: I knew you would love the nightshade tea! Thank you again for inventing it. haute ecole rider:
My period ran off? Must be the wrong time of the month! ghastley
: The onc
e and future ghastley. No ghostly seamen are in store for Teresa in the near future. But she will meet a Witch.Olen
: I got the stooping over from a description of belladona poisoning I found when I first researched which poison Teresa would favor. There are other symptoms to be sure, sweating, dilated pupils, etc... But those seem pretty common. I believe the bending over is from the nightshade's effect on the bowels, which is quite pronounced. Grits
: I am imagining that poisons are like spices to Argonians. I got the idea from hazmick, whose character Haa-Rei the Marsh Ranger drank nightshade and milk thistle tea.
Teresa is probably not familiar with raw moonsugar, so I figure it is just sugar that it reminded her of. Though how much different the moon stuff is from the regular sugar they never say. Turning it into skooma seems to be a pretty involved process. Acadian
: Teresa did mean to return to
the camp, thank you for helping her get back there. The change of Bawn from the game is in response to what I think was a missed opportunity on Bethesda's part. There is an agent in Bravil's castle to hunt down Renrijra Krin because of the skooma trade. With Elsewyr right on the border, you would think Bravil County would the logical place to smuggle it across. But the only skooma smugglers we find in the game are at Walker Camp, outside of Cheydihnal. They should have put that near Bravil instead, and the Orum gang there too. mALX
: Teresa's reaction was one of those things that took no thinking on my part. It just came right out as I wrote it, thanks to her history with Simplicia. Jacki Dice
: How about this fella?
. I loved being able to use the spriggans to kill the smugglers. Such a nice change from the game!Thomas Kaira:
Probably half of it was for the Count's son!
Teresa has never had any dilemma regarding skooma. She just never had the opportunity to strike a blow until now. Previously on Teresa of the Faint Smile:
Teresa walked to Bawn in our last chapter, stopping off in the village of Maplemill along the way. Continuing on to Bawn, she was attacked by skooma smugglers within. But drawing them into an ancient forest brought the wrath of its guardians - spirggans - down upon the smugglers. After all of them were dead, Teresa found their cargo within Bawn, and destroyed it, along with their boat. Next, Teresa meets the subject of this chapter's title. Chapter 36.1 – The Witch of Bawnwatch Island13th-14th Frostfall, 3E433
Teresa stepped from the trees along the water's edge and set her feet upon the wooden bridge before her. The span crossed the strait between the southern edge of Niben Bay and a small island to the north. The rough planks groaned in protest under her leather boots, and the forester stopped to stare down with alarm.
The bridge had looked solid enough when she had viewed it from the ruins of Bawn. But now that she was closer, she had second thoughts. While it was wide enough for a cart to pass down its length, Teresa could see that the bridge could never bear such a conveyance. Many of its planks were broken, and several were completely missing. If that were not enough, the hand rails to either side were warped, and looked like they might break loose if they were leaned upon.
Picking her way across the bridge with care, Teresa was relieved when it did not give way and send her plunging into the bay underneath. She would not have minded the swim, but a fall through jagged wooden planks was another matter entirely. Even with the leather armor she wore, she would hardly be safe. She could just imagine her epitaph. "Here floats Teresa of the Faint smile, survivor of the Oblivion Crisis, Vilverin, Belda, Nagastani, and Bawn. Killed by a board though the neck."
Pausing three quarters of the way across, she lifted her eyes to the coast of the small island ahead of her. She was approaching its south-western corner, and it stretched away to the east in a rough crescent. Between the twin horns of the arc was a placid cove, with a narrow channel of water opening to the rest of Niben Bay in the east. Set back from the shore of the inlet she saw the forms of stone houses roofed with thatch, shielded by a dilapidated wooden wall. Yet now she noticed that no smoke rose from the chimneys, and that there was no sign of movement along the shore. Nor was there a fishing boat anywhere in sight on the water nearby.
So where were all the people? The forester wondered as she started forward once more. Was the village abandoned? It seemed an ideal spot for a fishing settlement, given the shelter of the cove. What could make people leave such a place? The skooma-smugglers?
Teresa looked up again as the whoosh of magicka filled air. Out of reflex, her right hand dropped to the arrow bag at her hip. She knew it would do her little good with her bow hanging unstrung from her shoulder however. With an effort, she lifted her hand from the feathered missiles. Staring at the end of the bridge, she watched as a form took shape behind a disc of magicka that fell through the air there.
It was shaped like an elf, with two arms, legs, and a single head sprouting from its body. Yet that body was not made of flesh, nor of anything substantial at all. Rather it seemed to be comprised of an ever-shifting vapor. It was too clear and soft to be smoke. It was more like a heavy haze, or a shimmer of heat against the horizon.
The creature rose into the air. As Teresa stared in amazement, the leaves that had lain scattered across the end of the bridge were thrown aloft and flew about it in a whirlwind, only to be scattered in all directions moments later. She could feel the wind rustling through her hair, and held up one hand to shield her eyes from the dust being flung about.
