The Tomb of Kings: An Elder Scrolls Novel

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    IceFireWarden

    Master

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    Argonian Nightblade

    The Outriders

    Please Don’t Post On This.

    Part of my thread that can be found here: http://tamrielfoundry.com/topic/my-thoughts-on-argonian-lore/

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    IceFireWarden

    Master

    Total Posts: 510

    Argonian Nightblade

    The Outriders

    Prologue

    3 Sun’s Height Fourth Era 221
    An Abandoned Hut Located Near Archon, Black Marsh

    “What…is the song…of the ocean?”

    The eerie, doom-laden voice issued forth from the glowing red door to the two figures cloaked in black. They stared at each other before continuing.

    “Sorrow, my brother.” said the taller of the two.

    “Welcome…home…”

    The door to the abandoned Dark Brotherhood Sanctuary swung open, revealing a dark, dank tunnel leading far underground. The two recoiled as a sudden strong scent hit their noses. The smell of death.

    “Let us carry on then.” said the Short One, and he trudged down the tunnel with his companion close behind him. The deeper they traveled, the worse the smell became. Soon both of them were gasping loudly as they tried to avoid slipping on the damp floor.

    They two companions turned the corner and suddenly found themselves facing a caved-in tunnel. In the middle of the floor was a medium sized hole filled with musty-smelling water. A faint, but still visible blue arrow pointed towards the hole.

    “You would think this couldn’t get any worse,” grunted the Tall One.

    “You would,” agreed the Shorter. “But we must press on.” And with that he stepped into the water. “Damn, it’s cold like ice.”

    They swam for what seemed like hours, but it had only been minutes. They were beginning to run out of air when they surfaced in the middle of a small pool of fetid water within a large cavern. The two companions would’ve thought they had been transported to a place of endless darkness if not for the glowing green crystals embedded within the rock, giving off a steady stream of light.

    This room had obliviously been the Dark Brotherhood’s meeting place before they were driven out centuries before by the An-Xileel, but decades of putrid water had transformed it into little more than a sewage pit.

    “I don’t see anyone, Aryo” said the Taller, as he scanned the room. “Are you sure this was the place?”

    Aryo frowned and pulled out a small map. “I am positive Guran. We traveled to the lake, we found the hut…”

    Suddenly, the very water exploded around them. Aryo and Guran unsheathed hidden steel swords from within their robes and prepared to assault their attackers when they realized what they were.

    “By Azura…”

    The creatures were Argonians. Or, they once had been. They were cloaked with mud, blood, and the strange water worms they had discovered when they had traveled to Black Marsh. Their scales were hanging off from their bodies, even entire patches missing on some, revealing rotten organs and brittle bone. But the strangest thing of all was their eyes, which shone a bright gray.

    “Undead!” growled Guran, swinging at the nearest one and slicing open its stomach, then recoiling from the smell. The creature began shuffling back up, moaning. “An ambush!”

    “It can’t be!” yelled Aryo, as he evaded a swipe with a club from one of their beings. “I made sure that the plan would be secure, and no one followed us”

    “Damn the plan! We have risked much on this endeavor of yours. What if the Grandmaster gets wind that we accepted this writ without her consent? We will face death by Mephala’s hands!” Guran said as he sliced off the head of one of the Undead, but the creature continued to throttle him. “What are these accursed beings?”

    “They were once the servants of Seth, but have been enlightened to the glory of the mighty Tsaes” declared a husky, deep voice. Aryo and Guran turned around and quickly shielded their eyes as an intense green glow issued from the center of the chamber.

    “Come forth, assassins. My companions will no longer attack you. They are sentient beings like you and I; transformed by the hand of Tsaes and made immune to death itself. No longer be frightened”

    “Tsaes is our salvation” mumbled the Servants as they kneeled down and pressed their heads to the floor. “He will save us from the corruption”

    Aryo and Guran began to walk towards the glow timidly, looking out of the corners of their eyes to avoid blinding themselves. As they approached, the death smell grew, making tears stream from the eyes and causing their noses to run.

    Then suddenly the glow died. The looked fully ahead of themselves. They screamed.

