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> Sleeper in the Cave, a Morrowind fanfic
Kazaera
post Jun 10 2019, 08:56 PM
Post #421


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From: that island north of France



My apologies for the wait! I meant to have this chapter sorted earlier, but my life went a little nuts and I didn't have much time left over for writing.

@Grits + @ghastley - Jamie would certainly like to! But I think everyone is still underestimating Adryn's stubbornness here - even in the face of cliff racers. wink.gif

Last chapter, Adryn continued her adventures around Maar Gan, to the point where when Jamie - newest member of House Redoran and off to prove herself on rescue missions - showed up, she was surprised to find that Adryn had rescued both the mer in distress she'd been sent for. Now, the two of them are off back to Ald'ruhn together. Who knows, perhaps this will get Methal - the strange high-ranking-but-pretending-not-to-be Temple member who seems very invested in getting Adryn to join up - off her back. After all, he has no reason to go out of his way for an ordinary, unimportant person like Adryn... right?

Chapter 19.1
*****


As agreed, Jamie and I set off early the next day. I bade a fond farewell to Tashpi, who suggested meeting to exchange alchemy tips when she was next in Ald'ruhn (an offer I accepted with due gratitude, although I suspected that date might be in the Fourth Age considering the current state of the strider service). My goodbye to Methal was more surprising, as he began making noises about coming with us - noises that only stopped when Scarecrow's agonised expression grew completely impossible to ignore. I gathered there were still some duties in Maar Gan the man should see to. Odd that he'd wanted to go with us – he hadn't struck me as a shirker.

Truth be told, I was relieved when he finally gave up. I liked Methal well enough, especially for a higher-up, but I wanted to put Maar Gan and what had happened there behind me for now. Besides, I didn't know how Jamie would react to me inviting a third person along on her jaunt without asking.

The rain of two nights ago was a distant memory. Thankfully, the ash-storm before that was also one. We toiled through dry, gritty ash underneath a cloudless blue sky. The sun, I thought, wasn't as strong as it should be considering that fact – Vvardenfell's climate was different enough from Solitude's that I had trouble finding my bearings, but still there were signs showing that we were now in mid-Frostfall, autumn well and truly here with winter slowly beginning its approach.

In fact, I realised with a start after counting the days, it was Witches' Festival today. In Daggerfall, the Mages' Guild would be doing a brisk business, various magic users would be getting drunk and planning to perform some difficult, dangerous, and generally ill-advised spells – the fact that this was not the best of combinations would go ignored – and I'd be staying inside tonight for more reasons than the undead. Dimly, I could remember Witches' Festival in the village, before Fjaldir had brought me to the orphanage in Daggerfall City. The coven on the hilltop had celebrated all night long, me glued to the window watching the strange lights and listening to the eerie noises until the woman with the pinched face (what had her name been?) dragged me away, scolding. It hadn't been celebrated in Skyrim, though, and it was quite possible Morrowind followed suit.

Morrowind did follow suit, Jamie told me when I asked. She'd encountered Witches' Festival when she travelled to Hammerfell, but it was near unknown outside the western provinces. On reflection, I decided this was probably a good thing.

"Yes," Jamie agreed, "I think we have more than enough reckless mages around already." She must be talking about Huleen's unfortunate apprentice, I decided, the look she cast me being sheer coincidence. After all, I prided myself on being a cautious, intelligent person. It was hardly my fault if the universe had it out for me.

We stopped for lunch shortly before the sun reached its zenith, not far past the tomb where the unfortunate trader had taken shelter (we'd given it a respectfully wide berth). The trunk of an old fallen tree half-buried in ash looked like an excellent seat; I immediately tested this and approved it with a loud groan.

I needed the break. I didn't really have the endurance to keep wandering the Ashlands day after day, particularly now that I was toting my pack. My legs were killing me.

Jamie, I noted jealously, looked fresh as new snow – or ash, in this case – despite the fact that her pack was heavier than mine and she was wearing full armour. Maybe there was something to be said for warrior training after all.

Of course, such endurance was only necessary if one was wandering the Ashlands day after day, which was really something I'd prefer to avoid.

Then Jamie stood up triumphantly from where she'd been rummaging in her pack, the bread and scuttle she'd bought from the tradehouse this morning in her hands, and I lost my train of thought as my stomach growled.

Lunch was delicious, a fact I suspected had more to do with how hungry I was than its components. At any rate, after I finished off my share of the bread and scuttle along with a nice handful of dried comberries and sugared ash yam slices, my legs declared themselves ready for more walking.

The landscape changed from there. On our right, a chain of hills steep and high enough I wouldn't object to calling them mountains rose into the air. Jamie said, and my map agreed, that they formed the boundary between the Ashlands and the West Gash. Some seeds must make their way over, because here and there I found stands of kresh, roobrush and chokeweed, none looking all too healthy but still well enough to survive some cuttings.

Jamie was graciously patient whenever I stopped to gather ingredients. "Honestly," she said, "I wish I was able to identify them. It'd be a good way of earning a little money." She grimaced. "House Redoran duties are significantly cleaner than the missions I got from the Fighter's Guild or the Legion, but they don't exactly pay well."

Now here was something I could commiserate with. "Tell me about it. I keep hearing about an apprentice's stipend from the guild, but somehow it never materialises. I'm hoping I can sell these," I gave my pack (which, between now and yesterday, was quite stuffed with ingredients) a little shake, "to Ajira, or Anarenen – I mean, really I'd like to brew potions to sell, but I don't have the equipment for it to be worthwhile and I can't use any of the guild setup for that."

Apparently using Ajira's equipment to brew potions for my own use had been a grey area already; brewing potions to sell pushed it straight into illicit use of guild materials. Anarenen, the sour-faced alchemist of the Ald'ruhn guild, wasn't even willing to allow personal brewing.

I pushed the unpleasant memory away and continued. "I need to make the most of it while I'm out here, because it's not like it's safe for me to travel the wilds on my own..."

I stopped talking. Jamie stopped walking. Our eyes met in a shared understanding.

"...of course, it would be an entirely different matter if you had someone with you," Jamie spoke the thought out loud. "Someone capable of fighting, but not able to reliably collect useful ingredients herself. I'm certain such a person would be happy to play bodyguard for a share of the profits."

"I think such a thing could definitely be arranged, no?" True, I'd prefer a method of making money that kept me in the cities, but none seemed to be forthcoming. This should be safe enough, and – of course – might let me indulge in proper alchemy again. If I had a steady flow of ingredients, it'd be worth the investment in a decent mortar and pestle, a retort and an alembic – and didn't I have a glassmaker in my debt in Beden?

After that, I walked with a spring in my step. My pack seemed lighter, my legs stronger, the whole world a little brighter. I hadn't realised how much my lack of income had been gnawing at me until I had a plan to deal with it. I supposed poverty, experienced even once, left something of a mark. Jamie, too, seemed rather relieved. I was a little surprised that she was having the same problems... well, not that surprised, come to think of it. Athyn Sarethi hadn't exactly struck me as a mer in touch with the common person and their financial woes; chances were much of the House was similar.

Really, the reasons not to join House Redoran kept piling up.

The shadows were growing long and even my newfound zest for life was no longer keeping the pain from my legs when Jamie called a halt.

"See there?" She pointed at a plateau up ahead. "That's Bal Isra, our camp."

Truthfully, I'd been prepared for a grim night. I didn't have a bedroll, and Jamie's pack didn't look large enough to have one for two – or one – or a tent, for that matter. As we neared Bal Isra, I was trying to convince myself that the ash was really quite comfortable, all things told.

Unnecessarily. Up close, I could make out a crevice in the rock. Jamie steered straight towards it, then ducked inside. Not long after, torchlight spilled out into the gathering gloom.

The narrow entrance led into a small cave system which was decked out for travellers. Firewood was stacked along the sides, torches hung at regular intervals, there was a small firepit with an iron pot beneath a smokehole, and – of course – screens made of wood and hide hid several cots from the entrance.

"I stayed here on the way to Maar Gan – Neminda told me about this place," Jamie said. "Apparently it was set up by some of the Redoran scouts, and they patrol it often to restock and make sure it doesn't get occupied by bandits or the like. Very handy for travellers and pilgrims, since it's just about halfway between Maar Gan and Ald'ruhn. Now, can you grab some of those blankets?"

Jamie's long experience travelling showed in how efficiently she set about arranging our night's stay. In what felt like no time at all, two cots were equipped with blankets and pillows (all thoroughly gone over with the little draining cantrip I'd learned as a child that would kill any lice or fleas clinging to the cloth), a fire was crackling merrily in the small firepit and the smell of cooking stew spread through the cave. I hadn't even objected all that much to being ordered around – it was clear Jamie knew what she was doing, and although I'd have liked to simply collapse on one of the cots and not move until tomorrow she had made the very cogent point that collapsing on a cot with a full stomach and the knowledge I wouldn't wake up covered in bites the next morning was a much better course of action.

