (and our own world, too often), the right connections often matter more than following the law, so Hetheria would almost certainly get away with it.

As you know from Morrowind, spells definitely do have a chance to fizzle out. I stuck with that in the story, since it offers a lot more narrative possibility.

@ SubRosa - Thanks!

Moths are a pretty big deal to the Empire, so I suppose that's why. Tamriel Rebuilt and Project Tamriel continue this, with a lot of forts in the mainland also having -moth in the title: Fort Windmoth, Fort Brinemoth (which is in ruins), Fort Lutemoth (yeah, I don't get that one either). Of course, they also have names like Taurus Hall.

You're absolutely right in that the forts are intended to remind the Dunmer that, if they start anything, the Empire will quash it brutally and quickly.

I figured Jane had to be pretty good at reading her clients. One thing I've learned from my own (non-artistic) jobs in the past is that very often , clients don't actually know what they want. You have to figure it out for them, a little bit. And it's not different for her. The majority of her clients are outlanders, and of those, the majority are from Cyrodiil (even if they aren't Imperial by race).

Heh, good point about the name.

This version of the Empire is pretty heavily based off of 1990s America (due to the nature of the crossover). So I went with the idea that they're pretty self-absorbed. With that, however, comes the expectation that everyone else is the same way, hence Varro's advice (which, I suppose isn't terrible advice exactly). The Dunmer, on the other hand, are much more traditional. Still, neither gives Jane much room to just be Jane. Writing this story let me explore how a Dunmer outlander might navigate such a situation. She has to have one foot in both worlds while always ready to jump from one to the other.

Episode 7: The Pilgrim's Inertia

Chapter 1


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oqXVx3sBOk

The air in the Morgendorffer house had grown stifling.

Maybe it was the rising heat of late spring, made humid by vapors from the Odai River and the swamps of the Bitter Coast. Maybe it was mom's sullen disappointment as she dwelled on her eldest daughter's latest networking failure. Maybe it was just the inevitable result of four people crammed into a single home.

Regardless of the reason, Daria craved any opportunity to escape, even if it meant another dreary day at Drenlyn Academy.

She took her time ambling down the sour-smelling riverside markets that resounded with the sharp cracks of food vendors breaking open the shells of cooked scribs. Her booted feet tramped through shallow puddles and circumnavigated the deeper ones as the yellow sun shone rich and bright in skies cleared by last night's rain.

At least she was out. Things hadn't gone well since her episode with the Mages Guild. Part of her was wondering if they'd ever go well again.

Daria reached the Drenlyn grounds before most. A few early risers swapped gossip in the shadow of the courtyard's big emperor parasol. Deciding that chatting with average Drenlyn students was an ordeal she just didn't need, Daria made a beeline for the library. Nothing repelled the popular crowd quite like books.

Safely ensconced within the library's dusty interior, Daria walked over to the far shelf, wondering if she wanted to tackle something new or lose herself in the familiar. She raised her right hand, fingers hovering over the spine of Feyfolken.

"Hey."

The feminine Dunmer voice made her think of Synda, and Daria jumped back in panic. Then she realized it was Jane, who stood in a nook between the bookshelf and the wall. Daria exhaled and adjusted her glasses.

"Just out of curiosity, is there a reason you're trying to scare me to death?" she asked as her pounding heart settled back into a normal beat.

"Well, I almost got scared to death this morning, so I thought I'd share the experience," Jane said.

"Your generosity is a beacon to us all." Daria noted the tightness in her friend's voice. Hard to see in the room's thick shadows, but something in Jane's stance made her look ready to bolt. "What happened?"

"Oh, the usual Labor Town shenanigans," she said, finishing with a little sigh. "It's not that big of a deal really. Not like I actually got hurt. So yeah, I was on my merry way here when a huge barrel—" she spread her hands wide, "—fell from a second story balcony and landed where I'd been walking a second earlier. I felt the air whoosh by."

Daria's heart froze for a moment, her mind reeling at the news. Morrowind without Jane... She gulped, not letting her consternation show. Good old Imperial stiff upper lip.

"What was in the barrel?" she asked, not sure what to say.

Jane blinked a few times. "Uh, cheap booze since you're so curious. Meaning it was heavy. If I'd been just one second slower that thing would have hit me square on the head." Her lips attempted a smile. "And I'd be about as smart as Briltasi."

"You'd be smarter than her even with a serious head wound."

"And a lot deader." Jane leaned back against the wall.

"For what it's worth, I am glad you're still among the living. Even if that means you have to deal with the annoyances that brings."

Daria waited, sensing that Jane was searching for a witty comeback. She wanted to hear that inexhaustible Jane confidence, one that took the worst society threw at her and turned it back on them with style and aplomb.

But Jane stayed silent for a long time. "Yeah, me too. Puts things into perspective. Like maybe someone was finally watching out for me."

"How do you mean?"

"I mean that maybe all those temple visits finally paid off."

Jane rarely mentioned her religion. It wasn't as if she was shy about poking fun at the Tribunal Temple's corruption and pompousness. But at the core of it all, she still believed.

Daria still didn't know why Jane believed something so ridiculous. Three gods that were once mortals? If those gods were real, why was Morrowind under the Empire's rule? Shouldn't living god-kings be enough to ensure Morrowind's independence? Every Imperial knew that the gods of Morrowind were nothing more than Dunmer priests in layers of makeup and weighed down by tawdry jewelry, reciting absurd aphorisms to the adoring masses.

Jane should know that.

But Daria knew better than to press her luck on this issue.

"Uh, good?"

"Maybe I'm just telling that to make myself feel better. I should get to Sera Defoe's. Talk to you later?"

"Sure."

Jane righted herself and walked out of the library, leaving Daria with the dusty tomes.



*********



Jane's confidence returned by the end of the day. Daria walked home (as slowly as possible) confident that life had gone back to its normal state of tolerable disappointment. She spent the evening in forced socialization with the rest of the family, her fingers struggling to pluck the notes of old Colovian songs from the out-of-tune family lyre as dad bellowed out the words. She kept hoping that the guards would shut them down for disturbing the peace, but no such luck.

She and Jane met at the Lucky Lockup after school the next day where they shared scrib jerky and mazte.

"No other close calls?" Daria asked, before lifting her clay cup and taking a swig.

"Not beyond listening to my brother trying to play sea shanties," Jane said, with a shrug. "But I did decide on something."

"Would that something be earplugs?"

"No, though those might be handy. Do you know about the Pilgrimages of the Seven Graces?"

"I read about it. That's where Dunmer pilgrims visit seven Tribunal shrines to pay their respects, right?"

"Should've guessed you'd know. Anyway, I think it's time for me to go on a pilgrimage."

Daria straightened up in her chair. Jane had said it totally casually, but Daria recognized the certainty in her friend's voice.

"Uh, okay. You're doing the whole thing?" Daria tried to remember the details. The shrines were scattered across Vvardenfell. It'd take weeks to visit them all. "How would you manage that with all your commissions?"

Jane held up a hand. "I'm too poor and foreign to do the whole thing. No, for me it'll be the Pilgrimage of One Close-by and Relatively Convenient Grace. But that's better than nothing."

Daria relaxed a bit, though she took another drink. The last thing she wanted was to be without Jane for a month or more. "I guess that's pretty reasonable."

"Yeah, reasonable," Jane said, her gaze going from Daria to the worn surface of the corkbulb-wood table. "A good pious Dunmer would just say to hell with their livelihood and visit all seven shrines. Religion's a pretty big deal here. That's the nice thing about being a dirty outlander. The locals don't expect as much from you."

Easy for you to say, Daria thought. Mom still hadn't given up on the idea of Daria joining some guild or company.

Jane kept her eyes the table, looking vaguely defeated. Then she raised her head and smiled. "Lucky for me, Trent's heading over to Pelagiad in a few days. There's a fair there he wants to play at. He's been there before, and he said there's a little boat that takes pilgrims up to the Shrine of Humility. Figure I'll tag along with him and then strike out to pay my humble respects."

Daria frowned. "On your own?"

"Should be safe enough. The shrine's in the Ascadian Isles. Not much there except green hills and wide roads."

"And the slave labor that the Hlaalu don’t like to admit having. How long will this trip take?"

"About a week."

A week. An entire week when Daria would have no means of escape other than the academy. Plenty of the days ahead were scheduled to be spent helping in mom's home office, slowly roasting under her judgmental gaze and voice.

Jane smiled. "Aw, Daria, are you that worried about me?"

"I'm worried about myself. Things aren't great at home right now."

"No reason you couldn't join us." Jane grinned. "Ooh, you'd get to spend some time with Trent!"

Daria blushed. "Uh, well, if I do go it'd mostly be to escape."

"Right. Escape into my brother's arms."

"Escape out of my damn house!" Daria shook her head. "It's a moot point, anyway. My parents would never approve something like that."

"Maybe you could tell your mom that you're trying to learn more about Dunmer culture. She's always trying to get you to be more involved, right?"

"To her, more involved means sucking up to some parasitic guild so that I can contribute to the Morgendorffer coffers and maybe net her a few more clients." Daria leaned back in her chair. "In other words, I'd much rather travel with you—"

"And Trent!"

"—than be stuck here."

"You just have to talk your mom into it. Maybe you inherited her lawyerly talent for debate!"

Daria sighed. "Even if I did, she still has formal training. The only experience I have comes from arguing with Quinn. But my sanity's on the line if I have to stay here much longer, so I'll give it a shot."

"Hey, at least if you go insane you won't have to attend Drenlyn anymore."

"Tempting, but I'd rather deal with annoying instructors than be moved to some dark cell."

A joke, but it didn't really feel like one. Daria needed to get out.


https://dariawiki.org/wiki/Claire_Defoe - The art teacher in Lawndale High is also present in Drenlyn. Jane mentions her on occasion, but she never actually appears in Outlanders. Some of it, I'll admit, was because I had a hard time figuring out exactly how an art teacher would fit into this environment. Regardless, she did play a pretty important role in Jane kickstarting her career.

https://en.uesp.net/wiki/Morrowind:Pilgrimages_of_the_Seven_Graces - This is the starting quest for the Tribunal Temple. It'd be beyond Jane's capability (or desire) to do all seven.

Posted by: SubRosa Jun 19 2022, 10:44 PM

Now that you mention it, the Ancestor Moths and their tie to the Elder Scrolls are a big deal for the Imperials, so I suppose it starts from there.

Nothing repelled the popular crowd quite like books.
Some things never change. laugh.gif

Jane's near misadventure with the beer barrel made me almost laugh. Just a little while ago I was listening to The Dirt Podcast, which is a show about archaeology, anthropology, and our shared human history. They were talking about ancient record keeping, and how in ancient Sumer the earliest records are mostly about beer deliveries.

Part of me has always wanted to do the Tribunal Temple questline in Morrowind. But my own low personal opinion of the Tribunal always keeps me from doing it. I just cannot manage it, not even in roleplay.

Wow, so Jane is going to do the whole Pilgrimage thing. Good for her. In spite of what I just said, obviously most Dunmer would not share my opinion of their religion. In the very least she will get out and see the world. Hopefully she won't get eaten by an Alit or Kagouti in the process. In the very least the Temple lady might be a little nicer to her. Not that I see Jane ever truly becoming zealous. But she might get the inspiration for some cool artwork from the ordeal.

That's the nice thing about being a dirty outlander. The locals don't expect as much from you.
Or as she once said: "I like having low self-esteem. It makes me feel special." Well here is to visiting the one close and convenient shrine.

Oooh, Jane has a great idea in Daria tagging along. She will be networking!

Posted by: Acadian Jun 20 2022, 08:28 PM

‘Nothing repelled the popular crowd quite like books.’
- - Like SubRosa, I was struck by this chuckleworthy line. tongue.gif

”If I'd been just one second slower that thing would have hit me square on the head." Her lips attempted a smile. "And I'd be about as smart as Briltasi." laugh.gif

Daria needs to escape House Morgendorffer and the town of Balmora – at least temporarily. And Jane, having just found religion in a barrel of cheap whiskey, has decided that a pilgrimage is appropriate. I’m glad that Daria is going to try to go with Jane.

Posted by: Renee Jun 21 2022, 01:17 PM

Oh no, she's been caught by Johanna. redwizardsmile.gif Everything's falling apart with this harebrained plan to discover magic in Jo-Jo's house. Yeah, I don't know Daria very well, I only know her from her occasional appearances in Beavis & Butthead, but she does not strike me as any kind of liar, or charlatan.

Whoa, she quit the Mages Guild! ohmy.gif Aw, that sucks. It just seems the guild could've been so perfect for her. You know, if she'd been in a different guild, with a superior who wasn't so nefarious. Maybe she'd receive actual training as a studious mage. Daria being somewhat nerdy, it'd be perfect for her then.

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Jun 22 2022, 04:23 PM

@ SubRosa - It's funny how grubby history really is. One of the oldest recorded documents is a complaint filed by one Sumerian merchant against another: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complaint_tablet_to_Ea-nasir

I understand your reservations about the Tribunal Temple. Ultimately, the Tribunal gods are terrible people and are responsible, in one way or another, for many of the awful things going on in Morrowind (and some even worse stuff in the future). As a quest though, I do admire The Pilgrimages of the Seven Graces for how thoroughly it commits to the setting. It's a lot of effort for a pretty meager reward. But this underscores the fact that, if you're really playing a religious character, you shouldn't be doing it for the physical reward. It also gives you a good overview of Dunmer history and culture (certain aspects of it, anyway).

The Temple seems slightly less awful than the Tribunal itself, if only because they make some effort to help poorer Dunmer. But yeah, they also send out the ordinators to terrorize dissidents, so still not good.

In the show, Jane had a tendency to commit herself pretty thoroughly to some short-lived identities. Becoming fashionable in "The F Word", running track in "See Jane Run", and '40s revivalism in "Life in the Past Lane". But this never lasts for too long and, what's more, she's always the one who ultimately decides to pull the plug. So yeah, I can't see her getting too wrapped up in the Tribunal Temple even if she is a Tribunal believer.

@ Acadian - Yup, definitely a good excuse for Daria to take a break.

@ Renee - Daria's relationship with honesty can be a little weird in her own show. She tends to have high expectations for people, but isn't above using some underhanded methods (at least early in the show's run). Hypocritical, but also very human.

The Mages Guild is a pretty big institution, so I wouldn't say it's totally out of the running for a future career. Hetheria's the only person who's really giving Daria a hard time on this, and she's pretty low-run despite her connections.

Episode 7: The Pilgrim's Inertia

Chapter 2


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTr1uOsspic

Daria returned home to find mom pacing in her office and clutching a stack of parchments.

"Honestly! Why is it so hard for my clients to understand that bribery is against Imperial law?"

"Because so many of the Empire's best and brightest still accept bribery?" Daria said, as she walked past. She noted that the votive candles at the household shrine to Julianos, Imperial god of law and reasoning and everything else in mom's career, had gone out.

"Yes, but you'd think the Empire's officials would at least encourage a certain level of subtlety for such things. Civilized people bribe each other with investment opportunities, not bags of coins!"

"Uh, did you know that the candles went out?" Daria asked.

Mom looked up from the papers. "Oh, for goodness' sake! Daria, would you re-light them? I'll say a prayer later, but I really need to get through this paperwork."

Sitting down at her desk, mom grabbed a quill from the inkwell and began writing.

"Truly an impressive example of Imperial piety," Daria said, as she took the tinder set from the altar. Flames soon crowned the green wax candles.

Daria had been raised to believe in the Empire's Nine Divines, and how for all the Empire's statecraft and military might its true strength rested on the simple faith of its innumerable farmers, tradesmen, and soldiers. She'd read a few atheistic tracts during a rebellious period but now accepted that gods of some kind had to exist, and that even if they didn't, rejecting them didn't make much sense from the perspective of her personal risk-reward ratio.

Most Imperials treated the Divines like a holy favor service. Given that the Empire thrived (or had at least treaded water for the past few decades), Daria supposed that meant the Nine Divines were okay with that. Mom always got worshipful before a big case but was otherwise all business. Julianos might be the source of law and wisdom, but Helen Morgendorffer had done all the work of putting that into practice.

Dinner turned out to be scrib pie that dad had bought on the way home. Daria ate in silence while she built up her nerve, anticipating her parents' objections. She imagined their reactions and came up with imagined responses to those reactions, her mind spinning off dozens of branching conversations between bites.

Finally, she decided to just go for it. She put her tin fork down on the plate, a steaming insect chunk still skewered on the tines.

"Jane's going on a trip to Pelagiad with her brother. She asked me if I could join them."

Her parents and sister all looked up from their plates.

"Pelagiad's a few days from here," mom said. "Why is Jane going?"

"Trent's a musician and he's going to play at some kind of trade fair over there."

Quinn rolled her eyes. "Daria, you're not supposed to date bards who play at fairs! You date the ones who play for noble families. Not," she added, as mom and dad briefly turned their attentions to her, "that I know anything about dating bards. But it's just common sense!"

"I'm not dating him!" Daria protested, hoping that the blush creeping into her cheeks wasn't too obvious. "The only reason I'm going is to keep Jane company."

"But why's Jane going?" mom asked.

For a moment, Daria thought about lying and saying Jane had a commission in Pelagiad. Yet she saw all of the world's hypocrisy in her mother's interrogating gaze, and decided she was tired of it.

"Jane's going on a pilgrimage to a shrine near Pelagiad."

"That's great!" dad said. "Good to see you showing some piety, kiddo! You know, the Nine Divines reward those who are faithful." He pointed at her when he said that, as if dispensing some jocular fatherly wisdom.

Now for the big moment. "It's not an Imperial Cult shrine," Daria said. "It's for Morrowind's gods."

Dad dropped his fork. "Young lady! In this house—"

"Daria, are you planning on worshipping at this shrine?" mom said, leaning forward over her plate. She had that look that said she didn't yet believe the worst but wanted to be sure.

"I wouldn't let her do it, mom," Quinn said. "You have that big case coming up, remember? It wouldn't look good in Julianos's eyes if your eldest daughter was off doing whatever for Morrowind's gods."

Daria sighed. "Jane's going to be the one worshipping there, not me. I'm just keeping her company."

"I believe you, Daria," mom said. "You've complained about the Tribunal Temple before. Just like you've complained about every institution," she added, with an almost mournful tone.

"You call them complaints I call them valid criticisms."

Dad squinted. "So you're still with the Nine Divines?"

"Yes, dad."

"Great!" He turned his focus back to his pie.

"Is Trent an experienced traveler?" mom asked.

"He's been all over western Vvardenfell."

Mom leaned back in her chair. "I do applaud you going out to see the world. Too much of your knowledge is secondhand and there's a reason the courts prefer firsthand accounts."

Daria clenched her teeth. The last thing she wanted was a lecture on why traveling with Jane was a good thing. She already thought it was a good thing!

"So, it's settled?" Daria said, bracing herself for the worst.

"Not so fast. What about your work at Drenlyn?"

"Please. A trained monkey could finish most of those assignments. Whatever I miss I'll be able to make up."

"Very well. But my big case is coming up and I don't want to risk our family seeming impious. Divine disfavor is the last thing I need right now."

"Why would Julianos be bothered? Jane's the one worshipping false gods. Not me." Somehow, saying that didn't really sit right with Daria. Still, it was true. Anyone could see the Tribunal was a sham.

"Yes, but it doesn't look good for an Imperial girl to get too close to an alien faith." Mom's eyes turned up to the ceiling, her expression calculating.

Annoyed, Daria crossed her arms. "Do you want me to re-light the votive candles a few more times?"

Mom's expression brightened. "Here's an idea. There's an Imperial Cult shrine in Pelagiad. I'll give you some incense and you can take it to the cult altar and burn it. Make sure you do whatever obeisances and rituals the priest tells you to do."

Daria supposed that was wise. More importantly, it was easy. "All right."

"Great! Now I can net the benefits of a pilgrimage without leaving the office. I think this will be an exciting trip for you, Daria!"

Daria scowled. Nothing soured an adventure quite like parental approval.



*********



Daria lingered in the dining room for a bit, reading by the light of the setting sun. She preferred the cold and rain of winter, but the longer days at least meant more time spent in books without cutting into the candle budget.

"Hey there, Daria!" dad said.

Daria didn't look up from Marobar Sul's The Importance of Where, but she prepped herself mentally. Things always went bad just when they started to seem good.

"Hey," she said.

"I know Jane's a good kid, and I'm sure Trent is too," he said.

"What's the problem?"

"No problem! Just that traveling the great outdoors can be a little dangerous." Dad pulled out a chair and sat at the table across from her, an oblong wooden box under his arm.

She looked up at him. "Like I said, Trent's no stranger to living rough. And it's not like the Ascadian Isles are especially threatening."

"Right. Well, I know it might be a shock to you, but old dad's been around a bit."

"I know. Your Fighters Guild days."

Dad gulped. "Yeah. My dad didn't think I was man enough so he—well, that doesn't matter now." He took a deep breath and placed the box on the table. It clinked. "I know you don't like sparring anymore," dad said. "Too dorky for a cool kid like you to do with a parent."

"It's more that I don't really see the need to militarize child-rearing. At least not until the Empire finds something else to conquer," Daria said. It had been ages since she'd thought about sparring the way they used to, back on Stirk.

Her, Quinn, and dad would head out to the rocky chaparral above the docks with their training swords in hand, first made of wood, then of blunted metal. He'd always turn it into a game—Jake the pirate king who threatened Stirk, or Jake the wounded knight who needed his brave daughters to fight in his stead. How he guided their arms and watched their stances, Quinn whining all the while about how she wanted to be back inside with her dolls and Daria grinning and asking dad how to kill an opponent as brutally as possible. And he'd give a sad smile and say the most important thing was for Daria to be safe, but if she really had to take someone out it was best done quick—

Daria blinked, her eyes watering. Probably from the volcanic dust drifting down from Red Mountain.

Dad opened the box. Inside lay an iron blade, short and sharp, without adornment.

The book almost slipped from Daria's hands. This was the real thing.

"This is what I started out with," dad said. "It's about the same length and weight as your old trainer, so you should feel right at home!"

"Dad, I've never been in a real fight before." Daria tensed up. Was he really that worried? Talking about killing imaginary foes was one thing, but would she have the fortitude to actually use this?

"I think it's better that you have it just in case. I know things aren't as dangerous now as they were when I was a kid. And thank the Nine Divines for that! Pick it up."

Daria hesitated before putting the book down and reaching out, her right hand slowly closing on the hilt. She lifted it from the box, its weight sending a tingle of familiarity up her arm.

Dad frowned. "With your build you might be better off with a spear of some kind. But this is all I have, and I like to think I did a pretty good job of training you girls!"

"Quinn probably unlearned it all to make more room for fashion." Daria raised the blade to the light. The iron was too dark to reflect the sunlight.

"Heh, oh I'm sure your sister still remembers a bit. It's muscle memory, and that kind of thing doesn't go away. Anyway, I don't think you'll have to use this, but I want you to take it with you."

Daria placed it back in the box and met her dad's gaze. It was one of the rare moments where he just seemed like the gentle man who'd seen too many bloody things in his youth.

"Thanks, dad."

"Great, kiddo! How about we get up early tomorrow and practice some swordsmanship! Er, wait, I mean swords-woman-ship! Yeah!"

"Under one condition: don't pretend to be a brigand or injured knight or try to make it some elaborate story."

Dad looked puzzled. "I guess I could pretend to be something more local. An Ashlander, maybe? Wait, are they bad guys?"

"Just be a dad training his daughter in the art of combat."

He grinned. "Can do! See you then."

"See you."

Dad got up and left. Daria returned to her book but found it hard to concentrate. She realized she was about to leave Balmora and explore Morrowind. Admittedly, she'd be exploring one of the safest parts of Morrowind. But travel meant danger.

Dad lending her his old sword was proof of that.

Posted by: Acadian Jun 22 2022, 08:32 PM

Daria managed to navigate the dinner negotiations pretty well. Thankfully, her mother popped the idea of paying homage to the Nine while in Pelagiad. Easy to accomplish and anything to prevent her family from thinking she might get Tribunal on herself.

’Daria scowled. Nothing soured an adventure quite like parental approval.’
- - She’s never satisfied though. . . . tongue.gif

The episode then took a more serious, even poignant, tone as Daria’s dad offered up his old sword.

"Quinn probably unlearned it all to make more room for fashion."
- - I see Daria believes in the quantitative brain capacity theory. wink.gif

The potential for actual danger on the roads is now hitting Daria. Better somewhat prepared than surprised however.

Posted by: SubRosa Jun 25 2022, 10:59 PM

Bribery is against the law? What madness is this!!!

Civilized people bribe each other with investment opportunities, not bags of coins
Mom comes through with the voice of reason. The Lobbying industry rejoices!

I liked the family shrine to Julianos. It reminds me of the Roman household shrines.

Nothing soured an adventure quite like parental approval.
Its almost as bad as having your mom drop you off and pick you up from a concert. (yep, that was my first concert!)

Dad was in the Fighter's Guild? That is neat! I love how you translated his being sent to military school to that.

And that is also cool. A Daddy-daughter longswording practice session. Hopefully Daria will not need the sword. But in case she does, it will be good to have it, and know how to use it.

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Jun 26 2022, 04:22 PM

@Acadian - Helen's a natural negotiator, so she was able to figure out how both parties could benefit in a theologically sound way.

And yeah, Vvardenfell's very much a frontier. While far from the most dangerous place in Tamriel, one should always be careful.

@SubRosa - Roman household shrines were exactly what I was thinking of.

Another episode (not too far from now) goes into more detail about Jake's time in the Fighters Guild. As you surmised, it is an adaptation of canon Jake's time in military school (actually, a combination of that and his time as a hippy, since he roamed around a lot while in the guild).

Jake's clownishness often rubbed me the wrong way in the show, just because it felt a little too over-the-top. I have to admit that I didn't do a great job correcting this in Outlanders, though it's probably less apparent simply because Jake gets less attention than he does in the show.

Episode 7: The Pilgrim's Inertia

Chapter 3


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wVzvXW9bo5U

Daria spent the last night before the trip with Jane and Trent in their apartment. Bellies warm with drinks from the South Wall Cornerclub, they gathered on the balcony while Red Mountain puffed smoke into the hot night air. Leaning against the balcony wall, Daria felt the world, with all its possibilities, open around her.

The three of them awoke early and stood at Balmora's gate as dawn's light fumed in the east. The ground shook as a silt strider disembarked, its towering segmented legs slow but sure as they walked along the Odai's banks.

"Last chance to make sure we got everything we need," Trent said, his eyes on the horizon. "Food and water?"

"Check," Jane said. She crouched on the ground, packs open around her.

"Cash?"

"Not as much as I'd like, but check."

"Potions?"

"We've got three healing, three stamina, and a couple curative."

Trent scratched his head. "Sounds good to me. Let's go."

"Wait! We also have bedrolls, toiletries, walking sticks—"

"Whatever, Jane. I've got a good feeling about this trip. I trust my gut."

"Your gut might end up outside your body if we don't prepare well." Jane sighed and continued checking.

Daria smiled at Trent's feigned indifference. A guy like him had to know everything there was about excursions, but he didn't let it worry him. Jane didn't travel much so she was probably almost as nervous as Daria, which explained how fussy she was being.

"Okay, looks like we Llayns have everything we need. Daria?" Jane asked.

Daria had already tallied up her personal supplies. The sword rested in a scabbard attached to her belt. She'd spent plenty of time practicing under dad's tutelage. Also in her pack was a pouch of spices and wood shavings from the Gold Coast destined to be burned on Pelagiad's altar. A pilgrimage within a pilgrimage.

"I'm ready," she said, leaning on the rugged walking stick she'd brought.

They made good time through the rocky highlands around Balmora. By noon they passed the squat keep of Moonmoth Legion Fort, the structure looking like a stone monster vainly trying to hide in the foothills. Jokes and comments kept them entertained, Daria and Jane doing the heavy lifting while Trent occasionally chimed in, a relaxed smile on his handsome face.

Maybe, Daria thought, this was the life meant for her. Something free from the vagaries of guild or company, where she followed her own beliefs with those she trusted most. As her skinny legs struggled up the hillsides, all the Empire felt within her grasp.

They passed through a gap in the jagged ridge east of Balmora and reached the desolation of the Foyada Mamea. Daria knew it by reputation as one of the enormous lava-forged gullies, called foyadas, stretching forth like stony arteries from Red Mountain's heart.

She gaped a bit at the sheer bleakness, the foyada a black stony gullet going for leagues up and downhill. Petrified trees clung to the foyada's sides, their stiff and scraggly limbs like the fingers of burned corpses. The ground possessed a smooth and glassy quality. Molten rock had melted away the hard edges.

She shivered in spite of the heat. Probably didn't hurt to get another reminder that Vvardenfell was essentially one enormous volcano, quiet but still very much alive. Imperial geologists classified it as being of low risk for eruption.

Low risk didn't mean no risk.

The party stayed silent as it traversed the open-air lava tube. On occasion they heard the clicking sounds of squat black beetles crawling across the rocky ground. Going downhill should've been easy but sharp pebbles kept finding their way into Daria's boots. Simply keeping her balance on the tilted ground poised another challenge, and each awkward step sent another rush of tiny stones tumbling down the slopes. Ash entered her lungs and provoked coughing fits. Weariness made the sword on her belt weigh as much as an anvil.

The late afternoon sun's steady heat brutalized them further. Daria felt like her thick hair was cooking her scalp. Sweat poured down her face and plastered the ash and grime against her skin. Worst of all, her glasses threatened to slip down her nose.

Losing another pair was not an option, so she held her glasses with one hand and gripped her walking stick with the other. Jane and Trent were already some distance ahead, tiny figures in the foyada's enormity. Jane stopped and looked back, then said something to Trent, who also stopped. Daria gritted her teeth. A hike shouldn't be so overwhelming.

But she felt pretty overwhelmed.

"You doing okay, Daria?" Jane asked as Daria got closer, her query echoing down the igneous gully.

"I'm fine."

"You're looking pretty red. Think you got some sunburn there."

Daria stopped, putting all her weight on the walking stick as sweat dripped down her neck. She let her long hair fall over her face, not wanting Trent to see how much of a mess she looked.

"Lousy half-Nordic heritage," Daria muttered.

Jane chuckled. "Hey, look on the bright side. If we're ever in Skyrim you'll be prancing through the snow while me and Trent get frostbite."

"Frostbite doesn't sound that bad right now," Daria said.

"Hey, Trent, maybe we should call it a day? It's getting late."

"I'm cool with that," Trent said. "We got plenty of time anyway. You're doing pretty good for an Imperial kid, Daria."

Daria's blush rivaled her sunburn at the comment. Gods, she did look like a little kid stumbling along after her elders. She was half tempted to hike up to Red Mountain and throw herself in the first lava vent.

"Yeah, you're doing fine," Jane said, her tone consoling. "Don't sweat it."

"Too late."



*********



They made camp in a small copse of dead trees, the wood long-since turned to stone. Daria still coughed in the dry and dusty air, but the evening was at least cooler. The setting sun crept beneath the ridge, its dying light rendering the world in red and black.

She sat a mere foot away from Trent, who played a slow and contemplative tune on his lute, the notes warbling against the glassy ridges.

Firewood had been too heavy to carry and there was nothing in the foyada to burn, but Daria and Jane had pooled their resources to buy a few cheap tallow candles. The first one burned steady as they dined on cold scrib jerkey and lukewarm water. Daria resisted the urge to dump the water-skin's contents on her filthy face. She'd never wanted a bath so badly.

"When we get back," Daria said, "remind me to tell Quinn there's a big cosmetics fair in Foyada Mamea."

"Ooh, I hear soot is really in this year," Jane said. She yawned a moment later. "I think I'm going to turn in. You guys can stay up for a bit. Get some private time." She winked at Daria, who scowled in return. Jane laughed before getting up and walking over to their packs.

Shadows deepened as sunset gave way to evening. Both moons rose in the sky, the bloated red orb of Masser and the smaller shining sphere of Secunda, which some sources claimed the Second Empire had once held in its dominion many ages ago. Daria squinted for a better look at Secunda's pock-marked surface the way she used to as a child, wondering if she'd spot the forts and cities built by Imperials past. Like always, she failed to find any hint of long-lost Tatterdemalion.

A sudden gust of wind struck, and she gasped in shock. The temperature had plummeted. Instinctively, she scooted closer to Trent. He played on, his music attended only by Daria and the star-crowned moons far above.

"Uh, you play really well," Daria said, hearing her awkwardness in her echo.

"Thanks."

She hoped he'd put an arm around her. For warmth, if nothing else. Instead, he kept playing.

"Why won't you go to the shrine with Jane?" Daria asked.

"'Cause I'm going to play at the fair."

"Oh, right," Daria said, embarrassed at having forgot.

"Anyway, shrines aren't really my thing. Way I see it, gods will do whatever they want. And I'm okay with that. But I'm not going to thank them for it."

"That sounds sensible."

"Exactly," Trent said.

Daria looked up at the night sky. "Jane's one of the most perceptive people I've ever met. So why can't she see through the Tribunal's lies? Most of the people in the temple think she's as much of a foreigner as I am."

Trent was silent for a bit. "It's from when we were kids. We lost the house pretty soon after mom and dad moved back to the Imperial City. They said they'd take care of it, but they never did. I was older so I tried to make coin any way I could. Only way I could help Jane was making sure she stayed in the Balmora temple. Knew she'd get food and a warm bed there, at least."

Daria nodded, thinking guiltily of her own fortunate upbringing.

"Anyway," Trent continued, "she must've liked some of what the priests said."

"I guess I can see that. It's just hard to believe she'd be so blinkered. Any idiot can see that the so-called Tribunal gods are mortals wearing more cosmetics than even my sister would feel comfortable with."

"Uh, careful where you say that," Trent said, glancing around. "Anyway, Janey's not hurting anyone. If believing in something helps you get through the day, I say go for it."

"What if believing in a certain something involves denying facts and logic? Or propping up a corrupt institution?"

Trent shrugged and tuned his lute. Daria could just see the angular tattoos on the left side of his face, like some kind of ancient script.

"What do those tattoos mean? I know a lot of Dunmer use them to show where they were born, and to whom, but I wouldn't be able to recognize any symbols."

"Heh. I got these a long time ago, back when I was still trying to fit in. I know better, now."

"So what do they say?" Daria pressed.

"That I'm a poor outlander who wants to look cool." He laughed for a bit, his attempt ending in a hoarse choking fit. "You can't get any kind of tattoo you want in Morrowind. Not if you're a Dunmer, anyway. When I got inked, the tattooist told me what I could show. He didn't give me many choices."

Trent shook his head. "If I ever leave Morrowind for good, I'm going to get some really crazy tattoos that say exactly what I want them to say."

Daria tried to imagine what that might be. "Uh, yeah. That'd be cool." Inwardly, she winced at the thought. Pain didn't bother him, though. How could it, after what he'd been through? Trent would probably smile through the process, make some joke to the artist and move on when it was done, always free, always sure. She sighed.

"Is it okay if I listen to you play?" Exhaustion beckoned her to sleep and the cold air numbed her limbs, but she wanted to stay out a little longer. Get a little closer to Trent, to this man who rose above the absurdities around him.

"Fine by me. Just make sure you get enough sleep. We'll be going over easier ground tomorrow but there's still a lot of walking to do."

"I'll be okay," Daria said. She inched closer so that only a hair's breadth separated them. She wanted to grab him so badly but held herself back—wouldn't be appropriate. Would seem weird. She was a pale reflection of her sister at the best of times and was bedraggled and filthy to boot. But she'd stay so that if Trent changed his mind, he could hold her close.

And even if he didn't she could at least hear his music.

In the silence of Red Mountain's shadow, Trent played on.



*********



Exhausted in her bedroll, Jane had been about to drift off to sleep when she heard Daria and Trent starting to talk. She smiled. It was so fun to put Daria on the spot. Still, she liked seeing the change that came over her friend whenever Trent came by. That maybe for all her smarts and otherworldly confidence, Daria was still a mortal girl with a crush.

"Jane's one of the most perceptive people I've ever met," Daria said, her monotone voice amplified by the foyada.

That was nice to hear.

"So why can't she see through the Tribunal's lies? Most of the people in the temple think she's as much of a foreigner as I am."

The words hit straight to the core. And the longer Jane listened, the more it hurt. The Tribunal gods were the gods of her people. Her gods. Maybe they hadn't given her much but they'd never run away. When she was alone in her apartment, hungry and tired, she'd say the same prayers her ancestors uttered and feel their warmth for a fleeting moment. Why couldn't Daria understand that?

Blinking back tears, Jane tried to sleep.

Posted by: Acadian Jun 26 2022, 08:35 PM

’As her skinny legs struggled up the hillsides, all the Empire felt within her grasp.’
This one line concisely tells us much that is confirmed as the episode progresses. Nice to see some optimism from Daria. Her spirit is intrigued by freedom of the road, but her reading has ill-prepared her for the physical challenges involved. Hopefully some time on the road will toughen her up. The walking stick was a good idea.

You artfully show us Daria's crush on Trent as she awkwardly sits close to him and drops hints.

Uh-oh, though well-intentioned, Daria’s Tribunal bashing – while bouncing off Trent – has hurt her friend Jane. Trent actually has the right idea here, whereas Daria’s lack of verbal restraint and forethought. . . .

Posted by: Renee Jun 27 2022, 01:36 PM

I can't see Daria joining House Hlaalu, or any of the houses, either. Don't know why, it's just a feeling.

She's wearing her new bug-shell hat! ... Whoa, she's back to Johanna's place! ohmy.gif ... and she's being tempted to join Telvanni. Gosh, I have no idea where this is heading.

QUOTE
It proclaimed this fact in the artificiality of its construction. No adobe or insect shells, just massive blocks of stone piled one on top of the other.


This is really the huge difference between the natives and the outlander Imperials, right? The outlanders don't even bother collecting up all the eggshells, or building homes into the remains of ancient dinosaur-size beings. Once again, I never really thought about this with any sort of depth until the phrase above.

I like how Jane thinks about how she approaches the portrait of Varro before she actually starts. Like, this is a decision made on-the-spot. Makes me think you've had some experience painting portraits, eh Clavier? ... Because this is what I've heard from a couple other painters over the years. You aren't just choosing colors and blending them, you are also making decisions, and also disembodying yourself from your work. At least, this is what I've heard from a couple others. Wow, that got nailed. well.

OMG what horrible marriage advice (pertaining to moving to Pelagiad)! I can't believe he just said that. Funny thing is, I can totally see vanilla Morrowind's dialog supporting this. I can totally see an NPC in the base game saying such a thing! laugh.gif

I notice you posted a date of 424, which is three years earlier than the events starting TES III. Interesting. Is there a reason for this? Just curious.

83

Posted by: SubRosa Jun 28 2022, 06:38 AM

I can hear all of Trent's lines exactly as he sounded from the show. You really captured how he speaks, man.

"That I'm a poor outlander who wants to look cool."
I love Trent's response. That is so him.

Daria, as ever, shows her supreme talent for fitting her boots right into her mouth with her careless remarks about religion. She knows what she knows, and it never occurs to her that what she says will hurt someone else's feelings. It is what we love about her, and hate about her. Again, you really nailed this part of her personality from the show.

I started watching the entire series again a few months ago, and finished up a few weeks back. You really have gotten these characters down to a tee. I can so easily picture them in my head, and hear their voices when they speak.


Renee: I think the whole idea for this is to show a common person's experience in Morrowind. So Daria is not the Chosen One who is going to destroy Dagoth Ur and bring down the Tribunal (at least I don't think so). So it is set before all that happens to show what Vvardenfell was like before it was irrevocably changed by the doings our player characters.

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Jun 29 2022, 04:50 PM

@Acadian - Travel can be a thrill. But one does have to get used to its rigors, which Daria most certainly is not. She is actually pretty well-traveled, all things considered, since she moved from western Cyrodiil to Morrowind. But a significant chunk of that was by Mage Guild relay, and the rest was by ship. Thus, hiking through a volcanic wasteland is kind of new to her.

@Renee - I don't think Daria would do well in any of the great houses, either.

Thanks! I really wanted to get into the detail of how Morrowind's power structure manifests. As SubRosa mentioned in an earlier post, the forts are a blatant reminder of the Empire's power, and even the architecture reflects this. Also, after playing Morrowind long enough, the familiar Imperial architecture started to feel alien and intrusive. Something that was thrown in there but doesn't necessarily belong (or make any real attempt to belong).

I'm not an artist myself, but I have friends and family members who are, and I've tried to listen to a lot of what they've told me over the years. Definitely helped me bring Jane to life.

The 3E 424 date is to give the story a bit of distance from the events of the game. The series takes place from 3E 424-426 (with the exception of the epilogue, which explores the future of each major character, and sometimes goes as far as a few hundred years ahead thanks to Mer lifespans). There is also an obscure lore event that takes place in 3E 426, which is the backdrop for the last regular episode.

@SubRosa - Thank you! Part of what I wanted to do with this is to make it feel like some AU Tamriel had its own version of MTV, and they also produced Daria.

Trent's talk about his tattoos is a spin on what he said in "Road Warrior", where he admits that he just got them from a magazine. Tattoos mean something very different in Morrowind though.

Daria's blunt. Sometimes to her own detriment.

Episode 7: The Pilgrim's Inertia

Episode 4


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_afcqhGFjE (Warning: NSFW lyrics!)

Daria awoke with her entire body feeling like an enormous ache covered in dirt. At this point, she'd have been happy to deal with mom's judgmental aura if it meant a long bath, a soft bed, and a hot meal. Stiff muscles slowed her movements as she crawled out of her bedroll and sat down for a cold breakfast of scrib jerky. Trent looked a little worse for the wear but otherwise the same. Jane stayed silent through breakfast, her expression guarded.

They reached the Acsadian Isles at midmorning. Daria gasped at the sight: miles and miles of green meadows sprawling from the foyada to the sea. Clear streams tumbled down from the foothills to feed mirror-bright Lake Amaya whose waters shone in the sun. Leafy trees grew side-by-side with graceful emperor parasols and other fungi, limbs and caps alike shading the broad roads. Netch herds drifted above the swards, their blue membranes as bright as mosaic glass.

"It's beautiful," Daria said, too quietly for the others to hear. But like so many things, she knew it was only skin-deep. A lot of Vvardenfell's cash crops came from the region's farms and plantations.

And at least some of those cash crops were harvested by forced labor.

The road split not long after they descended the foothills, one branch going east and the other going west, both hugging the shores of Lake Amaya.

"Hey, Janey. I think we can get to the shrine faster if we go east. Don't know if there'll be a boat waiting there, though," Trent said.

"Trying to get rid of me? I'm tempted but I'll go with you to Pelagiad like we planned." Jane crossed her arms, her voice icy.

Daria felt suddenly uneasy, like the way she used to feel before one of the big fights her parents had when she was younger—mom dropping hints that something was wrong, dad sensing a problem but unable to figure out exactly what had happened. Now she was in dad's shoes.

"I said 'we' could get to the shrine faster going east. Not just you. You think I'm going to abandon you out here?" Trent reached out as if to pat Jane's shoulder, but she stepped away.

"That's not all I heard you say," Jane responded.

Daria sucked in her breath.

Trent blinked. "Huh?"

Jane turned to face both of them. "That little conversation you and Daria had last night? How I'm blinkered, how the Tribunal's just a bunch of Dunmer playing divine dress-up? Yeah, I was still awake when you said all that. I know you don't care about it, Trent, but I was hoping you—" she pointed at Daria "—respected my religion!"

Best to be calm. Daria straightened her stance. Maybe this was the time to do it. "Jane, don't you think it's a little convenient that your deities look like regular Dunmer in gold paint? And how the Tribunal doesn't seem to actually do very much? History's full of mortals passing themselves off as gods. What's more likely: that a bunch of Mer actually underwent apotheosis? Or that this whole thing is a story the powers-that-be tell in order to keep the tithe money coming in?"

Trent frantically shook his head and waved his arms. What was his problem? Didn't he basically agree? Anyway, Jane was smart. She'd figure it out. She only needed some prompting.

Jane gave a bitter little laugh. "That's all it ever is to you, huh? Everything's a big scam. You can tell me whatever you want, Daria. I'll still believe. The gods were there for me before I ever met you, and they'll be there for me when you're gone."

Daria's heart rate quickened, a long-dormant sense of panic rising in her chest. Jane turned away. Daria first thought she'd strike east out on her own, but she instead kept walking the western road to Pelagiad, at a good pace ahead of the other two.

"Jane—"

Trent walked over to Daria. "Whoa."

"I don't get it. I know she's smart enough to see this," Daria said.

"That's not how it works. It's like I said last night: she's not hurting anyone, so let her be."

"I was letting her be until she decided to go on the offensive!"

Trent sighed. "Let's keep going. She needs some time to cool down."

Daria hoped he was right.



*********



Daria glumly put one foot in front of the other as she plodded to Pelagiad, with bigger things to think about than the natural beauty of the Ascadian Isles. Over and over again she ruminated on the events leading up the confrontation with Jane. First of all, Jane had been eavesdropping. Second, Daria was right about the Tribunal. The Dunmer "gods" were mortal grifters.

Jane had to know. She saw through all the rest of the crap, so why was this so hard? Pure stubbornness on her part? The temple supported Morrowind's deeply xenophobic society, one dedicated to maintaining slavery and keeping people like Jane at arm's length. Why did she buy into it?

Or was Daria the problem? It's not like her own faith was much better. The Empire only provided law and order at sword point. Its companies and nobles ripped wealth from the earth and adorned the capital's palaces with their thefts. The Imperial Cult propped up a society founded on conquest and war. And Daria was going to burn incense to its gods to help mom win a legal case.

No wonder Jane was mad. But that didn't mean Jane was right about the Tribunal Temple, either.

"I should've stayed home," Daria muttered.

Pelagiad came into view shortly before dusk. It was an Empire town—more specifically, a town designed to look like a hamlet in High Rock or northwestern Cyrodiil, with neat cross-timbered houses capped by sharply peaked slate roofs. Humans were everywhere, the faces of pink and brown a shock after Balmora's gray crowds. She spotted only a few Dunmer, all with western clothes and manners.

The place didn't fit in but didn't need to. The Empire intended Pelagiad as a show of power: they had willed that a western town exist in the Ascadian Isles, and the Empire's will always became reality. Surreal reminders of its location abounded all the same, from the reptilian pack guars being guided down cobblestone streets to the graceful emperor parasols along the lakeshore. The reassuring mass of Fort Pelagiad stood at the center of it all, the Empire's ruby banner flying from each tower.

Trent guided them to a place called the Halfway Tavern, or more specifically the field of tents being set up behind it in preparation for the Free Farmers Fair.

"Is there a reason we're standing in a manure-ridden field when a perfectly nice tavern is just a few steps away?" Daria asked.

"Because we're too real to stay in some phony tavern," Trent said, with a chuckle. "Right, Jane?"

"If by too real you mean too poor, then yes," Jane said, her voice taut with frustration.

Trent looked briefly disappointed. "There won't be any spare rooms at the tavern, anyway. Most of the folks here are sleeping outdoors," he said, gesturing at the attendees setting up bedrolls and hammocks.

The Halfway Tavern had at least set up a few bathing tents. Daria used the women's, the waters already murky from previous bathers. She didn't feel much cleaner by the end but she'd at least washed off the foyada's ash.

She'd be getting another dose of it on the way back.

Daria got dressed and returned to the fairground which the Halfway's publican was using as an overflow parlor. Servers tramped through the mud carrying big wooden mugs full of frothy beer offered at prices much higher than was reasonable. Trent and Jane sat on crates in the tavern's shadow, next to a tall and powerfully-built young Imperial with long flowing brown hair.

"Hey, this is Iesse," Trent said, pointing to the Imperial. "We work together sometimes."

Iesse raised a hand in greeting, his face placid. "Hey."

"Hi," Daria said.

Daria sat next to Jane, the hurt still visible on her face.

"Are you going to the shrine tomorrow?" Daria asked Jane, her own words sounding like they came from somewhere far away.

"Uh huh."

After that, nothing. Daria bought a beer from the server and drank without really tasting it. She didn't want to think about what waited for her in Balmora if things didn't work themselves out. Maybe she'd spend the rest of her life laboring at her mother's office, going slowly insane while Quinn rose up the ranks in some big guild or company.

They slept under the canvas of a big pavilion, the fly-ridden space filled with snores from peddlers, jugglers, and other visitors. Morning came and Daria stepped outside to find Trent tuning his lute as a Breton herdsman guided a pack of guars through the fairground.

Maybe now would be a good time to do her mom's errand.

"Trent, I'm going to go to Fort Pelagiad to burn some incense."

Trent looked up from his strings. "Huh?"

"My mom thinks that if I burn incense to the god of law, it'll help her win a legal case. It's part of the great Imperial tradition of masking bribery as religious devotion."

"Oh." Trent went back to his lute.

"Uh, where's Jane?"

"Don't know."

"She still seems pretty mad."

"Nothing you can do about it, Daria. Let her have her space. She'll figure something out."

"Dammit, Trent!" came Jane's voice.

Daria looked to see her friend cutting through the crowd, the glum frustration replaced by hot anger. Trent put the instrument aside as if in resigned expectation.

"What's the matter?" he asked.

"You told me I could get a ferry to the Shrine of Humility here!" Jane clenched her fists.

"I'm pretty sure you can."

"No, you can't! There's no ferry!"

He scratched his head. "But there are tons of boats."

"Yeah, tons of fishing boats!"

"Huh. I guess I assumed—"

Jane kept going. "And why the hell would people here have a ferry to a Dunmer shrine? How many Dunmer have you actually seen in Pelagiad besides us?"

Trent was silent for a moment. "I saw at least four, Janey."

"Well, unless those four decided to run and operate a ferry all on their own, I'm out of luck."

Daria spoke up. "Can you get one of the fishing boats to take you?"

"I tried. No one wants to go that far out of their way. One of them seemed interested but changed his mind once he found out where I was going. Didn't want to ruin his relationship with the Nine Divines by ferrying some filthy pagan like me." Her voice broke for a moment, then she swallowed and hung her head in defeat.

Trent didn't bother doing anything more than look uneasy. Daria thought back to Trent's cavalier attitude toward packing. She'd viewed it as confidence but seeing him at that moment showed it as something else. He didn't know what the hell he was doing, and Jane had suffered that for years. This was another disappointment in a life full of them.

"Jane, you said one of the fishing boat captains was willing to travel?" Daria asked.

"Not if it's to help someone from the wrong religion."

"I'm part of his religion, at least nominally." Daria patted the incense pouch in her coat. "And I think I might know how to convince him."


https://dariawiki.org/wiki/Jesse_Moreno - Iesse is pretty similar to his show's counterpart.

Posted by: Acadian Jun 29 2022, 08:26 PM

I’m glad Jane didn’t remain silently simmering but opened up about hearing Daria’s errant comments the night before. Here's Daria's chance to defuse things. . . .

Oh for Mara’s sake, Daria! You just put your boot further into your mouth when the proper course would have been a humble apology and serious concern about hurting her friend’s feelings. Even Trent’s flagrant signals didn’t stay Daria’s recalcitrant tongue.

’Or was Daria the problem?’
Ya think?!? laugh.gif

What a curious town Pelagiad is. As you say, a piece of the Empire transplanted into Morrowind.

Hmm, the lack of a ferry to Jane’s target shrine just may be an opportunity for Daria to begin to mend things. As long as she can school her mouth. Nice optimistic end to this episode in that regard. smile.gif

Posted by: SubRosa Jun 30 2022, 11:30 PM

Oh boy! Tell someone their religion is a scam. That always works out well! Daria is about to learn a painful life lesson. Well, hopefully she will learn from this...

I always thought Pelagiad was weird too. It is so out of place compared to the rest of the land, that it just feels wrong. None of my characters ever spent much time there. They usually laired up in Balmora or Vivec City. I made little house mods in each city, and another one for Ald'Ruhn.

Trent might be too real to stay in a phony tavern, but I for one sure am not! Bring on the beds and bathtubs I say! laugh.gif

Well, maybe Daria can salvage something of her relationship with Jane with a liberal application of the right holy symbol.

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Jul 2 2022, 04:35 PM

@Acadian, SubRosa - Yeah, Daria's kind of in "le enlightened atheist" mode. It reflects some of her more remote and judgmental stances on the show.

One of the episodes this story is inspired by, "Groped by an Angel", actually has Daria taking a much more mature attitude toward this kind of thing (in that episode, it's actually Quinn who has the religious experience). But that's from Season 4, when she's had a chance to grow up some. This Daria is still more in the seasons 1/2 mode.

Pelagiad is indeed an odd place. Nice and scenic, but it sticks out like a sore thumb.

Episode 7: The Pilgrim's Inertia

Chapter 5


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40V9_1PMUGM

The docks of Pelagiad lay some distance away from the town proper. Small wooden boats, a few with sails but most without, bobbed amidst the segmented marshmerrow stalks growing thick and wild along the sandy shores.

"Which boat is it?" Daria asked.

"The little boat with the oversized sail," Jane said, pointing to a small vessel that looked like it might be carried aloft by a strong wind. "Boatman's name is Severius."

"Let's see if I can convince Severius to let us on that littoral mishap waiting to happen."

"Wait a minute. Why are you helping me, Daria? Is this some ploy to get back in my good graces?"

Daria almost said yes. It'd be easy to brush the whole thing off as a joke. But she didn't think Jane was in the mood for a joke.

"That's part of it. But to be honest, I did some thinking and honestly, I'm kind of impressed. Most of the religion I've seen is about doing a god a favor in hopes of getting a favor back, like what my mom expected me to do with this incense. Seeing you go so far out of your way just to say thanks to your god is kind of new to me. I won't pretend to believe that the Tribunal is for real. But I do think that what you're doing is for real. And it's not often I see that."

Jane took a moment to process the information. "Okay, veiled apology accepted."

"Thanks. I shouldn't have been so dismissive of you," Daria said.

"Yeah, you shouldn't have. But at least you're making up for it."

"Save your praise for if I actually talk the boatman into this. If Quinn were here she'd have him around her finger in a minute but I lack her charm, a fact that I've amply demonstrated several times on this journey."

"Charm's overrated. It gets creepy after a while, anyway."

"Then there's something we can agree on."

Severius was a wiry Imperial with steel-gray hair. He stood up from his deck as Daria and Jane approached, his gnarled face scrunching up in disapproval.

"I already told you I want no part of your pagan rituals!" he yelled.

"No one's asking you to participate in any pagan rituals," Daria said.

Severius looked her up and down for a moment, his expression distrustful. "You're an Imperial. What do you have to do with this?"

Daria took a deep breath and tried to imagine what Quinn would do. Comment on how nice the boat was? Say something cute about fisherman fashion? This was going to be harder than she thought.

"You object to taking my friend because you fear it would upset the Nine Divines, correct?" Daria asked.

"Aye. I won't help a false faith."

"Yet the Nine Divines and the Empire permit religious freedom."

He crossed his arms and somehow looked even flintier than before. "I don't know anything about that. But I know my gods are mine and that her gods aren't." He jabbed an index finger at Jane.

Daria re-calculated her approach. "You and I both honor the Nine Divines. What if I gave you something you could give to them as an offering?"

"Like what?"

Daria took the incense pouch out of her pack and opened it. She held it close, making sure he'd get a good whiff of the stuff. "This is incense from the holy gardens of the Imperial City. I was going to burn it on the altar to ensure that my business ventures stay successful. But I promised to help my friend. I propose that you take us to the Shrine of Humility. In return, I'll give you this incense so you can offer it to the Divine of your choosing and for whatever boon you need."

Severius mulled it over, his grimy fingers stroking his chin. "Hmm, from the Imperial City, you say?"

"Yes," Daria lied.

"I have been meaning to show my devotions. An offering to Zenithar might be what I need to turn things around." He looked out at the lake. "Very well. I won't take you directly to the shrine, but I'll take you near enough that you can walk the rest of the way. I'm still charging travel fare!"

"We'll need a ride back, as well," Daria said.

"I'll take you there and wait for you until the morning. Good fishing waters in the north lake so I can make use of the time. But if you aren't back by then, I'm off."

Daria looked at Jane. "Okay with you?"

"Sure. I don't mind a bit of walking. You have everything you need?"

Daria had taken her pack in anticipation of this. "I think I do."



*********



The last and longest part of Daria's journey to Morrowind had been on a leaky sea cog dubbed The Princess Fairy. She remembered it as a nautical hell utterly without privacy or quiet. Somehow, Severius's boat managed to be even worse.

Her stomach lurched into her throat as a sudden gust tipped the boat to the side. She stifled her groan but pressed her arms against her gut to quell her growing nausea. A strong wind at least carried them quickly through the waters. It carried a storm as well, ominous gray clouds following close behind them.

Severius pointed at the shore ahead. "That's where I'm letting you off. Go north and you'll see the road to the shrine. Once you do, head east. Move quick and you'll reach it before dark."

"Thanks," Jane said. She seemed to be bearing the boat's rigors better than Daria.

Severius landed the boat a few feet from the lakeshore. Daria and Jane waded through the frigid knee-deep waters and onto the beach, where tubular off-white mucksponges grew in profusion among the sand and reeds.

"We're not going to escape that storm," Jane said, looking back at the encroaching clouds.

"Of course, we aren't. Nothing's gone right this entire trip. Why should they start going right now?"

"Always the optimist."

Daria walked alongside Jane as they treaded through the tall green grass. They reached the road minutes later and turned east as Severius had said. To the north, green hills pressed up against the foyada's black volcanic ridge.

A question arose in Daria's mind. "Why did you stay with me and Trent at the fork in the road? Back when we first reached the Ascadian Isles?" she asked. "You could've gone east and already paid your respects by now."

