Aug 8 2011, 06:25 PM
@everyone - thanks for reviewing, and I am honoured that I'm remembered even a year later!
@Treydog - ah, you remembered the key important parts of interacting with Adryn. *g* Very glad you liked Llavani - one thing I really want to do with this write-up is make Morrowind feel like an actual place that actual people live in, not a computer game, and a key part to that is adding the missing children! But I actually haven't spent much time with kids since I was one so I was quite uncertain of my ability to write Llavani believably. And yeah, Adryn has some... interesting things to say about alchemy.
@Haute - see above re: Llavani! And yes, that +15 racial bonus to Destruction is coming in *very* handy for Adryn here.
@Grits - glad you like the humour, and ask and you shall receive!
I think I was updating every other day before, but you get an update today because I'm not sure I'll be able to do one tomorrow.
(Notes: I gave Elone a house although she didn't seem to have one in-game because... well... if she's based in Seyda Neen she has to live somewhere, right? I was going to have her live with Draren Thiralas, but I have plans
for marriage and romance in Dunmer culture that I didn't want to spoil.
Also, Solitude is one of the major cities in Skyrim, described in lore as rich and prosperous, but it's also the northernmost city in Tamriel and looking at the map it seems to be at a similar latitude as northern Solstheim...)
Elone's house turned out to be one of the nice-looking thatched houses clustered to the north of the tradehouse. I was glad of it, as most of the other "buildings" in this place - I use the term loosely - looked as though the instant you set foot in them they would collapse on top of you and drown you in the swamp. (Traps set for newcomers, perhaps?) Inside, it was also furnished much as I expected from a Cyrodiilic home. I'd have spent more time studying the surroundings except that my attention got diverted by a truly amazing gift of the gods exuding a heavenly smell-Food.
I'm sorry, where was I?
"It's not much, just warmed-up crab chowder from this morning, but I can't afford to spend much more time here and you don't look as if you want to wait much longer," Elone said as she put a steaming bowl of soup and a chunk of bread in front of me.
"Mmfgrmp," I answered. It was meant to be 'thank you', but somehow my mouth had filled itself with soup without my even noticing. Strange how that happens.
Thankfully, Elone didn't take offense at my lack of manners; instead she just grinned and dug into her own portion.
Despite the fact that I ended up taking thirds, Elone and I finished at the same time - her with a somewhat amazed expression on her face. I didn't see what the issue was; time in an Imperial prison teaches you quickly that anything resembling food is to be devoured as quickly as possible before anyone takes it away from you. Or it runs away. (I remembered that gruel.)
"Well, you certainly seemed to need that," Elone said, looking at me critically.
"Thank you very much," I said, comprehensibly this time. "It was delicious." Although honestly, what I was comparing it to was a very, very low bar - I'd almost have called Legionnaire hardtack delicious at that point - but I figured it was more diplomatic not to point that out.
"Almalexia's mercy, she does have manners after all!" I scowled and was about to snap a retort (probably proving her point), but Elone continued with something that made my blood run cold. "Pity she has next to no sense to accompany those, given what I saw from the lighthouse earlier today."
"I have no idea what you're talking about," I said woodenly.
"Oh? How strange. Then it must have been some other newly-released prisoner who stole everything that wasn't nailed down in the Legion's supply room and tossed it over the wall! Don't worry, I won't tell," she continued, correctly interpreting my expression as 'terrified'. "But you do realise the main reason you got away with it is Fargoth opting to help you? By all rights, you ought to be back in prison right now."
"It may have been slightly short-sighted-" I started.
Elone laughed. I glared at her. "Slightly short-sighted? Girl," seriously, two syllables, what is so difficult about this,
"that was one of the stupidest things I've ever seen. Now, I can't say the other ones were particularly clever, but at least none of them decided to start their criminal activities when they hadn't even been officially released yet!"
"Look," I retorted, "I fail to see what business it is of yours anyway, but in any case what's done is done so if you're not going to turn me in-"
"What's done is done, yes." Elone didn't seem inclined to let me finish a single sentence. "Except that I can't help but think that now, after you've successfully robbed the Census and Excise office - thanks more to luck than skill, I should note - you'll decide to continue on in this manner. And next time, or the time after, or the time after, your luck will fail you and you'll end up in prison again. Which would be a right shame, if you ask me."
My shoulders slumped. Elone was right; by all rights my stunt earlier should have landed me straight back in prison. I'd been overconfident and hadn't thought about consequences, yes, but the main problem was that I simply wasn't used to working on my own. I'd always had someone else to go through plans with, be a look-out, cause distractions, bail me out of trouble when worst came to worst - at this rate I'd end up arrested or killed soon simply because I was relying on back-up that wasn't here. But... "It's not as if I can do anything else." I hadn't actually been planning on sharing, but the words just spilled out of me. "Not like anyone'd hire me for a proper job, and I have to eat somehow.
Elone's expression softened. "Of course. For a moment there, I forgot you weren't from Morrowind. Most of the people on that ship looked to be from Cyrodiil... but no. Skyrim, by your accent. Solitude, would be my guess?"
I nodded reluctantly. "Lived there since I was ten. Just moved to Imperial City recently before... all this happened." Maybe I'd developed mind-control powers in the last five minutes so that the please stop asking about this
I was currently thinking at her would induce her to change subjects. Hope sprang eternal.
"Well, no wonder then," Elone said decidedly. "You've got pretty limited career choices in a city where going outside the gates is a near death sentence close to nine months of the year. And Imperial City's no better for all that the climate isn't so extreme. But," she fixed me with a stare, "you've got to remember that you're not in either of those places anymore. You're on Vvardenfell. It was a Temple preserve up until recently, you know?" I didn't - in fact I didn't even know what that meant - but Elone didn't seem inclined to let me get a word in between. "So most of it's still unsettled and a lot of the settlements that do exist are new. Vvardenfell is wild, untamed, dangerous, and in a place like that there's a lot of ways a bright, resourceful girl like you can make a living without resorting to crime."
"Like?" I couldn't help but be dubious, as this did not correspond with my previous experience in the slightest.
"Well, you could follow in my footsteps and become a scout." Elone grinned. "Honestly, I might find myself resorting to crime in Solitude myself - not much call for scouting if you can barely get outside without braving frostbite. Or if you're not so much for the wilderness, there's a lot of organisations and guilds recruiting these days, and they usually offer room, board, and a lot of ways to make money. If you're more of the adventuring sort, I know quite a few people who make a tidy sum of money by hunting smugglers and bandits - although by the look of you I'd guess that's not quite your thing." However could she have guessed? I mean, I'm sure I cut the precise image of an imposing warrior. They'll ask for my portrait to put next to 'adventurer' in the Imperial Dictionary any day now, I'm just waiting for the letter.
Elone continued, "If you can cast a water-breathing spell or get an item enchanted there's pearl-diving, although you need to be wary of the slaughterfish. Or you can gather ingredients in the wild and sell them to apocetharies or merchants, or make potions from them to sell yourself- aha, that caught your interest." She'd noticed my eyes light up. "Should have guessed when I saw you spend most your money on a mortar and pestle. Alchemy's an excellent way to make money here. There's enough call for potions that most merchants will buy home-made potions, and it's easy to get ingredients just by stepping outside and plucking flowers. Most everything growing out there, and some of the things walking, have some alchemical use. Who knows, you might even manage to open a shop if you play your cards right."
Alchemical ingredients just growing outside for anyone to pick up? Which you didn't have to dig out from under several inches of ice? Or have to beat the other
dozen poor people with alchemical pretensions to? I hadn't seen anything like it since I was a child. If Elone was right and ingredients were readily at hand and it was easy to sell homemade potions, I might be able to eke out an honest living that way... and getting away from a life of crime had more advantages than she knew.
At that point, Imperial guards couldn't have stopped me from going outside to test this myself.
"Wait!" Elone might succeed, though. "Are you planning to go unarmed and unarmoured?"
I stared down at myself (still clad in dreadful prison clothes and conspicuously devoid of anything resembling armour), at my hands (empty), then back at Elone, raising an eyebrow. Honestly, did I look
as though I had anything like that on me? Perhaps she thought I'd mastered the art of storing items in some sort of dimensional pockets, a feat I'd read about in books. If so, I was going to have to reconsider all the advice she'd given me; I prefer to take my guidance from people with at least some resemblance of sense.
"Don't be cheeky," Elone said, fixing me with a look. "And I wasn't joking when I said this land was dangerous, you know. You're not safe even close to town, and going outside without any way to defend yourself is just asking for trouble. In fact..."she sighed heavily, then stood up. "I have an old iron short-sword I was planning to sell to Arrille one of these days. Giving it to you is probably a good investment."
"But... Elone, I don't know how to use a sword," I pointed out.
"Which end would you stick into whatever's trying to kill you?" she called back from where she was rummaging through a chest.
Was this a trick question. "The... pointy one?"
"Wonderful! See, you already know how to use a sword better than some Imperial Legion recruits." Seeing the quality of their officers, I honestly wasn't all that surprised. "And 'the sharp bit goes into the enemy' is just about the most important thing to know when you're looking at a charging nix-hound or alit. Here, how's this?"
She pressed a sword into my arms, which sagged immediately. I pondered who on earth had come up with the idea of calling this thing a 'short-sword', as I had no idea what was meant to be so short about it. I could barely lift the thing.
"Well," Elone said, "I'm sure you'll get used to the weight in time."
I wasn't convinced. "Look, Elone... I owe you a lot, for the food, for the advice, for... er... keeping quiet about certain things which the Imperial authorities really don't need to know." I gave her my best smile. "But honestly, I'm no good with weapons. I'd probably stab myself by accident instead. And I know a Destruction spell now," I held my hand up and let flames play around it. "That'll probably be more useful in a pinch than a weapon I can barely lift. So thank you, but..."
Elone's brow furrowed. "I take your meaning, but... how about this. I'll probably be here for another half an hour, gathering up some things before I go back out to search for Processus. If, during that time, you redecide, just come back here and I'll give the sword to you."
I smiled at Elone. "I'll do that. And honestly, thank you for everything. I don't know why you're spending so much time on me..."
"Let's just say I have a suspicion you might just become a productive citizen if you don't get yourself killed first. Now, off you get." She smirked. "See you in five minutes."
It took ten.
haute ecole rider
Aug 8 2011, 08:45 PM
Hey! I wanna know why it took Adryn ten whole
minutes to come back! I hope that's in the next post!
Loved the rich leavening of sarcasm throughout. It really sets the tone for Adryn - I can soooo hear her asides in my mind's eye. I believe that's called breaking the third wall, and you do it quite well.
Keep it up! No need to post every other day, y'know. Just once or twice a week will be fine. That might be easier to maintain in the face of real life, which has a nasty habit of breaking any good writing habits we try to cultivate.
Aug 10 2011, 11:16 PM
@Haute - you'll see in this post! She would've been back earlier if she could, you know. *g*
Breaking the fourth wall? Huh. I hadn't thought of it that way, but I guess that is what she's doing! She does seem to be narrating for an audience in some places; I've thought about this a number of times and figure that this is sort of the journal Adryn would be keeping if she had time, energy, desire, and a perfect memory - hence speaking to the reader but not actually having any audience in mind. (I started off using the "she's recounting this many years after the fact" trope but in that case she'd be narrating it very, very differently, so that didn't work.)
And re: posting intervals... I've actually been wracking my brain about this for the last few days since you brought it up and debating pros and cons.
The thing is - for one thing, I do actually have a pretty big backlog of material. (About three chapters in over 30k words, I think.) So even though I'm not currently writing fast enough to keep up I could still post quite a bit before I need to slow down. For another... the problem is I can't actually settle down for the long haul because of the way my interest patterns work. (Roughly: like a magpie on amphetamines with chronic amnesia.) Chances are that in a month or two something else will have forced itself into the foreground and I'll be gone because my mind is totally fixated on something else. This really sucks and has caused me no end of frustration over the years, but I've come to accept that this is just the way my brain works - flares of extremely intense interest that slowly die down and become replaced by a different one. If this time is the exception that would be *amazing*, but I'm not betting on it. So honestly, I sort of want to be able to unload a reasonable amount of what I've got before the switch hits and I'm gone to only reappear six months to a year later (I generally hit Morrowind as an interest about 1-2 times a year, so you *will* see me again!)
So unless there's a reason you think it's worse from the reader's side of things I think I'd prefer to stick with every other day for the time being, although they may be a bit shorter than my earlier ones.
Elone was kind enough not to say "I told you so" out loud when I knocked on her door, but her face more than made up for that courtesy. My face burned. I truly hate to admit being wrong, but... they had rats.
I can already imagine the cat-calls – "Oh, don't tell me you're scared of rats." Well, ordinarily I'm not. But I'm not talking about your average household rat here. I am talking about giant rats. Monster rats. Rats like you've never seen them before. The thing came up past my knees! Its fangs were several inches long! Destruction spells aren't much use if by the time you're close enough to use them you'd have already lost that hand to a monstrous beast cleverly disguised as a rodent. I'm lucky it couldn't climb trees, or else I might not be here today.
I decided I'd stay close to Seyda Neen for the time being. Just in case.
Several hours and an interminable amount of mud, insects, and insect bites later, I'd managed to avoid any further encounters with the Evil Rats of Doom (as I'd dubbed them) but had run into several crabs of similar size - I suspected they were the source of the soup I'd had for lunch. Luckily, they were slow enough that even with a really-not-short-sword at my side I could easily get a good distance away and wait for them to calm down. I was wondering again if taking that had really been such a good idea - after all, "the pointy end goes in the enemy" is all well and good but hard to manage if you can't even hold the point steady. I supposed that I could always use it as bandit-repellent; I'd be much less likely to be attacked if they erronously believed I could lift a sword without being a danger to myself.
At any rate – what was wrong with this country? Rats and crabs are supposed to be around the length of my forearm, tops. Maybe it was something in the water? A kind of magical algae, perhaps, that made all the creatures grow to monstrous sizes? But then again, wouldn't the people be just as big? A mystery indeed.
Crabs weren't the only thing I'd encountered, as it seemed Elone had been telling the truth about more than just the wildlife. I'd found no less than four types of mushroom, one type of fern and one type of flower in the swamps near the town. I didn't recognise any of them and none looked even remotely edible, two downright poisonous. However, some experimenting proved that the glowing purplish mushrooms combined with the buds of the flower, ground to a powder and mixed with water, created a bitter substance that enabled one to walk on water for short periods of time.
I didn't feel like testing just how short; I'd seen some fish in the water and they looked just as overgrown as every other creature on this island. And hungry. Very hungry. And let's not forget their big sharp teeth, shall we?
Returning to Seyda Neen, I noticed a door in a rock nearby and an inscription engraved above it. Nearing it, I could make out that the letters read "Addamasartus" - the name of a cave, perhaps? More importantly, I could make out footprints in the marshy ground. Someone had been here, and not all that long ago.
I had no idea who might live in such a place. Maybe some more inhabitants of Seyda Neen who hadn't found housing in the town itself. Maybe caves passed for expensive housing here (I could almost believe it after the shacks I'd seen in Seyda Neen). But perhaps it was someone far more dangerous. I told myself I'd really done enough on impulse today and, despite curiosity, gave the cave a wide berth as I returned to Arrille's Tradehouse.
Arrille seemed happily surprised to see I was still alive, although the "happy" part didn't change his ruthless style a whit. It took some hard bargaining, but he gave me fifteen gold apiece for my homemade potions, more than I was expecting; I suspected he'd agreed just to get me out of the place, as I was dripping swamp all over his floor. Not that I was going to complain. Furthermore, the flowers (called 'coda flowers', according to Arrille) were apparently quite valuable, as they had a levitating effect when chewed (I made a mental note: Substances that give levitation are valuable. Exploit this). Even after haggling myself a set of proper ingredient vials and a decent pack, my "legal" purse was once again heavy as I left the tradehouse.
I considered staying near Seyda Neen for a bit, learning about the area and earning a bit of gold through alchemy, but I really didn't plan to stick around until Arrille set his plan into motion. From what I'd seen of Hrisskar Flat-foot I suspected that if he found out who had set him up, I wouldn't get away with my head intact. Besides, although it was tempting to disappear into the wilds with the package bound for Balmora with me I knew it would be a very bad idea. Imperials tend to get cranky when their mail gets delayed or mislaid. No, the best thing to do would be to deliver the package without any further side trips and then make myself scarce. I was sure the recipient wouldn't keep me around; after all, I was hardly anyone special. Just your average thief trying to turn over a new leaf; there was really nothing more the Legion could want of me, was there?
I ignored the nagging doubts about this, which were whispering things like "Emperor's personal orders" and "shipped all the way to Morrowind" and, of course, "release fee", hardened my resolve and stepped onto the road headed for Balmora.
Gravius had mentioned a 'silt strider' travel service that could take you to Balmora. I didn't mean to use it – for one, although I had some spare money now, I wanted to make that last for a while; for another, I was distinctly unsure about how safe giant bugs were as travelling devices.
On the other hand, it was getting dark. And...
I heard a squeaking noise from further along the path, and red, beady eyes gleamed at me out of the darkness.
I took the silt strider.
haute ecole rider
Aug 11 2011, 12:48 AM
Tell me about the backlog! I wrote the first 20 or so chapters of Julian's story in three months, then spent the next six months posting every other day! And I kept writing! Right now I have about a month's worth of posts already written (at my current posting pace of Mondays and Thursdays). So if you've got a backlog, by all means go every other day (or three times a week). Keep in mind that not everyone can keep up with that kind of a pace, so from the reader's perspective less frequent posting is better.
Okay, now on to your current post. I had to bust out laughing at Adryn's comments about the size of the creatures in Morrowind. I think it's the Blight. Just what is the Blight? I suspect it's some kind of spore that affects creatures (and humans and mer) differently depending on the sort of DNA one possesses. That would explain why Dunmer (and other mer and men and tailed folk) are normal sized in the game, but the creatures - ARE. NOT. Nah, just my overactive scientific mind seeking explanations for some of the weird stuff I've seen trying to play Morrowind on XBox 360.
After all the discussion about 'exploiting the game' I've seen on the forums, this cracked me up as well:
(I made a mental note: Substances that give levitation are valuable. Exploit this)
I was sure the recipient wouldn't keep me around; after all, I was hardly anyone special. Just your average thief trying to turn over a new leaf; there was really nothing more the Legion could want of me, was there?
Famous last words!
Aug 11 2011, 01:37 AM
First- the greatest hits. Well- no. Actually, that would be the entire post.... So- a brief set of the highlights then:
I'd almost have called Legionnaire hardtack delicious at that point - but I figured it was more diplomatic not to point that out.
It takes SERIOUS starvation to make that stuff look edible.
”…Girl," seriously, two syllables, what is so difficult about this,
I think it is some kind of Illusion magic that clings to Adryn. It clouds people's minds so they cannot remember her name.
They'll ask for my portrait to put next to 'adventurer' in the Imperial Dictionary any day now, I'm just waiting for the letter.
"Which end would you stick into whatever's trying to kill you?" she called back from where she was rummaging through a chest.
Was this a trick question. "The... pointy one?"
Congratulations- that qualifies Adryn to be a corporal!
I truly hate to admit being wrong, but... they had rats.
”…for another, I was distinctly unsure about how safe giant bugs were as travelling devices.”
Trey agrees completely. Although, he also has to admit that the choice between a giant flea that MIGHT eat you, as opposed to a giant rat that WILL- is difficult.
I would incline toward advising you to post less frequently- because I am already so far behind on all my reading. But... if it is a choice between having to catch up or not having this story at all... no contest. Post away and I will dogfully deal with the time needed to read.
Aug 12 2011, 11:42 PM
Hmm. This is tricky because I also don't want to overwhelm my readers. :/ I might move onto a somewhat slower posting schedule - 2-3 times a week, maybe - but for now I want to get chapter 1 finished!
@haute - the Blight, huh? Definitely possible! Although I guess my question would be whether we can really assume that the animals have only recently gained in size, since the Blight hasn't been around that long. For instance, given that guars seem to be a traditional herd and pack animal one can probably assume they've been that big for a while! (Although this, of course, raises the question of what guars are herded *for*, since you can't find guar meat in the game. :/ The only guar product that seems to be around is hide, which I'm not sure justifies the guar as one of the only herd animals - netches being the other one, and *they* only seem to produce leather... I'm overthinking this, aren't I.)
And I am probably going to have to take steps to make sure Adryn doesn't end up ridiculously rich through alchemy, since that is SO easy to do in-game.
I always wonder at the guides that tell you to go pick up X item from Y heavily-guarded shrine - look, you can make an infinite amount of money standing next to Ajira...
@treydog - ha, Illusion magic! That might just be it - I should nudge Adryn towards a Dispel spell, huh. XD And indeed, evil rat of doom or OH GOD THAT FLEA IS AS BIG AS A HOUSE, I suspect a lot of characters would like to take option c) swim back to mainland at that point... (also, introducing newcomers to silt striders must be some sort of Morrowind hazing ritual. I can already see the residents of Seyda Neen all collapsing laughing every time another newcomer goes "please tell me that's a hallucination.") And I might slow down my posting, especially because both of my readers have said that it'd be better for them. *ponderponder*
It was actually much better than I was expecting. Some clever mer had hollowed out the shell on top of the beast and installed seats, meaning that passengers could ride in relative comfort, and it moved with a gentle swaying motion that was vaguely reminiscent of the ship I'd arrived in. Other people might find the gait nauseating, but my stomach remained quiet... at least, as long as I didn't look too closely at exactly how the beast was steered. There are things I never wanted to know about giant flea anatomy.
I was the only passenger but the silt strider operator, Darvame Hleran, was friendly and we whiled the time away chatting – she said she was glad for the company, as she usually transported Legion members newly off the ship from Cyrodiil to Fort Moonmoth in Balmora or, lately, Fort Buckmoth further north, near Gnisis. The moue of distaste she made speaking of the Legion made me like her quite a bit more.
Darvame also gave me what was undoubtedly the single most important piece of advice I received that day, and I'd received many.
I'd mentioned that I had never been to Morrowind before and could probably count the number of other dark elves I'd met on one hand. Surprisingly, a flash of anger crossed her features, then she sighed.
"Don't say dark elf. Say Dunmer," she told me.