"Food's done!" Jamie called from the fire.

The stew was tasty enough. I had to admire Jamie's culinary skills - the items that had gone into it had not looked particularly promising, but the cooking process had transformed them to the point where I took seconds.

"You're good at this," I told her.

Jamie's lips pulled into a wry smile. "Thanks – it's good to know I haven't lost the touch. I spent a large part of my teenage years dealing with food that... varied in quality, let's say. I had to learn how to make the most of what we had, or else suffer."

Now that was an interesting tidbit about my friend's younger years. Ordinarily, I – firm believer in privacy that I was – would leave it up to Jamie to share more if she wanted. However, as it so happened we were stuck in a cave together with still a few hours to go before we could sensibly go to bed. Nosiness, I decided, was excusable if it kept us from sitting there awkwardly staring at each other in silence for that time.

"Were you poor, then? In... I forget where you said you were from. Somewhere in Cyrodiil?"

"Kvatch. And – no, my family ran a goods store after my step-father sold his old farm, we were well off as such things went. But I left home when I was fairly young. Fell in with a bad crowd, I'm sorry to say." Jamie stared into the fire as though it held the secrets of Apocrypha, her bowl of stew forgotten by her knee. "Morrowind's been a fresh start for me. I'm not sure I deserve one, but since I have it I'll make the most of it."

I blinked, surprised. Whatever I'd expected the past of our new member of House Redoran and teller-off of Imperial Generals to be like, that wasn't it.

As happened far too often, my thoughts ended up in my speech without my brain having a chance to intervene. "Really? I thought you were all about the brain-lichen – I mean, code of honour, chivalry, righteousness, all that ro-" I cut myself off with a fake cough.

The reason Jamie and I were on the way to friendship while Varvur and I emphatically were not was that she laughed. "Now I am! But when I was younger, I was angry at the world... figured that because it had been nasty to me, I could be nasty right back. Except that most often it ended up as being nasty to people who'd had nothing to do with what happened to me, but who were there and couldn't defend themselves." Jamie's lips pressed together into a thin line. "I grew out of that particular brand of self-centeredness eventually, but not nearly as quickly as I should have."

I frowned. I had to admit that even though the world had definitely been 'nasty', as Jamie put it, to me as well, I'd never been tempted to take that out on others. Still, it was a reaction I'd seen before, even if I failed to understand it... and there was something else that bothered me about that story.

"And then you turned around and joined House Redoran? Don't you think that's a bit of an extreme reaction? I mean, obviously you shouldn't hurt people," why this didn't go without saying was frankly beyond me, "but a little selfishness is good for you."

Jamie snorted. "A little selfishness? Adryn, I'm not entirely sure you even know what the word means." And while I was reeling from that underhanded blow, she followed up mercilessly. "Look, I know you like mocking ideals like honour and chivalry. And I agree that sometimes they get... impractical. But have you considered what the alternative would be?" Dark eyes bored into mine. "A world full of people just out for themselves, who don't care who they trample on their way to where they want to go. That's not a world I want to live in. Do you?"

I opened my mouth. Closed it again. There was something wrong with that line of argument, I knew it-

(A small golden-skinned boy, crouched warily over his bowl of stew and shooting me occasional half-awed, half-mistrustful glances-

A Nord man and woman, dirty, clad in rags, plainly terrified, jeers rising in the air around them. My own voice (really? my voice?) cutting through them – "So, I take it we have driven out our enemy only to become them in turn."

Ingerte at fifteen, arms crossed and face set in a deep frown- "Explain to me again why we shouldn't just stay out of the whole mess?"

A Bosmer looking at me pleadingly- Varvur, hands trembling, eyes fixed on something only he could see- Beden, half-heartedly pulling at his bonds with an expression of resignation-)

I felt dizzy and ill. I wanted nothing more than to argue Jamie's point, but in that moment the words required were simply beyond me.

Thankfully, Jamie didn't push it any farther – leaving me speechless was apparently enough for her. (A rare occasion, in truth, and one I would usually fight my hardest against, but sometimes one has to cut one's losses.) After the pause began to lengthen, she shifted backwards to retrieve her stew, then said, "So – how much money do you think we could make, selling ingredients?"

I seized on the change of subject with some degree of haste. Unkind people might go so far as to call it desperation. "Well, it depends on where we can go and if we can find a buyer with a particular need. Of course, I could increase our profit margin by quite a large amount if I had access to a set of alchemy apparatus of at least Journeyman quality, but even failing that..."

As I talked, I did my best to put the conversation we'd had prior, and how deeply uncomfortable it had made me, out of my mind.

*****


Notes: Everyone congratulate Jamie on proving herself a true Redoran who follows in Athyn Sarethi's footsteps by hitting Adryn over the head with some home truths! Adryn is less than pleased about this.


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treydog
post Jun 16 2019, 04:40 PM
Post #422


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Joined: 13-February 05
From: The Smoky Mountains



I am getting caught up (in both senses of the word) with Adryn's story- and loving it. The only benefit of letting life get in the way is how much excellent Kazaera goodness that provides when I return. So- for the now- here are a few specific comments.

And another vote in favor of seeing the youthful Divayth Fyr. Again, your technomancy is riveting and a joy to read.

QUOTE
Ervesa, who'd gotten more and more antsy as yesterday went on, sounded positively giddy at leaving the safety of city walls for an ashy hellscape beset with dangerous beasts. Well, I supposed a total lack of lunacy would be too much to ask for – I should find myself grateful it didn't affect more.


More enjoyable alchemy with Tashpi. And yes, I am afraid she is probably right not to leave Adryn alone to … experiment on her own.

QUOTE
I didn't like important people knowing who I was. I didn't like important people having plans involving me.


Now that is a sentiment Trey endorses completely.

The musings on the failings of the Mages Guild also ring true. And yet, that “spare room” in Balmora was quite a safe haven (barring the occasional Dark Brotherhood attack), especially for someone whose former 'home' was a stall in the stable.

And Adryn- of course- manages to learn just enough Dunmeris to get into trouble. That's our elf!

The poignancy of Adryn's memories of having to wrap her feet- that whole memory is simply beautiful and brilliant and sad.

And the Sixth House still freaks me out. I can remember playing late on a dark night and being in one of the Chimer fortresses or Morvayn Manor (shivers).



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The dreams down here aren't broken, nah, they're walkin' with a limp...

The best-dressed newt in Mournhold.
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SubRosa
post Jun 16 2019, 08:58 PM
Post #423


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From: Between The Worlds



I love your description of slogging through the autumnal ash.

Drunken, dangerous, difficult, and ill-advised magic? Sign me up! laugh.gif

The West Gash always sounded dirty to me... wink.gif

Delousing spells sound like an excellent idea!

Brain-lichen! laugh.gif

Congratulations on Jamie drenching Adryn the Ice-Bucket Truth Challenge. Ethics and decency are not always being sappy and naive, but are also quiet practical.


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ghastley
post Jun 16 2019, 09:02 PM
Post #424


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There are none so zealous as the freshly-converted. tongue.gif


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Kazaera
post Jun 16 2019, 09:05 PM
Post #425


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From: that island north of France



@treydog - thank you for the long review!! I'm glad you are still appreciating Adryn in all her twitchy glory, along with supporting characters such as baby Divayth Fyr (who really grew on me) and propylon index technomagery (which... may come up again).

Re: Sixth House - I forget if I mentioned it in this thread, but back when I was playing Morrowind I used to refuse to enter caves for fear I'd run into a Sixth House base. The quest-related bases I got through via a constant-effect ring of levitation that let me float my way through on the ceiling. So creepy, Bethesda why.

Anyway...

Last installment, Adryn and Jamie made the trek back from Maar Gan to Ald'ruhn on foot due to the problems with the silt strider network. This included a night sheltering in a cave near Bal Isra, where Adryn got to know her newly-Redoran guildmate a little better... and Jamie shook up Adryn's cynical worldview a little. Now, let's see how she's getting on in Ald'ruhn....

Chapter 19.2
*****


The Argonian frowned at me when I entered the guild hall. Some vague memory, probably from Balmora breakfasts, told me he was the Ald'ruhn guild's spellmaker, but I couldn't remember his name for the life of me. I hadn't exactly had a round of introductions.

"Apprentice, where have you been?" He, on the other hand, apparently knew exactly who I was and that I'd been absent longer than expected. Awkward. "Edwinna expected you back days ago."

"I guess you missed the ash storm, then," I said wearily. "And the disaster that is the current state of the silt strider network. And... you know what, is Edwinna in? I'll just discuss this with her."