"Guess I didn't feel like walking here on my own." She gave a joyless laugh. "It's like I said, Daria. I'm not very good at this whole Dunmer thing. I played it safe like an Imperial would. My faith's not that deep."

"Being practical doesn't mean your faith is any less."

"Maybe. Feels sort of like I'm selling out though. Like if I really believed the gods had my back, I wouldn't worry about it so much." The sky darkened as she spoke, clouds shrouding the sun's light.

They walked in silence for a while. Fiercer winds picked up from the lake and hurled a few cold raindrops their way. Daria tightened her coat, its fabric a bit too thin for this sort of weather.

"Daria, I was thinking about what you said, with the temple being part of a corrupt system."

Daria stayed silent. She didn't want to withdraw the statement. Because it was true. Morrowind's system was corrupt. The Empire being equally corrupt didn't let Morrowind off the hook.

"Yeah?" she finally said.

"I agree with you! I mean, it's not like I can't see what goes on here. Morrowind's a really messed up place. There's slavery, corruption, and the great houses are all terrible in different ways. And yeah, the Tribunal Temple is a part of that.

"But even if the temple isn't that great, I always felt like the gods were watching out for people like me. No one really cared about the Dunmer. We always had to take care of ourselves. The Altmer, the Nords, and the Dwemer all persecuted us. And I get it. If the Dunmer gods were real, why would they let the Empire take over? Thing is, I think that maybe they wanted the Empire here to teach the Dunmer some humility. Remind us that we're not all that great, that we're not better than anyone else. That maybe there's room for some crazy mixed-up kid like me."

Raindrops fell faster as Jane spoke. The dirt road softened into mud beneath their feet and Lake Amaya churned in the distance. Daria shivered and raised a hand to hold onto her glasses.

"Since you're being honest with me," Daria began, "I'll admit I'm not even sure if gods are a thing. It seems to me that if the Nine Divines are all that powerful, then they have a responsibility to fix what's wrong in the world. From what I've seen, they're simply another tool that the rich use to get richer."

"Wow, really?"

"A few days ago, I'd have said I did believe. This journey got me thinking. But even if there aren't any gods, I respect what you're doing."

"You never felt any kind of holy presence?" Jane asked, raising her voice to be heard over the rain.

"No. Mom and dad made me spend a lot of time in the Temple of Kynareth in Stirk, but it just seemed like a lot of tedious rituals and stained glass. You?"

Jane laughed. "Kind of. I'm not sure it actually happened, though."

"How do you mean?"

"This was when I was a kid, not long after we lost the old house. I'd been on the streets for a few days and Trent dropped me off at the temple in Balmora. I didn't know where my brother went. I think I thought he'd gone off to join my parents and I'd be stuck in Balmora by myself. There I was, maybe nine years old, cold and hungry and alone in a huge crowd of people who all smelled pretty awful and were really keen on weird music and chanting.

"They put us in this big room that had an ash drawing of the Tribunal gods, all three of them together. I knew who they were but they looked like monsters to me. I kept wondering when the hell these priests were going to actually feed us.

"And that's when the image of Vivec moved his head and looked right at me. I heard his voice in my head. Something like: 'I know you're bored, Jane. I'll tell you a little secret: I find it pretty boring, myself. But they need the magic words to be happy, so I indulge them. Be kind to them, Jane. They can't always see the world the way you and I see it.' And he smiled, this bright smile like things would get better.

"Then he went back to being an image. But I felt like the luckiest kid in the world. A living god had reached out to me and told me I was okay. I know it's crazy. And there's a good chance I imagined the whole thing. But I still remember it as if it happened. I know that Vivec was a mortal who made himself a god so he could help the Dunmer. He helped me. And maybe someday I can be strong and help someone else who really needs me."

Daria took a moment to process all this. It had to be a dream or a hallucination. But who could blame her given those circumstances? She remembered Trent's comment: if Jane wasn't hurting anyone, why should Daria care what she believed?

"Does being strong for someone else entail you becoming a god?" Daria asked. She wasn't even sure if she was joking or not.

"Nah, becoming a god's too much effort. I'd rather win over a rich patron who likes my original art."

"That's quite an attitude to take to the Shrine of Humility."

"Hey, that just shows how badly I needed this pilgrimage! But don't worry, if I get what I want I'll find a few worthy souls to share the wealth with." She looked to Daria. "Like you."

Daria smiled. "And mom says I never network."

The rain intensified and the wind roared as the two girls kept walking toward the shrine. Rain streaked the lenses of Daria's glasses and she tried to peer over the rims, but the world beyond was little more than a damp blur.

A strange and warbling sound pierced through the noise of the storm. It sounded like nothing Daria had ever heard, animalistic yet somehow suggestive of a more human rage. The cry repeated, louder than before.

"Did you hear that?" Jane asked, her voice taut.

"I wish I hadn't. What is it?" Daria asked.

"I think it's a nix hound."

Daria stopped in her tracks, suddenly conscious of how small and soft she really was in the strange land. She knew about nix hounds. Scavengers and opportunists, usually, but also known to attack travelers. Especially if there were a bunch of them. "How many?"

"If it's only one we might be able to scare it off," Jane said, stepping close to her friend. "If it's more than that..."

Still holding on to her glasses with one hand, Daria's grasped the handle of her father's sword with the other.

Posted by: SubRosa Jul 3 2022, 12:03 AM

Ahh, love those wild marshmellow trees. You don't even have to put the marshmellows on a stick to cook them over the fire. They come on the sticks already! Oh wait, you meant marshmerrow? Erm, move along, nothing to see here citizen...

but I lack her charm, a fact that I've amply demonstrated several times on this journey."
Indeed you have. Though Daria's self awareness is in itself truly remarkable. I think that is one of things that makes her a character I can like. She knows that her own bullshit is bullshit. Well, eventually she does.

Uh oh, Daria is sailing on the infamous Nau Sea. Hopefully she will be able to keep her lunch inside her, rather than outside.

That is a really good memory that Jane has of Vivec. Whether it really happened or not, I can see where it would help her deal with the ugliness of everyday reality.

And there we have it. Just as I predicted, Daria is using this trip, journey, quest as an opportunity to network.

Uh oh, a Nix Hound. Maybe a player character like January or Blood Raven will come along to guard them on the way to the shrine?

Posted by: Acadian Jul 3 2022, 09:06 PM

In the previous episode, Daria was putting one foot in her mouth after another (good thing she only has two). Here, I was delighted to see that she had reconsidered her approach and that her speechcraft quite rose to the occasions. Talking the fisherman into ferry duty was good but her conversation with Jane really shined. With comments like this:
"Being practical doesn't mean your faith is any less."

I was glad to see Jane react positively as the two young ladies met halfway. Overall, perhaps this was all a good incident for now they are comfortably talking – as friends – about subjects where they may disagree. And they are listening to each other. This whole little saga of their argument over religion and its resolution was wonderfully crafted.

Uh-oh. A nix hound is not an overwhelming foe but, vs the unarmed Jane and rain-blinded bespectacled swordswoman Daria, it could be a tough fight if it comes to that.

Posted by: Renee Jul 4 2022, 02:11 PM

QUOTE
The 3E 424 date is to give the story a bit of distance from the events of the game


Ah, I see. Makes sense. I like that you considered time as a factor. Now... where am I? Up to post 83. Cool. We're on the same page.

She goes to the library for solitude, mm hmm! Although the way you say it is more humorous-- "Nothing repelled the popular crowd quite like books." laugh.gif

Yeah I agree. Not just a Morrowind without Jane, but a story without Jane. I'm already endeared to her after the painting chapter.

Oh gosh, the part when Daria walks home and plays the out-of-tune lute... 😎 Laughing so hard I'm crying! ... It's like her story gets so despondent, but in a humorous way. Wow... Jane's really trying to pimp her bro to her best buddy!

Mom has Julianos candles!

QUOTE
Now for the big moment. "It's not an Imperial Cult shrine," Daria said. "It's for Morrowind's gods."

Dad dropped his fork. "Young lady! In this house—"


Oh goddess!!! laugh.gif laugh.gif Man, this conversation at the dinner table is gold! ... Well hey, at least Daria got what she wanted. Looks like she's going to Pelagiad.

Yes, I can't see Daria wielding any kind of weapon. mellow.gif She should use her charms and wits instead. Make a bandit slap his knee or, but hey, maybe she can do it. Yeah, maybe she can. She seems to be considering dad's old sword.

Up to 90. Are they not talkng the silt strider? Yikes. Seems like they've got everything. Did Daria forget her green beetle hat though?

Why aren't they taking the strider? This is freaking me out. indifferent.gif Why is Trent continuing to play? Aren't they worried about attracting cliff racers??? And if they're going to Pelagiad, why does it sound like they are nearer to the volcano???

Wow. Daria is getting attracted to Trent. wub.gif Look'it this!

Aww. Poor Jane.


Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Jul 6 2022, 04:33 PM

@Renee - "Despondent, but in a humorous way" is pretty much the show's vibe, and one I try to recapture here. Someone else said (of the show) that it would be a tragedy if it weren't so funny, and they were correct.

Heh, Jane was always teasing Daria about her crush on Trent in the show, so I decided to continue that here.

As for charm vs weapons: charm might work on a bandit. But it's more limited when it comes to wild animals. There are occasions where you just need to have those good ol' combat skills.

Also, there's no silt strider service to Pelagiad. The only way to get there in-game is by walking (well, that or magic). I'm assuming Vvardenfell is slightly less dangerous than it will be in a few years, but yeah, nasty wildlife is still a thing.


@SubRosa - Heh, I still wonder why they chose "marshmerrow" as a name, since it of course it'll make everyone think of marshmallows. Which might be fine, except marshmerrow is pretty different (though it is edible, like marshmallow).[/quote]

Heh, I still wonder why they chose "marshmerrow" as a name, since it of course it'll make everyone think of marshmallows. Which might be fine, except marshmerrow is pretty different (though it is edible, like marshmallow).

Daria's occasional unpleasantness is, IMO, a big reason she's so resonant. We like characters for their virtues, but we love them for their flaws. She's intelligent and right about so many things, but she has a huge blind spot when it comes to some of her own issues, as she demonstrates here.

Looking at the show, Daria's early seasons were much more about her triumphs. Viewers get a vicarious thrill seeing her mock the various idiocies of high school life and get away with it mostly unscathed (the way we all wished we could). This was fun, but kind of limiting. I think this is why the third season relies so heavily on gimmick episodes: the writers knew they'd mostly exhausted this well.

Thus, the later seasons take more chances and show Daria stumbling. I don't think they always pulled this off well (I'm not sure anyone's entirely happy with how the Tom Sloane storyline panned out). But I'd argue that it definitely needed to be done, and is a big reason why the show obtained such a following.

(And yes, Tom Sloane does show up in Morrowind, but things with him don't play out in quite the same way).

I'm leaving it up to the viewer as to whether or not it's real. I will say it's somewhat in-character for Vivec, though doing one nice thing for a random worshipper doesn't make up for all the horrific things he's done.


@Acadian - Thanks! Daria's stubborn, but she can learn. Usually after a suitable period of angst and introspection. Like the show, this is about Daria's slow, sometimes stumbling, growth as a person.

One of the fun things in writing about characters like Daria and Jane is that low-level monsters like nix hounds still end up being major threats.

Episode 7: The Pilgrim's Inertia

Chapter 6


Rain crashed down around them, steady and overwhelming. Daria wanted to believe she'd only imagined the howl.

Then it came again, louder and closer than before.

"Jane, if you've ever secretly gotten extensive weapons or magic training, now would be a great time to show it," Daria said. She tightened her grip on the sheathed sword even as her arm trembled. Her breaths came quick and sharp.

"I have a knife. I can cut up a scrib with it. As long as it's already dead."

Daria wiped her glasses with her soaked sleeve, revealing her rain-lashed surroundings for a few blurry moments before more drops obscured her vision.

The nix hound howled anew. Daria drew her sword, the weapon absurdly heavy in her little hand. Water dripped down the blade and handle, making it slippery.

"It's there!" Jane cried.

"I can't see a damn thing!"

"A bit to your left, up on the hill. It's watching us."

Daria cleared her lenses again. Through the smear of water she glimpsed the nix hound. It looked like a lean and leathery dog with a mosquito's head, complete with an enormous proboscis. The creature stared back at them through bulging red compound eyes.

What had dad said? His warnings and advice turned to vapor in the face of a real threat. Failure here meant pain, very possibly meant death. Daria pressed her teeth together and planted her feet wide on the muddy ground, the wet earth already threatening to pull out from under her.

"It's moving!" Jane shouted.

Daria pulled back her sword arm. Quick, decisive thrusts, she remembered, and hoped she looked in the right direction. How close was it? Something splashed near her—Jane's feet? The hound's claws?

A shadow burst through the rain.

Air rushed out of Daria's lungs as the nix hound hit her with what felt like a meteor's force. She fell backward into the mud, her world a jumble of howls and thrashing muscle. She stabbed with frantic abandon, not knowing if she struck earth or flesh.

"I can't get close—" came Jane's voice.

Crushing weight pressed onto Daria and she tried to wiggle free. Bulbous eyes looked into her own. It reared back for a strike, and she moved her head to the left. The nix hound's proboscis plunged into the ground where her head had been a moment before.

She stabbed again. The sword point hit something thick and dense.

"Get off her!" Jane shouted.

Daria still struggled. Sharp pain flared on her right side. She imagined her innards spilling out onto the ground. This was it, she realized.

Suddenly the weight lifted. A trembling howl echoed in her ears, fading into the rain.

She lay there in the mud for a few moments, her entire body shaking.

"Jane? Am I dead?"

"No. Here, let's get you out of the road."

Jane grabbed her arms and helped her up. Daria followed along as pain pulsed through her torso.

"How bad is it?" Daria asked. She could still walk, at least.

"Can't tell in all the rain but your guts aren't spilling out, so that's probably a good sign. Assuming you like your guts."

"I have a good working relationship with them."

Jane guided Daria to a seated position at the base of a big beige mushroom.

"I think you saved my life," Daria said, still numb as she leaned back on the spongy stalk. She wondered how her dad had managed to do this when he was her age. He'd never gotten that far in the Fighters Guild but he'd done a bit of bloody work for them.

No wonder he never talked about it.

"The way I see it, we saved each other's," Jane said. "You skewered that nix hound pretty good."

"I did?" Daria realized she'd left her sword in the mud. "Dammit, my sword's still there."

"Leave it for now, let's take a look at your wound." Jane took the lapels of Daria's coat to start removing it, but Daria waved her off.

"I can do this," she said, only for a sudden wave of pain to bowl her over once she tried extricating her arms from the sleeves. "Okay, maybe not."

Jane took off the coat and lifted Daria's shirt along her right side. She whistled.

"That doesn't sound promising," Daria said.

"I'm just thinking about the cool scar you'll get from this. It's a flesh wound, so nothing we can't fix."

Jane rummaged through her pack and took out a tiny tin canister and handed it to Daria. She opened it up and drank the bittersweet sludge inside. Exhaling, she rested her head against the stalk as the potion jumpstarted her natural regenerative ability.

"Feel better?" Jane asked.

"Getting there."

"Okay. Once you're up to it we can go back to the boat. I don't—"

"Wait," Daria interrupted. "The shrine can't be much farther."

"Are you sure you're up for it?"

Was she? Daria thought for a moment. More than anything else she wanted to lie down in a warm bed and sleep for a full week. But she'd already given up so much on this journey: her comfort, her security, her own tenuous faith.

No reason to not go all the way.

"We've gone this far, and it's unlikely we'll get attacked again. Besides, I'm already caked in mud and wracked with self-doubt. I wouldn't look out of place in the Shrine of Humility."

"Are you positive?" Jane lowered her voice, their eyes locked.

"Yes."

Jane nodded. "Okay. Thanks."

They waited a bit longer for Daria to recuperate before retrieving her sword and setting off. The rain slackened to a drizzle as they marched, cold and soaked to the bone. Water sloshed in Daria's boots, and she knew she'd end up with blisters before this was all over.

Daria looked for any buildings that might house the shrine, but it was Jane who found it, a humble triolith to the left of the road not that different from the household shrines in Balmora. Set among mossy stones and flanked by violet willow anthers, it'd have been easy for a traveler to overlook.

"This is it?" Daria asked.

"The Tribunal Temple usually isn't that big on display. Plus, it'd be kind of weird to have some huge temple for a shrine to humility."

Daria thought back to the grand temples she'd seen in Cyrodiil while traveling to Morrowind. As far as the Imperial Cult was concerned, humility was best expressed through enormous edifices of white marble and gem-encrusted relics.

Jane continued. "So back in the day, there was a farmer whose guar had died. The poor guy couldn't harvest his crops without it. Lord Vivec, who wasn't a god yet, found him and helped out."

And now that he was a god, did Vivec help farmers struggling with poor harvests? Daria wondered. The impoverished multitudes suggested otherwise. But she said nothing.

"That was good of him," Daria said, not trusting herself to go farther.

"Yeah. It was."

Jane bowed her head and took slow steps toward the shrine. She drew a small bundle of wet cloth from her coat and knelt in front of the shrine, reverently placing the bundle on the wet earth. Daria could just hear Jane's quiet words.

"Thank you for your humility, Lord Vivec. I shall neither strut nor preen in vanity, but shall know and give thanks for my place in the greater world."

Jane genuflected, heedless of the storm. She'd risked life and limb, sacrificed time and scant resources. She'd expected no reward and had received none but showed no regret for her efforts.

Daria wasn't sure if she believed in a god. But she knew she believed in faith.



*********



Severius delivered Daria and Jane to Pelagiad by noon the next day, the skies clear and the air warm after the storm. Daria gave him the incense and headed to the Halfway Tavern for a bath and a full meal.

Evening found the pair sitting next to a bonfire on the fairgrounds. The cool night air still thrummed with the sounds of commerce as farmers haggled over last-minute deals. Mammalian, reptilian, and invertebrate cattle all added their sounds to the medley.

"I should've gone with you," Trent said, staring into the flames. "I know how to deal with nix hounds."

"No harm, no foul," Jane said. "Besides, Daria got a neat new accessory! Show him your scar!"

Daria smiled. "I'd rather people appreciate me for my deep psychological scars. Physical scars are so passé in comparison."

"Come on, think of the fashion trends you can start back in Balmora!"

"That'd be a losing proposition. Quinn has a much higher pain tolerance than I do."

Trent shook his head. "You guys joke about it but that scared me. Nix hounds shouldn't be on pilgrimage routes."

"The ordinators can't keep their eyes on everything," Jane said.

Iesse sauntered up to them at that moment, a small pouch in his right hand. "Hey, Trent," he said. "I just got a great deal on some incense from the Imperial City!"

Daria's ears perked up at the word. "Incense?" she asked.

"Yeah. I'm gonna take it home and put it around my place. Girls really dig it."

"Where exactly did you get this incense?"

"Some boat captain was selling it."

"Was his name Severius?"

Iesse blinked. "Yeah. How did you know?"

Daria sighed. On the plus side, it looked like she might have a chance to fulfill her mom's request after all.


The End

https://archiveofourown.org/works/20233843/chapters/47952646

Posted by: Acadian Jul 6 2022, 08:24 PM

An exciting fight! Daria surely needs some windshield wipers for those darn glasses! Or perhaps a water repelling enchantment for the lenses? Nothing like a life or death struggle to bring friends closer and that seems to be the case here. Glad Jane was carrying a healing potion.

”Plus, it'd be kind of weird to have some huge temple for a shrine to humility."
- - Methinks Jane’s got the right of it here.

Back to Pelagiad with a sexy new scar to document their adventure.

How fitting! Seems Daria’s incense just might complete its journey as well.

Posted by: SubRosa Jul 6 2022, 11:30 PM

I hate wearing glasses in the rain. ugh.

Sharp pain flared on her right side. She imagined her innards spilling out onto the ground.

and

Can't tell in all the rain but your guts aren't spilling out, so that's probably a good sign.

This was a delightful combination! Also I absolutely heard that in Jane's voice from the show. You really capture the character's vocal cadences well.

And hopefully this whole adventure will serve to cement the relationship between Daria and Jane, when earlier the same day it was looking to do quite the opposite.

I liked the intentional juxtaposition between the Shrine of Humility being a literal humble affair, compared to Daria's own ruminations to the grandeur of Imperial temples.

"I'd rather people appreciate me for my deep psychological scars. Physical scars are so passé in comparison."
That is so Daria!

I nearly laughed out loud at Jessie's fortuitous find of incense! biggrin.gif

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Jul 9 2022, 05:19 PM

@Acadian - Hm, I wonder if there's some Dwemer device that'd keep her glasses clear?

As an organization, the Tribunal Temple is... flawed, to put it generously. But they do seem a bit more down to earth in some ways. One (headcanon) theory I explore in this series is that, for all of the wealth possessed by high-ranking Dunmer, most of them are still pretty small potatoes compared to the Imperial nobility.

@SubRosa - Wearing glasses in the rain does sound like it'd be difficult. I wear glasses, but I also live in California, so rain is kind of an abstract concept to me.

*Lake Mead drops a few more inches*

Thanks!

Episode 8: Hate Actually

Chapter 1


Musical Intro - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psQ5F39rduU

Sweat was the enemy. Sure, Quinn had lots of enemies: cheap kohl, those lacy veils that Nibenese women wore that got stuck on your makeup, bad hair days, bad pores, and last but not least, Synda Grilvayn. But of all those, sweat was the one she worried about as she trudged to Moonmoth Legion Fort with her family.

Why would anyone walk so far on a hot summer day? She knew that Tiphannia's family had hired a carriage for the trip, and that wasn't so expensive! Why couldn't mom do that? Instead, the whole family had to march up rocky hills under the burning sun like a bunch of soldiers. Regular soldiers, not officers, who'd probably have horses or something.

"You know, if you'd hired a carriage, we'd already be there by now!" Quinn said. She tugged at the collar of her light yellow dress, damp with sweat. She'd need an ocean of perfume to cover the smell and she'd only brought one vial! Plus, sweat always showed up on yellow. She'd have picked a different color, but yellow went best with the red of Pelinal's Day.

"Sweetie, it's only six miles. You used to walk farther than that on Stirk," mom said, from the front.

"But that was back then! Now, me not looking my best could be bad for this whole family! Everybody important is going to be at the fort for Pelinal's Day! "

"You mean the commemoration of Pelinal's Midyear Massacre—" Daria started.

"The Empire doesn't call it that any longer," mom chided.

"At least not when there might be wealthy Mer around," Daria added.

"Maybe we should call it that," Quinn said. She adjusted her parasol to keep the sun from burning her face. "It's the day where my fashion standards get massacred."

"You should've asked those three suitors of yours to carry you," Daria said.

"Ugh, gross! They'd have to touch me for that!"

"Here we are!" dad cheered. He pointed ahead to the squat towers of Moonmoth Legion Fort, looking every bit as barren as the surrounding hills. Dust swirled in the air, sticking to Quinn's dress and spoiling the color of the fabric.

Quinn refused to cheer. Maybe they thought it was a fun little walk, or whatever, but they didn't have to look perfect. She did. The walk would cost her big time. You only survived if you had friends, and more people wanted to be your friend if you looked good! That way they could look at something nice when they talked about business or whatever.

Daria would sulk in a corner like she always did at parties so Quinn would have to do double-duty representing the Morgendorffers to all the handsome young officers and minor nobles that'd be there. Didn't mom and dad see how important it was? She could secure the family's future by finding some cute guy who was rich. Lots of people made marriage arrangements on holidays, it was like really auspicious!

Now she'd have to do all that looking as unfashionable as Daria!



*********



The soldiers had decorated the fort as best they could, but there was only so much you could do with bare stone. At least it was cool inside. Quinn breathed a sigh of relief as they walked past the troopers standing out in front of the keep (the one on the left had been kind of cute in a scary sort of way) and entered the main hall.

She sniffed when she saw how they'd covered the walls in garish tapestries with basic designs. Couldn't they spend a bit more? If the Empire was trying to keep everyone happy it needed to make its forts look like places where cool people would want to spend time, even if they were way out on the frontier.

Someday, she really needed to get to the Imperial Court and help them fix their spending priorities.

"Here we are, girls! The Empire's outpost of law and order!" dad exclaimed. "The home of the soldiers who protect us from the barbarian hordes, the great wall where we seek shelter and gain strength!"

"Would these barbarian hordes include any of your clients?" Daria asked.

Quinn tuned them out and tallied up the other guests. Mostly other people born in Cyrodiil, which made sense because it was an Imperial holiday. There was Nadia Heptalla, who'd just come back from the Imperial City with all kinds of stories about the latest fashions, and who Quinn definitely needed to talk to, a lot; Agrippina Neusis, whose mom and dad were like super-rich from investing in those smelly egg mines but whose money couldn't buy fashion sense; Marco Rocullus, who was definitely cute but maybe a little too dumb—a little dumb was better than too smart, but he took it too far, like being the kind of guy who'd once won a head-butting contest to a guar (you'd have to be pretty dumb to get in that kind of contest in the first place, and if you won, it meant your skull was thicker than a wild animal's, so definitely not boyfriend material); Tiphannia and Satheri...

Tiphannia and Satheri! Quinn extended her arms and hurried to her two friends. Tiphannia wore a pale green moth-silk gown that was so pretty on her, and had those little flowers sown in on the sleeves! Satheri's dress was simpler, dark blue and thick, maybe a little too boxy around the shoulders, but still super-cute.

"I'm so glad to see you guys!" Quinn said, hugging the two of them. "Okay, so what's the battle plan tonight? Satheri, do you know any cute single guys in Great House Hlaalu who'll be here? Because I could definitely go for an Ascadian Isles vacation this summer... plus, shopping in Vivec!"

And Satheri would totally know! Her family had all the connections for both the Empire and Hlaalu because her dad ran messages from one to the other or something like that.

Her words lit a spark in Satheri's big, innocent eyes. That's what was so cute about Satheri. She could be so mild one moment, but the next she was all business.

"Okay," Satheri said, "so I know the Sloans are going to be here. They're like the richest but their son, Tomal, is kind of a dud and reads weird books all the time. The Hlaleldro boys are here—the older one is too old but the younger one is about our age. He's kind of cute but gets boring. But get this! Turimar Shurmam will be here."

"Who's that?" Quinn asked.

"He's hunky, and he's loaded. They say that all the girls in Vivec are in love with him and that one time he wrestled a wild kagouti to the ground! Like he grabbed it by the tusks and forced it down, all on his own!"

"Ooh, that does sound good! Why did he do it?"

"My friend said he did it to save—get this—a human girl!"

"Great! I was going to ask if his family would be okay with him, you know, being with a human." She knew a lot of Dunmer guys said they only wanted Dunmer girls, but she'd seen the way those guys looked at her when they thought she wasn't looking back. Still, she wasn't going to date someone who had hang-ups over something so silly. Quinn was already half-Nord anyway, and they were all citizens of the Empire regardless of race.

"What do you think, Tiphannia?" Quinn asked.

"Kagouti are like... so dangerous..." As usual, she was still on the earlier part of the conversation.

Satheri beamed. "Gosh, this must be so exciting. There are a lot of cute outlander guys, too. It almost makes me wish I wasn't in an arranged marriage." Satheri eyes somehow got bigger, and she suddenly clutched Quinn's sleeve. "But I didn't mean I'm unhappy with the arranged marriage! If my parents found out I was complaining they'd kill me, and the marriage won't happen and then I'll be alone forever, and you can't tell anyone—"

"Calm down, Satheri! Panic opens your pores. Remember that."

Still trembling, Satheri nodded and took a few deep breaths. And with that, she was back to normal.

That's what Quinn loved about the club. They were so supportive. Satheri and Tiphannia both looked good in ways that made Quinn look even better but didn't threaten her (and her arranged marriage meant Satheri couldn't steal any eligible guys). And best of all, Quinn could help them with her knowledge of Imperial fashion!

Which reminded her: she needed to do some serious talking with Nadia Heptalla to find out which dress colors were in right now. Quinn hadn't gotten a new dress in almost a year. Way past time to prep!

They caught up on the important things—who was seeing who, who'd bought what—until one of the Imperial Cult priests rang a bell. Quinn hurried over to where her family sat, already thinking of how much she could do that evening.



*********



Daria sat with her parents and used alcohol to gird herself for what was sure to be a miserable event. The fort was serving grape wine, which she hadn't had since leaving Cyrodiil. She raised a pewter cup to her lips and savored the sour taste. Good, but she had to admit she now preferred mazte. Wine reminded her of a small and lonely world surrounded by the ocean, with Quinn's complaints constant and unavoidable. Mazte made her think of comforting darkness within the Lucky Lockup and of Jane's raspy voice as they mocked the stupidity around them.

The fort's gaudy decorations somehow enhanced its bleakness, the clash of bright textile and gray stone both cheap and unconvincing. They'd be staying the night and marching back in the morning. She'd tried to talk her way out of coming, prompting mom and dad to go on an interminable spiel about the importance of Imperial patriotism.

The seating arrangements in the hall reflected the Empire's power structure. Funny how they hid things like that in plain sight. A big table at the head of the room held all the administrators, high-ranking priests, and legion types. To their right was a smaller table reserved for wealthy outlander guests, including Jolda and (less pleasantly) Karl the Unctuous. Opposite them, and to the left of the head table, was another where the well-connected Dunmer guests took their place. Daria saw Satheri, clinging to her parents like a shadow, and Briltasi, whose stepmom was the sole outlander at that table. No sign of Synda, happily; her family didn't do any business with the Empire.

Outlanders occupied the rest of the tables, decreasing in social importance the closer the table was placed to the door. The Morgendorffers, upstart bourgeoisie that they were, occupied a comfy middle spot on the chain of sycophancy.

Jane hadn't been invited, of course, so that precluded the possibility of interesting conversation. Pelinal Day would just be another opportunity for idiots to fake Imperial loyalty for the sake of networking and getting a spot closer to the head table next time around.

The priest rang the bell. Daria sighed, already thinking of ways to avoid the morons that evening.

Posted by: Acadian Jul 10 2022, 08:31 PM

What fun to have Quinn’s perspective on this festival! While in some ways her light and airheaded airy views, notions and priorities actually contain quite a bit of wisdom – in their own Quinnishly logical way. I love how she sees the opportunities the evening ahead can provide. And her perceived challenges. . . . Not the least of which is this one:
’Now she'd have to do all that looking as unfashionable as Daria!’ laugh.gif

I must confess that even my own elf ascribes to the sentiment, 'Why adventure if you can't look good doing it?'


Then a sharp gear change as we move to Daria’s ever so much more dour perspective. Less fun and optimistic but not without her own rather realistic and piercing insights.

Are we sure these two sisters were manufactured in the same womb? wink.gif

Posted by: SubRosa Jul 10 2022, 11:14 PM

Acadian: Maybe Daria needs some Dwemer glasses with built in windshield wipers? wink.gif

I know you were joking about Quinn and Daria coming from the same mother. But if you squint, you can see it. You just have to look at mom. She is a relentlessly driven career woman who has had to not just fight tooth and nail to get where she is, but also to play the games of politics and flattery and playing nice with people you would just as soon spit on. Which is to say, she's a successful lawyer.

Daria got the intelligence, pragmatism, and razor sharp perception that makes her Mom a good lawyer. Quinn got the ability socially manipulate people for her own personal benefit, sans all the rest above. Both Daria and Quinn are two halves of the same coin that way. Each lacks the things that makes the other strongest.



WellTemperedClavier: Thank you Daria for bringing up that we are celebrating an insane genocidal warlord. Erm, I mean national hero. biggrin.gif

I found the scene from Quinn' perspective both amusing and insightful. While shallow and self-centered, she at least understands some realities, like how getting people to live you is a form of accruing power, and one that is definitely beneficial to survival. And lets face it, being attractive is a part of that. Not the entirety of it. But a part nonetheless. Numerous studies have shown that people who are attractive are hired more, promoted more, and paid more, than everyone else.

Aha! Tom does rear his not-so-ugly head. Even if only in second-hand fashion.

It is almost whiplash when we turn to Daria's inner monologue and observations! But in a good way. She always has a wonderful outsider's point of view into the hypocrisy and naked greed and power of whatever society she is unwillingly thrust into.

Posted by: Renee Jul 12 2022, 01:34 PM

Yeah, that's right. I forgot the silt strider goes to Seyda Neen at best. It wouldn't go to Pelagiad because that seems to be more of an Imperial town, I guess. Oh cool. Lake Amaya. I just looked that up. So they are getting near their destination. smile.gif

"Graceful emperor parasols"... is that the real name for all the giant mushroom trees? ... Even if not, I'll take it!

Uh oh.

-- "Jane, don't you think it's a little convenient that your deities look like regular Dunmer in gold paint?--


See, I never thought of it like this! But it's SO true, Clavier. This seems to be near the heart of the whole Tribunal debate, sort of like the way the Empire rejects Talos as a god. I learn so much from this story. 🤓 Because honestly, a lot of the Morrowind politics I've heard are so amazing (compared to Oblivion) confuse the heck out of me. I'm learning them slowly as I write Joan's story. So it's good to learn them from this 'fun' perspective.

But yeah, uh oh. Daria's in trouble with Jane. And isn't this how it can always go during one of our road trips here on Earth? We're all in the car. Somebody says the wrong thing. That's all it takes! Next thing we know, there's all kinds of snippy words followd by stony silence! ... and there are ... oh.... 216 miles left to go. indifferent.gif

Okay I'll shush now.

"Free Farmers Fair" bigsmile.gif Yeah, the Halfway is pretty small as it is. Sucks they have to sleep in the mud.

Oh gosh. Now Jane's mad about no ferry. This trip is so miserable!

Alright, I'm up to Post 97 today. I am determined to catch up to the others today.

Oh no, she's giving her mom's incense away. And there's a nix hound! Yeah, I was wondering where all the hostile critters are. DAmn. They pwned the thing at least. Phew.

QUOTE
Daria wasn't sure if she believed in a god. But she knew she believed in faith.


That's so perfect. smile.gif

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Jul 13 2022, 04:24 PM

@Acadian - If you ever watch the show, pay attention to Quinn's behavior in the early seasons. Yes, she's flighty and immature, but she's also smart. And her people skills are uncannily goo. One shudders to think what she might do if she chooses an evil field like marketing.

(Before anyone gets offended, I used to work in marketing).

And as SubRosa said in her comment, Daria and Quinn do actually reflect their mother in different ways.

@SubRosa - Agreed 100%. I'd argue that Quinn's also quite intelligent, just not really in a bookish way. She can still retain a ton of information (as she demonstrates in this chapter). I've argued that, if any character in the show had the chops to be a successful Nerevarine, it's probably Quinn.

This episode will go into more detail about Pelinal, and some of the pitfalls that come with such a selective view of history.

Tom does indeed get a mention in the first chapter! But he doesn't have any speaking parts until much later in the series. There is, however, a different Tom(my) who makes his debut in Chapter 2. You may already know of whom I speak...

@Renee - Yup, they're called emperor parasols. Though I have a hunch that's an Imperial name, not a Dunmer name.

Glad you're getting so much from this story! One of the things I love about Morrowind is how it manages to feel both very alien yet also relatable. I try to capture that trait in these stories. Strange as it is, Morrowind's still a place where people have to get on with the messy business of living.

Which, in this case, includes navigating religious controversies. One wonders what a hypothetical Daria might think of the Talos controversy coming up in a few hundred years...

Episode 8: Hate Actually

Chapter 2


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJLXyBzMci0

Why did food have to be so tempting?

The nice thing about Morrowind was that a lot of the food was actually healthy, even if it looked gross. No one ever got fat from eating bugs, Satheri always said. But whatever they cooked in the kitchen that night wasn't bugs but the stuff she used to eat as a kid: pork with fish sauce, porridge drenched in olive oil, and sweetened tripe. Maybe she could indulge this one time.

Nope! Nothing doing. She had an image to protect. If the Empire had to look strong, she had to look fashionable.

Her stomach growled. "Quiet," she whispered. Oh, but she could already taste the porridge, probably with little pieces of fried egg. She hadn't had that in forever!

She wondered how her old friends on Stirk were doing. Simpler times when a girl could just be a girl.

Best to put her mind elsewhere. What she liked about big events was that the arranged seating let you see who was popular. The Ergallas were sitting right up next to the big head table now, so Sephannia's grandpa must've gotten promoted. But the Morcuris, who supposedly had a lot of money, were almost right at the door. Probably meant people wouldn't want to hang out with their daughter anymore.

One of the priestesses, a really wrinkly old lady with a whole bunch of swirly red lines tattooed on her face, stood up at the head table and raised her arms. Everyone stopped talking. Some soldiers came into the room with musical instruments: horns, flutes, drums, and a few lyres.

Ugh, it was going to be traditional Cyrodiilic music! Why couldn't they get some bard from Skyrim or High Rock? Those places had the best songs, actual ballads with stories and romance. Not just droning noise and chants. Oh well.

The musicians started playing and Quinn faked a smile. The priestess walked to the middle of the room.

"Hearken ye to the days before Cyrodiil yet was, to the days when Mer enslaved Man..." she proclaimed.

Quinn focused on the table where all the Dunmer sat. She spotted him right away: Turimar Shurmam. He was big and brawny for a Dunmer, with enormous arms that could definitely wrestle a wild animal to the ground but that you'd feel totally safe in if he was hugging you with them. His hair was incredible too! Long, dark, with a few airy curls! He had to spend a lot of time on it to get it to look that way, and maybe that was a little weird for a guy, but who cared when he looked that good!

"...in armor star-forged and blood-streaked, Pelinal pledged death to the enemies of Man..."

And he was rich. She didn't see anyone who might be his parents over there.

"...and so Pelinal emerged from battle clad in robes of Mer entrails and his head crowned with Mer fingers..."

Turimar shifted in his seat, looking like he didn't want to be there. Maybe he was a poetic and sensitive type deep down or something, but still brave and courageous and all that.

"...Pelinal called out Haromir of Copper and Tea into a duel at the Tor, and ate his neck-veins..."

He was her ticket out. Her whole family's ticket out! Mom and dad weren't going to get any farther. All their clients were boring businesspeople like them. Quinn knew she was the only one who could make the jump to someone in the high life.

"...no heart beat in his chest but only the red rage of an Empire yet unborn..."

Once they got there, they'd have won. They'd be sitting almost at the head table, like Briltasi's stepmom. Visits to the markets of Vivec and Narsis and maybe the Imperial City. Parties, galas, and all the best dresses from the best designers in the world! She just needed to find the right guy. It was all up to her.

Daria would never cut it. Books only got you another boring job.

"...to storm the White-Gold in blood and rage and cast down the Sorcerer-Kings and break their ancestors beneath his mailed feet!"

The priestess, who was all sweaty now, let her arms fall. The music kept playing. Now for the worst part of the whole thing: the blood.

"In honor of Pelinal, let us adorn our faces with the blood of Man's foes," the priestess said.

Not real blood, at least, but still gross. Daria had said that the red paint was symbolic of Mer blood or something like that. More cult priests walked into the room and put a bowl of red paint on each table. Dad took the one offered to theirs, dipped his right hand in, and then smeared a big red streak on his forehead. Mom did the same. Daria took off her glasses and slathered it all over her face so that it dripped down her neck.

"This symbolic viscera doesn't quite have the right texture to be convincing," Daria said. Mom and dad glared at her. "It needs to be chunkier."

Quinn rolled her eyes. The bowl passed to her, so she put it on the table like a civilized person would and dabbed a few fingers into the stuff. She applied some to her forehead, and then drew a vertical streak from crown to chin (horizontal lines would make her face look fat), and a bit more on her cheekbones to highlight them. Best of all, the yellow fabric of her dress matched the red!

The musicians played until everyone was done, and then they finally stopped. One of the army guys at the head table stood up.

"Thank you, Sister Armatia, for reminding us of the humble and valorous origins of the First Empire. Though we live under the aegis of the Third, I do see our era as a direct continuation of St. Alessia's passion and Pelinal's fury."

He gestured over to the Dunmer notables at the Hlaalu table. "And of course, under the Third Empire, Man and Mer are now fellow citizens. The modern Imperial project is only possible through the aid of conscientious Mer citizens like the ones who have so honored us with their presence tonight. The Empire is cruel to its enemies, but only so that it can be good to its friends.

"And with our obeisances to heroes paid, let the feast begin!"

Everyone clapped. And looking at the red faces all through the room, she'd totally done the best job of applying the fake blood. If she had to pretend to be a berserk warrior, she'd at least look good doing it.

Snagging Turimar, and ensuring her family's future, might depend on it!



*********



The important part of dinner, of course, came after dinner: the mingling and the dancing.

She almost didn't believe it when some trained bards came out with instruments people actually listened to, like lutes and pipes. And then couples started going to the big space between the tables and for a second the boring old stone fort felt like a ballroom in the Imperial City!

"Oh, it's been so long since I've danced," she sighed.

"Not long enough, in my case," Daria said.

She hoped she still remembered all the steps. They were dancing an allemande—was that two skips before the turn, or three?

Whatever, she had to get down to business. But first, she wanted to chat with Satheri for last-minute info about Turimar. Quinn got out of her chair and walked over, still holding her goblet.

Satheri knew style, no doubt about that, but she hadn't handled the fake blood well. She'd smeared it across one side of her face and some of it had dripped down and stained her collar.

"Oh no!" Quinn exclaimed. "Fashion emergency. Ugh, I wish they didn't use red. But it's pretty dim in here, I don't think anyone will notice."

"Uh, I hope not," Satheri said. Her shoulders were all bunched up like she wanted to hide from the world. Not a good look!

"Calm down, Satheri. You still look great."

"I do? Thanks. That stuff about Pelinal kind of scared me."

"Huh? Why?"

Satheri shivered. "Well, that lady was talking about how Pelinal killed Mer. I'm a Mer, Quinn."

Quinn waved her hand. "Oh, no, it's not like that! That was a different group of Mer he killed, the Ayleids or something, who were like so mean to my ancestors. I'm sure Pelinal didn't have a problem with Dunmer. He probably had a lot of Dunmer friends. All the cool Imperials do."

Satheri smiled and sniffed. "Well, we were called Chimer back then. But you think so? We didn't like the Ayleids either but sometimes humans don't—"

"I know so. Maybe he had a Dunmer or Chimer or whatever girlfriend for a while! And he was a hero, so he must've been really handsome!"

"Oh! If I'd been around back then, do you think I could've been betrothed to Pelinal? Or wait, not Pelinal, I'm sure he'd marry an Imperial girl like you, but maybe I could've been betrothed to some other hero?"

"I'm sure you would have been! And speaking of handsome," Quinn said, pointing to Turimar who wasn't dancing yet. "Anything else I should know?"

"Okay, so his dad's a noble. Turimar's set to inherit, and he does a lot of work for his dad, so he'll be like super-rich!"

"Perfect!"

Quinn heard some chattering voices behind her and looked over her shoulder. Ugh! It was them: Jonus, Julien, and Jeval.

"Quinn, will you dance with me?" Jonus begged.

"I'll dance with you twice!" Julien promised.

"I'll dance with you better than Jonus or Julien can!" Jeval offered.

"Satheri, can you distract them for me?" Quinn whispered.

"Of course! Good luck, Muthsera Morgendorffer!"

Quinn smiled. Only unfashionable people needed luck. Well, luck was still good for things like tests, but that was about it. She drew herself up and approached the handsome Dunmer.

He looked bored. She tried to figure the best angle—be sympathetic? Challenge him? If he'd saved some random human woman—who'd better not still be dating him—than maybe she should act like she needed help. She got it: new girl confused and overwhelmed by Morrowind and who needed a good Dunmer guy to help her out.

Quinn stood right next to the Hlaalu table. Turimar had pushed his chair back, hands behind his head and legs crossed. She inched a little closer. Look at me, you dummy, she thought.

He kept looking straight ahead. She sighed; guys never made it easy.

Quinn raised her goblet as if to drink, and then let go so that it fell on the floor and rolled toward Turimar. Her eyes narrowed as it rolled, the contents puddling out onto the stone.

Pick it up, she thought.

The goblet finally hit his shoe and stopped. Quinn tensed up. Now was the moment.

He kept staring.

Dammit!

"Excuse me, sera, but I believe I have dropped my drinking vessel. Would you be so kind as to pick it up?" Quinn asked, annoyed that she had to.

Turimar finally noticed her. His chin was perfect, like you could crack walnuts with it. "Huh?"

"My goblet?"

He shrugged.

Annoyed, Quinn put her hands on her hips. "Usually, you pick something up when someone drops it."

He sure didn't seem like the kind of guy who'd fight a monster to save someone.

Turimar grunted, then leaned down and picked up the goblet with one massive hand. This was more like it. Even better, he was grabbing a pitcher of wine to refill it. Things were going her way.

He refilled it, and then brought it to his lips and drank deep.

"You were supposed to give that back to me!" she protested.

"What? I'm the one who picked it up. Don't I deserve the reward?" He followed it up with a laugh.

"Ugh! You deserve a kick to the shins. I bet you never wrestled that kagouti!"

"Sure I did. I wrestle kagouti all the time. How do you think I got these?" he raised his arms and flexed. Then he let his arms fall and made a crooked smile.

Okay, the smile was interesting. Like he was kidding around about all that?

He then looked Quinn up and down like he was finally paying attention to her. "You don't look that bad. You want to dance?"

Did she? He was so rude! At least he didn't constantly suck up to her. Plus, he was the best prospect available according to Satheri, and she knew her stuff.

"I should turn you down. But I'll give you one chance."

"Okay," he said, getting up from his chair and going toward her.

"Just one!"

"Whatever."

Turimar scooped her up in his arms like she weighed nothing! Quinn gasped as he led her across the floor, his big hands wrapping around hers. This proved it: the stories (well, story, singular) about him had to be true. This guy really was the stuff heroes were made out of! So what if he had some rough edges?

Next thing she knew they were circling each other. He took her hand and guided her through a minuet, and then a gavotte. Turimar was built like a Nord but he danced between the others as gracefully as you'd expect from a Mer.

"Where did you learn how to dance so well?" Quinn asked as they settled into another allemande. She was already flushed—she probably looked ridiculous with her face covered in sweat and fake blood, but so did everyone else. This guy controlled the dance floor, and she could see how the other ladies looked at them as they glided past.

"I lived in Cheydinhal for some years. Doing business for my dad."

"You must have a lot of money."

"Tons of it. And I ain't afraid to spend for a good time. This dinky little party is nothing."

"I bet you must've gone to way better ones. I wish I could go to those."

He grinned. "You gotta know the right people, grease the right palms."

"What do you think of Balmora?" she asked.

He made a grunting laugh. "Balmora is boring. I grew up Narsis and that place is way better. More parties, more drinks, more babes."

Quinn pretended she hadn't heard the last bit. "Balmora is so dull," she said. "I wish I could get out of here." She locked eyes with him when she said that, going for that sad look. As if she needed his help.

"You from here?"

"No." For a second, she thought about saying she was from the glitz and glamour of the Imperial City. But if this was going to be long-term it'd better to be honest. Well, not totally honest. More like two-thirds honest and one-third creative.

"I was born in Stirk, but I basically grew up in Anvil," she said. Anvil was glamorous enough. Plus, it's where the big temple to Dibella was!

"Never heard of Stirk. Sounds like it's way out in the middle of nowhere."

"It's a little island off the Gold Coast. I spent most of my time in Anvil, anyway."

He smiled that crooked smile again, and it was like his eyes saw right past her. "Oh yeah? I bet you're just saying that to make yourself look good."

Quinn blushed. "No, we're a respectable family! We had a nice apartment. And now we rent a house!"

"On your way up, I see." He didn't sound like he meant it.

Now she was getting mad. But she didn't break the dance. "My dad is a big business consultant who helps Imperial merchants do their work here. And my mom's a lawyer. So yeah!"

"Take it easy. I like ambition," he said, as he twirled her past Jolda and Maiko.

"Oh, you do?"

"Sure. I say take what you can get. It's a tough world out there."

"You're so wise," Quinn said.

Relaxing, Quinn let Turimar carry her through the dances. And again, she felt like she was flying, the candle lights and smiling faces spinning around her like she was the center of the world!

The musicians finally stopped. He bowed, she curtsied, and he made that crooked smile again! Quinn blushed.

So this guy was interesting. A little crude, but what could you expect from someone who beat up monsters? It felt like he was about to show her the most incredible things, and she only had to work a little harder to go along.

Of course, he had said that thing about "babes" in Narsis. Sometimes Quinn wished she could just forget weird things other people said but her brain wouldn't let her. She guessed Daria had that same problem. Anyway, it was okay if he had a girl in every town as long as he cut them off once Quinn came into the picture.

Time to tell mom and dad!


https://dariawiki.org/wiki/Tommy_Sherman - Spoilers in the link! If you haven't seen the show, you may just want to click to see what he looks like (as a human) and then go back. In the show, he's a washed-up former football player. Here, he's a young noble yet to reach the height of his prowess. Neither version is particularly pleasant, though.

Posted by: Acadian Jul 13 2022, 08:55 PM

By default, I assumed this episode started from Daria’s perspective. By the second paragraph I smiled as, based on her observations/concerns, I realized this was written from Quinn’s perspective. That highlights how sharp the contrast between the two sisters is - and what a great job you’ve done at presenting them both.

I love the sharp contrast also between Quinn’s internal dialogue and the gory musical history lesson presented by the priestess. Culminating of course with Quinn applying the ‘blood’ as artfully as any makeup. After all, she realizes her family’s future might depend upon how she presents herself! tongue.gif

Quinn is certainly talented as she skillfully tends to the fashion woes and allays the fears of Satheri.

She is also quite focused on the target of her quest to marry up.

Now that we’ve met Turimar, the advice that comes to mind for Quinn is ‘be careful what you wish for’. A rich, handsome jerk is still a jerk. And remember, he’s a mer; even if he’s drawn in by Quinn’s looks, that beauty will only last for the blink of an eye to a mer who can measure his life in centuries instead of decades.

Posted by: Renee Jul 14 2022, 01:51 PM

QUOTE
Sweat was the enemy. Sure, Quinn had lots of enemies: cheap kohl, those lacy veils that Nibenese women wore that got stuck on your makeup, bad hair days, bad pores


laugh.gif laugh.gif laugh.gif Oh gosh this just killed me! laugh.gif Did not expect! ... Quinn sounds like more of a princess than Daria for sure.

I love dad. Dad just comes across as such a ... dad. In the same vein as Homer or Hank Hill...sort of falsely cheeful as he makes an effort to keep it all together.

I like that you made the journey from Balmora to Moonmoth 6 miles. Indeed, I like to think what we see in the game is just a scaled-down representation of distance.

"The soldiers had decorated the fort as best they could, but there was only so much you could do with bare stone"

Ah jeez! this story's hilarious! ... The part when she says "Gosh, this must be so exciting. There are a lot of cute outlander guys, too. It almost makes me wish I wasn't in an arranged marriage." ... Your'e killing me today! ... Panic opens your pores!!!!

... Did you have fun while writing this, WTC? The thing I'm noticing most is how Quinn was complaining so much until she sees her friends. After that it's like she completely changes. Hug_emoticon.gif You really know a lot about mall princesses!

QUOTE
The nice thing about Morrowind was that a lot of the food was actually healthy, even if it looked gross. No one ever got fat from eating bugs, Satheri always said.


Ha! Very true. It explains the lack of obesity in these games, although the common thing we all read in history books is that obesity was actually pretty rare during the Middle Ages. Still though.

She says "quiet" to her own tummy when it growls!

Turimar sounds like quite the man's man. Wouldn't it be great if he's actually gay? ... Just like Cher's crush in Clueless all over again.

Oh gosh... what's this with the red paint??? .. Yeesh, this is weird!

Whoa, Quinn sounds like she's hooking up! And Woo hoo! I'm finally caught up with the others!! But yeah, I wonder where this thing with Turimar is going.



Posted by: SubRosa Jul 14 2022, 11:47 PM

I got right into Quinn's head here. She may as well be musing over the delicacy of air-popped, no-salt, no-butter, popcorn. Mmmm, tasty. But that was for simpler times, when a girl could just be popular... laugh.gif

I love how you juxtaposed the priestess sermonizing about Pelinal's bloody deeds with Quinn fantasizing about the hunky Dunmer guy! biggrin.gif

I loved Quinn strategizing about how to approach the Hunkmer.

The Hunkmer is turning out to not be all that Quinn had hoped for. First I thought he might be gay. But then I realized he is just self-absorbed, rude, and kind of dumb. Ok, he's Tommy Sherman! Yep, he just a self-absorbed ass. I hope a pylon falls on him. It would really make you think...

I think Daria does indeed have that same problem of remembering the red flags that people throw up in your face....

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Jul 16 2022, 05:05 PM

@Acadian - Whew! I wanted to make sure the different characters sounded, well, different. Granted, the show already did a lot of the work for me in that regard.

The ritual was fun to write. Only natural for Quinn to turn it into a game of social competition.

Man-Mer relationships would pose a lot of complications even outside of cultural differences. While some can work out quite well, they are more challenging in general.

@Renee - I had tons of fun writing this! Glad I captured the "mall princess" attitude. I figured though, that it's the same with them as everyone else. Like us all, personal priorities come first. And for someone like Quinn, that means fashion and social climbing (and friendship, which, for her, is inextricable from both).

I know that in times past, being overweight was usually associated with the upper classes since it meant they had more food. Nobles still led lives that were far more physically strenuous than what most of us would lead, however, so I'm not sure exactly how that would pan out. Regardless, bugs have a lot of protein.

The red paint was my own idea. I wanted something that was gruesome (to emphasize just how violent the Empire has been and can be), but also watered down so that it seems more acceptable. Oh no, we'd never use real blood that's barbaric! But we'll totally slaughter y'all if you cross us.

@SubRosa - Heh, Turimar's pretty much the same as his series counterpart. I decided to take the basic concept of "The Misery Chick", but apply it to Quinn rather than Daria.

Episode 8: Hate Actually

Chapter 3


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OO0aTOIU_3w

Satheri never had the stamina for dancing. She knew it was unfashionable to stop early, but wasn't it also unfashionable to get too sweaty? Quinn looked good no matter what, so she could dance all night. Not everyone was so lucky.

Thus, she sat down with her mother before the first set ended and smiled when she saw Turimar bow before Quinn. Just like the Empire, Quinn always got what she wanted.

The words from the earlier speech echoed in her mind. "... and his head crowned with Mer fingers..." Satheri shuddered and again felt very sick and small.

She knew that Pelinal had only fought Ayleids, not Dunmer. And she also knew that Quinn had been trying to make her feel better, that Pelinal probably wouldn't have drawn any distinction between her ancestors and his Ayleid foes. And that now her people were subjects of the Empire and that the point of the speech was to remind the Dunmer that they'd best cooperate so they didn't end up as dead as the Ayleids.

Satheri sniffed and drank some of her wine, wishing she were back home in her comfy adobe house and far from the drafty stone fort. The Ayleids had enslaved early humans and treated them horribly. She knew a lot of Dunmer still did awful things to Khajiit and Argonians, but not to the Imperials. Dad always said that the Empire was the best friend Great House Hlaalu had. So she didn't know what her people had done to make the Empire hate and fear them so.

She doubted any answer would make her feel better.



*********



"Dude, Turimar's been dancing with Quinn all night!" Jonus complained.

The trio had not been dancing. Instead, they sat in the shadows and watched as Turimar took their goddess for one spin after another.

"Yeah, it isn't fair. He should give one of us a chance," Julien said.

Jeval shrugged. "We could ask some other girls."

Jonus glared at him. "No, stupid! If we dance with someone else then Quinn won't think we're into her!"

Julien's hands closed into fists. "Hey, I was thinking. There's three of us and one of him. Maybe we should teach him a lesson."

"Are you crazy?" Jeval shook his head. "That guy's sitting right next to the head table. He's got important friends. We don't."

Jonus growled. "Crap, you're right."

"Well, my great-uncle is a count in Shornhelm," Julien said. "Or maybe a baron. I forget. But I guess that's pretty far away. Let's just get to Quinn before he does."

"I still think we should try some other girls," Jeval said. Noticing that his two friends already hurried toward Quinn, he shrugged and followed along.



*********



The best thing about dancing with a handsome guy was gloating about it afterward. Especially to someone like Daria, who always pretended like it didn't bother her, even though it totally did.

The whole family was back at their middle place table (soon to be higher place!), with mom and dad taking a break from the dance floor. Daria had been reading, as usual.

"Well, you certainly seemed to be dancing up a storm!" mom said.

"Yeah! Who's the lucky fella?" dad asked.

Quinn went for the coy look, eyes up to the ceiling. "Oh, just some guy. His name is Turimar Shurmam and he's really rich. I think he likes me."

"Of course, he'd like you, sweetie," dad said. "Everyone does."

"So does this Turimar have any redeeming qualities? Last I checked, wealth wasn't a sign of good character, particularly when it comes to Hlaalu," Daria said, not looking up from her book.

Quinn smirked. "For your information, Daria, he's also a hero. He beat up a bunch of kagouti with his bare hands to save some woman's life."

Daria finally glanced over at Turimar, who was drinking with some friends. "Uh huh. And next you'll be telling me that he annexed Akavir all to impress you."

This got mom's attention. She crossed her arms and gave Daria one of those looks. "You know, Daria, you haven't been doing much tonight."

"On the contrary. I've been working very hard to avoid socializing."

"Which isn't helpful for us right now. At least Quinn is making some connections!"

"Yeah!" Quinn said.

"You gotta give them a chance, Daria", dad said.

She put down her book and glared. "Why? So you can watch me stumble over my own feet like you know I will? So I can endure the sycophantic idiots that you want to call your peers?"

"Daria, I don't have the time to argue with you," mom scolded. "This is a great opportunity for you to secure a future in this place and you're letting it slip by!"

"Maybe she's not as smart as she thinks," Quinn said.

