– You’re right, I did change it a little. The two passages you cite are in the original, but I went a bit farther on the descriptions leading up to them, which perhaps made them stand out more.
I couldn’t agree with you more regarding the bitter fate awaiting the knights. I think that knowing what happens to them is one of the things driving me to tell their story. I am intrigued by the depth of devotion that they must feel for Talos to swear themselves into his service, just as I am intrigued by the sequence of events that leads to the rise of the Underking (though I will not be dealing with those specific events in this story . . . maybe in a sequel?).Remko
– I tried to play Daggerfall
once, after I had already fallen in love with Morrowind. I just could not get into it. Given the setting I hope that if you do fire it up you will choose to write about it to give us all a feel for the game.Olen
– The repetition of 'sandstone' was deliberate. I wanted to convey both the heat of the place and the desolation. To me the word sand-stone
evokes images of arid deserts and hard, unforgiving rock. I can see where the addition of ‘cobblestones’ would be jarring, thanks for pointing it out. I’ll go back over it to see where I can improve the description.ureniashtram
– Welcome to Interregnum
, and thank you for your comments. Like you, I just love multiple perspective, and I used footage from Redguard
to inspire the description of Stros M’Kai. As for the Summerset Isles . . . you’ll just have to stay tuned.mALX
– Thank you for the compliment to my KOW, but it is not one that I am comfortable accepting. I feel like I cheated where his character is concerned. I keep him firmly in the background, purposefully enigmatic. I tell you as little about him as possible. Why? Because I have had the good fortune (or the bad fortune, depending on your point of view) to read the definitive version of the KOW as he appears in Rumpleteasza’s remarkable The King and I
. I know that any version of the character that I might present would suffer in comparison. SubRosa
– Ah, but they do smoke in Tamriel! You forget that in addition to drinking skooma you can also smoke it (ask Olen’s Firen). One of the first things that struck me in Morrowind
is that, upon arriving at Caius Cosades house in Balmora, I noticed the hooka that had been haphazardly kicked under the bed. I also doubt that they grow tobacco for its pretty green color.
And I actually considered the logistics of having Arnand encounter the questing knights in Jehanna, but I couldn’t get the dates to fit. Too bad, I think it would have made for a very interesting scene.Acadian
– Thank you, Acadian. That new screenshot of Buffy is amazing! Where is her waist? You know what they say about little Wood Elves who 'go black'?
2nd Sun’s Dawn, 2E 854
The Draggin Tale, Stros M’Kai
The spent bodies of several sailors littered the tiled floors, sleeping off the day’s debauch. Half-dressed girls exited the second floor rooms and negotiated the stairs on unsteady legs. They stopped and each produced a tiny fistful of gold coins that gleamed in the half-light when they set them on the bar. Dreekius collected the coins and dropped them into a purse that he kept tucked near his privates. The girls laughed and whispered, passing Arnand standing in the doorway as they left.
“You have returned,” Dreekius said, “did you find what you seek?”
Arnand stepped over the prostrate body of a drunken sailor and joined Dreekius at the bar.
“I don’t believe I’ll need the room any longer, Dreekius,” said Arnand.
“You are leaving us?” Dreekius opened a bottle of mead and passed it along the bar towards Arnand.
“At long last, it seems.” Arnand drank from the bottle.
Dreekius ran a finger over his purse, his soft pink tongue poked out the side of his mouth. “You don’t sound convinced.”
Arnand laughed. “I’m not asking you to refund my money, Dreekius.”
Dreekius smiled through his eyes. “That’s quite human of you. Why, then, are you so apprehensive?”
“I’m not sure I trust this Captain to keep her word.”
“This Captain is a woman? What is her name?”
The smile faded from Dreekius’ lips. “Ansu Shin-Ilu?” He opened a bottle of ale and drained nearly half of it in one pull.
“You know her?”