Then a woman stepped into view beside the sylph - for what else could such a creature be? The newcomer was tall, and her sandy brown hair spilled down in a waterfall past her small breasts. Teresa imagined that she was a Breton with that hair, not to mention her almond-soft eyes. She wore a short-sleeved dress of brown flax layered over another of blue and green, so the long sleeves of the latter were revealed. The same was true of her neckline, where the plunging design of the brown garment showed off the blue and green gown beneath, as did a slit down the front of her brown skirts as well. Her only adornments were a silver necklace with a spiral pendant, and a copper ring on her right hand.
She clutched a staff in one hand, which Teresa could feel was brimming with energy. Unlike most other mage's staves that the wood elf had seen, this was white in color, and bore a chunk of raw meteoric glass between the twin branches at its peak. A single, thin vine was wrapped around its length, bearing tiny leaves, and as Teresa watched, a tiny flake of snow wafted from its tip.Screenshot
"And who is paying me a visit this fine afternoon?" She spoke with a strong voice, and Teresa stared at her. Something seemed strange about the woman, and familiar. Had she seen her before?
"My name is Teresa," the forester said in a clear tone. "I'm with the Fighters Guild. I was hoping to hire a boat to take me back to Bravil."
The woman looked her up and down for long moments, then lowered her staff and beckoned her to approach. At the same time the sylph lowered herself to the ground, and the wind about her grew still once more. Then she seemed to lose what little substance she possessed, and simply faded away into thin air.
"Ahh yes, so it is you," the human murmured thoughtfully. Then she spoke in a louder tone. "My name is Aela, and you are welcome here at Bawnwatch."
"Thank you Aela," Teresa said, allowing herself to relax once more. "Your village is certainly well protected, to have such a powerful magician as yourself standing guard."
"I wasn't standing guard." Aela shook her head, and nodded across the water to the south and west. There Teresa could see a line of smoke rising from the fires she had set within and without Bawn. "I saw that, and came to see what had caused it."
"That was me," Teresa spread her hands sheepishly. "I ran into some trouble in Bawn."
"I'll daresay you did," the woman remarked. "Are you alone?" When Teresa nodded, the magician's eyes widened. "You are lucky to be alive. There are a dozen skooma-runners over there."
"Not anymore," Teresa said softly. She stepped forward once more, crossing what remained of the bridge to stand before the Breton.
"You killed them?" Aela marveled. "By yourself?"
"No," Teresa said, "only one of them. The others chased me into the Haunted Forest. The guardians saw to them."
"They are not the only guardians of the forest it seems," Aela murmured. She looked Teresa up and down, as if appraising her. "You are indeed the one they spoke of."
"Who is that?" Teresa asked, wondering what it was about the Breton that seemed familiar?
"Why the bears of course," Aela said offhandedly, "and the ravens. They all speak of you."
Teresa would have been flabbergasted to hear that a year ago, not to mention more than a little doubtful of the speaker's honesty. Yet after all she had been through since discovering the beauty of the wilderness, it hardly seemed noteworthy at all. Of course the denizens of the forest knew her. How could they not? The woods were her home after all.
Still, something seemed strange about the magician. Something Teresa could not put her finger on. Had they met before? While Aela possessed the typical soft brown hair and eyes of her race, she was much taller than most of their women. In fact she was as tall as any elf, Teresa included. Now that the wood elf looked closer, she found that the other woman was broader in the shoulder than most women as well, and more narrow in the hips. Her hands were large too. Man-hands, some might say. Her voice also had more resonance, and Teresa wondered if that might have something to do with how pronounced her adam's apple was.
Teresa blinked. Why did Aela have an adam's apple?
Aela was not a she at all! Teresa fought to retain control of her features, and not betray the amazement that was blossoming within her. But from the flash she saw in Aela's eyes, she knew that she had failed. The Breton's shoulders drooped slightly, as if in defeat, and she turned away.
"This way." The mage waved for Teresa to follow her along a path through the sparse trees that dotted the narrow island. The forester said nothing as she walked along behind the magician. Her mind whirled with the revelation. Of course she had heard of the Two-Spirit folk before, but she had never imagined that she might meet one. She had thought that they were only elves, and priestesses, not to mention fearsome villains with terrifying powers. At least that was how the bards always portrayed them it in their stories. In any case, she had never heard of Two-Spirit peasants living out in the middle of the wilderness. What was Aela doing on Bawnwatch Island?
As they made their way along the shore, Teresa remembered the words of Spurius from Maplemill: "Gave me the look he, or she, whatever the blazes it is, did…"
So Aela was the Witch that he was so consternated by. The same one that had cured the hopeful young archer Marcus of blood lung. Perhaps that also explained why Aela was here in the middle of nowhere, rather than living in a temple? The Breton was a not a priestess, but a Witch, just as Morcant was. As Teresa was herself.
Soon the trees opened up to a sandy beach that was empty of boats except for a single, small dory turned upside down. Nearby was a pile of driftwood, neatly stacked up into a pyramid as tall as any elf. Set back from the shore, atop a small rise that bordered the sand, were the stone homes of the fishing village. A wooden stockade ringed the settlement. Or at least it had. Now it was in a shambles, with nearly every post missing from the beach-side. The landward parts still appeared to be sturdy however, but even those revealed signs of warping and sagging.
