: That last segment was extremely difficult for me to write. I grappled with the question of how best to show Morcant's grief for a long time, and in the end I decided that the more of it I implied, the more powerful it would appear (I hope!). hazmick
: Thank you hazmick. After reading nightshade tea in our favorite Marsh Ranger's tales, I just had to use it. I had thought I mentioned my intent on your topic. Looking back I see I had not. Sorry about that. Acadian:
Teresa thinks it would be a great idea if she could summon a wolf or bear as well. Keep your eyes peeled for more on that later in this chapter. Destri Melarg:
High praise indeed if you are comparing me to h.e.r.'s writing of animals! Tsume really is a fun character to write. He is one of those who takes the keyboard and just runs away with it.
I am glad you can hear the gears clanking in Teresa's mind at the mention of Morcant's mother, because they most certainly are in high gear! We will see more on that subject later in this chapter. haute ecole rider:
I did mention in The Witch of Lake Trasimene
that Morcant was born in Anvil. But that was months ago, so I am not surprised it slipped off the radar. So like Teresa, she was originally a city girl who found the forest later in life. I am not sure how much of that might be revealed. Morcant plays her cards very close to the chest...D.Foxy:
Thank you. After the action segments of late, it was nice to write a pure girly chapter! Next
: Teresa has gotten her foot into the door of Morcant's cottage, and does her best to cheer up the older Bosmer as she discovers more about her own spiritual powers.
* * *Chapter 16.4 - The Temple
They spent the rest of the morning talking that way, about little things. Teresa was just glad to get her to speak at all. Anything was an improvement over the other night, she thought. After finishing their breakfast by the lake, they moved to the garden behind the cottage, where Teresa helped the Witch pull at weeds, and water the vegetables and herbs. By the time Magnus rode at his peak overhead Teresa was sweltering from working in the heat.
She was thankful to beat a hasty retreat into the shade of the cottage with the older woman. There they enjoyed a lunch of sliced cucumbers slathered in a tangy dressing of olive oil, vinegar, and salt. Then they munched on a piece of white cheese, washing it all down with milk taken from her ice box: a simple wooden chest whose bottom was lined with glowing blue cold stones.
"Do you know anything about the conjurers over in Belda?" Teresa asked the other woman. "They called themselves the Ebon Moon, and had black crescents on their robes."
"That bunch has moved into Belda?" Morcant looked up from her plate. "They don't come any nastier. You didn't have a run-in with them did you?"
"Well I sort of stopped by Belda on the way here yesterday…" Teresa poked at her cucumbers with her fork. "They weren't too friendly."
"You just cannot keep your nose out of those places can you?" The Witch shook her head. "You were better off drinking nightshade. Those conjurers won't hesitate to kill anyone if they have the chance. They sacrifice their victims to the Daedra."
"So they're Daedra worshippers, like the Mythic Dawn then?" Teresa looked back up at Morcant, feeling her heart pick up its pace just from thinking about that
band of villains.
"No," the Witch replied, "not exactly. They don't worship the Daedra, they simply use them. The only thing the Ebon Moon worships is power itself, and they will gladly trade other people's blood to get more of it. Rumor has it they have groups all over Cyrodiil, any place they think they might find something to get an edge."
"Isn't that what all Daedra worshippers are like?" Teresa frowned, remembering the Oblivion Crisis.
"Not all Daedra worshippers are like that, nor Daedra." The Witch shook her head. "To be certain some - like Mehrunes Dagon - are
only interested in death and destruction. Others like Azura are hardly evil. As goddess of dawn and dusk, she holds sway over moments of transition. All magicians would do well to look to her for guidance, for she knows what it means to walk between worlds better than any other. In fact, she is invoked in many initiatory rites for just that reason."
Teresa said nothing, and concentrated on her lunch instead. After what the Mythic Dawn had done, it was hard for her to imagine there being such a thing as a 'good' Daedra. Yet the Witch did have a point. She had never heard of Azura destroying a city, let alone Nocturnal. She had used the latter's name in vain for much of her life. Every thief or anyone involved with thieves did, although she had no idea why. Except that as goddess of darkness, she provided the cloak for them to do their illegal business.
So how could one tell a good Daedra worshipper from a bad one? Teresa could only shrug at her own question. Life never had any easy answers.
Afterward, Teresa thanked the Witch for lunch. She wanted to thank her for so much more, especially the scroll that had saved her life, and the lives of the others in Jensine's shop. Yet she bit her tongue, remembering the reaction she had gotten the previous night. It was probably better not to bring up the Oblivion Crisis, she reasoned, not yet at least. But still, she could not completely dance around the subject.
"You said that you talked to all the spirits," she began carefully. "Do they ever show you things, like in dreams, only when you are awake?"
"Yes, of course." The Witch took a seat in her rocking chair, and motioned for Teresa to sit beside her in front of the hearth. "Visions are part of a strong relationship with your spirit guides. When did you have one?"
Teresa bit her lip. How could she put it delicately, without mentioning Bruma? "It was about three weeks ago. It just happened all of a sudden. One moment I was petting a horse, the next I was a raven, flying through the sky."