I blinked, puzzled. "The old word?"
word," she stressed. "Dark elf is an insult. Not quite as bad a one since you're Dunmer as well, but bad enough. And you're an outlander. No need to make people even more angry with you."
As said, the most important advice I received. Of course, Elone had been immeasurably helpful but all that wouldn't be worth anything if I accidentally gave mortal insult to a local as soon as I got into Balmora and got myself killed.
In retrospect, it should have been obvious – we say Altmer and Bosmer, so why not Dunmer? But I'd spent my life being called a dark elf, with capital letters if people wanted to be polite, it never even ocurred to me that this might qualify as an insult.
Even apart from the conversation, the ride was pleasant. We were up high enough that I had a lovely view of the surrounding countryside – swamps giving way to fields and hills, covered in flora that I was just itching to inspect, an Imperial outpost in the distance I'd make sure to avoid. Then, from one step to another, the green hillsides gave way to the grey, ashy wastes of the Foyada Mamaea, as Darvame called it.
Now, after my complaining about swamps, midges, armour, crabs, E.R.Ds, Imperial outposts and other such annoyances, one might believe I didn't like Vvardenfell, and that my first sight of the barren ashes that apparently covered much of this island would only reinforce that opinion. It was true that up till then I had been getting steadily less fond of Vvardenfell, and was seriously contemplating getting off it as soon as possible; even the fact that Morrowind was undoubtedly my ancestral home (unless anyone finds Dunmer in, say, Akavir) and that I might be able to make money from my alchemy hadn't managed to change my impression of the island. However, at my first sight of the Foyada Mamaea all that changed.
It turned out that I had left at exactly the right time. Usually, Darvame told me, the volcanic regions were an ugly grey, the monotony only broken by the occasional trama shrub, scathecraw or fireflower – none of them particular aesthetically pleasing either. Adding in the dangerous wildlife (remembering the E.R.Ds, I was tempted to ask "more dangerous than the wildlife in the swamps?" but thought better of it) it was hardly the most pleasant region of Vvardenfell. But all that changed for a brief time every day and when the silt-strider's footsteps stirred up the ashes of the Foyada Mamaea, the setting sun turned them into glittering diamond dust floating in the air.
The sight was breathtaking, the grey wastes turning gold in the sunlight. It only lasted a short while, but after it was over my eyes seemed to have changed. Rather than the drab ugliness Darvame had described, I saw austere beauty in the grey slopes, the ash whirling in the air, the few struggling plants-
Suddenly, neither this island nor the idea of spending a long time - possibly the rest of my life - here seemed as dreadful. Even if I still thought someone should come up with an extermination program to deal with the rats.
We didn't spend long in the ash-wastes – I discovered the Foyada Mamaea was apparently bordered by green lands on both sides, and decided to try and find a map as soon as I could. So the grey country quickly gave way to green fields again, although the air had a marshy tang more reminiscent of the swamp-lands I'd explored than the lands we'd travelled through. Nevertheless I saw it with new eyes, ignoring the midges and muck in favour of the lush greens, the blossoms, the smell of growing things overlaying the acrid sting of the swamp.
We reached Balmora just past sunset.
After bidding farewell to Darvame and getting off the silt strider, I stopped and stared for a while. Unlike the village of Seyda Neen, Balmora was a proper-sized town, and one built in what seemed to be the local style at that. Rather than the wood-stone-and-thatch I was accustomed to, the buildings were made out what I guessed to be daub. They were oddly rounded, looking almost slightly organic, and with flat roofs easily accessible by stairs – which I decided was a clever idea in the balmy climate. It was dark, but the city was well-lit by torches, lanterns, candles and mage-lights; by their light, I could see that the city was still alive despite the hour – people strolled down the streets or reclined on the roofs of their houses, chatting. Most of the shops still seemed to be open, their services announced by flapping banners with symbols and Daedric wordings. A similar banner stood at the gate of the town, saying simply "Balmora". I touched it as I went by.
There were a number of traders near the town gate, but I ignored them; time enough for all that tomorrow, after I'd dropped off the package. Instead, I accosted a Nord passerby for directions to the nearest inn.
She looked at me disdainfully and I winced, uncomfortably aware of the sight I must cut – rough, ill-fitting prison clothing, torn and stained with swamp-muck and ash, red, greasy hair in complete disarray, my face smudged with dirt, a worn iron sword awkwardly sheathed at my side...
"Try the Eight Plates, straight ahead past the Mages' Guild. Or better the South Wall Cornerclub on the other side of the river, they cater to your kind."
Although I was loath to spend more money than I needed to on accomodations – already I was richer than I'd been in a long time and found that I quite liked that state of affairs – the sniff that accompanied the comment of "your kind" decided me. I thanked the Nord politely and set off towards the Eight Plates. (Let no one say that I am not contrary to the point of absolute idiocy.)
The Eight Plates turned out to be an upper-class establishment on the far side of town; the looks its patrons gave me as I entered almost enough to make me forget my bravado and flee back outside again. In the end, it was sheer exhaustion that compelled me forward; I didn't think I'd be able to make it to the bridge, let alone the other side of the river, without collapsing.
The proprietess looked aghast as I approached her. "Now look here, this is a good establishment and we don't serve- ah." She quieted as I hefted my full purse and turned positively friendly once I slid her a few coins.
"My pardon," I murmured, trying to sound like a useless dimwit with more money than- I mean, a noble. "I have been travelling for some days now and seek accomodation for the night."
Either my attempt at an upper-class accent was not a complete failure or the promise of money had mellowed her more than I had hoped; not only did the woman agree to rent me one of her better rooms, but also offered to run me a bath and give me supper despite the late hour. Needless to say, I accepted gladly.
The bath was just the right temperature, deep, long enough to lie down in... in short, perfect after a long day of digging up mushrooms, running from E.R.D.s and dealing with bureaucrats (I think it is obvious which of those three was most exhausting). Too perfect, actually; after scrubbing myself repeatedly and lathering my hair, I dozed off and only woke up when I tried to breathe water. Bathing when tired is a perilous business, one best attempted with either cold water, iron self-control or a ring of water-breathing.
After a great deal of choking and spluttering, some sad looks at my change of clothes (although protected from the ravages of the journey in my pack, they were just as rough and ill-fitting as the others) and a vain attempt to tame my hair, I descended into the common room.
I was informed that supper was a soup of marshmerrow, saltrice and roobrush, followed with fried nix-hound meat and kwama eggs, and decided it was probably better not to ask what any of these things were. When the meal came, the only thing I recognised was the bread on the side – but it didn't matter anyway, as I was so focused on not falling asleep in my soup I didn't even register the taste. I finished quickly, as the noise from the other patrons was making my head hurt, bade goodnight to the landlady and stumbled up the stairs again.
My room was situated on the second floor, with a lovely view over the river, a night-stand and desk and – most importantly – a large, soft-looking bed. I let myself fall on that last and was out before my head even hit the pillow.
Here ends Chapter 1.
...look, look, it only took me fifteen thousand words to get Adryn to Balmora!
haute ecole rider
Aug 13 2011, 12:13 AM
I see that Adryn is capable of finding beauty in the most unlikely places (though luck may have had to do with her timing). Sounds like the Foyada is an enchanting place indeed.
I loved her description of the ERD's - Enormous Rats of Doom!
And I see that she is in for quite the education about Dunmer vs. Dark Elves. I myself prefer Dunmer, Bosmer, Altmer, etc to the more mundane English terms. Better to call the natives by the term they call themselves! Or else she might find herself run out of town as an outlander! The level of prejudice in Morrowind is pretty high compared to what I'm used to in Cyrodiil. Ah well. At least Adryn is a Dunmer herself - that's her one saving grace. That and her dislike of anything Legion, which seems to be shared by the locals. Gee, I wonder why . . . Oh, that's right. Julian never served there!
Aug 15 2011, 07:23 PM
@Haute - yep, Adryn was very lucky! Although part of it was that I actually like the Ashlands region in game - true, it's not exactly beautiful, but there's something haunting about it - and wanted to have a character share that.
Adryn is still of the opinion that rats should NOT grow to that size oh god what is WRONG with your country.
And yeah, Adryn's going to have some adapting to do - being a Dunmer outlander in Morrowind can be very much not fun, and she's going to get blindsided by the level of prejudice of varying types.
Also, I think if the Legionnaires Adryn met had been like Julian she'd a) have more respect for the Legion, even if grudgingly and
be terrified to badmouth it out loud in case they somehow heard...Chapter 2, part a
I woke when it was barely dawn, and groaned when I tried to sit up. Every muscle in my body seemed to be screaming – and no wonder, I thought ruefully, when one considered yesterday's exertion in light of the time in prison. I was sore, bruised and terribly exhausted, and simply going back to sleep seemed very, very inviting.
Except, of course, for the dream.
Even so soon after waking my memory of it was confused and broken, but I remembered enough. It had been... not quite the same dream as yesterday. The voice was gone, for which I was deeply thankful. But the changes – those had been the same. No, not the same-
I shuddered, remembering the feel of my body shifting in ways it had never been meant to, the sound of bones creaking under the immense strain, the sight of grey-golden skin...
This time I ignored my muscles and forced myself up and out of bed. There was a mirror hanging on the opposite wall. It reflected a dark el- a Dunmer (thinking of myself that way would take some getting used to), gaunt from prison, with bleary red eyes and hair the same shade going every which way. In short, just as always, and I let out a sigh of relief. It wasn't that I'd been expecting to see... someone else... but the dream had seemed so real...
"That's enough of that," I told my reflection, and busied myself with trying to bring my hair into some kind of order. Given that I didn't have a brush or comb it was a futile endeavour, but it did get my mind off the odd recurrent nightmare.
When I was satisfied I'd done all I could, I sat back down on the bed. It was very early and I was still bone-tired, but sleep was out of the question. Perhaps I'd go down and see if anyone else was up yet. I decided to leave my pack in my room, but take my purse with me. I didn't want to look as if I were sneaking out without paying, but I didn't trust the security in this place enough to leave my money unguarded. (Frankly, if any thief wanted to take Elone's short-sword they were welcome to it. And I wouldn't grieve over-much for the Imperial package, either.)
To my surprise, the proprietress was not just up but was already making breakfast. She exclaimed when she saw me and bustled me to a chair. Thinking back to the mirror upstairs, I had to agree that I looked dreadful.
"Bad night," I told her weakly when she asked why I wasn't still in bed, I certainly looked as if I needed the rest, poor dear. (I wasn't quite sure how I'd made it from "poverty-stricken scum that shouldn't set foot in my guest-house" to "poor dear" in one night, but decided not to ask.)
"Dreams?" she asked, sounding unsurprised.
Off-balance, I nodded. "Well... yes. How did you guess?"
She clucked. "It's been going around. More and more people have been having strange dreams. The soul-sickness, they call it. Feldrelo Sadri, our main priest at the Temple, is at her wits' end – or so I hear."
"This is common?" I found myself startled. Of all the things I'd expected to hear, that hadn't been it. How could nightmares
be 'going around'? 'Soul-sickness' indeed, it wasn't as if they were a common illness! Or contagious!
And besides, the dreams had seemed so oddly... special, personal, tailored to me and me only. Dozens of strangers having ones like it, the voice speaking to them just as it had to me, just felt... wrong. And wasn't that a nice bit of arrogance or more probably stupidity right there, given that I didn't want the dreams to begin with?
The other woman was talking. "Not common, precisely. But growing, growing. And what's worse, the people affected, some of them start acting... strange. Not themselves. Saying odd things. And sometimes, sometimes-" her voice was now barely above a whisper, "the ones it takes very
badly, sometimes they just get up and walk away. And no one ever sees them again."
Something clattered outside. I jumped, the spell broken.
"I hope you'll excuse me if that doesn't exactly make me feel any better," I said weakly.
Her mouth opened in horror. I suspected she'd been so caught up in her tale that she forgot she wasn't telling ghost-stories to passersby, but rather speaking to someone who was having the dreams herself. "Oh no, dear! I'm sure you're perfectly safe. It never takes outlanders as badly as the natives. In fact," she grew thoughtful, "I think you're the first I've ever heard of..."
"Mm," I muttered noncommittally. I didn't bother to point out that if I was the first outlander she knew of who'd ever had this 'soul-sickness', she wouldn't very well know whether they had more or less problems than the natives. For all she knew, the reason no outlanders ever reported odd dreams was because they succumbed to... whatever it was... almost immediately.
All this was unimportant, of course, as I
certainly wasn't going to succumb to anything. Especially not dreams! I mean, I decided a long time ago that when I die it had better involve the gates of Oblivion themselves opening or something else appropriately dramatic. Nightmares simply do not measure up.
Suddenly, a mug of steaming dark liquid was placed before my nose. "Drink this, dear," the woman said kindly. "It'll wake you up while I finish breakfast."
I blame the lack of sleep; I didn't study the drink at all, didn't note its precise colour or viscosity, didn't so much as sniff it before taking a sip. Me, who calls herself an alchemist. The shame will follow me to my dying day.
The liquid was very hot, and very bitter. I, of course, did not mind – regarding the first, it takes a lot more than hot tea to burn any Dunmer's tongue; as for the second, I am, as mentioned, an alchemist. You would not believe the things I have voluntarily ingested. 'Bitter' is harmless.
More to the point, I could already feel the liquid clearing up the fog in my mind. It was more a restorative than a stimulant, I judged, meaning that the effect would be lasting instead of sending me crashing down once it wore off.
"This is excellent," I said. "What's in it?"
The other woman didn't turn around from the hearth, but I could almost hear the smirk in her voice. "Secret recipe."
I, of course, took this as a challenge.
I took another sip and tried to sort through the flavour. Bitter, of course. But there was a subtle, smoky undertone. Hmm. Bitter with a smoky undertone, a restorative but not a stimulant, what kind of ingredient would produce that effect?
Then I realised that of all the growing things in this country, I could recognise all of five by taste. And two of them were poisonous mushrooms..
...Perhaps it would be better to answer this challenge at a later date.
On cue, my stomach gave a loud growl, and I decided to focus on more mundane things for the next while.
I lingered over the breakfast of kwama eggs – apparently a staple of Morrowind diet, although this time they were boiled rather than fried – and bread with scrib jelly, chatting with Dulnea Ralaal (as it turned out the publican was called.) She was able to tell me a lot of things about the city. Most of it was left as undigested lumps of information in my head – I simply didn't know enough about this land to know, for instance, what being "the main Hlaalu city in Vvardenfell, although none of the Councilors make their home here" entailed – but some of it was very helpful. I now knew, for instance, that there were both a Mages' and a Fighters' Guild in town, that outside of the guilds there were numerous traders and pawnbrokers, an armourer, a bookseller as well as an alchemist (my ears perked) and a clothier offering services on this side of the river. Apparently, the other side was the slums. Well, she didn't say "slums" but as her description was much longer and much less flattering, I try to summarise.
Unfortunately, she wasn't able to tell me where to find Caius Cosades. "But if I haven't heard of him," she said thoughtfully, "he can't live westside. You might try asking at the South Wall Cornerclub, I've heard that's where those
people spend their time."
The South Wall Cornerclub – that was where that Nord had wanted to send me yesterday. I sighed inwardly; so much for stiff-necked pride. If I'd gone there yesterday, I might have found Cosades right away.
Dulnea wondered why I was looking for what was undoubtedly a "dull-witted layabout, too lazy to do an honest day's work. And probably addicted to some horrible substance on top of it all." I told her I was running an errand, delivering a package from Seyda Neen, although I did my best to make her believe this was more of an ordinary mail run. "He must be an Imperial by the name," I said, "maybe he has family back in Cyrodiil or something who want to stay in contact. I wouldn't have taken the job but, well, I've fallen on hard times recently..."
All true, of course, but rather misleading – I wanted to keep the full story for myself until I knew either exactly what was going on or that it had absolutely nothing to do with me (the latter, preferably). Luckily, Dulnea didn't seem to catch the deception.
Instead, she clucked over said hard times, how skinny I was, how it was terrible that someone such as me was running errands for a person like this Cosades and, of course, how I absolutely had to stop by her friend Millie and get better clothes as soon as I could. I nodded in the appropriate places and wondered again how I'd managed to rise in Dulnea's estimation. If I could only figure out why the change, I might be able to pick up a new trick for my Making People Not Hate Adryn arsenal. It needed all the help it could get, after all.
At that point, the first other overnight guests started making their way downstairs, yawning hugely. Dulnea quickly had her hands full and since I didn't want to make a bother of myself, I paid as soon as I could and made myself scarce.
Aug 18 2011, 06:32 PM
...so is anyone still reading this?
Last installment, Adryn had a nightmare, learned that this was both common and a terrifying symptom associated with people vanishing, and had breakfast.
She was also told to ask for Caius at the South Wall Cornerclub, and is now off to find him - except that her search runs into obstacles...Chapter 2, part b
By now, the city of Balmora was waking up. Some of the shops were already open, and I spied several people waiting impatiently beside ones that weren't. A group of children – mostly Dunmer, but I saw several from the human races as well as one Orc and one Khajiit – were playing tag in the street, occasionally tripping up a passing guard in the process. Their laughter mixed with the sound of clangs and thuds coming from the lower doorway of the Fighters' Guild; clearly someone was already training. The Mages' Guild, on the other hand, was entirely silent and the door was still closed. Apparently they liked to sleep in.
On the east side of the river, things looked very different. The buildings were smaller and more run-down and the streets dirtier - I had to pick my path carefully if I didn't want to step straight into something that I never wanted that close to my skin. The people wore simple, ragged clothes, and I could spot several who looked to be homeless. What I couldn't spot, however, were guards.
Now, this would be the part where some rich person would probably run away or act as if they were surrounded by hungry wolves. I, however, relaxed. This sort of area was more familiar to me and somewhere I fitted in much better than the nice clean guard-ridden streets with fancy shops and manor houses of the west side - and honestly, I'd take pickpockets and beggars over guards every day! After all - and this is something we all work to keep away from the rich - the easiest way to get through this sort of area without a fuss is to look as though you know what you're doing and not look as though you have anything worth stealing. With my rough clothes and purse tucked out of sight inside my shirt, I fulfilled both conditions beautifully. Guards, on the other hand, are a plague on Nirn.
So I made it to the South Wall Cornerclub unmolested, with most people not giving me a second glance. It was quite noticeable that near the South Wall, the people looked more... purposeful. It wasn't anything overt, they looked just as poor as any other person living this side of the river, but there was something about them and the way they moved, something familiar...
Warning bells were going off in my head, but I couldn't quite pin down what it was.
Inside the South Wall, it was surprisingly busy; there were a few people coming and going and I could hear a great deal of conversation and activity downstairs. I blinked in surprise. I'd actually expected that no one would be up yet and I'd have to come back later. This bustle was... odd. Odder was that apparently – judging by the snippets of conversation I caught here and there – most of the people here were just 'finishing up business' before heading home and to bed.
Very nocturnal business, apparently.
The warning bells were very loud now. In just a moment, I'd-
"'Scuse me, are you Guild?"
I stared at the Nord girl who'd spoken, mind whirling. Of course. Of course, it had been so obvious, all the signs had been there, how could I have been so unbelievably stupid
Clearly, my mouth was smarter than my brain; even as the latter was busy with self-recrimination, the former was working at getting me out of this situation.
"Guild? But this isn't a guild, I mean the Mages' and Fighters' Guilds are on the other side of town." I affected an expression of honest confusion. "I'm not a member of anything, I'm just looking for a person – have a package to deliver-" I hefted my pack. Harmless errand-runner, that's me. "Someone told me I should ask here."
Apparently my act of ignorance had worked. "No, of course we're not a guild of anything, we just, uh, have special discounts for, um, Mages' Guild members sometimes! Um, who are you looking for?"
"Caius Cosades," I told her, heart rate finally slowing down. Clumsy fool, that girl. First she just asked like that. After all, there were signs. Codes. Ways to make delicate inquiries such as that one without immediately arousing the suspicion of any innocent passerby. And the way she tried to backtrack... well, the less said of that the better! Why, if I were her-
Don't go down that line of thought, Adryn. You know where it leads.
"Never heard of him. You could ask Bacola Closcius, he owns this place. He knows a lot of people."
I could ask him, yes. Of course, what I really wanted to do was start running now, never come near here again, and figure out something else (such as knocking on every door in Balmora, or throwing the damn package in the river and being done with it.) Unfortunately I couldn't think of a good excuse for leaving now, and appearing suspicious was a very bad idea. So asking him it was - and sending up a prayer to Stendarr that I wouldn't be noticed by anyone else. "That sounds like a good idea," I lied. "So where can I find him?"
"Oh, right." She blushed. "His office is upstairs."
I thanked her and made my way upstairs, trying not to look as if I was running. Apparently, some small measure of luck was with me after all; judging by where all the noise was coming from, Guild business seemed to be downstairs rather than upstairs. This made avoiding them easy and meant that Closcius was probably a front for the Guild rather than an active member or – Stendarr forbid – the Mastermind of this town.
I was in even more luck – Closcius was engrossed in what looked like an account book and didn't seem to be very interested in me. He reminded me of Sellus Gravius, in a way – elderly Imperial, probably very smart and very dangerous but with his mind someplace else. (I wasn't complaining about that last part.) He didn't even ask me why I was looking for Cosades, just absently gave me directions to the man's house and then ignored me entirely. I think he'd forgotten my existence before I even left the room.
I nodded to the Nord girl as I left the building, turned a corner and collapsed against the wall.
That had been close. That had been much too close, and I silently cursed Gravius for suggesting I "ask around" in town, and Dulnea for telling me to ask here
of all places. And I hadn't got away with it yet – if the Nord girl told the Mastermind about the odd messenger who'd wandered in, if they were in contact with the Skyrim guilds... I hadn't given my name, but it wasn't as if I were particularly inconspicuous...
Then it hit me, and I almost laughed out loud.
inconspicuous. For once in my life, I blended in with the crowd perfectly. I was a Dunmer in a land full of Dunmer. The only thing about me that was even remotely unusual was my hair colour, a coppery orange-red, and even there I'd seen another person with the exact same shade on the street.
I was safe.
"Oi, this's my spot! Y'can't sleep here!" A foot prodded my side, none too gently.
...well, safe in a general sense.