    Sitting in a deep pool of green water was a huge throne formed out of the bark of a rotting tree. And upon the throne sat one of the most dreadful beings the two assassins had ever seen.

    Like the Servants, he had clearly had once been an Argonian, but he was at least seven feet tall, and as wide as a tree trunk. His body was in various stages of decomposition. Black blood ran out of his eyeless sockets, rats poked their heads out of holes in his chest, and tree bark grew over some parts of his body, as if he and the throne had become one and the same.

    Aryo and Guran turned around and tried to flee, but the Servants rose from their kneeling positions with surprising swiftness and grabbed them. Despite their struggles, the assassins found that they could not free themselves from their grasp.

    The being on the throne beckoned them to walk forward with what was left of his left hand. “Your resistance was humorous. But let us get down to business”

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 2 months ago by Profile photo of IceFireWarden IceFireWarden.

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    IceFireWarden

    Master

    Total Posts: 510

    Argonian Nightblade

    The Outriders

    Chapter One

    20 Sun’s Height Fourth Era 221
    The Rift, Skyrim

    Business in The Jumping Flea was running slow, and Thalin River-Rusher was considering closing down the tavern for the night when the door opened and a new customer stepped in.

    He was an Argonian. Or at the least, Thalin thought it was a male. It was getting hard, especially with his growing age, to tell the lizards apart. As the Argonian walked towards the bar, however, he could tell that it was in fact a male. The Argonian wore a light brown tunic, white breeches, and brown boots. A strange necklace made from stone hung at his neck.

    From what he could see, the Argonian’s scales were a greenish-greyish hue, and numerous spikes and horns sprouted from his head. The strangest thing he noticed about the lizard was his smile, which while friendly, also seemed to conceal certain malice.

    The malice was increased when he noticed that the Argonian had a Battle-Axe made from the strangest material he had ever seen strapped to his back. The hilt appeared to be black glass. The blade was thin, light orange, and glowed slightly. It appeared to be very sharp.

    Hmm, strange fellow, Thalin noted. He slightly forced a smile at the newcomer.

    “Good day, is it not?” Thalin greeted.

    The Argonian sat down awkwardly onto a stool to avoid crushing his tail. He placed his hands on the counter, and signed heavily.

    “Good day it is indeed,” he replied, and began to drum the counter with his left hand as if bored. “Do you have any Argonian Bloodwine?”

    Thalin snorted. “Nope, haven’t had any Bloodwine in about two years. Ever since that shrewd Breton Maius became my supplier” He went back to washing the tankards.

    The Argonian nodded slowly. “Then may I get some Black Briar mead instead, sir?”

    Thalin nodded and reached under the counter, pulled up a bottle, and slid it towards the Argonian, who grabbed it and uncorked it.

    “Thank you” he said, and tossed a septim to Thalin, who caught it and placed it in the money bag hanging at his belt. It went quiet for several seconds before the Argonian spoke again.

    “My name is Tra-Vel” he said simply.

    “Mine is Thalin” the Nord replied.

    It went back to silence for several minutes after that simple exchange, with Tra-Vel drinking his mead as Thalin washed the dishes.

    The silence broke again.

    “So, what did you say was wrong with your new supplier?” Tra-Vel asked innocently, taking another sip from his mead.

    Thalin raised an eyebrow, unsure if he should tell his business to this stranger, but decided to answer anyway. “He’s an evil, cold man. I got into a bad gambling debt with him a few years back, so he’s been taking half of my profits and most of my popular ales in repayment”

    Tra-Vel finished his mead, and sat the bottle down onto the counter. “Why haven’t you contacted the local Jarl then? That would solve your problems considerably fast”

    “The only problem with that is that Maius is a thane.”

    “Ah, I see.” Tra-Vel stared down at the counter.

    Thalin stared down at Tra-Vel. The young Argonian seemed to be thinking deeply about something. The old Nord turned back around to finish the last of the dishes when Tra-Vel said in a very calm voice, “What if I can help erase your debt?”

    Thalin stumbled over a stray bucket as he tried to turn back around, cursing as he rubbed his sore foot.

    “What did you just say, Tra-Vel?” Thalin inquired, hoping he had heard wrong.