Edwinna was, in fact, in, and I was gratified to see that her demeanour was more concerned than scolding.

"I am truly sorry," she told me in the same breath as her greeting. "I had no idea I was sending you into anything dangerous, Huleen is always so sensible." Her lips thinned. "Listien has been thoroughly chastened for his recklessness, if it helps."

I shrugged. I couldn't deny having harboured dark thoughts towards Edwinna for her role in this whole mess, but seeing her so obviously repentant softened me. She couldn't have known, and the ash storm and what resulted had really not been her fault.

"Here, take these for your service to the guild. I think you might find them useful."

The scrolls Edwinna passed me were enchanted strongly enough to nearly blind my magic-sense. Most apprentices would probably not have been able to work out what they did without setting them off. Most apprentices also hadn't spent several years running high-profile burglaries and fencing enchanted goods. I could tell at a glance that these would trigger very strong protective spells.

Useful? Maybe. Valuable? Absolutely. These would fetch a more than handsome amount at an enchanter's, which should help tide over my financial woes until Jamie and I had a chance to get started.

"In case you run into any more trouble." Edwinna's voice was rather dry.

"In all honesty, I was rather hoping to avoid more trouble," I told her. "Unless you have another mission for me?" When I asked the question, my voice might not have contained quite the amount of enthusiasm a guild superior might want. In fact, traces of dread could be found.

Edwinna didn't take it personally. Instead, she gave me a rueful smile. "Actually, the latest shipment from the mainland came in just a day or so after you left, with the latest editions of the Cyrodiilic and Summerset journals. So I have some reading for you to do – no Daedra involved."

"You have no idea how happy I am to hear that," I said with full, heartfelt sincerity. "Just give me the books, I'll take care of the rest."

*****


Sadly for my dreams of burying myself underneath a pile of books and not emerging for at least a few days, Jamie had other ideas.

"I really don't see why I have to come along for this," I told her as I was towed in her wake through the streets of Ald'ruhn. "You're the one who told this Neminda you'd go out rescuing people, I wasn't involved. I'm not even a member of House Redoran!"

Jamie's brisk stride didn't even falter. "All the same," she responded without turning her head, "you're the one who actually rescued both the men in question. It wouldn't be fair for me to claim the credit on your behalf. Or," she paused suggestively, "the reward."

An obvious lure, one which would work far better if Jamie hadn't told me already that rewards for House Redoran duties ran from paltry to nonexistent. "Tell you what, I hereby grant you permission to claim all credit and any reward on my behalf. Really. Truly. Honestly." I paused. "Please?"

Judging by the way she continued walking, Jamie did not please.

My shoulders slumped in defeat. "At least tell me Athyn Sarethi won't be there."

Alas for me, it quickly proved not to be my day. The office somewhere in the depths under Skar which Jamie led me to had two occupants. One was another Redguard – the Neminda I'd heard her mention, I suspected. The other was exactly the person I'd been hoping not to see. The two of them were bent over something on the large oak table in the middle of the room, but looked up when we entered.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt," Jamie said quickly. "I'll come back later-"

Yes, I added silently. Please, let her come back later. Much later, at a point in time where I will find I have an insurmountable scheduling conflict, so sorry.

"Oh, don't worry," said Sarethi. "Neminda and I were just finishing, and I'd like to hear how things went in Maar Gan-" His eyebrows went up as he saw me enter behind Jamie. "Adryn?"

Neminda frowned. "We do have some expection of discretion regarding House business, Retainer," she told Jamie.

"Exactly!" I seized on the excuse with the desperation of a drowning mer. "Top-secret discussions to be had, no doubt. I'll just let myself out-"

"With all due respect, Kinswoman," Jamie cut across me, "Adryn of the Mages' Guild was the one who actually completed both missions I was assigned before I even reached Maar Gan. As a result, she needs to be here more than I do."

There was a beat of silence.

"All right," said Sarethi. "This I have to hear."

The resulting debriefing was not pleasant. It became even less pleasant when Sarethi began laughing halfway through.

"A little decorum, please?" I noted with interest that Neminda didn't seem in any way afraid of telling her superior off. The contrast to the way Scarecrow had been thoroughly intimidated by Methal was stark. Perhaps Neminda was a naturally strong personality.

"My apologies." Sarethi accepted the scolding with good grace. "What did you say happened after you reached the Ashlander camp?"

Beneath the steady stare of three pairs of eyes, one of which was promising me that she'd already been skeptical of this story in Maar Gan and had no intention of being silent about her doubts now, I caved. Sarethi, Neminda and Jamie got treated to the way things had actually gone.

"I don't like this story of Ashlanders kidnapping pilgrims." Neminda's frown was fierce. "We might need to make an example, demonstrate that this is not acceptable-"

I swallowed. Suddenly, the fears of bloody retribution I'd heard the Velothi I'd met express no longer felt so far-fetched.

"Hold," Sarethi interrupted. "We have decent relations with the Urshilaku overall. I'm not willing to risk losing that for a few rogues that, it sounds like, Adryn here has already removed as a threat." He nodded in my direction. I wondered how it was possible that the floor still hadn't swallowed me.

"So you'd do nothing?" Neminda sounded disbelieving.

"No, you're right, not responding at all would send the wrong message entirely. Hmm..." Sarethi tapped his fingers on the desk contemplatively. "I think it would be best to send someone to speak with their Ashkhan, about his control over his people and the possible consequences of letting young hotheads range unchecked. A new member of the House, perhaps, who was unable to complete her last duties through no fault of her own." He gave Jamie a significant look.

Jamie straightened. "I'd be honoured, sir." Then she glanced at me. "Er... you're not planning to travel to Urshilaku lands anytime soon, are you?"

I owed Jamie for her assistance in a way for me to finally make some money, never to mention her help with Varvur. Therefore, I decided, I would forgive her the fact that she'd just made Sarethi snort with laughter.

"I have no intention of setting foot outside town anytime soon," I told her. "However, if it makes you feel better, if I do end up in Urshilaku lands I promise not to speak to their leaders at all."

I thought Jamie's sigh of relief was really quite unnecessary.

*****


I left the Redoran administration complex about an hour later, feeling thoroughly drained but quite appeased through the newfound heaviness of my purse. The awkward way Neminda had pushed the septim coin my way, never to mention Jamie's rather jealous look, made me suspect that nothing would have been forthcoming had I been a member of House Redoran – however, it would be a rather bad look to not just have an outsider come in and solve your problems but also fail to reward them. Another reason to be happy I hadn't taken Sarethi up on his invitation.

After my recounting of my part in the rescue of Beden and the trader, we'd circled back to my experiences at Falasmaryon. As I'd suspected, Sarethi was quite disturbed to hear of what I'd found there (most likely imagining the same thing I had – a shambling Varvur with tentacles growing out of his face) and the three Redoran had been deeply involved in a discussion about how to best support the Temple in its investigation when I'd finally been able to leave. Now, to go back to the Mages' Guild in order to finally bury myself in books...

A sign caught my eye. Cienne Sintieve – Alchemist.

All right. Back to the Mages' Guild after a minor detour.

The Breton alchemist proved to be quite friendly and very willing to talk shop with a newcomer. I emerged with a good dose of gossip, a far better understanding of the way fire-fern's alchemical properties were affected by drying, and a potential customer. Cienne had professed herself willing to buy ingredients, but also told me that she was being run ragged keeping up with things after her last assistant had quit and would gladly buy potions brewed to a professional standard as well. Her need for healing, rejuvenating and disease resistance potions was apparently particularly dire; I silently repeated the list under my breath as I passed through the wide doors that formed the entrance to Under-Skar and stepped back in the ashy wastelands.

Perhaps I should have paid less attention to the potential of profit and more to where I was walking, because I tripped on the wide steps leading down from the commercial district around Skar. I barely managed to catch myself before I fell flat on my face, an act that involved the unwilling assistance of an older Dunmer woman. She brushed my hand away from her arm with extreme prejudice, levelled me with a glare that should have incinerated me on the spot, spat something that did not sound at all friendly in Dunmeris and stormed away.

"Well, sorry," I grumbled. "Next time I'll make sure to take you with me." After a moment to make sure I was steady on my feet, I started my trek back to the guild. Then stopped again. My near-fall had shifted the contents of my pockets, and something annoyingly pointy was poking me in the thigh with every step. I dug around to retrieve the culprit, and found myself holding the crystal that had sent me to Falasmaryon.

I found my fingers loosening quite by themselves. Ash puffed up where the thing hit the ground, and I took a large step back.

Then my rational mind caught up to events.

I didn't remember quite what I'd done before my impromptu displacement, but I was sure I'd sent magicka at it somehow – especially because the day beforehand, both Methal and I had handled it without any incident.