Teresa could also see that the thatch roofs of nearly every home bore wide holes, and many of the doors and shutters were little better. As before she saw no lights, no smoke from cooking fires, and heard not a sound except for the lapping of the waves on the shore. In fact, there was not a soul in sight.
"Where is everybody?" Teresa wondered aloud.
"You are looking at everyone." Aela turned around and leaned on her staff. "I am the only one who has lived here for a long time."
"What happened to everyone else?" Teresa looked from the empty shell of the village to the magician. "Was it the smugglers?"
"No, mudcrabs," the Breton said with a shake of her head. "At least so far as I can tell."
"Mudcrabs?" Teresa wondered if she had heard the other woman correctly. "How can crabs run off the entire village?"
"It was abandoned when I came here five years ago, except for an entire colony of crabs." The Breton turned and continued on her way up the beach. Passing the dory, which Teresa noted was in good condition, they continued inland. Climbing the hillside, Aela led her to the nearest house. Teresa could see that the roof on this was still intact, as were all of the doors and windows. "There were thousands of them. They covered nearly half the island. You could walk across the beach without ever setting foot on the sand."
"Where did they all come from?" Teresa asked, looking back to the empty strand. "And where did they go?"
"I am not sure where they came from," Aela said. "But I found them a new home in one of the old castles down the coast. It's mostly submerged now, so it's perfect for them."
The Breton opened the door of the house, but leapt aside an instant later. Teresa jumped as well, as a pair of furred shapes darted from within and raced down one of the empty streets. Teresa's heart slowed as she stared after the speeding forms. Cats, she thought, just a pair of ordinary cats.
"That was Valdemar and Alain." The Breton laughed as she gestured for Teresa to enter. "They keep me company."
"So you said you found the mudcrabs a new home?" Teresa looked around the interior of the house. The late afternoon light slanted through the opened windows, revealing a simple one-room home. A glance up showed a handful of raw glowstones gathered into the latticework of a metal chandelier. It was exactly like Teresa had seen in half-a-dozen Arimer ruins.
"Yes, I led them to the castle," the Breton said behind her. "After we got rid of the vampires lairing there."
A fireplace stood at each end of the rectangular home. Before one was a small, round table and a pair of chairs. In one corner were two narrow beds, their box-shaped frames filled with what Teresa guessed were feather-stuffed mattresses. Against the other wall was a writing desk with a third chair, with a softly glowing welkynd stone perched atop it. At the opposite end of the building stood the kitchen, where an empty iron cooking pot sat on the floor beside the fireplace. To one side was a long counter holding neatly arranged copper pots and pans, as well as finely painted ceramic plates and cups. To the other stretched a rectangular table decorated by a vase of flowers. A large, round carpet took up the center of the room, as did another beneath the dining room table, and a third next to the beds. The walls were draped with colorful tapestries decorated with delicate knotwork designs, and several potted plants added their greenery to the room.
"We?" Teresa looked back to the Witch. "Vampires?"
"Ungarion, he is a friend of mine." Aela leaned her staff against the writing desk. Teresa saw several pieces of parchment sitting loose upon it. On the topmost one was written only two words: Green Man
. Teresa could feel magicka lurking within the page, and realized that it was a scroll for summoning the creature. "We found that the ruins of the castle were infested with vampires, so we had to deal with them before the crabs could move in."
"Lucky crabs," Teresa noted dryly.
Aela simply shrugged. "I had a home of my own to gain from it," she said. "Enlightened self-interest is the force that holds the Multiverse together."
"Well, you certainly have a beautiful home," Teresa observed. Truly, it would be the envy of any commoner living in a country village, or within a city. The forester hoped that the home she would one day buy for Simplicia would look the same. She wondered how much work it had taken Aela to get it that way, not to mention keep it up?
"Thank you," the Breton said as she glided past Teresa to the kitchen. Teresa smelled the fragrant aroma of bergamot and lavender in her wake. She smiled faintly as the magician lit the hearth with a Flare spell. It was so welcome to see that she was not the only one to use that spell so! Then Aela took an iron skillet from the counter. Teresa could see that it was filled with succulent fish fillets, and licked her lips as the Breton placed it on an iron grate that sat above the flames.
"You are just in time for dinner," the brown-haired woman glanced back. "I caught some walleye this morning. There should be plenty for both of us."
"That is very generous of you Aela." Teresa stepped up to the counter beside Aela, and reached into the Thieves Bag at her hip. "I have some cornbread that I can add, baked fresh this afternoon by Baebiana from Maplemill. Plus, I have a bottle of this to wash it down." After placing the biscuits on the counter, she produced a long, tapering bottle of wine.
"That is Tamika's." The Breton lifted an eyebrow as she took in the distinctive bottle.
"It is only 430," Teresa frowned slightly. "But it is still good. I always carry a bottle with me, just in case."