    “What if I can win back your debt?” Tra-Vel said again. “I mean it. I’m good at gambling”

    Thalin shook his head. “You seem like a kind lad, Vel, and I appreciate the gesture. But Maius and his bodyguards will quickly drain you of all your coin, if not worse”

    Tra-Vel frowned, and rested his shoulders on the counter as he laid his head in his hands, then suddenly reached down to his thigh, feeling a rather large lump in the pocket of his breeches.
    “I have a lot of coin,” Tra-Vel slyly grinned.

    Thalin’s eyebrow rose again, and he signed. “I see now that I shouldn’t have mentioned Maius at all. If this is the path you wish to walk, tread lightly my new friend. He has the full support of the Jarl behind his back”

    “I have the full support of someone behind my back as well” Tra-Vel said quietly, then got up from his seat. “Where can I find this Maius?”

    Thalin pointed to the far right-hand corner of the room, where a group of four men were singing merrily and teasing the Dunmer serving girl, who appeared quite flustered. A fifth man sat at the table as well, but he seemed quite depressed.

    “He’s the Breton with the brown hair, green eyes, and arrogant smile. The damn bastard”
    Tra-Vel nodded, and began to walk away from the bar when Thalin reached out and grabbed him by the arm.

    “Tra-Vel, be careful. I don’t know who the dreary looking fellow at the table is, but the three men sitting on the sides of Maius are extremely dangerous. They’re his bodyguards, and will not hesitate to kill on Maius’s orders. But whatever you do, please don’t make a ruckus. I like my tavern, Vel. I don’t want to rebuild it”

    Tra-Vel grinned, and nodded once more. “I’ll try not to destroy your tavern, Thalin. And if I do, I’ll pay for all of the expenses. You have my word”

    “Thank you. Now if you don’t mind, I’m heading to the back to make myself as invisible as possible”

    Tra-Vel walked away from the bar, before stopping once more and turned back around to say “Wish me luck”, before turning back around to walk towards the Thane’s table.

    Thalin uncorked a bottle of mead and took a swig before he headed towards the back room. “Good luck lizard,” he said kindly. “But if he asks you to a game of dice, be prepared to lose”

    Maius Lane calmly sipped his cup of tea as the poor farmer opposite him figured out he was about to lose the game.

    The farmer, a young Nord named Ungar, was requesting a large amount of septims from Maius after a group of bandits had raided and burnt down his family’s home. Luckily, Ungar and his wife and children had been away at the time.

    He had quickly sought out Maius’s aid, because the Thane was known for giving out coin. What Maius didn’t tell many of his clients was that they had to earn the coin.

    It was simple really. Maius would lure the potential victim in with a game of dice, promising they could win double the amount of gold they had originally requested. They would then lose the match, and Maius would offer more gold if they could win the next game. This would continue until the victim would be forever indebted to him and Maius would then force them to either choose to go to dungeons or work off the debt.

    Maius smiled. Forced labor is an incredible business profession.

    “So, Ungar…I do believe we have let this game go on for long enough, haven’t we?”

    Ungar’s eyes widened. “No! I must win, I have to…”

    Maius signed. How he hated gibbering. “You already owe me one thousand septims, probably more than you can pay.” He placed his hands in one another. “So when can I expect my payment?”

    If Maius hadn’t been sitting there, he wouldn’t have believed Ungar’s eyes could’ve gotten any wider. “Maius, you know I can’t pay you all of that…”

    Maius raised a hand to signal the waitress, who walked over to the table. “Another cup of tea please, my dear” The Dunmer woman nodded, and walked towards the grand fire in the middle of the tavern, and began to brew another kettle.

    Now content that his tea was on the way, Maius turned his attention back on Ungar, and his expression grew cold. “Are you telling me that not only were you not going to pay me, but you never had the intention to do so?”

    Ungar paled. “No, no sir! I tried to tell you I couldn’t pay you all of those septims! But you kept asking, and asking…”

    Maius snapped his fingers and one of the three men sitting on his sides, a Redguard, got up and forced the farmer from his seat.