More importantly, it was an ancient Chimer artifact with mysterious powers and possible Dwemer influence. An excellent item for an aspiring apprentice in Dwemer research to give her prospective master, especially as certain puzzle cubes were out of the picture. That was definitely a better way of getting rid of the thing than leaving it in the dirt.

I dug in my pocket for a handkerchief, which I used to very, very carefully pick the crystal back up, making sure to keep my magical senses firmly to myself all the while. Then, with long strides, I made my way back to the Mages' Guild.

*****


Edwinna was less keen than I was.

"It's clearly not Dwemer," she said. "This is silver, see, and primitively worked – the Dwemer would have used their own alloys, and certainly not such a poor forge. Late Chimeris work, I'd say, in the Council era. Popular as it is, I've never been convinced by the theory of Dwemer influence on the Chimer, not when we see no traces of such in the modern Dunmer... and honestly, I have enough work with actual Dwemer artifacts that I don't need to follow spurious leads." She dropped the crystal back into my palm. I suppressed a flinch.

"So it's useless, then?" I asked, dejected.

"Not useless, no!" Edwinna looked shocked. "Simply not Dwemer, and not of interest to me, but – and never tell anyone I said this – the Dwemer aren't all there is to the world." She gave me a conspirational wink. Despite myself, I could feel my lips stretch in a smile. I found myself wishing I'd joined the guild in Ald'ruhn, not Balmora - their guild-mistresses were as different as day and night, and I knew which one I preferred.

"In fact," Edwinna went on, "if I remember correctly, Folms Mirel has been looking for items that look like these. Head of the Caldera guild," she explained, correctly interpreting my quizzical look. "He's been talking about crystals connected to the ancient Chimer fortresses. Propylon indexes, I think he called them. No wonder, either, if they're capable of teleportation – it's Folms' primary research interest, he's the one who's largely to thank for the guild guide network."

The name did ring a bell, now that she'd explained. If I remembered correctly, he was the guild head Ajira and I had ruled out because he specialised in Mysticism and enchanting. Well, with luck, even with our very disparate research interests we'd find some common ground in the crystal- the propylon index. Preferably common ground that involved either solely indoor apprentice duties, or the exchange of money.

"Thanks for letting me know," I told Edwinna now. "I'll definitely talk to him." I considered for a moment. "Tomorrow."

There was a pile of books that had been calling my name for hours now. Everything else could wait.

*****


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Kazaera
post Jun 16 2019, 09:42 PM
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So we appear to have had a concurrency problem involving responses! Sorry ghastley, SubRosa, I didn't see your comments before posting the new update. Quick responses here -

@SubRosa - thanks so much for the review!! I like trying to make TES come alive - slogging through ash being one of those ways, delousing spells being another. People being people, I always feel like the little, everyday spells for making life easier should eclipse the combat ones.

And re: Ice Bucket of Truth - this is actually one of the things that is super fun to play with, writing Adryn. She's a fairly unreliable narrator in a number of ways and one of those is that her self-professed cynical worldview is not consistent, either internally or with how she acts. This gets more extreme as she gets Nerevar's memories (who was something of a big damn hero and did not hold with selfishness) trickling into her subconscious. Adryn is good at lying to herself so this is probably often not all that obvious, so it's very fun to occasionally toss an Athyn Sarethi or a Jamie her way and bash her over the head with her own inconsistency - even if she's not ready to face up to it quite yet.

@ghastley - yeah, Jamie's fairly rigid about some of these things thanks to her own past. She figures she has things to atone for and that she knows how bad the alternative is. That said, I think her experience here does make her more sympathetic to someone who doesn't toe the honour-and-chivalry line in every detail than, say, Varvur.


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SubRosa
post Jun 17 2019, 05:21 PM
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Most apprentices also hadn't spent several years running high-profile burglaries and fencing enchanted goods
Most apprentices probably have not! laugh.gif

Sounds like it is time to go Propyloning from one ancient Chimer stronghold to another!

Over the Ashlands and through the West Gash
To Dagon's house we go!
the guar knows the way to carry the giant bug carapace
through the white and drifted ash.


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ghastley
post Jun 17 2019, 07:18 PM
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So Adryn's Morrowind is the one where there's a Master Index, and the propylon chambers are actually a viable means of transportation? I'll be learning a lot from this, because I never installed that plug-in.

I seem to remember that not all of the propylon chambers are safe to visit, even if you can reach them. And since you can often travel to one, and not be able to take the next link, you're as stuck as Adryn was on her first visit.


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treydog
post Jun 20 2019, 03:20 PM
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Still reading- still savoring. Do not want to rush, because I will miss some Adryn gem of almost-wisdom....

The whole opening encounter with Missun is a treat. Too many highlights to pick each one, so more of what passes for Adryn self-examination will have to do:

[quote]Alas for me, my allotted portion of wisdom had been replaced by more curiosity at birth.[/quote]

[quote]Personally, I thought it would be really nice if I could stop insulting people when I wasn't actively trying. Past experience also told me this feat would probably require divine intervention, but I could at least try.[/quote]

Good to recognize our limitations- or perhaps be fortunate enough to go someplace where not everybody is ready to be insulted at a moment's notice....

[quote]"I, the great Manat Shimmabadas," I silently tried that last name on for size and decided he could stay Peacock, "have taken a Redoran noble captive!"[/quote]

That had me laughing out loud. And apparently netch leather is what all the Vvardenfellian rebels and juvenile delinquents wear- there must be some "morphic resonance" (to steal outrageously from Terry Pratchett) with The Wild One from our 'verse. The scarves and goggles just make it even more perfect.

[quote]"Somehow," the woman snapped, "I think if she were on an errand of rescue she would be wearing shoes."[/quote]

And that's me laughing until I cry again.

[quote]"I didn't realise Redoran honour bent far enough to allow for such practicalities. I thought you lot demanded one stomp straight into the ambush, shouting for your cowardly foes to show themselves."[/quote]

Sounds about right.

And the entire interaction with Beden, most especially Adryn's defensive reaction that her willingness to be helpful is somehow Athyn Sarethi's fault....

I want to quote the entire "negotiation," especially with Adryn's internal commentary- but leave it at this- it is all brilliant.

[quote]My professional pride refused to let such an outrage pass. "Revenge? Have you lost your mind? This is- it's business, it's not personal! The appropriate response to being outsmarted is not to come after the smarter person with a big stick!" I blurted out.[/quote]

And there is the non-Redoran part of Adryn- what she would refer to as the "sane" part, even while protesting there "is no Redoran part- at all."

Ah Beden is such a delight, and not just to Adryn. (Easy, Adryn- you don't like other people, remember? Probably another issue to be laid at Athyn's door.)

[quote]Maar Gan, a place which I decided I truly hadn't appreciated as much as it deserved on my first visit. After all, for all its odd and unfortunate problem with Daedra, it still boasted such wondrous things as armed guards, inhabitants in possession of their full cranial capacity, and... of course... my shoes.[/quote]

So much fun- with more to come.

Additional added comments appear below.

[quote]I guessed my face must have been something of a picture; I decided to fix this fact by burying it in my hands.

"What is it," I spoke to my palms, "with this island and asking me, an alchemist, to do things like searching for lost travellers in the wilderness. You know, the one with dangerous wildlife like kagouti, Blighted guar and cliff racers," to say nothing of ancient fortresses beset by horrors, Velothi turned to kidnapping, naked men of varying races, and similar horrors, "things that you need combat skills to deal with."

"Um. Do you need a potion? More tea?"

"I need to get back to a place where people are sane."[/quote]


A long quote, I know, but it so perfectly captures Adryn- and also the dilemma of anyone who goes into Morrowind hoping to be a "peaceful traveler".

As always, I love Adryn's inability to learn or recall names- probably because I suffer from that social deficit myself. And your descriptions of how magic works are a joy to read.

[quote]"Guar-mad." Redoran Two shook her head. "He should go become a herder or something."[/quote]

Where have I seen that term before? And... if I can ever get to the end of it, we may be seeing it again in a Postcard from Tamriel....

[quote]The Redorans, Tashpi and I traded glances, united across our very disparate lives and values in the shared thought of dear gods, what is this man or possibly why bother bringing guards when he could just incinerate anything that looked at him the wrong way. Our moment of quiet, mutual understanding ... or possibly the word I was looking for was 'horror' ... was broken by a faint call from inside the tomb.[/quote]

Eeeep!

[quote]Standing in the ashy wastes, waiting for a woman to finish thanking some draugr-equivalents for not gruesomely murdering a poor lost man seeking shelter from a storm, for a moment the sheer alien nature of this land pressed down on me.[/quote]

Sometimes it hits you in the face- other times it just creeps up on you- and then "outlander" takes on a whole different meaning.

