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> Outlanders (Morrowind Crossover)
WellTemperedClavier
post Aug 10 2022, 04:39 PM
Post #141


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Joined: 15-April 22



@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.

Musical Outro - Bigmouth Strikes Again, by The Smiths

Andrew Landon (Armand al-Rihad) - 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.
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Acadian
post Aug 10 2022, 08:27 PM
Post #142


Paladin
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Joined: 14-March 10
From: Las Vegas



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.


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SubRosa
post Aug 11 2022, 03:35 AM
Post #143


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Joined: 14-March 10
From: Between The Worlds



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?)


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Renee
post Aug 13 2022, 02:23 PM
Post #144


Councilor
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Joined: 19-March 13
From: Ellicott City, Maryland



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!


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WellTemperedClavier
post Aug 13 2022, 04:43 PM
Post #145


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Joined: 15-April 22



@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.”

Musical Outro - Turtleneck Coverup, by Ozma
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SubRosa
post Aug 14 2022, 02:42 AM
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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..."


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Acadian
post Aug 14 2022, 08:39 PM
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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


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Renee
post Aug 16 2022, 01:29 PM
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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
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WellTemperedClavier
post Aug 17 2022, 04:38 PM
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@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...

Musical Outro - No Excuses, by Alice in Chains
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Acadian
post Aug 17 2022, 08:16 PM
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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



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SubRosa
post Aug 17 2022, 09:35 PM
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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!


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Renee
post Aug 20 2022, 04:36 PM
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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 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 🎥📸

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WellTemperedClavier
post Aug 20 2022, 05:04 PM
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@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.

Musical Outro - Midlife Crisis, by Faith No More

Coyote Yeager (Fox) - 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.

Willow Yeager (Willow) - Coyote/Fox's wife. Didn't see any need to change the name.
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Acadian
post Aug 21 2022, 08:32 PM
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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


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SubRosa
post Aug 22 2022, 01:23 AM
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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!


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WellTemperedClavier
post Aug 24 2022, 04:18 PM
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@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.

Musical Outro - Summer of '69, by Bryan Adams
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Renee
post Aug 24 2022, 07:10 PM
Post #157


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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!

This post has been edited by Renee: Aug 24 2022, 08:43 PM
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Acadian
post Aug 24 2022, 08:27 PM
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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

This post has been edited by Acadian: Aug 24 2022, 08:29 PM


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SubRosa
post Aug 26 2022, 01:12 AM
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"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.


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WellTemperedClavier
post Aug 27 2022, 04:17 PM
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@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.

Musical Outro - Iron Man, by Black Sabbath

Eydis Fire-Eye - Eydis is the deeply corrupt steward of the Fighters Guild in Morrowind.
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