I apologised to the surly-looking local, dodged a second kick and got out of there. I'd run this gauntlet; now it was time to find Cosades.
haute ecole rider
Aug 18 2011, 09:13 PM
Oh, don't worry! I'm still reading!
Keep up with the posting, I'm enjoying this story immensely. I do apologize for being remiss in my commenting (here and elsewhere) because I've been very busy with school and troubleshooting recalcitrant computers and et al.
I really enjoyed Adryn trying to figure out why Dulnea is treating her so nicely compared to how she had been treated previously. Then in the next post it hits her - she's a Dunmer in a land of Dunmer!! Facepalm time!
That was a close call indeed with the Thieves Guild!
Aug 21 2011, 11:50 PM
Oh, no worries, especially as I can hardly throw stones given that I have a lot of trouble regularly commenting on other people's stories. :/ It was mainly that the last few updates have been some of the oldest and also the ones I'm generally least happy with, so I was worried I'd managed to lose what readers I had through that. I'm glad you're enjoying it!
And Adryn's going to get blindsided by "wait, what do you mean, I'm one of the majority?" some times more... poor girl, she did spend the last ten years in Skyrim!
Last time, Adryn had a very close call with the Thieves' Guild at the South Wall, but managed to get away. This time, she finally meets Caius and learns what he expects her to do...
Chapter 2, part c
To my surprise, in her speculations about Cosades' habits and nature Dulnea had been right about one thing.
Judging by, oh, the empty vials with that suspicious smell rising from them and the set of full ones sitting on the shelf and let's not forget the pipe, no, how could we even think of forgetting the pipe- well, at any rate the Imperial was definitely a skooma addict.
In the rest, however, she'd been entirely wrong. Especially when it came to the "dull-witted" part, unfortunately. The instant I opened the door, I silently cursed fate for leading me to the third smart and dangerous Imperial in two days. Sadly, this one was not busy with something else. On the contrary, he seemed far too interested in me for comfort.
It was surprising, and very disturbing. Despite my doubts, I'd expected to be shooed off once I delivered my package. Instead, Cosades told me to stay right where I was and proceeded to intersperse studying the documents that had been inside with ever longer and more thoughtful looks at me. Finally, he'd just put the stack of paper down – he hadn't even finished reading it yet! - and proceeded to stare at me openly.
Now, if I were one of those big, hulking brainless lummoxes that seem to populate every tavern in this world (I'm sure there's a machine that turns them out somewhere, some Dwemer invention gone horribly, horribly wrong; I don't know how they'd reproduce otherwise) I would've reacted to that appraising look with... well, definitely badly. Glaring back and saying something like "what do you think you're looking at, skooma-head?" came to mind. I am, however, not big, not hulking, not brainless or a lummox – at least I like to think so – and definitely, definitely not suicidal. So instead, I shifted nervously from foot to foot, folded my arms over my breasts – it didn't seem like that kind of appraising look, but I'm paranoid – tried to look everywhere except at the man while still keeping a wary eye on him (which is just as physically impossible as it sounds like, for the record) and dearly wished for my daggers.
Not that I would have used them. I mentioned not being suicidal, right? But in a way, a pair of daggers in spring-loaded wrist-sheaves can be the well-trained adult's teddy bear replacement. Not particularly cuddly unless you buy the right sheath, and I wouldn't recommend sleeping with them, but there is a certain measure of comfort that comes from knowing you have two instruments of sharp and pointy death at your fingertips and no one knows. A shortsword just isn't the same, even without considering the fact that I was probably more of a danger to myself than to anyone else with the thing.
I realised I was babbling, albeit mentally, and forced myself to concentrate on the situation at hand.
Cosades was still studying me, brows furrowed. I really wondered why he was taking so long; it normally takes people all of half a second to jump to conclusions about me. Perhaps the extra time would show itself in even more spectacularly absurd judgements than usual? Considering the current record lay at accusing me of cannibalism (honestly, I am not a Bosmer – and even they only eat their dead!) I was intrigued to know what he'd come up with.
The Imperial was muttering something to himself. "...don't know who is in charge of picking these people, probably get sent a Sload next at this point..." I managed to catch. Then he sighed, loudly, and pinched the bridge of his nose.
"Well, I suppose I have to make do with what I've got. Adryn, right?"
I nodded warily.
"Now, if anyone asks? I'm an amateur historian, and you delivered some rare books I'd had shipped in from Cyrodiil. A few volumes of the 2920 series, I think. As to why you're actually here..." Cosades smiled. It was entirely humourless. "Welcome to the Blades."
The cannibalism had easily been surpassed. Thinking I was in any way, shape or form suitable to be an Imperial spy definitely took the record for the maddest thing anyone had thought of me yet. The Imperial had to be a lunatic, and I started to back away slowly.
"Stay right there." The voice was like a whip, and it seemed to go straight to my legs – which locked up dutifully – without asking permission of my brain in between.
"I know what you're thinking," he continued, voice softer. "You're thinking, 'this man has lost his mind. Too much sugar.' Well, I may have something of a sugar problem – but I'm also the head of the Blades here on Vvardenfell."
I choked. It was insane, it was impossible, it was the delusions dreamed up between some man and his skooma pipe and I should get out of here and leave him to his madness.
I'd seen some skooma-addicts in my time, and none of them had acted like Cosades. Speaking to purple dragons only they could see, yes; Imperial spymasters, no. And that voice... it was, I slowly realised, the voice of a man long used to command, to being obeyed without question.
And, of course, if Cosades was mad – why had Gravius sent me to him?
"Right, so you're an Imperial spymaster," I told him. I'd meant for it to sound sarcastic, but somehow it didn't come out that way. "But what do you want with me?"
Cosades raised an eyebrow. "I just told you. You're to be inducted into the Blades, Emperor's own orders. Rank of Novice."
I sputtered. "But- wait- this is absolutely ridiculous! You're saying that you dragged me all the way to Morrowind, released me from prison, all so I could join the Emperor's own personal spy ring?"
I sputtered some more. Cosades waited patiently until I'd calmed down enough to manage a "but why me?"
"I'm afraid you're not high enough in rank to be told that yet. Need-to-know, you understand."
I was about to explain to Cosades at length that if anyone needed to know, it was me, but he held up a hand, his presence filled the room as if he'd suddenly doubled in size and my mouth snapped shut.
It was a handy trick, like a Command spell without the magic. I vowed I'd learn it someday.
"Now, Novice Adryn..." he looked me over (really, hadn't he seen enough by now?) and his expression grew pained. Apparently, although I'd never realised this before, I had the ability to cause headaches on sight. I was sure it would come in handy.
"Normally," Cosades continued, "I'd now determine your level of experience-"
"But I don't want to be in the Blades!" I blurted out.
"What you want isn't the issue, Novice." I shivered; it seemed as if the temperature of the room had suddenly dropped to freezing. "The Emperor himself wants you to be in the Blades. It is not healthy to contradict the Emperor. Not for me, and especially not for you. Therefore, you are now a member of the Blades. Do you understand?"
I nodded, cowed.
"Now, as I was saying, I'd ordinarily judge your level of experience, strengths, weaknesses, areas to focus on. Probably suggest some guilds for you to join, trainers to seek out, consider whether you were ready to go on missions already or needed more time first. But as for you-"
I quirked an eyebrow.
"-Dibella's tits! I don't even know where to begin. You're like a feral cat." Breton, Bosmer and now Khajiit – was it really so hard to figure out that I was Dunmer? Red eyes, grey skin, one wouldn't think it was that difficult. I was waiting for someone to tell me I was an Orc now, just to finish things off. "Claws out and ready to attack the first person who tries to come near you." And really, that was an exaggeration. I didn't have my daggers anymore, after all. "Look, just take this money and come back when you're ready to deal with civilisation."
I blinked at the proferred sack of septims. Probably twice as much as what Gravius had given me. With this, I could make a good start here. But-
"I don't want it," I told him. Part of me was mentally kicking myself already; I was turning down money! Free money! Had I lost my mind?
Except, of course, that the money wasn't free. Just like with the money from Gravius, although there I hadn't seen it yet... there were strings attached, strings I had no intention of getting anywhere near. Taking that money meant accepting the position that was being forced on me, acquiescing to becoming a member of the Blades, bought and sold like a slave-
No, I had no intention of touching that money.
"Who said you had a choice?" Cosades snapped. "Take it. Get out of here. Talk to people. Start looking like a sentient being instead of a cornered animal. That's an order, Novice Adryn."
In some situations, intentions matter little.
I took the money and fled.
Outside, I found myself a quiet, abandoned corner and counted how much it was, twice.
Two hundred septims. Two hundred septims exactly. That was how much my life was worth.
I hugged my knees to my chest and cried.
Aug 22 2011, 12:04 AM
You haven’t lost me
! It’s just a particularly busy back-to-school time. I am still enjoying your story. Please don’t give up on your overscheduled readers.
haute ecole rider
Aug 22 2011, 12:22 AM
As to why you're actually here..." Cosades smiled. It was entirely humourless. "Welcome to the Blades."
Well, that's certainly a very
different introduction to the Blades than Julian had! Loved the whole Blade-spymaster-who's-a-skooma-addict thing.
Adryn's reaction to the news that she is officially a Blade herself is just priceless. A more unlikely Blade couldn't be found, unless they send Cosades a Sload next!
Aug 25 2011, 12:02 AM
@Grits - glad to know you're still enjoying it! And no worries - I'm probably going to be seeing some of that overscheduling myself once term starts again, so I sympathise. *g*
@Haute - well, this is pretty much how it goes in Morrowind! You're this random prisoner off the prison ship, they send you to deliver a package to a skooma addict in the slums, "hi, welcome to the Blades. No, you don't get a choice." I've been surprised, reading Oblivion fic, at how they actually appear to be a serious, discerning outfit! Needless to say, Adryn is... a bit unhappy. And confused. (Seriously, for less likely Blade material you *would* probably need to find a Sload.)
Last installment, Adryn met Caius and got drafted into the Blades over her protests. Now, she's gone shopping and calmed down a bit, had a think about what people have told her and has come up with a plan for what to do next...
Chapter 2, part d
Some time later, I stood in front of the Mages Guild.
Something Cosades – I shuddered at the name – had said stuck with me. Probably suggest some guilds for you to join...
I vaguely recalled Elone had said something similar – and it made perfect sense, of course. When I was young I wanted to join the Mages Guild, but... well... by the time I was old enough things weren't working out that way. Also, I'd heard the stories of the entrance requirements. Not just entrance requirements regarding magical skills, oh no, a decent background and money were far more important prerequisites. After all, never mind the magical skill, it would be absolutely appalling if a common or poor person got in!
But I was in Morrowind now, and even in the barely-a-day I'd been on the island I'd learned enough to doubt that the guild here was anything like the bloated organisation made up of emigrant Altmer and nobles' sons I'd encountered. Moreover, I was trying to make a fresh start. As I'd told the bureaucrat in Seyda Neen, magic was probably my best skill after certain things he didn't need to know about and I was trying to avoid using. Why not try to join the Mages Guild?
And besides, the worst they could do was laugh at me.
Actually, a pessimistic corner of my mind pointed out, there were a lot of things worse than that they could do. A lot of them involved guards or prisons, the more inventive ones paralysis spells and summoned Daedra. It just wasn't very likely they'd do anything worse than laugh at me, provided I refrained from mortally insulting any high-ranking mages, ruining any experiments, destroying priceless magical artifacts-
All right, I was doomed.
I almost turned tail and ran right then, but I'd already reached the door to the Guild and my own stubborn pride wouldn't let me quit so close to my goal. That pride would be the death of me one day, I predicted gloomily. I just hoped it wasn't this day.
I reached forward to open the door, smiling as I felt the soft wool of my new robe against my arm. Before coming to the guild I'd stopped by the clothier in town, run by Dulnea's friend Millie. I'd spent rather more of my gold than planned – I refused to count Cosades' money into that amount – but it had been well worth it just for the feeling of being able to throw away the old prison clothes. The new clothes weren't very fine, but they were well-made, durable and, best of all, actually tailored for someone my general size and shape instead of an Altmer-sized humanoid octopus (or so I'd guessed, given the general size and placement of holes.) Adding in a long session with the comb Millie had thrown in, and I almost felt like a whole new person.
The door creaked open, and I peered in cautiously.
Inside, I found a stone corridor with a flight of stairs going up to the right. Hardly any light filtered through the windows, but there were paper lanterns hanging from the walls so I could see quite well.
The place was obviously rich, with expensive tapestries hanging from the walls and a fine carpet underfoot, but I found myself disappointed. Where were the magic lights? The summoned servants? The magical items? The strange and exotic magical instruments? I'd been expecting an enchanted carpet at the very least, possibly one that was woven from, oh, Tsaesci hair, and screamed loudly whenever an intruder set foot on it.
Really, the most magical thing in the place so far looked like the robes of the Dunmer woman standing in front of me.
"Um, hello!" I greeted the woman I'd been ignoring sheepishly.
She raised an eyebrow and looked me up and down without answering. Ordinarily, I would have reacted angrily to her rudeness, but since I was here in order to ask a favour (or rather, beg to be allowed to join the Guild) I endured it silently.
"Are you here to join the Guild?"
I jerked in surprise. "How did you know?" I mean, even with the new robe I hardly looked like someone who would be joining the Guild, did I? Not rich enough, not noble enough, not Altmer enough, and far too much thief. The only way she could have known was via... telepathy.
I thought back on what had been going through my mind earlier.
I was doomed. The paralysis spell would hit me any moment now. The only thing I could hope for was Mehrunes Dagon's mercy – a quick death.
So far, however, the woman didn't seem to be casting any spells, paralysis or otherwise. Instead, she had a rather smug look on her face. "Quite elementary. You're clearly an outlander, for one, meaning that you are undoubtedly more likely to join the Guild than the natives. You are wearing a robe, and you don't look as though you have enough money for the services here. And you're new to Balmora, probably new to Vvardenfell entirely. Added to the apparent lack of money, it implies that you are in need of support, of the kind the Guild offers. Am I correct?"
"Completely," I responded, dazed. No telepathy then. A narrow escape indeed.
Quickly, I turned my mind from my apparently not imminent after all doom to the matter at hand. Time to plead my case. "I'm a good alchemist, and I have some skills in almost all the magical schools. Mysticism is probably my best, I know two Detection spells and-"
"Can you write?" the woman interrupted.
I blinked, thrown off track. If literacy had to be explicitly stated as a requirement, the standards for entry here were indeed a lot lower than in Cyrodiil. I had a chance of getting in.
"Well, yes. Quite well-"
"Good." Apparently, I wasn't to be allowed to finish a sentence. Thankfully, I was still not suicidal and therefore not inclined to get angry about it. "It makes the registration much easier. Here, just write your name down here and sign there."
I blinked at the book being held beneath my nose. It had three columns – 'Date', 'Name' and 'Signature'. Looking at the previous entries, I noted that for many of them the date and name had been written in the same elegant hand while "signature" was a single scrawled letter X.
Apparently, literacy wasn't a requirement for the Morrowind Mages' Guild.
"Are you going to join or not?"
I apologised, took the proferred book and quill pen and neatly noted my name, then paused.
"Well?" I really wasn't sure why she was so impatient. After all, she'd just been standing there when I'd arrived, it didn't seem as if she had anything else to do.
I expected saying this would not get me much in the way of good-will, guild-joining or anything at all except possibly for that paralysis spell. And besides, given that she was a high-ranking mage, she'd probably been engaged in important matters that only required standing there and staring that I couldn't possibly understand. Trying to come up with a telepathy spell, no doubt. So instead, I simply said, "Could you tell me today's date? I'm afraid I've lost track of time."
"The twentieth of Hearthfire." The look she gave me with her answer let me know that she would never do something as ridiculous and unmagelike as forgetting what date it was. I resisted the impulse to tell her that if she'd been under a sleep spell for at least three days she'd be a little muddled too, instead quickly noted it down and signed my name with a flourish.
As I handed the book back, I noted that I felt just the same as before. Strange, that. I would have thought being member of the Mages' Guild would make me feel... different, somehow. Apparently the arrogance wasn't inherent to being in the Guild - who could have guessed?
"All right. Welcome to the Mages' Guild, Associate-" she looked at the book, "-Adryn. No family name?"
Once I had duly confirmed that yes, I really had no family name (it happens! I fail to understand why people get so odd about it!) she continued. "Associate Adryn, right. I am Ranis Athrys, a Wizard in the Guild and Guild Steward for the Balmora Mages' Guild. Would you like to hear the Mages' Oath?"
"Wait a minute, shouldn't you have asked me that before I joined?" I asked, surprised.
Ranis waved her hand dismissively. "Oh, that kind of thing is hardly very important, now is it? Time enough once you've joined."
I was getting the vague impression that the Mages' Guild was eager for new members. I have no idea what could have made me think so. Honestly.
"Well, I would like to hear the Mages' Oath," I told Ranis firmly.
Ranis rattled it off with the ease of long habit – there couldn't be that few new recruits if she was this familiar with it, I thought. It was pretty much what I'd been expecting, all about the pursuit of knowledge and the like. I took it fully sincerely and honestly, although the sidelong glances Ranis gave me made me suspect that she didn't think so.
"Well, that's that," Ranis said once I was done. "The other members are downstairs, in our common area – there are temporary beds for those of us who don't yet have a place of their own." A rather pointed hint, but I was grateful for it. If I stayed at the Eight Plates every day, my funds would be gone very quickly – even if I used the Blades' money, which I had absolutely no intention of doing. (I had very fond dreams of returning that money to Cosades one day. Preferably from a distance, with a slingshot and good aim.)
"Advancement in the guild is achieved if you have the necessary skill and have shown your loyalty to the guild by doing the appropriate duties. I don't have anything suitable for an Associate at the moment, so if you want any duties, speak to Ajira downstairs. Is there anything else you would like to know? Because I would rather like to get back to my work."
Given that Ranis was looking rather impatient and I was already close to completely overwhelmed with the things I'd learned in the past few days, I told her that no, that was everything, thanked her and headed downstairs.
note: I have honestly totally forgot when the Morrowind game starts, managed to screw up my install horribly via mods so I can't check myself right now, and it's not on the wiki. So I ended up picking a random date. Also, I've twiddled the starting spells a bit so they make more sense for Adryn and her background. (Besides, I've never quite understood exactly why if you have a major skill in a magical school you start off with *one* spell. One. Oh, that's some great magical expertise there. Or more mysteriously, if you have a minor skill you don't know any spells of that school at all. How, pray tell, did you get minorly skilled in it without any way to practice? And why would you bother?)
Aug 26 2011, 01:57 AM
I'd been expecting an enchanted carpet at the very least, possibly one that was woven from, oh, Tsaesci hair, and screamed loudly whenever an intruder set foot on it.
This made me smile. The only way she could have known was via... telepathy.
Uh oh. That’s never good.
Mages Guild, this should be fun!
Aug 27 2011, 11:26 PM
@Grits - Well, Adryn has certain *expectations* of what a Mages' Guild ought to be like! Let's see whether they manage to live up to it...
Last installment, Adryn joined the Mages' Guild! Now she's getting to meet her new guildmates.
Chapter 2, part e
Downstairs, the air was pleasantly cool and dry, and I paused for a moment to gather my wits and look into the large room that was apparently the centre of the guild.
We were below ground, so there were no windows, but the room was well-lit with yet more lanterns. There were several comfortable-looking blue bunk beds in a corner, a number of shelves filled with books and what looked like an alchemy lab at the far end. There were also a number of people, who I assumed from the location and robes they were wearing to be mages - an Orc who only looked up from her book to glare at whatever had interrupted her concentration, an elderly Altmer and a fellow dar- Dunmer deep in conversation, and in the corner with the alchemical devices a Khajiit and a Bosmer who were also deep in conversation, except that theirs seemed rather unfriendlier. Now, I admit I was judging on first sight so maybe I was entirely wrong and they were in fact the best of friends, but the scowls, extended claws and swishing tail (Khajiit) and pestle being held in a threatening manner (Bosmer) all contributed to leave a certain... impression.
Oh, and the shouting. The shouting added a certain something to the scene.
"-telling me to get out? My desk is upstairs, true, but I'm hardly barred from the main area of the guild. I have just as much right to be here as you do, you-"
"Well, if Galbedir insists on coming down here and disturbing Ajira while they are both supposed to be working, maybe she can explain why Ajira's request for violet corprinus and luminous russula from the Vivec guild disappeared-"
The Bosmer tried to look outraged, but with that level of acting she'd have been laughed out of any tavern in Skyrim. Yes, even the ones where the patrons are so drunk they have a bucket next to each table and handholds on the bar. I could spot the smug look she was trying to hide from the entrance. "As if you have any evidence for such an accusation! But I suppose lying is just to be expected from someone who is so lazy as to request easy-to-find local ingredients from the main guild instead of going and getting them herself-"
The Khajiit - I assumed she was Ajira - bristled. And let me tell you, that word takes on an entirely new meaning with Khajiit. "Why you-"
"Would the both of you shut up?" a new voice interrupted. A Breton woman, standing near the arguing pair, who I'd somehow missed earlier. "I'm trying to concentrate, you know. If the guild guide network collapses and half Vvardenfell comes knocking on our door complaining about it I'll send them to you, then you'll be-"
"Ajira would be happy to shut up if Galbedir left, stopped trying to sabotage her work and get your filthy hands off my equipment-" Ajira had apparently just noticed that Galbedir had appropriated a pestle as a makeshift weapon.
"Girls." Total silence fell, only interrupted by the thud of Galbedir dropping the pestle. I goggled at the Altmer who'd interrupted in amazement. She hadn't even raised her voice!
"I am ashamed of both of you," she continued. "Carrying on like this, and when we have a customer, to boot!"
Five pairs of eyes snapped to me, prompting me to try to hide (it's a reflex! I can't help it!). The effort was sadly futile, given that I was standing in full torchlight - I may be good, but I'm not the Grey Fox. It didn't stop me from trying to become one with the bare stone wall behind me all the same.
"Oh, don't be shy," the Altmer continued. "What are you here for? Are you looking for spells? Potions? Enchanted items? Transport?"