The fact that the strider service can be unreliable- especially in a place with homicidal wildlife, really bad diseases, and ash storms- makes for a nice bit of "fantasy realism" and also can justify not abusing fast-travel.

Have to love Adryn's whole denial- "I am nothing like a Redoran! I'm only looking out for myself- and possibly some new alchemy ingredients! How is it my fault that I rescued all these people?"

[quote]"It's not as if I do it intentionally!" I protested, stung. "These things just... happen!"[/quote]

See above... laugh.gif

[quote]...the architecture meaning it was very hard to shake the nagging feeling that the doorways might decide to eat me[/quote]

Yeah- might just put one off sleeping indoors...

This post has been edited by treydog: Jun 21 2019, 08:44 PM


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Kazaera
post Jun 23 2019, 11:24 PM
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@SubRosa - hahaha, I love the song! ...Adryn does not. Adryn is looking rather horrified at the song.

@ghastley - ..yyyeees kind of? I've taken some liberties with the propylon indexes; my justification is that there are in-story reasons for why they react differently to Adryn than literally anyone else, which should be fairly obvious from some of the Nerevar flashbacks. But Folms Mirel is definitely hard at work trying to make a master index!

@treydog - thanks for the super-detailed review! I'm very happy you like Adryn's lack of name memory; I'm also fairly bad at names, but it's also a trick I'm using to try to make some of the bit-part secondary characters more memorable. (I also on occasion use it for some character detail; there's a bit of a pattern in which names Adryn remembers and which she doesn't.)

And lol @ delinquent netch leather armour! I imagine it to be a cheap, lightweight and fairly versatile armour which is easier to come by than chitin, bonemold or metal... which, come to think of it, does make it a good choice for delinquents. unsure.gif

Last installment, Adryn made it back to Ald'ruhn, where she was forcibly debriefed by Athyn Sarethi and co. and learned that although Edwinna wasn't interested in propylon indexes one Folms Mirel of the Caldera guild might be happy to take hers off her hands. Last we saw her, she was burying herself in books.

Probably at some point not long after, she went to sleep in her bed in the Ald'ruhn dorms, and dreamed...

Chapter 19.3
*****


As a Chimer, I'd lived my entire life under the open sky. I'd only ever been in a structure more permanent than a yurt in order to do honour to my ancestors at their tomb, or during the few times I'd had business in the Nords' settlements. Embarking on a visit to Dumac's underground city had brought me far deeper underground than any of those. I wasn't sure I liked it.

"Duck here," Dumac instructed. In the glow of the lamps affixed to the corridor walls (too steady for firelight, but lacking the blue undertone and magical hum of magelight) I could see him follow his own advice, curly hair brushing the metal ceiling.

As it so happened, I was short enough I could pass through the gap upright. Still, the sight made me consider the ceiling... and the earth above, a mountain that would collapse and crush us if it weren't for that thin strip of metal and the arched supports every few feet.

Correction. I definitely didn't like this.

"Is it much farther?" The words escaped me quite without my will; I bit my tongue, but too late to hold them back. At least, I consoled myself, they'd come out sounding believably nonchalant.

Judging by Dumac's glance back at me, he didn't agree. "Not much farther, no. This was the narrowest part, we've almost reached the cavern."

A snort from behind me, where the rest of Dumac's... clan-mates? Hunt-group? I still didn't understand Dwemer social structures- were bringing up the rear. "Imagine being afraid of being underground," a voice whispered, soft but loud enough for me to hear.

Never one to take that sort of comment lying down, the perfect response immediately sprang to mind. It's called an ability to consider potential consequences – of course, you wouldn't be familiar with such a thing, seeing it requires this thing known as 'intelligence' and it's clear yours is taxed to its limit by walking and talking at the same time. In fact, no wonder cave-ins are of no concern to you – if your head should be crushed by a falling rock, nothing of value would be damaged.

What I should do, I told myself sternly, was to ignore the comment. Giving my tongue free reign had proved to not be in the best interests of diplomacy even when I did it among my clan-mates; it would be sheer disaster in this touchy situation. Alas, despite all these well-reasoned arguments against, I found my mouth opening all the same-

The whisper had been loud enough for Dumac to hear as well. "How strange, I must be imagining things. Because I could have sworn I heard Stungthand disparage our guest... but of course Stungthand would know better than that, wouldn't he? After all, I distinctly remember needing to forcibly drag him out of the tunnels the first time he left because he was terrified he would fall into the sky."

There was a humiliated silence from behind. I gave Dumac a slight nod of thanks. For a moment, I wasn't sure if he'd seen it, but then the bushy head dipped in response.

"On which note," Dumac said, "here we are. Welcome to Nchurdaleft, Nerevar." And he stepped forward and down.

I wasn't too proud to admit I gaped. The corridor opened into a gigantic natural cavern, lit by Dwemer lamps strung at regular intervals, never to mention the glowing blue mushrooms and vines. Despite the light streaming from these sources and glittering off crystals embedded in the cavern walls, the sheer vastness meant I couldn't make out the opposite wall, and only vaguely discern stone spikes hanging from its roof far, far above.

And, of course, there were the Dwemer, making their way busily between the stone-and-metal houses that rose from cavern floor or into the great tower that lay at its center, vanishing into other corridors that branched off from the side, standing in clusters around strange machines... the sight made me think of anthills that I'd seen in the wild, teeming hives of activity with each individual a mere speck in the mass.

There were, I suspected, more Dwemer in this cavern than I'd seen people in my entire life before.

"Do you mind moving, Chimer? Some of us would like to get out of this corridor too."

The annoyed voice from behind brought me back to myself. I closed my mouth, moved away from the doorway and did my best to pretend that I saw gigantic underground Dwemer cities every day. I suspected I wasn't particularly successful, but it was an act that kept me following Dumac down the stairs and along a winding path that went sometimes by, sometimes over, and sometimes through the buildings... never to mention more strange sights than I'd ever hoped to see. Dwemer children playing with some odd glowing eight-sided shape; a Dwemer woman chanting furiously at a pipe, then sitting back in satisfaction when it began to spit steam; several little metal spiders trundling along, each with a small box strapped to their backs...

Our progress was slow. Not only did quite a number of the people we passed want to gawk at the Chimer, but it turned out that Dumac was well-known in the city – something of a feat, I thought, considering the sheer number of inhabitants. It seemed as though every few feet we had to stop for Dumac to speak to someone. Usually, this took place in Dwemeris, but the smiles and (frequently) back-thumping made the relationships involved clear. I spent the interruptions doing my best to wait patiently. Patience was not a skill that came particularly easily to me, as any Indoril - certainly those who'd been present for the kagouti hunt in the last year of the Atronach - could have told you. However, the underground city offered enough in the way of distraction that the greater challenge proved to be trying not to stare at my surroundings too obviously.

We were about halfway to the large building in the center of the cavern when I failed.

Dumac was deep in conversation with a man whose face was heavily lined in wrinkles and beard was solid grey. No back-thumping was visible here; no, judging by the body language the two were being so exquisitely polite to each other that I suspected a lot of dislike lurking beneath the surface. It had also gone on longer than any of Dumac's interactions with one of the townspeople so far, and I was starting to get bored.

I looked around and saw another Dwemer, somewhat shorter and skinnier than average with the ubiquitous tall hat perched on his head at a jaunty angle, bent over a crystal about the size of my fist which was sitting on a raised pedestal. Occasionally, he'd reach over to prod the object, muttering profusely all the while. Nothing seemed to change when he did so, except the hair on the back of my neck stood up, and when I let myself fall into my magical senses I could feel the faintest flare of power from that direction.

That would be interesting in its own right, because despite the whirring gears, hissing pipes, glowing toys and wandering spiders, it was the first time I'd felt anything I'd term magical in this cavern. On top of that, the feel of the magicka was familiar, reminding me very much of some of the experiments I'd indulged in when I was younger and less disciplined.

The Dwemer's dark eyes flicked upwards. "Can I help you, Chimer?" The words were a surprise – they were spoken evenly, without the bite of hostility I'd expected, and in Chimeris to boot.

Then I realised I'd drifted closer without even realising, close enough the – craftsman? mage? - had stopped working to deal with the interruption. I took a step back and dipped into a quick bow of apology. The time I'd spent in alliance with Dumac and his people had driven home how culture-specific such gestures could be, so I added, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to disturb you."

"No need to apologise." The man's eyes hadn't left mine. His Chimeris sounded close to fluent, praise Azura – I'd been reliably informed that my Nordic was poor and my Aldmeris an embarrassment, and of course I spoke no Dwemeris at all, so Chimeris was the only hope for us to have any sort of conversation. "It's a good opportunity, in fact. I've been branching out a little, and I know your people work more with-" some Dwemeris word suffering from a terrible affliction involving excessive consonant growth followed. "I'd be curious as to what a Chimer would make of this."