"It must have been something very important to you," the Witch said, "for Raven to have heard your call and come to you like that."
"Heard my call?" Teresa said, feeling her eyebrows beetle in confusion. "It just came over me. I wasn't even thinking about anything in particular."
"Your Middle Self - your waking mind - may not have been thinking about it," the Witch explained. "But your Lower Self - your dreaming mind - definitely was. That is what calls out to the spirits. It is not in logic and reason that our divinity lives, but in our feelings and intuition. That is why they come to us in dreams and visions."
Teresa nodded. She thought she understood what the woman meant. Ever since Raven had entered her life, ever since she had noticed him at least, she had been learning more and more to trust her intuition. "So if I want to have a vision, how can I do it?"
"Well by going to your Astral Temple of course," the Witch answered plainly.
"My what?" Teresa blinked. "I don't have a temple. Do I look like I'm rich? All I have is what I can carry with me."
"No silly." The Witch almost smiled for real then, and Teresa was thankful for that. If nothing else, asking Morcant about magic and spirits seemed to engage her, keep her mind off of Attius. The Witch reached out and laid her hand upon Teresa's chest before continuing. "Your Astral Temple is in here. It's something that you create yourself. A safe place between this world and the next."
"Oh," Teresa looked down at her lap. She was certain that the older elf must think of her as an ignorant bumpkin. But when she looked back up into her eyes she saw no trace of scorn. Just patience, wisdom, and perhaps a bit of wry amusement. "So how do I make it?"
"Well, perhaps you already have. Let's find out, shall we?" The Witch stood up now, and walked to one of the windows. Reaching through the open glass of the frame, she pulled back the shutters from either side and fastened them shut. Moving to the other windows in turn, she did the same, until the single-room of the cottage was plunged into shadow. Teresa was tempted to dig her goggles from her pack. But she could still see in the dim light that slanted through the cracks in the shutters and around the door, albeit barely.
"Now make yourself comfortable." Morcant lifted a small hand drum from where it had hung on one wall. She began to gently tap out a slow, soft beat as she walked to Teresa. "Close your eyes, and breathe deep. In and out, just breathe."
Teresa did as she asked, and felt her heart slowing to match the pace of the drumbeat. Her muscles relaxed, and she had to stifle a yawn.
"Now imagine that you are a tree," Morcant went on. "Your feet are roots sinking deep within the ground, your arms are great branches sweeping out into the air, and your hair a forest of leaves. Feel Nirn beneath you, holding you tight. Feel Aetherius above you, breathing down magic and light upon you."
"Now reach down into your roots, and imagine that you are pulling water up from the moist soil. Feel it course up through your body, cleansing you, invigorating you. Now feel it rise from your head, pouring out of the leaves of your hair, and falling back to Nirn. Just feel that life-giving water coursing through you in a never-ending circle. This is the Tree of Life."
Teresa did as the Witch suggested, imaging the cool liquid flowing through her body. She could feel it, washing away her tension and uncertainties, and leaving her feeling confident and serene. It was like Nirn itself was flowing through her, becoming a part of her. Time lost all meaning as she basked in the sensation, and it was not until the beat of the drum began to quicken in her ears that Teresa remembered that she was not alone.
"Now, imagine that you are walking through a forest," Morcant's voice floated within the darkness behind Teresa's eyes. As the Witch prompted, she saw herself surrounded by trees. There were tall and straight pines, oaks with boughs separating and spreading out wide, beeches with their smooth, silvery bark, maples with their samaras hanging like wings, and many, many more. She saw squirrels darting up and down their trunks, while white-tailed deer leaped through the underbrush and birds sang from the branches.
"Now look ahead. You see a clearing, and in it a single, great tree. It is the Axis Mundi
, or World Tree."
Teresa did see it. Its bark was a dark brown in color, deeply cut by grooves, and its trunk rose high into the sky. So high that she could not see the top of its bough. It seemed to stretch up forever. A forest of branches radiated from its length, crowned by brilliant green leaves and darker acorns.
Closer to Nirn, she could see that its gigantic roots coiled and stretched across the ground like a nest of serpents. In the shadows that crouched around the base of the roots, she found one pool of darkness that was larger than the others. Drawing closer, she discovered that it was actually a cave, leading into impenetrable blackness.
"Step within, and you will find your temple." Morcant's voice seemed to come from miles away.
Teresa did not hesitate to do so. She found that she was in the same grotto that she had seen since the first of her magical dreams. As before, its walls were of rough stone, and played host to numerous shadows and darker tunnels leading off into the bowels of Nirn. The ceiling of the cavern was open to the sky however, and through it shafts of golden sunlight slanted down to illuminate the center of the chamber. There she found a great pool rimmed in flowers. Its crystal-clear waters held a small forest of plants waving gently beneath the surface. Birds chirped and flew through the room, golden fish swam beneath the waves of the pool, and all was calm and peaceful.
Teresa felt another presence enter the room, and the shadow of great wings slid across her. She smiled broadly, holding out her arms to either side. Looking down, she saw black feathers sprout from her body. A moment later she leapt into the air on mighty wings, and greeted Raven with a guttural cry from her long, slender beak.
This was indeed, her temple.