"Actually, I just joined the guild. Ranis Athrys said I should speak to Ajira for assignments?" I inched away from the wall, mourning our too-brief friendship. I was starting to regret joining, as so far the guild members weren't exactly giving off an overwhelming impression of mental stability - of the six in the room, one had her nose in a book and was ignoring everyone, two seemed to spend their time shouting at one another, and I was wary of the Altmer. There had to be more to the mer who could stop the Ajira and Galbedir show with a word.
"Ah, a new Associate! Welcome, we're all pleased to have you. I'm Estirdalin, and these are Marayn Dren, Ajira, Galbedir, Masalinie Merian and Sharn gra-Muzgob," she pointed to each of the mages in turn, and I decided not to commend that I'd managed to work out two of those for myself. And it was relatively easy to work out who each of the remaining names must belong to, given the races of the people in question...
I noticed Estirdalin looking at me expectantly and quickly reviewed the conversation in my head- oh. She was probably waiting for me to introduce myself. "I'm Adryn," I said. Really, this made how many times in two days? I ought to invest in a name tag. And possibly add on "the next person who asks 'no family name?' will get to experience my brand-new Firebite spell free of charge. Really, nobody wonders about it with Bosmer or Altmer, but if a d- Dunmer shows up with only a first name suddenly everyone has to make inane comments." Possibly more briefly.
Thankfully for my relations with my new guildmates, Estirdalin's only reaction to my name was a quirk of an eyebrow. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Adryn. Now, if I may be so bold as to ask-" Altmer. Always have to play more-manners-than-thou. "-did you join the guild primarily to take advantage of the services, or out of a genuine interest in the art of magic?"
I wrinkled my nose. "Interest, of course. I've always wanted to learn more about magic, but never properly had the chance." Really, as if any sane person would tell a room full of dedicated mages that the only reason they'd joined was to take advantage of the services!
...come to think of it, given Ranis' attitude earlier I doubted it was all that unusual.
"I do know quite a bit about alchemy, and some magic," I concluded.
Suddenly, I saw Ajira making shushing signs from the corner of my eye. But it was too late.
Estirdalin's eyes gleamed. "Really. I hope you don't mind if I ask you a few questions about that?"
What followed was the most exhausting grilling I had ever undergone in my life. I had no idea what that old Altmer was doing at the Mages' Guild; she should be in some Imperial dungeon, teaching professional interrogators how to really get answers. At the end, it felt as if every single fact I knew about any aspect of magic and a few I didn't had been dredged out of my brain. Estirdalin looked happy; I mainly wanted to crawl over to the soft, inviting-looking bed and sleep for a day.
"That's all very interesting! I'll have to think of a training schedule for you." Okay, forget sleep. Sleep could only bring temporary relief. Sleep meant waking up, meant facing Estirdalin again at some point. Death, on the other hand...
"Excuse me, but Ajira thinks she heard Adryn say that the Dunmer was to take duties from her," a voice interrupted from behind us. Ajira, apparently. Only Khajiit and Argonians are that cruel to grammar. "And she said she is most interested in alchemy, which is Ajira's specialty, no?"
"She is – I mean, I am," I agreed hastily. At that moment, I was completely prepared to forgive and forget Ajira's earlier vicious attack on my eardrums and her massive abuse of the third person. No, Ajira was saving me from Estirdalin. For that, I'd declare her my new best friend.
"Well!" Estirdalin seemed skeptical, but then sighed. "I suppose you're right. But if you ever want any proper nurture of your magical skills, girl-"
"I'll come to you, of course, Estirdalin Thank you very much. It's... too great of an honour for me," I invented rapidly. "I don't think I could... profit from it properly at the moment. I don't have the proper... mindset."
"Hmph. I see. Well, come to me if you ever change your mind." Estirdalin still did not seem convinced, but was apparently not inclined to argue. Silently, I thanked each of the Nine Divines, and then the Daedra Lords for good measure. I'm not a Daedra worshipper, but some situations are specia. Besides, I suspect that if Ajira hadn't saved me from Estirdalin, I would have quickly become a devotee of Sheogorath, if you know what I mean.
"Come," Ajira was whispering and tugging at my robe. "Before she changes her mind."
I noted with satisfaction that prison had not reduced my ability to move very, very quickly in life-or-death situations.
Aug 29 2011, 02:08 PM
Now, I admit I was judging on first sight so maybe I was entirely wrong and they were in fact the best of friends, but the scowls, extended claws and swishing tail (Khajiit) and pestle being held in a threatening manner (Bosmer) all contributed to leave a certain... impression.
Yikes! What a vivid scene. Watch out for angry mages. That was an entertaining and enlightening argument.There had to be more to the mer who could stop the Ajira and Galbedir show with a word.
No kidding, especially after the Breton jumped in and only added to the bickering! I thoroughly enjoyed Adryn’s introduction to her guildmates.
Aug 30 2011, 11:07 PM
@Grits - yeah, I think Adryn is really starting to wonder what she's let herself in for! The Balmora Guild are a... dynamic... bunch.
Last installment, Adryn had an interesting introduction to her new guildmates, featuring first walking in on a vociferous argument and then being quizzed on magic until she cried for mercy. Now, she gets to know her new quest-giver and fellow alchemist a bit better...
Chapter 2, part f
We fled to behind the alchemy desk (I eyed it, wondering if it might be possible to fortify it somehow) and, after a minute, Estirdalin sighed and walked away. Once I was sure the danger had passed, I found myself collapsing in helpless giggles.
"It is not funny," Ajira said reprovingly. "The honoured Estirdalin is very, very... dedicated." Her whiskers twitched. "Ajira spent two days working with her when she arrived."
"Goodness. How did you survive?" I managed between giggles, then clapped my hands over my mouth. I hadn't meant to say that aloud.
Ajira looked as if she were about to take offense, but then her mouth quirked in what I recognised as a rueful smile. "With difficulty." And that set me off again.
I eventually managed to calm down, rather embarrassed – I wasn't usually given to hysterical laughter. I decided to blame it on stress; I hadn't exactly had an easy few days of it, after all.
The Breton in the other corner (I didn't know how she could stand it, not having some kind of barrier between her and Estirdalin) was staring at me as if she thought I were mad. I didn't take it badly; I wouldn't be at all surprised to find I was mad. Yes, that must be it – I'd lost my mind in prison and everything that had happened had been one long hallucination. It was so obvious, I couldn't imagine why I hadn't figured it out earlier. I mean, giant fleas as transportation? Being forcibly inducted into the most infamous and elusive spy network in existence? The Empire actually giving people money? That last at the very least should have clued me in on something not being right.
Of course, even now that I'd deduced this, I figured I might as well go with the flow anyway seeing as it was being quite pleasant as hallucinations went.
Not that I have much in the way of experience with hallucinations. Hardly any, in fact. Really, you could call it none at all. And if anyone ever mentions an incident involving me, intercepted smuggling goods, an unfortunate failure of my skill at identifying alchemical substances and two pounds of highly refined moon sugar, they are lying through their teeth.
Ajira was not looking at me as if I was mad, I noticed. Instead, she looked as if she knew exactly how I was feeling. Which she probably did. Two days? I have no idea how she managed to escape sane.
"It was said to aid in your escape, but Ajira would like to speak about alchemy," she said.
I flinched. Expecting me to participate in another interrogation? Voluntarily? Clearly I'd been mistaken. Ajira had not escaped sane, she just faked it very well.
Clearly, my thoughts must have been written clearly on my face because Ajira hurriedly added, "not like that!" She took a breath. "I have no wish to test your knowledge. Nor the knowledge needed to do so," she added self-deprecatingly. "Ajira is very, very interested in alchemy, in the making of potions, yes? But she is not very skilled, just a beginner in the art. And there are no others here with the knowledge and inclination to help her learn."
"Oh. Of course." I said. Then it sank in. "Wait, you want to learn from me, of all people? Are you mad? I'm barely an amateur myself!"
"You did not sound one when Estirdalin questioned you," Ajira argued. "The Dunmer spoke about using repeated distillation as a technique for reducing the length of draining effects. That is not something Ajira has ever come across before."
I took a moment, then realised that 'the Dunmer' was probably supposed to be me. "Oh, that's just a trick I picked up somewhere."
"You mentioned quite a few such... tricks." Now Ajira sounded petulant.
"But they're really nothing special," I tried to argue. "Just shortcuts and cheats to make up for the lack of real knowledge."
Ajira didn't say anything. She just stared at me soulfully.
I looked into her green eyes and felt myself wilt. Ajira was still quite young as Khajiit went, and the way she made her eyes go wide and fur puff out made her look like a sad kitten. I've been accused of being heartless before, and the people involved might even be right but even I can't possibly say no to that.
"Fine," I groused, "I'll try to teach you what I can. But!" I added sternly when I saw Ajira's eyes light up, "in return you teach me about the local ingredients, where to find them, their properties and all that."
"Easily done," Ajira purred. "Ajira does not know much herself, but Ranis has assigned to her a report about the local plants. This way, she can kill two cliff-racers with one fireball."
I blinked. That was a variation on the old proverb I hadn't come across yet. "What are cliff-racers and why would you need to kill them?"
"If you haven't come across them yet, treasure your innocence," the Breton (who had been eavesdropping on our conversation so obviously I'd had to fight the urge to go over and explain to her how to listen in properly) tossed in from the other side of the room. "They're terrible, terrible pests and all over the place these days. So much for the much-vaunted Ghostfence if it can't even keep simple animals in the Ashlands where they're supposed to be."
"Oh, and you think the Ghostfence was made to keep in cliff-racers, do you, Masalinie?" a gravelly voice interrupted. Apparently Marayn had also been listening in (and much better than Massilein, at that. I silently congratulated him.) "You think the Tribunal is so worried about us having to deal with flying reptiles, of all things, that they created the Ghostfence just so no one had to worry about them?"
Misanalie tossed her head. "And I suppose you believe all the stories about some ancient evil sitting under Red Mountain?"
Marayn frowned. "I'm no member of the Temple. But there's something there, that's for sure. Or where do you think the Blight comes from? Or how about... corprus?" His voice was oddly hushed on that last word. "I tell you, the creatures inside the Ghostfence are beyond description. Not that you would know. When was the last time you visited Ghostgate, Masalinie? This year? Last year? Oh, right – never. That was it."
"I have important duties here," Masa- Masi- the Breton (I mentally gave up on her name) snapped. "And besides-"
I would have liked to continue listening to the discussion; I didn't have a single clue as to what they were talking about (what was this "Ghostfence", anyway?) but seeing people yelling at someone not me is something of a novel experience and I like to partake of it whenever I have the opportunity. However, at this point Ajira tugged on my sleeve.
"What are you- oh, right," I sighed when I saw her expectant eyes. "Alchemy."
haute ecole rider
Aug 31 2011, 01:48 AM
I have soooo enjoyed Adryn's induction into the Mages Guild these past few posts! Loved her take on the squabble and how the Altmer broke it up so effortlessly. Then how Adryn couldn't stop laughing after the Altmer left her with Ajira.
These characters are very enjoyable and real that I can almost picture them eavesdropping (one well, one, well, not so well) on Adryn and Ajira's conversation. And not once did Adryn get called "Hey you" or "Girl" or some other nondescript name! Huzzah!
Aug 31 2011, 06:23 PM
I took a moment, then realised that 'the Dunmer' was probably supposed to be me.
I would be looking around for another person, too.
All of the listening in and arguing is providing some useful information. Hopefully Adryn won’t get too much of a headache trying to sort through it.
Sep 2 2011, 10:53 PM
@haute ecole rider
Adryn is ecstatic that for once, people have remembered her name! (Two syllables. Really.) Glad you like my take on the Balmora Mages' Guild! It's one of those places everyone uses, so I wanted to give it that special Adryn-esque touch.@Grits
Khajiit-speak takes some getting used to indeed! (and some getting used to /writing/, for that matter. I think I've finally got the hang of it, but...) And yes, I think some of that information will come in handy later but for now Adryn is pretty overwhelmed by it all.
Bit of a longer installment this time because I couldn't find a good place to break it up. :/
Last installment, Adryn and Ajira had a bit of a chat (interrupted by eavesdropping mages) and finally decided to talk alchemy together. Now, we find out if the guild will survive this. Chapter 2, part g
I had been highly dubious about the arrangement – really, after Estirdalin, it was a wonder I hadn't run screaming for the hills the moment Ajira had suggested it, especially since my first impression of her was more along the lines of "clawed incarnation of fury" than "good working partner" – but it actually seemed to be working well. I'd been keeping an escape route in mind in case this turned into yet another interrogation, seeing as I figured I'd fulfilled my quota for the next three lives at least, but it turned out to be unneccessary - and once away from Galbedir Ajira actually turned out to be friendly and quite easy to get along with, leading me to suspect that the blame for the obvious feud was mostly the Bosmer's. And although we started with Ajira asking me probing questions about the various tricks I'd picked up to get the most out of shoddy equipment, I soon figured out that Ajira had a few things hidden up her
sleeve as well, and from there the whole thing quickly devolved into shop talk.
I surprised myself with how intensely I enjoyed the conversation, which ranged from a debate about whether skooma pipes could be used as reasonable substitutes for alembics (that one ended with me deciding to get hold of one and show her that you can make perfectly acceptable potions with them, although I figured I should probably wait until the other guild members weren't around lest they get the wrong impression) to methods of determining the effect of some unknown plant other than the classic of slipping it into your rival's food and watching closely to see what happened. Even the short break we took to arrange lunch made me impatient. Clearly, it had been far too long since I'd had any form of intellectual stimulation.
An immense surprise, I'm sure. After all, everyone knows that prison is the perfect place to have conversations about the minutiae of obscure branches of alchemy and-
Actually, it probably is
. Except that poisons have never quite managed to capture my interest – not the proper thing for my career plans, you understand, and I think it might give the wrong impression – and I don't think the potential conversation partners are all too interested in sharing their knowledge.
At any rate, I was veritably starved for intelligent conversation on a subject in my area of interest, and from what she'd said about the other guild members' interest in alchemy I suspect Ajira was likewise. We didn't just continue the conversation over lunch, no, we started the practical experiments over lunch. For a while, anyway. Nine out of ten alchemy instructors will tell you that mixing food and alchemy is a bad idea. Now, I would generally merrily ignore this kind of advice, as nine out of ten alchemy instructors are stodgy boring old men who've probably never worked with an untested ingredient in their lives. However, on rare occasion they are actually right – and this was definitely one of them, I had to admit as I poured the third antidote down Ajira's throat. (It took two more until her face finally regained its normal colour.)
I apologised profusely to Ajira, because I suspected it was me who'd splashed the bittergreen-gravedust mix onto her scrib jerky. Luckily, she didn't seem inclined to hold a grudge. "It could have happened to me just as easily, friend Adryn," she said once she could talk again. "Ajira should watch what she eats."
I noted that I had been upgraded from "the Dunmer" to "friend Adryn" post-poisoning. So poisoning people made them like you more? This did not line up with my usual experience of the world.
We both decided it was probably wiser to leave all practical experiments until after lunch. As we were both very eager to test whether the bittergreen-gravedust mixture had any other effects than making Khajiit change colour, this had the unintended side-effect of turning lunch into something that looked more like an eating contest. (I won.) We were back at the alembic before we'd even swallowed the last bite.
It turned out the bittergreen-gravedust mixture was pretty much worthless, but then I mentioned that I wondered how that poisoning effect compared to the way the mushrooms worked (I swear I was telling the truth about not wanting to be an assassin – this was purely intellectual curiosity!) as I'd done some tests but had focused more on the water-walking effect...
Ajira's tail went ramrod-straight. Apparently I'd captured her interest. "You have experimented with the mushrooms?" she asked.
"Well, yes," I answered, slightly puzzled. "Just yesterday. I wasn't able to do much with them, so I still have-"
"You have samples?" Ajira interrupted me, excited. "Ajira has been looking for those mushrooms for days now!"
I found this statement rather puzzling, seeing as the swamp was filled with the things. All Ajira would have had to do was to take the silt strider to Seyda Neen and walk off the platform in order to have more mushrooms than anyone could ever need within reach. And I was sure there was swampland near Balmora too. What on earth was wrong with Ajira that she had to wait for me to bring her mushrooms and not collect her own?
Luckily, this was one of the few occasions that my brain was faster than my mouth, meaning I did not ask or point out any of that out loud. Being "friend Adryn" was very nice and all, but I didn't really want to test how far that title went.
Instead, I got my pack from the corner I'd tossed it in and rummaged through it. Mortar and pestle... water skin... the shirt I'd bought at Arrille's... I wondered if Ajira would stop staring at me if I asked. Possibly, possibly not, possibly she would do something quite violent to me for asking. Mentioning the mushrooms seemed to have unbalanced her – were they hallucinogenic? Addictive? Had I accidentally got myself involved in the drug trade?
I firmly banished such wild flights of the imagination (Ajira as a drug dealer? Really, now), shoved a change of underthings to the bottom of the pack before the Khajiit spotted them and found myself very, very grateful that I had decided to drop off the Imperial package before stopping by the Mages' Guild. I doubted Ajira would have asked any questions, but her seeing it might have caused problems.
Finally, I rose from my crouch clutching my ingredient vials triumphantly. I really had no idea how they'd managed to work themselves to the bottom of my pack, upside-down. Then again, it's always the case that what you need is at the very bottom, no matter where you put it to begin. My theory is that invisible Daedra rearrange your belongings in order to keep whatever you need most at any given moment as far away from you as possible. Miniature scamps, maybe. Judging by what I've read, it seems the kind of thing they would do.
Ajira almost snatched the vials out of my hands, staring at them avidly. The gleam in her eyes made me start giving more and more credence to my drug theory. (Dealer, no. Addict, on the other hand? I mean, she was
"Um, Ajira," I asked cautiously. "What do you need these for, exactly?"
Ajira blinked. "Ranis Athrys has asked Ajira to study the local mushrooms. Ranis asked a week ago, and she has been getting rather impatient. But Ajira could not find the mushrooms, none of her suppliers stocked them."
At this point, my brain decided to prove that its recent victory over my mouth had been a fluke. "But why don't you just go out into the swamp and get some?" I blurted out. "They're everywhere!"
The dark look Ajira gave me almost made me take a step back. "Go out? Into the wilds? Impossible. It is far too dangerous."
Remembering the E.R.D.s, I had to agree that the place wasn't exactly harmless. Still, considering how ubiquitous the mushrooms were, the relative number of trees and the climbing abilities of rats, I felt Ajira was exaggerating.
"It's really not that bad. I mean, sure the wildlife is pretty dangerous, but-" Ajira scowled more and more as I went on, and I knew shutting up right now would be the smart thing to do. Unfortunately, I couldn't make myself stop talking. "-you can always run, or climb trees, or-"
"There are dangers here other than the wildlife," Ajira snapped. "Not that the Dunmer
would know about that."
I blinked, both at the odd stress put on my race and at the fact that I'd apparently been demoted. It hurt more than I'd expected, considering I'd only known Ajira for a few hours and had spent most of that time trying to get over... unfortunate first impressions. "Of course I wouldn't. I've only been here for a day," I responded, unable to keep an injured tone from creeping into my voice.
Ajira blinked, and her expression lightened again. I had the odd impression that she was looking at me rather than through me for the first time since we started talking about mushroom collection expeditions. "Ajira is sorry, friend Adryn. I had forgotten you are not native Dunmer."
Meaning that if I had been native Dunmer, her getting angry at me would have been entirely justified? Mysteries within mysteries. Still, I was happy enough that Ajira had got over her snit that I didn't really want to get her angry again by trying to figure out what it had been about.
"Complete newcomer, that's me," I said cheerfully instead. "Entirely ignorant of anything that goes on on this island – it is
an island, right? I mean, for all I know it could be an oddly-shaped peninsula. Or land-locked, and the coast is just an optical illusion perpetrated by bored wizards. Really, the main thing I know about this country is what its mushrooms look like."
Ajira laughed. It sounded oddly forced. "Then let us consider the mushrooms, friend Adryn."
bittergreen+gravedust actually give a drain magicka potion, not a poison one, but then in-game books tell us bittergreen is a very strong poison and it doesn't have a poison effect at all in-game so I took some leeway.
haute ecole rider
Sep 3 2011, 12:03 AM
You're entitled to some leeway! After all, you're writing a pretty cool fan fiction IMHO.
Loved the discussion and Adryn's blunders with Ajira. Now what did I say wrong??
Oh, yes, prison life is wondrous for the mind!
Look at how many legal eagles come out of University of Folsom every day!
Sep 5 2011, 08:17 PM
Adryn has this amazing ability to screw up and put her foot into her mouth by talking before she thinks, or sometimes talking *despite* thinking. Diplomat the girl isn't... I think we will see some more examples in upcoming chapters.
Last time, Adryn talked alchemy with Ajira. This time, more alchemy - Adryn is somewhat insistent on this front, I'm afraid. >> And with it the end of chapter 2 and day 2! (Would you believe it only took me ~27k words to get there? )Chapter 2, part h
We spent the rest of the day considering mushrooms. First we replicated my water-walking potions, using an orangeish waxy substance Ajira called "kwama cuttle" as we didn't have any scales to hand. When one of the greenish ones ("luminous russula", according to Ajira) accidentally made its way into the mix, we discovered that these mushrooms had a water-breathing
effect. It'd be handy for any underwater explorations, I supposed, if it weren't for those dratted fish.
Of course, we also discovered that the two types of mushrooms combined created a poison that wasn't
destroyed in the boiling process, unlike when they were used separately. Luckily, after Ajira's previous misadventure we'd kept the antidote potions close to hand.
It was already quite late when we turned our minds to the other two types of mushrooms, the distinctly similar-looking brown ones I'd found growing on tree trunks. It seemed that no matter how you sliced, ground, beat to a pulp, stewed, boiled, or – well, no matter which way you prepared them, the only effect they had was of draining some attribute. And a different one each time, to boot. By the time we found the fifth one, I was wondering whether some capricious Daedric Lord had placed these on the island as a trap for the unwary traveller. "Oh no, these mushrooms aren't poisonous!" I can already hear people say. "Of course, they will
make you slow, tired, clumsy, weak, frail, and probably result in your collapsing defenseless and getting eaten alive by E.R.D.s But no, they're not poisonous at all!" Come to think of it, that sounds rather like Sheogorath's brand of humour.