The face of our Wise Woman swam into my mind, stern and forbidding. I could almost hear her sharp tongue shaping the words lazing about again, feel her fingers gripping the point of my ear.

It's diplomacy, I told her silently, and turned to the offered crystal.

Up close, the familiarity was far more apparent. "It reminds me of some of the crystals you can find in Daedric ruins," I spoke aloud for the benefit of my audience. "I tried imbuing some of them with magicka when I was younger – had a silly idea that I could create a connection between them that could be used for teleportation – I didn't get anywhere with it, obviously, but the result felt quite a bit like what you have here."

The Dwemer blinked, clearly taken aback. "Teleportation?"

"Yes – instantaneous magical travel between fixed points. It would be very useful, I figured – imagine how much easier it would be to meet traders or reach the tribes'-moot, or what it might mean for the elderly and sick, if they could stay in a single location even when we had to move on with the herds. There was this resonance to the Daedric crystals that could be modified if you carefully infused them with magicka, I thought..."

I stopped, surprised by the enthusiasm in my own voice. Wasn't I past this?

"I didn't realise you were interested in magical research, Nerevar. That any of the Chimer were."

I turned. Dumac had finished his discussion with the elder and had come to over to eye both of us with an odd expression. I could feel heat rise in my face.

"Oh, I was young and prone to wild daydreams. I grew out of it eventually."

Dumac's expression changed to one of complete bafflement. This, sadly, was fairly familiar by now. "But... if it was a promising line of research, why wouldn't you continue it?"

My ear throbbed with phantom pain. I could almost see the Wise Woman's pinched expression. "You mean waste time playing with rocks that I should have spent supporting the tribe? Believe me, no one would have thanked me for that. I'd like to think I know better by now."

"Waste time?" Dumac repeated, sounding more bewildered than ever. "It's the most noble of pursuits, wouldn't it be seen as doing great honour to your family?"

We spent a moment staring at each other in complete mutual cultural incomprehension.

"Well." The voice belonged to the young Dwemer I'd interrupted. "If you have the time after, I for one would be quite glad if you spent time 'playing with rocks', as you put it, with me. I assure you I do not consider your ideas a waste of time. On the contrary, they sound as if they tie in quite nicely with my theories." He nodded at me, the gesture more respectful than I'd received from any Dwemer bar Dumac.

"I'm sure that could be arranged," Dumac answered for me, shooting me a sidelong glance. It was a look I'd become familiar with from strategy meetings and the heat of battle, one signalling trust me and do as I say.

"Yes... I'd like that," I said. I was still confused, but – absurd as the thought would have been a bare few years ago – I did trust Dumac. And perhaps some childish part of me was delighting in the thought that I might be able to continue my experiments in the name of diplomacy.

Although, of course, there were some more traditional components to diplomacy I shouldn't be forgoing.

"Ah- Nerevar, of clan Indoril," I added hastily. "Thank you for your hospitality."

The Dwemer's eyes glittered as he took my hand. "A pleasure. I am Kagrenac."

*****


Notes: Baby Nerevar is a joy to write. Look at him being a diplomat... in his own very special unique way!


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treydog
post Jun 24 2019, 11:57 AM
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And I am also loving your (or Adryn's) visions of the young Nerevar. And a momentous meeting as well- are those kettle drums I hear? (Hope so- otherwise it might be a Mundus-quake!)

Your entire description of the populous and bustling Dwemer city is so vividly drawn, it was as if I could see it before my eyes. Wonderful!


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SubRosa
post Jun 24 2019, 02:22 PM
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I could appreciate Never's natural sense of claustrophobia at the thought of having a mountain over his head. Unlike the 'dwarves' I can imagine the oppressive feeling of being deep underground. It would be doubly daunting considering that young Never had never even seen a city on the surface, let alone one underground.

Now the Dwemer fear of vowels, that I will never understand...

I loved your depiction of the natural and unnatural features of the Dwemer city. Of course I naturally wondered where all their poop goes? Unless they have some really impressive sanitation, it must really smell down there... laugh.gif

I was guessing that mysterious Dwemer scholar/scientist/mystic might be ole' Kraggy himself. This episode was a wonderful peek into the past that shaped Morrowind, tinged with a feeling of regret, given what we know will eventually happen at Red Mountain.




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haute ecole rider
post Jun 26 2019, 03:53 PM
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Whew, I am finally caught up! I apologize for being delinquent in my reading and commenting on this wonderful story.

Jamie reminds me so much of my own Julian it is making me homesick for her game Oblivion. The same struggles she went through in her life is echoed here in Jamie. And I enjoyed Adryn's meeting the head of House Redoran again. I pretty much LOL'd my way through that episode!

In an earlier post, I chuckled at the rescue of the lost guar - that Redoran guard could well be me! I didn't expect to fall in love with them playing ESO, but I have, and am even planning a guar rescue! I believe I have as many guar mounts as I have horses . . .

While I never played Morrowind, I have the chapter in ESO (in fact, my three youngest toons started in Vfell), and I have had plenty of opportunity to thoroughly explore the ESO version. Not sure how it matches up to the original, but there are many elements of your story that I recognized from my ESO gameplay. I loved how you play up the cultural differences, and the risk of entering an ancestral tomb if you are not their descendant.

I always felt that Dwemer are Bosnian refugees . . .


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Kazaera
post Jul 1 2019, 08:59 PM
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@treydog - It seems I wasn't the only one hearing ominous drums in the background! laugh.gif Glad you like my Dwemer city - I opted not to use any of the existing ruins because they didn't quite match my vision.

@SubRosa - Yeah, I sympathise with young Nerevar here too - his life experience is fairly limited at this stage, and giant Dwemer underground cities are waaaaay outside his comfort zone in all sorts of ways.

And I am sure the sanitation is dealt with via mysterious Dwemer technomagery blink.gif alternatively, you've stumbled on the real reason Kagrenac is interested in teleportation to other realms - improved waste management systems ahoy.

@haute ecole rider - no need to apologise, just glad to have you back! biggrin.gif And I went eeeeeh that Jamie reminds you of Julian - Julian is one of my favourite characters (and I do tend to think of her as the patron saint of Chorrol Redguard warriors) so this is high praise! (Jamie thinks so, too - I think she wants to be Julian when she grows up, minus the Legion affiliation.)

And it's great to hear Vvardenfell rings true to you, guar-loving self-insert guards and all! smile.gif I've actually been meaning to get back into ESO, I'm quite curious about the Vvardenfell expansion - this is all based on Morrowind so far but I'd love to bring in more of the ESO vision as well.

Last installment, young Nerevar experienced his first underground Dwemer city and made a new friend - a young Dwemer by the name of Kagrenac. The two bonded over magical theory regarding teleportation. This friendship is certainly not historically ominous at all.

Now, back to Adryn, who is endeavouring herself to get rid of the suspiciously familiar propylon index...

Chapter 19.4
*****


I found myself quite happy with my choice of guild to attach myself to the next day. The Caldera guild was, if anything, even smaller than the Balmora guild – small enough to be decidedly cramped. The guild guide platform was so close to the enchanter's desk you had to be careful not to step on any soul gems on disembarking, and the harrassed-looking instructor had only a few fenced-off square feet to work with, no practice chamber or target range in sight – I certainly hoped they didn't teach Destruction spells here. I couldn't see an alchemist either, showing they had some sense – potion fumes really do require their own space, preferably with excellent ventilation – but that was as far as it went. Even Mirel, a gray-haired, heavy-set man easily identifiable not just by his rich brocade robes but also by virtue of being the only Dunmer in the place, was working from a desk crammed into a corner.

At least it made him easy to find, I thought, and made my way over for introductions.

"Excuse me. I'm Adryn, from the Bal- the Ald'ruhn guild. I hear you may have been looking for items like this?"

Mirel's face lit up at the sight of the propylon index. I internally breathed a sigh of relief. If it heightened my standing in the guild, good – if it resulted in a monetary reward, excellent – but even with both those things aside it'd be good to get the thing off my hands. Falasmaryon hadn't been so pleasant a place to visit that I wanted to risk a repeat.

Alas, it turned out my relief was a little hasty, because matters went downhill from there.

It started when I tried explaining how I'd triggered the teleportation. Silly me, thinking a mer who wanted the thing for its teleportation capabilities would be interested in hearing about such a thing.

"Apprentice," was Mirel's frosty response, "I already told you I wanted the item. There is no need to lie in order to make it seem more appealing."

I spluttered. "Lie?" was the only word I managed.

"Yes, and an obvious one at that." Mirel shook his head in clear disappointment. I wasn't sure whether it was because he thought I was lying to a superior, or because he thought I was being obvious about it. "Although it is true these items hold the potential for teleportation – a fact I assume Edwinna informed you of – it is locked deep within them. Only a true master of the mystic arts could access it. Certainly not someone with your... challenges." He sniffed.