"How can you call this an opportunity?" Daria demanded.

Mom flipped. "That's it! You will go on the dance floor once the musicians resume, young lady, and you will act like you're enjoying yourself. Make at least one social connection by the end of the night, or there will be consequences!"

"Fine." Daria put her book on the table and got up. She looked at Quinn and gave a creepy fake smile through the red blot over her face. "Have fun with your new boy toy. I guarantee he'll be as spoiled, petty, and cruel as everyone else you like."

Quinn stuck her tongue out at Daria. That always felt good.

Daria went off to sulk while Quinn chatted with mom and dad. Mom usually nodded off when Quinn told her about things like this. But mom listened to every boring thing Daria said for some reason, and all she got in return was attitude.

"I'm glad you met this Turimar. He sounds delightful," mom said.

"Oh, he is, mom, he really is."

"Maybe we could meet him?" dad asked.

"How about after the dance? I think the musicians are going to start again pretty soon and we don't want to rush this," Quinn said.

Mom looked worried for a second. "Speaking of rushing things... as good as Turimar seems, you haven't known him for long. You're still far too young to be married and I'm concerned that Turimar might own—"

Quinn rolled her eyes. Mom loved worrying about things. "Oh my gosh! I'm not going to marry him tonight! But you know, maybe we can start working toward an engagement or something. I can always break it off later if I find someone better."

"That's the spirit!" dad cheered. Mom didn't seem quite as happy, but turned her attentions back to dad when the music started.

Quinn left her parents’ table but not fast enough to avoid Jonus, Julien, and Jeval, who swarmed her all at once.

"Quinn, please dance with me! I've been waiting all night!" Jonus begged.

"No, dance with me! I've been waiting since the night before!" Julien fell to his knees.

"Just dance with one of them so they shut up about it," Jeval muttered.

Quinn usually loved to give them little jobs they could fight and argue over, but she wouldn't have time to enjoy it that night.

"You know what? Grow a spine and I'll be impressed," Quinn said.

"I'll grow the best spine ever!" Jonus promised.

"I'll grow two spines!" Julien countered. "That are also the best ever!"

"Spines don't even work that way, dumbasses," Jeval muttered.

But Quinn was already long gone.

Posted by: Acadian Jul 16 2022, 08:40 PM

Neat little look into Satheri’s mind. Though she shares much of Quinn’s keen fashion preoccupation, she also harbors some provocative insights into the relationship and history of Imperials and Dunmer. I expect she’s not far from the truth.

A well-done family scene during the musicians’ break with Quinn predictably rubbing things in and Daria dourly (but truthfully) pointing out the hypocrisy. Mom focused on networking possibilities and Dad cheerfully oblivious.

"I'll grow two spines!" Julien countered. "That are also the best ever!" laugh.gif

Posted by: Renee Jul 17 2022, 05:02 PM

Hey, didn't you say you posted Outlanders in some other forum already? I don't want to read it there if so, I like waiting for each new chapter to be posted. But I'm curious which other forum, if there is one. Maybe I'll join there, if so. Because I don't think Beth has reopened their forums yet, if they ever will.

the red paint idea is great. Fits right in with a culture which evolved from native times, and still has a lot of ashlanders to remind them of where they once were, for sure.

I can see why Satheri is concerned, but I don't think the Imperials would want to wipe out the Dunmer, as they did with the Ayleids. But yes, there is that threat. Those Impies can be heavy-handed at times. sad.gif

The part when the trio is complaining about dancing is so much like high school. goodjob.gif Middle school, everyone would be too nervous to even get out there. This is hilarious, again.

QUOTE
The best thing about dancing with a handsome guy was gloating about it afterward. Especially to someone like Daria, who always pretended like it didn't bother her, even though it totally did.


Oh jeez! laugh.gif This is so funny.!

See, I think the answer is not to force Daria on the dance floor (as mom suggests). Her beau, whoever he is, is likely going to be more of an introvert.

Hmm, question is, what is "wrong" with Turimar? unsure.gif Gotta be something...

Posted by: SubRosa Jul 18 2022, 12:05 AM

Satheri seems to have a pretty good grip on just what Imperialism means. And also seems to at least somewhat grasp that while the Dunmer are not in a privileged position vis a vis the Empire, other races are likewise even less privileged vis a vis her own race. Though it looks like she is still a long way from truly understanding how there are many forms of interlocking privelige and oppression. That's ok, I am sure the Empire gets it, that is how Imperialism works, when its effective. wink.gif

The Three Jeffies reminded me of one of the episodes where they did indeed gang up on someone else who was getting a little too successful with Quinn. I think there was a like a 5-way fight in the parking lot?

Last I checked, wealth wasn't a sign of good character, particularly when it comes to Hlaalu
Thank you Daria, for checking in. And https://tenor.com/search/easy-a-ooh-burn-gifs

One thing I love about Quinn, is that she always says the quite part out loud. Like how she can always break off the engagement later if she finds someone better. There are no pretexts there.


Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Jul 20 2022, 04:31 PM

@Acadian - Thanks! Yeah, Satheri's pretty perceptive, at least in this case.

@Renee - Yes, I posted it in SpaceBattles and Sufficient Velocity. They're general fandom forums, so whatever it is you like, chances are you can find something there. They are quite busy (itself a rarity for forums these days), to the point that anything you post risks being buried under the cavalcade of updated threads (this is more the case with SpaceBattles than with Sufficient Velocity). I didn't spend a ton of time there, but everyone seemed pretty friendly.

Regarding the red paint: empires are born in violence, no matter how much they later talk about peace.

Heh, I remember. The one middle school dance I attended, everyone was too nervous to do anything.

As for what's wrong with Turimar, well, keep reading...

@SubRosa - Yup, that sums it up. Satheri's parents work closely with the Empire, and that's likely one of the reasons she's troubled by the idea of the Dunmer owning slaves. That's something of a minority opinion for Great House Hlaalu. One of the later stories does go into a bit more detail with Satheri's home life.

I know there was a big fight in "The Invitation", though that was in a house. Given the habits of the Three Js, I'm sure there were at least a few other scuffles over Quinn. As for Quinn, she's refreshingly open about her ambitions.

Episode 8: Hate Actually

Chapter 4


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQf0l4c0FIA

Daria wished she'd brought a thicker book with her, since it'd be much more satisfying to hit someone with a heavier tome than with the slender one she had. Clobbering someone with a book wouldn't help (and would, in fact, create more problems), but it was certainly tempting.

She eyed the mob of gallivanting idiots around her, and sighed. One social connection. But mom might as well have asked her to climb Red Mountain.

Hovering at the edge of the party, her arms crossed and her eyes flinty, she almost walked past a skinny young Imperial whose drab brown hair stuck out from his head in wild defiance of gravity. Leaning against the stone wall, he observed the crowd through a gaze of heavy-lidded indifference.

At last, sanity.

"Are you also here to help your family keep up the appearance of imperial patriotism?" Daria asked.

"That and social networking. Though networking is arguably another form of performative patriotism." He turned to face her. "My name is Luhrman."

"Daria," she introduced herself. "My mother insisted that I make one social connection tonight."

"My father gave me a similar dictate."

Daria was sort of impressed at how his monotone rivaled her own.

"Assuming your family meets an arbitrary measure of respectability," she said, "I can probably count you as that connection."

"So long as you return the favor. As for respectability, my father runs a moth-silk import business out in Suran."

"My mother's a lawyer, bringing the Empire's venal legalism to yet another province. So, mission accomplished?"

Luhrman nodded. "It does seem that way."

"Good. Thank you for your time. I'm sure the Empire will remember our contributions to forced socialization."

"Long may our sacrifice be remembered," Luhrman intoned. He turned his gaze back to the party.

Satisfied that she'd completed her mission, Daria stood next to the nearest torch and resumed her book.



*********



"How do I look?" Quinn asked.

She had run over to Satheri and Tiphannia for a touch-up before the next set. She kept watching Turimar out of the corner of her eye. No way would she let some other girl grab him! Lucky for her, he was still hanging out and laughing about guy stuff (probably) with some rich Imperials.

"You look... really... good..."

"I think you're perfect," Satheri gushed. "I wish I had hair like yours. Mine gets all messy once I start moving around."

"Anyone's hair can be perfect with the right treatments!"

"You're sure I'm okay?" Quinn asked.

They both nodded and Quinn was off. Already she could imagine it: this dull party near a dull city was only the beginning of her ascent. And Turimar could show her the way. He'd been around, he knew things! Might not be easy, but Quinn could beat the competition. No one else knew fashion the way she did, from pore management to proper manicure techniques! Sure, she didn't have the same kinds of beauty routines as a noblewoman, but she knew how to improvise which was totally better and would probably impress a tough guy like Turimar more anyway.

"... so I was dancing with this little hick girl from someplace called Stirk," Turimar said to his pals.

Quinn skidded to a halt. She hadn't just heard that. Or maybe there was someone else from Stirk? Other than Daria?

"I know that place. She wash up here on a fishing boat?" one of his buddies joked.

"Probably. And she was all going on about her mom being a lawyer or something. Lady, my dad runs the biggest tanna plantations around Narsis. He has a dozen lawyers on his payroll. But one thing I will say is that lowborn girls are always the easiest lays."

He might as well have hit her! Quinn's jaw dropped, her whole body suddenly cold. All that effort and he didn't care.

"Like that Nord girl who thought you'd killed a monster for her?" another one of his friends said.

"Yup!"

"You!" Quinn shouted.

They ignored her. She quaked, and she knew right then that her face was the same color red as the paint still on it, which probably made her look weird and blotchy, but she didn't care.

"I'm talking to you!"

Turimar turned. She wanted to see fear in his eyes, like he knew he was really going to get it, that he'd lost his only chance with the best girl in Morrowind if not all of Tamriel.

But he was just wearing that same crooked smile.

Time to let him have it.

"I heard every word! Hick girl, huh? Well at least I'm not making fun of people when I think they aren't looking, or pretending to be a hero! And I don't care if your dad is some big shot in Narsis or whatever, I think you're trash!"

"Oh no," he said. "Little boat girl thinks I'm trash."

Quinn stomped the floor, clenched her teeth, and grabbed Turimar by the front of his coat and it felt so damn good to see the sudden shock on his face.

"You'll be sorry," Quinn vowed. "I'll tell everyone what I heard. You're no hero. You never fought a kagouti!"

The shock didn't last long. He grabbed her wrists and pulled her hands off his clothes with ease. "Say whatever you want. You think anyone's going to go against me when it might cost them a business deal with my dad? Hell, I'll tell people whatever I want about you. See if your folks still get any clients after that. I've got big friends in Great House Hlaalu and the Empire."

They all laughed. Turimar, his Imperial friends, the whole gang. Quinn's vision flickered.

This couldn't be happening.

Next thing she knew she was sitting on the hard stone steps outside the keep and crying her eyes out. Oh gods, she was a mess, she knew. All the makeup mixing with the fake blood which she'd been so careful to apply just right.

How could he say something like that? Everything she'd worked for was undone. And maybe the same for the rest of her family. She whimpered when she thought of mom and dad losing the house because Turimar turned all their clients against them. They'd be poor and she'd have to gather herbs and crush them to make her own cosmetics or something and she'd look like a beggar!

This was the worst day of her life.

The door opened behind her, soft footsteps treading on the stone. Satheri sat down beside her before Quinn had time to fix her face.

"Quinn, what happened?"

"Oh, Satheri. It was horrible." Quinn hugged her friend tight, wanting to lose herself in the hug so she forgot the entire night. She told her the whole story between sobs.

"Wait, Quinn?"

Quinn sniffed. "Uh huh?"

They let go of each other, but Satheri put her hand on Quinn's shoulder. "Maybe it was a misunderstanding. Sometimes guys like to joke about stuff like that to their friends."

And for a second, Quinn almost believed it. That made sense, right? Except it didn't. "No, I don't think it was a joke."

"Well, Turimar is part of Great House Hlaalu even if he isn't yet a noble," Satheri said, sounding nervous. "My dad says we wouldn't let bad people get that much influence. That's why we're the best great house. And a friend to the Empire."

Quinn blinked. What was Satheri talking about? What did politics have to do with this?

Then she got it: everyone still thought Turimar was great. Including Satheri.

For a second Quinn wanted to shout at Satheri. How could she not get this? But looking at her big, sad eyes, Quinn saw that Satheri wanted to help.

She just had no idea how.

"It's cold, I'm going back inside," Quinn said. Better to go back in. Maybe she could sulk with Daria or something. Daria would believe her about Turimar being a jerk. She thought everyone was a jerk because she was one, too.

"Great! Talk to Turimar again—"

Quin didn't wait for her to finish before going back through the open gate. Sure enough, Daria stood at the edge of the hall, still reading. A guy stood near her, but looked like he was zoning out. Anyway, Quinn didn't want to hear her sister gloat about being right. Jonus and Julien argued about something—probably her—while Jeval danced with a Redguard girl. Good for him.

No way. She didn't want to talk to anyone. She wanted to be alone.

Quinn walked with careful steps toward one of the side doors, hoping it'd lead to a cellar or something where she could stay away from everyone.

She pushed it open and saw a narrow stone landing absolutely packed with people all shouting about something.

"What's going on—"

The crowd parted and she saw Turimar Shurmam, lying on his back with his throat slit wide open.


https://dariawiki.org/wiki/Luhrman- So the opening scene with Luhrman is a new addition, written just a few weeks ago because I realized the story hadn't addressed Daria's mission of making a social connection. Luhrman in Morrowind is much like Luhrman in the show: clever, sarcastic, and disinterested. Some show fans think he'd have been a good boyfriend for Daria, but I'm skeptical that you can build a relationship off of mutual disaffection.

Posted by: Acadian Jul 20 2022, 08:29 PM

I chuckled all the way through Daria’s two peas in a pod encounter with Luhrman and how it completed the family obligation assigned by her mother.

I knew there was good reason Turimar was emitting so many red flags. Yup, a rich jerk is still a jerk. Poor Quinn. But even in her deep despair, she holds onto her Quinnishness:
’They'd be poor and she'd have to gather herbs and crush them to make her own cosmetics or something and she'd look like a beggar!’

As Quinn was getting ready to head inside, I was wondering if the Dark Brotherhood operated in Morrowind so she could pray to the Night Mother. . . or if it was the Morag Tong that did that kind of thing in TES III. . . . Then, there he was all properly taken care of! I wonder who Quinn has to thank for that? Of course, being falsely accused of murdering Turimar due to her earlier and quite visible argument with him could be a bit of a problem too.

Posted by: Renee Jul 21 2022, 01:27 PM

Thanks for the Fandom site, I'll check it out this weekend. Fandom is an annoying conglomeration of sites it seems, with all their pop-up ads. But maybe that's the point. If I join there, maybe all those pop-ups go away. salute.gif

My middle school dance floor experiences were better than my high school ones! Middle school was all about puppy-love crushes, whereas high school was too much expectation, and even more disappointment! sad.gif

Ahem. Luhrman seems ideal for Daria. Even more ideal than Quinn's current crush. wub.gif Aw nice. They even have the same off-brand, offhand humor. This is so cute! ... No, don't go back to your book Daria! What are ya doing, girl??? laugh.gif

OTOH, I already feel really bad for the Mall Princess. She's going to get let down somehow. It'll be more like my high school experience at Senior Prom. sad.gif Oh crap.

Yeah, kick his ass, Quinn. Arrogant losers like him. Even though she is quite arrogant herself, and maybe shouldn't have thrown herself at the guy..

WHOA... Whaaat???? blink.gif


Posted by: SubRosa Jul 21 2022, 10:05 PM

Poor Daria, geased with a quest to climb the Red Mountain of making a social connection. Yeesh, you would think the first quest would be easier, like fighting rats...

When Lurhman speaks I hear it in the voice of Stephen Wright. He reminds me of the guy from the wedding episode, who Daria hung out with for a little while.

Oh boy, buckle up Quinn. Tommy Sherman is not going to be impressed with you pore routine!

Wow, that was fast. Tommy Sherman shoes his true colors. Not just to Quinn, but that Nord girl too. No monster slayer is Tommy. He is the monster.

Satheri started out so strong, being a real, standup friend doing Quinn a solid. Then she totally lost the thread with her misconception of House Hlaalu's sterling ethics.

Okay, I know the episode from the TV episode. But I was not expecting the guy to have his throat slit. A decorative pylon fall on him - or some other form of accident - sure. But not outright murder. Then again, this is Morrowind. It is easier than ever to hire the Morag Thong to do someone in. Figuring out who was behind it... well, half the province has motive...

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Jul 23 2022, 04:22 PM

@Acadian - Heh, you'll see who did the deed soon enough.

@Renee - Sorry, I'm a little confused: when you say Fandom site, are you referring to the DariaWiki? Or to SpaceBattles/Sufficient Velocity? The latter two are just standard forums, and I've never run into any pop-up ads there. As for the DariaWiki, it uses Miraheze (a nonprofit) as a platform, so it doesn't have pop-ups either (or at least it shouldn't have).

As for Luhrman, you're certainly not alone in seeing him as an ideal match for Daria. Alas, she's not interested at this moment.

Quinn can certainly dish it out pretty well. But it seems that someone else actually took Turimar out...

@SubRosa - Daria might prefer fighting rats to making social connections (mild spoiler: she actually does have to get involved in some rat hunting a few episodes from now).

Satheri's as blinkered as anyone else, sadly. Quinn learns a lot in this episode. And yeah, I figure Morrowind would have a more intense fate for Tommy Sherman than would Lawndale.

Episode 8: Hate Actually

Chapter 5


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=foreeUve-m4

Quinn screamed as loud as she could.

But some part of her was actually kind of glad he was dead.

"Dammit, troopers! I told you to watch the exit!" came a voice. "Keep anyone else from getting in, we don't want to start a panic."

The soldiers nearest Quinn pulled her inside and then marched out the door she'd opened, closing it behind them. The only people left in the room were three legionnaires (one was Maiko, Jolda's friend who might also be her boyfriend on the down-low), Turimar's dead body, and a woman in the creepiest outfit Quinn had ever seen. The woman's face was wrapped up in dark netch leather like she was some kind of mummy, and she wore these crazy mismatched goggles where the right eyepiece was huge and the left one was a cluster of little lenses like a bug's eye. She was mostly covered up, but the few bare spots showed gray skin, so she was a Dunmer.

She held a bloody dagger in one gloved hand and a scroll in the other.

"Quinn Morgendorffer, right? I met your sister at the Talori party a few months ago," Maiko said.

"Uh, yeah."

"Take it easy, you're not in any trouble. Nothing's going to happen to you. You just had the bad luck to stumble into a sensitive situation."

"An insulting situation," growled the other soldier, and he gave the weird woman a nasty look.

"What happened—" Quinn started. Then she pointed at the woman. "Did she kill him?"

Maiko took a deep breath. "So before anything else, I'm going to have to ask you to be brave."

Quinn shivered. "Oh no. No one ever asks that when something good's going to happen!"

And this looked anything but good. A murder, a murderer, and a bunch of soldiers who didn't seem to be doing anything. This was like one of those coups or something!

"No, you're fine. No one else is going to die tonight," Maiko said, and he was so calm and sure that Quinn could almost believe him so long as she didn't look at Turimar's bloody corpse.

Maiko turned to the other soldier. "Sir Varro. May I make a recommendation?"

Varro made a grumbling sound. "Go ahead."

"I think it may be better to tell Quinn what happened here. We are trying to clamp down on rumors after all."

"Are you serious? This wisp of a girl? She'll gossip about it to all her friends."

Quinn shook her head. "I won't, sir."

"I trust her," Maiko said.

Varro thought about it a bit and glared at the woman again. "Very well. I suppose rumors will spread regardless of what we do."

"Quinn," Maiko said. "I'll explain what happened. But you need to promise not to tell anyone else. We will release the news later but telling everyone now might scare some of the guests. Imperial policy is to avoid spreading panic in these situations. We definitely don't want to spoil Pelinal's Day for anyone."

Quinn's head was spinning. "Sure. I won't tell."

"Okay. Have you heard about the Morag Tong?"

The name sounded familiar. "Aren't they those thugs who really hate outlanders?"

Maiko shook his head. "No, that's the Camonna Tong. The Morag Tong is the traditional assassins' association of the Dunmer. One of their agents here," he said, pointing at the woman, "killed Turimar. But, under the terms of the Armistice, Morag Tong killings are legal."

"What? How does that even make sense? You can't just kill people and get away with it!" Quinn protested.

"No, not normally," Maiko said. "The Morag Tong only kill members of the great houses. It's basically how the great houses handle conflicts. A few targeted assassinations is less disruptive than a full-on war."

She'd never heard of this. "So these guys go out of their way to kill the rich and popular people?"

This changed everything! How was she supposed to enjoy being married to a high-ranking Hlaalu if she always had to worry about this? Then she looked at Turimar's body and thought about all the awful things he'd said.

Did she want to marry someone in Great House Hlaalu?

Dammit, Daria had been right. About Turimar, anyway. And what about Satheri? She'd taken Turimar's side... but maybe she wouldn't have if she'd seen what happened.

"Dunmer culture has a peculiar way of acknowledging the great chain of being," Varro grumbled. "In the west, simple men are honored to fight in the name of those greater than them. Among these savages, those who are great are expected to die from a knife in the dark so that lesser men might live."

Except Turimar was about as far from great as it got. She wondered if there was some other noble like him back in Cyrodiil or High Rock who people would've fought to defend back in the old days. The Dunmer way kind of made more sense.

"And make no mistake, assassin," Varro continued. "Legal or not, this was an insult! To kill a friend of the Empire, on Pelinal's Day, on Imperial grounds—"

The woman held up the scroll. "The Morag Tong apologizes if there has been any inconvenience," she said. "We are happy to cooperate with law enforcement officials, and any complaints about operative performance or discretion should be directed to the grandmaster through proper channels."

"It's true. She didn't break any law," Maiko said.

"Maybe not. But it's not customary. Usually, you people wait until your target is in one of your cities. Maiko, arrest her and keep her in a cell. She'll be free to go when the guests leave. I will be filing a complaint."

"Wait!" Quinn said, holding out her hand. She was a little surprised she'd actually said it, but she needed to know more. "Can I ask her a few more questions?"

Varro rolled his eyes and then made a hurry-up gesture.

Looking at the assassin, she asked: "Why did you kill Turimar?"

"A public writ of execution was commissioned for his death, and I was selected to perform the service."

"I see. Who wanted him dead?"

Other than me, she thought.

"The Morag Tong respects the privacy of its clients and will not reveal their identities. Operatives are not told the names or affiliations of their clients."

"I guess that makes sense. Can anyone hire you guys to kill someone they don't like?" Was that how it worked in Morrowind? How close had she come to getting killed? Everyone was jealous of popular people.

"No. The Morag Tong is honored to work closely with the Empire, the Tribunal Temple, and the great houses of Morrowind. We have an extensive vetting process for clients. Similarly, we are also judicious in the targets we choose, who are always high-ranking members of a great house."

Quinn realized she was shaking, and that she'd totally forgotten to clean up after her crying jag outside. Too bad she didn't have a mask like the assassin.

"So I don't have to worry about getting killed by you guys? And my family doesn't either?"

"Morag Tong policy is to avoid targeting those who are not members of a great house. However, should an individual unaffiliated with a great house defend a target during the commission of an assignment, we cannot guarantee that the operative will not use lethal force against said individual."

"I guess I understand."

"Should you have any further questions, feel free to visit the Morag Tong office in Balmora. The office is open from sunrise to sundown, Morndas through Loredas. One of our representatives will be happy to meet with you."

"You guys have a public office? And anyone can walk in?" Somehow, of all the weird things she'd come across that night, that one felt the weirdest.

"The Morag Tong seeks to be an active and constructive part of the communities in which it works."

"Did you memorize a script for this sort of thing?"

That time, the assassin responded in a much lower voice. "Trust me, kid, the script makes things way easier."

"Enough," Varro. "Maiko, take her away."

Maiko stepped up to the assassin. "Ma'am, I'm going to have to put you in a cell. We will release you in the morning."

She didn't say anything as Maiko and the other soldier marched her down the staircase. Now it was just Varro.

"I'm sorry you had to see that, citizen. As Maiko said, you must not tell anyone what you saw here for the next few days. We'll be releasing the news to the Dunmer of Great House Hlaalu first. This concerns them more than it does us. The rest will be informed later, at which point you're free to tell anyone if you're so inclined."

"Sure, I'll stay quiet until then." And she would. Quinn was too tired to do or think of much.

"Very good. You're in the Empire's service now, Citizen Morgendorffer," he said, giving a salute.

She returned it, and then walked back to the main hall, her head spinning. Everyone there was still partying. Musicians played, people danced. She saw mom and dad stumbling through another gavotte with Jolda's mom and dad.

Somehow it all seemed silly.

"Muthsera Morgendorffer!"

Satheri ran up to her, all out-of-breath. "I've been looking all over for you! Are you okay? You aren't mad at me, are you? You left so quickly I wasn't sure. Oh gosh, I'm so sorry if I offended you—"

"It's fine, Satheri. Really." She was too tired to argue.

"That's a relief. Did you talk to Turimar? I'm sure he's sorry that he made you mad. But it's okay if you don't want to."

Quinn didn't say anything. All she could think of was the blood pooling out under his body and the way his mouth was stuck in an open position, the tops of his teeth peeking out from behind his cold lips.

"You know what? Let's just forget about boys tonight," Quinn said.

"That's a great idea! Come on, my mom wants to know where you got your dress!"

Quinn let Satheri take her by the arm and drag her to the Dunmer table where Turimar had been sitting not that long ago.

Posted by: SubRosa Jul 23 2022, 10:42 PM

Looks like I guessed right. It was the Morag Thong.

I don't blame Quinn for her confusion. it is so hard to keep those thongs straight.

"So these guys go out of their way to kill the rich and popular people?"
That's not how its supposed to be!!! laugh.gif

Quinn gets a crash course in Morrowind assassination etiquette. If she is disappointed, I am sure the Dark Brotherhood would be willing to kill people for her that are not members of the great houses. laugh.gif Is there even a DB questline in Morrowind? I don't remember.

I did like the acknowledgement by the assassin that there was a script they have to give the pitch to outlanders like Quinn. It makes a lot of sense that they would have something like that.

Posted by: Acadian Jul 24 2022, 08:32 PM

Like Quinn, I was pleased to see Turimar dead and Quinn not on the hook for it.

I do agree with her that the Morag Tong is certainly an odd concept. Guild of legal assassins? No problem. Fashion guild? Oh, that’ll take years of bureaucratic red tape to approve. Having learned what little I know about the Morag Tong from ESO, I found Maiko’s explanation very informative.

I chuckled as Quinn pondered the whole idea of the risks involved in being popular and ‘important’ in Morrowind.

Whether intentional on Satheri’s part or not, she probably could not have suggested a more appropriate post-shock therapy for Quinn than having her talk about her dress. tongue.gif

Posted by: Renee Jul 26 2022, 04:27 PM



Part of Quinn is glad the guy has been killed! ohmy.gif That's something a lot of us say at one time or another -- "I wish he were dead". Part of Quinn actually is okay with this! indifferent.gif She's a bit cold, eh? She also has no problem sticking around while the officials start to dig into their work. Quinn's a bit like my daughter, actually!

"We definitely don't want to spoil Pelinal's Day for anyone."-- Oh, I think we're way beyond spoiling!

Morag Tong kills can be really difficult in the base game. Especially without mods, all the NPCs stand around like statues, and I notice a lot of MT targets happen to be placed into areas which are indoors, and usually populated. indifferent.gif So it doesn't surprise me Turimar got gotten at the height of the celebration. Well, it sounds like Turimar had gotten separated from the others, but still...

... I wonder where all of this is leading! Quinn seems awfully interested in the Tong. :

-------------------

I think we have a discrephancy with the Fandom term here. Here is an example of what I am talking about --> https://fallout.fandom.com/wiki/Megaton, which I rely on quite a lot. -- Wait for it (if you go there). Pop pop pop pop go the ads! panic.gif The Space Battles & Daria Wiki sites are not the same.

I think you are using the term "fandom" as more a catchall phrase, I thought you meant the actual Fandom site (which has a bunch of games associated with it, not just Fallout).

Alles klar der Komissar?


Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Jul 27 2022, 04:20 PM

@SubRosa - If I recall the lore correctly, there are even more tongs on the mainland! But in Vvardenfell only the Morag and Cammona Tong are particularly relevant.

There's no Dark Brotherhood questline in Morrowind.

Glad you liked the script. I figured it fit with their very professional nature.

@Acadian - Yup, the possibility of having to deal with actual danger as a price for popularity is a new one for Quinn.

@Renee - Yup, that's a spin on the episode that inspired it.

SPOILERS
There, Jane makes a joke about Tommy dying, and then he dies shortly after. Jane feels pretty bad about it.
END SPOILERS

Quinn's shocked and troubled. But she's also pragmatic. Turimar was obviously a bad guy, and was threatening her family.

You know, this is a little embarrassing to admit, but I've never done the Morag Tong questline all the way through! I've heard it can end up conflicting with other questlines because you kill important NPCs.

Ah, got it. There actually is a separate Daria Fandom Wiki (which does indeed have more ads). Without going into a ton of detail, the fandom lost control of the original DariaWiki, and made a replacement for it on Fandom. Happily, we regained control a few years ago (though a lot of pages appear to have been lost).

Episode 8: Hate Actually

Chapter 6


The news broke a few days later just like Maiko had said. Mom and dad made a big deal about it, scared that Quinn would be traumatized or something. She didn't tell them about what she'd heard Turimar say. Thinking about that still hurt.

"It's fine, mom. I mean, it's sad, I get it, but it wasn't like I'd known him for long. I'm okay."

And she did feel okay, except she kind of wished she didn't. Turimar was a bad guy, for sure, but weren't you supposed to think nice things about the dead? But there wasn't anything nice to say about him.

Plus, if he was still alive, would he really try to keep mom and dad from getting clients? Maybe he'd only said that to scare her. But he had a lot of money and power. He could've done that if he'd wanted to. If it was a choice between him being alive, and mom and dad having jobs...

She didn't know what to think.

Quinn didn't have any lectures at the academy that Morndas so she stayed home and helped mom at the office. She finished her work and went to her room to be by herself a while, which usually wasn't something she ever wanted to be. Maybe that's how Daria got started.

She was looking out the window toward the end of the day, the sky all hot and red over Balmora, when Daria came home. Quinn knew the moment she heard the thuds of her booted feet on the floor.

"Hey, Daria," Quinn said, still looking outside.

"Uh, hi."

The room got quiet. Quinn wanted to say something but wasn't sure how. There was so much stuff in her head!

"Sorry again about your dancing partner," Daria said.

"I'm not. You were right about him. He was a bad guy."

"Quinn, did he hurt you?" Daria actually sounded mad all of a sudden.

Quinn moved away from the window and looked at her sister, her clothes as drab as always. "No. Well, he hurt my feelings."

She explained what happened, all the nasty things he'd said, what he'd threatened to do, how Satheri had made excuses for him.

Daria sighed. "I'm sorry that happened to you, Quinn."

"You aren't going to gloat and say, 'I told you so'?"

"I have some tact." Daria sat down on her bed.

"That's not all that happened. You know how he was murdered?"

"Uh huh."

"I saw the body. And I saw the creepy lady who did it! The Morag Tong or whatever," Quinn said.

"Wait, Quinn, why didn't you tell mom and dad?"

"Because Maiko said it'd cause a panic if I told everyone! I promised him I'd keep quiet. But it felt weird. The last three days I keep thinking about how broken Turimar looked when he was dead. And I feel bad, sort of. But I'm kind of glad, too."

"Considering he was threatening to put us in the poorhouse, I'll be glad for the both of us. Thing is, Quinn, powerful people usually aren't good people."

"But aren't they supposed to be? Like that's why they're powerful. The gods help good people so that they can help the rest of us. Like the emperor. He's good, right?"

Daria looked thoughtful for the moment. "I think he's a man with a very hard job. Look at it this way: was Turimar powerful?"

Quinn nodded. "Yeah."

"Was he good?"

"No. I don't think so. Satheri does."

"Why is that?"

Quinn hesitated. "I think it's because she wants to see the good in everyone?" Which was sort of true. But then she thought of something else. "Or because they were both Hlaalu."

"You got it right the second time."

"So House Hlaalu is corrupt, then. But now what do I do? Try to marry into some other great house? Hlaalu's the only one where the guys might marry outlander girls like us. I guess I can move back to Cyrodiil and find a human noble there."

"It's not only the Hlaalu." Daria leaned forward, her eyes getting kind of intense. "Think about Pelinal."

"The guy whose day it was?" Quinn didn't get how he fit into this.

"What did the priestess say about him?"

"I wasn't paying attention, but I know he fought a lot of Mer. Bad Mer."

"He fought the Ayleids," Daria said. "What kinds of Ayleids do you think he killed?"

Quinn shrugged. "I don't know, I'm not some kind of history geek! Like warriors or something."

"So when he stormed their cities and burned them to the ground, do you think he only killed warriors?"

"Uh, I guess?" But Quinn didn't believe it. A city was full of people. Women, kids, old people. "No. He must've killed girls like us, too."

"The popular histories leave that bit out, but the older ones tell the whole story. Pelinal was a vicious fanatic. One time he slaughtered a whole tribe of Khajiit simply because he associated them with Mer."

Quinn shook her head. "But that can't be! Why would we celebrate someone like that?"

"Because he did help our ancestors overthrow the Ayleids. Who did do horrible things to us. Also, because people like having a hero. Almost every human in that room thought Pelinal was a great guy, just like Satheri thought Turimar was one."

"Daria, I'm not as smart as you! What are you trying to say?"

"Just that you can't always trust what people tell you."

"Then who do I trust?"

"Your own sense," Daria said. "You saw that Turimar was a bad guy. You don't have to pretend he was good."

"So we shouldn't have any heroes?"

Daria looked unsure for a moment. "I guess pick them carefully. Personally, I'm used to disappointment, so I try not to think much of anyone. That way, I don't feel too bad when they turn out to be crummy. But if you see someone who tries to help, who's fair-minded and doesn't abuse their power, then it's probably okay to consider them provisionally good until you get sufficient evidence to the contrary."

Quinn giggled. "That's kind of a lot, Daria. I don't think I'm ever going to be that cynical. But I get what you mean. Everyone wants to believe that there are great people out there looking out for them. I know that makes me feel good. Maybe some of those great people really are great! But you can't take it for granted."

Daria smiled. "I think you're a quick learner."

"Only when it comes to important things." Quinn stood up. She realized she'd been inside all day! "You know, I might drop by Satheri's house, just to say hi."

"Hmm. Do you think you can trust her?"

"I'm kind of mad at what she said. But I think she'd have taken my side if she'd heard Turimar. She just wasn't ready to believe he was bad."

Daria took off her glasses, squinting as she examined the dusty lenses. "Personally, I wouldn't give her a second chance. But she's your friend, not mine. So not my call to make."

"Right. Thanks, sister."

"Don't get all mushy on me," Daria said, putting her glasses back on and grabbing the nearest book.

Quinn laughed as she put on her shoes and walked downstairs, ready to actually have some fun.


The End

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zCsLSZX5uVc

Posted by: Renee Jul 27 2022, 06:13 PM

I agree with Quinn. There's nothing nice to say or think about somebody who plays that kind of trick on a girl. mad.gif dry.gif Boom, There it is.

But also wow, think about that as the very last thing the guy did. I mean, the very last moments of Turimar's life, he's playing a trick on somebody who's fawning over him. And then he high-fives with his buds as she gets upset. indifferent.gif What a moment for him to fall! Nothing epic, or noble, no trying to save somebody's life, none of that. He played a trick on somebody he just met, and also threatened her family! And this just happens to be the moment when a writ for his life gets carried out.

QUOTE
"Daria, I'm not as smart as you! What are you trying to say?"


That's so classic! - The princess sister must rely on the smart sister on occasion, for help. So true, so true.

These last couple episodes aren't so humorous, which is OK actually. Sometimes Outlanders can get so funny, I worry I'm about to break a rib or something!

Posted by: Acadian Jul 27 2022, 08:18 PM

A very well-done, deep conversation between the sisters.

The first part was a nice contrast between Quinn’s naivete and Daria’s deep knowledge of history. It was nice to see Daria being sympathetic and showing, in her own way, she really does care for her princess sister.

The second part of the conversation then provided nice balance by contrasting Quinn’s optimism with Daria’s darker view of mer/human nature. I chuckled when Daria said she would not give Satheri a second chance; I remembered how Jane did indeed give Daria a second chance after her intemperate remarks about the Three.

Posted by: SubRosa Jul 28 2022, 12:32 AM

It was good of you to show the turmoil within Quinn. On one hand you have the empathy that most people feel for someone who has died. OTOH, you have the schadenfreude of seeing an asshat get their comeuppance. On the third hand there is just the pragmatism of understanding that this might have been a literal threat to Quinn and her family. It is a confusing mess. It really makes you think...

Oh no! Quinn fell for the prosperity gospel of power. People have power because they are good. Not because they exploited a huge amount of other people to amass and maintain that power.

And a nice talk with Daria, who rather than swooped in for the kill, displayed that fact that yes, she does possess an empathetic nature beneath all the armor of cynicism that she has built up over the years to protect herself.

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Jul 30 2022, 05:03 PM

@Renee - Life can end very unexpectedly. Turimar might not have been completely surprised to know that he was a Morag Tong target. He might have even been a bit flattered, since being a target means you're important. But he probably didn't expect to be killed at this event.

Like the show that inspired it, Outlanders is probably best classified as a "dramedy". The dramatic elements do ramp up as the series progresses, but the comedic elements never vanish.

@Acadian - Thank you!

Daria cares for Quinn a great deal. That's one of the reasons why some of Quinn's casual remarks end up hurting her so much. Which, in turn, leads Daria to act like she doesn't care, which makes Quinn think she can keep making them, and so forth. It's a complicated relationship, but they are there for each other when needed.

@SubRosa - Heh, I see what you did there!

Quinn's extraordinarily perceptive in some respects, but she doesn't see beyond the surface when it comes to things like governments and power structure. Things are pretty good for her, therefore they must be good for everyone. Daria's more aware of "how the sausage is made" so to speak, though her reaction is often to just cynically shrug it off, perhaps because, like Quinn, things are pretty good for her.

Then you have Jane, whose awareness is somewhere between Quinn's and Daria's. She cynically shrugs it off (or maybe says a prayer), because she's already stretched thin and doesn't have the time or resources to do much about it. Thinking doesn't put food on the table. Painting does.

Episode 9: The History Girls

Chapter 1


Note: I decided it made more sense to put the music at the end of the chapter rather than at the start. I have trouble reading and listening at the same time (weirdly, I can write and listen just fine). So the musical intros are now outros.

At least Sera Dimartani wasn't boring.

Daria watched as the rangy Dunmer marched from one end of the dusty classroom to the other, his cadaverous features twisting in rage as he described a choice sampling of the atrocities and wars that comprised Tamrielic history. The material wasn't new to her; she'd studied plenty on her own, her mind absorbing her Empire's complex political and economic realities while also watching for gruesome facts with which she could torment Quinn.

Nonetheless, the threat of explosive rage—or possibly apoplexy—on Dimartani's part added a certain lingering tension to each lecture.

"Who here can tell me why the EMPIRE, fresh from its victories in the west, chose to annex Morrowind through TREATY rather than conquest?"

Dimartani's skull-like visage swiveled to face the seated students, his left eye bulging in its socket.

Silence for a moment, and then Briltasi raised her skinny arm.

"YES?"

"Uh," she said, twirling one of her crimson ponytails around a finger, "was it because the Empire really liked us and didn't want to fight?"

"Your NAIVETE continues to impress! Anyone ELSE?"

Daria hesitated. The longer it took to get a response, the more likely Dimartani would flip out in an entertaining way. On the other hand, the murky politics behind the Armistice had always interested her.

Jolda beat Daria to the punch and raised her hand.

"Jolda!"

"Though the Empire would have eventually won a military conflict against Morrowind, victory would have been costly in both finances and personnel. Thus, Emperor Tiber Septim invited the Tribunal to sign the Armistice late in the Second Era, allowing Morrowind more autonomy than most provinces while also peacefully spreading the Empire's values of free trade and the rule of law."

"Very good, albeit SLIGHTLY one-sided!" Dimartani bellowed. "The nature of the HLAALU-approved curriculum prevents me from giving my own thoughts on the matter. Suffice to say, Jolda's DESCRIPTION is accurate. Well-done!"

Jolda had navigated it well. She'd made it clear the Empire had been in charge, while also throwing a bone to the Dunmer by giving some credit to the Tribunal. It fit the standard Imperial-Hlaalu narrative.

Of course, Jolda hadn't mentioned the uglier details, like the Imperial monopolists profiting by outsourcing to Morrowind's slave labor.

"Few of you know that next Middas marks the FOUR-HUNDRED-AND-TWENTY-FIFTH anniversary of the Armistice! In honor of this auspicious, or perhaps DOLOROUS, day, I am assigning an essay in which you will share YOUR thoughts on the Armistice and how it affects YOU! Assuming, of course, that you have the mental CAPACITY to understand how history affects the present! This will be due TOMORROW!”

Briltasi raised her hand again.

“Yes, Serjo TALORI?"

Briltasi lowered her hand. "Uh, if the Armistice thing is next Middas, then shouldn't the essay also be due next Middas?"

"An ASTUTE observation, Serjo Talori! The reason for the date is because the writer of the best essay will get to RECITE it for our honored magistrate at the Armistice FESTIVAL next week!"

Daria noted that she now had a good reason to write a subpar essay. The last thing she wanted was to help Magistrate Lli in any way, shape, or form.

"Are they going to do anything cool for this festival?" Julien asked from the back row. "The last one was lame."

Dimartani growled. "They'll do the same thing they ALWAYS do: display propaganda for the Empire and Great House HLAALU in hopes of getting more funding!" He spoke the name of the great house with particular scorn, which struck Daria as odd—wasn’t he subject to them?

The lunch break arrived, Drenlyn's courtyard bright and sizzling under the summer sun. Daria roasted in her worn orange shirt and long black skirt. The shade of her bug-shell hat offered only scarce relief as a bead of sweat rolled down one cheek. How did someplace so far north get so damn hot? she wondered. She lifted her hand to keep the glare out of her eyes and walked with Jane to the library, where they pressed themselves against the west wall to get whatever shade they could find.

"Lli always makes a big deal about the Armistice Festival," Jane said. "Her hope's that some Imperial or Hlaalu bigwig will see it and be so impressed that they invite her to a high-level networking party. You know, the kind with real nobles."

"Since it sounds like she's done this several times already, I'm guessing she hasn't had much luck."

Jane laughed. "One time some bureaucrat from Ebonheart came by. Stood up halfway through, looking really confused, and asked if it was the Marcolo wedding. He got out of there pretty quick once he found out it wasn't."

"Nothing warms my heart quite like Lli being disappointed. Speaking of which, I'm going to have to stretch my writing muscles tonight."

Jane arched an eyebrow. "Why, Morgendorffer! I never figured you'd be one to try and impress the authorities."

"On the contrary," Daria said. "I need to write at a level bad enough to ensure I won't be picked to give a speech for Lli. Do you have any idea how many good writing habits I'm going to have to break?"

"Hmm, that might be tough. Here's an idea! Hang out with Briltasi for a while. You'll be writing at her level before you know it!"

"I'm not willing to suffer quite that much for my art."

Jane shook her head. "Amateur."



*********



The walls of the Morgendorffer home offered some sanctuary from the sweltering afternoon. Sweat cooling on her brow, Daria walked to the kitchen and made a quick meal of bread and scuttle before trudging up the narrow stairs to her room. Daria usually napped when she came home from school, at least on the days when mom didn't dragoon her into office work. But that day she itched to get started, and knew it'd be best to do it while Quinn was still out visiting with friends.

Once in her room she opened the window and looked out onto the rows of blocky Balmora homes shimmering in the summer heat. Warm air wafted inside as she put a paper on the surface of her desk, sat down, and gathered her thoughts.

Of all the students in Dimartani's class, only Jolda and Karl could rival her in writing ability. The rest offered little more than ink dribbles. So how best to imitate that? She pictured Briltasi:

"The Armistice is like, super-important to me because I like getting fancy perfumes from the Imperial City! And my daddy's rich so I can get lots of them!"

Daria shook her head. No way was she going to stoop that low. A losing entry was one thing; having her writing confused with Briltasi's quite another.

Perhaps dullness made for a better tack than stupidity. She leaned back in the chair and looked up at the wooden beams in the ceiling. They wanted the winning essay to be propaganda, right? The one thing propaganda could never afford to be was genuinely informative.

She turned the idea over in her mind. What if she wrote a dry-as-bone account of the Armistice? In that case it'd be best to focus on the economic factors. No one liked reading about those (except her, from time to time). She pictured the opening paragraph.

The Armistice that brought Morrowind into the Empire's fold was a practical measure necessitated by Emperor Tiber Septim's need to maintain and cultivate a reliable tax base among the entrepots of the eastern Heartlands...

Daria smiled. It was dry and made no concessions to the reader's interest or comfort. She stood up to collect a few books for research purposes, eager to be as exacting as possible.

For the next few hours she read, referenced, and wrote. No detail escaped her pen. After all, who wouldn't want to know the price of a pound of saltrice in late 2nd Era Cyrodiil? She became like a machine that sorted facts on the basis of how boring they were (even if she did have to admit a certain grudging interest at how grubby the Armistice was when put under scrutiny, all the gods and emperors merely a silkscreen behind which middle managers made history).

The setting sun painted her room a lurid red by the time Daria finished a few pages. She sighed and picked up the first sheaf and held it up to the light. Her text, detail-oriented and without an ounce of conviction or opinion, was sure to be ignored.

It'd earn the obscurity she craved but she somehow didn't want to turn it in. The essay made her feel more like a copyist than a writer, its information regurgitated and artlessly thrown together. She'd always thought of herself as better than that.

She frowned. Why did she have to do this? Lli just wanted to find student propagandists to boost her own iffy social standing. The whole situation was pretty ridiculous.

As ridiculous as the Empire being in Morrowind in the first place.

Sudden giddiness welled up through her exhaustion. Why not tell them what she truly thought? That greed, more than anything else, had driven the Empire's annexation of Morrowind.

Daria slammed a new paper on the desk and grabbed her quill. Words jumped from brain to page, her hand hurrying to keep up so that the neat letters all but ran into each other.

Like so much else, the Empire's rule of Morrowind is built on the lie of Imperial beneficence. What Morrowind's conquerors called law turned out to be criminality. What they called order only covered for corruption. And don't worry, various Dunmer Great Houses both pro- and anti-Empire, I'm coming after you as well, she wrote.

Shadows stretched as sunset turned to night and Daria paused only to light an already half-spent candle. Quinn came in and spouted a few trivialities before sitting next to Daria with a pile of socks, her small hands deftly guiding needle and thread to patch the threadbare parts. They ignored each other, Daria hearing only the scratch of pen against paper.

The candle had dwindled to a nub by the time she finished, the night air still thick and warm on her skin. Four pages of anger rested on the desk before her, all her frustration poured out and ready to be justified by rejection. They wouldn't accept something that scared them.

A sudden and stabbing pain jabbed from her eyes to her forehead, darkness and the distortion of her lenses and hours of writing all taking their toll at once. She closed her eyes and massaged them. The pain stayed when she stopped and opened them again.

Daria heard steady breathing and looked over to Quinn's bed. Her sister slumbered, looking perfect in repose.

Going back over what she wrote, she realized she couldn't turn it in. The Empire tolerated and even encouraged veiled criticism. Hers was far too explicit. She'd gotten so carried away in the flow of words that she'd lost sight of the fact that too much scorn toward the powers that be would only bring trouble on her family. Probably not legal trouble. But she couldn't be absolutely sure.

The core still worked. She only needed to change the tone. Official histories told the broad truth, they simply did it obliquely. She knew how to follow suit. Take away anything that directly blamed the Empire, throw in a few laudatory comments about the Septim Dynasty and Great House Hlaalu, and insert the truth in between.

Not wanting to start another candle, Daria took the stub and crept downstairs with her essay and a few fresh papers in hand. Sure enough, mom was still working in her office.

"Oh, hello, Daria! Late night?" Mom raised her tired gaze from a pile of casework on her desk.

"For both of us, apparently. I've got this essay I'm supposed to write for Dimartani. I have a rough draft here," she said, holding up the finished work, "but I want to spruce it up a bit."

Mom brightened. "Well, you're more than welcome to my candlelight! I'm still slogging through that Ralaalo case—I don't know why it's so hard for some of these Hlaalu types to understand Imperial patent law!"

"I suppose patent law is part our civilizing mission?"

"I'm not sure I'd call our mission all that civilizing. What's your essay about?"

Daria sat down at the edge of the desk, curling her arm around the papers to block her mother's view. "Oh, just a little bit on the Armistice."

"I'd be happy to take a look."

"That's okay, mom. I got this."

"Oh, I'm sure. Not many people your age know as much about Tamrielic history as you do. It's a talent, Daria. Nurture it."

A little embarrassed, Daria nodded and got to work on the final draft.

Like so much else, the Empire's rule in Morrowind is built on the canny pragmatism that has influenced so much of its expansion. Put simply, Morrowind had resources and weapons that Emperor Tiber Septim needed to guarantee the Empire's security. As for the Dunmer, trade was simply more profitable (not to mention safer) than fighting back, she began.

A decent enough start for something destined for the rejection pile.

She hoped.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jC9AUR-iTo0

https://dariawiki.org/wiki/Anthony_DeMartino - A favorite of the fandom, Daria's cantankerous history teacher finally makes his appearance in Morrowind. Making him a Dunmer was a no-brainer, since he already sounds and kind of looks like one.

Posted by: SubRosa Jul 31 2022, 12:23 AM

I loved Mr. DiMartino! He always looks like that one eye is going to pop out any second, and he is going to keel over from a massive heart attack and/or stroke.

I always loved his very unique way of speaking, which involved adding heavy emphasis on certain words for no apparent reason what so ever. Which I see you inCORporated into the TEXT! biggrin.gif

I see Principal Li is the same as ever. Yay for shameless self-promotion at the expense of the student body!

I loved Daria's scathing view of the armistice being the triumph of middle-management over the hum-drum parade of the usual gods and emperors!

Uh uh, she's going to go all Lisa Simpson and put down what she really thinks on paper! Cesspool on the Potomac!

Posted by: Acadian Jul 31 2022, 08:35 PM

Not being familiar with the TV show, I appreciate your links on new characters as you introduce them. The link for Dimartani made him particularly easy and enjoyable to envision.

So, Daria's mission is to write an essay that is predestined to not be selected the winner.

"Hmm, that might be tough. Here's an idea! Hang out with Briltasi for a while. You'll be writing at her level before you know it!"
- - A hilarious approach but so very not Daria that no one would believe she wrote it. laugh.gif

Go with a boring, overly studious approach? Not a bad path, for it would cause no harm to her reputation or that of her family. goodjob.gif

Actually write what she thinks? Maybe not the best approach due to the possible repercussions that Daria herself recognizes. ohmy.gif

Incorporate her thoughts but woven amongst enough Imperial and Hlaalu platitudes as to avoid the negative repercussions of her ‘real truth’ version. Hmm, could be a fine essay – which is exactly the problem. I have a feeling that if this is the path she takes, her essay may be chosen as the winner. wacko.gif

Honestly, Daria, I’d go with the ‘do no harm’ approach and submit the overly studious one. tongue.gif

Posted by: RaderOfTheLostArk Aug 1 2022, 03:04 PM

Trying to get my bearings on the story. I recognize the art-style of the characters like in your avatar but I'm not familiar with the TV show. I'm rarely a fan of crossovers, but that's a creative choice of media you took to make the crossover with. And it's neat to get the perspective of "regular" people in this story.

I also appreciate the shout-out to TESA: Redguard that you made in your first post of this story. Morrowind gets the credit for starting the "modern" direction of TES lore, but that credit belongs to Redguard. One could even argue that it started with Battlespire. But I digress.

Anyway, obviously I haven't read the whole story, but in your second-to-latest post (Chapter 8, Episode 6), something that personally resonated with me was the talk about heroes, particularly Pelinal. I won't drone on too much, but over the years in real life, I've learned to not put anybody on some sort of hero pedestal, but there are people who I greatly respect. And lot of people in history and today are more complicated than simply "hero" or "villain", and sometimes the people we most revere are responsible for some horrific actions. I'm particularly wary of cults of personality, which I think are rampant in today's society. (The song https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xxgRUyzgs0 is as relevant as ever.) But again, I digress.

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Aug 3 2022, 04:06 PM

@SubRosa - Yup, DeMartino was one of the greats. Also, he fits into Morrowind pretty well. Come to think of it, so does Lli (at least for Hlaalu).

And yeah, Daria has a lot of opinions on the Empire. Cesspool on the Rumare, in her case.

@Acadian - Glad they help! In some cases the Wiki entries have some pretty big spoilers (like Tommy/Turimar last episode), but I'll warn you when this happens.

Yeah, one does suspect that Daria may have outsmarted herself here. Keep reading to see...

@RaderOfTheLostArk - Thanks! The reason I did this was because I was more involved with the Daria fandom than I was with the TES fandom. Plus, there aren't many communities specifically for TES fanfic. Thus, I used the Daria characters as a means to write about Morrowind from a normal person's perspective. I hadn't planned to write more than a few stories, but here we are...

A lot of the Morrowind-era lore does come from Redguard, and I wanted to give credit where it was due. Unfortunately, something about Redguard's camera makes me feel nauseous, so I can't actually play the game.

As the series progresses, I do examine various RL issues through a Tamrielic lens. Sometimes doing so helps me get perspective on our own world. Here, I wanted to examine the way we mythologize people, and continue to do so even if the context for that person has long since faded. Hence the Empire making the half-hearted attempt to publicly gloss over Pelinal's genocidal intentions while still using those intentions as a veiled threat. Which also ties in, a bit, with the way Turimar was lauded by his own peer group.

Episode 9: The History Girls

Chapter 2


Daria reached Drenlyn in a state of exhaustion. The rush from all the writing had left her spent and the morning heat sapped her vigor at every step. Her body still taut with expectation, she walked with Jane toward Dimartani's class.

"For someone trying to write a losing essay, you sure went all out," Jane said. "Five pages? That's practically a manifesto!"

"I figured if I'm going to try and fail, I might as well do it in style."

"You should do what I did. Three paragraphs that each more or less say the Empire is great. It's the same one I used last year."

"Normally I'd say that's a shoo-in for failure, but considering the competition, you might be near the top of the class."

"I don't think I have to worry about winning with that monstrosity in the running," Jane said, pointing to Daria's essay.

"Trust me. The content guarantees it'll be thrown out."

Part of her wished she'd turned in her more incendiary early draft, which she'd consigned to an incendiary end that morning, using it as fuel for the stove at breakfast. This one at least stayed in the bounds of acceptable criticism. She didn't deny the Empire's rapaciousness. She only described it with neutral words that gave the casual reader enough room to justify such actions as pragmatism.

Somehow, turning it in still felt a bit like defeat.

Her anxiety faded over the next few days, burned away by the scorching summer and the daily frustrations of life in Balmora. Nothing would happen because nothing ever did. Corrupt, sprawling, and elephantine, the Empire would abide.

Students slouched their way to school on Fredas, on a morning when the blazing sun seemed to leech the very color out of the city. At least all that adobe insulated the classroom interiors.

Dimartani began speaking as soon as the students sat down.

"Your essays were, for the most part, as ignorant and TRIVIAL as I'd expected, though I supposed they at least demonstrated basic LITERACY! There were, however, a HANDFUL of entries that demonstrated real knowledge."

His distended left eye bulged as it scanned the classroom, focusing on Jolda, Karl, and then on Daria. She tensed up a bit. The writing quality of her essay might've made it stand out, but no way would Dimartani let such a critical piece win.

Unless she'd veiled her criticisms a bit too heavily.

"As such, it is my honor to present to you the WINNER, and the person who will be READING this essay next week."

He breathed in. "DARIA MORGENDORFFER!"

Daria blinked.

"Told you a five-page essay is overdoing it," Jane whispered. "You need some slacking lessons. Want Trent to teach you?"



*********



Daria waited until after class ended to speak with Dimartani. She tried to mentally rehearse her protests but kept faltering. The only way to argue against him was to know why he'd accepted the essay in the first place.

Dimartani stood at the head of the room as the students filtered out into the torrid mid-afternoon light.

"Sera Dimartani," Daria said.

"Ah! Your essay was a FASCINATING piece of writing. I admired your honesty and dedication to the facts, unenCUMBERED by flimsy propaganda!"

Interesting. She'd underestimated him. "Thank you. May I ask why you chose my essay to be the winning entry? I think you know as well as I do that there's no way Magistrate Lli would let me read something like that. She wants propaganda, the way you said."

He made a noise that might have been a laugh. "Our honorable magistrate is far too BUSY to actually look at these essays. She THINKS that you're all good little drones. I'm PLEASED to see that she's wrong."

Daria crossed her arms. "Look. I meant everything I wrote in that essay. But what do you think's going to happen to me if I read that out loud? Lli's corrupt, but she isn't stupid. My essay doesn’t condemn the Empire, but it's not exactly the feel-good rah-rah-rah piece she's expecting. From where I see it, you're potentially getting me in trouble just to make a point."

Dimartani was silent for a moment. "Some would argue that the point NEEDS to be made!"

"You know, the reason I wrote that essay was to avoid being picked. I figured that revealing some of the ugly truths behind the Armistice would make it way too controversial to win."

"Daria, I was GENUINELY impressed. No one else in Balmora cares about the truth. I'm sick of rewarding BOOTLICKERS with more opportunities for self-promotion! Sycophants are KILLING Morrowind, Daria! And I DOUBT they're any better for the Empire!"