Still, pretty much anything you can find has some beneficial use, however hard to discover. I argued about this with Ajira over dinner; she had come to the conclusion that Ranis Athrys was making fun of her and the mushrooms were entirely useless for any practical purposes.
"Well, I wouldn't call them useless exactly," I said thoughtfully. "That sort of thing can be pretty handy. I mean, say you ever have someone you don't want to make ill, but do want to... hmm... teach the error of their ways, say. You have a whole range of options! You could make the person clumsy, easily manipulated, or-"
Ajira's eyes lit up with interest. "-stupid. Yes. A very interesting proposal, friend Adryn. I shall have to think about it. Gal- well, Ajira might possibly be able to come up with a use." I hid a smile. "But," and Ajira's whiskers drooped, "this is not
something Ranis shou- er, wishes to hear about, I am sure."
I wasn't so sure myself, but kept this to myself. Ajira seemed convinced the guildmistress was an honourable, upstanding member of the community, which is the sort of ludicrously unlikely claim I will only consider when supported by a great deal of evidence. On the other hand, if Galbedir's fried ash yams were
going to meet with an alchemical accident it was probably best Ajira didn't let her intentions slip to the guildmistress.
"Still, even aside from that... I'm sure there must be something we're missing," I said for the fourth time. It was – I admit it – a highly uncharacteristic show of patience. Ordinarily, I didn't even bother to repeat myself at all; maybe it was something in the water.
If it was, however, it certainly hadn't affected Ajira. "You have said that already!" Her claws scraped against the wood of the table and I winced. "I do not think we are missing anything, I think there is nothing to find!" She took a deep breath and then continued, slightly calmer. "I have no wish to waste any more of my time, friend Adryn. You may continue with the experiments if you wish, but I have other duties I must attend to."
"Suit yourself," I told her. "I'll tell you what they do in the morning."
"Ajira shall look forward to hearing you agree with me that they are entirely useless," she retorted.
And with that, the challenge was on.
I was going to find a beneficial effect in those damned mushrooms if I had to put it there myself.
...although I rather hoped I wouldn't have to put it there myself. Although I was relatively sure I could pull it off, academic dishonesty was not quite how I hoped to begin this section of my life, and if Ajira found out she would probably never forgive me.
Once dinner was over, Ajira wandered off, presumably to attend to those "other duties" she had mentioned. I didn't pay her any mind, as I was busy slavering over the equipment. Of course, I'd been using it earlier, but now I had it all to myself
. So it was really entirely different. And Ajira had left me the rare ingredients, too!
I sternly reminded myself that using up Ajira's entire supply of ground gemstones and Daedra skin would definitely not go over well, no matter how tempting it was, and got to work.
In the beginning, it was immensely frustrating, as I checked for effect after effect and failed to find any of them. I would probably have given up, except that this was no longer an intellectual puzzle but a challenge and my innate stubbornness refused to let me admit defeat. I could only hope that this time it wouldn't get me in trouble.
Finally, long after the other mages had left for their respective homes - I was apparently the only homeless guild member - my efforts were rewarded. A soft glow from a test tube heralded an active effect.
"Detect Enchantment!" I exclaimed, taking full advantage of the empty guild hall in order to indulge in self-conversation. (Call it eccentric, but I rather like talking to myself when nobody is around to comment on it. I figure it is understandable, given that I so rarely get the chance to speak to someone intelligent.) "No wonder we couldn't find anything earlier, who would have expected a Mysticism effect in a mushroom, of all things?"
I was about to turn back to the sample when something occured to me.
"...I wonder if it's the same for the other one?"
It was almost anticlimatic after so much work – the first thing I tried, a Dispel effect, worked. Mystic mushrooms, now I'd really seen it all.
I triumphantly left a scribbled note on Ajira's desk describing the two effects, squashing the urge to add a "Told you so!", "So there!" or "Nyah nyah" at the end. I left it prominently displayed on her desk where she couldn't possibly miss it, then turned my attention to cleaning up.
Ordinarily, the prospect of tidying up that mess would have seemed rather daunting. But I was in extremely high spirits and tackled the task with gusto. I even whistled to myself as I worked. Or rather, blew air through my lips and occasionally managed to produce sound by accident, but I figured it was close enough. I'd been able to properly immerse myself in alchemy for the first time in far too long, won the little challenge Ajira had set for me and even had a credible reason for having used up half her supply of ground pearl. Life was good.
Still, I found myself yawning more and more often. My body was informing me, more and more insistently, that it did not particularly care about alchemy, challenges or the general positive slant of life – no, it was more concerned with the fact that I had slept very badly the night before and it was now already long past the time where good little Dunmer should be in bed. Spoiled things, bodies are – you would think that after having slept for three days before, it would be able to handle a little sleep deficit more graciously. But no; it was all I could do to keep my eyes open as I set the last flask to dry. I stumbled into the sleeping area and managed to get changed into my nightclothes more by feel than by design. In fact, I rather suspected I'd accidentally put on my nightgown backwards and inside-out, but couldn't really bring myself to care. Clothes did not matter. Sleep was what mattered.
For the second night in a row, I collapsed into bed and fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.
End of chapter 2
haute ecole rider
Sep 5 2011, 10:11 PM
Still, I found myself yawning more and more often. My body was informing me, more and more insistently, that it did not particularly care about alchemy, challenges or the general positive slant of life – no, it was more concerned with the fact that I had slept very badly the night before and it was now already long past the time where good little Dunmer should be in bed. Spoiled things, bodies are – you would think that after having slept for three days before, it would be able to handle a little sleep deficit more graciously. But no; it was all I could do to keep my eyes open as I set the last flask to dry. I stumbled into the sleeping area and managed to get changed into my nightclothes more by feel than by design. In fact, I rather suspected I'd accidentally put on my nightgown backwards and inside-out, but couldn't really bring myself to care. Clothes did not matter. Sleep was what mattered.
An all-too-familiar feeling after seven years of working emergencies!
Sep 6 2011, 02:33 PM
I surprised myself with how intensely I enjoyed the conversation, which ranged from a debate about whether skooma pipes could be used as reasonable substitutes for alembics (that one ended with me deciding to get hold of one and show her that you can make perfectly acceptable potions with them, although I figured I should probably wait until the other guild members weren't around lest they get the wrong impression) to methods of determining the effect of some unknown plant other than the classic of slipping it into your rival's food and watching closely to see what happened.
This had me smiling. It reminded me of my student days, only then the discussion was usually creative and unauthorized uses for laboratory equipment. I noted that I had been upgraded from "the Dunmer" to "friend Adryn" post-poisoning. So poisoning people made them like you more? This did not line up with my usual experience of the world.
Ah, these little shared experiences that contribute to a friendship.
I have enjoyed the interactions between these two. It can be a little edgy with the less than tactful Adryn and the prickly Ajira!"Suit yourself," I told her. "I'll tell you what they do in the morning."
"Ajira shall look forward to hearing you agree with me that they are entirely useless," she retorted.
And with that, the challenge was on.
I was going to find a beneficial effect in those damned mushrooms if I had to put it there myself.
LOL. Quite a late-night alchemical struggle at the Mages Guild. I enjoyed Adryn’s triumphant note to Ajira, and her cheer despite her exhaustion when she cleaned up. The end of day two! Adryn has been busy, no wonder she's exhausted!
Sep 8 2011, 09:52 PM
Not something I can say from experience, but probably something similar! I was thinking back to some of my more unpleasant jetlag experiences. @Grits:
Student days is pretty much it! (Although as mathematicians we didn't have cool lab equipment to play with. :/) I'm also glad you like Ajira's and Adryn's budding friendship. It's tricky because neither of them are exactly the easiest person to get along with, but they do share a massive common interest. Chapter 3, part a
The next day, my nose woke before the rest of me.
Now, before anyone gets any odd ideas I should make it clear that I do not, generally, hold with the independence of body parts. Call me old-fashioned in that regard if you will, but I believe in the Daedric worship argument. After all, everyone knows that saying the odd prayer to Sheogorath will eventually lead to your spending your days in a Daedric shrine, mad and gibbering with your underpants on your head and sacrificing children's toys to the Prince of Madness. Oh, and voluntarily living with Orcs. If that's not a sure sign of madness, I don't know what is.
Anyway, it's just like that with body parts. One day it's your nose waking up ahead of you, the next your ears decide they're really bored spending all their time attached to your head and would really rather do a bit of travelling, and next thing you know your arms are off climbing mountains, your eyes are getting themselves thoroughly drunk in a tavern somewhere, your mouth is off doing something that shouldn't be mentioned in polite company and you're left with only your feet for company. No, you have to be firm about these things.
Regardless, that day my control was rather lax and my nose did, in fact, wake before the rest of me (it won't happen again, I swear). One moment I was deeply asleep, the next the most amazing scent filled my nostrils.
"Hmgrmpf?" I mumbled. As you can see, my nose was really being quite bold – even my tongue hadn't woken up yet, and most people I know tell me they doubt it ever sleeps in the first place.
It was really an absolutely delicious smell, and slowly the rest of me started to awaken as well. I cracked my eyes open and looked around blearily. There were several blurs in varying shades of blue and brown, as well as a brownish blob.
I closed my eyes, rubbed them, blinked fiercely and then gave it a second try.
This time, the interior of the Mages' Guild sleeping alcove filled my vision. The blue blurs had coalesced into my bed, a tapestry on the wall, a carpet and a curtain, separating the alcove from the main room. The brown blurs were the walls and the floor. The blob was Ajira.
I blinked at her. "Morning," I croaked.
"Good morning, friend Adryn." Ajira looked far too cheerful for the early hour. I bet her
organs hadn't made a desperate bid for freedom. That would ruin anyone's day. "I saw your notes. Mysticism!"
I remembered last night and a smile crept onto my face. I tried desperately to keep it from being too smug. "Yes. I know. Of course, it would take a very good alchemist with an enormous intuitive understanding of the ingredients to reach that conclusion." I paused. Probably better not to gloat too much. "Or alternatively, a lot of effort," I admitted. "I think I tried half of your ingredients before I found one that worked."
Ajira nodded. "Yes. Ajira noticed the depletion of her stores."
I felt my cheeks heat up. "Um, I promise I tried to be careful and not waste anything." Well, somewhat tried. A little. I'd thought about it - that counted, right? "Will this get you into trouble with Ranis?"
"Oh no, oh no. After all, it was the honoured Ranis Athrys who gave Ajira the task to begin." She smiled; always a terrifying sight with a Khajiit. "And since I am not, after all, a great alchemist with an excellent intuitive understanding of the ingredients..."
We shared a conspirational nod.
Throughout the conversation, I had been trying to trace the scent that had woken me up. Now, I finally managed to make the connection between it and the small brown bag Ajira was holding. "Say, what is that?" I asked, trying to sound off-hand.
It might even have succeeded; unfortunately, my stomach chose that moment to give a loud rumble.
Ajira chuckled. "Breakfast, as friend Adryn may have guessed."
"Ajira," I proclaimed, "you are a pearl - no, a diamond, a shining diamond among Khajiit. Stendarr himself could learn from your thoughtfulness. I love you." I paused. "Um, how much do I owe you?"
Ajira waved it off. I suspected she was blushing somewhere under all that fur. "Nothing, nothing. Some of the Mages' Guild take their breakfast at the Eight Plates each morning - the honoured Estirdalin has an arrangement with the proprietress. Ajira asked to have some extra for her good friend Adryn, as no one had informed her of this." Her whiskers twitched. "She got very much, very fine food, much less trouble than she was expecting - have you spoken with Dulnea Ralaal before?"
I nodded. "I stayed there yesterday night - I appear to have made a good impression." I eyed the bag. "So. Breakfast?"
Breakfast was fresh rolls with scrib jelly. The scrib jelly tasted the same as it had the day before; the rolls, on the other hand, were delicious. They were still warm from the oven and spiced with something I couldn't identify (I was beginning to get rather sick of that). Whatever it was, it tasted amazing.
Ajira kept me company while I stuffed myself, chatting all the while. It was from her that I learned these were rolls Dulnea made especially for the Mages' Guild each morning - which explained why I hadn't had any yesterday - and that they were flavoured with dried fire fern. Dulnea also always made a goodly-sized pot of her special tea each morning, as the mages all loved it; Marayn swore his spells worked half again as well that day if he'd had a cup. Unfortunately, Ajira hadn't been able to think of a way to keep it hot on the way and thus hadn't been able to bring me any.
"Fire spell?" I said brightly after swallowing down the last mouthful.
"Joking! Joking!" I held up my arms, palms outward, in the universal sign of surrender. "What's in that drink, anyway?" The addition was partially to distract Ajira, but mostly because I was genuinely curious.
"She says it is a secret recipe."
"And you didn't try to figure it out?" I was scandalised. And she calls herself an alchemist?
"Of course." Ajira sounded affronted. "But it is a difficult one, very blended, many reactions between the ingredients. Ajira believes, though, that one of the ingredients is the leaf of scathecraw - it is a plant from the Ashlands, and restores willpower. It also has a smoky taste, though much stronger and more acrid than Dulnea's drink."
"If she's managed to mitigate the taste of a potion without lessening the effect, I want to know how," I said immediately.
"So would I," Ajira agreed, just as promptly. "I would not need to work and work to make Journeyman, I would be able to write a text on taste-improving measures in alchemy and make Magician right away!"
"Not if I got there first."
"A joint work then, friend Adryn?"
"That sounds acceptable, friend Ajira."
At that point, we both collapsed in giggles. As if alchemists hadn't been searching for these things for as long as the subject has existed! After all, we don't enjoy brewing concoctions that taste so vile you have to hold your nose to choke them down...
It all depends on who's drinking
the potion in question, after all.
That line of thought made me think of the conversation I'd had with Ajira about the uses of draining potions, which made me think of Galbedir. Was she one of the Mages' Guild members that had their morning meal at the Eight Plates each day? With Ajira? I'd only seen the two together once, but I couldn't possibly imagine that would go well.
"Who is it that eats at the Eight Plates?"
"Ajira, Masalinie, Estirdalin and Marayn, almost always. Galbedir, rarely." Ajira's whiskers twitched in precisely the manner of an affronted cat. You could practically read 'not rarely enough' over her head; I had to hide a smile. "Sharn gra-Muzgrob and Ranis Athrys, never. Sometimes visitors from other halls, if they are here at this time - friend Edwinna from Ald'ruhn comes often, as do Sirilonwe and Craetia from Vivec. Eraamion from Caldera is less often, but almost all of the Sadrith Mora guild stop by regularly..."
I nodded, letting the unfamiliar names flow past me. Many guildhalls on this island, apparently - and me without a map, to boot.
"...those are most of the people," Ajira was finishing up.
From what she'd said, it sounded as if a veritable battalion ate at the Eight Plates each morning. I wondered how on earth I'd missed them the previous day. "Is this the major guildhall on the island, then?" I asked. "It sounds as if everyone comes here to do business."
Ajira shook her head, then shrugged. "No. But then again yes. It is a difficult thing."
"On the Aedra's side, no. The main guildhall is in Vivec, under the governance of the greatly honoured Archmage Trebonius. Vivec is also the largest city, with the most trade, the most people, the most governance, and the palace of one of the gods of the Tribunal," my skepticism probably showed clearly on my face at that point, but Ajira didn't notice, "so it is where everyone should go for the important things. But on the Daedra's side, the Vivec guildhall is a bit... odd."
"What do you mean by odd?" I asked, fascinated, but Ajira hemmed and hawed a bit and shuffled her feet until I was afraid her claws would tear holes in the carpet. Apparently she wasn't quite ready to discuss gossip that bordered on treasonous with a guild member who'd only been in the guild for a day. Again, I couldn't really blame her.
"Is there anything else friend Adryn needs?" she was asking now, looking a bit guilty at not answering my question.
"No. Wait, actually, yes," I contradicted myself. "Could you leave for a moment?" I gestured down at myself, sitting on the bed with crumbs on my lap, still in my sleeping clothes. "I need to get changed."
Sep 10 2011, 12:41 AM
"She says it is a secret recipe."
"And you didn't try to figure it out?" I was scandalised. And she calls herself an alchemist?
"Of course." Ajira sounded affronted.
These two do have some things in common!
Breakfast, gloating, and some fascinating treason. A great start to the day.
Sep 11 2011, 09:13 PM
Two kindred spirits have found each other, much to the terror of certain Mages Guild members in general and Galbedir in particular.
Last installment, Adryn and Ajira had a leisurely breakfast complete with gossip, in which Adryn learned that there is something strange going on in the Vivec guild... now, she's looking for a way to be useful.Chapter 3, part b
Getting changed wound up taking longer than I thought - first I noticed a curtained alcove containing a bucket filled with water as well as a wash-cloth and some soap and decided to take the opportunity to clean up a bit, then I couldn't find my skirt, then I couldn't find my left shoe... losing track of your belongings in that short a time period and that small a room takes skill, but apparently I had it in spades.
Holding my shoe aloft triumphantly after retrieving it from under the closet, I spared a moment to be profoundly grateful that Ajira hadn't come bursting in to see what was taking so long. She'd reacted with complete incomprehension when I'd tried to explain why, exactly, I'd prefer not to have her watching me while I got changed, leading me to suspect that Khajiit didn't have a nudity taboo. As a result, I'd been half-expecting her to yank open the curtains while I was in the middle of my morning ablutions. Something best avoided, especially given that I'd heard the rest of the guild return by now.
Finally, I'd managed to put on the new clothes I'd bought from the clothier the day before - the feeling of soft linen against my skin and the sight of my reflection in a lovely embroidered robe immediately banishing all the doubts I'd had about spending so much of my money on clothes - and got my hair as tidy as I possibly could. (In my case, this means I look as if I got hit by a Spark spell half an hour ago instead of two minutes. Relative improvement is the key.) I poked my head outside the alcove, already preparing apologies for having taken so long.
I admit it - I was half-expecting Ajira to be impatiently shifting from foot to foot in that way only Khajiit can quite manage. (The twitching tail and the vibrating whiskers add a certain something
that man and mer can't quite match.) I was therefore half-disappointed when I realised that she wasn't waiting for me at all. As far as I could tell, she'd retreated behind the alchemy desk, but she was hard to make out because the alchemy desk was surrounded by a veritable throng of people.
"...three standard-grade potions of rising force, ninety drakes..." I overheard, and was quite tempted to smack my forehead for being such a fool.
What had I been thinking? Of course Ajira would have other duties than to experiment with a newcomer to the guild. Balmora was quite large, she was the only alchemist in the only mages' guild, obviously a lot of her time would be eaten up with selling potions to the townsfolk.
Which left me at somewhat loose ends.
I looked around the room, hoping that I could ask one of the other members whether they had something for me to do. Marayn was engrossed in showing a Dunmer girl how to form a fireball. Sharn gra-Muzgrob was taking notes on a book, with a scowl on her face that promised dire retribution on anyone who interrupted her. Merrylice, I mean, the Breton was busy... I stared into her corner, trying to figure out what was going on.
There was a queue of people leading up to her. One by one, they would step onto the raised stone platform, coins exchanged hands, she would close her eyes in deep concentration and cast a spell, then they'd vanish. I'd heard people talk about a Mages Guild teleportation service before - apparently they had one here. Well, either that or she had a good racket running with a local suicide cult. But I couldn't believe this place was so dreadful to make that many people want to end their lives - if only because I was living here now myself and I had to keep myself upbeat somehow.
Anyway, although I was highly curious as to how this teleportation thing worked exactly - judging by the hand gestures it was a Mysticism-based spell, and that was the area of magic I was most interested in - several minutes of watching Lassimine did not give me any grand insights. In fact, since it's not possible to work out the structure of a spell from the casting, the only insight I gained was that even such an extraordinary sight as people disappearing into and appearing from the aether gets remarkably boring after a while.
That left Estirdalin.
I decided I'd wait until Ajira had a spare moment. Maybe grab one of the books on the nearby table to read...
Or maybe I didn't have to wait that long.
I walked over to Ajira, who seemed to have hit a lull in her stream of customers. "I see you're busy today." I tried very hard to keep an injured tone from creeping into my voice.
"Ajira is very sorry," the Khajiit said, whiskers drooping. "But she closed the shop most of yesterday to do experiments with friend Adryn, so today she must be very busy, sell many potions, to make up for it." Now she was making me feel guilty. "And when she is done, she must write the report on the mushrooms, which is a very bori- very simple task, too simple to trifle friend Adryn with." I hid a smile. "So Ajira cannot do any experiments today, even though she very much wishes to."
"Don't worry, I completely understand," I assured her, then added plaintively, "...do you have any ideas what I can do today, then?"
Ajira's eyes brightened. "Actually, it is good that you ask. The honoured Ranis Athrys came by earlier, said that Ajira needs to write two
reports instead of just one to be considered for journeyman as she is working with a partner."
"I'm really sorry about that," I said, wincing.
She waved it off. "It is much more interesting and much faster progress with a partner, so I do not mind so much. However, second report is to be on four types of flowers, and Ajira needs samples of those flowers. They are called gold kanet, stoneflower, heather and willow, and they grow in many places. Closest to here is on shores of Lake Amaya, to the east."
I gulped as what Ajira was asking me to do became apparent. "Uh, are you sure about this? There isn't anything I could do within town?" I sighed as Ajira cast a pleading look at me. "It's not that I want your project to fail, it's just that I don't want to be eaten by the wildlife-"
"Oh, but the regions are quite safe!" Ajira protested. "There is an Imperial fort along the path," she wasn't really selling this, "and a shrine on Lake Amaya, so Temple makes certain that roads are safe for pilgrims. And it is not far from Balmora, so there should be people. And when friend Adryn returns with the flowers, we can experiment with them to-"
"All right, all right!" I interrupted her. (No, I do not lose any vestige of common sense upon hearing the word "experiment". Why do you ask?) "I'll do it! What do these flowers look like, and how do I get to Lake Amaya?"
As Ajira wrote down some directions on a sheet of paper for me, I had to suppress a groan - after all that time hunting down lost shoes, I'd have to get changed yet again. Embroidered robes were, after all, not quite the thing in which to be wandering around the wilderness.