I could not possibly be hearing this correctly. "Excuse me?"

Dimly, I was aware that all other activity in the guild hall had ceased, all eyes fixed on Mirel and me. Mirel, of course, gave no sign of noticing.

"Your... 'syndrome', I believe they called it." He spoke the word as if it tasted foul. "I myself do not understand why someone incapable of a fundamental magical skill should be permitted to advance in the guild, but apparently Edwinna thinks you can be of use in the lesser schools. So be it. But I will not tolerate you attempting to edge in on my research via fantastical claims. Now, give me the propylon index and we will not speak of this again." He paused for a moment. "I suppose I might be able to reimburse you for finding it, if you apologise for your presumption."

There was a beat of silence. Mirel, hand outstretched for the propylon index, looked satisfied, almost serene. He had declared how the world was, and the world would now follow suit by rearranging itself to his liking. As for me, I was still caught in stunned disbelief.

Then it turned to fury.

"Actually," I told the newly-dubbed Blowfish, "I think I'll be keeping it." I bared my teeth. Only a very stupid person would have considered my expression a smile, so I gave Blowfish a fifty-fifty chance. "Since, you know, it belongs to me. I would have donated it to your research efforts, but as you have made so clear that I am not wanted, I'll just assume the same goes for my belongings. Who knows, I might do a little investigation of it myself."

Blowfish was going purple. "Apprentice-"

"Who knows," I talked over him, "maybe I'll figure the thing out before you do. The lowly apprentice with the syndrome. Wouldn't that be embarrassing for you?"

Blowfish didn't respond, apparently lost for words. His mouth was, however, opening and closing silently. It actually did make him look remarkably like a fish; I'd clearly chosen the nickname well.

I turned to see an entirely silent, motionless Mages' Guild, everyone staring at me.

"Hi there," I said to the guild guide. "Could you send me back to Ald'ruhn? For some reason, I don't much feel like staying in Caldera any longer."

*****


My righteous rage begin to drain away the instant my feet hit the Ald'ruhn guild guide platform. By the time I'd unlocked my cupboard in the dorms in order to deposit the propylon index, the emotion was entirely gone, leaving me feeling mainly shocked and a little queasy.

Had I really said... to a superior in the guild... in front of an audience...

I let my forehead thunk against the wood of the cupboard with a groan. "I really, really hope I don't need to be on good terms with the Caldera guild."

"This sounds like a story."

Startled, I turned to see Jamie behind me. The sight was off-putting – I knew she was technically a guild member, but she seemed to be fully occupied with her Redoran duties at the moment. Besides, last I'd heard, she was supposed to be travelling to the Urshilaku. What was she doing here?

Travelling to the Urshilaku was out of the picture until the silt strider network was up and running again, Jamie explained. It was simply too far of a journey, through too dangerous lands, when one couldn't just take the strider to Khuul and then head along the coast. As for what she was doing here...

"House Redoran accommodation for 'itinerants' isn't exactly what I was hoping for," Jamie admitted. "Lots of young men out looking for glory who'll take alcohol as an acceptable substitute. No real privacy, either." Her lips twisted. "I'm still a guild member, I wanted to check the Ald'ruhn dorms."

Unfortunately, we – as I'd discovered last night – also had members who made for noisy neighbours. The members of Edwinna's Dwemer expeditions were often tough, adventurous sorts who spent most of their time in the wilderness and cut loose during their short time in Ald'ruhn. That said, at least we had curtains around the beds, and I'd heard good things about kwama wax ear-plugs.

(It was probably a sign of how bad the Redoran accommodation was that this explanation made Jamie noticeably brighten.)

"I'm also happy I stumbled across you – I've been meaning to catch you in order to pin down the details of the plan for gathering and selling ingredients we discussed. Maybe get started on it, while I'm waiting on the strider network." The eager expression on her face was, I suspected, the sign of someone who really needed to be earning money sooner rather than later. "Anyway, enough about me. What's this about the Caldera guild?"

"Just a moment." I rummaged for my coin-purse.

The Ald'ruhn guild alchemist had proved just as crotchety this time as on first meeting, so I'd paid another visit to Cienne under Skar to sell the ingredients I'd collected during my excursion to Maar Gan. Even having kept some vials back – for my own use and to gift to Ajira – it had amounted to a tidy sum. We hadn't discussed our deal being retroactive, but I wouldn't have been able to gather any on the way back from Maar Gan without Jamie's help, and I prided myself on being fair.

"Here. From what I gathered on the trip." Two more clues in favour of Jamie being in unpleasant financial straits: the way she didn't protest my offer, and the way I could see the stress fade from Jamie's frame as the three ten-drake coins passed into her hands. "As for Caldera..."

Jamie, it turned out, wasn't particularly worried about my behaviour at the Caldera guild. "Good on you for standing up for yourself. I hate it when people think their rank means they can be rude. Or bullies." She scowled, and I remembered the story of Jamie's short but eventful career in the Imperial Legion. Perhaps I really shouldn't be surprised that she approved of someone yelling at a superior behaving badly.

"I can't imagine Edwinna will hold it against you, anyway. She seems like a decent sort. Now... about the ingredients?"

*****


Notes: This is deeply, deeply unfair of me, but I harbour something of a grudge against Folms Mirel. Rationally, I totally get why Bethesda introduced the Master Propylon Index patch because the indexes were absolutely not useable in their original state, but teenage me really liked the idea that my character was investigating these mysterious objects in their own right and was very annoyed to have that be replaced by another mage telling you "go there, kill that, bring this back to me, I'll do all the bits requiring actual intelligence". It's... possible Adrynverse was slightly affected by my bias. wacko.gif

This post has been edited by Kazaera: Jul 8 2019, 10:07 PM


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ghastley
post Jul 1 2019, 09:46 PM
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Nit, just to get it out of the way first:

QUOTE
My righteous rage begin to drain away the instant my feet hit the Ald'ruhn guild guide platform. By the time I'd unlocked my cupboard in the dorms in order to deposit the propylon index, it was entirely gone, leaving me feeling mainly shocked and a little queasy.


I wasn't sure if the index was gone, the cupboard was gone, or what was gone. However, I'm unsure how I'd rephrase that.

---

I was a little disappointed that Adryn wasn't able to demonstrate what the index does by sending Mirel to a chamber of her choice, but perhaps this outcome is for the best. Or not. It remains to be seen. biggrin.gif


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treydog
post Jul 5 2019, 01:39 AM
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I have to vote with you on Folms Mirel. He has the ego to basically tell you to go steal various indices, yet still acts intellectually and morally superior. And I was also disappointed that the touted add-on was just an expansion of fast travel, instead of a chance to maybe learn new spells or do research or... anything beyond another round of "Fed-Ex" quests and the "magic" happens without the player being involved.

Good for Adryn telling him to stuff an alembic up his... calcinator. Or would that be a retort?


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SubRosa
post Jul 5 2019, 06:08 PM
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I was starting to like Mirel, right up until he opened his mouth to speak. How typical.

I hope Adryn at least spits in his overbearing hand, if not cuts it off.

I bet that guild guide could not get Adryn out of there fast enough! laugh.gif

The Redoran and Guild dorms sound a lot like college dorms!


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Kazaera
post Jul 8 2019, 10:14 PM
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@ghastley - thanks for the nit! It's now been made a bit clearer.

As for sending Mirel off... well, let's give Adryn some options for escalation. wink.gif

@treydog - ha, I'm not the only one!

I think tbh it bugs me when in-game quests force you to take on the "stupid brute" role. I know it's hard to give the player real agency, but I like playing smart (+ educated) characters and it'd be nice if they made an attempt at providing for that instead of, as you say, forcing you to do the Fed Ex tasks and letting an NPC take card of the intellectual bits.

ANYWAY.

@SubRosa - yyeeaaah, Mirel is... a character. wink.gif And I think the whole Caldera guild was happy once she'd left!

Some inspiration may have been taken from certain college living arrangements when it comes to the communal dorms, yes... >>

Last installment, Adryn stopped by Caldera in an effort to rid herself of one (1) propylon index. It did not go well. It, in fact, ended in her angrily telling the Caldera guild head that she'd do research on the thing herself, so there. Last we saw her, she was in Ald'ruhn licking her wounded pride...

Chapter 19.5
*****


Thus began an overall calm and relaxing part of my life.

After agreeing on how to portion the profits, Jamie and I went ingredient-gathering regularly whenever she wasn't off on Redoran business. In addition to the area around Ald'ruhn, we also explored near Vivec – the wilderness began surprisingly close to the city, and was a prime source of marshmerrow, cork bulb and muck sponge.