    “I don’t deal with liars and cheats,” Maius said casually, with mock humor in his eyes. “Staz, please escort Mr. Ungar to the Jarl’s dungeon”

    Ungar tried to fight back, but the Redguard was big and burly, a professional Sellsword. The Nord didn’t stand a chance.

    “Please, I beg of you! I’ll do anything! I’ll work myself to death if I have to! Anything to support my family…”

    “Did you just say work?” Maius raised an eyebrow. “Because it just so happens I’m in the need of more workers at my estate, which is some miles from Riften. The pay is good”

    The Dunmer serving girl returned to the table with his tea, and he accepted it graciously. How he enjoyed the taste of good tea.

    Color began to flood back into Ungar’s cheeks. “Oh thank you, Maius! I’ll work for you. Please just help my family!”

    Maius looked indifferent. “Staz, please take Master Ungar to the carriage outside, and make sure he reaches the estate safely…and securely”

    Staz nodded, and escorted a foolishly grinning Ungar outside, who had unwittingly just sold himself into slavery. Maius smirked, and began to put the dice pieces back into their pouch when a shadow passed over him. Maius looked up to see the tall, slim body of an Argonian.

    “Well hello good sir,” Maius greeted formally, but dangerously. “You are certainly far away from Black Marsh, Argonian”

    “And you are certainly away from High Rock, Breton” the Argonian responded in turn, causing Maius to chuckle.

    “Well met” Maius grinned, and motioned a hand towards the empty seat that Ungar had just vacated. The Argonian sat down, his tail draped over the back of the chair.

    “What’s your name, lizard?” Maius asked as he continued to place the dice back into their bag.

    “My name is Tra-Vel. And you are?”

    “I am Maius Lane, Thane of Riften. Welcome to the Rift”

    “Tra-Vel nodded, and then turned his head from side to side, as if wary of something. He turned back to face Maius. “I’ve heard that you lend out coin”

    The thane smiled. “And you have heard correctly, stranger. Are you indebted to someone?”

    Tra-Vel nodded again, as if the thought of all the septims he owed was too unbearable to voice.

    Maius nodded, understanding. “I see. Now, I’m perfectly capable of helping you out with this problem, but there are some terms of agreement we must go over first”

    Tra-Vel squinted slightly in one eye, the Argonian equivalent to the raising of an eyebrow.
    “Terms?”

    “Yes, terms. You see, I can’t just lend out septims. If I did, I would be a very poor man. You have to earn the loan”

    Tra-Vel folded his arms across his chest and stared down at the table. “Let me guess- I have to gamble for it”

    Maius smiled. “Exactly” He drew the dice back out of their bag and placed them on the table. Tra-Vel noted that they were all different shapes. “Have you encountered this game before, Travel?”

    Tra-Vel stiffened. He hated it when men or mer pronounced his name as travel, not TRAH-VELL. Ironically, his name in Tamrielic roughly translated into ‘travels far often’.

    He shook off the unintentional insult and shook his head at Maius’s question. Perfect, thought Maius as he continued explaining.

    “It is called Hyun ti Bunin, an exotic game from Akavir that I acquired from troublesome merchants years ago. Before they disappeared, I was able to learn the concept of the game and acquire the actual dice. The game is rather simple, but unnaturally hard. Each player shares three dice of different shapes- triangle, square, and circle respectively. The triangles are marked on each side with odd numbers, ranging from one, three, and five. The squares are marked on each side with even numbers, with two sets of six and eight and only one set of two and four. The circle is marked with a zero- it doesn’t go to the final score. The goal is to get a number less than six from the combined total of the dice”

    Tra-Vel squinted again. “It has to be less than six? It can’t be six exactly?”

    “No, it can’t. Roll the dice in this order: triangle, square, and circle for last” Maius handed the dice pieces to Tra-Vel, who turned them over in his hands.

    The thane grinned arrogantly. “You roll first, Travel”

    Tra-Vel rolled the dice and the two competitors watched as the dice spun around once, twice, until all three eventually slowed down. Tra-Vel groaned innately. “Triangle three, square four. Damn, I rolled a seven” He handed the dice back to Maius.