“Know of her, yes. Your instincts serve you well, Breton. She may well be the most ruthless pirate on the Abecean Sea.”
“If that’s the case, then I’ll have to be careful,” Arnand said, getting up. He paused on his way to the door. “Do you know anything about an Argonian named Earns-His-Keep?”
“I know that he is sitting in the jail.” The ridges above Dreekius’ eyes furrowed. “Is he your price of passage? Well, breaking him out of the jail should not prove difficult.”
“Why is that?”
“We are on an island, Breton, surrounded by waters that teem with life, most of it not friendly. If one escapes and does not have a boat, then there is not far that one can go. If one escapes and does have a boat, then that one is usually allowed to become the mainland’s problem.”
Arnand nodded. “Goodbye, Dreekius. Thank you for all the help.”
Dreekius grinned. “Thank you for all the gold.”
He left the Inn. Outside warm breezes stirred the humid air. Diaphanous clouds obscured Masser and Secunda, but could not dim their light. The moons reflected off the cobblestones which shone like mirrors in the night.
The borrowed wagon was where he’d left it. The old nag pulling it gave a contemptuous snort when she saw him approach. Arnand’s hand flashed a spell which calmed the beast and allowed him to guide her across the street to the jail.
The jail at Stros M’Kai was a two story sandstone structure with stone columns supporting a canvas awning in the front. Iron bars covered the windows and the thick wooden door was supported by iron hinges and locks.
The streets were nearly deserted. With the lateness of the hour, most citizens had settled into their beds, or their cups. Arnand’s detect life spell showed two pink blots inside the jail. He shifted the blanket in the wagon; then he found a spot against the wall opposite the awning and waited.
The night wore on. The clouds obscured the twin moons, taking their shine off the cobblestones. Darkness drifted on Stros M’Kai and Arnand crossed the street and stopped under the awning. The locked door was briefly lit in a purple glow that originated from his hand. The glow faded, and with it the lock. Arnand stepped inside while the shadows still lingered.
The jailor was asleep at his desk. He snored from the nostrils, drowning out the sound of Arnand’s movements. The bars of a heavy iron door led to the cells behind him.
Arnand cast a combination spell of calm and drain fatigue. An emerald mist enveloped the guard, forcing his snores deeper, into the diaphragm. By the time the mist faded Arnand could have beaten a drum next to the guard’s ear without effect.
Arnand searched through the guard’s clothing. Up close he smelled of crab meat and ale. He found the small iron key dangling from a string on the guard’s belt. Arnand cut the string with his dagger and liberated the key.
The key fit the heavy door easily and released the lock with a click that was loud enough to cause Arnand to clench his jaw in spite of himself. The guard’s rhythmic snoring marked the seconds that Arnand stood in the doorway, one hand on the hilt of his dagger, the other poised to cast an invisibility spell in the event that more guards were alerted to the sound.
When he was confident that his actions had not disturbed the peace, Arnand turned his attention to the cells. There were four, two on each side of the cramped hall. A detect life spell told him that all save the last on his right were unoccupied. In this last cell the pink blot of a life form remained horizontal, suspended above the stone floor.
The cell door opened with a turn of the key and a softer click than the main door. The pink blot faded with the spell and was replaced by the form of an Argonian who lay curled on a cot against the far wall. He was a male, thin as Argonians went. He had mottled skin the color of molded bread, and two needle-like horns that protruded from an equidistant point above his bottle-shaped nose.
Maybe it was the sound of the cell door opening, or perhaps it was Arnand’s proximity that caused the Argonian to stir and open his eyes.
“Who?” The Argonian whispered.
Arnand placed his index finger vertically over his lips. The Argonian nodded. Arnand moved into the cell and crouched near the Argonian’s cot.
“Earns-His-Keep?” Arnand whispered.
The Argonian nodded.
“Come with me . . . quietly.” Arnand whispered.