Even with me keeping back a portion of what we gathered, we were left with enough that it might actually have been too much for Cienne. Thankfully, a few days in I gained a surprising new customer – Methal, finally returned from Maar Gan, apparently part of the alchemy team at the Temple. Why he'd never mentioned it escaped me. At any rate, the man was bad enough at haggling that I took him up on his offer to buy ingredients gladly. Even the way he insisted on telling me about all that the Temple could do for me whenever we met didn't stop me, even if it did leave an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach.

The steady income eased both mine and Jamie's nerves, but I still dolefully counted up drakes and came far short of how much I might have made selling potions instead. Alas, my very basic mortar and pestle was not up to the task of turning what we gathered into professional-quality draughts, and I didn't have enough saved up yet to invest in equipment of high enough quality to be worthwhile.

Edwinna, it seemed, had no end of clerical and academic work for me to do, something that suited me better than her previous attempt at a task. It was also something I was desperately in need of, it seemed, because I was apparently not as good as academic writing as I'd believed. At least, I certainly had a tendency to forget certain basic facts on the one hand, embroider my reports on what I'd read with details that apparently came straight out of my imagination because they certainly weren't in the books on the other. Edwinna had to scold me on the matter more than once, to my embarrassment.

Perhaps I was out of practice, or perhaps the Dwemer simply captured my imagination more than alchemy ever had, leading me to flights of fancy. Whatever the reason, I had to concentrate very hard to make certain I was including neither more nor less than material with a solid academic foundation whenever I wrote about the Dwemer. For some reason, this frequently ended in blinding headaches on my part. Despite my initial intentions, I found myself returning to my independent study of propylon indexes more and more as a result.

Edwinna had also met my tale of the debacle in the Caldera guild with a shrug. "Perhaps you're the best person to look into these, really. After all, you're the one who managed to not only pick up on the magicka embedded in them when they certainly don't read as enchanted to me, but also activate them. I really don't understand why Folms rejected the idea of working with you on them, but he's always been a..." Edwinna very obviously cut herself off. "So how are you coming along with Azura and the Box?"

Which was how I found myself researching propylon indexes. Truth be told, at the beginning I'd still have rather dumped the thing next to the Dwemer puzzle cube from Arkngthand as a relic of an embarrassing time in my life I'd prefer not to think on, but after the scene in Caldera my pride was on the line. Jamie egged me on by virtue of turning up with another one of the things a mere week later.

"Some pawnbroker was selling it. In Caldera, actually. Shame Mirel never sets foot outside the guild, eh?" She gave me a wink.

This one, it turned out, was linked to Hlormaren, another Chimer stronghold half a day's walk from Balmora (although said walk did include a rather steep climb according to my map). A careful inspection of the crystal left me feeling relatively confident I could repeat my feat. Not that I had any intention of doing so; Falasmaryon had been bad enough.

Jamie let that state of affairs go on for another week before she turned up with a smile on her face. She'd had to take care of some business near Gnaar Mok, and since she was on the Bitter Coast anyway she thought she'd investigate Hlormaren. It hadn't hosted any horrifying monstrosities, had however been the headquarters of a group of slavers. "Had" being the key word in that sentence. The place was, she told me firmly, now entirely deserted.

With no real excuse, and with a trained warrior ready and willing to come along for the journey, I found myself standing on the roof of Ajira's building one crisp Frostfall morning, propylon index in one hand, Jamie firmly clutching the other. I had no intention of leaving her behind, and had a vague idea skin-to-skin contact might help with that.

I was also wearing my guarhide boots, freshly treated with a mix of kwama cuttle and shalk resin just the night before. Some mistakes you don't make twice.

For the first time since my impromptu trip to Falasmaryon, I inspected one of the propylon indexes with my magical senses while holding it. Crystal cool against my skin, it was so much easier to feel the hum, the connection leading off into the distance. However, it wasn't going to go off unprompted. Whoever had made it had taken more care than that, I could feel – hadn't wanted anyone who picked it up at risk of being flung through space to a stronghold. No, you had to prime it – feed it a little of your magicka. Like...

So.

Hlormaren's propylon chamber looked much the same as Falasmaryon's. It was only once we exited that the differences became apparent – trees laden with lichen surrounding the fortress, the glitter of sunlight on the sea to the west, and of course the stink of swamp.

Swamp we'd have to trek through on our way back to Balmora. Why had I agreed to this again?

"Well. I bet you Mirel hasn't managed this yet." A pause. "I wonder what ingredients there are to be found in the swamps?"

At least Jamie knew what to say to make me feel better.

The trek back to Balmora went surprisingly smoothly. It was, of course, rather soggy... at least on Jamie's part. On my own, I quickly remembered my water-walking spell, which made traversing the swamps significantly less wet than it might have been otherwise.

"You have got to teach me that spell," Jamie said after I freed a coda flower from the center of a murky pool, balancing on its surface all the while.

"Er... sure?"

I'd tried not to let my skepticism shine through, but I'd apparently been unsuccessful because Jamie scowled. "I'll let you know I'm not completely incompetent, you know! I may be unable to tell lichen from pond scum, but I'm very good at Restoration – I don't see why Alteration should be different."

"Sorry, sorry!" My attempts at teaching Jamie to recognise ingredients for herself had not had much effect, and it had left me a little dubious of my friend's magical abilities. Which was unfair of me – after all, I'd hate for someone to judge me solely on my abilities in the realm of Mysticism. "I-"

I found myself distracted from apologies by the water-walking spell wearing off. Thankfully, I was no longer in the center of the pool. Unfortunately, I was still on its edges, and the feeling of falling from what used to be a steady surface into swamp muck is really not one to be repeated.

"Nchow!"

To give Jamie full credit, she didn't laugh – in fact reached over to help me back onto dry land. "I don't think I recognise that one. Dunmeris lessons going well, then?"

"Well enough."

My experience in Maar Gan had made me look into seriously trying to learn the language. It turned out that several priests from Balmora Temple, led by one Llarara Omayn who'd turned out to be a friend of Ervesa's, held lessons thrice a week in the downstairs classroom of the Ald'ruhn guild. I'd jumped on the opportunity, although I had to admit...

"Mind you, that one we weren't taught in class."

No, for my newly-gained more colourful vocabulary I could thank Tanar Llervi, our guild smith-enchanter, and her stream of invective when her forge wasn't running hot enough, her soul gem supplier was running late, her lunch was cold, or (I was starting to suspect) the sky was blue in a way that displeased her.

"What's the point of learning a language if they don't teach you how to curse properly?" Jamie sounded insulted on my behalf. "I've been thinking of joining those classes, but I might have to think again."

"I'd join anyway." Carefully, I wiggled my toes, then stepped forward. Although the outside of my boot was coated in mud, my foot only felt as damp as sweat would warrant and there was no squelching sound to be heard. Thank the Nine for the treatment I'd decided to administer yesterday– it seemed to have kept the water off well enough. "You just have to keep Tanar company for an hour and you'll know all the curses you could ever need," I continued as I gave my other foot the same treatment. "And it's turning out quite handy."

Even just offering Dunmeris greetings had resulted in a definite thaw in many of the native Dunmer I ran into. The effect was dramatic enough I'd started making a concentrated effort at the language, setting aside at least an hour every day to practice what I'd learned so far and look up vocabulary we hadn't covered yet but which I figured might be useful. (Llarara hadn't taught us a single plant yet! I had no idea where her priorities were.)

"I'll keep that in mind," Jamie said as she watched my efforts. "A lot of Redoran really isn't too keen on outlanders, it can only help. Ready to go?"


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treydog
post Jul 9 2019, 01:40 AM
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Again, Jamie comes through as a true friend.

QUOTE
"Well. I bet you Mirel hasn't managed this yet." A pause. "I wonder what ingredients there are to be found in the swamps?"


And Adryn is still Adryn---

QUOTE
(Llarara hadn't taught us a single plant yet! I had no idea where her priorities were.)


And I like the subtle way you show us that Adryn knows much more about the Dwemer than the books say- but she cannot prove any of that knowledge.

If the smith runs out of useful phrases, Athlain recommends the stable-hands- they have a ... colorful vocabulary, as well. I guess when one's work involves the... material theirs does, you develop language appropriate to the task. laugh.gif


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SubRosa
post Jul 10 2019, 03:42 PM
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Marshmellows and muck sponge, sounds yummy!

Sounds like Adryn prefers to write fiction over reports! laugh.gif

The best words are never taught in class. Unless it is a class on the Urban Dictionary.

It sounds like Adryn has settled into life, sort of at least. But I suspect that the simple existence of an ingredient-gatherer, hopeful alchemist, and Guild gopher is not something she will be truly satisfied with. I think she has too much of a romantic streak in her. The Dunmer are calling, as are the proplyons.


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