    Maius laughed. “That was unfortunate luck, my friend. Maybe after my throw, it will change” And with that, he began to roll the dice. But as he did so, he quickly and discreetly rolled them up his hand and into a hidden pocket in his sleeve. At the same time, three dice appearing exactly the same slipped down into his hand. These dice were weighted like the other dice, but unlike the first dice these dice were meant to win, and never lose. No one at the table saw the exchange.

    “May the Divines guide my hand” The dice flew onto the table, spun once, and fell still. Maius yelled triumphantly yelled as Tra-Vel groaned.

    “Triangle one, square two. I rolled a three” Maius grinned, and an arrogant expression slowly crept onto his face. In less than a second Maius switched the dice again, and handed the losing variants back to Tra-Vel.

    “Ah, I feel like Akatosh himself has favored me. Roll, Travel”

    And thus began a repeating cycle. Tra-Vel would roll numbers greater than six and snarl in frustration, while Maius rolled threes and fives and rejoiced. Tra-Vel, however, refused to give up to Maius’s astonishment.

    “Serving girl?” Maius raised his hand to call her attention after Tra-Vel’s eleventh bad throw. The Dunmer woman quickly ran up. “More tea, please”

    “More tea?” she laughed in a high, but beautiful voice. “I wouldn’t drink too much of it. I heard that it is bad for the bladder”

    Maius laughed himself. “That’s okay, my lady. My bladder is none of your concern”
    She curtsied low, and turned to leave when one of the guards reached out and grabbed her hips and laughed. She blushed and quickly ran out of her captors hands. The table exploded into laughter. Tra-Vel remained quiet.

    “What’s wrong Travel? We’re just having a little fun, lad. Or are Argonians only tempted by the skirts of their own women?” Maius asked playfully.

    “You must have me confused with the Archwarden of the An-Xileel, Master Maius. Or you wouldn’t ask me questions like that” Tra-Vel said in an icy tone.

    Maius cocked an eyebrow. “My apologies, Travel. Don’t be crossed” This overgrown lizard seems to have forgotten his place.

    The Dunmer lady returned with his tea, but on her way to the table she tripped and with a great yelp she fell onto the floor and the hot tea spilt onto Maius’s lap.

    Maius jumped up from his chair with a cry of pain mingled with frustration. “Damn girl, you ruined my trousers!” he snarled. “Fetch me another cup of tea. Now!”

    In her excitement, the Dunmer ran into Tra-Vel’s chair, and the Argonian instantly reached up and grabbed her shoulder to steady her.

    “Watch yourself, elf” Tra-Vel said gruffly.

    “Yes, sir” the Serving Girl replied, before removing the scaly hand from her shoulder and returning to the hearth.

    “Your roll, Maius” Tra-Vel said after the Dunmer had left their immediate vicinity.
    Maius’s furrowed his eyebrows. He couldn’t quite place it, but he felt for sure that the Argonian knew the serving girl. He shrugged his shoulders and threw the dice.

    “By Akatosh, I am astounded-” Maius gasped when he noticed the way the dice had fallen. “Triangle five, square four…”

    Maius had thrown a nine.

    He had lost the roll.

    Even his bodyguards appeared shocked. Maius barely managed to grab the cup of tea he had ordered earlier. Tra-Vel, however, smiled. “It seems that your Divines have abandoned you. Or maybe just your luck”

    “Throw” Maius gritted through clenched teeth, and began to drink his tea as Tra-Vel threw the dice.

    “Well, better luck next-” Maius began, before he spewed all the tea in his mouth onto one of his bodyguards. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

    “Triangle three, square two,” Tra-Vel grinned, a look of pure satisfaction written across his face. He handed the dice back to Maius, who took the dice with trembling hands.

    “But” Maius began, but Tra-Vel raised a hand.

    “Didn’t you say my luck was going to change Maius? Don’t act so surprised when you knew it from the start, my thane!”

    And the game completely shifted. To Maius’s bewilderment, Tra-Vel played winning throws while all of Maius’s left him in the dirt of the Argonian’s wake. How was this happening? Had the weights in the losing dice become destabilized? Maius yawned, suddenly struck by a sudden tiredness.

    “The game is tied Maius,” Tra-Vel announced after his eleventh successful throw. “What do you say that the next throw decides the game?” He handed the dice to Maius.