"That sounds like a personal problem." Daria sighed. "I don't want any part of this fight, but I'm guessing you can't—or won't—pick someone else."

He scowled, the dark veins veins on his left eye seeming to bulge out from the red membrane. "You ought to show a little more RESPECT! I am still your teacher and I have given YOU, an OUTLANDER, the opportunity to make a difference!"

Daria wanted to keep staring, as if the sheer force of her annoyance would burn a hole through his skull. But she knew how much Morrowind loved its authority figures and lowered her head. "I apologize," she said, in the most neutral tone possible, before lifting her head back up to meet his gaze. "But you did put me in a spot."

Suddenly a bit shamefaced, Dimartani tugged at his collar. "Lli has NOT read your essay, nor will she care to. If you WANT to dilute the strength of your message, there's NOTHING either of us can do to stop you."

"Has anyone else read it?"

He nodded. "I gave it to Jolda a few minutes ago. She's the head of the festival planning committee, and you'll be working with HER on whatever speech you finally give."

Daria was aghast. "You handed it over to her?"

"NATURALLY! An assignment CEASES to be yours when you turn it in!"

She had to fix this. "Of course. May I be excused?" She tried to make it sound more like a statement than a question because one way or another, she was leaving.

He waved her off and she hurried out into the sun-blasted courtyard, searching desperately for Jolda.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxnhAN9N1KQ

Posted by: Acadian Aug 3 2022, 08:11 PM

You really make us feel the pervasive heat in Balmora and it contributes to the whole mood here.

Uh oh, I was afraid of this. Daria has, as you said, outsmarted herself.

I quite like Jane’s approach – three paragraphs basically saying the empire is great. And offering Daria slacking lessons from Trent. I can imagine Trent's first lesson, “Look at it this way. If the minimum wasn’t good enough, it wouldn’t be the minimum.” laugh.gif

Dimartani isn’t wrong and his insight seems sound. . . but using Daria to make his point is problematic.

It’ll be interesting to see how this develops and unfolds.

Posted by: SubRosa Aug 4 2022, 04:00 AM

Uh oh, Daria is ditching the obviously muckracking version, and instead substituting the more palatable one. She is sure to win now! It is going to be everything they want to hear much to Daria's shock and dismay. It is like the internet rule that no matter how blatantly satirical you write something to mock bigots, somebody will take it as literal and use it as hate-speech to support that bigotry.

As ever, I loved how you reproduced Mr. Dimartino's way of randomly overemphasizing certain words at random.

Oh boy, off to find Jolda before its too late!





Posted by: Renee Aug 5 2022, 03:53 PM

I can write & listen to music just fine, or sometimes there will be something on TV. I wrote portions of one of Laprima's chapters while watching Level 16, a movie on Netflix which was about a bunch of girls locked in some compound. In that case, the movie actually inspired a bit of that particular chapter. smile.gif Yeah, that was the one in which her Aunt Elisif crowds my character, trying to persuade her to get a job in Solitude immediately.

However, if I'm editing, it's best I just focus without any extra stimuli. 🧐 Glasses on, using my laptop instead of my room desktop, spellchecker running...

/ot

Daria has one of THOSE teachers. laugh.gif I think we've all had THAT teacher at some point, the one who gets way into their lessons and begins SHOUTING or pontificating in some way.
I always loved the hippie teacher on Beavis & Butthead btw, the one who always finishes his sentences with "mm kay?"

QUOTE
How did someplace so far north get so damn hot?


It's partially the volcano, messing up Vvardenfell's climate, but partially some other factor. Because Vvardenfell and Skyrim are at the same latitude. Before the volcano erupted, the place would've still been warm, I think. Maybe not as warm though.

Daria trying to think dumbly, but then opts to be as boring as possible. laugh.gif It makes me worried a little. Is she going to get in some sort of trouble? -- Yep, exactly what I was thinking. She went from too boring to too critical.

QUOTE
A decent enough start for something destined for the rejection pile.


Ha ha, perfect! But Jane does it even better--she merely uses the same essay from last year!

... oh no, Daria won! 🙅 Well, look at the bright side. Maybe she won't need to worry as much about networking.

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Aug 6 2022, 04:24 PM

@Acadian - Thanks! Temperature and weather have a big effect on mood, so I wanted to utilize that.

@SubRosa - Indeed, Daria's not always the best at predicting what other people want/expect, and I think that contributed to her getting herself in trouble here.

@Renee - Heh, I had a few teachers like that. Sometimes they're educational. Sometimes they're annoying. Sometimes they're entertaining. Occasionally they're all of the above.

That teacher was Mr. Van Driessen. I did reference him in the Mages Guild episode, where Daria talks about having a guild-sanctioned tutor named Vandries. She didn't think much of the guy, especially since he refused to teach her Destruction spells.

I did a little bit of research, but I wasn't sure if vulcanism would make Morrowind hotter or cooler (due to the particulate in the air blocking the sun). Iceland's volcanic, but is still pretty cold. It's also an island, which means it can get milder temperatures than somewhere deep inland. Anyway, I decided that Balmora gets hot during the summer, if nothing else. Also, Daria's from an island in a relatively Mediterranean climate, so she might not be used to harsher temperatures (thus, it may be hotter to her than it is to some others).

This story does more-or-less follow Project Tamriel canon, which treats Tamriel as being a warmer place overall (and probably a bit farther south). Parts of Skyrim and High Rock are still snowbound, but here that's more because of elevation than latitude.

Episode 9: The History Girls

Chapter 3


Jane said that she'd seen Jolda heading off to Lli's office, so Daria cut toward the squat building where the magistrate held court. Remembering procedure, she knocked on the rough wooden door and waited as the sun beat down on her hair.

It swung inward to reveal a smiling Jolda, dressed in a flowing magenta dress that looked much more Hammerfell than Morrowind.

"Hi, Daria! I was just telling Muthsera Lli how impressed Sera Dimartani and I were with your essay."

She studied Jolda's face for any sign of sarcasm. Jolda was smart. She’d have figured out what Daria was saying. But she seemed genuine.

Magistrate Lli sat behind an Imperial-style desk of imported pine, garbed in blue robes decorated with angular Daedric letters spelling out the names of House Hlaalu's favorite saints. A sweating Sera Benniet stood next to Lli, fanning her with an enormous corkbulb leaf.

Lli looked at Daria, who lowered her head as a show of respect. "Muthsera," Daria said.

She hated giving that honorific to Lli. But Jolda already had, so if Daria didn’t, Lli would take serious offense.

"Good of you to join us, Miss Morgendorffer. I was about to have you summoned. Jolda seems very impressed with your work." Lli tented her fingers, her face impassive.

"Uh, thank you. However, I'd rather not read my essay at the Armistice Festival."

Lli's eyes narrowed. "What? Young lady, I've bestowed upon you a rare honor. This will be a chance for notable administrators and captains of industry to hear your voice raised in praise for the Empire, for Great House Hlaalu, and for the honor, and glory, of Drenlyn Academy. Who knows! There might be a handsome young Hlaalu noble in the audience who takes a liking to you!" Lli laughed at her own comment and followed it with a loud snort.

"Regrettably," Daria said, "I've already been betrothed to a dashing young Daedric Prince from one of the more reputable Planes of Oblivion."

Lli frowned. "Sarcasm won't get you anywhere, Miss Morgendorffer. Besides, you're exactly the kind of person I need: an educated Imperial girl from a respectable but non-noble family. It'll be a great way to show how open a place Drenlyn is for outlanders. Might even get some of those cheapskates to send a real donation for once!" She scowled for a moment before returning to her usual guarded expression.

"Wait," Daria said. "I thought I was picked because of my—”

Lli held up her hand. "Not now, I'm a very busy woman! Jolda's the head of the festival planning committee. She'll help you fine-tune your speech to make sure it’s optimal for potential donors. Jolda?"

"Yes, muthsera?"

"Keep an eye on her and make sure she doesn’t try anything funny. I’ve heard the instructors talking about her manners."

"Of course," Jolda said.

Jolda led Daria out of the office. Daria used her hand as a visor to shelter her eyes from the blinding light, the heat already prickling her skin. She pointed her feet toward the emperor parasol in the center of the courtyard, wanting only its shade, and Jolda walked with her.

"I read your essay, Daria. I get the impression that you didn’t actually want to do this."

They reached the comfort of the shadows and Daria let her arm drop. "I had a feeling you'd figure things out. I take it Lli hasn't seen my essay?"

Jolda shook her head. "Good job on the writing, by the way. It was accurate and you hid your hostility pretty well. A lot better than you did in Lli's office."

"On that case, since we're on the same page—”

"Hold on. Lli wants the Armistice Festival to be perfect. I’m in charge from the student end, so if anything goes wrong, it'll fall on my head. Can you promise me you’ll take this seriously?" Her expression turned searching.

Daria didn't want to get Jolda in trouble. "I guess. I'll stick with my mildly controversial script."

"Uh, about that—could we maybe make it a tiny bit less controversial? You weren’t wrong, but I think this sort of thing needs to examine the positives, too."

"I’m not sure we need positives. I like harsh truths a lot more than comforting lies."

"Just..." Jolda sighed. "What if we talked about this at my house tomorrow?"

"I see. And will my opinion matter?"

"Daria, I wasn't lying when I said I liked your essay. You wrote the truth. But I've got a lot on the line for this. Please give me a chance?"

Daria mumbled an affirmative.

"Thanks. I'm sure we can work out something that we'll both be satisfied with. Do you know where I live?"

"No."

"My family lives on Silk-hawker's Street, first house on the left after the market if you're heading toward the stairs. Would a little while after noon be okay? I have to spend the morning making sure that the local merchants will be there for the festival."

"I guess."

"Thanks!" Jolda made a quick, ingratiating smile. "See you tomorrow," she said, and walked away.

Daria thought for a bit, weighing her options and not coming up with any good answers.



*********



"That's wonderful, Daria! I'm so proud of you!" mom exclaimed.

It was early evening at the Morgendorffer house. Mom was serving reheated bowls of saltrice porridge from the batch made a few days prior, along with lightly roasted hackle-lo leaf courtesy of dad.

Dad grinned. "See? You just need some confidence, kiddo. People love your writing."

"Apparently they do," Daria said.

But do I? she wondered.

"And I'm thrilled to hear you're doing this with Jolda," mom continued. "She's a promising young lady and her father's supposed to be very well-connected. You know, Daria, if you make a good impression on him tomorrow, he might be able to open some doors for you in the Imperial administration."

"Great. That way I can start using complex bureaucracy to take out my resentment on a hapless citizenry. After I find a bolt hole for the inevitable riot." Daria prodded her porridge with her spoon, not feeling much of an appetite.

"If you want some help with giving a speech, I can totally teach you!" Quinn offered. "Just go on stage and think about how perfect you look and how everyone wants to date you or be you. Except, wait, you don't even look close to perfect." Quinn’s expression turned thoughtful for a moment, then brightened up. "I know, think about how perfect I look!"

"The key to giving a speech is to never let those bastards see you sweat!" dad said, pounding the table. "You lose them the moment they start snickering—"

"I'm too contemptuous of my audience to be afraid of them," Daria insisted. "It's just..."

Mom and dad didn't have a clue about the contents of her essay or how she’d tried to lose. And that didn't get into the question as to why her essay had been picked. Lli's comment nagged. Was it her writing? Or had Lli told Dimartani to pick someone from the right demographic?

The same demographic that more or less ruled a continent, cosmopolitan enough to make some effort to let others in but still reserving most of the best for its own.

"It's just what?" mom asked, before lifting her clay cup and drinking from the tea within.

She decided to test mom's opinion. "I didn't expect to win this, and I don't like the idea of my speech being used in some joint Empire-Hlaalu propaganda session."

"Oh, it's not that bad, Daria. This is only harmless boosterism. And an opportunity."

Mom and dad didn't always act like they took the Empire that seriously. But Daria suspected they did, and that evening bore out her suspicions. After dinner they gathered in mom's office at her behest and took turns reading from dad's copy of The Apotheosis of Tiber Septim, the timeworn poetic hagiography of the emperor who'd annexed Morrowind.

Watching Quinn read the passage about Tiber Septim's reclamation of the Imperial City, Daria wondered how much room she had to tell the truth.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q48LI_B1ybk

https://dariawiki.org/wiki/Angela_Li - In the show, Principal Li is an tyrannical bureaucrat obsessed with school security. She's exactly the same in Morrowind.

Posted by: SubRosa Aug 6 2022, 10:27 PM

I loved Daria's comeback about the dashing young daedric prince. Not to many of those from reputable planes...

Donors? Ah ha! Miss Lli reverts to type! This is all about fund-raising. I bet Daria will be so thrilled with that.

As ever Jolda is always diplomatic and understanding. I understand why. It must be very frustrating for her, to have to always be perfect in order to live up to her parent's impossible standards. At least in Morrowind she does not have to also represent the perfect, safe, non-threatening, African-American youth in an otherwise all-white school.

As ever, Daria is prepared to become a heartless dictator, escape plan and all, if the opportunity ever presents itself. laugh.gif

And I love how Quinn manages to make the speech about her. smile.gif

Posted by: Acadian Aug 7 2022, 08:30 PM

I’m with Daria here. I’d also rather be betrothed to a Daedric Prince than a ‘handsome young Hlaalu noble’. But her utterance to that effect did carry quite a bit of sting.

She won based her demographics, not the quality of her work?!? She should have just turned in a copy of Jane’s essay.

Jolda is either extremely smooth at manipulation or earnestly compelling in trying to recruit Daria’s support. I’m guessing the latter.

Loved Quinn’s advice on how to give a speech. tongue.gif

Posted by: RaderOfTheLostArk Aug 7 2022, 11:35 PM

Lli sounds like a real s'wit. She could use a good whack from Sunder to the face.

I wonder if Drenlyn Academy nags for donations as much as higher education institutions do in the real world.

Ah, just like in real life, it isn't always so straightforward an answer as to how harsh the truth should be in a given situation. At the same time, I hope Daria isn't too snotty. I'm decidedly not a fan of people who think they're better than everybody or that they have all the answers in life.

Oh, come on, Tiber Septim was a great guy. Well, besides...a lot of things. Jokes aside, I think one of the many interesting juxtapositions of Elder Scrolls is Tiber Septim himself. On one hand, he was the first person to truly unify Tamriel into the most peaceful span of time it has ever had. On the other hand...well, where to begin with the atrocities? It's similar with many, many real-life historical figures. It's also amazing how much humans and elves hate each other even though they are both guilty of many of the things they accuse each other of...also much like how a lot of groups are in real life.

Posted by: Renee Aug 8 2022, 01:17 PM

Hey Clavier, what is the difference between Sera and Muthsera? Is that a female/male thing?

Daria's trying to get out of giving her speech! ... And Lli isn't even bother to listen to Daria's concerns! ... But Jolda seems more compassionate. Even still, notice how Jolda is sort of congratulating Daria for writing her essay in such a passive-aggressive way (is that fair to say?) Meanwhile, Daria actually wrote three different essays. She only submitted the one because she assumed it would get her out of the contest. huh.gif

QUOTE
"What if we talked about this at my house tomorrow?"

"I see. And will my opinion matter?"


Ha ha classic.

You know, maybe Quinn's got a point. Just go on stage and think about how perfect Quinn looks! Maybe that's the way to get through this. Because it sounds like Daria hasn't got a choice. Heck, maybe Quinn can try reading the essay instead of the more studious sister!


Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Aug 10 2022, 04:39 PM

@SubRosa - While the history of the Redguard in Tamriel is obviously vastly different from the history of African-Americans, Jolda still feels some of the pressures of representation. This chapter goes into a bit more detail as to why. And, of course, she still has to keep her unreasonably demanding parents happy.

@Acadian - It sure seems like Daria won because of demographics. Which, of course, is deeply irksome for someone who's trying to make a point about the Empire, however subtly.

@RaderOfTheLostArk - Oh yeah, Lli's a big-time s'wit. She was one in the show, too.

I'll admit that I'm not 100% happy with how I presented Drenlyn Academy. It still feels too much like an American high school for my liking.

As for its background, I figure that Drenlyn is a private educational institution that has Hlaalu approval, but is mostly on its own for finances. Lli's bet is a long-term payout, since she's hoping to get credit from Hlaalu and the Empire for facilitating the colonization of Vvardenfell, and to benefit from social connections with students who rise high (and their families). But she might be paying for a lot of this out-of-pocket. What's more, the really wealthy folks will typically hire private tutors for their kids. Since her clientele is more middle-class, she can't actually charge that much. Worse, she likely has to give discounts to Dunmer students whose families are already with Hlaalu, like Briltasi or Synda.

Daria can be a bit of a snot. Much like in the show, this series is about her becoming less of one: realizing the ways that a lot of the people she looks down upon are being let down by the system the same way she is, and how she herself is not always the greatest person and needs to be better.

One of the things I like about the Man vs Mer divide is that it's mostly based on how similar they are to each other, in many ways. As for Tiber Septim... well, keep reading.

@Renee - Sera is a general term of respect, like "sir". Muthsera is going a step farther, like saying "honored sir". The rules of Dunmer honorifics are pretty opaque to outsiders, but in most cases you use muthsera either for someone who's pretty high above you, or for someone you deeply respect for personal reasons.

There's also serjo, which is an honorific used exclusively for nobles. None of the honorifics are gendered, so far as I know.

On some level, Daria did enjoy the assignment. It's not like she had anything else to do, so blazing through three essays kept her occupied. As for Jolda, you'll find out what she did in this chapter.

Episode 9: The History Girls

Chapter 4


Plenty of Balmora's upwardly mobile made their homes on Silk-hawker's Street, where garish pennants and drapes burst like fireworks amidst the city's brown adobe. Outlanders ran most of the shops and kiosks there, selling bolts of moth-silk to the servants of the rich Dunmer families whose grand manses looked down on the street from atop High Town to the north.

Daria walked past the finely dressed shoppers and smooth-tongued merchants on her way to Jolda's house. She found the place easily enough and knocked on the door. A smiling Bosmer housemaid opened it and let her in, telling her she was expected. Though the exterior looked much like the Morgendorffer home, the interior was a world apart. A piquant and savory smell livened up the air within the hall, making her think of a well-stocked spice cabinet. No dull forest scene tapestries hung on the walls; instead, the tapestries glowed in bold yellows and oranges, featuring images of dueling warriors and dancing townsfolk whose harsh geometric forms emphasized motion more than detail.

"Please take off your shoes, dear. House rules," the maid said. Daria knelt and unfastened her boots before taking them off.

"That’s an Old Redguard tradition," boomed a voice. "A lot of sand back in Hammerfell, and the last thing you want to do is track it into your home. Not so much sand here in Morrowind, but plenty of ash."

Daria stood up as Armand, Jolda's father, walked toward her. Lean and athletic, only the white flecks in his black hair suggested he'd reached middle age. He wore a gilded green and white frock coat which Daria suspected would meet with Quinn's approval.

Trying to think back to what little she knew of Redguard customs, Daria bowed deeply. Armand smiled and did the same, bowing slightly less to show his authority. The housemaid had already scurried back to the kitchen.

"I like that!" Armand exclaimed once he'd righted himself. "Not too many Imperials know any of our customs. Excellent work on that essay, by the way."

Daria blinked. "You read it?"

"No, I don’t have time, but I've heard it's good, and I'll definitely be there to listen to you speak at the Armistice Festival. This here's a Forebear family, so we're friends of the Empire."

"Uh, thanks?"

"Anyway, I won't take up your time." Armand turned his head to look up the stairs. "Jolda! Your friend's here!"

"Hi, Daria!" came Jolda's voice. She hurried down to the landing a moment later. "Come on, we can meet in my dad's office upstairs."

"I'm on my way out. You girls be productive!" Armand said with a chortle as he slipped his shoes on.

"Thanks for making it here, Daria," Jolda said, as she led Daria upstairs into the office. A sharp and piercing wail resounded in the hall, a few rooms down. "That's my baby brother, Eshraf. He can be pretty noisy," Jolda explained.

"At least he doesn't give you unwanted fashion advice," Daria said.

“Frankly, I’d deal with that as long as he did it at a lower volume.”

Armand's office was a book-lined study with a few upholstered chairs. Running through the center was a long table on which rested an enormous and partially disassembled bronze insect, the spinning wheels and corroded pipes that served as its guts spilled out on the surface. Around it lay dozens of tiny prongs and crystal lenses along with pages of sketches and notes.

"So, your dad does have access to Dwemer artifacts," Daria said.

Jolda shrugged. "We don’t advertise it, but it’s not a secret. He's always been good with machines and did a lot of engineering work for the legion when he was younger."

Daria leaned in for a closer look at the four-legged animunculus, marveling at the complexity of its inner workings. Morrowind, especially Vvardenfell District, was chock full of ruined Dwemer cities. Only a handful of citizens possessed the charters that let them own or trade in Dwemer artifacts, though she'd heard the law wasn't strictly enforced. Regardless, Armand’s engineering work must have been top tier for the Empire to grant him that charter.

"Daria?"

"Sorry," she said, reluctantly turning her attentions back to the matter at hand. Jolda motioned for her to sit down at a smaller desk beneath an open window. Her essay was already on it.

"Okay," Jolda said, wearing a smile that looked slightly forced. "Your essay's great when it comes to being informative. But the festival is a fundraiser designed to impress people, so we need to put a more positive spin—”

"Then you admit that what we're doing is propaganda?" It still bothered Daria. Jolda knew how ridiculous this was. Couldn’t she at least admit it?

"I don't think there's any harm in it. No one's going to take the speech all that seriously."

"But doesn't it bother you that we're trying to put a 'positive spin' on this? Shouldn't history be presented as it happened?"

Jolda’s smile faded. "If this were a scholarly symposium, I'd agree. This is just a fundraiser. Besides, some of the buildings in Drenlyn badly need new adobe. It’ll help everyone if the school benefits from this."

"Yeah, it’s a fundraiser that's themed off of a historical event. And you want me to continue the myth that the Empire conquered Morrowind for its own good and that everything's been hunky dory since," Daria countered.

She wanted to know exactly what Jolda thought. Why was she so comfortable with conceding?

"It's not just you, Daria. I'm involved in this too. And for all its problems, I don't think the Empire's rule is that bad."

"Sure,” Daria granted. “It could be worse. But it could be a lot better. The problem is that the Empire keeps pretending that it's doing this for the good of the world. Except they haven't improved Morrowind. The great houses are still corrupt. Rich Dunmer still keep slaves and the Empire benefits from that even if they pretend they don't approve. I can put up with thuggish expansionism, but hypocrisy is a lot harder to swallow." Daria's face turned hot and her voice grew louder as she spoke.

Because why should she put up with it? She was an Imperial citizen, and she had a voice. Nothing she'd written contradicted the official histories. She'd simply emphasized the truths that they glided over.

Jolda leaned forward, her eyes angry. At least Daria had gotten a reaction.

"You know," Jolda said, "I wrote an essay, too. Believe it or not, it actually wasn't that different from yours, except I also talked about the good things the Empire is doing here, like bringing the rule of law that helps common Dunmer like your friend, Jane. I spent hours working on it, researching all the relevant books in my dad's library, writing multiple drafts, the whole deal! I did all this on a night when I also had to do accounting for the Mages Guild because my parents still make me volunteer there."

"I get that you're busy—"

"I'm not done yet! You know why I worked so hard? Because I wanted to get the chance to speak at the festival. I knew it was going to be a ridiculous propaganda outlet, but I figured it'd be a chance to talk a bit about the problems in Morrowind while also giving people hope for a solution. I wanted to be seen so I could get more opportunities to make the Empire a better place.

"But instead, it goes to you! Someone who deliberately tried to fail by writing some snarky take-down. Because I don't think you care about history or making the world better: all you want is to look down on everyone. We're both good writers, Daria. We both did research. But why do you think you won? Lli gave you a hint."

Daria didn't back down. "Because Lli wanted an Imperial to read it," she said.

"Exactly. To tell you the truth, I'm kind of used to that. The Empire's for you Imperials before it's for anyone else." Jolda threw her arms wide for emphasis. "But hey, having a rich Imperial girl give the speech is a great way for the school to get sponsors because that'll impress even richer Imperials! They wouldn't listen to some Ra Gada girl like me. Imperials can't even pronounce Ra Gada so they call me a Redguard, instead!"

Her arms fell to her sides, but her eyes still boiled. "But I get it. It's not fair. But I'm willing to put up with some nonsense if it'll get this project going since my reputation as committee head, as well as school funding, both depend on it. The only problem is that you're making things difficult."

Daria stood up, her face burning. Yes, it was unfair. But how would it ever get better if Jolda went along with it?

"Say what you like. Facts are facts, and I've never been good at lying. Go ahead and write your own speech. I won't tell anyone."

Heart pounding, she stormed from the room, down the stairs, and to the door. Not wanting to give Jolda time to catch up, she put her feet into her boots without lacing them and stepped out into the seething afternoon.



*********



Daria busied herself with chores the rest of the day: dusting tapestries, clearing the rubbish bin, and buying wood for the stove. She tried not to think about her exchange with Jolda, so naturally she obsessed over it.

Jolda had a point. Not about giving some feel-good message, but about Lli favoring Daria simply for her heritage. That fact undercut Daria's entire message about being honest. She'd only won the contest because it was likely bent in her favor.

Though Dimartani had sounded impressed with what she'd written. Had he been pretending? Daria wasn't sure why he'd bother.

It took Daria a long time to get to sleep that night. The next thing she knew, she stood in a great marble hall so vast that its edges were lost in shadow. Her footsteps echoed in the enormous space as she walked through an endless forest of pale columns that supported a ceiling so high that the stars twinkled below it.

Tiber Septim, known to some as Talos Stormborn, founder of the Third Empire, waited for her at the other end.

Though a man, emperor, and god in one body, he didn't look too out-of-the-ordinary: short but powerfully built, with a well-trimmed black beard, wearing a slightly dented gold crown, and dressed in practical leather clothes. He sat at a desk that stretched miles in both directions, supporting towers and mountains of paperwork. Somehow, he tended to all of these forms while seated in one place.

Daria cleared her throat.

"Ah, Citizen Daria Morgendorffer," he said, not looking up from the missive he was reading. He spoke with an odd accent that sounded almost Nordic but not quite. "Charged with sedition, treason, and blasphemy. Oh, and since we're here, forgery. I know what you did at the Mages Guild."

Daria nodded. "I'll cop to the forgery, your imperial majesty. But I don't see how telling the truth about the Empire's history is seditious or treasonous. As for blasphemy, I'm not convinced you're really a god, so I don't think that should apply to me."

Tiber Septim looked up, a faint smile on his face. "Well, I suppose we can let the priests quibble about the last bit. I never saw myself as a god while alive, certainly, but everyone insisted I was one after I died. None of us has as much control over our narratives as we'd like, I'm afraid. Which, I suppose, is part of why you're here. Do you understand why we try to, shall we say, downplay the uglier aspects of my reign?"

"To protect the powers that be from embarrassment."

"Yes, that's part of it," he said, nodding. "But also to keep the Empire together. People are more easily unified around a government if they believe it to be for their benefit. And the Empire has done good things: our roads are safe and well-kept, our granaries full. People may worship and associate as they please. The law doesn't protect evenly, but it's a good sight fairer than the laws that came before. Isn't all that worth a few lies?"

Daria thought about it a moment. "I think you're making a false dichotomy. Those things won't disappear just because the view on a historical event undergoes some revision."

The emperor made a so-so gesture with his right hand, which was somehow signing a scroll at the same time. "The Empire's more fragile than you think, Citizen Daria. Scholars typically know the truth, but the uneducated rely on these founding myths to feel some sense of connection with their fellows. Look at them, all these people from mutually hostile kingdoms and tribes, itching to get the chance to tear their neighbors apart. The Empire stops them from doing that. But we can only do that if people believe in our strength and righteousness."

"I'd say that if you're worried about the uneducated making bad decisions, the smart thing to do would be to increase funding for education so that everyone gets it instead of only the privileged few."

The emperor stroked his beard. "Hmm, that is an interesting point." Then he looked right at her. "However, it's easier to simply silence troublesome voices. But I like you, Citizen Daria, so you can choose how you'll be executed: fast-acting poison or decapitation?"

Daria mulled it over. "Hmm, well if I'm decapitated could you arrange it so that my head's put on top of my sister's dresser? It'd mean a lot to me if I could posthumously disrupt her beauty routine."

"Of course," Tiber Septim said with a fatherly smile. "Guards, take her away! Be sure to place her head on Jane's dresser."

"Wait! On my sister's, not on Jane's!"

Mailed hands grabbed Daria's arms and she awoke in her bed. It was still dark, and she took a deep breath.

"Thanks for nothing, Tiber Septim," she muttered.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PtzhvJh9NRY

https://dariawiki.org/wiki/Andrew_Landon - In the show, Andrew's a wealthy entrepreneur who got his start by patenting a foldable coffee cup. As a nod to his ingenuity, he's been reimagined here as an engineer.

Posted by: Acadian Aug 10 2022, 08:27 PM

Hey, I live in the desert and take off my shoes coming into the house also. tongue.gif

A fascinating and tense exchange between Daria and Jolda. It was good to see some of Jolda’s actual feelings come out. Jolda is smart, compassionate and possesses a good sense of what is practical. Though Daria is not necessarily wrong, she seems too stubborn to work with or compromise with some of Jolda’s rather reasonable ideas. I see what you mean when you describe her imperfections.

The dream sequence was a hoot, and I love how you finished it on a funny note. Even in dreamdeath it seems Daria can’t win. Quinn’s beauty routine shall remain undisturbed.

Posted by: SubRosa Aug 11 2022, 03:35 AM

I feel sorry for Jolda already, and I have not even read this episode yet. As much as I love Daria, dealing with her can be difficult for anyone, even when you have the best of intentions. When you have a walk a tightrope with your own life and career already, and throw Daria into the mix on top of that, well, it is quite a challenge.

I live in the Midwest and take off my shoes as soon as I walk in my house. I don't want to track dirt all over the place. When I was a children back in the 70s, we thought of taking off your shoes was an exotic "Japanese Thing". but my family still did it back then too. It is just easier to keep the house clean. Plus it is just more comfortable.

I liked the description of a bit of Hammerfell home style in Morrowind.

They have a Dwemer spider bot! Cool. Viuda would love one of those. Maybe she'll make one?

I have noticed that just about every province is filled with Dwemer ruins. Hammerfell, Morrowind, Skyrim, etc... It seems that Cyrodiil is the only place without them. But they have the Ayleid ruins instead. There seems to be a law that every province have the ruins of a long dead elven race. So they either have to keep reusing the Dwemer, or they have to invent a new dead elf race with every game.

You tell her Jolda! I always did like her.

I love her dream about Tiber/Talos/Hjalti Earlybeard! (could that guy have any more names?)

Posted by: Renee Aug 13 2022, 02:23 PM

Cool, thanks for explaining about sera and muthsera.

I like that... "No dull forest-scene tapestries hung upon the wall..." biggrin.gif It can be true that as we're kids, some of our friends' houses seem better than ours.

Bowing is important, not just in Asian culture, but here in Tamriel too, apparently there's a right way and a wrong way to do it, eh?

Wow, Armand thinks her essay is 'excellent'. smile.gif Meanwhile, it seems nobody knows (or seems to know) she's got these ulterior motives for writing it, and in fact tried to get herself NOT accepted. ... Well Jolda seems to know what's going on.

See, I feel kind of bad for Daria here. Because she's not wanting to be put on the spot like this at all! I wonder where all of this is heading.

Damn, Jolda's pretty pissed. Yeah I agree with Daria. Jolda should be giving her own speech instead of Daria. Seems like she's quite passionate about it. Certainly put enough effort into it. Who cares about her race? Hmm... well maybe the Imperials do. Still...

Whoa, she's meeting Talos. What a trippy scene.

QUOTE
"Hmm, well if I'm decapitated could you arrange it so that my head's put on top of my sister's dresser?


laugh.gif

I love The Smiths!



Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Aug 13 2022, 04:43 PM

@Acadian - This episode takes some inspiration from one in the show, where Daria's idealism clashed with Jodie's pragmatism. Daria does have high standards for this kind of thing, but she doesn't always realize that she's in a position where she can afford to have such standards. Not everyone else is.

Glad you liked the dream sequence! It was fun to write.

@SubRosa - At the Daria forum I mod, we once had a thread on which characters we'd have most likely hung out with. Not many of us picked Daria. Obviously we all like her as fans of the show, but she'd be tough to deal with IRL, as Jolda learns here.

For what it's worth, I figured the ones I'd most easily get along with are Amelia (from "Camp Fear") and Tom. Both seemed pretty stable and easygoing (though, interestingly, neither goes to Lawndale High--maybe something's in the water there).

Being half-Japanese, I grew up always taking off my shoes when I went in, and it's a habit I've extended into adulthood. Saves a lot of wear and tear on the carpet, too.

The Dwemer did extend pretty far. Here, the Dwemer ruins are mostly limited to Morrowind, eastern Skyrim, and Hammerfell (though a few Dwemer ruins from the Hammerfell colony might be present in the Reach). Cyrodiil has Ayleid ruins, and High Rock and western Skyrim are full of Direnni Altmer ruins. Not sure what you'd find in the southern provinces.

@Renee - Yeah, those details in our friends' houses always jump out. I guess it's part of the process by which we start realizing that other people have their own lives.

I got the idea for bowing (and removing shoes) because supposedly Bethesda decided to add some Japanese cultural traits to the Redguard in the Redguard/Morrowind era. I don't know if it's true or not, since it doesn't come up in any of the games (beyond maybe some place-name conventions, like Yokuda), but I like it more when fantasy cultures mingle cultures from real-life.

I love the Smiths, too! Even if I find Morrissey very aggravating.

Episode 9: The History Girls

Chapter 5


Daria's doubt deepened as the hot Sundas morning cooked the streets and rooftops. She considered going back to Jolda's house to apologize, but it still didn't seem right to regurgitate the old myths.

"So which is it?" Daria asked herself. "Stick to your principles—which are based more on intellectual conceit than any real concern for your peers—and in so doing hurt the career aspirations of someone who does care and who has only been friendly to you? Or take a stand for truth that won't do anything more than assuage your ego?"

"Mom!" Quinn shouted from her desk. "Daria's talking to herself again!"

She got out of the house to clear her head, heat be damned, and walked through the dusty markets under the dubious protection of her bug-shell hat. Her feet took her to the Foreigner's Span, the southernmost bridge in Balmora, before she realized she was making her way to Jane's apartment.

Why not? she figured. Jane might be able to provide some perspective.

She reached the narrow streets of Labor Town, its shabby markets redolent with guar dung and fresh-spilled beetle ichor. Passing by a crude street-side shrine to St. Olms, the clay figure within bedecked with faded blue anther petals, she caught sight of Dimartani standing in line at a kwama seller’s stand.

Maybe he could clear a few things up. Daria walked up to him, and he gave a start when he saw her.

"DARIA! I wasn't expecting you to be in this part of town!"

"I'm full of surprises." She raised her face to look him right in the eye. "Earlier, you said you admired my essay for its honesty."

"I did."

"Great. On that case, I can trust you to be honest with me."

Dimartani glared. "As a STUDENT, you ought to show more—"

She didn't let him finish. "Did you pick me because Magistrate Lli told you she wanted an Imperial to win the contest?"

His mouth froze mid-retort, and then his teeth clenched. His eyes roved nervously around for a bit before they settled on Daria. "Magistrate Lli did insist upon an Imperial winner, yes. However, I could have chosen ANY of the Imperials in that classroom. My FIRST plan was to simply draw a name at random! But when I saw your veiled EVISCERATION of the Armistice, I was impressed in a way that I rarely am."

"I see. Thank you for telling me. But it still sounds like you want me to do your dirty work for you."

"They might LISTEN to you! You're Imperial. I'm Dunmer."

Another reminder of how lucky she was. But Daria couldn’t forget how Synda’s thugs had beaten her in an alley for the crime of not being Dunmer. That made it harder to be charitable to him.

“And what do you think of outlanders? Should we be driven out from Morrowind by sword point? Because I’ve had some bad experiences with people like that.”

Dimartani shook his head. “I have NO fondness for those thugs! The Empire has been here since my GRANDFATHER’S day, and I accept that they’re here to stay. But I’m tired of all the lies. I used to be a professional historian! The truth MATTERS to me! But NO ONE here seems to care!”

“I see. Where did you work as a historian?” And are they hiring? Daria thought but didn’t ask.

He looked down at the ground, his mouth set in a grim line. “I once worked as the family historian for a lord in Great House REDORAN. I served him as a SOLDIER before that.”

“Huh. How did you end up working for the Hlaalu?”

His shoulders bunched up. "Well, erm... gambling is a HELLUVA vice, Daria! Don't ever let it get its claws into you! And if you do, NEVER bet your job against anyone related to Magistrate Lli!"

He made a mournful noise and started crying into his hands. Not sure what else to do, Daria let him be and resumed her journey to Jane's.

Luckily, Jane was home that day. She sat under a tarp that stretched to the balcony of a neighboring apartment while she added a few final touches to a painting of a matronly blonde in rich Imperial garb.

"Who are you flattering today?" Daria asked.

"Karl’s mom. Nice lady, believe it or not. Guess he gets all the creepiness from his dad. Luckily neither of them was there when I went over to immortalize her on canvas. So what brings you here to my humble abode?”

“Remember the essay contest?”

“Oh yeah, the one you blundered your way into winning?”

“More like I blundered my way into an episode of uncomfortable introspection that forces me to realize some things about myself that I’d prefer not to think about.”

“Do tell.”

And Daria did, while Jane layered brush strokes to add depth to her portrait. The situation seemed to grow clearer in the retelling.

“Sounds to me like you already know what to do,” Jane said.

“I do. It’s not fair for me to put Jolda on the line for the sake of my ego, so I’ll apologize and follow her lead. That part doesn’t bother me. What I hate is having to water down my statement even further. The Empire’s been in Morrowind for a little over 400 years, and I’m not sure the place has gotten much better during that time.”

“It’s not like the great houses were running things that well on their own, either. I still think the Tribunal wanted the Empire here to humble us Dunmer a bit.”

“I wish we could all take honest looks at how we got into this mess and start taking steps to fix it.”

Jane looked over her shoulder at Daria. “It’ll take a lot more than a school fundraising speech to do that.”

“Maybe I was inflating the importance of my speech a little bit.”

“Well, I’ll always be here to deflate you!” Jane said. She gave a brief smirk and turned back to her painting.

“Good to know I can count on friends to cut me back down to size.”

Daria already knew that Jane didn’t mind the Empire. From her position, one ruling body wasn’t that different from another. Kings and houses never cared about struggling artisans like her.

“I’ve talked to a bunch of people these past few days,” Daria said. “You, Jolda, Lli, Dimartani, my parents. They all have their own versions of what happened. I guess real history is the sum total of all those different opinions, bumping up against each other, taking stands or making compromises. It’s much too complicated and contradictory for anyone to put into a book or story.”

“Sorry, not quite sure what you’re getting at,” Jane said, sounding a bit distracted as she dabbed her paintbrush into the palette she cradled on her arm.

“I think I have an idea of what to write for this.”



*********



Daria returned to Jolda’s house as the sun set behind Balmora’s shops and houses, crowning the roofs with the day’s last embers. Jolda sat on a crate outside her home, holding her baby brother Eshraf and gently rocking him back and forth. She saw Daria coming, but said nothing.

“Uh, hi,” Daria said.

“Hi.” Jolda's gaze stayed on her sibling.

Daria took a deep breath. “It occurs to me that I may not have made a genuine effort to see things from your point of view. And that, by some perspectives, my actions could be seen as pretty selfish and ignorant. So I apologize for earlier, and I won’t contradict you any further on this project.”

Daria knew she always lapsed into some awkward facsimile of her mother’s lawyer-speak when she got embarrassed about something and hoped the weird formality didn’t come off as insincere.

“Thanks, Daria," Jolda said, finally looking up. "If it makes you feel better, I can understand why you wanted to write your essay the way you did.”

“That was me holding back. You should have seen the first draft.”

Jolda grinned. “That doesn’t surprise me. I’m going to be busy getting the school grounds ready for the Armistice Festival tomorrow, but I can make a bit of time before classes open up. Meet me in the library?”

“Actually, I spent some time this afternoon writing a new speech. It’s only a page long and incorporates a lot of the things I’ve learned these past few days. I have it with me if you want to read.”

Jolda looked a bit doubtful.

“If it’s not to your liking, I promise that we’ll use a version of my earlier essay, with you having full editorial control.”

Jolda relaxed at that. “Okay. Let’s go inside. It’s too dark to read out here.”

Daria followed Jolda back into the house. The smell of roasting chicken, slathered in spices and herbs she could only guess at, wafted down the hallway. Her mouth watered at the scent. She hadn’t eaten chicken for months. As much as she’d come to enjoy Morrowind’s bug-based cuisine, she still missed some of the old standards.

“You’re welcome to stay for dinner, by the way,” Jolda offered.

Part of Daria wanted to, and if it had just been Jolda she’d have said yes. But the idea of trying to make small talk with Armand and his wife was a little more than she could handle at the moment. Then again, it might look rude to refuse.

“Uh, thanks. I guess I can run back and ask my parents if it’s okay. They hadn’t started cooking anything when I left so it should be.”

Even if they had, mom would gladly let Daria go for the sake of a networking opportunity.

“Here’s the new essay.”

Daria handed the document to Jolda, who held it up to the light of a paper lantern hanging from the ceiling while cradling Eshraf with her free arm. She squinted a bit as she read in the dim hallway. Daria waited in silence, not sure whether the worse torment came from waiting for Jolda’s reaction or having to endure the heavenly aroma from the kitchen.

Then Jolda smiled. “This is really good, Daria.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Arpozy1Nuos

Posted by: SubRosa Aug 14 2022, 02:42 AM

I loved the juxtaposition between Daria's honest soul-searching, and Quinn's exclamation! laugh.gif

It was great learning more about Mr. Dimartani. You have done a great job of turning his TV show history into something that fits into Morrowind. I especially liked how you worked his gambling addiction into it.

I definitely appreciated Daria's painfully come to insight about how history is a conglomeration of wildly varying people's experiences.

And Daria does the right thing in the end. Yay! As Winston Churchill once said: "Americans always do the right thing, after they've tried everything else..."

Posted by: Acadian Aug 14 2022, 08:39 PM

I was impressed with the insight of Daria’s self-doubts. She does ‘get’ it, just needs to decide which course of action to pick. And seeking Jane’s counsel seems a good idea.

Dimartani provides some degree of clarity by confirming the ‘pick an Imperial’ requirement while also confirming he truly did appreciate the brilliance of Daria’s ‘veiled evisceration of the Armistice’.

And Jane does not disappoint as she listens, then simply points out the decision that Daria’s words portend. And I’m glad to see that her decision appears to be the more empathic one.

Daria’s apology to Jolda was indeed a touch lawyerly but was sincere and I’m pleased Jolda accepted it graciously. I hope you will reveal more detail on the nature of Daria’s revised essay but it is enough to know that Jolda seems to think it hits the mark.

And voila! Daria is networking! tongue.gif

Posted by: Renee Aug 16 2022, 01:29 PM

What's your favorite Smiths song? Off the top of my head, I'm remembering Sheila Take a Bow, although I think that song has another name. They had a ton of great songs though.

Daria's talking to herself *again*! laugh.gif Damn, that is cute!

Ah. So the fact that she's Imperial. See, I think I had this sort of wrong. I was thinking they want Daria (or any Imperial) because they want somebody who will praise the Empire. But the fact they've chosen Daria, and especially the teacher seems to know her essay isn't all rosey....

I think I get it now. This is complicated!

Well, wonder what the new essay is like, then. Jolda seems happy about it. smile.gif

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Aug 17 2022, 04:38 PM

@SubRosa - Thanks! I try to sneak in some of the show's more interesting character beats. It's always fun to imagine how they might apply in this setting.

In some ways, this episode is a distillation of the series: Daria learning to look beyond her keen but sometimes myopic perspective.

@Acadian - In the show, Daria frequently goes to Jane for advice. And in my opinion, Daria usually already knows what she needs to do. But it helps to hear it from someone else.

Don't worry: you'll get to find out what's in the revised essay in this chapter.

@Renee - Ooh, that's tough. Probably a tie between "Cemetry Gates" and "There's A Light That Never Goes Out". And thanks for the recommendation! "Sheila Take A Bow" is actually a new one to me; has a great sound. I didn't really start listening to rock/pop until the mid '00s (when I was in college), by which point I was more likely to buy individual songs from iTunes than albums, which means my musical knowledge is a bit spotty.

You got it. Dimartani had to pick an Imperial. But he was legitimately impressed with Daria's essay, which is why he picked her over one of the others in the class.

Episode 9: The History Girls

Chapter 6


Daria re-read her speech one last time as she stood in the dusty pavilion set up behind the temporary stage where some legion musicians played a classic triumphal march. Part of her had hoped Mystik Spiral would perform that day, but she couldn’t blame Jolda for going with the safe option.

The day was hot but milder than the scorchers of the previous week. A decent-sized crowd had come to Drenlyn. No one that important so far as she could tell. Just the usual crowd of outlander parents, with more than a few Dunmer, all seated beneath a canvas that shaded them from the sun. Around them stood kiosks set up by artisans to sell their wares, including one for Jane who sat with a few of her paintings on display. Not the worst cross-section of the Empire in Morrowind, she supposed.

She spotted Jolda sitting next to Maiko. Jolda noticed Daria and waved. Daria returned the gesture.

The familiar march started winding down. Daria straightened the stiff blue robe she’d donned for the occasion. It was the same one she’d worn to the Talori party almost half a year ago.

“I trust everything’s ready, Miss Morgendorffer?” Lli asked. She’d been roaming the festival grounds all day while wearing a loud yellow robe that rivaled the sun for brightness. Wherever she walked, an exhausted Sera Benniet followed close behind, holding a parasol over her boss’s head.

“Yup.”

“Remember: you and Jolda will both be in trouble if you try any funny business. Be cheerful, optimistic, and do everything you can to reflect the honor, and glory, of Drenlyn Academy! We’re depending on your words, here, and frankly, you owe us!”

The musicians finished and marched off the stage single file, their footsteps sounding out in unison. Not waiting for permission from Lli, Daria walked up the steps and into the eyes of the crowd. Mom and dad sat in the middle of the audience, smiling expectantly.

Daria glanced from side to side and then straightened her gaze so that she looked at the audience as a whole and at no one person in particular.

“We’re here today to honor the armistice that brought Morrowind into the Empire some 425 years ago. Except we aren’t, not really. We’re here to be seen, to rub elbows with clients, or maybe just kill some time. To a lot of us, the armistice is something that happened a long time ago and doesn’t seem to warrant much thought today.”

She watched for reactions. A few people had stirred when she talked about the more pragmatic reasons for attendance.

“Maybe that’s because no one knows for sure what happened on that day. We have the broad strokes: we know that Morrowind stopped fighting the Empire and agreed to join our family of nations. Frankly, if the day of the signing was anything like today, it was probably too damn hot to fight.”

That remark got some mild laughter. A good sign.

“But it’s harder to know exactly why the Empire annexed Morrowind. Some historians say that the Empire only wanted to spread peace and the rule of law. But others think the Empire’s reasons were more brutally pragmatic: that it needed to secure the east in order to take on the west. I’m not a professional historian, so I’m not going to venture a guess. But here’s what I do know.”

No one seemed upset so far. Some were curious. A fair number still looked bored or hot and tired. All to be expected from this sort of crowd.

“The armistice is not history. It’s still going on today. What Tiber Septim and the Tribunal started was an experiment. Was it a success? Well, like it or not, that hasn’t been decided yet. The Empire’s ruled Morrowind for a little over four centuries and that’s a blip, historically speaking.

“The good part—or bad part, depending on your point of view—is that we get to decide if it’s a success. Each and every one of us, no matter where we’re from or what we look like. Because nothing we do happens in a vacuum. The words we say and the actions we take affect not only ourselves, but our families, friends, enemies, rivals, and people we don’t know or care about.

“So, if you’re a loyal citizen of the Empire, with a vested personal—or even just business—interest in Morrowind, you have to ask yourself what you’re going to do to make sure this works. A lot of this has to do with fulfilling the Empire’s declared mission of loving justice, working diligently, and giving donations to worthy causes.”

She made a quick gesture to the buildings of Drenlyn Academy.

“Sometimes it might not be obvious. Sometimes it could be as simple as listening to someone different from you and trying to see things from their perspective, because guess what? They’re a part of this, too.

“So, is the armistice worth honoring? Well, let’s find out.”

Daria briefly bowed her head. “Thank you,” she finished.

The crowd offered up modest applause, except for dad who whooped and hollered. Daria didn’t linger on the stage and made a quick exit as a line of actors hurried up in costume to conduct a symbolic play representing the armistice.

Magistrate Lli waited behind the stage, still shaded by a hapless Benniet, who looked ready to collapse from the heat.

“Interesting choice of speech, Miss Morgendorffer. Not quite what I expected and a bit short, but I like the way you exploited Imperial civic-mindedness. Kudos!”

“I’m perversely reassured that you saw my heartfelt speech as nothing more than another sales pitch,” Daria said, but Lli had already hurried off to talk to a wealthy-looking Breton visitor.

Jolda still sat with Maiko. The legionnaire clapped as Daria approached.

“That was a good speech, Daria!” he said.

“Yeah, you did a great job!” Jolda concurred.

"Sorry again for not listening, earlier."

"I'm still upset at how unfair the setup was," Jolda said, her brow momentarily furrowing in frustration, "but you listened to me when it counted, and I appreciate that. So I'm not upset at you. Did you talk to Lli at all?"

“Lli seemed pretty happy with our little speech. And the audience didn’t mind, either,” Daria said.

“Your speech, Daria,” Jolda corrected. “You’re the one who wrote it.”

“True, but you edited it. Plus, I’d have never gotten the idea if it hadn’t been for you, so it’s a joint effort as far as I’m concerned.”

Jolda smiled at that. “Well, I’m happy to accept co-author status in that case. Oh, hey, your parents are coming.”

Daria looked behind her to see her parents walking up with Quinn. Dad barely seemed able to contain himself.

“That was some out-of-this-world oratory, kiddo! My daughter the public speaker! Who’d have thought?” he proclaimed.

Daria stepped to the side and shook her head. “Great. I’ve spent my entire life trying to persuade them I hated the public, and now it’s all been undone. I’ll have to seclude myself for months to make up for it.”

Jolda laughed. “Well, for what it’s worth you made a pretty good impression on my dad at dinner last night.”

“All these important people liking me will really hurt my reputation for misanthropy.”

“Hate to break it to you, Daria, but you might be more likable than you think.”

“I guess I’ll have to live with it,” Daria said. Wishing Jolda a good day, she walked out to meet her family.



The End

To be continued in Episode 10: The Worst Years of Our Lives...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdrayvTDQKg

Posted by: Acadian Aug 17 2022, 08:16 PM

Well done to Daria! She and Jolda were trying balance quite a few things, from truthfulness to not pissing anyone off to soliciting donations – all in one fairly short and nicely delivered speech.

It was nice that Jane attended and I’m also pleased to see what seems to be a genuine friendship growing between Daria and Jolda. And the enthusiastic praise from her dad was heartening.

Much to Daria’s chagrin, she is moving up the networking ladder. tongue.gif


Posted by: SubRosa Aug 17 2022, 09:35 PM

I would have loved to hear the Spiral at the Academy. But I cannot imagine how that would go over with the Imperial and Hlaalu parents! Jolda definitely made the prudent choice with the John Phillip Sousa cover band.

Got to love that pep talk from Miss Li! laugh.gif

Wow, not what I expected from Daria. That was definitely the revised, revised edition. I really appreciated how acknowledged the need to be intersectional, given how it so perfectly reflects her own experience with Jolda. I can see how that influenced this final version of the speech.

“All these important people liking me will really hurt my reputation for misanthropy.”
Now that is the Daria we all know and love!

Posted by: Renee Aug 20 2022, 04:36 PM

Likewise, I didn't start listening to The Smiths until the early '90s, when it was "safe" for me to do so. See, my sister loved The Smiths in the '80s, along with Bauhaus and The Pogues, and a zillion other acts from that era. Since SHE loved this music, this meant I had to hate it (or pretend to!) laugh.gif

Just listened to Cemetery Gates... gosh darn it's been years since I've heard that one. blink.gif Same with Light Which Never Goes out. sad.gif I'm getting teary-eyed. ... I love Johnny Marr's guitar work. The way he plays is always so bouncy and upbeat, which is a total contrast to some of the horribly depressing things Morrissey sings about.

Sheila Take a Bow is about https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shelagh_Delaney, who was a huge inspiration for Morrissey's writing. Rumor is, Morrissey actually hated the song. I believe someone else was supposed to sing it in fact!

/ot

It's too bad Mystik Spyral didn't perform! That would've loosened the crowd up, methinks. bigsmile.gif

Whoa. Okay, wow. Her speech is really riveting, right off. It's really just honest, I guess. Yes indeed, the Empire taking Morrowind was not just for 'spreading peace'. It's about territory, and resources, and having firmer control of other provinces.

I really like her speech, WTC. It's not what I expected. It's not really as critical as I expected. It makes total sense that she (as an Imperial) gave this speech. I agree with her teacher; it wouldn't really work if Jolda had read it.

Dad is overenthusiastic, and also such a ... dad! He's like every father who ever held a camcorder during his kids' talent shows when we were kids. goodjob.gif 🎥📸


Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Aug 20 2022, 05:04 PM

@Acadian - Sometimes it's hard to avoid that networking ladder laugh.gif

@SubRosa - I figured it'd be good for Daria to start taking a more comprehensive perspective. Vvardenfell's a good opportunity for this, in a sense: it's got a lot of people from all over Tamriel, with most of them simply trying to get by as best they can.

@Renee - Yeah, I think the mix of the cheerful guitar work and the mournful lyrics are a big part of what makes The Smiths work so well. Another band I quite like that has a similar (albeit lighter) vibe is Belle and Sebastian (I use a few of their songs in this series).

Whatever country one's from, there's always the tension from wanting to see it made a better place while also realizing that its origins are likely grubbier than the official histories present. We want to believe in sweeping tides of good and evil, but grubby compromise is how things usually get done simply because there's no other way to bring enough people together to make change.

Episode 10: The Worst Years of Our Lives

Chapter 1


Daria didn't think that the Nordic couple lounging outside of the Morgendorffer home looked like the kinds of clients mom usually got. Or dad either, for that matter. Their non-ritual scars stood out, as did their weapons: a big two-handed sword in a scabbard was strapped to the man's back and the woman leaned on a long spear. Their travel-stained clothes, streaked with dirt and ash, hadn't been washed in a while.

Venturing closer but not looking directly at them, Daria got a whiff and realized they hadn't washed in a while either.

The man had iron-gray hair and a thick black mustache while the woman had tied her brown hair into a loose bun. Both had bright eyes, confident but watchful.

Daria appraised the situation. It was a crowded street, and a Hlaalu guard stood at the corner. These two wouldn't try anything in public, she was pretty sure.

"Excuse me," she said. "Are you looking for someone here?"

The man smiled and looked over to the woman. "She's a bold one, isn't she?"

"Takes after her father," she said, then turned her head to face Daria. "We're old friends of your dad, from his Fighters Guild days."

Suddenly it clicked. He'd mentioned them before on the rare occasions he talked about his wild early years, spent roaming from Skyrim to Cyrodiil with a sword in his hand and not much of anything in his pockets, sharing hardships with a few close companions.

"Fox and Willow," Daria said, looking from one to the other. She didn't know much about them specifically, other than that they'd been in the guild longer than dad.

"Smart, too! The guy I asked said Jake had a couple of daughters. You're Quinn?"

"Daria," she corrected.

"Great! We knocked on the door but no one was home, so we thought we'd wait around."

Daria hesitated. She suspected they were who they said they were. The weapons gave her a bit of pause. Weapons weren't exactly a rare sight in the Empire since the Crisis, but people didn't usually bring them into the Morgendorffer home.

On the other hand, mom and dad did make a big deal about the Imperial and Nordic rites of hospitality, respectively.

"Mom and dad are both out today, but they'll probably be back pretty soon," she said, and hoped that pretty soon meant almost immediately.

She glanced again at the guard. He stood within shouting distance. Taking the heavy iron key from her purse, Daria unlocked the door and held it open.

"As the eldest daughter of Jake and Helen Morgendorffer, it's my honor to invite you within these humble walls," she said, reciting the age-old Nordic words. Then she added: "Please keep in mind that humble is only a figure of speech, and that that we actually spent a lot of money to get quality walls so as to maintain the appearance of respectability."

“And we accept your shelter from the storm,” Willow said, as she and Fox picked up their bags and stepped inside.

"Wow! Books, papers, a desk! You sure we're talking about the same Jake Morgendorffer?" Fox asked as he surveyed the front office.

"This is actually my mom's office."

"Helen has an office?" Willow shook her head. "She was such a free spirit, always roaming hill and dale with nary a care."

"Oh, she still is a free spirit, but now she prefers to roam courtrooms and cares a lot about finding weakness in the opposing counsel's argument. I think that's how she expresses her inner savagery."

"So, she really did go to the School of Julianos." Willow sounded disappointed. "Helen always swore that was the last thing she'd ever do."

"Wait a minute, was mom part of the Fighters Guild with you guys?" Daria asked.

Fox shook his head. "She wasn't. But she did hang with us for a bit, back when the three of us got some work in Kvatch. Don't think her mom approved of that very much," he added with a laugh.

"Grandma didn't strike me as someone who approved of much of anything." Daria had only met the woman once, when the Morgendorffers had ported to Kvatch and stayed there for a week while en route to Morrowind.