And we're off! I, uh, feel a bit guilty that so much of this fic is being taken up with Adryn and Ajira gossiping or doing alchemical experimentation as opposed to actual quests/exploring/adventuring. In my defense, Adryn is not really the kind of character who seeks that sort of thing out. This chapter should give you a taste of why. *g*
I might also drop my posting frequency to once a week soon, because I haven't written anything for this fic in a while and there's some gaps coming up in about 1.5 chapters.
haute ecole rider
Sep 11 2011, 09:54 PM
Hey! Never apologize for spending time on what is obviously an enjoyable spell for Adryn. Here, we're all about taking our time with the things that interest our characters, and Oblivion take how fast or how slow the supposed plot is moving! If you look around, the most popular stories here are the character-driven ones, where we really get to know folks whom we have come to consider friends. And yes, that includes Friend Adryn!
An interesting look at life in the Balmora Mages Guild. A far cry from that seen in the Oblivion game, where the mages seem to keep pretty much to themselves and gossip about arcane subjects, the latest actions by the Mages Council, and who saw a mudcrab the other day . . .
Sep 12 2011, 04:14 PM
Most of my favorite episodes in peoples’ stories could probably be titled “Two Guys Talking.” No need for a monster of the week approach for me. …then I couldn't find my skirt, then I couldn't find my left shoe... losing track of your belongings in that short a time period and that small a room takes skill, but apparently I had it in spades.
OMG I know people like this. I mean, how can you lose one shoe
? But they can do it.
I enjoyed the glimpse of daily life in a busy guild hall. The concern about venturing out on a flower-picking expedition rings very true. Morrowind seems like a dangerous place, and Adryn seems to prefer places where an embroidered robe is suitable. I don’t see her happily trading her soft linen for sweaty leather.
Sep 14 2011, 11:27 PM
Glad to know everyone is enjoying this and I'm worrying unnecessarily! Truth be told, Adryn and Ajira gossiping are some of the most enjoyable episodes for me to /write/, so...
@Haute: I've been poking the Mages Guild - originally I was going to base it vaguely on my university experiences (and there may be elements creeping in) but I figure that at least the Morrowind Mages Guild is a bit more commercial, what with all the selling of potions/spells/enchantments that's going on. Self-financing instead of being financed by student fees/government/grants/etc. So I did want to get across some of that atmosphere!
@Grits: Very true on all of that! Adryn's legendary (dis)organisation skills may... be based on mine >> but hers are a bit more extreme. She barely has any belongings at this point, and still- and yeah, Adryn is not too keen on the idea of going tramping into the wilds! She likes fresh alchemical ingredients but she doesn't see why she has to be the one to get them!
Bit of a long one this time because I couldn't find a good place to stop. Last installment, Adryn got the very bad news that the only job for her involves leaving the safe walls of town to find flowers near Lake Amaya. Now, we'll see how her trip starts...
Chapter 3, part c
And so a short time later I found myself at the gate to Balmora, in the same scratchy, ill-fitting clothes I'd been so glad to get out of yesterday, Elone's shortsword at my side. I groaned quietly to myself when I realised that it hadn't even been two days since I entered the place. I'd really hoped to be able to stay in town for longer; adventuring is not my idea of a good time. I claim the problem is too much sanity, although some people would disagree with that, and a distinct lack of appreciation for pain, gaping wounds, and near-death experiences.
As I made my way through the gate, I eyed the silt strider cautiously; Darvame had assured me that they weren't dangerous on the trip from Seyda Neen, but I was skeptical. What, exactly, is a flea that size meant to eat? Trees? Swamp muck? Given that fleas the usual size generally live off blood, people seemed the number one possibility to me, all protestations of their handlers to the contrary. Undoubtedly they were trying to avoid bad publicity; after all, who would ever be mad enough to pay to ride on one if it might see you as a portable snack?
I looked at the road rising sharply into the mountains, remembered the gentle, swaying movement I'd experienced the day before last - had it really only been two days ago? - and admitted that they had at least one person. My legs, still weakened from prison, were stubbornly informing me that they'd happily run the risk of being flea food if it meant they'd get to rest a bit longer.
See, this is what comes of leaving your body parts independence. Popular vote.
My apparent lack of any instinct for self-preservation (for instance, "not hitching a ride on something that may think you are their lunch") wasn't going to be put to the test anytime soon, though. Before heading onto the road I'd asked Selvil Sareloth, the silt strider operator in Balmora, about his destinations - it pays to familiarise yourself with the quickest ways of leaving a place. Apparently he wasn't leaving for over an hour and then going north to some place called "Ald'ruhn", which apparently didn't sport the kind of flora I was looking for. (Well, Selvil didn't say "no" when I asked. But then again, he didn't say "yes" either. In fact, he didn't say anything at all as he was laughing too hard to talk; I cleverly deduced that Ajira's flowers did not grow in Ald'ruhn.) If I wanted to go anywhere near Lake Amaya, I'd have to wait until Darvame's noon trip back to Seyda Neen. Oh, and somehow get from a twenty-foot-tall moving insect to the ground without breaking all the bones in my body as she didn't stop until Seyda Neen either. Minor considerations like that.
I sighed, ignored the complaints from my legs and started walking. The silt strider was kind enough not to eat me; I nodded gratefully to it as I passed.
A few hours later, I'd got into my stride, my legs had given up complaining in favour of a grumble every now and then, and things didn't seem nearly that bad. After all, I was well-rested, well-fed, heading into the wilds with a sack full of empty reagent vials to find new, wild, untested ingredients - this last bit might not have been strictly true, but they were untested by me and that was the important part.
True, the trip had been somewhat unpleasant for a while as my device for fooling people into thinking I was actually dangerous, also known as a shortsword, kept working its way between my legs and tripped me several times. Finally, I decided to take it off my belt and strap it to my back instead and the trip immediately became much more comfortable. Of course, I suspected it wasn't anatomically possible for me to draw it from that angle, but it looked reasonably intimidating (reminding me vaguely of a drawing of Tiber Septim I'd once seen in a history book) and since I'd never actually use it for fear of slicing off my own limbs, who cared?
The road was just emerging into green lands from the foyada, I could see aforementioned untested ingredients winking at me - the sun was even shining! Why, I was almost enjoying myself!
Here is a helpful tip for anyone exploring the wilds: never, ever start enjoying yourself. It invites trouble.
In this case, trouble came in the form of an old Dunmer woman standing a distance along the path, glaring at me.
"You! Outlander! Come here!"
Outlander?! I was thirty feet away from her and hadn't even opened my mouth! Did I have a sign saying "Not a native, please torment at will" hanging over my head or something?
I looked up. No sign.
"Are you deaf?"
Given that the woman didn't seem as if she was going to stop haranguing me anytime soon, I sighed and made my way towards her.
"Well, finally," the woman snapped. Up close, I realised that she wasn't actually that old, but her glare and pinched expression easily added several centuries to her apparent age. Also, she was wearing rough, homespun clothes - an odd contrast to her manner, which seemed better suited to a noble.
"I demand you take me to the fields of Kummu at once!"
As I was saying.
...wait, what did she just say?
"Fields of what?" I asked, puzzled.
The woman sniffed loudly. "I do not repeat myself, outlander."
"Well, how on earth am I supposed to know where the fields of Konni are?" I asked, exasperated.
"Kummu." I wondered whether to be helpful and point out that she had, in fact, just repeated herself, but decided against it. It would probably be best to prevent the situation from deteriorating. Even more, that was. "Even someone such as you should have heard of the shrine at Kummu, where the great god Vivec helped a poor farmer who had lost his guar-"
"Look, I only landed two days ago!" I snapped. "How do you expect me to know all this? I thought Vivec was a city." Although come to think of it, as the name of a person it did seem vaguely familiar; I'd probably run across the guy in a book somewhere and then forgotten.
She looked at me as though I had turned into a bug- correction. She looked at me as if I had turned into a bug that was even more loathsome than the bug I had been previously. "N'wah." It was clearly some kind of insult. "The holy city of Vivec is, of course, named after the great god Vivec who is a member of the divine Almsivi, the-"
And she was off on a lecture about religion. As you can probably imagine, it wasn't exactly in accord with the Imperial Standards for Teaching, the ratio of information to ranting not quite being what it should. Still, the few scraps of information among the insults made me curious about this whole Temple business - for instance, apparently the city of Vivec was named after the god Vivec because he actually lived there. And not "lived there" like the Cult will tell you the Aedra live in their temples - actually had a body, wandered around, slept, ate and breathed, could be spoken to lived there. (Well, theoretically spoken to - I don't doubt that if I showed up at the door to his house the guards would remove me rather quickly.) At any rate, the whole business sounded far more interesting than the Nine Divines.
I decided that when I was back in Balmora I'd try to find a book or something to learn about this local religion, as this would undoubtedly be more informative and with a lesser chance of getting your nose bitten off than listening to the madwoman here.
"...outlanders who haven't even heard of Vivec!" said madwoman was winding down. "Now how am I supposed to get to the shrine?" She gave me a look as if I was now a loathsome bug who was entirely to blame for the situation she was in, which I found rather unfair.
"How were you planning to get to the shrine before you started accosting innocent passerby?" I demanded.
"I have a map," she responded loftily, drawing out a piece of parchment from her pouch. "However, it is entirely useless. The worthless trader that sold it to me should be taken out and beaten."
I peered at the map she was unfolding curiously, then blinked.
"Um. You're holding it upside-down."
"Nonsense!" she spat. "I'll let you know that my best friend is a renowned cartographer!"
"Look, I don't care who your friends are, you're still holding it upside-down! See," my finger stabbed at the parchment, "this says 'Balmora', at least it does from my perspective, but the way you're looking at it-"
"You are an illiterate barbarian; that is Tel Vos, in the Telvanni district in the far northeast."
I looked at the map again. "Nooo, I am quite sure I can read and that says 'Balmora'. See? B-A-L-M-O-R-A. Tel Vos-" my eyes searched the opposite corner of the map, "is over here." The madwoman started to splutter. I ignored her. "Also, if this is Balmora, and this is Lake Amaya, then we are currently here-" I pointed at a spot on the map just south of where the path left the foyada, "and since the Fields of Kummu are there, all you need to do is follow the path around the lake for a while to get there."
I'd say I was being kind, generous and helpful because I was simply a much better person than she was, but to be honest I really just wanted to rub her nose in her utter incompetence.
"Excellent. Then you will guide me there."
Note to self: Revenge never pays.
"Excuse me? When did I ever agree to this?"
I didn't realise bug-me could get more loathsome, but apparently I could. "A true Dunmer would be honoured to assist. Since you are an outlander, however..." she grimaced. "I suppose I must reward you."
My ears perked up when I heard the word "reward". (Not literally, mind. They may be large and pointed, but I am still not a Khajiit.) My purse had become much lighter yesterday, and I was uncomfortably aware that I would probably be expected to move out of the Guildhall at some point, never to mention pay for my food. I needed to find income somehow.
Besides, the shrine was only a short distance away. Surely it couldn't be that bad.
"Well, in that case..." I turned around and set off down the path.
haute ecole rider
Sep 15 2011, 02:07 PM
That old Dunmer's about as adept at navigation as my mom!
I wonder if she (the Dunmer) would turn out to be as nice a person as my mom is . . . Nah. She (the Dunmer) is more fun this way!
And now we're getting into religion? Should be fun! I love stories that poke holes into the game logic (now that's an oxymoron, much like military intelligence!).
Sep 17 2011, 02:41 PM
I'd really hoped to be able to stay in town for longer; adventuring is not my idea of a good time. I claim the problem is too much sanity, although some people would disagree with that, and a distinct lack of appreciation for pain, gaping wounds, and near-death experiences.
Adryn the Reluctant Adventurer. This sums her attitude up nicely! Outlander?! I was thirty feet away from her and hadn't even opened my mouth! Did I have a sign saying "Not a native, please torment at will" hanging over my head or something?
LOL. And then she wanted an escort. And Adryn agrees! Easy coin, right? Looking forward to the shrine.
Sep 17 2011, 11:44 PM
@Haute: Trust me, Adryn wishes she were that nice... alas, although I'm really not sure what's up with this pilgrim "nice" she is not. Religion will get slowly introduced, and I hope I do it justice and patch any holes - I actually find the various Dunmer religious beliefs really interesting, so.
@Grits: Yep, Adryn the Reluctant Adventurer sums her up to a tee. Really, she'd *like* to just stay in the Mages Guild doing alchemy for the rest of her life, but somehow things always disrupt that plan. (Which, of course, have nothing to do with me the author thinking Adryn is funny when poked. No sirree. *whistles innocently*)
Last installment, Adryn met an old woman near Lake Amaya who was looking for the Fields of Kummu shrine. She was rather rude (and I feel a bit guilty since Nevrasa Dralor - the pilgrim in question - is actually rather nice to you in-game; maybe she spent too much time with Viatrix in this universe), but Adryn decided that she'd guide her there anyway thanks to the promise of MONEY!
Let's see just how much she regrets that.
It was that bad.
She was slow. She complained about how slow I was while she lagged behind, and berated me for laziness when I stopped to let her catch up. And when I spotted some of the flowers Ajira had asked me to bring back and tried to pick some, she almost bit my head off.
"Outlander girls! Sitting and plucking flowers when a poor old woman is relying on them to complete her pilgrimage! No doubt you're planning to seduce some innocent young man-"
"I'm an alchemist!" I exclaimed, outraged. "I'm collecting ingredients for research!"
"A likely story," the horrible old woman hmphed. "I've heard the tales, you know - a bouquet of gold kanet flowers to the poor boy's parents once you've convinced him to run off with you. No, there will be no, no flower-picking on this journey."
"You know, I agreed to be your guide, not your slave, so if you would stop ordering me around-"
"Pity, that. If you were my slave, I could beat some manners into you as you deserve. The ones on the plantation are very courteous."
Wait, I couldn't possibly have heard that correctly.
"What do you mean, slaves on the plantation?" I asked weakly.
"Oh, did you think I simply sat about doing nothing all day, as if I were some worthless frill like you? No, I work for my living - I am a housekeeper at the Dren plantation," she said proudly.
"Look, I don't care where you work - do you mean that slavery is legal here?"
"Of course it is. Even the Empire could not touch our ancient ways-"
And she was prattling on again while I stared weakly at the gold kanet flowers at the wayside and swallowed to keep myself from being sick.
Somehow, this made me realise like nothing before - not the giant fleas, or the strange flora (were those actually giant mushrooms in place of trees?), or the apparent insanity of the Empire's officials which ranged from giving me money to inducting me into the Blades - that I was now in an alien country very, very far from anything and anyone I'd ever known before.
Given the route my thoughts were taking, it was probably a good thing that I spotted a triangular stone that looked vaguely shrine-like (it was gold and had something engraved on it) along the path at that point. I only have a small monthly allotment for melodrama, you see, and the way my thoughts were going I'd spend all of it on agonising about laws I couldn't change - very foolish, given that the universe hates me (I have ample evidence of this) and therefore I was bound to need it urgently later.
"Is that the shrine?" I asked, pointing.
"Of course it's not, you foolish girl!" the woman I was rapidly growing ashamed of sharing a species with snapped. Without, I would like to point out, bothering to turn around to look. "The shrine is a triangular golden stone surrounded by flowers-"
"-like the one in front of us?" I said through gritted teeth. "Could you at least look at what I'm pointing at before you start hounding me?"
Wonder of wonders, she actually did. "Why, it is the shrine! It must have been Almalexia's hand that led me here despite my guide's... shortcomings. I am certain you would have walked right past otherwise." Ignoring the outraged noises I was letting out, she walked over to the shrine, took something that looked rather like mud out of her pouch, then laid it in front of the shrine as she knelt and started to pray.
"Thank you for your humility, Lord Vivec. I-"
I couldn't help it. I started laughing.
Well, I said laughing. Truth be told, it started with a choked giggle that made its way out of my mouth despite all my efforts to frantically suppress it, then grew to the kind of hysterical cackle where you start to turn purplish grey from lack of air and need to hold onto solid objects in your vicinity (I chose a tree) lest you fall over.
She whirled around. If people could cast shockball with their eyes, I would have been a sparking pile of dust that moment. "What is the meaning of this outrageous behaviour?!"
"Humility." I managed to choke out. "Been berating me... the whole way... making yourself out... so much better... and you pray for... humility?" Then I collapsed back into laughter.
"Your services are no longer required," she snapped icily. "You may go."
"Wait a minute," I said, slowly getting back into control of myself. "What about my reward?"
"Reward? Oh, yes, your...reward." She threw something at me; I caught it instinctively, looked at it, then felt every impulse I'd had to laugh die a sudden death.
It was the map.
The map that she'd probably got off a street vendor for two drakes.
"You found it so helpful, after all." She smiled at me. It was a horrible sight.
I gaped at her, mouth opening and shutting wordlessly.
Her smile grew wider. "Run along now, outlander."
What could I do? My moral compass may be a bit... awry... as some fetcher once put it, but I still draw the line at robbing old women. Even if they're clearly the spawn of Molag Bal.
I turned around and stalked off. Even the sound of the horrible fiend from Oblivion saying "I shall neither strut nor preen in vanity..." was no longer the slightest bit amusing.
Sep 19 2011, 11:52 PM
Argh! Well at least Adryn didn't get an opportunity to practice healing herself out of this little trip. Plus, flowers.
Sep 21 2011, 11:27 PM
@Grits - ...I should probably point out here that the trip isn't over yet.
(sorry for the slightly wonky lengths of late - I really prefer my posts to be in the ~1.1-1.5k range but I have been having real problems finding good breaking points. This one's a little under 1k.)
Last installment, Adryn had her first NPC-guide quest. The NPC in question was not the most congenial of personalities, and she was not too impressed by her reward. But surely now that that's over she can go pick her flowers. Right?
Once I'd got myself well out of sight, I found a handy rock overlooking the shore, sat down on it and indulged in some well-deserved fuming. All right, I admit it, there may have been some sulking involved in between. And some rocks thrown into the lake, although I did manage to keep myself from throwing the map in too. I'd like to say it was because reason prevailed, but truthfully it was because one of my rocks hit a mudcrab, forcing me to relocate until it had calmed down, and after that I decided that I had best leave the scenery alone.
After all the wildlife had gone back to its business, I had finished fuming and Adryn's First Law of Adventuring (ask about the reward before you accept the task) had been formulated, I considered doing what I had actually come here for, namely pick flowers; it was already well into the afternoon and my reagent vials were still yawningly empty.
Of course, as always the universe took me thinking "maybe I should actually do what I set out to do" as a signal to interrupt. In this case, the interruption took the form of a panicking Bosmer.
The Bosmer are Wood Elves, meaning that however tiny and unprepossessing they seem their abilities in the wilderness are unmatched by any of the other races. This explains why the first I noticed of him was when he burst out from a copse of trees nearby. It was obviously nothing to do with my not paying attention; the very suggestion is preposterous.
Anyway, due to said Bosmer's phenomenal ability at moving through woods undetected, he startled me rather badly. If I were a great warrior, I might have leapt up and instinctively slain him. Luckily for him, but unluckily for me, I am not a great warrior; I leapt up, discovered my shortsword had somehow come loose and worked its way through my legs again contrary to all the laws of nature that I knew of, and fell flat on my face.
The Bosmer stopped panicking for a moment to ask "Are you all right?"
He interpreted the pained sounds I made as "no, I am perfectly fine, don't offer to help me up or anything like that," and started running around in circles babbling hysterically.
"-only suggested we come out here for a walk, but then he heard these noises in the underbrush and he's always been far too curious for his own good, I told him I told him to leave it alone but he just had to investigate and now he's gone-"
"Wha-?" I mumbled as I sat up and carefully probed my nose.
"-this is what comes of becoming a mage, not enough common sense to fill a spoon in the whole guild-"
"Whu?" My nose was still in one piece. Good; I didn't think the Jiub look would suit me.
"-what am I going to do without him-"
My imagination chose that moment to helpfully illustrate 'me with the Jiub look'. "Ack! Horrible mental images!" I yelped. The result looked more like our twisted lovechild - and the mental image that idea invoked made me seriously consider applying my Firebite spell to my own eyeballs.
The Bosmer stopped abruptly. "What?"
"What?" I responded.
"What did you mean by 'horrible mental images?'" I'm just going to point out here that it's a good thing I'm well aware that telepathy spells do not exist (or rather, if they do they're in the hands of great mages and not hysterical Bosmer) and therefore I knew he could not possibly have known what I'd just been thinking. It saved him from a horrible messy fate.
"Nothing," I said. "What were you talking about? Who went missing?" Seeing him look ready to start running around again, I reached out and grabbed his shoulder. "Please stand still while talking, and don't use more than two commas in one sentence."
"It's horrible!" he wailed. "My friend Edras and I were out exploring. I'm from Pelagiad, but he's from Almalexia on the mainland so he doesn't really appreciate the hazards the way I do. When we heard strange noises in the underbrush, he wanted to investigate. I told him and told him, don't do it it's too dangerous, but he insisted and-" he correctly interpreted my stare as 'I can tell there is another comma coming up in that sentence' and paused. "He went off on his own anyway. And didn't come back! He's gone!"
The mer burst into tears. For one horrible moment I thought he was going to fling himself into my arms - as prevention, I gingerly propped him up against a nearby tree and stepped back to a safe distance.
Luckily, he seemed to compose himself reasonably quickly, sobs trailing off into just a few sniffles as he wiped at his eyes.
"I want to look for him, but it's- it's- I don't know what kind of creatures could be out there!" he sniffled. "Would you please help me find him?"
Staring at his tear-streaked face, I considered both Adryn's First Law of Adventuring and Adryn's First Law of Self-Preservation (do not do things like this). His height, soulful eyes and the way the snot was leaking out of his nose made him look rather like an upset little kid.
I sighed and mentally discarded both laws. "Okay, where was the last place you saw him?"
I'd say the way his face lit up was reward enough, but that would be a flat-out lie. You may find snot-covered Bosmer appealing, but if you do, I don't want to know.
Oh well. I was sure it wouldn't be that dangerous.
Sep 24 2011, 01:46 PM
And some rocks thrown into the lake, although I did manage to keep myself from throwing the map in too. I'd like to say it was because reason prevailed, but truthfully it was because one of my rocks hit a mudcrab, forcing me to relocate until it had calmed down, and after that I decided that I had best leave the scenery alone.
