Welcome to Thread 5 - the fifth and final season of Buffy's Book 1!
This book began with Buffy being imprisoned in the Imperial City, and will end as she attempts to bring freedom to the city of Kvatch. It is a sprawling story that will require more than 150 episodes, spread over five threads. Appropriately, I have nicknamed Book 1, 'Do You Know the Way to Kvatch?'
Thread 1 included Episodes 1-26.
Thread 2 began with a brief recap of thread one, then included Episodes 27-56.
Thread 3 began with a brief recap of thread two, then included Episodes 57-84.
Thread 4 began with a brief recap of thread three, then included Episodes 85-122.
Please allow me to offer a small summary of our previous thread that I hope might prove useful as a review, or for those who are joining us in progress:
Thread four consisted entirely of a massive storyline called The Tournament of Archers. Buffy spent nine days in Bravil as she awaited word from the Council of Mages as to whether they would approve assistance for Kvatch. She used the time to catch up with old friends, make new ones, solve a mystery, right a wrong and compete in the annual tournament to decide the champion archer of Cyrodiil.
Now, for those newer readers who would like to catch up to us in one short sitting, you might find this helpful: Buffy – The Executive Summary Thread.
We now join Buffy as she arrives at the Arcane University to learn if her guild is willing to provide some aid for the besieged city of Kvatch. Buffy has vowed to help Savlian Matius free his burning city or die in the attempt. She will deliver on her promise in this thread.
* * *
123 Little Elves in the Big City
"Good afternoon. Can I help you?" The question came from a young-looking wood elf seated behind a desk in the administrative office of the University.
I found myself staring at the lavender hair spilling over green fabric that draped her shoulders. The striking locks framed a face dominated by large eyes that were deep violet in color. She had a small nose and her mouth (like my own) was too wide. "My name's Buffy and I'm hoping you have a bed available for couple nights?"
"I'm called Malin." The elf rose to her feet to reveal she was no taller than I and that her robe had been tailored to fit more like a dress than a bag. She offered a hand across the desk as we appraised each other and said, "It's not often I meet someone as short as I. Oh, I'm a student here working part time in the offices to help pay my way."
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Malin." Smiling, I released her hand. "Yes, it's quite refreshing to speak with someone eye-to-eye for a change."
Her fingers sought a nearby drawer and deftly traveled over the files within. "Hmm, Baeralorn, Boderi Farano, Bothiel, Borrissean . . . here it is - Buffy." She placed what I presumed to be my folder on the desk and opened it. "I see you're a graduate holding the rank of Apprentice. I'm sorry, but I can only put Journeymen or higher into staff apartments. If you don't mind staying in the student boarding area though, we certainly have a bed for you to use." Turning to a cupboard behind her, she produced a blanket. "It's been getting cool at night so you'll probably want this."
Accepting the blanket, I said, "Thank you, any bed will be fine. I have business with Raminus Polus after the next Council of Mages meeting. Can you tell me when it's scheduled?"
"That meeting was this morning." Still on her feet, Malin leaned over an open journal on her desk and flipped through several pages. "The Headmaster has a very full schedule for the rest of today." Her quill hovered over a page as she studied it, "Can I put you down to see him tomorrow morning?"
"That would be most helpful," I said, repressing a sigh at the delay.
"Consider it done." The elf dipped her quill into a pewter inkpot. After making an entry in the journal, she turned her attention back to my file. "Buffy, I see your annual guild fee is due next month. You can pay that at any branch or course, but while you're here, would you like to take care of it now?"
"Oh, that's a good idea," I replied, reaching for my coin purse. As I fished out the required gold, I realized how optimistic I was being. Considering that I was determined to go to Kvatch soon, would I even be alive in a month - much less a year?
She accepted my gold and applied her quill briefly to my file. "All set until Evening Star after next."
"You've been most kind, Malin," I remarked. "Tell me, how do like the University?"
"I love it," she replied. "I'm so glad to be free from living in trees."
"Really? You don't care for the forests?" I asked.
"Ugh, no! They're full of . . . nature. I was born in a treetop village north of Arenthia. All the women of my tribe are as small as you or I. Well, as soon as I was old enough, my shaman suggested I travel to the capital city of Elden Root and join the guild of mages there. It's not a big city like here, but at least most of the buildings are firmly on the ground. As soon I completed my recommendations from the various Valenwood guild branches, I headed straight for Woodhearth and swam out to the first ship headed from Anvil to The Imperial City. No more trees for this little city elf."
"What type of mage do you hope to become?" I asked.