Earns-His-Keep was only too willing to comply. He positioned himself so close that with every exhale his breath fluttered the hair along Arnand’s collar. The two retraced Arnand’s steps through the hall, past the snoring guard, and out into the gentle breezes of Stros M’Kai.
“Who are you?” Earns-His-Keep asked when they were outside the jail.
“A friend,” said Arnand, “sent by your Captain.” Arnand helped lift Earns-His-Keep into the back of the wagon. The Argonian’s skin was cold to the touch.
“No,” said Earns-His-Keep as he lay down in the wagon, “blackmailed perhaps, forced most likely, but not sent.”
Arnand covered the Argonian with the blanket. The horse nickered half-heartedly when Arnand climbed on the buckboard and took the reins. But it conducted them both to the city gate without incident.
They traveled the well worn path, in full view of the patrolling guards. Arnand kept his hood over his head and nodded sullen greetings to those he passed. Earns-His-Keep stayed under the blanket, and tried his best not to breathe.
The heat returned in the last dregs of twilight, as the sun’s distant aurora brought light back into the world. As they passed the lighthouse Earns-His-Keep threw off the blanket and rose sweating and sputtering into the new day.
“I am in your debt,” he said.
“Forget it,” said Arnand, “I’m being compensated.”
“I hope you received your compensation ahead of time. Still, I am in your debt. I shall not forget this.”
Arnand regarded the skinny Argonian. “Did you really try to kill a guard?”
Earns-His-Keep shrugged. “I was not successful.”
“Tell me about your Captain,” said Arnand.
Earns-His-Keep stared at Arnand. “Since I am in your debt,” he began, “I will tell you this. Captain Shin-Ilu has spent her life taking advantage of men’s tendency to underestimate her. You should not make that mistake.”
“Is she good to her word?”
“That depends on what her word costs her.”
The ship came into view. Captain Shin-Ilu stood alone at the foot of the gangplank. The rest of the crew went about the business of preparing to sail. A half smile creased her lips as the wagon came to a stop.
“I was beginning to think you had failed,” she said to Arnand. She turned her attention to Earns-His-Keep. “You’ve cost us a week, you stupid lizard. What were you thinking, mixing it up with a guard?”
Earns-His-Keep jumped from the wagon. “Apologies, Captain.”
“Just get on board and look to your charts. We have to sail to Dusk now because of you.”
Earns-His-Keep scurried up the gangplank and disappeared onto the ship. Arnand removed his cloak and climbed from the wagon.
“You’re pretty resourceful,” said Captain Shin-Ilu, “I’m tempted to offer you a position on my crew.”
“I doubt you could afford me, Captain.”
She laughed. “You might be right. Why don’t we discuss it over another bottle of wine? Come, we are ready to sail.” She turned and walked up the gangplank. Arnand followed.
A light scrape behind him caused his muscles to tense. No
! He reached for his dagger. He felt the blade enter his kidney from behind. His back twitched from the pain. He felt his blood begin to boil. Poison
, he thought. He tried to cast, but he was silenced. The blade twisted, causing his back to twitch again. He dropped his dagger and his legs gave way. Delron’s fetid breath was hot on his cheek.
“This is my business,” the Redguard hissed.
Ansu Shin-Ilu turned and approached him, unsheathing her cutlass. Delron twisted his blade again and stepped back, leaving the rusty dagger in Arnand’s back. She grasped his shirt with a strength that surprised him and kept him from falling. She leaned in close.
“You were right about one thing,” she said, “we can’t afford you.”
She stepped back, raised her blade, and lunged. Her thrust pierced Arnand’s chest. He felt the blade slide past his ribs, through his heart, and out between his shoulder blades.
He fell to the dock. Elissa, I have failed you
, he thought. Captain Shin-Ilu stood over him, wiping his blood from her blade with a linen cloth.
“But you were wrong about something else,” she said, “you weren’t difficult to kill at all.”This post has been edited by Destri Melarg: May 21 2010, 09:52 PM