"I'm not a very good host, but I'll do my best," Daria said. She tried to think back to the rules. "Mom and dad will probably want you to stay in the room I share with my sister. My sister will throw a fit at having to sleep downstairs, which definitely makes me happy, so I'll go ahead and take your bags up."

"Oh, no!" Fox said. "Me and the old lady are used to sleeping outdoors. How about that balcony we saw? That'd be perfect."

"I do love sleeping beneath the stars," Willow said.

"Sad as I am to lose the chance to inconvenience Quinn, our house is yours."

Willow reached down to open up her canvas bag and started taking out a bunch of clay bottles. "We've brought gifts, of course! Mostly mazte but we did get one bottle of Cyrodiilic brandy."

"Great. I'm sure my parents—"

Daria paused when she saw Willow pop open one of the mazte bottles and take a swig before she handed it off to her husband who did the same. Then they settled into the chairs usually used by clients.

"Typically, you wait for the recipient before you start opening their gifts, but who am I to object? Uh, we do have some food. All local cuisine."

"More bugs? Guess that's all there is to eat in Morrowind. Hey, Willow? Maybe we can talk Jake into going hunting around here to get some real red meat. Remember when we caught that wild goat outside of Riverwood? Back when Jake got us kicked out of town?" Fox threw his head back and laughed.

"And how did dad manage that?" Daria asked.

"What did he do again? Oh yeah, some city guard made fun of Jake's hat. He was wearing one of those goofy Colovian fur hats for some reason, and Jake took it personally and tried to slug the guy." Fox laughed again. "He's lucky he didn't get skewered!"

Daria's eyes widened. Just how close had dad gotten to getting killed back then? And over something so trivial? The thought that she and Quinn might not exist because he'd picked a dumb fight gave her pause.

"I'll prep something in the kitchen for you," she said, less from being a good host and more from the desire to be on her own for a bit. A desire she'd already deferred for too long.

Once in the kitchen she considered her options. Cooking was far from her forte, but she knew some basic recipes. She could just give them some bread and scuttle but that risked making mom and dad look like poor hosts. On the other hand, a good host didn't leave guests on their own as soon as they'd arrived.

The strum of a hurdy-gurdy jangled in the air as Fox raised his voice in song.

"Sing ye now of Ysgramor, sing ye of his sword of gore..."

Looked like Fox and Willow were perfectly capable of entertaining themselves. With any luck, Daria thought, mom and dad would be home before she had to go back out to the office and actually talk to the pair.

She opened the pantry and wondered exactly what else she might learn about her parents that night. With mazte and brandy flowing among old friends, all kinds of things could slip.

It'd be a great opportunity for vicarious embarrassment.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nicENtCxsdQ

https://dariawiki.org/wiki/Coyote_Yeager - In the show, Coyote was a buddy of Jake and Helen's from their hippie days, who tried to maintain the lifestyle well into the '90s. Here, he's got a bit more edge and knows the Morgendorffers from Jake's time in the Fighters Guild. He's a Nord, and I figured foxes are more common in Skyrim than coyotes.

https://dariawiki.org/wiki/Willow_Yeager - Coyote/Fox's wife. Didn't see any need to change the name.

Posted by: Acadian Aug 21 2022, 08:32 PM

I chuckled at the inspiration for Fox and Willow you provided in your links. Hippies that never grew out of it. And you did a great job importing them into Third Era Morrowind.

Very ‘Daria’ for her to escape into the kitchen and ponder her next move while whipping up some buggy appetizers (not). I’ve actually learned quite a bit about Daria’s parents from this pair of Nordic hippies so far. smile.gif

Posted by: SubRosa Aug 22 2022, 01:23 AM

I remember this episode from the TV show, so I am looking forward to hearing about the good old hippie days of Mom and Dad.

I liked the hospitality rite. It may hokey in the modern day and age, buy traditions of hospitality were pretty much worldwide in the old days, from the Vikings to the Islamic Caliphate.

I liked Daria's wry observation about her mother's inner savage turned loose in the courtroom.

Jake got them kicked out of Riverwood? Probably something to do with his barely contained rage and frustration that was created by his abusive and absent father.

Oh, how dastardly of Daria to pump the house guests for dish on Mom and Dad's misspent youth!

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Aug 24 2022, 04:18 PM

@Acadian - Heh, there's plenty more about Jake and Helen's early days in this episode!

@SubRosa - Yeah, I figured the hospitality rite would make sense. Though as this episode reveals, while hospitality may be a human custom, it isn't necessarily one for Mer (as many a visitor to Morrowind has discovered).

Episode 10: The Worst Years of Our Lives

Chapter 2


Vicarious embarrassment had never been so dull.

Daria sighed as she and Quinn stood next to the dinner table where mom, dad, Fox, and Willow all gathered around. The hour was late, the air in the kitchen stale from too many sweaty bodies packed in its tiny confines for way too long.

And they just kept talking.

"Whatever happened to Maglin, anyway?" dad asked. He slurred his words a bit, still holding the bottle of Cyrodiilic brandy.

"Died on the job somewhere in Elsweyr," Fox said, shaking his head.

"Oh, that's terrible," mom clucked. She had her hands folded in front of her, and the tension in her shoulders suggested she was also getting tired of socializing.

"Hey, easy come easy go. That's how we fighters have to look at it, right, Willow?"

"Attachments will only slow you down," she said, with a nod.

"Speaking of attachments," Fox said, gesturing up at the roof, "this place is a mansion!"

Great, Daria thought. The last thing she wanted was for Fox to give mom and dad an opportunity to brag about the house.

"Excuse me," Daria said. "But Ondryn and Dimartani both have assignments for me to do, and I'd better get started on them."

A lie. But she did have a book she wanted to read and frankly she'd probably learn more from that than from listening to Fox and Willow yammer about old times.

"Now Daria, we do have guests," mom reminded her, sounding reluctant. "We have to be good hosts."

"Hold on, hold on. Assignments? Are those like guild contracts?" Fox asked.

Mom smiled. "We enrolled Daria and Quinn in Drenlyn Academy. It's a highly-rated institution where young people can practice skills like rhetoric and oratory."

"Huh. So, you learn how to talk?"

"Oh, mom's being too modest," Daria said. "We also learn about ruthless networking and the casual acceptance of nepotism as a means of advancement."

Fox still seemed confused. Then he turned to dad, who'd taken another swig. "You guys really have changed. Your girls can't learn anything in there. It's too structured! You gotta jump into the chaos to figure things out, the way you two did. Back in the day."

"Maybe you're right," dad mumbled.

Mom's smile turned rigid. "Times have changed, Fox."

"But the eternal truths of the endless road abide, dear Helen!" Willow proclaimed, throwing out her arms for emphasis.

"I'm not saying we should take the girls out of school! But maybe they need a little more for their education. You know, to keep things real," dad said.

Mom reached out, pried his fingers off the neck of the brandy bottle, and grabbed it to take a drink herself. "Oh, it's so fun to reminisce. Did you two ever try to settle down?" she asked.

"We lived in Bravil for five years. Got a long-term contract to guard a warehouse that no one wanted to steal from. Decent pay but we can't be tied down. Life's an adventure. I hope you two don't forget that."

"We haven't!" Jake jabbed a finger into the air as if making a point. "Hell, we traveled across the continent to get here."

"There you go! Must have had some wild encounters on the road."

Daria shook her head. "Actually, we used my mom's connections with the Mages Guild to conveniently teleport us halfway to Morrowind. We took a boat the rest of the way."

Fox gave dad a disappointed look.

"Yeah, but the boat ride was really tough! I kept getting sea-sick," dad protested.

"Aw, come on. The Jake I knew wouldn't be bothered by a boat ride!"

"The Jake you knew was in much better shape," mom muttered.

"What was that, honey?" dad asked.

Mom clapped her hands together. "What fun we're all having! Unfortunately, I have a busy day tomorrow and I really must catch up on work."

"But what about the sacred duty of hospitality?" Daria protested, trying to sound sincere.

"As the primary breadwinner of this household I get a certain degree of leeway that layabout teenagers don't," she growled. Then she turned to Fox and Willow. "I do apologize but I must get ready for my client meetings tomorrow!"

"Work? Helen, we gotta stay up late and sing old songs, like we used to!"

"As much as I'd love to, I don't think the neighbors would care for that."

"Another reason not to live in cities," Willow said. "They're such strange places."

Dad laughed. "You're too uptight, Helen. I say we sing!"

She forced a laugh. "My singing voice isn't what it used to be, and I have actual responsibilities now!"

"You're no fun," dad muttered.

"Girls, why don't you prepare a bath for our guests?"

"That won't be necessary," Willow said. "I prefer the feel of nature on my skin."

"Not to mention the smell," Daria added.

Mom grimaced. "Well draw a bath anyway. It's been a long hot day."



*********



The music started almost immediately after mom went to her office. Willow played the hurdy-gurdy while Fox sang about various bloody-handed heroes, dad stumbling along without fully knowing the tune.

Daria turned off the kitchen spigot once the bucket filled up. Her ears rang with the epic of Hjoring Eater-of-Faces as she lifted the bucket, grunting from the weight, and began the process of hauling it to the small backroom they used for bathing.

Once there, she poured the water into the small wooden tub. Still short of the halfway point. She put the bucket down and wiped her brow. Quinn tended to the small fire that would heat the bath.

"I get first dibs on the bath, okay?" Quinn said. "Me and the Fashion Club are going to the market tomorrow and we need to smell our best."

"Forget it. I'm hauling the water, so I get first dibs."

"But I need it to make a good impression! Who knows, I might meet some handsome young noble and get married and take care of everything for our family, but it'll all be undone if I don't smell perfect."

"I'll take my chances."

Quinn opened her mouth as if to say something but appeared to think better of it. "Fine. I guess since you're getting all gross and sweaty you need it more. What do you think of Fox and Willow?"

The ballad reached a crescendo, dad’s voice breaking at the climax where Hjoring Eater-of-Faces finally lived up to his name.

"As much as I enjoy seeing them embarrass mom and dad, I'm already sick of having to spend time with them."

"I mean about what they said. Sometimes I wonder if we are too sheltered. Like Balmora's pretty good when it comes to shopping but there are all these other cities where dresses and bargains might be even better and how would I know if I stay here? Maybe I should join the Fighters Guild."

"I'm sure you could offer some great fashion advice on what kind of scarves go best with plate mail."

"Ew, plate mail? Won't I smell all like rusty and stuff?"

"Depends how well you grease it."

"Ew, grease? Forget it then. Yeah, I'm getting kind of tired of them too. I don't like how they keep making fun of dad."

Daria thought about it. "It's sort of amusing. But they do it more often than I'm comfortable with."

With that, Daria took the empty bucket and walked back to the kitchen. She hoped their guests wouldn't stay much longer. She also knew that as good hosts, mom and dad would never kick them out no matter how much they wanted to.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1i0i5lG6Ojc

Posted by: Renee Aug 24 2022, 07:10 PM

I'm not familiar with Belle & Sebastian. I'll have to check 'em out. 🎸

So this old Nordic couple are from the days dad actually used that sword he gave Daria, that's what I assume at least. Back then he held a sword, now he holds a virtual camcorder as he gets overexcited for his melancholy daughter. laugh.gif

When it says they ported to Kvatch does that mean Mage's teleport? Edit: Seems so, since it's mentioned they used a teleport later to get to MW.

Coyote looks like my dad, a former hippie basically! Willow looks exactly like somebody named Willow.

QUOTE
The hour was late, the air in the kitchen stale from too many sweaty bodies packed in its tiny confines for way too long.


It's funny this is mentioned. This is exactly what I was smelling in my mind's nose, since 1). it's summer, 2). sounds like they haven't bathed in weeks, 3). the Morgendorffer home sounds sort of cramped if they're all in the same room.

Man, this conversation between the parents and their old-time friends feels stressed. I wonder if it's headed toward arguement. unsure.gif Plus, Daria's sort of stoking the fire a bit..

Yeesh... yeah, draw that bath!

Posted by: Acadian Aug 24 2022, 08:27 PM

The guests that stayed too long. . . . It is clear that while Daria’s parents have evolved to embrace such things as working and bathing, Fox and Willow remain frozen in Woodstock.

Given the effort to draw a bath, I’m not surprised that multiple bathers will need to take turns and establish the pecking order for who goes in what order.

I loved Quinn’s take on translating 'seeing more of the world' into 'visiting shoppes in distant lands'.

Edit: Oh, I'll miss the next couple episodes of everyone's stories. Off on a cruise in a couple days for about a week and a half. I'll catch up after I get back. smile.gif

Posted by: SubRosa Aug 26 2022, 01:12 AM

"We also learn about ruthless networking and the casual acceptance of nepotism as a means of advancement."
Its like going to Eton!

Fox and Willow were hanging out in Bravil? I wonder if they ever brushed shoulders with Buffy the Bowgirl or Teresa of the Faint Smile then? wink.gif

Yes, please get them a bath. The people who claim they do not need it, are always the ones that absolutely need it the most!

I laughed out loud when Quinn brought up joining the Fighter's Guild, for better shopping opportunities! laugh.gif

And Fox and Willow quickly become the guests that would not leave, and the friends that would not grow up. Poor mom and dad.

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Aug 27 2022, 04:17 PM

@Renee - Some Belle and Sebastian songs do pop up in this series (though not until a bit later, if I recall correctly). But they're worth checking out regardless, like a mix of classical orchestration with pop sensibility (along with lyrics that can alternate between sardonic and wistful).

Yes, it's referring to Mages Guild teleportation. Definitely the easiest way to get around Tamriel.

So glad I'm getting the sensory stuff across. I want readers to see, hear, feel, and even smell Balmora as best they can.

@Acadian - Some people have a harder time letting go of the past than others.

As for the bath, I reasoned that since the Romans had indoor plumbing, it'd fit reasonably well for at least moderately wealthy citizens in Tamriel to have the same. Of course, drawing and heating a bath is still a ton of effort, so it's not something they'd do each day. A filled bath might be used for a while, with different family members or guests taking turns as needed (hence why first dibs is kind of a big deal).

Of course, you would also have public bathhouses. Wealthier citizens might still use them if they feel the need to wash up and just don't have the time or energy to fill up the home bath. Most bathhouses though, would cater toward poor and lower middle class residents, like Jane.

Have fun on the cruise!

@SubRosa - Bravil's seediness made it seem like a good place for characters like Fox and Willow. While this version of Cyrodiil isn't really patterned off the one seen in Oblivion, Bravil's still kind of a seedy place.

Funny how that works, isn't it?

Yup, dealing with unwanted guests is going to be the big struggle for this episode.

Episode 10: The Worst Years of Our Lives

Chapter 3


Drenlyn Academy felt like a sanctuary compared to the increasingly crowded Morgendorffer home.

It was a little past noon. Daria sat with Jane in the shadow of the library wall, the air there scorching them a bit less than it would in the direct sunlight.

"I'm not sure what's worse," Daria said. "Dealing with the incessant singing or watching dad regress to adolescence."

"I don’t know that one has to be worse than the other. They could both be equally awful."

"Plus, I have no idea how long they're going to stay. Mom reminded me this morning that it'd be rude to ask."

"That's one of the nice things about being a Dunmer. We don't have any rule about hospitality. If a guest's being a pain, we can just tell them to buzz off."

"I think the Dunmer definitely have the right idea about that."

"You know, Daria, you're free to crash at my place after school. Trent's on the road so there won’t be any unwanted music. J'dash did see a huge rat rooting through the alley next to the apartment, but he won't let the critter inside. Unless the rat pays rent.”

Rats could actually be a pretty serious problem in Vvardenfell, growing to monstrous sizes in the absence of natural predators.

"Thanks. Unfortunately, dad decided this morning that Quinn and I are going to go to the Fighters Guild with Fox and Willow so we can see the important things they do for the community."

School ended and Daria met up with Quinn at Drenlyn’s gate. They walked along the river market for a while, where the air buzzed with ferocious swarms of biting flies brought out by the sticky late summer heat.

"I was thinking," Quinn said.

"Before you ask: a pink moth-silk dress isn't generally considered suitable battle gear for the Fighters Guild."

"Ha. Ha. If you're done with your weird jokes, there might be something good we can get out of these jerks."

"Other than their departure?"

"Think about it. They knew mom and dad when they were our age, right?"

"A little older than our age but go on."

"So that means they know all the dirt! And if we can dig up that dirt then we can have something to use against mom and dad when we get in trouble."

Daria nodded. "I've never said no to good blackmail material. But weren't you complaining about how mean Fox was being to dad?"

"Ugh! That's totally different, Daria! Fox was being mean for no reason. Blackmail isn't being mean, it's being practical."

"For when you get in trouble, you mean."

"Oh, come on, you can use it, too. You know mom wouldn't approve of you going to those weird cornerclubs with Jane."

"Touché."

They reached Guild Row and walked up the gently sloping street. The Fighters Guild office was right next to the Mages Guild, the two buildings almost mirror images of each other. Daria hadn't been there since her brief tenure as a Mages Guild volunteer, and she idly wondered how Johanna was doing out in Sadrith Mora.

Walking beneath the archway in front of the door, Daria knocked and got no response. Not wanting to wait, she opened it and entered. The door led to a narrow adobe hallway sparsely decorated with threadbare rugs and crooked tapestries. A grimy window facing the alley let in a few beams of soiled sunlight. The musty odor in the place made it smell like an unwashed armpit, and Quinn gagged behind her.

"Don't they ever, like, clean this place?"

"Apparently not. Hello?"

Her voice echoed down the hall. A little unsettled, she nonetheless moved forward. If the layout was anything like the Mages Guild's office, most of it was underground. Stairs going down after a bend in the hall confirmed her suspicion.

The smell worsened as she descended, accompanied by the greasy stink of armor oil. Light came from basement windows, and the feet of passersby cast shadows on the wall.

"Are you sure this is the Fighters Guild?" Quinn asked.

"It has the sign outside, and I know we're on Guild Row. But hey, maybe it's a secret Camonna Tong hideout pretending to be a guild office."

Daria regretted the joke the moment she made it, her mind flashing back to Synda and her thugs in that early morning alley. She drove away the thought. If this were a Camonna Tong hideout, she and Quinn would already be dead.

She felt better once she heard heavy objects hitting each other, accompanied by loud grunts. The door at the end of the hall opened up to an enormous subterranean sparring room. A woven mat covered the floor and cloth dummies were propped up on sticks. Wooden weapons, some cushioned and some not, waited in their racks.

Dad, Fox, and Willow stood nearby, talking to an enormous red-headed Nord woman wearing bonemold armor and a baleful expression.

"Oh, hey, girls! Welcome to the fighter's life!" dad exclaimed, waving.

"Please tell me you didn't sign us all up for the guild," Daria said.

"Ha ha, no, I don't meet the physical standards anymore. But Fox and Willow are members and so we can hang around as long as they’re here! Isn't this exciting? You know, the Fighters Guild does a lot of important work. Protecting caravans, hunting monsters, sometimes even tracking down criminals!"

Daria crossed her arms. "Hmm. So, what you're saying is that the Empire's inability to adequately police its own territory means it has to outsource security to private institutions of dubious ethics."

Dad looked hurt, and Daria almost regretted her statement. She was right, though.

"No, kiddo," he said, "it's people doing their part. This is, uh, why I wanted you to see it. You could do some sparring, like we used to do back on Stirk!"

"I'd love to spar, daddy," Quinn said, "but I'd like to do it with Willow. I feel like I can learn a lot from her."

"That's great! Hey, Willow!"

Surprised, Daria gave Quinn a quizzical look. She tapped her head and mouthed: "Blackmail!"

"What about you, Daria? Ready to test yourself in the art of battle?" dad asked.

"I think I'll pass. It's dark enough in here that I won't be able to see anything if I take off my glasses. And sparring with my glasses on is definitely not an option."

"Huh, guess I should have thought of that."

Feeling a little bad for her dad, she decided to let him off easy. "You go and spar with Fox. I'll sit over there and read my book."

"Okay. But watch what we're doing! That way you can get a feel for what it's like!" Dad turned around. "Hey, Fox, ready?"

"Just a minute, Jake. I'm discussing some business with Eydis over here. I'll join you in a bit."

"Sure thing!"

Dad ambled over to the nearest weapons rack and examined the different practice swords on display. He picked one up and for one moment looked like a hardy northern warrior. Then the gentle father he was came back to the fore.

Still thinking about her sister's blackmail suggestion, Daria walked over to where Fox and Eydis spoke. Taking her book from her bag, she opened it and pretended to read while she listened.

"Look, Fox," Eydis said, her tone annoyed. "we don't have too many contracts available right now. And frankly, your reputation isn't the best."

"Me and my old lady want to settle down in Balmora. We've been on the road for months."

"Spend a few more days on the road and you can see what kinds of jobs they have in Vivec City or Ald'ruhn."

"Come on, Eydis. We found a place to stay here."

"You could always sleep in the guild barracks," Eydis said.

"I mean a nice place! Old buddy of mine's letting us crash. We're in our forties. Sleeping on the hard ground or some barracks cot isn't as easy as it used to be. Figured we'd stick around with him for a few months. Until we get enough to rent a place of our own."

Hearing that, Daria glowered at the text she pretended to read. So much for a happy life on the road. She considered telling dad, but he'd never see it through his nostalgia blinders.

"That isn't my problem, Fox. If you'd done your bit in Bravil you could have had a nice and cushy desk job. Instead, you decided to strike off on your own, mid-contract. Frankly, you're lucky your membership wasn't revoked." She sighed and rubbed her temple. "I have a grunt job you and your wife can do."

"Uh, sure. Will it lead to more?"

"If you do a good job and finish it, yes. There's a big rat causing problems in Labor Town, down by the southern wall near the river. A Khajiit junk dealer named J’dash hired us to take care of it. Ask him, and you should be able to track it down."

Daria’s eyes widened at hearing the name.

Fox laughed in disbelief. "A rat? You gotta be kidding me, I can—"

"You can take or leave it." Eydis crossed her arms and stared him down.

"What about guard duty or something—" Fox started.

"Hey, I remember you!"

Daria flinched at the sudden exclamation in her left ear, the voice male and Dunmer though unusually high-pitched. It took a moment for her to recognize the speaker when she saw him: skinny, in oversized bonemold armor that left his flat gray belly exposed and wearing a guileless smile one didn't usually see on the native-born.

"Kavon?" It came back to her: the dimwitted Hlaalu guard and Briltasi's secret boyfriend.

"Yeah! You're, uh, Briltasi's friend! Sorry, I forgot your name."

"I'm Daria. And I’m more of an acquaintance. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm trying to—"

"Cool! Thanks for keeping that whole thing a secret, by the way! I don't want Briltasi's folks getting mad at me. Or at her!" he all but shouted.

"If you want to keep it a secret, I suggest lowering your voice."

"Oh, right! Sorry," he whispered. "Hey, are you part of the Fighters Guild? That's cool! Oh, wait! That's what those glass things on your eyes are for, huh? They're like eye armor! I never thought about eye armor. I should get a pair."

"Arrows just bounce off these old eye-plates," she said, tapping the side of her right lens. Fox and Eydis were still negotiating, the former sounding increasingly desperate. "Look, I really need—"

"I'm here to join up in the guild and see if they have any jobs! I'm a pretty tough guy so I can make myself useful around here."

"Aren't you already working for House Hlaalu as a guard? Seems like that'd be a conflict of interest."

He waved his hand. "Nah, they don't mind if we take a few jobs on the side. Plus, I need the money! I want to buy something nice for Briltasi pretty soon because it's almost our year-long thingy."

"Ann-i-ver-sa-ry," Daria corrected, enunciating each syllable.

"Yeah, that! You think I'll be good for this?"

Daria observed the sparring room, full of people hitting each other with wooden sticks. At the far end, a panicked Quinn warded off Willow's strikes as best she could, steadily retreating under the assault.

"I think you'll fit right in." She thought back to the conversation she'd overheard—the portion of it, anyway. "But from what I hear, there aren't many jobs available."

Kavon’s face fell. "Aw, man!"

Daria considered the situation. Eydis obviously didn't like Fox. If Kavon asked to do the job—and killing a rat probably fell within his skill set—would she give it to him instead?

"Try asking the Nord woman over there. Her name's Eydis," Daria said, pointing to her. "She mentioned something about a rat in Labor Town, but you better move fast. She's already negotiating a contract with the guy she's talking to."

"Okay, will do! Thanks, Daria!"

Trying to look inconspicuous, Daria watched and waited to see what would happen next.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F01UTYg79KY

https://en.uesp.net/wiki/Morrowind:Eydis_Fire-Eye - Eydis is the deeply corrupt steward of the Fighters Guild in Morrowind.

Posted by: SubRosa Aug 28 2022, 04:17 AM

Maybe J'dash should hire the Fighters Guild to deal with that rat problem. They love those contracts...

I think a pink moth-silk dress would be a great look for the guild! laugh.gif

Looks like bathing is not high on the FG priority list. It sounds like living in an old gym sock.

The Empire and its embrace of mercenaries sounds rather familiar...

Oh boy, Fox wants to stick around for months! ohmy.gif EEp!

OMG! They did get the rat contract! biggrin.gif

Hey, its Kavon! Maybe he will swoop in and scoop up that rat contract if Fox is not careful.

Posted by: Renee Aug 30 2022, 02:32 PM

Oh my gosh. The sisters want to dig up secrets on their parents! laugh.gif

Dad doesn't meet their Requirements anymore! sad.gif So he's no longer got the Strength or Endurance. He's no longer as skilled with Long Blade, Blunt Weapons, Axe, Blocking attacks, or Heavy Armor. Oh, or smithing. Geez, poor dad. And poor kids. Their time sounds awful.

Daria's got her book again! bigsmile.gif I'm giggling over here. I bet Fox and Willow won't even finish their rat contract. 🐀

Does Quinn kick any ass as she spars? Guess we'll find out.


Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Aug 31 2022, 04:26 PM

@SubRosa - The Fighters Guild could probably stand to expand its retinue. Fashion might not be a bad choice. The catwalk and the battlefield have a lot in common.

@Renee - Nope, he's let those skills decline. His Speechcraft and Mercantile have probably improved. Maybe he has a future in Great House Hlaalu?

You'll soon see how Quin fares...

Episode 10: The Worst Years of Our Lives

Chapter 4


Sure, Willow acted like she was all sweet and at peace with the world, but it turned out she really wasn't.

Quinn barely blocked another of Willow's swift strikes. The staff's ends were padded but it'd still hurt if she got hit! Plus, she had to wear a smelly cloth helmet which probably hadn't been washed in years!

She’d need another bath that night. This time she’d get first dibs.

Willow paused to take a breath, her face red and sweaty.

"Uh, so anyway Willow, I'm wondering what mom was like when she was my age! What kinds of crazy things did you guys get up to?"

"Twenty damn years," Willow muttered. "And I'm still on the road killing things to earn food and shelter!"

Quinn took another step back. "See, I didn't mean killing things. More like what kinds of fun things you did! Like staying out late with cute boys, or buying accessories you couldn't afford—"

"Why can't I have a house? We had one once, in Bravil. A son, too! But Fox had to keep on adventuring. We gotta be free," she mimicked.

"A son?"

Willow shouted and lashed out. Quinn blocked but the impact tore the staff out of her hands. Then Willow struck Quinn's calves and literally swept her off her feet.

Quinn landed on her back, the mat soft but smelling like the sweat of a million different people.

"Not bad," Willow said, acting like she was all normal again. "Want another try?"

"Actually, I think I'll just lie here a little while," Quinn said, too tired to complain.



*********



Daria inched closer to make sure she heard the brewing confrontation.

"Hey! My name's Kavon and I want to join the Fighters Guild!"

Eydis, still standing next to Fox, eyed the young Dunmer up and down. "All right. You want to read the guild bylaws, first?"

"Nah, I don't have time to read. I'm here to fight!"

Eydis smirked. "Just the way I like it."

"You need someone to kill a rat? 'Cause I'm your guy!"

"Hold on," Fox interrupted. "That's my job!"

"Oh." Kavon hung his head.

Daria whispered a curse. He was giving up too easily.

"Besides, Eydis,” Fox continued, “you don't want some scrub like this doing the job. You want a seasoned professional."

"Actually, Fox, killing a rat is a job for a scrub. I like this kid's hustle. Kavon, you with Hlaalu?"

"Uh, I'm not a member but I work for them! I help guard High Town."

"Interesting. How long you been doing this?"

"A year."

Eydis cocked her head, eyes still on Kavon. "I don't know, Fox. He's a gainfully employed guard and you're a vagrant who's behind on his guild dues."

"You can take the dues out of my payment for this job!" Fox offered.

"Except your payment won't cover all of what you owe."

Kavon scratched his head. "What are dues?"

"Don't worry about them, kid. I'm having a hard time making a decision here. Here's what I'll do: you both have the job. First person to kill the rat in Labor Town gets the fifty-septim reward."

Fox's jaw dropped. "What? You can't do that! Guild Act doesn't let—"

"I do whatever the hell I want."

"Thanks, Sera Eydis!" Kavon said.

"Kid's got a good attitude. Never too late to learn, Fox."

No longer pretending to read, Daria watched and wondered what, if anything, she should do next. If Kavon pulled it off, it might get Fox and Willow to leave Balmora. She didn't doubt Kavon capable of killing a rat, even the mean dog-sized variety found in Morrowind. But he might not be smart enough to find it on his own, and Eydis's directions hadn't been the best.

Daria, on the other hand, knew exactly where the client lived.

"I don't believe this!" Fox whirled to Kavon and pointed at him. "You're in way over your head. My advice to you is to stay out of our way."

"Uh, okay. Sera Eydis, can I get started?" Kavon asked.

Eydis laughed. "Whenever you're ready, kid."

"All right!" Kavon pumped his fist into the air.

Fox looked back over his shoulder. "Willow! We got a job and we gotta do it, pronto!"

Standing over a defeated Quinn, Willow jogged over to her husband. Dad, who'd been loitering by the weapons rack with a dejected expression on his face, took notice.

"What's going on?" he asked, shouting to be heard across the room.

"Me and the old lady got some work. You remember what a hustle it could be. We won't be back until late!"

A beaming Kavon walked by. "Thanks, Daria! I owe you one! Again!"

"If anything, Kavon, I might owe you one." Then a thought came to her. "Actually, Kavon, could you wait outside for me? I need to ask you about something."

"Okay!" he said before walking out the door.

Daria stood up. Fox and Willow were talking to dad, who seemed as confused as ever. If she was going to make her move, it needed to be now.

"Dad," she said, "I need to go to Jane's."

"Uh, sure thing, kiddo! Just be back before it gets dark."

"Will do," she said.

Remembering Quinn, Daria looked back to see her sister leaning against the wall, grouchy but none the worse for wear. No need to worry about her, she decided.

Kavon waited for her in the bright sunlight outside, as he'd promised.

"I have a proposition for you," Daria said.

"Uh," he grunted, rubbing the back of his neck. "No offense, Daria, but you're not really my type."

She wondered precisely how stupid he actually was and had a bad feeling she was about to find out. "That's not what I meant."

"Oh! What did you mean?"

"You know that guy you're competing with? His name's Fox and he and his wife are guests at my house. Guests I’d like to get rid of. I'm hoping that if you get the job done before he does, they'll give up on working here and annoy someone else in a different city. Thus, I have a vested interest in your success."

"Can't you kick him out?"

"No, because of this stupid human thing called hospitality. But frankly, he and his wife are disrupting my mom's business, keeping us up to obnoxious hours, and eating all of our food. If they stay on much longer, I'll probably have to smother them in their sleep and a murder rap is the last thing an upwardly mobile young person like me needs on her resume."

Kavon stroked his chin, clearly puzzled. "Man, you outlanders are weird. I'd kick him out. So if I kill the rat like Eydis wants, Fox has to leave your house?"

"That's the hope. I'll be happy to help you. I'm not much of a fighter but I happen to know the client."

"Cool!"

"On that case, let's do this while we still have a head start on Fox and Willow."



*********



“Say, Jake?”

Fox got that devious look he’d always gotten when he was about to go all out. It worried Jake, but he didn’t know what else to do but listen. Around him, fighters sparred and cursed. He felt every one of his forty-six years.

“Yeah?”

“You know where we can find J’dash? The guy hiring us for this contract?”

The name sounded familiar. One of Quinn’s friends?

“Uh, I’m not sure—”

“Maybe you could help us look for him, Jake,” Willow said. “You know this city better than we do.”

“I don’t get into Labor Town a whole lot.”

Fox gripped his shoulder. “Come on. You’re still a warrior, deep down. It’ll be like old times.”

Like old times: blistered feet and soaked clothes; the screams of stricken men and knowing that one moment of bad luck would bring him to a bloody end. The brandy had kept him from thinking about that too much the previous night. But now he was sober.

“I should check with my wife, first—”

The voice of his father, the Mad Wolf of Haafingar, cut into him like a cruel winter’s wind. “No true Nord shuns hardship, Jakob! Are you a man? A warrior? Or are you some cringing shopkeeper enthralled to a woman?”

Jake shivered. “I am a man! And a warrior.” His heart pounded. His mind reeled.

Why am I doing this again? he asked himself.

“Great! That Dunmer kid already has a head start on us, so let’s go!”

Jake, Fox, and Willow went out to seek violence. Just like the old times Jake hated so very much.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mlOmp-idLM

https://dariawiki.org/wiki/Ethan_Yeager - Ethan doesn't show up in the story, presumably still being in Bravil where his parents left him.

https://dariawiki.org/wiki/%22Mad_Dog%22_Morgendorffer- Jake's father never makes an appearance in the series, but his shadow looms large as an emotionally abusive parent who traumatized his son. It's much the same way here.

Posted by: SubRosa Sep 1 2022, 12:59 AM

Oh no, not a smelly cloth helmet! The indignities one must suffer in this world...

Willow is letting things slip, but not quite the fun things that Quinn and Daria were hoping for. It turns out that a life of wandering and adventure might not be everything that Talsgar the Wanderer makes it out be.

"Nah, I don't have time to read. I'm here to fight!"
He sounds perfect!

I never really liked Eydis much. She has always just rubbed me the wrong way. Though I never got far enough into the Fighters Guild questline to see if there was anything actually to that or not. I see you got that too, because she certainly seems unhindered by a strict sense of ethics here.

She wondered precisely how stupid he actually was and had a bad feeling she was about to find out.
That is one of those questions you really never want to learn the answer to.

Oh boy, there is poor Dad, and the never-ending trauma that his father inflicted upon him. One thing I really give Jake credit for is the realizes how fucked up that is, and he has worked very hard to not do the same to his children. He is still scarred by the abuse of course, but he's a far better man that his father ever was.

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Sep 4 2022, 04:20 PM

@SubRosa - Yup, turns out that a life spent on the road has its pitfalls. Some folks can make it work, but Fox and Willow have been doing it too long.

As the Fighters Guild quest line may reveal (depending on how you play it) Eydis is bad. She's in cahoots with folks who are even worse.

Jake's got his flaws, but yes. There's no question that he's a much better father than his own father.

Episode 10: The Worst Years of Our Lives

Chapter 5


The sun burned its way to the west as Daria and Kavon walked through Labor Town. Shadows grew long in the crowded streets as merchants made their last calls to the weary workers trudging to homes and cornerclubs.

"Isn't clearing the town of pests something the Hlaalu guards should be doing?" Daria asked as they walked. She had to shout to be heard above the hoarse cries of stubborn traders.

"Oh, yeah, we do that!" Kavon said.

"But you're killing this rat on behalf of the Fighters Guild."

"Us guards only do pest control in High Town and the Commercial District. Labor Town's big so it'd be super-expensive for us to keep it clean. My boss said that having the folks in Labor Town hire Fighters Guild guys means the rest of us don't have to pay as many taxes."

"What about the fact that people in Labor Town don't usually have as much money? Doesn't that mean they can't typically afford to hire fighters? And the pest problem gets worse?"

"Aw, they always figure something out. Anyway, this means more work for people like me."

"Classic Hlaalu. But you've killed rats before."

"Nope," Kavon said, almost proudly.

"What do you do as a guard, then?"

"I keep watch on the towers around High Town. But don't worry, Daria. A big part of being a guard is looking tough enough that nobody messes with you. And me?" He stopped and turned to face her, then took a flexing poise. "I look pretty tough."

"Kavon, you know I can't see you flex through that armor, right?"

"Huh?" His eyes widened, and then he let his arms fall. "Oh, yeah, huh. Anyway, I'm not worried. We'll probably scare the rat away."

They reached the apartment to find out that Jane wasn’t home yet. However, J’dash was happy to show Daria where he’d found the rat. The Khajiit had actually sniffed out the trail that morning, so he retraced his steps and led Daria and Kavon to a narrow alley a few blocks away from the South Wall Cornerclub. Filth and garbage lay heaped up against the dirt-streaked walls, their moldering forms studded with clay shards and dried beetle husks.

"Rat is somewhere here." He made a growling noise. "Khajiit finds the smell offensive. Perhaps noses of Mer and Men are less sensitive?"

If it reeked to her, it was probably borderline intolerable to him. The alley wasn't long, terminating in a wall about ten feet in. The rat likely made its nest under one of the heaps.

"Okay," she said. "First we find the nest."

"And then charge in! Yeah!" Kavon exclaimed.

"A rat nest is way too small for you to charge into," Daria said.

"But isn't this like a really big rat?"

"Not big enough for that. Rats tend to be retiring, so our target’s going to come out at night when there are fewer people around. What we should do is make a trail of food from the rat’s nest to the mouth of the alley. We wait for it to follow, and then strike.”

“Imperial is a clever huntress,” J’dash said.

“If I remember correctly, rats do like the taste of marshmerrow pulp.”

“Bosmer a few streets down sells marshmerrow. Come, this one will show you,” J’dash offered.

“Kavon, you stand guard.”

“Yes ma’am!”

A bit later, Daria returned with a few marshmerrow reeds in her hand. Now came the hard part.

Taking a deep breath, Daria stepped into the alley. It was like wading into a sea of stench and she suppressed a gag. Her eyes watered, mixing with the distortion of her glasses so that she could barely see.

"Dammit," she uttered. She took off her glasses and blinked away the tears. A soft step behind her revealed the presence of J’dash.

Daria again donned her glasses and stepped forward, her booted foot sinking into something wet. She wondered if the bathwater still in the tub from last night was clean enough for another go-around. Trying not to breathe, she peered through the darkness for some sign of a nest. The rat could be huddled underneath any of the decaying heaps.

"Rat is here," J'dash whispered, pointing to a partially collapsed barrel a few feet ahead. "Khajiit can smell it."

"Okay." Daria leaned in for a better look. She couldn't see a thing, but Khajiit had sharper senses than humans. She took one of the marshmerrow strands and tore off a chunk. Sticky and sugary pulp dripped out the ripped end. She threw the piece at the nest and it landed in front of the entrance.

Daria tossed another and another, making a trail. Doing this, she backed out of the alley, all the while hoping she didn't slip on anything and fall into the muck.

Finally done, she looked to Kavon as the last of the sun’s light slipped behind the adobe blocks. "Now we wait."



*********



“You win again, old man,” Jake muttered as he pretended to know where he was going.

The grid of Labor Town spread out in all directions, the big streets connected by winding alleys that ran between the rough earthen apartments and grubby shops. Jake mostly helped independent Dunmer merchants figure out how to pitch their goods to the shipping magnates that connected Vvardenfell with mainland Morrowind and the rest of the Empire, and those merchants usually lived in the Commercial District.

“Hey, Jake, you sure you know where you’re going?” Fox asked.

“This is like Karthwasten all over again,” Willow muttered.

“Uh, give me minute. They’re always doing construction in Labor Town. It’s like it’s never the same neighborhood two days in a row!” He faked a laugh.

Who was he fooling? He was a failed warrior and thus a failed man, like dad had said. He didn’t actually want to kill the rat. Sure, he got that rats were dangerous, but he’d seen enough blood for one lifetime. Poor rat probably just wanted a few crumbs, same as anyone else.

They came to a crossroads plaza where late shoppers searched for deals under the darkening sky. At the edge walked a Dunmer girl with bobbed black hair and a canvas under her arm.

“Oh! Jane!” he cried out.

Jane turned, eyes widening in surprise.

“Hi, Mr. Morgendorffer! Didn’t expect to see you in Labor Town.”

“Didn’t expect to be here! Say, could you do me a favor? My friends are from the Fighters Guild, and they’ve been hired by some guy named J’dash to kill a rat—”

“J’dash! Yeah, he’s my landlord. Didn’t know he’d hired the guild to take care of the rat.”

That’s how he knew the name! “Think you could show us where he is?”

“Follow me.”

“Yes!” Jake cheered. His smile vanished when he saw the puzzled looks from Fox and Willow.

Why didn’t they get it? He’d used networking to find J’dash. The great thing about leveraging personal relations for business was that you didn’t have to cut anyone’s head off. Not usually, anyway.

“Who’d you paint today, Jane-o?” he asked, to distract himself.

“Conemmus Terano. Big-shot silk merchant. He doesn’t live far from you.”

“Oh yeah, I know him. Nice guy. By the way, is Daria still at your place?”

“Huh? I don’t—oh, yeah, she left right when I went to go, uh, retrieve my painting from the Terano house. She must be home by now.”

“Great!”

Jane brought them to a cluttered junk shop with a tiny second story.

“Hmm, no lights. He might not be home.”

Fox groaned. “Great going, Jake.”

“Hold on,” Jane said. “The rat ran off when J’dash found it, but he sniffed out its trail. Khajiit can do that. I think I remember where he went. Let me put my things upstairs, first. And maybe get J'dash's club, just in case.”

What a relief. He was useful!

“You’re a lifesaver, Jane. Lead the way once you get everything!”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QM74Q6Vqqps

Posted by: SubRosa Sep 4 2022, 11:45 PM

Once again I love how you worked Classism into the story. The Hlaalu guards routinely kill these rats, but only for the people who matter. The Poors are expected to spend the money they don't have to have it done by a mercenary company. Or do it themselves. Capitalism!

So the rat lives in an alley filled with trash. If only there was some way to prevent places like that from turning into cesspits that attract vermin, like implementing social services such as trash collection. But I can't think of anything like that...

So Daria wants to lure it out with a trail of food? My plan was to burn down the alley and all the buildings adjacent to it. But, okay Daria, we'll try it your way first. wink.gif

Oh noes! Jane is going to unwittingly foil Daria's plan! I am sure hijinks will ensue however.

Jake is quite right. He did use networking to solve a problem. Without cutting anyone's head off.

Posted by: Acadian Sep 5 2022, 09:13 PM

Had an enjoyable cruise. Some catching up to do here though!

Chapter 3

Keep the rats out if they don’t pay rent – great policy!

Quinn, in her so totally suitable pink moth-silk dress, continues to show us her particular form of cleverness as she touts the blackmail potential from their houseguests. Though I did have to laugh at her totally Quinnish reaction to the wonderful smells in the Fighters Guild.

Ahah, so Daria overhears how Fox plans to overmilk his friendship with her dad to stay for months – ugh!

Rats! I kind of hope the rats take down Fox and Willow – poof, problem of unwanted houseguests solved.

"Arrows just bounce off these old eye-plates," - - Daria has so much more wits than Kavon it is quite unfair. laugh.gif

Chapter 4

Aww, poor Quinn gets her pink-dressed arse kicked. . . but does learn that Willow is not a happy hippie.

The three way among Kavon, Fox and Eydis was a hoot! I will say Eydis knows at least a little about human/mer nature and did some good string pulling given that one prospect is lazy and the other dumb as a rock.

Daria has a good plan to pair her brain and location knowledge with Kavon’s young, dumb, strong sword arm. Damn, Fox is. . . foxier than I thought. Of course he’s going to pair up with Willow. Doubledamn, now the manipulative ashbag has sucked Jake into his quest. I’m guessing this could get real interesting. . . .

Chapter 5

I laughed as Daria described rats as ‘retiring’ – then of course went on to explain what that meant for Kavon’s benefit. A good plan team Daria has.

Uh-oh, team Jake gets some unexpected help from Jane. Too bad she had not been home when Daria popped by her house – then she would surely have been on team Daria. Not Jane’s fault that she’s unaware of what’s going on here. In true Jane fashion though she smoothly covers for her friend in response to the ‘Is Daria still visiting with you?’ question.

Well, here’s hoping the rat takes out Fox & Willow, then Kavon kills the rat. Poof, all problems solved. evillol.gif

Posted by: Renee Sep 7 2022, 02:27 PM

The sparring session between Quinn and Willow sounds awful! Shouldn't Willow be teaching the younger gal some moves? laugh.gif Sounds like she's just pummeling the poor child.

Cool. I actually like there's a contest between Fox and this Kavon kid. That's smart. Especially since Fox was initially complaining about being an exterminator. 🐀

Sonic Youth is great! ... Since you're new to this sort of music, it's important to know SY is one of the bands from the 1980s which inspired a whole bunch of acts from the '90s, like a lot of those Seattle bands. But I don't wanna get too off-topic. Suffice it to say that while SY was beginning, most popular heavy music from the times were a bunch of spandex-wearing, big-haired "metal" bands. Fun music, but not really raw and gritty (except Metallica, who was the huge exception).

QUOTE
"Isn't clearing the town of pests something the Hlaalu guards should be doing?"


Ha, you know? Anyway, it sounds like for all his words, Kavon is getting into something over his head. Because looking big & tough will definitely NOT scare any dog-sized rodents away. unsure.gif

Jake uses his networking skills. smile.gif Fox & Willow seem to disapprove of this. Wow.

This seems like it's going to be a cluster[censored].

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Sep 7 2022, 04:29 PM

@SubRosa - Technically (puts on pedant hat), Great House Hlaalu is mercantilist, not capitalist. With mercantilism, prices are determined by monopolies with powerful state-backing, and there's a general assumption that an entity should try to control all the resources particularly for export. While capitalists will typically claim that they support competitive market environments, and be against government monopolies, but plenty will end up supporting such things so long as they benefit. Maybe mercantilists are just more open about what they support?

Services like trash collection? Pah, the very idea! Clearly, those affected should just hire the Fighters Guild for the job.

(In Project Tamriel lore, there is a Ratcatchers Guild, but I think they're limited to Cyrodiil).

And as much as Daria dislikes networking, she's better suited for that than she is for combat.

@Acadian - Welcome back!

Yeah, the overall situation keeps escalating here. The characters that Fox and Willow were based on had tired of the hippie life, but didn't want to admit it. Same here, except the fighters' life is a lot more grueling and dangerous. I figure that being in the Fighters Guild is a lot like doing any other heavily physical job. It's extremely draining, and best to get on the business side of things once you hit middle age.

@Renee - Willow's got a lot of anger to work through.

Yeah, Nirvana's often credited with disrupting the rock scene, but I know that there were other bands that also played a big part. Kind of a repeat of punk arising as a reaction to disco, though on a much larger scale (since I think punk remained fairly niche).

Kavon's going to be in way of his head. Lucky for him, he has help.

Episode 10: The Worst Years of Our Lives

Chapter 6


Daria waited as sunset turned to dusk. Only stragglers still walked down the street. It was unwise to wander alone through Labor Town at night. Then again, she’d only ever been attacked in the Commercial District.

She and Kavon sat behind the corner of the abandoned apartment next to the alley, eyes on the trail of marshmerrow segments winding through the trash. Hopefully, the rat would follow the trail to them. Kavon would kill it, but as a precaution he’d lent her a short blade made of sharpened chitin. It wasn’t much, but better than nothing.

J’dash hovered behind them, apparently wanting to see this through to the end.

“Man, this is boring—” Kavon started.

Daria hushed him, not wanting chatter to scare away the rat. He was right though. The waiting was boring. She found it hard to believe someone as high-strung as dad could have ever put up with this sort of thing.

“Khajiit hears Jane! But what is Jane doing here?” J’dash said.

“Huh?” Daria turned around to see J’dash pointing back from where they came. Dad and Jane walked down the street, with Fox and Willow behind them.

She turned cold. This was bad. “Kavon, hide.”

“Huh? I’m a fighter, Daria, I don’t hide. And I thought you didn’t want me to talk—”

“Just hide, dammit! Your competitors from the guild are here, and I don’t want them to figure out that we’ve found the rat’s lair.”

J’dash made a rattling purr. “Maybe competitors are not so bad. Khajiit is concerned about that one’s competence,” he said, pointing to Kavon.

He had a point. “Look, let me see what’s going on,” Daria said.

Exhaling and hoping she didn’t smell too awful, Daria approached the quartet. Jane led the way, a stout stick in her right hand.

“Daria, is that you?” dad called, his voice echoing in the street.

“It’s me. What’s going on?”

“I thought you went home.”

She remembered her earlier excuse about going to Jane’s. “No, I hung around for a bit. I’m, uh, about to go home.”

They got close enough to speak at normal volume. “This isn’t a safe place, kiddo.”

“I know. I lost track of the time.” She decided to feign ignorance. “What are Fox and Willow doing here?”

“We got a contract to kill a rat in this neighborhood,” Fox said.

Kavon stepped away from the alley entrance. “Uh, hey! Me and Daria already found the rat. So you guys gotta find a different rat to kill.”

Daria put her palm over her face.

“What’s going on here?” dad demanded.

Fox glared at dad. “I think your daughter was helping the opposition. Maybe she’s sweet on the kid.”

“I am most certainly not,” Daria said.

Then Fox turned to Kavon and stalked toward him, his hand on the hilt of his sword. Willow followed close, the butt of her spear tapping on the ground.

“Look, punk. My wife and I have killed more people than you can count to. So you’d best get out of here before we turn mean.”

Kavon puffed up his chest. “Oh yeah? I’m not afraid of you.”

“Rat is here!” J’dash shouted. “Idiots!”

Daria looked in time to see an enormous rat barrel out of the alley. Bristling black fur as thick as a porcupine’s quills covered its muscular body, and the naked pink tail moved like a whip.

“Guys! It’s the rat!” dad yelled.

The rat ran past J’dash, trying to make a break for it. Dad moved first, shouting as he jumped in its path. It swerved toward Daria. She drew her puny weapon as the monster bore down, its incisors gleaming in the torchlight. It suddenly shrieked in pain as Jane beat its flank with her stick. The beast spun and lunged at her, but she ably hopped out of the way.

Hissing in rage, the rat whirled and scurried in the other direction. J’dash was already waiting. The Khajiit ducked low and lashed out with his hand. The rat tumbled, screeching as blood and worse spilled out from its body. Dragging itself a bit farther down the street, it collapsed and went still.

Meanwhile, Kavon still argued with Fox and Willow.

“I don’t care that you were here first, we’ve been with the guild longer!” Fox said.

J’dash stalked up to the quarreling trio and roared. He thrust out his clawed right hand, drenched in blood.

“Khajiit has killed the rat! Khajiit will not pay Fighters Guild! Guild has done nothing on this day.”

“Wait, you killed the rat?” Kavon asked.

“Yes, Khajiit has done guild's job. Khajiit will enjoy the coin Khajiit was going to give to guild. Only Khajiit’s friends helped.” He motioned to the rest.

Willow pointed at Kavon. “See what you did? Now none of us are going to get paid!”

“Hey, don’t get mad at me! I’d have been on that rat if you jerks hadn’t interrupted.”

“We needed that job!” Fox stepped back and drew his sword.

Daria gasped. Killing rats was one thing. People killing each other was quite another. There had to be something she could say, some clever remark.

Instead, dad stepped between the combatants with his arms held out.

“All of you settle down!” he bellowed.

Again, Daria saw the warrior he’d once been: fearless and in control. Judging by the reactions, so did Fox, Willow, and Kavon.

“Look,” he continued, in a quieter voice. “You guys need to do some basic cost-benefit analysis. How much is this job worth?”

“Fifty septims. That we need!” Fox groused.

“Okay, fifty septims. And how are you going to spend that in prison if you kill this kid over here?”

“It’s not about the money!” Fox said.

“No, it totally is,” Willow corrected.

“It’s always about the money!” dad said, his voice turning cheery. “What kind of work do you do, son?” he asked Kavon.

“Uh, I’m a guard.”

“Hmm, I don’t think the guard captains would like one of their own getting into fights with guildies.”

Kavon nodded. “Huh, yeah, I guess you’re right. Uh, what were we fighting about?”

Fox shook his head. “Clever words, Jake, but words are no match for blades. Plus, uh, we still need that money.”

“I’m not finished yet!” Jake said. “That fifty wasn’t going to take you far. And I heard how you negotiated with Eydis, with all that stuff about unpaid dues. You never want to start a business relationship off from a position of weakness.”

“But the guild is all we know!” Willow protested.

“Which is why you need to diversify your employment opportunities! There’s plenty of guys looking for tough fighters like you. In fact, I happen to know that the East Empire Company is always hiring.”

Fox looked abashed. “East Empire Company? I don’t want to go corporate—”

“That sounds like a good idea,” Willow said.

Some of the tension left the air. Weapons were still drawn but held loosely.

Dad kept going. “Pay’s not bad and they’ll give you a place to stay. Spend a few years doing a good job and that mix-up with the guild won’t matter.”

Everyone was quiet for a moment. Then Fox spoke. “I can’t believe I got that worked up over a rat-killing job. Maybe you’re right, Jake. Maybe it’s time to settle down and let go of the past.”

“Long past time,” Willow muttered.

“So, uh, are we still mad at each other?” Kavon asked.

Fox shook his head. “Nah, Jake talked some sense into us. Sorry for going after you, kid.”

“Aw, it’s okay.”

Fox held out his hand, and Kavon was apparently familiar enough with Nord and Imperial customs to shake it. He repeated the ritual with Willow.

Dad raised his face to the starry sky and shook his fist. “Yeah, you hear that dad? I didn’t even need a weapon to get what I wanted! Who cares about Jake the Warrior! I’m Jake the Negotiator!”



*********



Fox and Willow left early the next morning. They seemed much more tolerable once chastened by their experience, and Daria almost felt sorry for them as they left for Ebonheart, where the EEC kept its Vvardenfell District headquarters.

Dad was still riding high on his success the previous night. Not long after their guests departed, Daria confessed her involvement to him over a pot of trama root tea in the kitchen. She felt partially responsible for the confrontation. As much as she’d disliked the people involved, she didn’t want to be responsible for death or serious injury.

“I guess it was a little impulsive to help Kavon,” dad said. “But you couldn’t have known they’d go that far. Frankly, it was pretty damn unprofessional of Eydis to set up a competition like that!” He scowled and slammed his fist on the table.

“For what it’s worth dad, you did an impressive job last night.”

He grinned. “See? Your old dad isn’t so lame after all!”

“Don’t let it go to your head.”

He looked taken aback for a moment, and then laughed. “Let me tell you, Daria. Guild life wasn’t that great.”

“Does this mean mom won’t pressure me to intern at them any longer?”

“Most guilds are fine! And the Fighters Guild is important but, well, I never liked it. You know, the only reason I joined up was to get away from my dad. He was about to march me off to the War of Bend’r-Mahk, but I didn’t want to kill people. So I did the guild instead. Figured that’d still be a way to prove myself and I wouldn’t have to do much more than guard caravans or fight monsters.

“And I had some fun with Fox and Willow. But a lot of it really sucked. I killed some bandits. I don’t regret it. I mean, they were killers, too. That sort of thing sticks with you, though. I met mom not long after that and we decided to go our own way. Except I always wondered if I was a coward for doing that. Knew my old man wouldn’t approve of me going into business.

“But last night I realized I don’t need to kill my way into greatness! I can talk my way into it, instead! I like that a lot better. Because that way, no one has to die.”

“Except for that rat.”

“Well, yeah. Except for the rat. But J’dash killed him, not me. Anyway, I like being able to talk my way into greatness.”

“On that case, Balmora’s legalism and intrigue probably suit you perfectly,” Daria said.

“Hell yeah!”

He raised his clay teacup over the table, and Daria did the same, the vessels clinking against each other in a heartfelt toast.



The End


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdeqNoMJJpw

The next few episodes are single-chapter entries. Short episodes like that generally grow scarcer as the series continues, but there are still some in the works.

Posted by: Acadian Sep 7 2022, 08:36 PM

Wow, Fox and Willow show their true colors. We knew they were self-centered moochers but now we can add mean spirited and spiteful to the list.

And Jake the Negotiator to the rescue! A masterful de-escalation of tensions between Dumb and Dumber. Jake is clearly a master of Speechcraft.

The best news of all though is the two moochers are gone. They give small canids and beautiful trees that symbolize fertility and new life bad names.

With this chapter, you did a fabulous job of crafting a rat hunting quest into a delightful story. smile.gif

Posted by: SubRosa Sep 9 2022, 04:06 AM

Trust Kavon to just throw the fat directly into the fire...

Wow, Fox is turning out to be a real dick.

Now this is poetic. It was J'dash who wound up killing the rat in the end. Not any of the people he had hired to do it. smile.gif

Way to go Dad! He is showing what he does as a consultant, using his brain (and networking) to solve problems for his clients, rather than his fists. Unlike Fox and Willow, he grew up.

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Sep 10 2022, 04:54 PM

@Acadian - At least Fox and Willow aren't mooching off the Morgendorffers anymore. Instead, they're more deeply embedded within the Empire's corrupt extractive infrastructure in the form of the EEC. Victory!

Thanks, it was fun to put my own spin on the traditional rat quest.

@SubRosa - As J'dash knows well, sometimes to do the job right, you have to do it yourself.

Episode 11: Heathers

"What a splendid bunch."

Synda Grilvayn kept her eyes downcast as Serjo Nevena Ules glided past her and the other girls, all of them Dunmer.

"Off you go, then! Gather the heather by dusk's fading light, the flowers aflame shall keep our land bright," Nevana said, reciting the tradition’s age-old words.