"I'm a singer and a dancer," she declared. No doubt in response to my curious look, she continued, "Birds taught me to sing when I was young and, of course, learning how not to fall from high branches makes one pretty nimble. I'm studying illusion and destruction so I can create fancy light shows for dance productions. I want to be a famous entertainer one day."
"How wonderful!" I replied. "I love to sing, and my guild mates in Bravil tell me I have a pleasing voice for it." Remembering Acadian's advice about Savlian, I added, "Oh, and I hope to learn to dance someday."
Malin grinned, raised one arm gracefully and performed an elegant twirl. "Well then, we shall have to sing and perhaps dance together sometime. Oh, before you go, let me check to see if you have any messages." She looked through several boxes on the shelves behind her. "Here's a letter for you."
As I accepted the folded and sealed parchment, I said, "Thank you, Malin. It was wonderful meeting you. I'd best go settle in now and let you get back to work. I've had a long journey and am looking forward to spending some time this afternoon soaking in the University bath house."
I then made my way to the apartment of Boderi Farano, that I might pay a courtesy call on the Dunmer. There was no answer at her door. Asking around, I learned that she had been in meetings with the Council much of the morning and in the Headmaster's office all afternoon.
After finding my temporary quarters, I tugged off my boots and plopped onto the bed. I then examined the letter Malin had given me. The wax bore an imprint of what looked like a pair of crossed swords beneath a crown. I broke the seal.
You are a hard elf to track down. It was finally the recent Courier article about the Tournament of Archers that confirmed you are still alive and a member of the Guild of Mages. I made my way to the Arcane University as quickly as I could, where they confirmed your membership. I managed to speak to the headmaster there, who assured me that you were soon expected.
My name is Baurus and I hope you remember me. I was one of the Blades assigned to the Emperor when he was assassinated. It is urgent that I speak with you regarding his last words.
You have my assurance that nothing you may tell me will result in your arrest or confinement by either the Legion or the Blades.
While here in The Imperial City, I shall be staying in the Elven Gardens District. You may find me each evening in the tavern at Luther Broad's Boarding House. In case you do not clearly recall my appearance or recognize me without armor, I am a Redguard and will have the katana of a Blade within reach.
I beseech you in the name of Talos to grant my request. Again, I promise you safe passage after we meet regardless of what you may tell me.
In continuing service to the Emperor,
I remembered the Blade named Baurus well, and his letter made me quite nervous that he might think I had something to do with the death of Jauffre. Yet, he had saved my life after the Emperor's assassin turned on me so long ago. He had also removed any record of my imprisonment and trusted me to complete the Emperor's task. What I mostly recalled about Baurus though was that the brave Redguard had been kind to me when he could have easily tossed me right back into a prison cell.
After much debate, some of it directed at Acadian during a long bath that afternoon, I decided to trust Baurus' word that he would not arrest me. In fact, I hoped he would believe my story and that I might be able to tell him something that could be of help to him.
I fretted over my clothes until finally stepping into a skirt of burgundy velvet. Its hem was trimmed in purple, just a shade darker than the blouse I dropped over my head. After strapping on some black sandals, I slipped into a black silk vest and laced it up. I pulled a brush through my hair several times, then tied a portion of it back with a ribbon. Figuring some credibility wouldn't hurt, I slid on my Leyawiin Court ring.
Once outside the University, I paused on the bridge leading to the city while I admired the breathtaking view down into the Valley of the Horses. Several animals grazed on the lush bounty below. A pair of imps hovered halfway up the canyon walls, diligently scanning their domain for wolves, lions and errant young horses. I couldn't see Superian and imagined she might be down by the western shoreline. Or, on second thought, perhaps she was under the bridge itself near the barn and pestering Thernd for some warm oat mash with molasses.
By the time my little legs carried me across much of The Imperial City, the sun had settled below the tall stone walls. Despite the delightful name, I had spent little time in the Elven Gardens section of the city. After asking a Legion soldier for directions, I found Luther Broad's Boarding House near the center of the district.
The tavern that comprised the ground floor of the inn seemed tasteful enough but not fancy - and it didn't smell of stale mead. I noted there was no welcoming fireplace which I pretty much required if I was going to enjoy a tavern. Behind the bar was a large balding Imperial wearing an attractive blue-green shirt. I presumed him to be Luther Broad. Oddly enough, a warhammer was slung over his shoulder which I figured was not a good sign. Nevertheless, the place seemed quite sedate.
As my eyes fully adjusted to the dim light, I noticed a Redguard eating dinner in one corner. A katana in its scabbard leaned against the wall by his knee. Realizing that I had never seen Baurus without his armor or helmet, I was grateful for the hints he had given me to aid in recognition.