She seems to do better indoors."What were you talking about? Who went missing?"
Uh oh. It seems Adryn might soon formulate her Second Law of Adventuring, Stay Out Of It. Unless things go well with the Bosmer. Oh well. I was sure it wouldn't be that dangerous.
Woo hoo! Adventure.
Sep 25 2011, 06:53 PM
@Grits - yeeaaah, Adryn doesn't do outdoors very well. Or adventuring! I am afraid she doesn't quite share your enthusiasm on that front.
I nervously picked my way through the underbrush, and wondered what on earth had possessed me. (Possibly literally.) Since when did I do things out of the goodness of my heart? Since when did I not even ask for a reward? And since when did I think things like "it won't be that dangerous", when past experience should have told me that the universe takes things like that as an invitation?
Thoronor, as the Bosmer had introduced himself, had led me to the spot he'd left his friend and then mysteriously disappeared himself - "help me find him," my foot. "Do all the work for me while I take a nap somewhere," more likely. Which left me to look for strange noises and vanished mer alone, helpless and undefended-
I lost my train of thought when I stumbled over something on the ground, only just managing to catch myself against a tree. Luckily so, or else I would have fallen flat on my nose yet again, and I didn't feel like chancing the Jiub look don'tthinkaboutit-
I looked down to see what I'd tripped over, then blinked in surprise. It was a book, looking undamaged enough that I knew it couldn't have lain there long.
Thoronor had said something about his friend being a scholar, hadn't he? I admit I hadn't expected him to leave a trail of books behind, but it was certainly better than trying to use my (nonexistent) tracking skills. Never to mention that a scholar surely wouldn't miss one or two, and I was sorely in need of bedtime reading...
I picked the book up and looked at the front page.
"Mating habits of the wild kagouti?" I read out, puzzled.
"Oh yes, it's my thesis topic," a voice rang out from above me. I jumped about a foot, feeling as if someone had just hit me with a Spark spell. "For the Mages' Guild back home, don't you know. Um, I'm up here by the way."
I looked up and saw... a Dunmer in a tree. Which is, frankly, not a sight you see every day - Dunmer being somewhat conservative when it comes to precarious perches an unhealthy height above the ground as a rule. Definitely moreso than Bosmer... maybe his friend was rubbing off on him?
"Of course, when my friend Thoronor extended an invitation to visit him here in Morrowind, how could I possibly pass up the opportunity to see them in the wild!" the nesting mer - Edras, apparently - gushed.
At that moment, a horrible suspicion entered my mind. It was spurred by my brain helpfully choosing to remind me that I'd been tree-bound just a few days ago, after I'd climbed one to escape an E.R.D. near Seyda Neen.
"What exactly are kagouti?" I asked slowly.
"They're one of the species of animal native to Morrowind, particularly valued for their hide. They're predators, and apparently one of the most dangerous indigenous creatures here, although I admit I'd underestimated just how ferocious they are - that's why I'm up here." Edras cast down his eyes in embarrassment.
"You're hiding from dangerous wildlife and you didn't tell me earlier?!" my voice rose into a screech.
He looked puzzled. "But I'm just a simple scholar - you can clearly defend yourself."
It occurred to me that my "wear weapons to look dangerous and not be attacked by bandits" plan had just a few drawbacks I hadn't considered.
I was just about to angrily inform him that actually, the weapons were just for show, I was only armed with a lousy Firebite spell I'd never even used before and he shouldn't assume people he'd just met had no problems defending themselves from rampaging carnivores - preferably after finding a tree to hide in myself. Unfortunately, he rudely decided to spoil all my plans by saying, "Look! There's one now!"
Have you ever had one of those moments where you can almost hear the gods laughing at you?
Slowly and carefully, I lowered my gaze from the mer in the tree back down to the ground (which I was starting to realise it never should have left.) And swallowed. Hard.
And I'd thought the E.R.D.s were bad - it looked as if they might be among the most harmless creatures this island had to offer. Certainly the smallest! Apparently a "kagouti" was a two-legged creature, with some sort of bone frill. And tusks. And teeth. Sharp teeth. Oh, and did I mention that it was almost as big as I was? Because it was almost as big as I was. This one was looking at me in a very disturbing way, and by "very disturbing" I mean "seems to be wondering how I taste". It was also between me and the nearest tree.
"Um. Nice... horned monster thing, very nice horned monster thing. You don't want to eat me, do you? I don't taste very good." Staring into its beady black eyes, I added, "Tell me how to get this thing to back down. Now."
"Well," came from the tree, "kagouti are very territorial, and will attack anyone who ventures near them." Okay. That was bad. "They also become far more aggressive when mating." Okay, that was very bad. "And kagouti interpret eye contact as a challenge." Okay, that was- wait a moment.
"You couldn't have told me that earlier?!" I yelped, tearing my gaze away from the kagouti's eyes.
It chose that moment to charge.
Cursing loudly, I leapt out of the way barely in time; the kagouti barrelled past me and slammed into the tree, which shook and then disgorged a shrieking scholar. I mentally winced when he hit the ground, but it wasn't that far and judging by the way he tried to sit up almost immediately after he clearly hadn't hurt anything important. Probably just his brain.
The kagouti backed away from the tree and looked back and forth between the two of us, puzzled - apparently two enemies were too much for its tiny brain to deal with. However, despite all my mental urging it seemed it considered me the greater threat; it turned towards me, let out a roaring sound and charged.
At this point, I have to admit something. Contrary to the way I grumble about my birth-sign, I am actually quite happy to be Lover-born rather than Lady. True, I do tend to get a lot of snide remarks and comments on "elven promiscuity" if I let it slip, not to forget the crass propositions, how could I forget the crass propositions. However, our birth-signs have more influence over our lives than just how people react to them, and there is one gift of the Lover that is, frankly, a lot more useful than anything the Lady has to offer in a tight spot.
It was that gift I remembered at that moment. As the kagouti barrelled towards me, I concentrated and reached deep inside me for that power. Closer - I extended one hand - closer-
Just before the beast touched me, I willed it out. Green light spilled out from my hand, over the kagouti, which froze instantly.
Paralysis is such a handy effect.
I breathed a sigh of relief as the threat of horribly painful death was postponed, then suddenly remembered that the Lover's gift is a two-edged sword.
It felt as if all my energy had decided to run into the kagouti as well. My knees grew weak, my vision dark around the edges, I started to waver on my feet-
As if from a far distance, I heard Edras shout, "you did it! You killed it!" Then, more subdued, "...my observations..."
I hazily wondered whether the mer had honestly been so sheltered that he had never seen a dead creature before.
"No," I managed to say, struggling against the fog that was engulfing me. "Not dead... you fool... kill it!"
The mer stared at me in confusion as my knees gave way.
I could see when the fact that no, the kagouti was perfectly fine, just temporarily inconvenienced, sunk in. His skin turned greyish-green, and his mouth opened in a round O.
And then he turned around and ran away.
This was going to be such a humiliating way to die, I realised as I felt myself dragged into unconsciousness. I just hoped that once the kagouti was done with me, it would continue its murderous rampage and kill the cowardly mer, the damnable Bosmer who'd got me into this, that horrible old woman, and anyone else near the lake for good measure...
End of chapter
haute ecole rider
Sep 25 2011, 09:10 PM
I truly hate these "Special" powers! What good are they when you can't follow up on them and can only use them once a day??
I enjoyed this post (and the ones previously), finding in Adryn's aversion to adventuring a good giggle or two. Julian just rolls her eyes and shakes her head, but I personally can identify with Adryn to a degree.
I know I haven't been keeping up with my comments, but I am reading (and chuckling) over Adryn's take on Morrowind. These games take themselves waaay too seriously, and to see that not all players do is just refreshing and enjoyable.
Sep 28 2011, 02:54 PM
"Do all the work for me while I take a nap somewhere," more likely.
And it just kept getting better. Edras falling out of the tree, and then running away
, hilarious. And now Adryn is unconscious next to an angry, possibly amorous kagouti.
Edras reminds me of a petite, frail woman I once met who informed me that her field was apex predators. It seemed unlikely until she remarked that by “study” she meant “analyze other people's field data.” Some folks do not belong up a tree.
Sep 30 2011, 08:39 PM
@haute ecole rider - I know! I'm dreadful with those sorts of powers myself, always saving them for the moment I *really* need them (which then never actually arrives). So I've never actually used Lover's Kiss in-game myself, but did run into some people talking about it who said it was monstrously overpowered.
...suffice it to say, as long as *I'm* writing this fic, Adryn will never, ever think so. XD
And I can imagine Julian would be less than impressed by Adryn's antics! Am glad you're enjoying reading about her all the same.
@Grits - yep, I was sort of thinking "scholar who should really not be doing field work" when I wrote Edras. I have a soft spot for academics of all stripes, being one myself, but some people should *not* be out trying to observe dangerous predators! Edras is one of them. Adryn is definitely another.
Last installment, Adryn attempted to go find a stray scholar. This ended with her facing off with a kagouti and her rescuee hightailing it out of there. Adryn bought herself some spare time by using her birthsign ability to paralyse the kagouti - sadly, she hadn't been counting on the same birthsign ability knocking her out for the duration. Now, we find out how she survived...
Chapter 4, part 1
When I came to, I quickly wished I hadn't. My body felt as if I had just run twenty miles without stopping. Up a mountain. With lead weights strapped to my limbs. While being chased by angry Imperial guards, who were possibly riding kagouti. (Could you ride kagouti? It might explain why I hadn't seen any horses here yet; either the native mounts all ate them or the native people connected 'riding' with 'being eaten', which would give even the most enthusiastic horsemer caution.)
Anyway, apparently I wasn't dead. I didn't think dead people were supposed to feel so tired.
I groaned and slowly, with a superhuman amount of effort, cracked open my eyelids.
Scratch that. Apparently I was dead.
Giant humanoid insects weren't part of life as I knew it, at any rate.
I was too tired to sit up let alone run for my - life? Unlife? Being dead was becoming metaphysically quite complicated - despite the fact that every instinct of self-preservation I had and a few I didn't were screaming at me to get out of there now! Instead, I just twitched feebly and tried to scream. It came out as more of a croak.
"Oh, you're awake!" the probable Daedra said. Bizarrely enough, it had a perfectly ordinary-sounding female voice in what I was coming to think of as a Morrowind accent.
"Don't kill me!" I wheezed, deciding to postpone further metaphysical ruminations until I was no longer in danger of being...
I stared at the Daedra and really wished I didn't have such a good imagination. Or vivid, for that matter.
"Kill you?" the Daedra repeated, sounding bemused.
"Or-" Really, really wished. "Or whatever it is giant man-shaped insect Daedra do."
"I- ah. Um." It sounded as if it was trying to suppress laughter. "I guess you've never seen chitin armour before?" It reached up to its head and pulled-
Apparently the native inhabitants thought armour made of giant insect shell complete with closed-face helmet that would not have been out of place on Mad Pelagius, or possibly in Oblivion, was an absolutely wonderful idea.
I took stock of my situation.
I wasn't dead after all. This was probably a good thing, but right at this moment I really didn't think so.
"Kill me now," I mumbled.
"Well, you've changed your tune, haven't you?" the Dunmer that had surfaced said with a grin. She looked slightly older than me and was quite pretty, with long black hair gathered in two braids. Or, to summarise: she did not look like a Daedra or a giant insect in any way, shape or form. "Don't worry, I'll blame it on the exhaustion. Speaking of which-"
A potion was held under my nose. "Here, drink this."
I sniffed at it.
"It's a fatigue restoring potion, completely harmless. Really, make up your mind, will you? Just a second ago you were begging me to kill you. Although if I'd wanted to kill you I had ample opportunity when you were asleep." She sounded affronted.
"I realised that." I hadn't, actually, and quickly drank the potion before she could question me about it. The rush of energy was very, very welcome.
"I didn't think you were going to poison me," I added once I'd regained my breath. "I'm an alchemist, and if I were to drink a potion without even trying to figure out what was in it I would have to turn in my mortar and pestle. It's a matter of professional pride."
"No need to explain. Most of my family are alchemists, I'm familiar with the mindset." She looked me up and down. "Are you feeling all right now? I can give you a second potion if you need it."
"No, I'm fine." My body still felt a little trembly and weak, but I knew from experience that that would have to pass on its own. (I briefly mourned the fact that I had had to use that often enough that I had experience in the stages of recovery.)
I sat up and looked around. The threat of immediate death by insect Daedra, and then mortification at having mistaken someone for an insect Daedra and told them so, had completely distracted me from my surroundings.
Dusk had fallen in the time I was out. I was sitting on the ground with a blanket wrapped around me. It looked as though I was still in the clearing where I had faced the kagouti, except that the clearing was minus a paralysed kagouti and plus a non-Daedra Dunmer and a campfire with several pieces of meat roasting over it.
...actually, I thought I could guess what had happened to the kagouti.
Which still didn't explain who the not-an-insect-at-all Dunmer was or why I wasn't dead.
"Who are you?" When in doubt, ask, has always been my motto in life. Certain unkind people would have you believe this should be followed by 'and ask as bluntly as possible. Tact is for other people'. They would of course be lying through their teeth. After all, I only very rarely have to run for my life after using this, which should tell you how well it works.
"My name is Ervesa Romandas, and I'm a Buoyant Armiger." By the proud and slightly self-important look on her face, I knew she thought that should mean something to me.
"You're a... weapon that floats?" I hazarded.
Ervesa stared at me, then threw back her head and started laughing.
"I take it that means no," I said as I waited for her laughter to subside. I had to admit, I felt rather injured. It was a perfectly logical conclusion to come to, given the meaning of those words.
"N-no, I'm not a- weapon that floats," she managed between giggles. "The Buoyant Armigers are the elite warriors of the lord Vivec. We try to emulate his virtues of chivalry, combat and poetic mastery. Most of us are stationed at Ghostgate these days, but we also have a hall in Molag Mar, primarily for training and guarding the pilgrims at Mount Kand."
Half of those words hadn't meant anything to me, but the other half made them sound as if they were a cross between Imperial Knights without the Imperial part, religious warriors and bards. Since all three were on my 'avoid at all costs, it might be contagious' list, the combination could not possibly mean anything good.
"Well, in that case you should call yourselves 'Elite Temple warriors who also compose poetry' or something. 'Buoyant' makes you sound like you're, I don't know, some sort of boats," I pointed out while trying to inch away unobtrusively.
This made her start laughing again. I bristled - I'd only been pointing out a fact, after all. "It isn't that funny!" Maybe this was one of the signs of the mental instability inherent in the religious bardic knight combination. Although considering I'd been expecting something more along the lines of attempted stabbing while singing hymns, I could live with uncontrollable laughter.
Ervesa grinned. "It is, actually. I'll have to tell the others when I get to Ghostgate. But just so you know, the name was given to us by the lord Vivec. He founded our order from a group who gave him unexpected aid in battle, one where he was impressed by their courage and cheer."
I considered saying that this Vivec couldn't be that good a poet if he thought 'Buoyant Armigers' was a good name for anything other than bathtub toys, let alone an elite force of warriors. A small voice in my head pointed out that insulting the god of a dedicated religious knight would probably not go over very well, easygoing though she'd been so far. For once, I listened to it - bluntness is all well and good, but it's best to avoid mortally offending people in possession of sharp objects and the knowledge of how to use them. My track record in this regard wasn't the best, admittedly, but this was a fresh start. I had resolutions.
Notes: My explanation of how the Buoyant Armigers came to be and why they are called that is vaguely lifted from the explanation of the same in the Sermons of Vivec - they crop up in Sermon 24 - subtracting the "oh my god what was he on when he wrote this" bits (which is to say, roughly 90% of the actual text).
Also, Ervesa Romandas is an actual in-game NPC - she's one of the Buoyant Armigers in the stronghold at Molag Mar and has only generic dialogue. I... may have hijacked her. Slightly.
haute ecole rider
Sep 30 2011, 09:52 PM
Hey! It's okay to hijack NPC's! If you think they have something to contribute to the story, by all means let 'em at it! I've had NPC's take the keyboard out of my hands and run away with it (Gwinas, anyone?).
I have laughed so hard at the fun Adryn is having with the term Buoyant Armiger that my three-legged kitty is giving me the evil eye for disrupting his preprandial nap!
As for the special powers, well, let's just say that the infamous Redguard Adrenaline Rush is pfft! I'm not impressed by it in-game. Maybe in Morrowind it means something, but not in 'blivion. So your description of the effects of the Lovers' Kiss was - umm - interesting.
Oct 1 2011, 12:10 PM
I imagined a really big bumblebee the first time I read ‘Buoyant Armiger.’ How funny that Adryn’s giant humanoid insect turned out to be one. Ervesa Romandas the giggly religious bardic knight could provide some handy staying alive tips for Adryn. Not to mention some roast kagouti.
Oct 4 2011, 08:21 PM
@haute ecole rider:
Oh, I'm not apologising! And it... may have been mutual hijacking. She sort of spontaneously showed up when I was writing the kagouti scene (original plan was to have Edras kill it) and then I looked through existing NPCs to see if I could use any of their names - I just thought that people might like to know where she's from. *g*
And I'm glad you're enjoying Adryn's take on Temple vocabulary XD it is a pretty funny term, really! And Redguard Adreline Rush - from what I remember of the in-game description it sounded pretty powerful in Morrowind, but as it's a once/day power and as I usually play Dunmer anyway I've never actually used it. Finally re: Lover's Kiss - the spell has Damage Fatigue 200pts on self as an effect. Adryn is a skinny shrimp still recovering from prison ICly and not a high-level character with a low Endurance score OOCly. No way is she going to be conscious after casting that without taking precautions!@Grits:
I think I did imagine some kind of floating... thing. Not sure if it was a weapon or something else, but definitely floating! Giant bumblebee, huh? That makes chitin armour quite ironic indeed. *g* And yep, Adryn could definitely learn a lot from Ervesa.
Last installment, Adryn got rescued from death by angry kagouti by a passing Buoyant Armiger. Now, the two of them have dinner and make plans.Chapter 4, part 2
Ervesa moved over to the fire and took out the chunks of meat. "I think these are about done. Are you-"
My stomach chose that moment to proclaim that actually, I'd neglected to take lunch with me and hadn't eaten since breakfast and that it did not hold with these sorts of shenanigans, thank you very much. Loudly. I glared at it. I'd had enough bodily rebellion for one day, thank you very much.
"Here, have two." Ervesa seemed to be suppressing a grin. I was tempted to scowl at her, but found my attention irresistably drawn to the sizzling haunches of meat she held out to me. My stomach's, as well. I silently thanked Dunmer heat resistance as I reached out to take them.
The meat tasted... not bad, I decided, except that it would taste much better if it were actually possible to chew it. The stuff had roughly the consistency of old boot. (And no, I don't care to explain how I know that.)
Ervesa must have read my thoughts - which were along the lines of of 'you call this food?
' - off my face because she started chattering. "Roast kagouti isn't exactly the best food, I'm afraid. Too tough. Crab, guar or rat meat is what you usually get, or sometimes nix-hound - but since we happened to have dead kagouti lying around, well. Just be thankful it isn't alit. That's something you don't want to have to eat twice."
I noted with a sinking feeling that apparently this island had even more wildlife. Crabs, E.R.D.s and kagouti had seemed quite enough to put any travellers in fear of their lives. Once I got back to Balmora, I was not leaving that city again and I didn't care about anything Ajira said regarding wonderful fascinating untested flora... alchemy... experiments...
Where was I?
Oh, right, kagouti 'meat'. "Don't worry, this can be my revenge on it for trying to eat me,
" I said once I'd managed to choke down the first bite. "After all, revenge is so much sweeter when it's slow and painful. I mean, I take it this is the same kagouti as the one..." I tried to think of a way to say 'I fainted in front of' that didn't sound completely pathetic.
Ervesa nodded. "It's lucky for you I came along, really. A Bosmer had sent me this way, said he was looking for his friend and that he didn't think the girl he'd sent was quite up to the job." My cheeks flushed in humiliation. The fact that it was so undeniably accurate made it worse - after all, I quite enjoy deluding myself about my capabilities. "Then his friend ran past me screaming, so I thought I'd better see what was going on. Found a paralysed kagouti and you unconscious on the ground in front of it." She raised an eyebrow.
"Um. Well." I usually try not to talk about my birth-sign ability. Not that it's exactly a secret that the Lover-born can paralyse you (at the cost of any and all of your energy, but somehow that being a bad thing only really sinks in on your third day of bed-rest) but it's both something people tend to forget about and something that can be very handy in a tight spot.
And, of course, I try not to let on I'm Lover-born at all. You see, once people find out I'm Lover-born the lewd comments about dark elven promiscuity start, and then I have to tell them I'd rather kiss a dead kagouti (well, the Imperial equivalent) and although they did look very similar to one the kagouti smelled so much better I could never get them confused, and... well. It usually ends in tears, and sometimes in fireballs.
Whoever gives names to these things doesn't help, I should add - the paralysation ability is called the 'Lover's Kiss.' I ask you!
Of course, it was a bit difficult to pretend to be Lady-born after someone saw you in the aftermath. Even the fake birthdate I'd picked couldn't save me.
"Born under the Lover, I take it?" Ervesa asked. It was clearly meant to be rhetorical, but I nodded reluctantly anyway. "I thought I recognised the signs. One of my comrades in training was as well. She once used it on me in a practice duel."
I winced. "I take it you won, then."
"Actually, our instructor decided that we both lost. He wasn't very impressed. He said that before she woke up or I could move again we'd have both been killed by our surroundings."
Somehow, given what I'd experienced of the wildlife here so far, that really didn't surprise me.
"Anyway," Ervesa continued, "I killed the kagouti before the paralysis worse off, then its mate when it attacked as well." Wait, there had been a second one of those things out there? And it hadn't killed any of the people that I'd encountered earlier? Life really wasn't fair. "Nothing particularly unusual, really. I'm more curious as to how an outlander with no combat skills whatsoever ended up trying to fend off wild kagouti near Lake Amaya."
The words were cutting but the tone wasn't, and faced with the first sympathetic listener I'd encountered that whole cursed day I found myself blinking back tears. "All I wanted to do was pick flowers.