"You honor us, Serjo Ules," the girls said in unison. Synda spoke the words with certainty; loud, but not so loud as to appear arrogant or brash. She knew that everyone watched and that everyone would be satisfied.

The girls filtered out from the tents around Ules Manor, set up for the great woman's 150th birthday, and onto the rolling hills of the Ascadian Isles. They split into groups of twos or threes, giggling and chattering as they searched the green lands for violet heather flowers, ready to pull them from the earth and ready them for the flame as their mothers and grandmothers had done before them.

Most of the girls here came from the plantations and manors all throughout the countryside, or from the teeming Hlaalu Canton of Vivec City. Synda's family was one of the few invited from Balmora. That they endured the rigors of such a long journey demonstrated the respect they held for Serjo Ules and Great House Hlaalu.

Likewise, with the Rowenis, who had brought their foolish daughter, Satheri, with them. Satheri stood on her own, her big watery eyes searching for a friend among her own kind, her hands nervously clutching her thick dark blue dress the way a child would.

The poor girl simply had no idea what to do. Hardly a surprise, given that she counted outlanders among her closest friends. But seeing the rest gathered in familiar cliques, Synda reasoned that she needed an ally.

"Satheri. Perhaps we should pool our resources and work together," Synda said. She did not use an honorific; the Grilvayns had less wealth than the Rowenis but more esteem.

"Oh! Thank you, Sera Grilvayn," Satheri stammered. "Um, you never talk to me at school—"

"Come now, Satheri. We are both from Balmora. The rest of these girls will never see us as being on their level."

"Yeah, it's kind of scary!"

"There's no need for fear. Come, let's gather up the heather."

They struck out on their own toward a ridge where tall grasses swayed in the breeze.

"I think I see some over there!" Satheri exclaimed, pointing at a bush covered with bright yellow blossoms. "Oh, wait. That doesn't look right."

Synda shook her head and frowned slightly in disappointment. "I see you lack familiarity with the flora of your homeland. Not surprising, given that your family must associate with outlanders. Look for violet flowers."

"Thank you. You're so smart," Satheri gushed. The sheer relief in her voice gave it a pathetic quality.

Synda doubted Satheri knew the origins of the heather-burning ritual. She decided to keep that knowledge to herself for the time being.

Satheri found a good collection a bit later, though only because Synda had guided them south toward the riverbank where she knew heather would grow. She stood by and let Satheri gather the blossoms, the girl giggling with delight as she pulled them from the ground.

"This is fun, Sera Grilvayn! Sometimes I wish I lived in a big manor here so I could go out and do this all the time. But I guess I like being in the city, too."

Synda listened as she plucked a few flowers of her own. She wished she could pull Satheri away from Balmora. Foolish young girls like her were too easily swayed by the lies of outlanders. In another life, Satheri could have come of age as a humble Hlaalu girl; one who lacked ambition, but able to support a husband who possessed that trait.

The Empire had taken that from Satheri.

"All Dunmer should know their traditions," Synda said.

Satheri paused from her labors. "Oh, I worship the Tribunal!"

"I would expect no less. But there is more to it than the Tribunal. Unfortunately, I think much of that is being lost."

"It's too bad, I guess." She said it utterly without conviction, her lament as fleeting as an Imperial fad.

Satheri had gathered a veritable panoply of heather by the time she finished, the flowers bursting from her cradled arms like a frozen firework.

"Come, let's return to the manor. I'm sure the others will be impressed," Synda said, speaking the words as an order.

"Thanks for the help, Sera Grilvayn. I wouldn't have found them without you."

"We Dunmer must look after each other."

"But those other girls are Dunmer, too."

Synda sighed, making sure she sounded a little exasperated. "Dunmer help other Dunmer. Each Great House helps its constituents. Each community helps those who are part of it, and so on and so forth. It's like sisterhood."

"You're so wise, Sera Grilvayn," Satheri said.

They walked back to Ules Manor as the first stars twinkled in the darkening eastern sky. Seeing the manor brought a swell of pride to Synda's heart: she loved the fine tents arrayed around the lavish adobe manse, and the crisp sound of Dunmer voices free of louche foreigners. Serjo Ules's sentiments about outlanders were well-known, and none had been invited to her birthday. Synda was surprised that Satheri's parents had been invited, given how closely they worked with the Empire. But wealth carried weight, as it must.

Synda's mother, Lynda, stood at the edge of the manor grounds. With her was Satheri's father, Vesleth, the two of them in quiet conversation until they took notice of the girls.

"Ah, Satheri!" said Vesleth. "I see you've already made a friend."

"Yes, father! Sera Grilvayn's been very kind." Satheri gave Synda a warm smile, which Synda returned with a barely detectable upturning of her lips. One should not be too open to an inferior, which Satheri had acknowledged herself as being through her behavior and word choice.

"We both go to Drenlyn but we, uh, never had the chance to talk before, I guess," Satheri continued. "I'm glad we did."

"Your family is always welcome at our house," Vesleth said to Lynda, bowing his head ever so slightly. The gesture of respect seemed sullied; Vesleth certainly capered before Imperials in the same way.

"The honor is ours, Sera Roweni," mother said.

"Looks like the bonfire is about to start. Seems our girls have gathered quite a lot!"

"Indeed. I must speak with Synda, a moment."

And the way she said that left no doubt that Synda had erred. A coldness gripped her heart, deeper than the chill of the autumn evening around her. Every action reflected on family, on great house, and on nation. Error meant shame a hundred times over.

Suddenly faint, Synda followed her mother to a secluded spot next to a leaning emperor parasol, the air beneath the cap smelling of fungal spores.

Mother stared down at her. "Serjo Ules's birthday brings notable young men and women from around Vvardenfell. I'm surprised you'd be so foolish as to befriend a rube like Satheri. Why not one of the Lleran girls? Or perhaps you could grab the attention of that Sandas boy so you can marry someone useful?"

Synda gulped. So much depended on her. Those families would all be strong allies for the Grilvayns. The Rowenis, for all their wealth, could never help that much. She searched for an excuse, her palms damp with sweat.

"I, uh, felt sorry for her, mother. I thought maybe I could turn her into, uh, an asset—"

Mother slapped her. The strike was light, but the sting struck deep. Synda hung her head in shame but held back her tears. Dunmer did not weep at hardship; mother had made this clear.

"Your father and I worked very hard to ensure this invitation and you have squandered it." Mother gave a frustrated sigh. "Go toss your heather into the flames. We'll discuss this later. Perhaps you can make up for your mistake tomorrow."

"Of course, mother."

Synda straightened herself as she and her mother returned to the party grounds, their faces betraying no emotion. Yet her mind tore at itself; she'd shown weakness. Many called Great House Hlaalu soft for how they traded with outlanders, but she knew that such business required strength. Strength to enrich oneself from foreigners without falling too deeply into their ways.

She could not afford another error.

Serjo Ules stood near the fire, her smile crooked. "Now, let the girls gather and give us light!" she proclaimed, her words running together as she raised her goblet above her, a bit of the drink within spilling over the edge.

The musicians began to play, a mix of heavy drums and ponderous bells held together by the strumming of carapace harps. None of the boastfulness of northern songs or the atonal bombast of Imperial music, the notes stately and spaced far apart.

Synda stood behind Satheri, the girl wearing a broad smile and sniffing the aroma of the heather blossoms she held. She'd gotten more than most. The line moved, each girl walking in tune with the music and tossing the flowers in the fire. Purple petals blackened and curled as the flames consumed them.

Satheri couldn't resist giving a little cheer as she flung her offering into the bonfire, some of the flowers fluttering off to the side. Synda followed, submitted her more humble offering, and joined Satheri at the edge of the fire's light.

"That was truly an impressive gesture," Synda said.

"Oh, thanks Sera Grilvayn! But it's because of you. Heh, I probably wouldn't have found anything if you hadn't guided me."

A dark joy stirred in Synda's heart. "Still, you gathered many flowers. It's especially surprising considering your father's business, and what the heather represents."

Satheri's smile faded. "Sorry? I don't understand what you mean."

"Well, your father works closely with the Empire, does he not? You yourself have many outlander friends."

"I mean, well, yeah. They're really nice though. I think you'd like them if you got to know—"

Synda did not let her finish. "You see, heather is not native to Morrowind."

"It's not?"

She shook her head. "No. It comes from Skyrim. It's a weed, Satheri."

"But it's so pretty!"

"A pretty weed is still a weed. Our ancestors burned heather because the weed symbolizes outlanders. We can use them for our purposes, to enrich ourselves and Great House Hlaalu, but they are a resource to be used. Nothing more. So it was very courageous of you to burn so many, considering who you spend time with. I’m glad to see your loyalties are with your people."

Satheri trembled. "Wait, you mean people will think—"

"You've shown that you don't need those outlanders you hang out with."

"But Muthsera Morgendorffer—I mean, Sera Morgendorffer—oh no!" Satheri's breath came in quick gasps, and she grabbed at her collar.

"Why are you so alarmed, Satheri?" Synda asked.

Satheri fell to her knees. Synda’s pity turned to disgust. How emotional. Much like an Imperial or a Nord.

"Oh my gosh, Synda, you can't tell Quinn I did this! I mean, I know it's important that I not get too close, but I really like her and she's my best friend and she makes me feel better and someday we’re going to go to like the Imperial City and—"

Synda wondered if the girl would pass out. She held out her hand to tell Satheri to stop, but she was already hyperventilating.

"You have nothing to be ashamed about, Satheri. With your father's business concerns being what they are, I can see why you'd not want people to know."

"So, you won't tell?" Satheri could barely get the words out.

"I can keep a secret, for now. Just remember who your true friends are. I will never judge you for burning some little flower."

Satheri was thick, but not so thick as to miss the implication.

"Thank you, Sera Grilvayn. Thank you. Truly."

Sera. Yet she'd called Quinn muthsera. Satheri might not have meant that as an insult, but it was one. Regardless, Synda had given Satheri a valuable lesson on how the world worked. The Dunmer valued such things, and perhaps one day Satheri could be a useful Dunmer.

Synda watched the sooty flames climb higher as the band played on, the ancient melody sounding across the ancient landscape. In truth, Quinn would not understand the symbolism of Satheri burning the heather, and neither would her father's business associates. Yes, heather symbolized outlanders, and had once served as a convenient effigy. Today it was mostly tradition, unmoored from the past.

Yet Synda knew there was value in the old traditions. The evening had proven it.


The End

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZVfoOgcFIY

https://en.uesp.net/wiki/Morrowind:Nevena_Ules - Nevena is one of the local Councilors for Great House Hlaalu, so she's actually quite a big deal within their system.

Posted by: SubRosa Sep 10 2022, 09:31 PM

150th birthday. That brings home the fact that elves age a lot slower that humans.

Synda is clearly a very arrogant, calculating, socially ruthless character here. Just like in the show. She's not making nice with Satheri, she's enlisting her to her cause to beef up her own presence among the Ascadian Islers.

Also, her xenophobia is on subtle, but clear display as well. Not to say imperial conquerors do not deserve it. But it still plainly marks her out from other Dunmer, especially Hlaalu ones, who have learned to work within the Imperial system, in spite of all the warts.

Wow, Mom shows where a lot of Synda's worst traits come from. Quite an ugly family.

Posted by: Acadian Sep 11 2022, 08:29 PM

A fascinating look into the muck-filled dumpster that is the mind of Synda. And she’s only a marginal Dunmer according to her piece of work mother. Synda’s mother sounds even more serious about ‘networking’ than Daria’s mom.

The lore you presented about the heather weed was very interesting and really brought the purpose of this ceremony to life.

I suspect Synda plans to use poor Satheri’s naivete and gullibility for some unpleasant strike against one or both of the Morgendorffer girls.

Posted by: Renee Sep 13 2022, 05:25 PM

What a mess! So they've all shown up to pwn this rat, which is a no-show, so far!

Oh no! Kavon did NOT just say ... Ha, not that it matters. Neither of them exterminated the rat. 🐀 Wow, so dad managed to calm them all down. That's some good Speechcraft at work there.

Since a handshake might not be known to Dunmer, what would Kavon normally do while greeting?

Gotta get back to work. Catch up with Heathers later, or maybe tomorrow.

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Sep 14 2022, 04:19 PM

@SubRosa - I couldn't find a clear answer on how quickly Mer age compare to humans, so for the sake of my sanity, I assumed that Mer and Men age at more or less the same rate until they hit their early twenties. Granted, it might be interesting to have a fifty-year old Jane who's still effectively a teenager, but it just raised more headaches than I wanted to deal with. For what it's worth, I figure this version of Trent is in his early thirties.

Synda's a pretty dark character. As much as I love Morrowind, there's no question that the society in it is pretty dysfunctional, and her family displays a lot of the worst traits. She lives in a pressure cooker, and that will take its toll as the series progresses.

@Ascadian - You'll eventually see just how ruthless Synda's mother can be. Living up to that might not be so easy for Synda, in fact...

The stuff about the heather was my own idea, but it is the only (or one of the only) herbs in the base game to be an actual RL plant. Hence, it made sense to decide it's not native to Vvardenfell the way willow anther or stoneflowers are.

@Renee - Speechcraft is a pretty handy skill, even if Morrowind's persuasion system is... less than intuitive. Oblivion's was kind of complicated, but worked well enough once you figured it out.

A few stories mentioned that Dunmer bow, though typically not that deeply.

Episode 12: The Balmora Beat

It all came down to the uniform. They'd drilled that fact into Maiko's head since he'd been a raw recruit: anything you did for the legion had to be in legion colors.

Of course, there'd been some guys who did stupid things in legion colors. Most of them smartened up after the first flogging. As for Maiko, keeping his nose clean just came natural. Dad always said it was usually easier to follow the rules. Maiko hadn't always seen eye to eye with his dad, but the old man had been right about that.

Maiko was polishing the metal of his cuirass when Larrius Varro marched up to him that morning, the dawn no more than a bright sliver above the jagged eastern ridges.

"Agent Maiko," Varro said by way of greeting.

"Yes, sir!" Maiko stood and saluted.

"Go to Balmora today. You'll be paying your contacts a surprise visit."

"Understood, sir. Is there anything going on?"

Varro gave an arch smile. "That's what we're trying to find out! Speak to your liaisons in the Hlaalu constabulary but also get in touch with some of your... unofficial sources. Write a full report on the state of the city and have it on my desk by sun-up tomorrow. Should be routine."

Maiko saluted again. He always liked heading off to Balmora. Gave him a chance to get a feel for the city he protected, see who was who and what was what. Not to mention some extra time with Jolda.

Which meant his uniform had to be spotless.

It was a bit ridiculous, he thought as he marched out from Moonmoth Legion Fort in full array. Half the time the uniform made him feel more like an advertisement than a soldier. But maybe that was a good thing. Maybe as long as the ads worked, he and his buddies wouldn't have to go into battle.

He'd seen battle once. Once was enough.



*********



Maiko's meeting with Captain Hleren Llarlo that day went exactly like all the others. They exchanged formalities, Hleren flattered him for a minute or so, and then reported that everything was fine.

Which was what Varro expected Hleren to report. The guy was a Hlaalu so he'd say anything to make other Hlaalu look good. Same as any other great house, or the legion itself for that matter. Boosting your boss was always part of the job. So Maiko nodded, said he was happy to hear that, and walked out of the guard precinct in search of more honest answers.

He could sort of get those from Kavon.

He found Kavon in his usual post atop one of the blocky towers that encircled High Town. The Dunmer guard slumped in a chair, dozing in the shade of a canvas tarp. He didn't hear Maiko open the trap door and clamber up from the ladder.

Maiko looked out onto the humming city before him. From up there, Balmora looked as tidy as a paper map, the streets straight and the houses clustered into neat squares. The Hlaalu had their problems, but they sure made their cities simple to navigate. Things only got complicated up close. But up on the tower, with a cool breeze chasing away the volcanic smog, it looked safe and understandable, a problem easy to solve.

"Oh, hey Maiko!"

He turned around to see Kavon waking up from his nap. Talking with the guy got annoying, but Maiko knew how to handle him.

"Hi, Kavon. Thought I'd check on you since I was in town."

Kavon yawned. "Cool. Hey, you guys hiring up in the legion?"

"Moonmoth's already got a full garrison. Someone told me that Fort Darius up in Gnisis is accepting recruits. Why, you planning on signing up?"

Might do Kavon some good, Maiko thought. Legion discipline worked wonders. On the other hand, it'd be easy for a guy like him to get in over his head. Crooked officers loved dumb rookies.

"I need more money, bro!" Kavon sighed. "I tried this thing with the Fighters Guild a month ago, but it didn't work out. And I gotta get something nice for my girl."

“Legion’s not your best bet if you just want more money. Commission’s eight years, minimum.”

“Aw, man!”

"What kinds of things does your girl like?" Maiko asked.

Maiko had gotten a little packet of Hammerfell spices for Jolda. She missed Hammerfell, and the smile she'd have on her face when he handed her a little piece of her homeland would make it all worthwhile.

"I dunno. Girl stuff."

"Such as?"

Kavon scratched his head. "Uh, like, dresses?"

"Any particular color?"

"I don't know that kind of thing, man!"

"You'd better start learning. But if you want something cheap, maybe some flowers? Saw a lot of stonepetals blooming on the way here."

"Huh, yeah that'll work until I can get something nicer. Like, uh..." he trailed off, lost in thought. "You think Briltasi would like a helmet?"

Maiko shrugged. "Only one way to find out. What kind of work did you try to do with the guild?"

"They wanted me to kill a rat out in Labor Town. But then some other guys tried to kill it and I kinda get confused on what happened after that."

So Labor Town still had a rat problem.

"You guys don't go down to Labor Town much," Maiko said.

"Nah. No need."

"But how do you know there's no need unless you go yourself?"

Kavon pulled back. "Hey, that's what my boss says! We're busy with the important stuff."

"Don't you live in Labor Town?"

"Yeah, but I spend most of my time up here. Or with my babe, you know?" Kavon chuckled. “Labor Town sucks, so why would I spend more time there?”

Varro worried that the lack of investment in Labor Town might lead to bigger problems down the line, and Maiko could see where he was coming from. This demanded a closer look.

But first, he wanted to pay Jolda a visit.



*********



Not even the most outlandish outlanders attracted much attention in the Lucky Lockup. It was one place in Balmora that visitors could call their own. Not that a stake in it meant much; most patrons drifted through like seeds on the wind, coming in and out on boat, on strider, and on foot.

Jolda reached out across the table and grasped Maiko's steel-clad left hand, her fingers running along the grooves in the metal.

"You know, I don't think you need to worry about the uniform here, Maiko," she said, a mischievous smile on her lips as she looked right into his eyes.

Maiko's mouth went dry. He still didn't know how he'd managed to get a girl as drop-dead gorgeous as Jolda. "Guess you're right," he said.

He glanced around one more time to be safe. Nobody here except bored traders and a few curiosity seekers. Low chance of danger. He unbuckled one gauntlet and then another, tension growing between his shoulder blades as he did.

"Wearing your uniform is part of the job!" echoed the voice of his old drill sergeant.

Putting the gauntlets on the side of the table, he took Jolda's hands into his own and lost himself in the sensation of skin on skin.

"Just how much of the uniform you want me to take off?" he asked, raising his eyebrows.

Jolda giggled, then smirked. "I think the gloves are good for now. As for the rest? We'll see what the future brings."

The future. How much of one did they have, anyway? Maybe it was best to leave that well enough alone for the time being.

"Have you told your dad about us?" he went ahead and asked, half-regretting it as soon as he opened his mouth but wanting an answer all the same.

Her hands stiffened. "Uh, I'm working on that."

"So no, in other words."

She shook her head, eyes downcast.

"It's okay."

"No, Maiko. It's not fair for you to feel like you have to hide this." She paused, as if concentrating. "I'm not worried that he'll say no. He likes you."

"Then what's the problem?"

She sighed. "It's hard to explain. I really like you, Maiko. But you're legion. I have no idea how long you'll be in the area. If my dad finds out I'm dating a soldier, he'll probably want us to marry."

"Okay, so we tie the knot, and you can go with me. Who knows where I'll be posted next? Could be the glitz and glamor of the Imperial City." He chuckled. "Or maybe some fort in the middle of Black Marsh."

"I want to go back to Hammerfell. I miss seeing other Redguards. And everything I'm learning here I can use back home."

"Yeah. Back home." Home for her, anyway. Maiko was Redguard by ethnicity, but he'd been born and raised outside the Imperial City. Never set foot in Hammerfell. He wouldn't mind going there. He'd also be okay with not going there. The legion was home for him, more or less.

They were quiet for a moment, listening to the buzz of conversation around them. Maiko took it all in out of habit: EEC caravanners here to pick up Caldera's ore and ship it elsewhere; saltrice and comberry merchants bringing in the goods from the Ascadian Isles; sharp-eyed traders in exotic wares fresh from Seyda Neen.

Business as usual in Balmora. Something else he could add to his report.

"Maiko?"

He'd drifted. "Sorry, Jolda. Uh, okay. You know, if I get to an officer rank, I can petition to be sent to Hammerfell."

"Will they honor that?"

"Maybe. It won't be up to me. But there'd be a chance."

Jolda sighed. "It's important to me. I never wanted to go to Morrowind. My dad's always talking about how I have to be a perfect citizen of the Empire here, both to impress the Imperials and to set a good example for the Dunmer. Not that most Dunmer even care. In Hammerfell, I could just be me."

Maiko nodded. "All I have to do is be a good soldier. Doesn't matter where in Tamriel I am. Guess that makes things simpler." Maiko wasn't so sure that was true, actually, but he didn't press the issue.

"How long do you think it'll take until you become an officer?" Jolda asked.

"A while."

She gave him a searching look. "How long is a while?"

"Couple years at least. It doesn’t matter how good you are: you don't get an officer's commission at my age."

"I know." She took her hands out from his, and then grabbed them, her fingers pressing into his flesh. "I guess we have to see how it goes."

"Should be good for a few more years," he said. "Varro and Radd both like having me around."

Although the truth was that if the legion wanted him elsewhere, they'd give him a few days' notice at most.



*********



The problem with the uniform was that nobody acted their honest selves when they knew a soldier was around. Maybe they'd get on their knees and praise him for being part of the thin line that defended Tamrielic civilization from chaos and barbarism. Maybe they'd clam up because they feared saying the wrong thing might bring the wrath of the legion down on the heads of them and their families.

But Maiko was only Maiko: a promising soldier, but not one with any real authority. He wouldn't be the one to decide where the legion held the line or where it pulled back. Not unless he made it to general, and that didn't look too likely. Generals didn't have to be of noble birth, but it sure helped.

The uniform spoke louder than him. This meant he had to earn people's trust to get any real info. Trick was to figure out some common ground. He usually found something.

Maiko walked through the afternoon bustle of Labor Town, on the edge of the Dyer's Square and its fumes. A rainbow of colors stained the flagstones as workers dipped cloths into big clay pots brimming with pungent dyes. The crowds gave way for him. More accurately, they gave way for his uniform.

Labor Town was rough by Balmora standards, but not too bad. It sure beat the slums of Dragonstar East back in the Reach, with its reeking mud streets and crumbling stone houses all cowering in the shadow of the jarl's castle. He'd learned a lot when his unit had been called to town during the riot. Some of it he didn't care to remember. But some of it proved useful.

He found his contact in an aimless little alley a block north, sitting cross legged on a filthy guar hide laden with charms of wood and bone. Dark eyes peered out from a face as round and pale as the moon, her shaggy black hair blending into her shapeless black robes.

"Droagach," he said, using the Reachman greeting.

Andra snorted. "Your accent still sucks. The way you say it makes it sound like you're coughing up your guts. After me: dro-a-gach."

He tried. The mixed d and t in the first phoneme always eluded him. Andra snickered.

"Sorry, but that's probably the best I can do. I'm Redguard, but my tongue's Imperial," Maiko said.

"Nah. You don't lie enough for that."

He laughed. "How's business?"

"It's okay. Temple priests haven't hassled me much lately."

Andra broke no law, but the Tribunal Temple didn't look fondly on good luck charms sold by outlanders.

"Good," Maiko said. "What about life in general?"

"It sucks. Things are breaking down here and no one's fixing them."

"Sounds familiar. I hear there's a rat problem?"

Andra nodded. "Yeah, a big one. Guards won't do anything and the Fighters Guild's too expensive for most of us. Though sometimes I can turn a problem into an asset." She pointed at a polished rat skull on her rug. "I decided it'd be a fertility charm, what with how rats breed."

"Good thinking. Are the rats attacking people?"

"Oh yeah. Pretty sure they killed Old Maba a week ago. Something ripped her throat out, anyway."

Worse than he'd expected. "I'll let my boss know. Anything else?"

"Been seeing rich Dunmer strut around at night. They talk to some of the young Dunmer toughs here. Might be Camonna Tong outsourcing their dirty work again, but I can't be sure."

"Okay." Maiko reached into his coin purse and took out a fistful of coins, which he handed to her.

"You want my rat skull?" Andra asked, her eyes suddenly big and wistful.

Maiko grinned. "Don't think I need a fertility charm. Not yet, anyway."

"Oh, come on, this is all junk. Only rubes think I sell real charms. I'd feel better if I were selling something for the money. Professional pride, you understand."

"Sure thing."

They made the exchange, Maiko putting the rat skull in one of his pouches. Thanking Andra, he set off on the long walk home.

Corruption, rat infestations, and organized crime: all pretty normal for Balmora. He'd put it down in his report and make his recommendation.

He hoped someone would let him do something about it.



The End

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ieL7BHjiyd8

https://dariawiki.org/wiki/Andrea - Andrea's a goth supporting character in Daria who's quite well-liked by fans despite her scant lines (she has like four in the entire series). Given the presentation of the Reachmen, it seemed appropriate for the Morrowind version of her to be one.

Posted by: Acadian Sep 14 2022, 08:37 PM

An interesting day in Balmora, seen through the eyes of this young legion soldier. I really liked how you developed Maiko as every bit a soldier without falling into the trap of depicting him unidimensionally as just a walking set of legion armor. And you did so while paying full homage to the impression a legion soldier in uniform undoubtedly creates everywhere he goes. Yet, like any man, he has a history, wants, needs, fears, concerns. He does seem overall a good sort who is interested in both representing the legion well and trying to do some good. A very enjoyable read!

Posted by: SubRosa Sep 17 2022, 12:34 AM

"Varro, bring me back my legions!"

Sorry, the ghost of Octavian took over my keyboard there...

"You think Briltasi would like a helmet?" biggrin.gif
I do not think Britalsi would like a helmet. They give you helmet hair! ohmy.gif

I liked the contrast you created between Jolda and Mack Maiko. They are both Redguards. They both process that very differently. And somehow I do not see Jolda being happy in some fort in the middle of Black Marsh...

I liked how you gave us a day in the life of an Imperial Legionary through Maiko's eyes, and how he navigated the various strata of Vvardenfell society. From the Hlaalu officer, to the schlubby guard like Kavon, to his girlfriend, to his grifter and underworld-adjacent contact. You create a picture of what Balmora is really like, in addition to the nice, pretty version that the postcards show.


Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Sep 18 2022, 04:15 PM

@Acadian - Thanks! I mentioned earlier that these single-chapter entries become scarcer as the series continues, but I did realize they gave me a pretty good way of showing things from an alternate perspective. Satheri and Jeval each get a single-chapter episode, and Synda gets another as well (though her second is probably long enough that I'll have to split it).

@SubRosa- Ha! Those legions ain't coming back...

Briltasi wouldn't want the helmet hair. But as we saw in the paintball episode, Brittany can be a pretty formidable fighter with how able she disarmed Mr. DeMartino. So who knows?

Thanks! One thing I always kept in mind in writing this (or in writing anything, really) is that no two members of a group are ever the same. Granted, Jolda being born in Hammerfell and Maiko being Cyrodiilic is already a pretty big difference, but them being the same race (ethnicity?) won't lead them to have the same conclusions.

Mack also tended to get overlooked in the show. He doesn't play a big part in this series either, but I thought it would be nice to grant him some time in the spotlight. Armies and warriors are a big part of the fantasy genre, but usually in the context of war. I wanted to explore what life in peacetime would be like. Which, of course, also lets me give a broader picture of Balmora.

Episode 13: All the News That's Fit to Primp

Chapter 1


Sure, things did get all cold and gloomy in autumn, but that just meant it was time to buy an outfit with layers. And it’s not like Quinn had bought any new dresses (that second-hand one didn't count) since coming to Morrowind so she had to mix things up. Like always, fashion had a solution. She only needed a mantle to drape over her shoulders. That’d keep her warm and she was sure she could talk mom and dad into letting her buy a new dress (like actually new) for the Old Life Festival in a few months.

But no one ever said choosing the right mantle would be easy.

Quinn stood in front of table displaying the best moth-silk mantles at Kashad’s. The best mantles mom would give her money for, anyway. And it was definitely one of the more fashionable outlets on Silk-hawker’s Street, with clothes from some of the better mid-range moth farms back in Cyrodiil, like Tartus and Locutto Silks.

“Guys?” she asked. “Do you think I should get the blue Locutto or the white Tartus?”

Satheri was suddenly right next to Quinn, her eyes wide. “The blue looks cool.”

“Yeah, but my hair would really stand out against the white.”

Satheri pressed her hands into fists. “Oh, this is so tough. Tiphannia?”

But Tiphannia was lost in her own world, like always, staring at a see-through scarf.

“Tiphannia?” Quinn called.

“You can like see… right through this...” she said.

Quinn sighed. She loved Satheri and Tiphannia to death, but she was starting to think the Fashion Club needed more than three members. Sure, she knew what looked good and what looked lame, but it’d be nice to hear someone besides Satheri agree with her. Not that she didn’t value Satheri’s opinion. But Tiphannia just wasn’t all there.

She took a chance and went with the white mantle. If she was going to make a statement, it might as well be a statement. She put the mantle on after buying it and then headed out with her friends. There’d been a big rainstorm the other day, so they had to lift the hems of their dresses to avoid all the gross puddles.

“It’s so hard to know what to buy,” Satheri complained. “I’m still worried that the fabric I chose is too thin for this weather.”

“Lighter is better because you can always double-layer!” Quinn proclaimed, taking the wide way around a cart to avoid getting splashed.

“You’re so smart, Quinn!”

Quinn drew herself up. “I wish there was some way for us to tell everyone else what to buy to look their best. I mean, nobles get the most stylish stuff because they’re like nobles, but we can still help regular people look good.”

“But like… lots of people… wear whatever...” Tiphannia said.

“Exactly. And we can do something to fix that!”

They turned a corner and almost ran into a big crowd of people standing around the town crier. Dunmer like Satheri got all their news from each other, but outlanders like Quinn had to listen to whatever the criers were paid to talk about.

“… as of Fredas, honorable Bertrand Reauchamp will be retiring to Pelagiad with his wife and will pass his shop unto Clagius Clanler. This means there’s still time to take advantage of the going-away sale! Affordable work clothes, endurance potions, earthenware goods, and glassware will be even more affordable for the next few days.”

Outlander merchants always hired criers to let people know about sales. If she wanted to let everyone know about fashion—and maybe get a few more members in the club—why couldn’t she hire a crier of her own?

“Ladies,” Quinn said. “I just got the most wonderful idea.”



*********



Drenlyn Academy had tons of people. Quinn knew that not all—face it, hardly any—had the talent to be a good town crier. But there were plenty who wanted to try and impress her and that was always fun to watch.

She stood with Satheri and Tiphannia next to the library as the last few guys in line tried out. At first, she’d figured they’d pick someone with a nice voice or something, but when she thought about the crier she’d heard yesterday, she knew they needed someone who could put on a show.

“Hey, Quinn!” Jonus said, standing at the front of the line with his friends behind him. “I’m the best crier you’ll ever find.”

Everyone in the line cracked up, and Jonus blushed as red as his hair when he realized what he’d said. “I mean best town crier! I never cry with tears. Ever.”

“Pick me instead,” Julien pleaded from behind him.

“Guys, don’t rush me on this!" Quinn insisted. "One at a time. Jonus?”

“Uh, right.” Jonus cleared his throat. “Uh, hear ye! Hear ye! I’m the guy with all the news you could want. Like, uh…”

He was sweating, which was totally gross! The last thing the Fashion Club needed was a sweaty town crier.

“Next!” Quinn called out.

Jonus fell to his knees. “Wait! Give me one more chance,” he pleaded.

“I’m sorry, Jonus. But it wouldn’t be fair to all the other guys who want to try.”

“Out of the way, loser!” Julien said, pushing Jonus to the side. Julien posed like he was on stage or something. “Hear ye, hear ye! Julien here with the news to please ye!”

Ugh, he rhymed a word with itself? Not even the laziest bard would do that.

“Next!”

“Aw, come on! I got this whole rhyme thing—”

“If you keep going, I won’t give you the chance to help me the next time I do something.”

He hung his head low and wandered off to join the other losers. “Yes, ma’am,” he said. “Sorry, ma’am.”

“Jervas!” she announced, calling up the next guy.

“Jeval,” he corrected. “Uh, hey, Quinn,” he said, “so are you paying us for this?”

“Of course. I’m paying you with the chance to hang out with me.”

“And the rest of the Fashion Club,” Satheri added.

Jeval shook his head. “I mean with money. Since we’re doing a job we oughta get some, you know, cash.”

“Oh, well you’ll get lots of experience that you can use if you ever want to do it, like, for real," Quinn said.

“Think I’m going to pass, then.”

That was not the answer she’d expected. But Jeval had already wandered off to join his buddies, who were making fun of him.

“You idiot!” Julien said. “Quinn’s not going to pay with money.”

“Why do you care? Me getting the job won't give you a chance with her,” Jeval protested.

Jonus stepped in. “Yeah, but at least one of us could have gotten in. And then helped out his bros.”

“Whatever," Jeval said. "If you’re good at something, don’t do it for free.”

Quinn took another look at Jeval. Was he actually good at this? Next in line was…

“Oh, gross,” she whispered. Karl the Unctuous stood at the front, with that icky grin stretched across his face.

He stepped up without being invited, which was so like him, and then bowed which might have been nice from someone who could make it look courtly. Karl was way overdressed for the part, with an orange silk frock coat so bright that it hurt to look at.

“Make it quick, Karl,” she said.

He straightened up, put one hand on his chest and pointed his nose in the air. “Hear ye, hear ye! Are you struggling to decide on autumn colors suitable for this drear land? Do you fear your silks are so last decade? Fret not, for you will find the answer at the fashion event of a lifetime, the opportunity of a century, where Quinn Morgendorffer, maiden of reputation most sterling and the scarlet-crowned queen of the sartorial realm, shall be sharing her wisdom on the best fabrics, dyes, cuts, and styles for comely young women like yourself.”

Wow. One of the key things about being popular was not to get impressed too easily. But he’d made it sound exciting. She looked to Satheri, then to Tiphannia who was staring at herself in a mirror, and then back to Satheri.

“A moment,” she said to Karl, holding out her hand. Then she whispered. “Do you think he’s going to be a creep if we hire him?”

Satheri shrugged. “He did a good job. Maybe if we tell him to behave himself?”

“Karl, did you make that all up on the spot?” Quinn asked.

“Extemporaneity is one of my many virtues, dear lady. Though some find my vices more interesting,” he added in a lower tone.

This was tough. Everyone hated Karl and for good reason. But no one else came close.

“All right, Karl, but if you get the job you have to promise not to be a creep or a loser or anything. There are rules here.”

He grinned and leaned in so close she could see all his gross pores and smell his breath. “Ooh, you’re feisty!”

That made her decision way easier. “And you just lost the job.”

Karl blinked, and then stepped aside.

Quinn wanted to get the ball rolling and she did not have time to go through the rest. “Jeval! You said you’re good at this, right?”

“Uh, yeah.” He cleared his throat, then spoke: “Do you want to look your best this season? Quinn Morgendorffer can tell you how!”

Okay, it wasn’t terrible. Not as good as Karl’s but at least he said it like he meant it. Satheri seemed all right with him, going by the expression on her face.

“Fine, you can be our crier. And I’ll pay you two septims every time you announce something.”

“Cool!” he said, as his friends wailed. “What do you want me to say?”

“Uh, that’s your job.”

“Yeah, but I gotta know what you’re planning. So I can tailor the message.”

“That’s easy,” Quinn said. “We’ll be talking about fashion, duh!”

“And? Like are you going to talk about dresses? Accessories? Dyes? Trends?”

“Uh, all of that. Maybe?” But Quinn realized she had no idea.

Ugh, who thought that advertising would be so much work!


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKr1gomuEW8

Posted by: Renee Sep 18 2022, 05:14 PM

Satheri might be a little color blind. cool.gif But Heathers is different from the others right away. Sort of more ... I don't know, mysterious? What is this heather ritual? For some reason I feel like something bad's gonna happen.

Louche... new word for me. wink.gif

So it's autumn now, in this chapter. It was summer in previous chapters, right? Therefore a bit of time has passed by? Heh, maybe I'm wrong, and it's just been a hot autumn in Vvardenfell. Sorry, I get obsessed with the passage of time in some stories.

Uh oh. What's going to happen to Synda? sad.gif What's happening to Satheri? Seems like she's got a spell cast on her as she struggles to breathe.

Pretty disturbing chapter, I'm bummed. The Raveonettes is a band I'm not familiar with though. Really like this song.

QUOTE
Speechcraft is a pretty handy skill, even if Morrowind's persuasion system is... less than intuitive. Oblivion's was kind of complicated, but worked well enough once you figured it out.


Speechcraft is Hard in Morrowind! laugh.gif There's even a warning about NOT trying to use it as we start the game. Therefore, dad seems as though he's at least rather good at it.

Oblivion's system (with the mini game) is pretty clunky and makes no logical sense, but at least we can take a shot at influencing pretty much anybody in Cyrodiil, you know what I mean? Depending on the person we're playing, we can make people like or hate us. Yes, I had a few characters who wanted to be hated! 🎃 We can make this happen in OB. I'd rather have this than nothing random or variable at all (as in Skyrim).


The part in the next chapter when it says "the Hlaalu made their towns easy to navigate..." Huh. Very true, in fact. I'm not so familiar with Telvanni yet, but Redoran locations (Ald-ruhn, for instance. Ald Velothi, too) do tend to meander. Not as organized. Again, never really realized this until now. smile.gif


QUOTE
"Moonmoth's already got a full garrison. Someone told me that Fort Darius up in Gnisis is accepting recruits. Why, you planning on signing up?"


laugh.gif Joan just went through all of this!

Maiko buys the rat skull. Maybe he will need it somehow.

Holy [censored] am I caught up? I am! Sweet!

Posted by: Acadian Sep 18 2022, 08:22 PM

Wait. . . Quinn is wearing white after Witches Festival? tongue.gif

Another delightfully chuckle-inducing jaunt into the mind of Quinn. This time she hits upon the idea of using advertising to increase the size of the Quinn Fan Club Fashion Club. Urgh, why did the best orator have to be a creep and the second best actually want to be paid – like in real gold? Then her choice had the audacity to pass half the work back to Quinn by asking her for details!



Posted by: SubRosa Sep 18 2022, 10:19 PM

A grueling task is set before Quinn. Blue Locutto or the white Tartus? I wonder how Saint Alessia would have faced such a terrible conundrum?

So that is how it became Clagius Clanler's shop! Neat.

Oh boy, Quinn is going to dip her toes into advertising! TBH, I would think her dad could be a lot of help with that.

Since they are hiring their own, I suggest Karl the Unctuous. He has a way of getting attention - unwanted and unpleasant - but attention nonetheless...

And there he is! As I thought, he is the man for the job. And he did not waste any time in being unpleasant either and losing it! Fiesty! laugh.gif


Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Sep 21 2022, 05:24 PM

@Renee - Yup, it's autumn. I also like dealing with the passage of time, so that factors into the series. It takes place across two and a half years, more or less (excluding the epilogue).

Synda's a toxic person. The pressure cooker environment in which she grew up isn't an excuse for this... but it does explain a lot of it. Being a good person isn't easy when one's parents actively discourage it.

Speechcraft is such a pain! It's so unintuitive, too. Oblivion's approach also feels a bit odd, but at least you have some input on the result so it's definitely an improvement.

Unfortunately, you aren't quite caught up. I think I posted the next entry as you were writing this one.

The Raveonettes were bigger in the '00s, I think. A little after Daria, the show's, time, but whatever. They actually feature in the episode I'm about to post, though this song is a cover of an older Stone Roses song.

@Acadian - laugh.gif

It's easy to say you'd be a good boss. But not so easy to actually be one, as Quinn is learning here.

@SubRosa - Saint Alessia might pick blue, since she could toss it over Pelinal's helmet in hopes that the colors would soothe him.

Heh, glad you caught the bit about Clanler. He's a relatively new owner by the game's time.

Karl's (Upchuck's) worst enemy has always been himself.

Episode 13: All the News That's Fit to Primp

Chapter 2


Bad poets (and some good ones, to be fair) loved to pontificate on the seasons, autumn especially. But this usually meant autumn in High Rock, where the leaves lit up in blazing reds and yellows before moldering on the loamy ground below. Autumn in Morrowind’s Vvardenfell District, however, meant little more than the smell of damp ash and the sight of gray clouds above brown hills.

Not that this meant too much to Daria. Her childhood home of Stirk barely had seasons at all, blessed by genial sunshine year-round. Balmora’s bleak fall weather appealed to her, particularly the rain that always washed a bit of adobe into the streets, reminding the city that nature still ruled.

Looking out the window to the dark clouds roiling above High Town’s haughty manors, Daria smiled and then turned her attention back to her essay on Imperial governance in Morrowind. Thunder pealed somewhere in the distance as she wrote, followed soon after by the steady patter of light rain.

Not wanting to get her essay wet, she closed the shutters and lit a second candle. It wasn't often that she got to write on a somewhat interesting subject in a pleasantly gloomy environment.

“Not bad for a Middas afternoon,” she said.

“Ugh, are you kidding me? It should be sunny so people can like do things,” came Quinn’s voice from behind her.

“Clearly, I spoke too soon.”

Quinn walked over to her bed and put her bookbag on the mattress before sighing and opening up her wardrobe. Daria watched out of the corner of her eye as her sister took out one dress, and then another, her brow knitted in frustration.

“What’s going on?” Daria asked. “Can’t figure out which color goes best with a tramp through the rain?”

“For your information—hey! Wait a minute.”

Daria tensed up. She did not care for the tone in Quinn’s voice. It was the tone she used whenever she got excited about some ridiculous triviality and begged mom or dad for some extra money to fritter away.

“You’re a writer, right?” Quinn asked.

“No. While I appear to be writing an essay it’s actually an elaborate ruse concocted by mom and dad to maintain the illusion that they have a literate daughter.”

“Uh huh. So tell me what would you write if you wanted to like, I don’t know, get people involved in fashion?”

Daria sighed and put her quill back in the inkwell. “Okay, out with it. What do you want?”

Quinn gasped and drew back, hand on chest for melodramatic effect. “Can’t I be curious about what my own sister gets up to?”

“No, because you know as well as I do that I’m boring. Get to the damn point.”

She resumed her normal posture. “Okay, fine! So, me and the Fashion Club thought it’d be a good idea to have like a town crier, but just for the Fashion Club things. We hired Jeval—”

“Wait, you spent real money?”

“It was either him or Karl, and even though Karl’s good at speaking he’s still a creep, so we went with Jeval! Anyway, we got him to do the job but now I have to figure out what kind of event to do so that people know how great we are! Not that they don’t already.”

“Forget it.”

Quinn raised her eyes heavenward. “What’s a girl to do, Daria?”

“This girl,” Daria pointed at herself, “doesn’t care, and isn’t going to do anything.”

“Come on!”

“What do you want me to do, anyway? I don’t know anything about fashion.”

“Yeah, but you’re like really smart and a writer and stuff. I’m sure you could figure out something for us to do.”

“Why would I do that when I could watch you stew in the mess you created?”

“I’ll pay you.”

“Hm, well that’s different. How much are you paying Jeval?”

“Uh, half a septim for each announcement.”

Daria thought about it for a moment. “Pay me four times what you pay him, per session.”

Quinn gave an exaggerated sigh. “Fine. So tell me, consultant, what should I do?”

Daria pushed her essay aside and opened the window back up to observe the fall of rain.

“First, why do you want a Fashion Club crier? Other than for the attention fix.”

“Because we’re only like, three girls! If we ever want to make it big, like you know, for a guild or something, we need to get more attention. We need people to know that we know everything about fashion.”

“I see.” Daria turned to face Quinn. “On that case, you need to offer some kind of expertise. Can’t you natter to them about dresses the way you do with your friends?”

“I can, but the thing is Satheri and Tiphannia are just so nice, you know? Like they always want to support me, and I love that. But sometimes I worry that maybe I’m making a mistake in picking out a pattern or fabric and they’re too nice to tell me I’m messing up.”

That got Daria’s attention. Every now and then, Quinn showed actual depth. She hoped it didn’t last; otherwise, she might have to start respecting her sister.

“Sounds to me like you need to enlarge the Fashion Club,” she said.

“Maybe I could have Jeval say we’re going to have tryouts or something.”

Would it actually work that way? The vagaries of popularity eluded Daria, but while Quinn always had a line of lovelorn guys trailing after her (and always kept at a convenient distance) she didn’t seem to have many close friends beyond Satheri and maybe Tiphannia.

Sort of like how Daria didn’t have any friends beyond Jane and maybe Jolda.

She decided not to pursue that line of thought. “Might be worth a shot.”

“But wait,” Quinn said, “People won’t want to join the Fashion Club unless we get our name out there first. Sure, they know what the Fashion Club is, but I need to make them care about it. How do I do that?”

“Uh, give a fashion advice seminar?” Daria had no idea, but she’d talk as long as she was getting paid.

“Hold on, Daria, did you make any friends at that Mages Guild thingie? Because if you did, you could ask him to teleport over to the Imperial City and find out what’s in vogue—”

“Since when do I make friends?”

“Oh, right. Ugh, I need to figure out how to get in touch with what’s going on over there! Or at least some other fashionable place. Maybe Vivec City? That’s a lot closer. Let me think. Autumn’s all about accessories, so the Fashion Club can give advice on that. I know, we can give personalized advice on what kinds of accessories go best with what people like to wear!”

“Listening to that sounds like torture to me, which means it’ll probably be a big hit with everyone else.”

“You know, Daria, a sash would go really well with your dress. You could do a brighter color, ‘cause you’re totally skinny enough—”

“Stop. Or I can’t be held responsible for what happens next.”

Quinn waved her hand. “Fine, fine. Anyway, I think that’s a great start. Hey, wait a second! All you did was like, ask questions and prompt me and stuff. I came up with all the ideas! Coming up with ideas was your job!”

Daria smirked. “What can I say? Consultancy’s a pretty good racket.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUjxSRlghxw

Posted by: Acadian Sep 21 2022, 08:16 PM

This episode really highlighted the natures of both Daria and Quinn.

I see that Daria masterfully played her sister here, even earning some gold for her trouble. That said, I expect the result of the two sisters (gasp) working together will be positive for the Fashion Club.

Daria’s right that consulting is a pretty good racket. And being a fashion consultant would be right up Quinn’s alley. . . .

Posted by: SubRosa Sep 22 2022, 12:01 AM

I have to remind myself that Daria's home on the Gold Coast means that she is from Southern California. Morrowind being Morrowind, I would imagine that instead of summers and winters it might have a wet season and a dry season instead. Given its location on the coast, maybe even a monsoon season. Though that might be more of the thing farther south in Argonia.

Daria's elaborate ruse shows that she is indeed, a literate daughter. Even if a boring one.

Uh oh, Quinn is showing depth. Better pull out a lead line and take a sounding...

Daria's musings on both her own and Quinn's relatively small, tightly knit social circles reveals one of those ways in which the two sisters are alike. Better not think about that too hard though, or I might start to feel empathy for Quinn... wink.gif

Turns out Daria is a chip of Dad's block all along. Consultantcy is a good racket after all.

Posted by: Renee Sep 22 2022, 08:16 PM

Ha ha yup, looks like I wasn't as caught up as I thought!

I actually enjoy Speechcraft in Morrowind; especially as Joan's getting better at it. Whenever we get the Admire Success message it's like a drug-bump to me, whee. Of course it helps she's got Speech as a Major skill.

Quinn wants a moth-silk mantle she can wear. Yikes that sounds yucky!!! Then again, isn't real silk made from worms? Yeah it is. Puts things in perspective, then.

Tiphannia is cute. Whoa.. Wait, Fashion Club? laugh.gif This chapter's awesome. Oh man... they are trying not to step into all the "gross" puddles of water! laugh.gif Stop it! ... I'[m about to die with laugher over here, Clav! laugh.gif

Cool, I like that crier idea. Mm.. Wonder what Quinn's thought is. Probably there'll be some hot threads to wear at this estate sale.

QUOTE
He was sweating, which was totally gross! The last thing the Fashion Club needed was a sweaty town crier


Oh my gosh! laugh.gif Too bad too, because I really like the way Karl enunciated his praise toward Quinn.

Episode 13 now. Yeah, you really nail the way Daria talks. That's exactly something she would say on the show. The dichotomy between the two sisters is great, too.

You know, as shallow and impertinent as Quinn can be, she does have a good inkling of business sense going on. She's a user of people for sure, but at least she's trying to offer up some sort of compensation from her otherwise vapid brain. It's as if she wants to help people ... to look their best. Or something.

I remember the Stone Roses. Weren't around for long, but they were popular during the late 80s/early 90s if I recall. I really like the Ravonettes version of this song. smile.gif

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Sep 24 2022, 04:21 PM

@Acadian - Daria and Quinn played each other a bit. When Daria asks Quinn how much she's paying Jeval, Quinn lies and says half a septim. In actuality, as Chapter 1 shows, she's paying Jeval two septims! Of course, I don't think Daria's quite cruel enough to demand eight septims for this service (she'd probably draw the line at six), but Quinn definitely saved herself some money this way.

@SubRosa - Tamrielic climatology is a real can of worms, mostly because there's not any great way for it to make sense. For instance, Morrowind's on the same latitude as Skyrim and High Rock, but appears to be much warmer. I'm going by Project Tamriel's version of the setting, which generally seems to assume that Tamriel is farther south than it is in the games. This is why Cyrodiil's interior is tropical. As I recall, they explain Skyrim's snow being partly a result of higher altitude.

Even this runs into issues though. For instance, I'm not sure if you can have a Mediterranean climate like the Gold Coast's on the same latitude (and also relatively close) to the jungles of the interior. At a certain point, you just have to shrug and roll with it.

As for Vvardenfell, I envisioned it as being on the warmer side overall. Snow can fall (and actually will in a few episodes' time), but it's rare and doesn't last long. Winters usually get rain, though not heavy enough to qualify as a monsoon.

Quinn's kind of an interesting case in the show. She's clearly popular (and probably the only Fashion Club member who could make a claim for being popular), but she keeps people at arm's length. I'd argue that Daria's a lot closer with Jane than Quinn is with anyone, and I think that's true in both the show and in this series.

@Renee - I can see that. It is satisfying when it works. Kind of like rolling a critical hit.

Karl's counterpart in the TV series, Upchuck, is a teenager who's quite intelligent, knows how to dee-jay, is an eloquent and enthusiastic announcer, and somehow learned how to play the mandolin! He's one of the more interesting people in Lawndale High. But everyone hates him because he refuses to drop his creepy lecher persona (if he did, he'd have a decent chance of getting a girlfriend). He's truly his own worst enemy, and that's still the case here.

Quinn knows how to read people. And like you say, she is using them. Not maliciously, but you could read her as having a certain coldness in how she operates. It's a bit like what I was saying in my comment to SubRosa above: she doesn't let people too close. Maybe this is because she's afraid they won't like her. Or, maybe, it's because keeping them at a distance makes it easier for her to get them to do what she wants.

Quinn's actually one of the most dynamic characters in the Daria TV show (one might argue even more so than Daria herself). Unfortunately, I didn't give her the same level of development in this fic series. I'll admit that I find Quinn a bit harder to write than most of the other characters, though she's quite fun when I manage to pull it off.

Episode 13: All the News That's Fit to Primp

Chapter 3


Quinn thought she’d die when the first ever Fashion Club seminar opened up on Fredas afternoon to an audience of nobody.

“This is terrible!” Satheri sobbed, next to her.

“There’s… no one… listening...” Tiphannia drawled.

It’s not like there weren’t people around. But practically everyone was jammed up at the gate, trying to get out. No one listened to Quinn. This was so embarrassing. She glared at Jeval.

“You needed to make it sound more exciting! And go into the details,” she said.

Quinn wasn’t so sure Jeval’s pitch had been all that great. Style changes with the weather, and you don’t want to be left behind! Quinn Morgendorffer of the Fashion Club has the lowdown on what to wear this autumn!

It got the information across but was boring, like something a teacher would say.

“I don’t know anything about fashion,” Jeval said. “But I can try a different pitch next week. You gotta remember though: Fredas afternoon is a bad time for a seminar. Everyone wants to get out of Drenlyn and hang out with their friends.”

“Why didn’t you say so earlier?” Quinn demanded.

“I did!”

“I know, but you didn’t convince me. Hmm, okay, so maybe Fredas isn’t the best day. Girls!”

Satheri raised her face from her hands, her eyes filled with tears. At least her eyes were naturally red, so she didn’t have to worry about them getting all bloodshot and gross after crying. Tiphannia had her usual blank look.

“The problem here is not that we aren’t popular or that people don’t want to listen to us," Quinn announced.

“It… it isn’t?” Satheri said between sobs.

“Not at all. But you have to remember that the people who care about fashion are also people who are like popular, and stuff. Which means they’ve got their own things going on after school on Fredas. It’s just like, bad timing.”

“That’s a relief,” Satheri said, still looking like she was going to cry again.

“When are we… going to do… with the…” Tiphannia started.

“The seminar?” Quinn finished, because sometimes it was such a pain waiting for Tiphannia to get to the end of a sentence. “Good question.”

“What about after school on Morndas?” Satheri suggested.

Maybe. Except Jeval was right. Drenlyn was boring and no one wanted to stay longer than they had to. “I think lunch might be better. We’ll get more of an audience that way.”

Satheri’s eyes got big. “But lunch is when I re-apply my makeup and that can take a long time!”

“Uh, can I say something?” Jeval said.

“You may.”

“People aren’t going to come unless I hype it up, and I won’t have enough time to do that by Morndas. Give me a couple days. Do it at lunch on Middas, instead. I’ll run some new copy by you, but you’ll need to help me if you want me to be more specific and stuff.”

Huh, that actually made sense. It also meant she’d have to pay Jeval way more if he was going to announce each day. Between him and Daria she was already cutting into her fund for a new hat!

“Okay, fine," Quinn said. "We’ll try this again next week. For now, let’s be like the popular people we are and go do something fun!”

Fun things also cost money. But it’s not like she could stop now.



*********



Stress was like the worst thing that could happen to Quinn’s pores! It had gotten so bad since the failed seminar that it almost hurt to look in the mirror. She could see them, like a gross version of freckles all over her face.

But if that’s the price she had to pay to get the Fashion Club the recognition it deserved, she’d just have to buy extra lotions and ointments.

At least Jeval had been doing a pretty good job. She checked in on him as he called out to the crowd during lunch and after school.

“Come one, come all, to the Fashion Club Autumn Style Seminar this Middas at noon! Worried that your frills make your wrists look fat? Not sure if that Colovian fur hat really works in Morrowind? Get those questions answered and more this Middas, courtesy of the Fashion Club!” he called out.

He sounded interested and his voice carried. Definitely enough to get attention.

But not to keep it! Everyone still walked past him, except for one or two of the unfashionable girls who were super-insecure all the time. The Fashion Club needed to get the attention of popular people like Agrippina or Sephannia.

That meant more work for Quinn. She didn’t have class on Tirdas but she went to Drenlyn anyway and spent all afternoon talking to the kinds of outlander girls people wanted to hang out with. She had Satheri do the same for Dunmer girls.

“Anyway, we’re going to have like this big thing tomorrow at lunch. Everyone knows that autumn’s a great time for accessories but there are so many that it can be hard to choose!” Quinn said to the more popular outlanders in Ondryn’s class.

“Ugh, I know!” Agrippina said. “I still can’t decide if I should go with some new tippets for my sleeves, or a new belt.”

“Well tippets—” Quinn started.

But wait! She couldn’t give all her secrets away now! She had to save some for tomorrow. “Well tippets are totally something we’ll be talking about.”

They seemed pretty interested. But what if they didn’t show up? What if it ended up being her and Satheri and Tiphannia in front of a big empty space where no one paid attention to them?

Quinn closed her eyes. “Think positive thoughts. You got this.”

She hoped.



*********



Satheri saw Serjo Briltasi Talori leaving school that day and breathed in. The Talori family was a noble one. But Satheri’s dad had an important job as a Hlaalu-Empire liaison, and that meant the Rowenis were still a big deal. Plus, Serjo Talori liked outlanders and her stepmom was one, so she’d probably be okay with going to the seminar.

Probably.

“Serjo Talori!” Satheri called out. “Forgive my intrusion, but I humbly ask for your attention.”

“Huh? Oh, hi Satheri!” Serjo Talori smiled and gave a little wave and Satheri relaxed. Serjo Talori didn't always know how to act like a noble, but Satheri kind of liked that about her.

“Thank you, Serjo Talori.” Satheri gathered her thoughts. Might sound weird if she were too formal. “Uh, so Sera Morgendorffer is going to be holding a fashion seminar this Middas.”

Serjo Talori twirled one of her ponytails around her index finger. “Yeah, I heard that Bosmer guy talking about it. Jerain, I think?”

“Juvval,” Satheri corrected, and then smiled. “You’re already like, super-fashionable. But we’d love to have you in the audience! If you’re there, then you can make a strong impression on some of the families of the other Dunmer students in attendance.”

“Hmm,” she turned her head askance. “I was going to ditch school. But that sounds like it might be fun. Okay!”

Satheri inclined her head. “Thank you so much, honored Serjo Talori. Sera Morgendorffer and I are grateful.”

“Sure thing!”

Satheri breathed a sigh of relief. That had gone well. She always knew exactly where she stood when she talked to other Dunmer. Outlanders were more complicated. Muthsera Morgendorffer obviously had seniority in the Fashion Club, but Satheri wasn’t always sure where she stood in relation to Tiphannia. That scared her since she didn’t want to be second-best in Quinn’s eyes.

Quinn made everything scary, but she also made them fun. Satheri only had a few more years before mom and dad would send her to her husband-to-be in the red cliffs and yellow fungal forests of Shipal-Shin, hundreds of miles to the south. Which would be wonderful! He’d protect Satheri, and love her and make her a full part of Great House Hlaalu and she’d be happy there, finally, because she’d have a place.

But she wanted to have fun for a little longer.

Nidrene Serlo walked past. The Serlos weren’t that notable of a family, but her dad did work for Synda’s mom, so Satheri still needed to be respectful.

“Sera Serlo,” she said, walking toward Nidrene with her head held high (since she had to uphold her own family’s reputation, and they were more respectable at least by a little bit), “I’d like to talk with you for a second…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Toh39G6rKEw

Posted by: Renee Sep 25 2022, 02:32 PM

Yes, that's a good way to put it about Quinn. She's not malicious. But she has the makings of somebody who is ... hmm... unconcerned with the feelings / motivations of others, I guess. But this is correct. It's the way of the mall princess, in many cases.

QUOTE
It's a bit like what I was saying in my comment to SubRosa above: she doesn't let people too close. Maybe this is because she's afraid they won't like her.


Yes, and this makes her come across as stuck up. tongue.gif I'm not sure where you are from, but on the east coast that's the term we'd use. She's "stuck on herself", sort of like being a snob, I guess.

No, you're doing just fine getting into Quinn's head. smile.gif You are quite good at writing her, actually.

But oh no. Nobody showed up for the Fashion Club? sad.gif Satheri is crying. Quinn's worried (again) about her skin pores. These poor fashionistas!

Jeval is doing his job as a crier, I can see. Man, I actually hope some people show up. I actually care about Quinn's shallow plight! ... Where is Quinn getting all this money, by the way?

Duran Duran, love them, too. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjlM3awYS2A is my fave. They are just good, catchy music, with a lot of moving parts, a lot of different sounds to listen to and notice at once.


Posted by: Acadian Sep 25 2022, 06:53 PM

Aww, the Fashion Club opens to an empty venue. kvleft.gif

I’ll give Quinn credit for both optimism and displaying some leadership as she bucks up the spirits of her dejected crew, heeds some advice from her crier and quickly fashions a new plan - even if it means dipping into her new hat fund and less than perfect pores.

And with your use of ‘tippets’ I learned a new word. smile.gif

Let us hope that opening number two goes better – or at least has an audience.

Posted by: SubRosa Sep 26 2022, 07:23 AM

Quinn is not only popular, but "Popular", which means she does not have friends, but frenemies. In the show none of her friends really see her for who she is, each of them is just using her in some way. In the case of Sandi it is in an extremely antagonistic and competitive way. But with the others it is not great either. Stacy is the kindest, but she is so crippled by her deep-seated feelings of insecurity that she needs Quinn to essentially validate her existence nearly every second of the day. While Tiffany gives a whole new meaning to self-absorption.

Daria does not have many friends, but at least her friends actually know her, and like in spite of that! laugh.gif Perhaps even because of it! In spite of being a misanthrope, Daria has real relationships with people. Quinn just has scenery around her that changes from one moment to the next.

Well if at first you don't succeed, try again on Middas.

I really do love how you can shift gears from writing Daria to Quinn's POVs. You change so much in your writing style and word choices to get across how drastically different each of them think and see the world.

Oh, so that thing is called tippets? I have seen them all my life in medieval era movies, but never knew what those were called.

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Sep 28 2022, 04:19 PM

@Renee - Yup, I think you're right.

In the show, Quinn's pretty good at leveraging money from her parents. Probably helps that Daria doesn't ask for cash all that often.

Duran Duran is classic for a reason!

@Acadian - Part of what I wanted to show here is that Quinn actually does have the makings of a good leader. She's able to inspire others while (usually) staying cool enough to make good decisions. Of course, her clique is quite tiny. And, as she pointed out to Daria, Satheri and Tiphannia can't always be relied upon to offer useful feedback.

I had to look up some medieval accessories, and tippets seemed like the best fit for the situation.

@SubRosa - The Fashion Club in Balmora is pretty different from its Lawndale counterpart, and the biggest reason for that is probably Sandi's absence. Here, Quinn's in charge. There's no competition. Which means her biggest challenge isn't trying to come into her own, but learning how to be a more responsible leader. This particular episode shows some of how she becomes one.

Thanks! I try to have the POV reflect the character in question. It's challenging to do this for Quinn, but one advantage is that she has a very distinct voice (at least compared to Daria).

Episode 13: All the News That's Fit to Primp

Chapter 4


This was it!

Okay, Quinn knew how to handle crowds. Sure, it was kind of scary when you saw a whole bunch of people all looking at you and ready to judge even the littlest mistake, but wasn’t that life in general?

Thank the Divines it wasn’t raining. The Middas noon was bright and cool with a few cute little clouds way up high in the sky. Thanks to Jeval’s town crying, Daria’s advice, and her talking to the right people, they had a crowd. The Fashion Club stood under the big mushroom in the middle of the courtyard, ready to give everyone the real lowdown on style.

Most of the people were popular outlander girls like her, but Satheri had brought in some Dunmer girls too. Some unpopular people showed up, like always. Daria and Jane watched from a distance, probably making some weird brainy comments. Whatever.

Synda also watched with a few of her creepy friends over by Lli’s office. Ugh, Quinn had tried to be nice to her. She still didn’t get exactly what had happened between them, but they were definitely enemies now.

Quinn smoothed her long hair, acting like nothing bothered her at all, and stepped out to the front.

“Welcome, everybody! I’m so glad you could all make it to the First Fashion Club Style Seminar! Today, we’re going to talk about autumn fashion. Now I’ve always said that autumn is the season for accessories, but which one? There are so many.”

She heard a bunch of “yeahs” and “oh, I knows” from the crowd. Good sign!

And now what? Her breath caught. She’d been so focused on getting things ready that she hadn’t prepped a speech. Like she thought it’d just come to her since she knew so much. But that was the problem! There was tons to talk about. She had to prove herself to these girls! It wasn’t like Satheri who’d always agree, or Tiphannia who never said anything.

“Uh…” she trailed off.

She couldn’t lose now. Not in front of everyone. Not with Synda watching and waiting for a mistake. But what to start with? Belts? Hats? Jewelry?

If the gods wanted to strike her with lightning, this would be a great time.

Or maybe the crowd could help.

“Let’s start with some questions!” Quinn announced, clapping her hands together.

Silence. Only silence.

“Anyone?”

“Yes! I have a question.”

Oh no. The girl asking was Treads-on-Ferns, the one Argonian in Drenlyn. Quinn panicked. She knew everything about fashion, but only for human and elven girls. She didn’t know how to accessorize for someone who had scales, claws, and a tail. Quinn always fell back on telling people to get hair pins when she couldn’t figure out anything else, but Argonians didn’t have hair!

“Yeah, go ahead!” Quinn said, her mind tumbling from one fashion idea to another.

Treads-on-Ferns made a hissing sound. “Thanks. I want to get some jewelry for my crest,” she said, and pointed at the little spikes growing from the sides of her head. “But money is short. What sort of jewelry do you think is best for me?”

Quinn had thought of a lot of different fashion possibilities, like the best color for winter wear in each province of the Empire, even though she’d only been to three (and hadn’t seen much of Skyrim). She’d never thought about Argonian crests.

But wait. She looked up and down at Treads-on-Ferns. Her scales were a brilliant green, almost like emeralds, except on some parts around her neck and forearms where the scales were this amazing cobalt blue. It must be nice to have skin—er, scales—that coordinated so naturally. Something of a similar color might work.

“Hm, I think turquoise would look great on your crest. I saw these really pretty turquoise signet rings at the market the other day.”

“Rings usually slip off,” said Treads-on-Ferns. “But I can tie the turquoise to my crest with twine. Thank you. I’ll do that.”

Quinn was still taking in more details. Treads-on-Fern’s dress was this bland beige one that was all baggy and stuff, but boring dresses sometimes made for great bases. “If you want to add an extra something to your wardrobe, I think you’d look great with a netch leather cloak. A little one that goes over your shoulders and maybe halfway down your back.”

“Interesting. What color?”

“Hm, I love the green and blue and beige you have so far, it has this natural feel which looks great for you. Maybe blue but like a little darker than the turquoise or your scales, so it fits but still stands out.”

“I like that. Thank you.”

Everyone started murmuring. Not nasty things, but like they were impressed.

Agrippina, whose hair was done up in one of those crazy piled-high Nibenese styles that took hours to prep each morning, raised her hand.

“How long should my scarf be?” she asked, not waiting for Quinn to call on her.

Quinn already had an idea.

“That depends on what statement you’re trying to make. A short scarf can be stylish, but a longer one adds some mystery…”

*********

Muthsera Morgendorffer was a genius!

The seminar had been perfect. Everyone loved Quinn and of course they did. She’d been like some kind of glorious saint from the days of Resdayn telling everyone how best to live. And Satheri was her closest friend! Or one of her closest, anyway.

Now they’d be popular. More popular, that is. Over the next few days, she saw people come to school wearing the accessories Quinn recommended. Treads-on-Ferns tied turquoise to those weird horns of hers and Agrippina got a long red moth-silk scarf with a fringe at the end just like Quinn had said.

“We should do another one next week!” Quinn said after school that Fredas. The whole Fashion Club had gone to the Glass Crown, a little cornerclub for fashionable people right next to Saint Roris Square. A whole bunch of rice wine had come in from Cyrodiil and was being sold for cheap, so they’d bought a bottle of the stuff, like what rich ladies drank in the capital.

“I think that’s a great idea!” Satheri said.

“What should it be about? We already did accessories.”

Satheri thought about it. Maybe fabrics? You had to keep warm during the winter but you didn’t want to get wrapped up in ugly guar-hide like some Ashlander.

“Maybe fabrics?” she said, and right away wished she hadn’t. Quinn probably already had a better idea.

“That’s a great idea, Satheri! Fabrics and layers are important. Now that it’s getting cold, everyone needs a way to stay warm and look good.”

Satheri smiled and almost fainted from relief.

Through a narrow window she watched a herder lead a line of guars through the marketplace, their claws clicking against the paving stones. The scaly beasts reminded her of Treads-on-Ferns. Not that Argonians were animals, or anything, she thought to herself with a bit of guilt.

They (well, Quinn, really) settled on doing the layering seminar next Middas so it could be a regular thing. All the same steps as before: Jeval making announcements, Quinn telling the outlander girls, and Satheri telling the Dunmer girls. It was so exciting! Kind of scary, too. Satheri couldn’t make any mistakes when Quinn was so invested, and she got so worried that she ran to her room to cry once she got home. What if she screwed up? Life was so much simpler before the seminar.

What if Quinn found out about Serjo Ules's birthday party last month, where Satheri had burned a bunch of heather flowers? Synda told her burning those flowers meant she hated outlanders. That’d be it. Quinn would cut her off, and so would Tiphannia, and she’d never have a friend again until she moved. And who knew what her future husband would be like?

Drenlyn was the only time she’d have fun in her entire life and she couldn’t lose that.

Yet Morndas came and she had a job to do. Maybe start with Serjo Talori. She was always nice, so it wouldn’t be too scary to talk to her. Satheri got to school as Serjo Talori walked through Drenlyn's gates. She stepped forward—

“Satheri. A moment of your time.”

Her heart sank at the voice: commanding, certain, and petulant. It was Synda. Satheri lowered her gaze and turned to face the girl.

“Uh, of course, Sera Grilvayn,” she said, keeping her head low. Synda’s eyes were so intense that it kind of hurt to look at them; easier to stare at the ground, and probably more respectful since the Grilvayns had been prestigious for a long time.

“Walk with me.”

Synda led her out of Drenlyn and into the crowded street.

“Quinn has certainly been making an impact on local fashion,” Synda said.

“She really has been.”

“I think it’s getting to her head.”

Satheri gulped and tried to hide her own head between her shoulders. Oh no, what if Quinn saw her talking like this? Or heard about it? Her heart kicked into overdrive and her vision blurred.

Synda kept talking. “How will I uphold my own honor and secure my future if I simply let some outlander act as if she can dictate fashion to us Dunmer?”

“But she’s not doing that at all, Synda! She’s giving—”

Synda made a cutting gesture with her hand. “It’s time to take a stand. Outlanders have their uses, but they must remember their place. Quinn has clearly forgotten hers. Thus, I am forming the Haute Society to ensure that there is an alternative to Quinn’s ideas. You will be a part of it.”

“I’m already part of the Fashion Club!” Satheri protested.

“We don’t need to make it official.” Synda stopped and turned to face Satheri, grabbing her shoulders and looking right into her eyes. Satheri shrank back but couldn’t break free. Her knees wobbled.

“We are both Dunmer, Satheri. I will look out for you. When I see you, I remember the girl who so bravely burned those disgusting heather flowers at Serjo Ules’s birthday party.”

“But I didn’t know what that meant! I thought they were just flowers until you told me they’re supposed to be outlanders—”

Satheri heard herself starting to blubber, like she did when she forgot to buy everything on mom’s shopping list and mom got madder the more Satheri cried. She wished she was more like Quinn, who was strong and sure the way a Dunmer was supposed to be even though she was an Imperial.

“Whether you knew it or not, you still did it. I’m going to break Quinn’s hold on Drenlyn, and you’re going to help.”

“Quinn’s my friend,” Satheri said, speaking so low she almost couldn’t hear herself.

“You only think she is. Human girls are fickle. What do you think Quinn would do if I told her about those flowers you burned?”

“You wouldn’t!”

“Absolutely. I’d never betray confidence like that. But supposing someone did tell her, do you think Quinn would still be your friend afterward?”

“I… I don’t know.”

“She would not. Betrayal can never be forgiven, after all. That’s why you should only trust other Dunmer. We stick together. Here’s what’s going to happen: the Haute Society will be holding its own seminar this Middas, at the same time as the Fashion Club. I don’t want any interference from Quinn, so make sure she does not trouble me.”

“I couldn’t—”

“Satheri, this is an opportunity. Not only for you, but for your entire family. I’ll certainly tell my mother which of my peers supported me in this endeavor, and your support can only improve your father’s standing. Now listen closely…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JguQIUGoE3E

Treads-on-Ferns - Treads is an OC, and doesn't have any counterpart from the show.

Posted by: Acadian Sep 28 2022, 08:20 PM

So glad to see that the Fashion Club seminar was a success, thanks to some astute preparations, and nimble thinking by Quinn - especially regarding Argonian fashions.

I liked it when, for the next event, Satheri suggested fabrics and Quinn told her it was a great idea. Whether to boost Satheri’s self-confidence or because the idea itself had merit was not clear and completely unimportant – good going, Quinn!

Uh-oh. Synda has the predatory instincts of a panther and has chosen to exploit who she perceives to be the weak link of Quinn’s Club. And using that silly heather burning ceremony as extortion bait. Along with all the other political Dunmeri tactics that she knows will pull poor Satheri’s strings. Synda continues to prove herself a very unlikable but very competent foe.

Because Quinn is the target and, given the discussions we’ve had regarding Quinn’s view of friendship, I’m not so sure Synda’s tact won’t work. In contrast, such manipulations would never work if Synda was trying to similarly undermine Daria via Jane. Jane simply wouldn’t fall for that crap.

Posted by: SubRosa Sep 29 2022, 06:05 AM

I liked how you set the stage here from Quinn's POV. The fashionable people. The unpopular people (ick!), the brains, and Synda with her creepy friends. It is the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Uh oh, there is trouble out of the gate when Quinn is presented with a totally unexpected conundrum. Argonian style! But if I know Quinn, this is an emergency that her fashion soul will rise to.

And there she goes, Quinn does what Quinn does best: coordinate colors! goodjob.gif

Synda, this cannot be good. She's got her manipulative hooks into Satheri. Whatver she has planned, it is not good for the Morgendorfer sisters.

OMG! She's creating a rival fashion club! I so want to see a dance battle for supremacy in the middle of the city square. laugh.gif

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Oct 1 2022, 04:46 PM

@Acadian - Quinn definitely showed her talents in this. Adaptability is one of her strengths, so even though she was caught off-guard by Treads's question, she quickly recovered. Likewise, she knows when people need support. Granted, it's pretty easy to tell with Satheri because she always needs it...

There are definitely weaknesses in the Fashion Club that Synda can (and will) exploit.

@SubRosa - Quinn does feel pretty comfortable categorizing people along those lines.

Ha! I'll say right now that the Haute Society doesn't play that big a role in the series, but the rivalry between Synda and Quinn will rear up a few more times.

As well the much darker one between Synda and Daria...

Episode 13: All the News That's Fit to Primp

Chapter 5


Middas came, and Quinn couldn’t wait. She ducked out of Sera Benniet’s class early (it was super-boring anyway) to clear her head.

The whole layering thing was only a theme. People could ask about anything they wanted. But she still wanted to go over her ideas. Thin moth-silk almost always worked as a second layer over thicker fabrics like wool or flax, but netch leather also worked great as a way to add more variety in texture.

Quinn was still mentally going over her plans when lunch started. She saw Jeval hurry to the courtyard, where he’d make one last announcement to remind everyone. Except there were two Dunmer guys in fancy western clothes standing in his usual spot next to the gate. She’d never seen them before, and they looked way too old to be students. One of them carried a long brass horn.

But Jeval was a pro. He took his position and opened his mouth. Quinn closed her eyes and smiled, ready to hear her name shouted out to everyone in school.

“Today at lunch! Get the—”

The blast of a horn drowned out his voice. Jeval clamped his hands over his ears; the poor guy had been right next to the Dunmer who’d blown it.

Worse, the horn had gotten everyone’s attention.

“Oh no,” Quinn said, suddenly getting a bad feeling.

“Uh, today at lunch—” Jeval tried another time.

That jerk horn player blasted over him again! No way was it an accident. Okay, well if that dumb hornist wanted the most popular girl in Drenlyn to yell at him, he’d get that. Quinn balled her hands into fists and started toward him.

“Hey, could you stop that?” Jeval said. “I gotta make this announcement. Plus I'm deaf now because of your stupid horn—"

The other Dunmer guy shoved him to the side. Quinn halted. This was getting weird. The hornist played a stupid little tune and then spoke: “Hereby announcing the first meeting of the Haute Society, led by honored Sera Synda Grilvayn!”

Synda marched out onto the courtyard with a bunch of her friends. They all wore dark gowns of thick moth-silk, the kind you’d never go shopping in but might wear to a funeral or something.

“Come one, come all!" Synda announced. "You have fashion questions, and I have fashion answers. What’s more, I know exactly what the wealthiest and most respectable ladies of Vivec City will be wearing this winter. My cousin, Muthsera Bronosa Nedalor, lives in the Hlaalu Canton.”

She already had a big crowd. It looked like all of the Dunmer girls stood there right at the front, except for Satheri and Jane.

Synda kept going. “Dark colors will definitely be in. You won’t want to be wearing anything bright if you or your families get invited to any Hlaalu parties. Remember: image is everything.”

“Where can we get the right dress for this winter?” Agrippina asked, standing toward the back.

“Good question. The key to dressing for Hlaalu events is to know the right people. I would not recommend just any dressmaker’s store…”

And she did it all in that snooty voice of hers!

Tiphannia and Satheri finally showed up.

“Guys! Do you see this? Synda’s totally stealing our seminar!” Quinn fumed.

“I can’t believe… she thinks… she can get away… with this...” Tiphannia said. At least she was paying attention, or as much attention as she ever did.

“Oh, I’m so sorry, Quinn,” Satheri said.

“We have to do something!”

Satheri gave an apologetic shrug. “Maybe we shouldn’t?”

Quinn couldn't believe what she was hearing. “Huh?”

“Muthsera Morgendorffer,” Satheri said, looking down at her shoes, “the Grilvayns are like really influential in Great House Hlaalu. I’m scared if you go against her, well, it might hurt my family.”

Satheri raised her head, and her eyes were full of tears. Which wasn’t that weird actually, since she cried about everything.

“Please?" Satheri begged. "We don’t need seminars to have fun. It can be like it was in the old days. Because if you pick a fight with her... it’s going to hurt me, too.”

“Hurt like how?” Quinn asked.

“Like they might ostracize daddy and it'll get harder for him to work with Great House Hlaalu. If it gets bad enough, my betrothed might decide not to marry me and—”

Suddenly Satheri grabbed the front of Quinn's dress and pulled her close. Satheri's face was all weird with her eyes huge and her teeth clenched. “Please! I can’t afford this!”

Quinn didn’t know where to start.

“Wow… that much stress… will give you wrinkles...” Tiphannia said.

Thanks for that, Quinn thought, and wondered what was wrong with Tiphannia.

But poor Satheri looked like she was about to fall apart. Quinn remembered how Turimar had threatened to put mom and dad in the poorhouse. How maybe he’d have done it if the Morag Tong hadn’t, well, killed him.

Plus, though Quinn hated to think it, Satheri was a wimp. Quinn liked protecting Satheri because it was like having a little sister to watch out for (way more fun than the weird older sister she actually had), but it was a lot to deal with. Putting Satheri through that would become a problem for Quinn, too.

Though she wished Satheri would stand up for herself a little more.

“Calm down, Satheri. I'll let it go."

Satheri released her grip and then knelt at Quinn’s feet. “Thank you, Muthsera Morgendorffer. I’m sorry, I don’t mean to get in the way, but thank—”

“Come on, come on! Get up, we have reputations to maintain!” Quinn said.

Because they totally did, even if Synda hogged everyone's attention. Crying was great when it made a guy feel sorry for you, or maybe at one of those big confession and reconciliation moments. But you looked clingy if you did it too much.

Jeval walked up to them. “Hey, Quinn. Sorry about that, but you saw what happened.”

“It’s okay, Jeval,” she said. “I think we’ll be putting the seminars on hold. We got what we wanted.”

“What did we... want?” Tiphannia asked.

“You know, to make sure everybody knew about us! And unlike Synda, we didn’t need a noisy hornist or some snooty relative in Vivec! After school, I think we should celebrate by going out the Glass Crown. All on me, girls.”

Except she hated to give up like that. She’d worked so hard and done everything right. She’d given her money to Jeval and Daria, answered everyone’s questions, and given fashion advice that people actually followed. All that work undone because Synda had connections that Quinn never would.

Oh, she was mad. She wanted to yell and scream until everything went her way. But getting really mad was like crying: you had to do it at the right time.

“That sounds… great…” Tiphannia said.

“Thanks, Muthsera Morgendorffer. I’d love to go,” Satheri said. She was smiling through her tears but still had kind of a crazy look in her eyes, like she might flip out over something.

“Can I get hazard pay for today?” Jeval asked.

“Tell you what, I'll pay you your regular amount, but you can join us at the Glass Crown. Since you helped us a lot.”

He looked from side to side, and then thought about it for a moment.

“I guess you guys are like my coworkers now. So, sure, I'll take it.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7StBu1R7xk8

Posted by: Acadian Oct 2 2022, 08:25 PM

Urgh, upstaged by Synda. I’d like to think that Quinn could best Synda in a fashion diva contest due to her superior passion for it but only on a level playing field. But as Satheri points out and Quinn angrily acknowledges, that is not going to happen. Outclassing Synda would also undermine Synda’s House would be bad for both Satheri’s and Quinn’s families.

“Wow… that much stress… will give you wrinkles...” Tiphannia said.’
- - Haha, Tippi’s been hanging around Quinn long enough to pick up some of her fashion sense. . . but none of the tact that Quinn wields.

Oh well, perhaps just as well for now if the Fashion Club has a drink of bug juice and takes some time to plan their next steps.

Posted by: SubRosa Oct 2 2022, 11:04 PM

Uh oh, Synda's evil plot takes shape, starting with some dicks she hired to upstage Jeval.

Synda's got the money and the thugs. But I don't think she can out-fashion Quinn. Not in the long run. I suspect she will win this round thanks to the element of surprise. But Quinn's got some contacts of her own. I expect her to come up with a plan (I am sure Daria will be involved somehow) to strike back.

Poor Satheri, she's caught up in the middle of all this. It was what January meant when she so recently pointed out to Xochitl that you needed to think about the consequences of your actions, and how sometimes other people suffered those for you.

OTOH, now that you mention Turimar and that guild of assassins... How much would it cost to have a student murdered again?

As ever, I loved how in the middle of all that Quinn was considering the effects on popularity that crying had one oneself.

Posted by: RaderOfTheLostArk Oct 3 2022, 12:58 AM

Synda's a real fetcher. But the bad kind—the profanity kind. Her attitude https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pubd-spHN-0. Hope someone spills sujamma and shein on her outfit.

You know, if you haven't yet, you can check out Elder Scrolls Online for a myriad of outfits themed to all the regions of Tamriel.

Maybe Quinn could discover the power of CHIM some time and show Synda what's up.

I always find "Muthsera Morgendorffer" amusing when juxtaposed alongside all the Dunmeri names.

RE: a couple previous posts of yours, Clavier:

Sorry I haven't gotten to comment lately on your story. Good to see you going strong on it, Clavier.

Posted by: Renee Oct 4 2022, 03:43 PM

Cool, this time they have an audience. "Some unpopular people showed up, as always" laugh.gif Darn, what a setback!

What? She hasn't got a speech? indifferent.gif Oh man, this is cringe-worthy.

QUOTE
Treads-on-Fern’s dress was this bland beige one that was all baggy and stuff, but boring dresses sometimes made for great bases.


Ha ha. This is exactly the same sort of advice I might see in some fashion magazine (minus the words "bland" and boring"). A very astute observation. cake.gif The mags might use the word "neutral tones" instead of bland or boring. Neutral-toned clothes are like tofu: rather tasteless, but you can add whatever you want to make them flavorful.

But anyway, this is turning out okay. smile.gif Quinn is getting it done! Quinn's going to be even more popular! ... I know this story is sort of about a rather shallow topic, but underneath all of that there's a deeper theme going on. The outlander is making waves. indifferent.gif She is standing out. Which is not supposed to happen. Outlanders are not supposed to be better than the native Dunmer population.

But that's right. Satheri was part of that horrible heather festival. sad.gif Which is all about burning up outlanders.

QUOTE
Because they totally did, even if Synda hogged everyone's attention. Crying was great when it made a guy feel sorry for you ..... But getting really mad was like crying: you had to do it at the right time.....


laugh.gif laugh.gif

Wow, you've got Destiny's Child (not just the most famous gal Beyonce). 🎤 You've got a broad musical taste, Clavier. The Go-Gos rock too. Fave song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3kQlzOi27M



Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Oct 5 2022, 04:12 PM

@Acadian - Quinn is kind of a user of people, as others have pointed out. But only to an extent. While she sees Satheri's support as a way to get ahead, she does care about Satheri.

Tiphannia is... unusual. She's probably the most one-note recurring character on the show. Honestly, I kind of regret following suit in this series, but I just never got around to her.

@SubRosa - Quinn's big advantage (fashion-wise) over Synda is adaptability. Back in Cyrodiil, Quinn would have been disgusted by the idea of eating bugs (while Daria would have enjoyed the idea, largely because it disgusted Quinn). But I figure that Quinn would have started scarfing bugs down the moment they set foot on Morrowind because she knew that's what she had to do in order to be taken seriously (while it took Daria a bit longer to warm up to the idea).

Crying can mess with makeup and complexion, so I imagine that'd be something Quinn is always worrying about.

@RaderOfTheLostArk - Ha! I see what you did there. Maybe someday "fetch" will happen.

I did look, and ESO has some good examples for sure! And if Quinn ever figures out CHIM... Tamriel will be a much different place. Probably a better one, in many ways, but potentially a more annoying one in others.

So I actually didn't find out about the Ratcatchers Guild until after I'd already written that story. But I think the minor guilds are mostly limited to Cyrodiil and maybe some of the bigger provincial cities. Balmora's too much of a frontier.

Since there's also a Painters Guild (I've even developed a few quests where the Painters Guild features), the limitation to Cyrodiil would explain why Jane's not a member. Balmora's not a small town, but it's kind of rugged and back of beyond. Jane might be the only artist catering to outlanders there. Episode 15, "The Tell-Tale Art", explores this in more detail.

As for the age issue, I did some research and never got anything too solid (though I'll admit I've never read The Real Barenziah). I ultimately just went with Mer aging at the same rate as Men up until young adulthood for the sake of convenience, but it's good to hear that I was (probably) correct.

I also never got any solid info on how old Argonians get. Here, I went with Argonians living longer than Men, but not as long as Mer (which will become relevant in the epilogue).

No worries about the comments, and always good to hear from you.

@Renee - Well you gotta watch out for those unpopulars! They might *gasp* make you unpopular, too!

As Daria has said, both in her show and in Morrowind, Quinn's shallowness is so thorough that it's almost like depth. Since she really knows her stuff.

Quinn is standing out. Which is a risk. One that Daria's painfully aware of, as this chapter explores.

So I can't take too much credit for the soundtrack. Most of the songs I picked were picked because they played on one Daria episode or another. Not all, though. I also chose songs from bands that never appeared on the show, like Ozma, The Raveonettes, and The Decmemberists, among others. Pre-'90s songs are also more likely to be my picks. And thanks for the song rec! Our Lips Are Sealed is a new one to me.

Episode 13: All the News That's Fit to Primp

Chapter 6


Daria loved to see her sister taken down a peg. But Synda beating Quinn at her own game only threw Daria into a panic. She hyperventilated as the pain of old blows echoed through her nerves and bones. She heard the crunch of her old glasses beneath Synda’s feet, the hateful sound forever imprinted on her memory.

She fled Drenlyn. Chest heaving and arms shaking, she practically ran through the streets. All she wanted was home: its thick walls, its darkness, its safety.

Daria threw herself on her bed as soon as she reached her room and tried not to think about the attack.

So, naturally, that’s all she thought about.

The longer she waited, the more likely Quinn would escalate the situation with Synda and unwittingly bring it to a violent breaking point. Daria should have stayed at Drenlyn to keep an eye on things. That's what good older sisters did. But it hurt. She shivered and hugged herself, and it still hurt.

Later in the afternoon, hearing Quinn’s footsteps coming up the stairs, Daria realized she still didn’t have a plan.

“It’s so unfair!” Quinn shouted the moment she came in. “You saw what happened today, right?”

“I sure did,” Daria said, lying on her side and trying to sound like she didn’t give a damn. Maybe a display of apathy would make Quinn give up.

Make Quinn give up and hide her confidence so that she truly became the conformist she pretended to be. Daria’s stomach twisted.

“After all that work I did. That we did, ‘cause you helped!” Quinn said.

“My rates are going way up if you want me to fight Synda.”

Quinn crossed her arms, her face flushed with anger. “Right, I get it. You don’t care about anything.”

“Trust me, it’s way easier.” Oh gods, she hated the words she spoke. She wanted to tell Quinn the truth. Tell her how awful Synda was.

But she couldn't. Not if she wanted Quinn to stay safe.

“Well, I care about things," Quinn fumed. "The only reason I can’t do anything is because Synda’s family is like important or something, and if I fight her it might get Satheri’s family in trouble. The way Turimar tried to get us in trouble.”

Gods. Not only was Daria a complete failure as an older sister, but Quinn actually sacrificed what she wanted most to keep a friend safe.

What if Quinn was just better than her?

“This makes me so mad,” Quinn said.

Daria slowly sat up and took a few deep breaths to calm down. She couldn't leave Quinn completely adrift. “Yeah,” she finally said. “It’s enraging.”

Quinn gave her a quizzical look. “I thought you didn’t care.”

“It’s not that.” Daria weighed her options. She wanted to tell the truth.

But she couldn't.

"So, we can do something?" Quinn asked.

"It's not that simple. Remember how you felt when Turimar threatened you? Because his influence went a lot farther than our influence? It's kind of like that with Synda. There's not much we can do to her."

Quinn looked doubtful. "Satheri tells me that the Grilvayns are powerful, but not that powerful. She knows a lot about this stuff, Daria. It's like her whole world."

"Well," Daria said, "how can Satheri be sure? Remember the time Synda tried to trick you into going into that Camonna Tong hideout? That's a pretty sure sign that she has friends in low places who might be willing to do some pretty brutal things to us."

Quinn shook her head. "No way. Synda was just trying to embarrass me. Satheri told me that the Grilvayns don't hang out with the Camonna Tong anyway. They aren't the right kind of family."

Daria hesitated. She didn't think much of Satheri. Then again, Satheri had grown up in this kind of environment, so she would know. Jane, for all her street smarts, was almost as much of an outsider as Daria.

Had Synda lied to her about hiring Camonna Tong thugs?

The pain of the memory cut through everything else, and Daria shook her head. "Look, you've already had one close call with Synda. Don't try for another."

Quinn drew herself up. "So what then? Keep rolling over like some loser?"

"If that keeps things from getting worse, so be it."

"Daria, is there something you're not telling me?"

Yes. Tons of things.

"Remember what I said," Daria warned, taking a random book from her desk and opening it up. "And if it comes crashing down on your head, don't blame me."

"Fine, I won't!"

As Daria's eyes moved over the text without taking in the words, she prayed that it would end with this.



*********



Daria sucked at lying.

Which was weird, because she was all creative and stuff. But only on paper. She couldn't fib to save her life face-to-face.

She knew there was something her sister wasn't telling her.

Quinn didn’t have any classes the next day, so she went off to the market to buy a kwama egg for the evening meal. She didn't usually think about the stuff Daria said, but she'd sounded scared the other night. Of what, Synda?

Okay, so Synda had almost tricked Quinn into going into that sketchy tavern. But the Camonna Tong couldn't get away with killing people who blundered into the Council Club. Them killing random outlanders would make the Hlaalu look bad, and if there was anything the Hlaalu hated, it was looking bad. Satheri said that only the sketchiest or most powerful families hung out with the Camonna Tong. Boring business families like Synda's didn't go anywhere near them.

Balmora was more dangerous than Stirk, but not by as much as Daria thought. Hiding away wasn't an option for Quinn. People loved her. Like practically everyone who mattered had gone to the seminar and followed her advice.

Quinn got in line at Llervo the egg-seller's stand. That’s when she saw Treads-on-Ferns walking past, a big sack full of something slung over her shoulder. She still wore the turquoise in her crest.

“Hi,” Quinn said, waving.

“Oh, hello,” Treads-on-Ferns said, coming to a stop. “Thanks again for answering my question last week.”

“My pleasure,” Quinn said. It felt good to remember, but it hurt, too. Gods, she wanted to be able to help like that again. “I guess Synda’s the new expert though.”

Treads-on-Ferns shook her head. “I know better than to ask her for anything. To tell you the truth, Quinn, I was trying to put you in a hard spot. Most people don’t like to think that we Argonians care about looking good. They think we’re nothing more than lizards. But you did a good job, and even thought about my scales.”

Huh, she hadn’t expected that. But it seemed like a compliment. It was hard to tell because Treads's face was so different. “Of course! You have like the prettiest scales, so it only makes sense to emphasize the colors. It’s like what I do with my hair.”

“I don’t know much about hair, but I guess that makes sense. Anyway, I’m sorry that Synda’s Haute Society took over.”

“Oh, that’s no big deal. Seminars are so last week, anyway.” Quinn thought about it for a second. Treads-on-Ferns wasn’t popular. In fact, Quinn wasn’t sure she had friends at all.

But at least she gave her opinion. Tiphannia was always off in la-la land and Satheri was too scared to say anything. If the Fashion Club was going to be for all Tamriel, she needed to get some Beastfolk perspectives, too.

“You know, Treads-on-Ferns, the Fashion Club could use a new member.”

Treads-on-Ferns looked like she was thinking about it. At least Quinn was pretty sure she was.

“What would I have to do?”

“Oh, you know, stay up to date on fashion. But that’s like super-easy since we spend all our time in the market anyway. It’d be great to have you if we ever do seminars again.”

Treads made another hissing sound, which sounded sort of scary but she probably meant to be friendly. “Okay, I’m up for that.”

“Great! I, Quinn Morgendorffer, formally accept you, Treads-on-Ferns, as the fourth member of the Fashion Club!”

“Are your friends going to be okay with that?”

“Oh, totally! We’re all really supportive. Anyway, we’ll be having a meeting tomorrow after school so you can get to know everybody then.”

“Great. I’ll be there,” Treads-on-Ferns said. “I should probably get these ash yams back to my parents. See you tomorrow.”

“See you!”

She waved as Treads-on-Ferns left the market. So it wasn’t a total loss after all. Sure, Treads-on-Ferns wasn’t popular or anything but maybe that didn’t matter so much. In a place like Morrowind, you needed whatever friends you could find.

The End

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bzsa8aktlcM

Author's Note: Episode 13 marks what I consider to be the end of the first "season". While I didn't actively write this with seasons in mind, I couldn't help thinking about it later on.

The first season introduces settings and characters (as first seasons usually do). Daria and the others did face some pretty tense situations, like dealing with Mages Guild skullduggery, cruel and spoiled nobles, and the odd nix hound attack. But for the most part, Daria can stay distant and keep her hands clean.

This is the point where that starts to change. Season 2 (episodes 14 to 23) show that you can't really sequester yourself from the world in the way she wants, at least not indefinitely. Season 3 (episodes 24 to 32), the final season, is ultimately about her figuring out how she wants to interact with this world. The tone stays the same. The comedy doesn't go away. But there is a bit more weight.

Posted by: Acadian Oct 5 2022, 08:15 PM

A neat look at the situation from Daria’s perspective, totally influenced of course by her own baggage with Synda. Even as she soul searches and knows she should offer support to Quinn, she remains her own worst enemy. Some deep stuff though as Daria even wonders if Quinn is just better than her.

As you conclude this season, it seems to me that both sisters are complex young ladies that are very different from each other. Both have plenty to commend them and both have their own significant flaws.

This continues to be a wonderfully well-crafted and enjoyable story!

Posted by: SubRosa Oct 6 2022, 01:14 AM

Uh oh, Daria is having a panic attack stemming from the violence that was done to her courtesy of Synda.

doh, more later.

Edit: More

Daria's quite natural fear is crippling her. Given the assault upon her no surprise. It looks like her long-hidden ideals are pricking up to fight back. But not quite enough to give her the resolution to act. The question is of course, what can they do? Shy of hiring an assassin to murder Synda of course.

It was nice to see a dint of doubt in the impenetrable edifice of Synda's Dark Lord status that Daria has built up in her mind, with the revelation that she might indeed be connected with the Tong after all. But sadly not enough to tip the balance in the favor of her acting. At least not yet.

I see Quinn is working some things out in her own head. I wonder if she will do some detective work on Synda and her family's actual position and connections?

You know, Treads-on-Fern might not be popular... yet. The Fashion Club might need a new member...

I see great minds think alike. Way to go Quinn. Get that girl on the squad.

I do appreciate the Seasonal structure to your story telling. You can use long-term stories like this in what I liken to a television show's seasons. In this case it sounds like each of your seasons is like one act in a 3 Act play: Season One - the introduction to the setting and character. Season Two - throw in some conflict that upsets the status quo, and forces our protagonist to change and adapt. Then Season Three, the payoff, where we get a conclusion to our storyline(s).

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Oct 7 2022, 04:00 AM

I remembered that I'd created some stats for Daria if she were a Morrowind character, and thought I'd share them here.

I used the Savant NPC class as a guideline, since a few of the early stories do mention that Daria's training for this position. These don't really match Daria all that well (hard to imagine her picking locks or doing anything acrobatic). Since we're dealing with literature rather than gaming, I can be more expansive with the skills she has. For major skills, I swapped out Alchemy, Unarmored, and Athletics for Writing, Research, and Alteration (she's quite unpracticed, but we'll assume that's the school she knows slightly better). Minor, I took out Security, Block, and Acrobatics, replacing them with Restoration, Destruction, and Law.

Major Skills
- Speechcraft (while she's not the most social, she is quite witty)
- Writing
- Research
- Alteration
- Mercantile (side-effect of navigating Balmora's markets)

Minor Skills
- Restoration
- Destruction
- Short Blade (her dad did give her some training)
- Law (thanks to her mom)
- Sneak

Obviously not optimized for the game, but works well enough for the story. As for stats, she's an Imperial, but I wanted to adjust the base stats to better fit her. Thus, I boosted her intelligence and willpower by ten each, but lowered her personality by 10, and her agility by a whopping 20.

Strength: 40
Intelligence: 50
Willpower: 50
Agility: 20 (agility includes one's ability to hit things, and her poor vision is a serious impediment)
Speed: 30
Endurance: 40
Personality: 40
Luck: 40

As an Imperial, she does get a natural Speechcraft/Mercantile bonus, so that helps offset the below-average personality score. She'd also have the Voice of the Emperor power, though I don't necessarily translate racial abilities literally in the story.

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Oct 8 2022, 04:57 PM

@Acadian - I think that kind of insecurity is pretty embedded in Daria. For all of her smarts and confidence, she knows that Quinn has better social graces. Everywhere Quinn goes, she's admired. Most don't notice Daria, or if they do, it's in a negative way. Likewise, there's also the nagging doubt that her parents prefer Quinn since she's easier to manage (Daria's not correct about this, but you can see why she would think it).

Daria and Quinn are indeed complex. Obviously since I'm basing them on the writings of others, I can't take full credit. I did adjust the characters a bit for the setting. I think this version of Quinn is actually more mature than the show's version was at this age. You could just chalk it up to her growing up faster due to immediately going to a leadership position.

Thanks for the kind words!

@SubRosa - First, happy (slightly belated) birthday! Chorrol.com mentioned you having a birthday yesterday.

Daria's still too scared to do anything about Synda, but the seed of doubt's been planted. You'll see the result by Episode 18.

Treads-on-Ferns isn't a major character, but she will be a recurring one from here on out. She's more independent than the other Fashion Club members. Plus, I wanted to have at least one Argonian character.

I can't take too much credit for the seasonal structure, since it wasn't intentional. It's just something I realized after I finished writing. But it does line up pretty neatly, as you say.

Episode 14: Raiders of the Lost Arkngthand

Chapter 1


Ash-tainted rain poured down from a sky the color of rust as Daria marched uphill, weighed down by her drenched green cloak and her pack. Thunder pealed in the distance, booming across the jagged hills and blackened gullies that stretched all the way to the horizon.

“Keep going!” the driver called out to his pack-guars. The two beasts groaned in response and pulled forward, the overstuffed wagon trailing behind them.

Soaked to the bone and exhausted, Daria was starting to wonder if they’d make it before nightfall. The path had turned steep and rugged right after they’d passed Moonmoth Legion Fort, and the torrential rains rendered the stone slick and treacherous.

Jane, who walked next to her, managed it only slightly better.

“Jane, remind me to never again put in this much effort toward an unpaid internship,” Daria said.

“Hey, the Imperial Archaeological Society is all about roughing it. They probably arranged this storm with, uh, Arkay.”

“Kynareth’s our nature god, not Arkay,” Daria corrected. “But your point stands: I suppose it only makes sense for quid pro quo to be an animating principle for the Imperial pantheon.”

“See, it’s all part of the system.” She chuckled and rubbed her hands together as thunder cracked yet again. “The system that’s actually paying me!”

“Rub it in.”

It was Jolda’s doing, more or less. Her father, Armand, had gotten permission from the Imperial Archeological Society to do a dig at Arkngthand, the ruined Dwemer city just a day’s travel away from Balmora. He’d already been up there for a month and had sent word that he needed more help. The less he had to pay said help, the better.

“Dad was impressed with how you handled that speech this summer,” Jolda had said. “I’m headed up there to help out for a week, and if you come along he’ll register it as participation with the IAS.”

Sounded more interesting than Drenlyn Academy, at any rate.

When Daria learned that Armand was also offering a paid position for an artist, it only made sense to tell Jane about the opportunity. Jolda hadn’t known exactly what Jane would be doing, but she’d guessed sketches of Dwemer machinery. Something better than grunt work, at any rate.

Said grunt work would be done by three more of Drenlyn’s best and brightest: Jonus, Julien, and Jeval, who tramped forward on the other side of the wagon.

That the IAS accepted them at all gave Daria serious reservations about the organization as a whole.

“How are you guys doing?” Jolda asked, coming over from the side of the wagon where she'd been walking.

Daria took off her glasses and tried to clean the rain-spattered lenses with her sleeve. “Let’s see: I’m cold, soaked, and I’m pretty sure I’m getting a blister on my foot. But given that the alternative is listening to Sera Ondryn talk about how we outlanders can fit in as long as we believe in ourselves, I’ll count myself fortunate.”

Jolda laughed. “We’ll be at the bridge pretty soon. Arkngthand is just beyond that.”

“Right, Arkngthand,” Jane said. “These Dwemer weren’t too big on vowels, were they.”

“Everyone knows the cool kids only use consonants,” Daria said.

“Don’t you mean ‘vrn nz th klkds nlz cnsntz’?” Jane said, repeating Daria’s words sans vowels as best she could.

“I’m not willing to sacrifice my tongue and vocal cords to meet some arbitrary definition of cool.” Giving up on getting the lenses clean, Daria put her glasses back on and pulled her cloak’s hood forward.

“We’re still working on translating Dwemeris,” Jolda said. “No one’s spoken it for thousands of years. My dad thinks that the vowels were implied rather than written out, but that doesn’t explain why they did seem to be written out on some occasions.”

“Would I be doing any of the translation work?”

“Honestly, I’m not sure exactly what my dad needs from you. It'll mostly be administrative, I think.”

Daria knew more than most about the Dwemer, which still meant she knew almost nothing. The ancient race had ruled a great empire from their subterranean, steam-powered citadels, one that had once covered much of Morrowind and eastern Skyrim and even boasted a few colonies in far-off Hammerfell. The Dwemer shunned visitors and lived among machines, boasting knowledge that surpassed any other civilization in history. Intelligent, isolationist, and idiosyncratic; Daria had always rather liked them.

But they’d all vanished without a trace around 2,500 years ago.

The ground finally leveled off and Daria saw the bridge. She’d been expecting something like the stone bridges of Cyrodiil but on a bigger scale. What she saw was a monstrous construction made entirely out of what looked like aged bronze, half a mile long and wide enough for three big carts to pass side-by-side. Enormous support piers plunged into the living rock of the canyon below. Though age had left its mark, the bridge’s surface splotched and scarred with tarnish, it still stood in defiance of nature.

How could anyone, no matter how advanced, have enough metal to create something so large?

Railings ran along both sides of the bridge, resembling enormous pipes. Spidery script had been engraved all along their lengths, the letters cramped together with barely any space between them. She wondered what about railings was interesting enough to justify so much text.

Beyond the bridge, the skewed towers of Arkngthand jutted needle-like into the soiled skies.

The wagon driver was already moving across, as was Jolda. Curious, Daria reached out and touched the railing, its surface rough and surprisingly warm beneath her fingers. It didn’t feel quite like bronze. Far below the bridge, furious ashen waters stormed the Foyada Mamea. It hadn’t been that long ago since she’d hiked down that same foyada to Pelagiad with Jane and Trent.

“Hey, Jane. Did you know that the Foyada Mamea is prone to flash flooding?”

“Yeah, it is,” Jane said, taking a look at the rushing torrent. “It hardly ever rains this high up though.”

“I’m sure that rarity is of great comfort to anybody using the foyada today.”

Daria supposed it never hurt to have another reminder that Morrowind—Vvardenfell in particular—remained a dangerous place, the countryside as much as the city though for different reasons. And that probably went double for Dwemer ruins like the one she’d soon be exploring.

Jolda had told her than a legion team had already destroyed the clanking Dwemer animunculi roaming Arkngthand’s upper halls, and that the place would be safe so long as she didn’t go beyond the dig site boundaries. It had taken her parents a bit more convincing but they’d finally given in; sure, there was some risk to Daria’s physical well-being, but that was a small matter compared to the risk of her giving up another networking opportunity, a pretty damn good one, all things considered.

She’d been eager to go in spite all of that. Dying to some ancient Dwemer trap was at least a relatively novel means of death. If she had to be a statistic, she might as well be an interesting one.

The storm still raged when they reached the other side, as desolate and stony as the first. They struggled uphill as rain and the encroaching night blackened the world, their way lit only by the sooty glow of their lanterns. The pack guars groaned as they hauled the creaking wagon uphill, wheels and clawed feet alike straining to gain traction on the slippery rock.

Daria was shivering under her cloak by the time she spotted other lanterns in the distance. Their dim glow soon revealed the contours of pavilions bearing the Empire’s red diamond. She’d made it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Waz7PMZHeg

Posted by: Acadian Oct 9 2022, 08:34 PM

Fabulous scene setting as you pull us right into the muddy, dreary and exhausting trek by mer, humans, guar and wagon up to Arkngthand. This promises to certainly be an interesting venue with different hazards than those of the urban Balmora.

I enjoyed the banter between Jane and Daria, especially their vowel joking.

’The Dwemer shunned visitors and lived among machines, boasting knowledge that surpassed any other civilization in history. Intelligent, isolationist, and idiosyncratic; Daria had always rather liked them.’ laugh.gif

Posted by: SubRosa Oct 9 2022, 09:36 PM

So Daria is doing another unpaid internship, this time for the Arkaylogical Society? wink.gif

At least Jane is getting paid. In one of my Archaeology podcasts they had an entire episode on the importance of art in documenting finds. They do a lot of photography of course, but in some ways artwork is better, as it can emphasis tiny details that a picture might not show very well. Plus you still have to make sketches of where things lay in situ, to show their relation to one another over all. Who knows, Jane could have a long and illustrious career as an archaeologist. I doubt it. But she could.

The 3 Stooges are bringing up the rear! perfect.

Intelligent, isolationist, and idiosyncratic; Daria had always rather liked them.
I smiled at this.

As I understand it, the leading cause of death in the Sahara is drowning, from flash floods that fill the wadis and kill anyone in them.

I wonder if Maiko was one of the legionaries sent to clear out the Dwemer Bots beforehand?

As ever, I love Daria's dry sarcasm as she muses over death by dwemer trap at least being an interesting statistic. And of course her easy banter with Jane is always a treat to hear. That was always one of my favorite things in the show. I always wished that I could be as cool and clever as the two of them.

Posted by: Renee Oct 11 2022, 01:06 PM

I'm a stat-lover myself (really hate what they did with Skyrim, for instance). You'd need a mod to add Research, Writing and so on. laugh.gif But indeed, the numbers which are in-game such as Speechcraft and Mercantile certainly fit. Thing is, there aren't enough stats & skills for a Daria character, not without a mod. tongue.gif

I could totally see Sneak being a good one for her, but as a Minor. She doesn't use it all the time.

Speaking of, wow, Daria's working for the Archaeological Guild. Oh crap, they're going to Arkngthand???* blink.gif Dangerous.... Why are they going there? I'm not seeing a reason in last week's story.



*(I know how to spell the name of that Dwemer ruin well; I wrote Arkngthand probably 4 dozen times when Joan went there!)


Posted by: SubRosa Oct 11 2022, 10:52 PM

What is long and hard that a Dwemer bride gets on their wedding night?


Posted by: Renee Oct 11 2022, 11:37 PM

A golden rod? A Dwarven tube?

Ah gosh, you tricked me!

Posted by: Acadian Oct 12 2022, 12:05 AM

Doubtless, one with no consonants. . . .

Edit: *Slaps forehead* Err, I meant to say vowels. . . . embarrased.gif

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Oct 12 2022, 04:54 PM

@Acadian - Thanks! This is when the series starts to explore more of Vvardenfell. It's still centered around Balmora, but Daria will be seeing some of the more far-flung locations. Arkngthand is only the beginning...

@SubRosa - I remember reading about Frederick Catherwood. You may already know this, but he was one of the earlier archaeologists to explore Mayan ruins, and his big thing was drawing them. His art helped cement the Mayans in the popular consciousness. So yeah, art is important... though you'll soon see exactly how Jane's art will be used.

I hadn't heard that statistic, but it wouldn't surprise me. The worst dangers are often the less obvious ones. Flash floods hit quick and hit hard.

Good question regarding Maiko. That would have been an interesting element, but as this chapter reveals, he came after Arkngthand was cleared. Maiko's in kind of an odd position, since I presented him as having a lot more responsibilities than most troops his age and rank (what with Varro having him gather information in Balmora). My reasoning was Maiko's commanding officers see him as a prospect for intelligence work someday. Still might be a stretch that they're starting to so early, but oh well.

QUOTE(SubRosa @ Oct 9 2022, 09:36 PM) *


As ever, I love Daria's dry sarcasm as she muses over death by dwemer trap at least being an interesting statistic. And of course her easy banter with Jane is always a treat to hear. That was always one of my favorite things in the show. I always wished that I could be as cool and clever as the two of them.


Don't we all.

QUOTE(SubRosa @ Oct 11 2022, 10:52 PM) *

What is long and hard that a Dwemer bride gets on their wedding night?




Ha!

@Renee - I will admit that I actually prefer Morrowind's gameplay, for the most part, to that of later game's. How much of that I owe to some form of gaming Stockholm Syndrome I'll leave up to you.

Hm, I think you might have missed the last chapter of All the News That's Fit to Primp, which is on the previous page. This one's starting a brand new episode featured around Arkngthand, and which takes place about a month after the earlier episode.

Episode 14: Raiders of the Lost Arkngthand

Chapter 2


Daria awoke the next morning and instantly wished she hadn’t. Every joint in her body ached and her weary brain begged her to close her eyes and go back to sleep for a year or so.

Nonetheless, she slowly worked her way out of the sleeping bag as the dawn drums rumbled across the camp. She exited the tent and stepped into morning air, crisp and cold from the previous day’s storm. At last she got a good look at the Arkngthand dig site.

A dozen or so tents squatted on the rocky slope, the ground black and barren save for a few spiky trama roots clinging to life with pernicious determination. Ancient metal spires rose directly from the stone. The lack of foundations told Daria that they were probably connected to deeper underground structures. Some of the towers resembled unadorned poles or chimneys, while others were crowned by narrow spikes or dented turrets. Skinny and crooked pipes formed a sprawling metallic web that spread between spires and across the grounds, some of the strands running through the living rock.

At the summit stood a titanic statue of what she assumed was a bearded Dwemer warrior. Time had worn down the statue's delicate Mer features but the halberd in its hand still looked sharp.

“Hey, Daria,” came a voice.

It was Maiko, his legion armor already burnished to a sheen.

“Oh, hi. Didn’t know you were here,” Daria said.

“I got here a few days ago. Talked Varro into letting me be an observer; figured it’d be good practice for my liaison work.”

Daria raised her eyebrows. “Not to mention good practice for seeing Jolda.”

Maiko half-laughed, half-grunted in response. “Easy on what you say about that, Daria,” he said quietly. “Anyway, Armand’s going to give you guys a quick orientation speech after breakfast. The mess tent’s over there.”

He pointed to a beige pavilion next to a squat, cylindrical tower with a disc-like top.

“Good, an orientation speech is just what I need to get some extra sleep.”

“You better listen to him, Daria. Arkeng… Arkneng…” he trailed off. “This place is safe as far as we know, but you can’t be too careful with Dwemer stuff.”

“Wait, were you part of the team that cleared it?”

“No, but I talked to the guys who did. They didn’t run into anything too dangerous, but they only cleared the upper galleries. Listen to what Armand tells you.”

“Noted.”

Daria and the rest of the Drenlyn students gathered at the mess tent for bowls of watery saltrice porridge and tin cups filled with some kind of bitter tea.

“Pretty sure it’s trama root tea, but they didn’t grind it very carefully. Make sure yours doesn’t have any stray thorns floating around,” Jane said, seated cross-legged on a rug.

“Tastes more like old bathwater. Speaking of which, do you know if there are any bathing facilities here?” The other day’s dirt and grime clung to Daria like a noxious second skin, one that she very much wanted to peel off.

“Jolda said there was a hot spring in a cave near the camp site.”

Daria blushed. “Please tell me it’s not coed.”

Jane waved her hand. “Come on, Daria, the IAS is run by Colovian Imperials like you, the only people more puritannical than us Dunmer. Guys get one day, girls get the other. But I think today’s the guys’ day.”

“I guess that means I get to enjoy more quality time with the dirt I picked up on the way here.”

“And your mom says you never network!”

“That’s the only reason anyone does anything.”

“Uh oh, bad news,” Jane uttered. She pointed to the side, and Daria followed her finger to the loathsome sight of Karl the Unctuous. His clothes were dirt-stained, but his noxious grin shone as bright as ever.

“I was wondering why I hadn’t seen him for a week. I guess him being transferred to another province was too much to hope for.”

Armand strode into the tent, Jolda following close behind.

“Attention, new arrivals!” Armand bellowed as he took a stand at the mess tent’s entrance. “Welcome to Arkngthand!”

He sure sounded confident about his pronunciation.

“Now, what you need to remember is that this is an official mission of the Imperial Archeological Society. That means you are working for Emperor Uriel Septim VII himself, and you are expected to act as the upstanding citizens you’re supposed to be.”

“They don’t come much more upstanding than Karl,” Daria said.

“Think they’ll use him to test for booby traps?” Jane asked.

“No way we’re that lucky. He probably has some cushy job with lots of networking.”

With his connections, he probably did.