" My voice most emphatically did not sound like a wail, I told myself.
I nodded. "I'm a member of the Mages Guild in Balmora." I paused for a moment - it was the first time I'd said those words out loud. I liked the way it made me sound practically important, and decided not to add 'as of yesterday'. "One of the other guild members asked me to gather flowers near the lake for experimentation - alchemy, you know. And then..."
The whole story came pouring out, from the horrible tyrant old woman where I wouldn't have been in the slightest surprised to find out she was a giant insect Daedra in disguise, to the Bosmer and my taking temporary leave of my senses when agreeing to find his friend, to the kagouti stand-off in which I heroically gave everything I had to incapitate the kagouti only to have the person I was trying to save run away and leave me to certain death, the traitor.
Ervesa frowned. "Scholar or no scholar, anyone should be able to kill a kagouti if it's not going to be moving for a full minute. That was a very cowardly thing to do." She sounded coldly disapproving, and I suddenly remembered that my rescuer was actually a knight - well, vaguely knight-like being that possibly floated - and therefore probably put a lot of stock into the whole honour and chivalry and so on and so forth nonsense. Knights do that sort of thing. I'd always theorised that the steel in their helmets alchemically reacts with their hair to form an intelligence-reducing potion, but now that giant insect armour had entered the picture I would probably need to adjust that a little. Maybe the different material accounted for the songs and poetry?
I found this a fascinating train of thought and would have pursued it for a while, but I noticed Ervesa was still talking and resumed listening sheepishly.
"-better spells and weapons if you want to do any more exploring." Apparently I hadn't missed much, since by the words and scolding tone I guessed she was telling me off for wandering about totally defenseless and my brain had been doing more than enough of that already, thank you, random outsiders need not weigh in. Even if they had just saved my life.
"To be honest, I think I've done all the exploring I can handle. I'm looking forward to getting back to Balmora and never leaving again." Dreamily, I thought about what awaited me in Balmora. An alchemy apparatus... a bed... food that was actually edible... a distinct lack of wildlife...
"Really? But you haven't picked your flowers yet."
That brought me back to earth quite forcefully. "Oh no.
" I thought for a moment while licking the last of the roast kagouti off my fingers. It really wasn't that bad once you got used to the texture. "You know, I think these flowers really don't want me to pick them. I mean, look at what's happened every time I tried. The next time they'll probably send Imperial guards after me or something similarly dreadful."
I was talking more to myself than to Ervesa, trying to convince myself that alchemical properties or no the flowers were best left alone for now, and only belatedly realised that perhaps I should make sure she shared my thoughts about Imperial guards before making disparaging remarks. Luckily, she didn't take offence but just nodded sagely. "The way your luck is going, I'd expect a whole nest of cliff racers next. Or possibly dreugh who have mysteriously learned to walk on land."
"See? It's a matter of self-preservation. Ajira will have to do without." I imagined Ajira's sad face - in particular, I imagined Ajira's 'best impression of a kicked kitten' sad face - and winced.
"I'm sure she'll understand. At any rate, you can hardly pick them now, it's completely dark and you still look exhausted. You can always try again another day. And in the meantime, I have a suggestion."
I raised an inquiring eyebrow. (I was quite proud of this feat. It had taken me ages of practice in front of a mirror to manage properly.)
"I've only got one bed-roll with me, and although I saw a farmhouse further along the path I don't know how hospitable the owner will be. However, I do know a spell that will teleport you to the closest Temple. It's not that difficult, even if you don't have much knowledge of Mysticism you should be able to manage it after a few tries," Ervesa said, talking over my protestations that my knowledge of Mysticism was excellent,
thank you very much. "That should get us to Balmora and let you get back to your Guild to rest. If you feel too tired to manage learning a new spell, I'll have to go take look at the farmhouse-"
"I'll do the spell," I said hastily. The idea of making it back to my bed in the Mages' Guild and waking up in the morning to Dulnea's spiced rolls and special tea was very appealing. And besides, even exhausted I was always willing to extend my magical repertoire - especially when it came to Mysticism, which had always sparked my interest.
"Wonderful!" Ervesa said. The enthusiasm in her voice made me suspect that she was also keen on the idea of a real bed in town. "The spell is called. 'Almsivi Intervention.' The way you form the magicka construct for it is..."
because I like sharing fiddly details - I paused for a long time before mentioning guar meat, because it doesn't exist as an ingredient in-game. However, it's bothered me for ages that guar are apparently a herd animal but the only use we see for them in-game is as a pack animal or using their hide as an alchemical ingredient (no guar-derived foodstuffs at all, and re: hide we already know that netch hides get used to make leather). Why are people herding them, then? Ergo, in Adryn's Morrowind they eat guar! Lore can just deal with it.
Oct 5 2011, 10:52 PM
I heartily endorse cooking any dead animal that lore does not specifically tell us is harmful to dine upon. I see the games as little windows into a much richer world. I love that Adryn’s Tamriel has more in it than the game shows of Morrowind.I silently thanked Dunmer heat resistance as I reached out to take them.
I never thought of that. What a joy to never burn your tongue.Or possibly dreugh who have mysteriously learned to walk on land.
Oh my, if Adryn is willing to head back with empty reagent vials, she must really be having a difficult day. The new spell should make her feel better. At least until she has to deal with Ajira’s sad kitten face.
Oct 9 2011, 03:45 PM
Ah, I love me some humorous Morrowind storytelling, especially those the poke fun of just how simple the game mechanics really are. I can't wait to see how you explain the swords "wiffing through" the intended targets. I mean, we've already had a sword defy the laws of physics once already. Or possibly dreugh who have mysteriously learned to walk on land.
Hmm... I could swear I've seen one of those before.... Can't imagine where, though.
I shall be tuned in from now on.
By the way, the lore can DEFINITELY deal with it. There's a lot of nonsense in that stuff (why didn't any Oblivion Gates open the two previous times the Empire had no Emperor, exactly?) and most of us here like to tweak things around (two writers have erased the Green Pact from existence, for instance, or my decision to change history around a bit with the East Empire Company).
Oct 10 2011, 09:53 AM
I'm sort of undecided as to whether magical X resistance translates to resistance to the ordinary version of the same thing (e.g., whether Nords are incapable of freezing to death - although if you see all the naked Nords in Morrowind..) but I figure there's at least an influence. Ergo, it takes a lot to burn Adryn's tongue. *very jealous here*@Thomas Kaira:
ooh look it's a new reader! *coughs* I'm very glad you've enjoyed it so far! Regarding swords whiffing through things... I actually wasn't going to tackle that but now that you bring it up I have an idea.
And I'm happy people here tend to share my attitude on lore.
An admission: it looks as if I've actually made an unintentional allusion with "dreugh who walk on land". I seriously only thought of it as "what is a hilariously unlikely thing that could happen to keep Adryn from her flowers?" but it sounds as if I hit on something, I just have no idea what!
Last installment, Adryn and her rescuer Ervesa decide to get back to Balmora with an Almsivi Intervention spell. Which means that this chapter, and Adryn's day of horribleness, is almost at an end. Right? ...right?Chapter 4, part 3
It wasn't a very complicated spell, which is why it was so embarrassing it took me such a long time to grasp it. By the time I actually felt sure enough of the structure to try casting it, the sun had sunk fully underneath the horizon, my cheeks were red and Ervesa was looking increasingly skeptical. It was humiliating - I was
good at Mysticism, honestly (it made up for being completely inept at every combat-related skill bar running away). I'd been praised more than once about the ease and efficiency with which I cast my Detection spells. It must be the exhaustion, I told myself; not only had I had a long day, but I knew from experience that potions or no potions, the only magic that could rid me of the last, bone-deep weariness from using the Lover's gift was a good night's sleep. In short, not the best of situations to be studying in.
Thankfully, it really
wasn't a very complicated spell. Apparently, every Temple in Morrowind had a... beacon, for lack of a better word, in the realm of Mysticism, and that did most of the work for you. The only part of the spell I had to do was throwing out a sort of mystic rope to connect to the nearest one, and even in my exhausted state I managed to figure that out eventually.
"So, are you sure you understand it?" Ervesa said for the third time. Really, there was being cautious and there was outright paranoia.
"Yes, I'm sure," I answered for the third time. I suspected it sounded three times as annoyed, as well. "Really, it's not that difficult a spell. What are you worried about happening?"
As always, my mouth was faster than my brain - the instant after I asked that, I realised I really didn't want to know the answer.
"Well, I've never reliably heard of anything going wrong myself but... there are stories."
"Stories," I said flatly. "These stories wouldn't entail, oh, accidentally teleporting yourself into solid rock, or vanishing into thin air and never being seen again, or appearing on the other side with your organs inside-out, or-"
"Well. Yes. But!" she hastened to add when she saw my expression, "it's always fourth hand or more. A friend will have heard it from a drunk he met at a tavern once whose second cousin's wife's aunt twice removed lost a friend this way. As I said, I've never reliably heard of anything going wrong myself, nor have I ever seen someone arrive injured due to a teleportation spell. And I've lived near or at Temples for years."
I had another worry. "And, er, the gods don't punish you if you cast this despite not worshipping them?"
Ervesa shook her head. "I know a lot of people use it to get around quickly, no matter what they believe. At the Temple in Vivec, there are always all sorts of people popping in from Ebonheart - the centre of Imperial government on Vvardenfell, there aren't too many faithful there," she explained at my confused look. "And since you say you have some skill at Mysticism, it really shouldn't be a problem."
"All right, all right, I'll do it!"
Now, anyone listening would probably have assumed I'd been convinced this was harmless - by her relieved smile, Ervesa certainly did. In fact, I still had my doubts... but as I'd realised earlier that day contemplating silt striders, if a method of travel was convenient I was perfectly willing to take advantage of it even if it might eat you, rearrange your insides, transport you into the middle of a mountain or just make you vanish forever.
I would like to point out at this stage that I'm an alchemist. I spend a great deal of my time tasting ingredients that might kill me, making potions that might kill me and using equipment that might explode and, you guessed it, kill me. I regularly poison myself and consider this completely normal and unavoidable. Recklessness comes with the territory.
I closed my eyes and envisioned the way I wanted the magicka to form in my mind. Hold the construct, don't think about what would happen to you if you screwed this up and switched your heart and your stomach around, channel it and cast it out...
The power swirled up around me, through me, and latched onto something-
For a brief moment I felt as if either the world or I had vanished except that I couldn't tell which one. Then the energy was gone and I was staggering, trying to adjust to standing on cobblestones when just a moment earlier I'd been standing on grass.
My eyes popped open. I was facing a door leading into a round, domed building made out of the same type of stone the other buildings in Balmora used. This must be the Temple.
"It worked!" I exclaimed.
I jumped in surprise as Ervesa suddenly popped into existence next to me. She seemed hardly fazed at all by the transition. "See, I told you it wasn't- um."
"What?" I asked, grinning broadly. The rush of successfully casting a new spell - a teleportation spell at that - hadn't worn off yet. Nothing could bring my spirits down now!
"What do you mean, oops?
" Maybe 'nothing' was a bit too optimistic.
Ervesa had turned around and was staring behind me. I turned to see what she was looking at.
We were apparently in some sort of walled forecourt, with an open archway just behind us. Beyond, you could see the city lit with lanterns and torches, the light glimmering off the water of the river to my left. I could just make out trees and grass on its other bank.
I had the nagging feeling that there was something wrong with this sight, but I couldn't quite pin it down...
Wait a minute.
"The river in Balmora," I said slowly, "flows through the middle of the town, with buildings on both sides. Why are all the houses on one bank?"
"I'm really sorry about this." Even in the faint light, I could tell her cheeks had darkened. "We must have been further to the east than I thought."
"Further to the-" Pieces were falling into place in my mind. "You said that spell takes you to the nearest
Ervesa nodded sheepishly, and said, "We're in Suran." I felt all hope of waking up in the morning to Dulnea's rolls and tea die.
"Is there a Mages Guild here?" As a guild member I should at least be able to sleep there- but Ervesa was shaking her head.
"However," she continued before I could properly express my anger, "I will find us somewhere to stay for tonight and then tomorrow morning you can take the silt strider back to Balmora. I'll pay for the room and the fare, since this whole situation is, um, my fault." Ervesa looked at me as though she expected me to argue that. When I just stared at her silently, her blush deepened. "I'll try the Temple, they have beds and since I'm a member it oughtn't be a problem. Otherwise, there's a tradehouse in town."
"At this point anything is fine with me, provided I get to sleep somewhere,
" I said, fighting a yawn as Ervesa opened the door to the temple. I hadn't fully recovered from using That and exhaustion was settling in.
I continue on my rampage through Lore by giving Suran Temple an Almsivi Intervention point! Never could work out why it didn't have one in game, but when the idea occured to me it was just too hilarious to be left alone.
Oct 10 2011, 11:52 AM
I had the same thoughts about how to write elemental damage. Does the spell make magical fire, or does it magically make real fire? It’s fun to work out such details. Here is what we’re laughing about with the dreugh that somehow learned to walk on land: Land Dreugh
. I imagine that a lot of Morrowind players found them hilariously unlikely when they first encountered one in Cyrodiil.
I love the description of how Almsivi Intervention works. How funny that they showed up in the wrong temple.
Oct 10 2011, 08:42 PM
Yes, my stab at the dreugh who walks of land was a reference to the Land Dreugh that existed quite plentifully in Oblivion's rendition of Cyrodiil. That actually makes the joke funnier in my eyes, because not only is it still immensely unlikely in Morrowind (Cyrodiil being surrounded by mountains, they don't get very far away, since they only dwell in the swampier regions, and it's a bit of a swim to get to Morrowind if you go by water, too) it's completely possible! I can imagine all the ways Adryn's face might flex and morph if that happened....
But unfortunately, it looks like our tired, fired, and mired heroine has had one last unfortunate complication in her plan for spiced rolls and hot tea, namely that she found herself several miles away from where she actually intended to go. Isn't it so frustrating when you cast an Intervention intending to go to Ebonheart, but you wind up in Sadrith Mora? Ugh!
Thankfully, it really wasn't a very complicated spell. Apparently, every Temple in Morrowind had a... beacon, for lack of a better word, in the realm of Mysticism, and that did most of the work for you. The only part of the spell I had to do was throwing out a sort of mystic rope to connect to the nearest one, and even in my exhausted state I managed to figure that out eventually.
Loved the way you constructed the spell here! Very reasonable, and I could completely see this being done, including the failures when you don't quite manage to lasso on.
Oct 14 2011, 01:13 PM
Thanks for the links on land dreugh! And - I am sorry, Oblivion, that is a really, truly, ridiculous concept. So ridiculous I hit upon it by accident when I was trying to come up with supremely ridiculous ideas! (I find this kind of hilarious because I would definitely
have made the reference if I'd known about these, this being the sort of fun I like to poke at the games, but I genuinely had no idea!)
Also, re: Intervention not going where you want it to... honestly I have had enough experiences casting Intervention in the Telvanni regions and accidentally landing myself in Ald'ruhn, or when I installed Tamriel Rebuilt for the first time having worked out the "Almsivi from near Vos and Tel Mora lands you in Ald'ruhn" trick and ended up sending myself to Ranyon-ruhn on the mainland (and, having not planned to go there so soon, ending up struggling to figure out how earth to get back
) - anyway, there was no way Adryn was going to be spared. @Grits:
Yes, that's a question for the ages as well... for me it has at least a real /component/ (because I've written lighting fires as a use for a Firebite spell, and there's some other uses to do with heating stuff), but whether it's 100% real... I do find it kind of biologically implausible that someone could be mostly immune to /fire/, you know? But I'll delay considering that until I write a scene where I have to figure it out!@Thomas Kaira:
Just because of this, I might need to see if I can introduce a stray land dreugh who somehow made it over the mountains and is very lost later on in the story... just for Adryn's expression.
And I'm glad you liked my description of the Intervention spell, I was wracking my brains as to how to make it more detailed than "and then I moved my hands and there were shiny lights and a cool sound effect".
Last installment, Adryn and Ervesa managed to accidentally teleport themselves to Suran. Oops. Now, they're off to find a place to stay for the night.Chapter 4, part 4
Exhaustion or no, after I entered I stared in surprise at the inside of the temple. Where was the altar? The stained-glass windows with emblems of the Nine, or at least the Aedra worshipped in that particular Temple? What kind of temple was this, anyway?
Then my mind decided to catch up to my circumstances and helpfully point out that being as this was a native Dunmer temple, and native Dunmer worshipped some sort of living gods, it would be rather odd to see the Nine represented. Although I still couldn't quite imagine how the actual worshipping would work without an altar...
See, this is what comes of being brought up in the Cult - narrow-mindedness.
I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and tried to bury all my prejudices and ideas of what a proper temple should look like, then opened them again.
Although it was fully dark outside, the temple was lit with many blue candles. In the flickering light, I could see it had a low, domed ceiling and was decorated with carpets and tapestries. The carpets were simple patterns, whereas the tapestries showed rich, detailed scenes - the one closest to me depicted what looked like some sort of grand battle, centred on three figures clustered around one lying on the ground - but all were muted and earthen in colour, a far cry from the extravagant and eye-catching decorations I was used to. I could see a sort of carved mural in the corner, lit by yet more blue candles; apart from that the temple was bare stone.
In the centre of the room, surrounded by candles and kneeling-cushions, was a large, shallow pit. A woman wearing simple robes who I guessed was the priest was standing next to it, engaged in intense discussion with Ervesa. Given that from the few words that drifted my way they seemed to be talking about statuary of some sort and interior decoration has never exactly been an interest of mine, I found myself more interested in the pit. It was filled with what looked like ashes although I could see... I blinked. Were those bones
in there? And wasn't that a skull? ...a rather mer-like skull, at that.
I swallowed hard as I realised I had no idea about Dunmer funeral customs whatsoever. True, so far they were preferable to the Bosmer ones (understatement!), but putting remains on display seemed rather... distasteful.
Of course, maybe I had it all wrong and this was actually the site for animal sacrifices. When I was a child the priests had told me the more primitive religions, especially those that did not worship any aspect of the Nine, often made such things a centre of their-
Bury your prejudices, Adryn.
And after all-
Some words from the priest caught my attention. In particular, the words "so you can't stay tonight."
Strangely enough, I found myself suddenly disinterested in the differences between Dunmer religion and worship of the Nine.
"I'm very sorry," the priest was saying. "I would at least offer to let you sleep on the floor, but-"
"I understand completely," Ervesa said. Her face was grim. "I apologise; I would help you now but it has been a long day and I still have duties to attend to." From her side-long glance, I gathered that 'duties' was me. "If you lock up tonight, I can help you cleanse it tomorrow."
Tension went out of the priest's body so quickly she actually stumbled. "Thank
you. I was going to contact the main Temple in Vivec for help, but I really didn't want to leave it that long. I'll stay with a friend tonight, if you..."
"We'll find something." Ervesa heaved a sigh. "I'll meet you here at first light."
And then I was following her back outside.
"What was that all about?" I asked. I'd been too distracted by the temple to catch the pertinent parts of the conversation, but judging by Ervesa's and the priest's attitude something was very wrong - and what was this 'cleansing' business, anyway? It sounded as if something potentially dangerous was going on, and when it comes to things like that I like to know exactly what they are so I can stay as far away as possible.
Of course, it might just be some sort of heathen superstitio-
I silently cursed all priests of Kynareth. Perhaps 'all' was a bit much, perhaps I should restrict myself to the ones who look at little orphan children and see them as empty vessels to be filled with religious propaganda, but I was tired and not inclined to be generous.
"Hmm? Oh," Ervesa looked as if she'd just realised I'd been with her the whole time. "I'm really sorry, it's Temple business. I shouldn't have let you listen to as much as you did." Well, luckily for her, I'd been too distracted by cultural wall-hanging practises and theology to eavesdrop on the apparently confidential and important conversation. I fought the urge to slap my forehead in frustration. "I'd appreciate it if you didn't repeat what you heard to anyone." Well, that wouldn't be hard, given that the only thing I could repeat was something about sculpture, of all things.
I was tempted to pretend I was
about to run around telling everyone about this mysterious thing the Temple apparently wanted kept quiet just to annoy Ervesa, but she looked genuinely apologetic and at the moment I had bigger worries. "Sure," I said, shrugging, "I didn't hear much anyway. Only," I had bigger worries such as... "where are we going to sleep tonight, then?"
Ervesa beamed at me when I told her I'd keep quiet. She was surprisingly pretty when she smiled, I noticed. "Oh, there's a tradehouse with beds available in town. I was planning to stay at the Temple because it'd be free, but it's a good place. I've stayed there before, during pilgrimage season."
I heaved a sigh of relief that we apparently weren't going to end up sleeping on the street and followed Ervesa into Suran.
"What do you mean, you're full?"
"Exactly what I said, girl," the proprietress of the tradehouse grinned at me. Ordinarily, I'd be more curious about the intricate tattoo decorating her forehead - I'm only used to Nords deciding to get themselves stabbed with inked needles for fun, but I dimly remembered hearing that some Dunmer have tribal markings of some sort - but at the moment my attention was firmly caught by two things. First, that this was yet another person who thought "girl" was a suitable thing to call someone (what ever happened to basic politeness, I ask you) and second, that it looked as if we were going to be sleeping outside after all.
None of this made me any more inclined to be polite, so it was probably a good thing for our chances of not starting a brawl, getting into a fight with the owner or otherwise getting arrested that Ervesa intervened at that point. (Although then again, jails have beds. Maybe if it was just a little
"I'm sorry," she said. "We're just tired and- full, really? I didn't think you'd be very busy this time of year."
The Dunmer shrugged. "Wouldn't usually be, but there are rumours about some sort of mad Orc berserker up in the hills that's made a lot of travellers stop here until they know it's safe to continue. I've got an entire trading group- all the beds are full, in fact, all the <em>floors</em> are full. Yesterday I actually had people sleeping in the hallway- I'm sorry, but there's just no way."
"Orc berserker? I should probably look into that tomorrow..." Ervesa's voice, which had taken on a speculative tone, trailed off and her shoulders slumped. "But do you know anywhere else where we might stay?"
"Well..." the owner trailed off. "Mine's the only inn in Suran, but there's one other place you could try. Although I don't think you'll like it."