Armand continued. “In addition to the standard laws, there are also some specific rules for the dig site. First,” he said, raising his right thumb, “trafficking in Dwemer artifacts is strictly prohibited. Nothing you find here leaves the site unless it’s with the approval of the IAS, which here means my approval. Heavy fines will be levied on anyone breaking this rule, and more serious penalties will come into play if anyone tries to steal working Dwemer machinery or schematics.

“Second,” he went on, raising his index finger, “be careful when you’re in Arkngthand. Go down there and you’ll see big yellow Xs painted on some of the walls. Those mark the limit of how far the legion exploratory team went. When you see an X, that means you don’t go any further. Up above, don’t go beyond sight of the tents. Molag Amur is not a safe place to wander around in.

“Third,” he said, raising one more, “obey your supervisors.”

He let his arms drop and then smiled. “With that said, let me welcome to you to one of the most exciting projects the IAS has in Morrowind today. We’re happy to bring in volunteers from the student body of Drenlyn Academy, an institution showcasing the cooperation between the Empire and Great House Hlaalu.”

Daria wondered if Armand reciting that was one of Magistrate Lli’s requirements for permitting the volunteer program.

“Anyway, let’s not waste time! You three,” Armand said, pointing to Jonus, Julien, and Jeval, “will be down below.”

“Sweet!” Jonus said, he and his friends exchanging high fives.

“Sweet indeed!” Armand proclaimed. “You'll be dusting the artifacts we find.”

“Wait, dusting?” Julien asked. “Like a maid?”

“Like a maid working for the Empire itself!” Armand thrust a fist in the air for emphasis.

“Aw, man,” Jeval mourned.

“Head over there to the gate!” Armand pointed to what looked like a bronze sphere partially embedded into the rock, some ways off. Armand turned to Jane. “Are you the artist?”

“Yeah. I brought my equipment with me, so I’m ready to go down below when you give the word.”

“Oh, you won’t need to!”

Jane looked surprised. “I won’t?”

“We already have sketch artists drawing up the schematics and artifacts. No, the IAS has a much more important job for you. We need heroic style three-quarters portraits of all the IAS supervisors so we can be a known quantity in the capital. The more people see our image, the more funding the IAS will get.”

The flicker of disappointment on Jane’s face was so brief that Daria almost thought she’d imagined it. Jane nodded. “Sure thing! I’m the woman for the job. Who do I paint first?”

“Supervisor K’shath. He’s over in that green tent. You’ll have to do two other portraits, so work fast. And Daria? You’ll be helping Karl out with the paperwork.”

Paperwork with Karl the Unctuous. This was going to be a long internship.

Karl grinned and gave a florid bow. “Ah, what a fortuitous development! To work alongside the stunning Lady Morgendorffer, whose wit is exceeded only by her beauty. Who knows what thrilling adventures might transpire between the two of us?”

“Said adventures, Karl, will most likely involve severe and repeated testicular injury,” Daria said.

Karl chuckled, but his eyes stayed watchful. Daria’s skin crawled at the mere sight of him. Bravado aside, she didn’t want to have to dodge his harassment.

With positions assigned, the Drenlyn attendees spread through the camp to start work.

“With any luck I’ll be able to wrangle a few lasting clients out of this,” Jane said as she toted her art supplies.

“Sorry that you won’t get the chance to sketch Dwemer artifacts,” Daria said.

“Ah, it’s all right. Sketching gears isn’t as profitable as flattering rich people with art.”

“Hey, Daria?” Jolda said, stepping up to her. “Let me know if Karl gives you any trouble. I'll tell my dad, and he’ll listen to me about this. I hear that Karl’s dad is fed up with him, so he needs to be on his best behavior.”

Daria relaxed a bit. “I’m pretty sure I can handle him.”

“Nah, don’t handle him,” Jane said. “He might like that.”

“But thanks all the same,” Daria continued. “I don’t suppose you can ask your dad to let me do something other than bureaucratic busywork?”

“Sorry.” Jolda forced a smile. “It is important work. And it’ll look good on your resume!”

“It better.”



*********



Jonus, Julien, and Jeval got up and stretched. Sucked that they had to start working so soon. Jeval still ached from walking all day yesterday.

“Guys!” Jovus said. “I just had a great idea. This ruin’s full of old treasures and stuff, right?”

“Uh huh,” Julien agreed. Jeval nodded.

“That means we can nab something for Quinn! Not the kind of junk you get at the market but something really valuable!” Jonus kept his voice quiet but looked like he was ready to run into Arkngthand and loot it on his own.

“Hey, yeah! There’s gotta be like, crowns and jewels and stuff. Oh man, Quinn’s totally going to be into that.”

Jeval shook his head. “Guys, didn’t you hear what Armand said? We’ll get fined if we take anything.”

Jonus scoffed. “Whatever, man. Everyone does it!”

“Yeah,” Julien said, “my dad has like this big old Dwemer gear or whatever and it just sits on his desk. We’ll only get in trouble if we steal machines or something, and Quinn wouldn’t want mechanical stuff anyway.”

“Come on!” Jeval protested. “I don’t want to pay a fine!”

“You won’t,” Jonus said. “And you come on, this is for Quinn! The most beautiful girl in Morrowind!”

“The most beautiful girl in Tamriel!” Julien followed, escalating from province to continent.

“The most beautiful girl in Nirn,” Jeval said out of habit, going from continent to world, before skidding to a verbal halt. “Wait! Guys, she’s not into us! We’ve been trying to get her for almost a year. Might as well ask some other chick.”

“No, man. You can’t give up! No girl’s gonna say no to some bigass Dwemer jewel! So here’s how it works: we watch each other’s backs, but we each have to find our own thing,” Jonus said, leaning in close to whisper his plan.

“Every man for himself, that’s fair,” Julien said with a nod.

“I need to find new friends,” Jeval muttered.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYwSpxVoRF8

Posted by: Acadian Oct 12 2022, 08:27 PM

Poor Daria wakes up with the residual effects of her trek to the site. And to a yummy breakfast (not!) and no bath for the day.

Jane is spot on, I think. Portraits will further her reputation more than technical drawings of any sort.

Daria gets stuck with Karl. kvright.gif

Jonus, Julien and Jeval hatch another plan to capture Quinn’s heart. I’m sure nothing will go wrong and it will work flawlessly. . . .

Posted by: Renee Oct 14 2022, 01:15 AM

I agree with Maiko. Good lord those ruins are creepy. And the whole exterior area above Arkngthand gives me shivers.

Then again, this is the year 425 in your story, right? So maybe the place hasn't been taken over by bandits, yet. Plus, there's a lot of folks gathered up at the site. So ... safety in numbers.

I like how you consider bathing, Clavier! bigsmile.gif Some of these folks like taking baths, look forward to them, ask where they can bathe if they're in a strange place.

They've marked off safe areas, nice. I still feel like something's about to go wrong! 🎃 Ha ha yup, something is. These boys are being a group of fools. Quinn must be quite the doll (or something) for them to go through so much plotting.



Posted by: SubRosa Oct 15 2022, 04:58 AM

I recently saw an old National Geographic special about Frederick Catherwood and his explorations and artwork. Talk about synergy!

There is Maiko! Hopefully he gets some practice in at liasoning with Jolda... wink.gif

Ugh, the only bathing facilities are on a day by day basis. Well, it could be a lot worse though. At least Daria gets to network with her dirt.

Welcome to archaeology. Try not to die.

I laughed when I found out why they wanted Jane. A PR stunt! You really captured the satirical cynicism of the TV show with that.

Ugh again. Daria is stuck pushing papers with Upchuck!

The Three Stooges are up to hijinks! I am sure hilarity is bound to ensue when they plumb the depths of Arken...something or another.

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Oct 15 2022, 04:26 PM

@Acadian - Jane wanted to sketch the Dwemer ruins, but yeah, the portraits will help her more and she knows it. Hence why she's only briefly disappointed.

Given Jonus, Julien, and Jeval's competence so far, I'm sure it can only end well.

@Renee - The Dwemer ruins are pretty spooky. I always thought Morrowind did a better job with them, since they look a lot more decrepit than the ones you see in Skyrim.

Technically it's 3E 424, but yeah, basically. My reasoning is that the Legion cleared out the upper levels, and the bandits moved in at some point in the years after. Which actually brings up a point: in a lot of ways, it's safer to just leave the ruins alone. The animunculi don't bother people unless they intrude, while bandits who use the ruin as a base of operations can bother a whole lot of people.

I always like to pay attention to details like that. Because IRL, they're anything but details and are actually incredibly important!

Jeval's at least a bit smarter than the others, but we'll see how much that helps.

@SubRosa - Nice!

I'm sure Maiko can find the time, not so sure about Jolda.

Thanks, I'm still trying to maintain that snarky edge for the humor.

Episode 14: Raiders of the Lost Arkngthand

Chapter 3


The administration tent looked exactly as dull as Daria had expected. Its big gray canvas top sheltered a pair of tables and a desk set, all covered with parchments, inkwells, and record books. Karl strode about the place like a king attending court.

“And now I present you with the nerve center of this humble dig site! This is where we do the scrivening that makes possible all the labors performed deep beneath our feet, in the ancient bronze bowels of—”

“Karl, just tell me what kind of work I’m supposed to do,” Daria said.

His face fell. “You never let me have any fun. Very well, you need to take these,” Karl said, pointing at a stack of slates on the nearest table, “and go to that big blue pavilion over there. That’s where we keep all the goodies we grabbed last week. Now, Lady Morgendorffer, you’ll get to tally up all the findings!”

Daria took the top slate. It had already been divided into columns listing types of artifacts, crossed with rows displaying odd names like “Hall of the Centrifuge” or “Cells of the Hollow Hand”.

“What are these?” she asked, pointing at the names.

“A few of the marvelous locales within Arkngthand proper,” Karl answered. “Rather poetic, are they not? The sounds of those names conjure up a sense mystery and magic. You know, I could be persuaded to reveal some of these mysteries—”

“No mystery you reveal will ever be worth the effort.”

“Rowr, feisty! Report to Acullus over there when you’re finished,” he said, grinning and pointing with his thumb to a bald Imperial who sorted through papers on the other side of the tent.

Daria looked through the rest of the slates as she walked to the blue pavilion. The next slate was similar, but with what she guessed were the names of archeologists instead of locations. Finally, the third contained a preliminary count of the various artifacts.

More work for Daria Morgendorffer, the human abacus.

All thoughts of her ignominious task fell away when she stepped inside the tent and found herself staring face to face with a man made of bronze.

Not a man, she corrected, still trying to take it all in. More like an approximation of one: the head an oblong wedge with an eye of glass on the left side; a chest made of interlocking bronze segments; arms held together by thick screws, one ending in a shield and the other terminating in what looked like a bladed metal flower. Instead of legs, the torso connected to a massive and dented bronze sphere.

This was a Dwemer animunculus, still more or less in one piece. Thousands of them, maybe millions, had once scurried through the echoing corridors to do the biddings of their masters. As the animunculi worked, the Dwemer dreamed in their steam gardens and forged palaces.

Breath caught in her throat as she went in for a closer look, not daring to make a sound. Gouges on the sphere and chest, and the big impact dent in the back, showed the work of the legion's weapons. But how could she be sure it was inert? How did one truly kill a creature of cogs and gears?

More importantly, how did one give it life in the first place? The Empire had ruled a continent and its myriad peoples for centuries. But all its greatest minds put together could not make a single animunculus, much less the clockwork multitudes that had once served the Dwemer.

Daria shivered, suddenly feeling quite small.

Remembering that she had a job to do, she took stock of the rest of the tent. Gears, coins, glittering jewels, goblets, and smaller spider-like animunculi had been gathered up in groups according to the location in which they’d been found. A closer look showed each artifact marked with a pigment. A slate board pinned to a post showed which color was associated with which archeologist.

A tedious task. But not a difficult one.

Hours blurred together as Daria worked, tallying up each item no matter how insignificant. It was the kind of job she could do as automatically as breathing, all the while speculating as to what the Dwemer might have been like. But dim lighting and detail work took their toll. Daria’s headache started as a faint pain at around noon and grew into a splitting agony by sundown. The archeologists hadn’t sorted the artifacts all that neatly, so she often had to lift heavy gears and scrap to make sure there weren’t smaller gears and scraps beneath them. Easy to lose count in such a job, and lose count she did.

But she kept at it. When her numbers failed to match up with the preliminary counts, she looked again and got the same results. Shaking her aching head, Daria stepped outside for a short break and returned to tally the artifacts one more time. She felt like a dozen miners were chipping away at the inside of her skull and the backs of her eyes.

“This better be a good resume booster,” she muttered.

One by one she checked off the various column totals: 424 gears, ranging in size from smaller than her fingertip to as wide as a barrel hoop; 398 broken wires and cables; 301 pieces of unidentifiable scrap metal; 257 sections of broken tube; 144 small tools; 87 coins; 53 crafted items (cups, utensils, necklaces); 19 raw jewels; 7 swords and daggers; and 3 spider animunculi.

Most of it matched. But the preliminary count had 89 coins, 56 crafted items, 24 raw jewels, and 9 swords and daggers.

She was certain she’d counted correctly. At any rate, she was at the end of her rope, so she headed back to the tent and gave her findings to Acullus, his watery eyes marked by clear indifference.

“These things happen,” he said. “Could be they miscounted some of the items.”

“One gear looks a lot like another," Daria said. "Swords would be harder to miss, though.”

“Don’t worry about it. The IAS only really cares about the animunculi and any surviving Dwemer records or schematics. The Empire’s not going to learn anything from another loose cog. Anyhow, you’ve done well for today, thank you.”

Putting the slates down, Daria let out a long exhalation. She was exhausted and ready to sleep for the next week straight. But tomorrow would only bring more work.

She passed by Karl’s desk on the way out. Karl himself chatted with one of the archeologists, his smarm radiating across the tent. Daria noticed a paper sticking out from under a record book, the top reading: “Karl’s Magnificent Exports Inc.”

Keeping her eyes on Karl, Daria lowered her hand and slipped out the paper for a better look and then stepped away from the desk. She adjusted her glasses, the blurry letters popping into clarity as she did.

It was a client list of rich Imperials and Dunmer (she recognized the Talori family as a buyer). The items listed matched most of the missing ones in her account. The discrepancies finally made sense. They weren’t for items the IAS would particularly miss, either. But the marked clients would pay Karl handsomely for them.

Daria smiled. Now she had the best blackmail material a girl could want, to be used on the world’s most annoying target. She stood by Karl's desk and waited for him to finish, smiling in a way she hoped was enigmatic. When Karl disengaged from the official and saw her, he lit up.

“Ah, do mine eyes deceive me? Or has perhaps the stunning Lady Morgendorffer has taken notice of this young blade’s charms?” He waggled his eyebrows.

“Oh, I took notice all right. Nothing gets the girls going quite like embezzlement.”

His shoulders tensed up and he looked from side to side. “Why, whatever do you mean?”

Daria smiled wider and showed him the incriminating paper. Karl gasped and lunged forward but she put the paper behind her and stepped back.

Karl gave a nervous chuckle. “Ah, you see, I’m simply helping Armand. He has clients: men in high positions who possess exceedingly discriminating tastes. As a man of taste and culture myself, well, I was the logical choice to decide which of these fine Dwemer objects d’art would be offered as gifts.” He leaned in, teeth pressed together in an oily grin.

“Uh huh. So if I take this to Armand, he’ll say that ‘Karl’s Magnificent Exports Inc’ works for him?”

Karl gulped. “Armand’s a very busy man. Why don’t we save some time—”

He made another attempt to grab it, and Daria danced out of the way. All of dad’s old lessons on sword-fighting stances were turning out pretty useful.

Sweat glistened on Karl’s freckled forehead. “I know you’re a lady of refined expectations and ravishing beauty. Perhaps I could see to it that a few choice Dwemer adornments might come to rest on that pretty brow of yours—”

“I don’t know. I think it’d be a lot more fun to get you in trouble.”

“Come now, Daria. Surely you don’t think I’d be so careless as to get into real trouble? Artifact trafficking fines are a trifle to a gentleman of means like myself,” he said.

She considered it. Going by what Armand and Acullus had said, only the theft of schematics and machinery was taken all that seriously. Karl, predictably, only embezzled gears and jewels.

“You’re right, trafficking fines might not amount to much. But I hear your dad's none too happy with your behavior, and that hits a lot closer to home.”

He gulped. She smiled. “How about this?” Daria said. “I’ll keep quiet. In return, you stop trying to pick up on every girl you see.”

He gasped. “Lady Morgendorffer, how could you be so cruel!? The fair maidens of the world demand—nay—require, my amorous attentions!” Karl pressed the back of his hand and looked heavenward in faux dismay.

“Take it or leave it.”

Karl shrank like a deflated air bladder. “Fine!”

“I mean it. If I hear anyone complaining about you, I go straight to Armand.”

He raised his hands. “I won’t bother anyone!”

Daria took the paper, folded it, and put it into her coat. Patting her pocket, she smiled. “I think I’ll hold on to this. Never hurts to have some insurance.”

There was a spring in her step as she walked across the rubble-strewn fields around Arkngthand. She passed Jolda, who waved her down.

“Hey, Daria! How did it go on your first day?”

“As much as I love complaining, I’d say it went pretty well.”

She smiled. “Great! I know the work’s kind of boring, but my dad thinks you have a lot of potential, but don’t tell him I told you that.”

Potential. Like say, the potential to participate in covering up an embezzlement scheme for the sake of blackmail.

“Uh, yeah. Thanks,” she said, her good mood evaporating in an instant.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c5JIUkZouKI

Posted by: SubRosa Oct 15 2022, 08:12 PM

Feisty!

In spite of all the papework, Daria at least gets to see some cool stuff, like a Dwemer Sphere. With the added bonus that they are *not* trying to kill her.

I am certain that Daria counted correctly. Just as I am certain someone with light fingers might be pilfering the shortfall in the figures. But who could it be?

Ok, its Karl. So now the question is, how can Daria use this to her advantage? Erm, to network?

Awww, Daria takes one for team girl instead, and saves them all from Upchuck's suave and debonair attentions.

Posted by: Acadian Oct 16 2022, 08:25 PM

Nice musings on the mysteries surrounding the Dwemer and their curious steampunk devices.

SubRosa was much faster than I on translating Daria’s nonmatching counts into pilfering. I didn’t catch on until she saw Karl’s incriminating parchment. She wasted no time calling his embezzlement and raising it by blackmail. Her price supports a noble cause but at some risk of self-compromise should things go awry.

Posted by: Renee Oct 17 2022, 01:07 PM

Okay, 424 not 425. I'll try to remember that year. Oh crap. Is Daria staring at an automaton? indifferent.gif

Actually, the earlier date also explain what you're describing in this chapter: all these riches that have been cataloged. Not so much gears and all the heavier stuff, but lighter treasures like gems and jewels and coins. Because in the base game there isn't much to find, treasure-wise, not unless you go really deep. So it makes sense that there once were more treasures, most of which have been taken at some point.

And then we can make the assumption that at least some of the treasure we find in 427 has been brought in by bandits. emot-ninja1.gif

Ha, she's busted Karl. Looks like he is trying to set up a smuggling operation? ... Embezzlement. Ha, she's blackmailed the dude. Very nice.🖤


Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Oct 19 2022, 03:17 PM

@SubRosa - Daria's someone who prizes intellect above social niceties, so I figured the Dwemer would appeal to her on some level. Of course, the Dwemer's neighbors often hated them for valid reasons, so it might be an example of how focusing on intellect alone can be self-limiting...

@Acadian - Thanks!

Yeah, Daria's made herself culpable in Karl's little scheme, and that's something that's going to bother her in this chapter.

@Renee - That's the idea, yeah. Most of the stuff in the more accessible parts of Arkngthand have already been pilfered. Wait, not pilfered, I meant secured for the glory of the Empire.

And yeah, I could see the bandits bringing in some of their stuff. A half-abandoned Dwemer ruin probably isn't the worst place to store loot.

Episode 14: Raiders of the Lost Arkngthand

Chapter 4


It was late afternoon. Daria stood on a rocky promontory in the shadow of a bronze tower, looking out at the ashen desolation spreading for miles to the north and east.

Jane sat cross-legged on the ground next to her, drawing the towers of Arkgnthand in her sketchbook with a charcoal stub.

"You’re making too big a deal about it. Armand has to know that people lift stuff from these sites all the time. He won’t care unless they steal something important, and it doesn’t sound like Karl is,” Jane said.

“Doesn’t it bother you knowing that people like Karl will keep on exploiting the system? He’s already rich, but now he’s stealing Morrowind’s history to get even richer.”

Jane was silent for a bit, her eyes intent on the verdigrised towers. “Way I see it, you and him are both pretty rich. I’m a Dunmer anyway: the Dwemer weren’t too nice to us, so I don’t much care what Karl does with their leftovers.”

“You sure seem to like drawing their leftovers.”

Jane chuckled. “Once I’m done drawing them, he can take them. No skin off my back. You know, Daria, you’re a lot more idealistic than you like to admit.”

Daria shook her head. “This isn’t idealism. It’s me being resentful at seeing someone I despise figure out a way to get ahead by exploiting something I’m interested in.”

“You sure there’s not just a teensy bit of disappointment at this mean old world of ours?” Jane asked, her voice needling.

“I can’t be disappointed when my expectations are already at zero.” Daria sighed. “Anyway, if I were an idealist, I’d have marched over to Armand’s tent first thing and shown him the evidence.”

She still could.

“What’s stopping you?”

“I don’t know. Maybe the fact that I’ve already compromised my moral integrity by blackmailing Karl in the first place," Daria admitted.

“So you do care what Armand thinks.”

“Whatever his faults, Armand did earn his position. Also, as much as I hate to say it, the IAS is probably a better fit for me than any of the guilds. I always complain about how corrupt Imperial institutions are, and here I am enabling corruption in a relatively honest one. Self-awareness is a real bitch, sometimes.”

“Well,” Jane said, “speaking as a woman, I’m happy I haven’t had to put up with Karl’s creepiness for the past few days.”

“True. But if I told Armand I could probably get Karl on that, too.” Daria crossed her arms. A cold wind from the south whipped against her coat and through her tangled hair. “Tell me, Jane: why do you think the Empire’s so keen on the Dwemer digs?”

“Probably so nobles can have some nice shiny doodads to show off.”

“This much effort for doodads?” She tried to imagine the battered animunculus decorating some count’s estate. Not too far-fetched, she supposed.

“Why not? Using a weird bronze monster as a garden ornament is way cooler than building a gazebo. It’ll be all the talk of the neighbors.”

“Speaking of talk,” Daria said, “Jolda and her dad invited me to dinner tonight. I’d better get going.”

“Honest-to-goodness networking! Your mom would be so proud!”

Daria rolled her eyes. “Don’t remind me.”

“Think you’ll tell them about Karl’s little escapades?” Jane straightened up, locking eyes with Daria.

“I’m not sure. Let me see how it looks when I get there.”



*********



Dinner at Armand’s proved surprisingly lavish: ornada braised in comberry sauce, served with bowls of spiced cuttle and goblets of red Surilie Brothers wine. Quite a shock to the system after days of saltrice porridge and bad tea.

Armand sat lengthwise on a thick rug, across from Daria with a campfire flickering between them. Jolda knelt on some pillows next to her father. They’d finished the dinner, Daria questioning (as politely as she could) why he lived so lavishly.

“I believe it’s important for leaders to set a good example,” Armand said, gesturing at the wine. “Rewards should go to those who’ve worked the hardest!”

“Tea and saltrice porridge do seem commensurate for the backbreaking labor of chipping rock all day,” Daria said, keeping her tone level and her face impassive.

Jolda narrowed her eyes in warning, but Armand laughed. “Ah, Daria, you remind me of when I was your age: always wanting to change the world. But when you get older and work harder, you’ll find you want to get a bigger share of its gifts.”

Daria sipped the wine. Gods, it was good. Tasted of home and the sunbathed vineyards all up and down the Gold Coast. She supposed this made her complicit.

Well, Armand had laughed. So clearly, he wasn’t offended. “What happens when there aren’t enough gifts left over for the little people?” she asked.

“Oh, they’ll manage. Survival’s a helluva motivator. But you’re not one of the little people, Daria. I’m not saying the work they do isn’t important. But almost anyone can do it. Not everyone can do the kinds of work we do, or that your mother does.”

“Plus, it is easier to help people when you have power backing you up,” Jolda said, her tone slightly apologetic.

Daria decided to change the subject. She wasn’t in any position to make a winning point, and a winning point might be hazardous to her future career opportunities.

“Speaking of the work we do: why exactly is the Empire so interested in the Dwemer? I know the IAS has Dwemer dig sites all over Morrowind and Skyrim.”

“Hammerfell, too!” Armand pointed out, with a grin. “The Dwemer colonies there are how I got my start in this business. As for why, I’m sure a young scholar like you understands the importance of history.”

“Sure, but my interests don’t drive the Empire. The only histories most nobles care about are the kinds that give them claims to their neighbor’s land,” Daria said.

The wind picked up outside of the tent, bitter and blustery. Daria inched closer to the fire.

“A lot of Imperial institutions are interested,” Jolda said. “The Imperial Historical Society, the Mages Guild, the Engineers Guild, and the Imperial College—to give a few examples—all want to learn more about the Dwemer.”

“Exactly,” Armand agreed, lifting his cup in salute. “But that doesn’t mean there aren’t practical reasons. The Dwemer had power. The machines they built survived for millennia, even when the Dwemer themselves did not. You saw the animunculi in the storage tent. Think of what the Empire could do if we produced our own!”

“Leave interesting mementos for post-Empire archeologists?”

Armand chuckled, or at least pretended to. “How about animunculi laborers who could make life easier for the common people? That’d sit well with you, wouldn’t it?”

“It would,” Daria answered. “Though I imagine it’d put a lot of people out of work, too.”

“Me and dad had an interesting talk about the potential economic consequences,” Jolda said.

Armand made a dismissive wave with his free hand. “Oh, it’ll be a disruption, sure. But think about the benefits: machines doing the back-breaking labor that cuts so many lives short. Commoners able to pursue their interests and passions, the way the Dwemer once did. A way to free Morrowind’s slaves by making slavery economically useless! A lot more efficient than petitioning the Curia or Elder Council, wouldn’t you say? That’s not even getting into the military applications.”

Armand leaned forward, firelight flickering on his chiseled jaw. “Not many people know what I’m about to tell you, Daria. Oh, it’s not a secret, just obscure. When Emperor Tiber Septim annexed Morrowind, he did so specifically to gain access to the Dwemer cities.”

Daria thought back to her studies. “Huh. I’d always heard he’d done it to secure the eastern frontier so he could concentrate on fighting the Altmer... wait! Are you saying he used Dwemer weapons when he conquered the west?”

Armand was silent for half a second before he responded. “No, only that Tiber Septim understood the value of knowledge. It was Imperial grit and courage that brought the Aldmeri Dominion to heel. Nothing more.”

Somehow, Daria didn’t believe him. Deep inside she felt an intimation of fire and war, one emanating from the stone beneath the tent and the miles of twisting metal passages therein. The Empire simply did not care about the poor, certainly not enough to delve into dangerous ruins for their sake.

But it loved weapons.

She thought back to the bizarre animunculi in the storage tent. The Dwemer had armies of them, so why shouldn’t the Empire have legions of the same? Especially if Dwemer artifacts really did have something to do with Tiber Septim’s final victory against the Altmer. A victory that the military histories had always been a bit vague about. A victory that should have taken decades somehow compressed into a few bloody months.

No wonder it was so easy for the IAS to get funding.

The conversation turned to idler things. Daria faded out, letting Jolda and Armand drive most of the talk. She finally excused herself by pleading sleepiness.

“Before you go,” Armand said. “I’d like to show my appreciation for the work you’ve been doing. You can go inside Arkngthand tomorrow. Ask the foreman for an assignment and she’ll give you one. I want you to get a better look at exactly what we’re working with.”

“Sure. Thank you,” Daria said. She bowed in the Redguard manner, earning a smile from Armand.

Daria stepped out into a starless night lit only by Red Mountain’s sooty glow. She tightened her coat and raised her hooded lantern to make her way back to the barracks tent. Gusts drove flecks of ash into her eyes and mouth.

She still hadn’t come to a decision about Karl’s incriminating paper. It suddenly no longer seemed that important. He’d only been skimming jewels. Probably not something the Empire—or Armand—cared much about.

At least she’d get to see Arkngthand up-close the next day.

Far above, Red Mountain’s smoldering caldera stretched like a fiery mouth across the ash-blackened sky.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2mwjng0Jkc

Posted by: Acadian Oct 19 2022, 08:27 PM

I think Daria is right that the IAS may suit her better as an organization than the other guilds and clubs she’s looked into.

I’m still appreciating the bumps that the relationship between Jane and Daria has taken in the past. For they have truly become much stronger friends with the luxury of being able to speak openly and frankly to each other. The exchange between them in this episode were great and led Daria to the truism that a word to Armand could indeed probably shut down Karl’s embezzling and creepy overtures to the ladies at the same time.

Also a thought-provoking conversation between Armand and Daria, revealing some pretty interesting insights. Those Dwemer certainly did have some imposing technology. And Daria even got some nice Surilie Brothers wine (almost as good as Tamika’s I’d wager).

Nice to know that it looks like Daria will get her chance to actually get into the underground of the dig site. Hope nothing tries to kill her. . . .

Posted by: SubRosa Oct 19 2022, 11:36 PM

He’s already rich, but now he’s stealing Morrowind’s history to get even richer.
Ummmm, Empire much then?

So Daria is actually interested in the Dwemer? Well that is nice! She could dig up discover lost cities, release evils sealed into cans, loose ancient curses upon civilization, you know, the normal stuff archaeologists do... biggrin.gif

I am sure the Empire is interested in the Dwemer robots for the same reason any Empire would be: https://youtu.be/e_DqV1xdf-Y

I am now picking through my vague memories of Elder Scrolls lore. But I do seem to remember Tiber Septim getting some kind of Numidium from Morrowind, and maybe powering it with the soul of his Battlemage, whose name I forget. The one who wrote the Art of War Magic book, and became one of the Underkings. I seem to recall that it is what conquered the Altmer, but was destroyed in the process or afterward?

Coo, Daria gets to go exploring. I hope she takes Kavon or Maiko with her though. She's likely to meet some of those animunculi that are not quite turned off.

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Oct 22 2022, 04:32 PM

@Acadian - I imagine the IAS has a lot of the same issues that plague any institution. But it has the advantage of being smaller and a lot more focused than, say, the Guild of Mages (considering the guild has an office in nearly every medium-sized or bigger city in Tamriel, it's pretty darn huge). So yeah, probably a decent fit.

The friendship between Daria and Jane is the core of the show, and thus is the core of this series as well. Jane's always the one who can bring Daria back to reality. Not that she's prone to flights of fancy, but she can get pretty wrapped up in her own head at times.

Yeah, Surilie Brothers isn't high-end. But I figured it'd be pricier in Morrowind than in Cyrodiil simply due to the shipping fees.

She'll be seeing Arkngthand in this chapter, so get ready...


@SubRosa - You are correct. Tiber Septim got the Numidium from Morrowind, and it was powered by Zurin Arctus, his battlemage. The Numidium was a weapon of such power that it's mere presence warped reality, causing multiple versions of it to simultaneously exist before settling on one. Regardless, when it was over, the Aldmeri Dominion had been destroyed.

Supposedly, Tiber Septim planned to use the Numidium to destroy some of the other noble families in Tamriel so that he could cement his power, but Zurin destroyed the Numidium to prevent him from doing so.

And, of course, the Numidium was reactivated in recent memory, as per the events of The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall. Once again, a bunch of different realities converged and coexisted before falling back into one, changing the political situation in and around the Iliac Bay. What's more, Jolda and her father would have both still been in Hammerfell at the time this happened. Even if he won't admit it to Daria, finding something like the Numidium is very much on Armand's mind, since he realizes how much power it would confer to the Empire (and how much prestige that would confer to him).

Episode 14: Raiders of the Lost Arkngthand

Chapter 5


“I saw a gear that was really shiny. Maybe if I polish it some more it’ll be good enough for Quinn,” Jonus said, hanging his head low.

Jonus, Julien, and Jeval huddled in their corner of the barracks tent, listening to the winds howl.

“Dumbass, she’s not going to want a gear,” Julien said.

“What else can we get her? All the good stuff’s been packed away and we’re leaving in two days.”

Jeval stared into the flames. He was kind of glad they hadn’t found anything.

“We gotta get her something.” Jonus was adamant.

“Ah,” came a nasal, reedy voice. “It appears that the younger Morgendorffer’s suitors are in quite the quandary.”

Jonus and Julien bolted to their feet as Karl stepped forward, straightening his lapels.

“No! We’re not in a... what did he say we’re in?” Jonus asked.

“A quadrille?” Julien wondered.

Jeval buried his face into his hands. “A quandary!” he said.

Karl smiled. “I know full well what you have planned, and I applaud it! Sometimes, the right bauble is all you need to win the heart of a luscious young lady, and few are as luscious as Quinn. Thus, I have a proposition for the three of you: I run a small business on the side dealing in Dwemer novelties. Alas, I cannot proclaim the nature of my business due to certain narrow-minded statutes—”

“Get to the point,” Jonus said.

“Very well! I haven’t obtained as many choice goods as I’d like, and with the dig site closing up, well, time is running short. However, I have it on good authority that there are some untouched rooms containing wealth beyond your wildest dreams.” Karl spread his arms. “Rubies the size of apples set in crowns of gold! Silken fabrics of unearthly color, their luster undimmed by the passage of time! Necklaces—”

“We’ll do it!” Jonus said.

“Hell yeah!” Julien agreed.

Jeval shook his hands in warning. “Guys, wait! Karl’s telling us to go past those yellow X’s. You know, go into the places the legion hasn’t cleared out yet. That’s like a deathtrap!”

“Au contraire, my good Mer,” Karl said. “These animunculi are noisy constructs. We’ll have ample warning should one object to our presence.”

“This is our chance, man!” Jonus proclaimed.

“I’m in,” Julien said.

Jeval again wondered why he hung out with such morons.



*********



Arkngthand took Daria’s breath away.

She walked in wonder as she descended the path into the Hall of Centrifuge, her way lit by plumes of smokeless flame blooming from broken pipes. Her footsteps echoed on corroded platforms inscribed with jagged characters whose meanings eluded the Empire's best minds. Stone and metal twisted together where the living mountain had pushed through the ancient Dwemer works, not even their craftsmanship a match for time’s inexorable progress.

But greater by far than the sights were the sounds. Arkngthand thrummed with a ceaseless symphony of hisses, clicks, and metallic thumps. The noise emanated from the very walls, as if there remained entire cities worth of machinery yet undiscovered, clanking and churning out of sight. She passed strange machines that belched steam and spun wheels, their pops and clangs joining the unseen orchestra for brief moments before fading into the background hum. At times came rattling groans so loud they shook the very air, and made Daria think of something immense waking from the slumber of millennia.

No one had traversed these halls for over two-thousand years. But they had never been silent.

For once, no smart remark came to her. She was in the presence of something great and terrible. Maybe, she thought, this was what Jane had felt when she’d knelt before the Shrine of Humility.

The feeling lasted up until she found the foreman, a middle-aged woman sitting at a round Dwemer table and engaged in a game of dice with a few workers.

“Come on, be good to mama!” she said, kissing her hand before tossing the dice. Standing up to see her result, she raised her arms in victory. “Yes!”

“Excuse me,” Daria said.

The woman glared at her. “Yeah?”

“You’re the foreman, right?”

“Sure.”

“Armand said—”

“Oh yeah, you’re the one the bossman told me about. Look, we’re pretty much done here.” She pointed to the crates around her, which presumably awaited transportation to the surface.

“Have her copy some more pipe lettering from Heaven’s Gallery,” one of the guys at the table said.

“That works. Grab some papers and charcoal from that stack over there and you’ll be set to go,” the woman said.

“And how do I get to Heaven’s Gallery? Near-death experience?”

“See that door?” She pointed to a round metal portal in the wall. “Go through that, follow the hall, turn left and go through another door, then turn right and keep going until you get to a big yellow X on the wall. If you run into lava or a rockfall, you’ve gone too far.”

“Thanks for clarifying that last bit,” Daria said.

But the woman had already turned her attention back to the game.



*********



“Hmm, I was certain that’d lead us to Heaven’s Gallery,” Karl said, studying his map by the light of a glowing glass tube.

Jeval crossed his arms and leaned against the metal wall. Stupid of him to go in the first place. No surprise that Karl had gotten them lost.

“Come on, you said you knew where it was!” Jonus protested.

Karl cleared his throat. “Gentlemen, rushing me won’t help anything. We’ll be fine as long as we stay calm.”

“Hey, Jeval,” said Julien. “Where do you think we should go?”

Jeval turned to stare at his supposed friend. “How should I know?”

“’Cause this is a Dwemer ruin! You’re a Mer.”

“I’m a Bosmer, not a Dwemer.” Jeval rolled his eyes.

“That’s still Mer!”

“That doesn’t mean anything! The Dwemer lived in underground cities. My people literally live in trees. Plus, I grew up in Cyrodiil the same as the rest of you, so I didn’t even do that!” Jeval shook his head. “I’m about as Mer as you are,” he muttered.

“Arguing won’t help!” Karl said, still staring at the map. “I say we go back the way we came. The entrance to Heaven’s Gallery should be one of these doors we passed earlier.”

“Hey, Karl? How did you get that map? I thought this part wasn’t explored yet,” Jonus said.

“This map does rely on a bit of inference. But don’t all maps?”

They started arguing again. Jeval grimaced. The constant noise of the place was getting to be a real pain. Mer ears picked up a lot more than the ears of Men, so Jeval didn’t know how the Dwemer had put up with it. Clank, rattle, boom, over and over again. It was deafening.

Seemed to be getting louder, too. Jeval kept hearing these big thuds, like someone hitting a huge drum. The floor vibrated with each beat. Real regular, too, one after the other. Like footsteps.

Getting closer.

“Guys,” Jeval warned, “I think we have company!”



*********



The light in the glass tube fascinated Daria the most.

She’d walked past similar glass tubes already. Only in the last room of Heaven’s Gallery, a dark rectangular chamber where metal cabinets and ancient desks held the dust of ages past, did she take a closer look.

This tube, like the others, connected at both ends to an engraved pipe running along the concave walls. Inside was a ring of glass emitting a bright yellow glow, held in place by triangular pieces of green metal.

Only the greatest enchantments lasted for perpetuity. One couldn’t have a proper magic sword or suit of holy armor if the juice fizzled out after a century or two. But enchanting to that degree took a lot of time and effort. Naturally, the Empire reserved such efforts for ostentation.

The Dwemer had possessed enough power to enchant common lights the way the Empire enchanted its greatest symbols. Not once or twice, but over and over again.

With something like that, she’d be able to read as late as she pleased, even during the winter months.

All around her Arkngthand shook and groaned. The air was stale but warm, reminding her of comfortable nights spent by the fire back on Stirk. Darkness and bad eyesight blurred the grime and the dust, and she imagined herself as a Dwemer, the mysteries of the world bound in letters and numbers and laid out before her.

How could the Dwemer simply disappear? Their lights lasted forever but served no one save for dust, animunculi, and the occasional clueless archeologist.

Lost in her reverie, Daria almost didn’t hear the cry for help echoing down the next corridor. Annoyed, she pulled away from the light. Had that been a voice? Or some machine noise she’d mistaken for a cry?

“Hello?” she called out, her voice reverberating against the metal walls.

She took a few cautious steps toward the round door marked with a yellow X. The door was slightly ajar.

“Someone! We need help!” the voice came again.

Daria hesitated. The yellow X meant danger. Surely a quick look couldn’t hurt? Maybe she’d learn something else about the Dwemer beyond Heaven’s Gallery. It’s not like she’d ever get another chance.

Taking a deep breath, Daria pushed against the door. Ancient hinges squealed in protest, but it opened without too much trouble. Ready to jump back in at the first sign of danger, Daria walked onto a small platform sticking out over a narrow shaft that plunged deep into the darkness.

Karl stood in an open doorway on the other side of the shaft. With him were Quinn's three suitors: Jonus, Julien, and Jeval.

“Daria!” Karl exclaimed, his eyes wide. “You have to help us!”

She studied the situation. “I don’t have to do anything. How did you idiots get yourselves stuck there?”

But something wasn’t right. It took a lot to knock the smugness out of Karl. Given their location, it wasn’t too hard to infer what had done that.

The goons might be in danger.

“Some big metal monster found us!” Jeval said.

A legitimate emergency. “Okay. Hold on, I’ll get help—”

The metal around her vibrated as a heavy footfall echoed down the halls, followed by another just like it.

“Crap, it’s getting closer!” Julien (or was it Jonus?) cried.

“Daria, did you see any other doors connecting with where we are?” Jeval asked.

“I don’t know! I’ve never been here before.”

Daria looked down, holding her glasses so they didn’t slip off. Stumbling blind through a Dwemer ruin struck her as a good way to end up dead. A metal panel stuck out of the platform in front of her. Not much, only a foot’s worth. She took stock of her surroundings. Strange though the Dwemer were, she didn’t think they’d have two doorways on opposite ends of a pit unless there was a way for them to connect.

To her left was a small wheel attached to a bunch of pipes.

“Hold on!” she said.

Daria grabbed the wheel with both hands and turned it with what little might she could muster. The ancient mechanism resisted slightly but slowly gave way. As Daria worked the device, the metal sticking out of the platform slowly extended.

“Guys! She’s making a bridge!” Jeval said.

“Hurry up!” Karl begged.

Daria planted her feet on the floor. The footsteps grew louder, an ominous percussion to the mechanical concert all around. She tried not to think of how big it would have to be to shake the whole room like that.

“It’s getting closer!” one of the other boys wailed.

Inch by halting inch, the bridge extended. Each turn of the wheel got harder. Daria gritted her teeth, numbness creeping into her fingers as she tightened her grip. She wasn’t built for this kind of effort.

“Hurry!” Karl cried. “I’ll give you my father’s fortune! I’ll be your servant for life! Don’t let me die!”

The bridge was halfway there. But behind the panicked boys marched a giant that filled the entire hallway, a clanking monstrosity in the rough shape of a human, with steam for breath and weapons for hands.

She groaned from the effort and threw her meager weight on the wheel. Sweat poured down her body and her limbs shook. Still the bridge slowed, like it had gotten caught on something.

“Guys! It’s close enough, we have to jump!” Jeval ordered.

Daria turned in time to see Jeval sail across the gap, landing on the bridge as lightly as a cat.

“You can do it!” he called.

Julien jumped next, followed by Jonus. Only Karl remained, frozen in fear.

“Karl, you have to jump!” Jeval ordered. Julien and Jonus had already run past Daria and into safety. Only Jeval stayed by Daria.

The wheel refused to budge. Daria strained until her body shook, but to no avail.

Impassive and inexorable, the animunculus advanced toward Karl. It raised the enormous mace head that served as a right hand.

Karl leapt as the animunculus swung. The mace slammed into the ground where he’d been standing, the sound of the impact a wrenching metallic scream that shook Daria’s teeth.

Karl hit the bridge face-first, legs dangling over the edge. He started to slide. Jeval grabbed him by the forearms and pulled him up. With a sobbing Karl back on his feet, the two stumbled back to Daria’s side.

“Can you retract the bridge?” Jeval asked. “Here, I can help with the wheel if you’re tired!”

Black spots swum in Daria’s vision. “I don’t think that thing can jump. But go ahead.”

Jeval grunted as he tried to turn the wheel. The animunculus stood silent on the other side, a knight that was all armor and no man. The slits that served as its eyes stared at Daria.

“What exactly do you see when you look at us?” she wondered out loud, as the bridge began its retreat.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EqOFSNKcfiM

Posted by: Renee Oct 22 2022, 08:00 PM

Hey, I'd like to have a giant bronze animunculus as a garden ornament. Keep those pesky kids off our lawn!!! tongue.gif

Daria's drinking Surilies. �Ÿ�� Yummy. I laughed at the part where it says this is so much better than saltice and bad tea.

Wait what?? So Armand is going to try making these robots for the people? This is really hitting home in our modern times.

Okay, that makes sense, about the emperor annexxing the lands so Dwemer tech can be attained. Gotta admit that is clever. But Daria doesn't believe him. Interesting. She don't even care what Karl did anymore. This is a rather political set of chapters and episodes.

Ha ha Jonus is still stuck on Quinn. He wants to get her a gear! laugh.gif Even before I read the next sentence the thought occurred: WHAT is she going to do with some big, heavy gear? But seriously, Quinn must be some sort of hottie. wub.gif Can you link a picture of whichever doll Quinn corresponds to on the show, Clavier?

Cool, I'm glad they're going to go past the yellow X lines. Let's see what happens to these clueless kids. But it does seem Karl is now using them.

QUOTE
Jeval again wondered why he hung out with such morons.


Ha ha ha!

Daria's going into Arkngthand, damn, this is gonna be good. You described the descent into Arkngthand well, all those creepy clanks and steam hissing. Don't know about you, but I'm not jaded to this sort of stuff as I'm gaming. I still get goosebumps after all these years. indifferent.gif

Oh [censored]. I notice that after the three Js jump across the bridge they begin calling Karl to jump as well, while Daria still struggles with the wheel. Funny how they don't seem like they're going to help her.

"Can you retract the bridge?" asks Jeval. "I can help if you're tired!" Um... yeah, do that!

Posted by: Acadian Oct 23 2022, 08:36 PM

Oh noes, the Three Amigos buy into Karl’s plan. . . what could possibly go wrong?

I love how you captured Daria’s awe inside Arkngthand. No surprise that she is someone who could appreciate it. Like Renee talked about, Buffy also currently delves into numerous large and ominous Dwemer ruins and Daria is right about the sounds – unmistakably eerie and just hissing with unfulfilled mystery.

Meanwhile, Karl and his misguided crew are also trying to navigate Arkngthand. Looking for trouble and, it seems, may have found it. . . .

And back to Daria as the bookworm in her marvels at the concept of permanently enchanted Dwemer lights to read by.

And finally, the somewhat parallel ruin explorer paths intersect as Daria hears Karl calling for help.
“I don’t have to do anything. How did you idiots get yourselves stuck there?”
Daria’s ever-so-perfect response demonstrates a solid command of the principle of Darwenism – though she certainly wouldn’t call it that. Perhaps she realizes the wisdom of not letting any of these young men survive to possibly breed more like themselves? Alas, her slightly buried better nature wins out as she decides to try and render aid.

Holy Indiana Jones! Daria extends an ancient Dwemer bridge and the Three Amigos daringly leap to safety. Oh, and Karl gets to face plant the far side of the bridge and be dragged to safety.

What a fabulous closing as Daria ponders what kind of intelligence animates the terrifying steel Centurion.

Posted by: SubRosa Oct 24 2022, 02:00 AM

A gear? Giving Quinn a gear is not going to make any panties drop bro...

Oh boy, Upchuck has a plan, and he found the only three people dumb enough to go along with it. I am sure hijinks are about to ensue here! I also have a sneaking suspicion that this will somehow coincide with Daria's own explorations of the ruins.

I like that even though the Dwemer have been gone for thousands of years, their halls are not silent tombs. Their works have outlived them in every sense, to the point where they are even still active and 'alive' after all these years.

“And how do I get to Heaven’s Gallery? Near-death experience?”
Let's hope not. But you never know.

Oh no, the three musketeers are lost! Who could have seen that coming? laugh.gif It's only a matter of time until Daria blunders into them.

I love how Daria reduces one of the Dwemer's achievements - one that puts the Empire's greatest workings to shame - down to "I could read at night with this'! It really shows her character, and what is important to her.

Uh oh, those footsteps that the Three Amigos + One heard had not been Daria. It was a Steam Centurion! Yikes, and now Daria is in it's way too! Eep!

Very cool set piece you created here of the bottomless pit and the retractable bridge. I think the Dwemer had the same safety inspectors as the Empire (no, not that Empire, I mean the Galactic one from Star Wars). They both have key instruments located on narrow ledges suspended over thousand foot drops, with nary a safety rail in sight.

I am really delighted with this current story arc. It combines classic Daria with classic Morrowind gameplay. Perfection.

Posted by: WellTemperedClavier Oct 26 2022, 04:29 PM

@Renee - Hm, I never thought about that but there could be security benefits to having Dwemer lawn ornaments.

I think the bit about Tiber Septim annexing Morrowind for Dwemer tech is basically canon. At the very least, he used Numidium to conquer the Aldmeri Dominion.

The series does get more political as it goes on, so that's no accident. But I do try to put our RL issues through a Tamrielic lens, since obviously that's the context the characters are in.

Heh, sure. Here's how Quinn looks in the show. The animation style is kind of limited, but you can get an idea.

IPB Image

Thanks, I spent a lot of time describing her entry into Arkngthand. Wanted it to have a real impact for the reader, kind of like what you feel as a gamer seeing it for the first time.

@Acadian - I don't know much about archaeology, but I do know that the "kitchen midden" (basically, household goods and junk) is often more useful than treasures and tombs when learning about ancient societies. The stuff they used in their daily lives is foundational: food, tools, etc. The quality and materials give you an idea of how much they produced, how much the average person had access to, what kind of trade was available.

Golden objects d'art are lovely and important in their own right. But they're the exceptions and don't necessarily tell us as much as discarded potshards. Though Daria doesn't know much about archaeology either, she intuitively understands that the Dwemer having constant light is in some ways much more meaningful than their weapons.

Of course, the IAS needs that funding, and the funders are all interested in weapons, so that's where the efforts will go.

@SubRosa - Heh, if Jonus and Julien had any idea on how to comport themselves, they wouldn't get so creepily hung up on Quinn in the first place. Alas, here we are...

Ha! I guess the difference might be that the Galactic Empire's poor safety regulations are a result of general callousness and expedience, while the Dwemer might have some bizarre and convoluted reason that gets more terrifying the more closely you examined it.

And thank you! Combining the two was less tricky than I initially thought it would be. Basically, I focused on staying true to Daria's characters, and true to Morrowind's setting.

Episode 14: Raiders of the Lost Arkngthand

Chapter 6


With the bridge retracted and the door closed, Daria confronted a blubbering Karl.

“I’m curious to know exactly what you four were doing down here. But I can already guess it’s something stupid.” She glanced over to the ashen-faced trio of Jonus, Julien, and Jeval. “Probably something stupid done for the sake of my sister.”

Jonus fell to his knees. “Please don’t tell Quinn about this!”

Julien genuflected. “Please pretend like it never happened, we’ll do anything you want.”

Jeval sighed. “They wanted to lift some Dwemer jewels or something to give to Quinn.”

Still on his knees, an aghast Jonus turned to face Jeval. “Dude, shut up! We’ll all get—”

Daria raised her right hand and motioned for them to settle down. “I already know about Karl’s little embezzlement scheme.”

“Yes, well…” Karl sat on the floor, knees up to his chin and his body quivering. “It appears that I owe you another favor!” He didn’t look at Daria as he spoke, his gaze stuck on the far wall.

“Yes, you do,” she said. “The favor is that you’re going to put back everything you stole from Armand. Do this, and I’ll keep quiet about your thefts and unscheduled visits beyond the safe zone. Also my earlier requirement about you not being a pest still stands.”

Karl squeaked, his eyes bulging. “But I have profits riding on this!”

Daria glowered and he shrank back.

“Of course, as a man of, uh, honorable reputation, I’ll fulfill my end of the bargain,” he said, a little too quickly.

“As for you three,” Daria said, “you can buy my silence by making sure Karl does what he promised.”

Since in the end, she couldn’t force him into doing anything he didn’t want to do. She’d need backup, and unreliable backup was still better than none.

“Why, I’m shocked that you’d think so little—” Karl started.

“Stop talking,” Jeval ordered. “That’s fair, Daria. Hey, uh, so thanks for saving our lives and stuff.”

“Don’t get too excited. I just saw this as an opportunity to accrue more favors. Besides, I don’t want to think about what my sister might do if she doesn’t get her daily dose of attention from you guys. That fact alone makes you more useful to me alive than dead.”

“We were being morons,” Jeval admitted. “So yeah, I’ll make sure Karl returns the goods and doesn’t bother anyone. Personally, I don’t care if you tell Quinn or not. The way I see it, we all owe you.”

Daria smiled at the storm of protestations that erupted from Jonus and Julien.



*********



Jeval had done his job. Daria checked the now-organized artifacts on the last full day and found that the numbers matched up almost exactly. The items listed on the client sheet, at least, appeared to be back in their proper places. She supposed some had been lost to error. Karl probably wasn’t the camp’s only thief, either.

Also, no one had complained about Karl’s sleaziness in a while.

The camp awoke before dawn to finish packing. Dozens of guar-pulled carts, already laden with crates, waited at the bridge while inspectors double-checked everything. Daria had hoped for a quiet moment among the aging towers before she left, but Karl interrupted her right after she finished her breakfast.

“Ah, Lady Morgendorffer,” he said. “If I might have a moment of—”

“In exchange for saving your life, can you at least drop the act?”

He cleared his throat. “I wanted to thank you for saving my life. I was in a little too much shock the other day to offer any coherent gratitude.”

“Just don’t make me regret doing it.”

“I am saddened that Karl’s Magnificent Exports, Inc. never got off the ground. Another shattered dream, I fear. Yet at the end of the day, I’m thankful to still be breathing. Besides, I’m sure I can capitalize on my experiences in Arkngthand.”

“Nothing draws in the crowds quite like a tale of human folly—"

Karl struck a pose, one hand on his breast and the other lifted heavenward. “Hear the tale of Karl in Arkngthand, with visage grim and a sword in hand!”

He bowed and grinned. “It's only a start, you understand, but I’m sure it’ll soon be a cornerclub staple across the Empire!”

“You should remember that I won’t be there to save you from your enraged audience. In fact, I might help them kill you.”

Karl chuckled and waggled his fingers, but a glare from Daria stopped him from commenting on anyone’s feistiness.

She joined up with Jane as the sun rose, dawn’s light soiled by dust and ash.

“Have fun appealing to the vanity of low-level bureaucrats?” Daria asked.

“Sure, that’s how you get to appeal to the vanity of high-level bureaucrats with more moolah,” Jane said. “Turns out Supervisor K’shath lives in Balmora. Now he wants me to paint his wife. I’ll have work for a bit, at least. How about you? Enjoy sharpening those counting skills?”

“Not nearly as much as I enjoyed making myself complicit in the corruption that suffuses every element of the Empire.” She looked at the towers. “But I will admit that, as jobs go, studying the Dwemer doesn’t seem too bad.”

Jane arched an eyebrow. “Why, Daria! Is that something approaching enthusiasm that I hear in your voice?”

“Merely relief that what I thought would be unbearable turned out to be tolerable, which is about as good as things get. Even though the work we do is more fuel for the imperial war machine.” She’d told Jane about her conversation in Armand’s tent.

“You’ll be fueling that war machine with your taxes, anyway. Might as well have fun doing it, right?”

“Yeah, who cares about selling out your ethical framework when there’s fun involved,” Daria said. “Sooner or later though, I’ll have to join one corrupt institution or another. That or become a crazy hermit. Say, know any isolated anchorages where I could slowly sink into an ethically consistent madness?”

“Look around you, Daria!” Jane said, gesturing out to the volcanic desolation. “Morrowind is prime real estate for that kind of thing!”

Daria smiled, and then noticed Armand and Jolda approaching.

“Daria!” Armand said. “I wanted to thank you again for coming along on this. It was a big sacrifice to leave your studies at Drenlyn.”

“It might take me an entire hour to catch up on the week I missed,” Daria said. “But I’m glad I could help.”

Armand nodded. “I know the work you did wasn’t the most interesting. It’s a sad truth that, for lowborn types like us, the only way up is to start at the bottom. But the Empire does recognize skill and dedication, and I’m told you showed both those traits.”

Daria’s cheeks burned at the compliment. Praise always sounded fake to her, but Armand appeared to mean it. She wouldn’t relay this to mom, though. The last thing she needed to hear was mom go on about what a great worker her eldest daughter was.

“Yeah, thanks for helping out,” Jolda added.

“I’m hoping,” Armand said, “that I can get another dig here in the future. There’s no proper IAS office in Balmora, so I’ll be spending the next year going back and forth between here and the provincial HQ in Old Ebonheart. But once I do get another dig going, whether in Arkngthand or some other site, you will have a spot on the team should you want it.”

Make no mistake, Daria told herself. The work she’d do in the IAS would be to help the powerful become more powerful, however indirectly. But as Jane said, taxes did the same. Given Morrowind’s dangers, it’d be better to at least keep her options open.

“Thank you,” Daria said, doing her best to fake gratitude.

Armand smiled. “Great! Not everyone recognizes the importance of the IAS. But the work we’re doing matters. If we do it right, we can have an even greater Empire to pass on to our descendants.”

He clapped her on the shoulder and walked past, Jolda following close behind. The cries of waggoneers rose up as the first of the carts started back on the journey to Balmora.

“Ready to blow this joint?” Jane asked.

“Almost. I want to take one last look at the place.”

Daria lingered on the rocky slope a few moments longer, her gaze on the fallen Dwemer city. Armand’s words echoed in her mind.

“If we do it right, we can have an even greater Empire to pass on to our descendants.”

No doubt the Dwemer had once shared a similar sentiment.

Daria shivered beneath her cloak and hurried down to join the others.



The End

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j5sQfEQR8MI

Posted by: Acadian Oct 26 2022, 08:17 PM

“Don’t get too excited. I just saw this as an opportunity to accrue more favors.”
- - Daria’s getting scary good at Dunmeri networking, including the preferred currency of favors.

And so concludes a delightful adventure overall in Arkngthand. It was neat to see Daria impressed by something (the Dwemer). Naturally, she doubled down during her departure on the cynicism to compensate. tongue.gif