    But something was wrong with the Thane, who didn’t even reach up for the dice. Maius’s eyesight had become blurry. His thoughts were muddy. He was sweating so badly, but he was so dreadfully cold.

    “Come on, Maius. One last throw. Are you sharing the same feeling all of your countless victims have felt right now?”

    Maius looked up at Tra-Vel with a start, then quickly grabbed his teacup and stared down at its contents. It was brown, but darker than his usual tea.

    Maius sprung up from his seat, knocking it over in the process. He drew an iron dagger from his belt and in an instant his bodyguards had gotten up and drew swords of their own. Tra-Vel remained seated, smug and grinning.

    “My tea…you poisoned me…lizard!” Maius rasped.

    “Of course we did. Well, it’s not exactly a poison. It’s a relaxant, processed from the roots of the Boztuco plant near Helstrom. It makes you feverish, cold, and drowsy; it won’t kill you”

    Maius stared at the Argonian, dumbstruck. Then the viciousness returned to his eyes.

    “Kill him”

    Maius’s bodyguards lunged at Tra-Vel, who kicked the table. It flew into Maius, sending the Breton flying, while Tra-Vel slid backward on his chair and into the wall, narrowly avoiding being beheaded. The wall, unfortunately, took the full force of the strike and the wood shattered.
    Tra-Vel hissed, and sprung up from his seat as he drew his battle-axe. “Next time you invite someone to a friendly game of Hyun ti Bunin, you should ask them to relieve their selves of their weapons first”

    Despite the growing confusion in his mind due to the relaxant, Maius cursed. The Argonian was right- he had forgotten to rid him of his weapon.

    The Breton observed the situation. Tra-Vel had the obvious advantage in weaponry with his battle-axe. But he and his men had him outnumbered. They could win this.

    “Yes, next time. Too bad you will not be alive to see it!” Maius yelled, and leaped at Tra-Vel’s throat as one of his bodyguards swung at the Argonian with his sword.

    Tra-Vel slashed the guard diagonally across the chest, sending him out of the fight. But he couldn’t dodge Maius’s strike and felt the Breton’s knife cut open his cheek.

    “Aargh!” Tra-Vel growled, and viciously kicked Maius into the already ruined table, which cracked into pieces. The second bodyguard came out of nowhere and punched him in his wounded cheek, spraying Tra-Vel’s blood onto the wall and making him drop his battle-axe. The Argonian turned back around and returned the favor by slamming the flat of his palm into the bodyguard’s forehead. The bodyguard fell back, dazed, as Tra-Vel reached down to lift his battle-axe off the floor and swung the flat of the blade at the bodyguard’s face. The blade connected and the bodyguard’s neck made a sickening cracking noise as he flew into the wall, and laid still.

    Tra-Vel bent over and grasped his knees, panting and bleeding as he surveyed the damage. “I didn’t fulfill my promise to Thalin-”

    Suddenly, a muscular Redguard slammed into Tra-Vel so hard he hit the floor with a mighty thud. Staz had returned from his escorting duties.

    Staz turned Tra-Vel over onto his back, and eased a scimitar to his neck.

    “Any last words, lizard?” the loyal bodyguard growled in a voice more beast than man.

    “Yes,” Tra-Vel groaned confidently. “Where do Redguards go when they die?”

    Staz went wide-eyed at the response when a spectral blade erupted from his chest, splattering Tra-Vel with blood.

    Staz stared down at the ghostly weapon in shock before it was ripped violently from his body. The Redguard went stiff, gasped, and fell onto the floor and stayed still.

    Standing above Tra-Vel, now dressed in blue breeches and a white tunic was the Dunmer serving girl, the Bound Dagger now covered in blood was glimmering in her left hand.

    Tra-Vel groaned as he struggled to sit up. “That was kind of close. Don’t you think so Ralsa?”

    She knelt down beside him, and began treating his face. “You never listen to me. You keep doing this, Vel, and you’re going to be little more than a bunch of scales and organs held together by healing spells” She reached into her pocket and pulled out a handkerchief, which she began to clean his cheek with. “You shouldn’t push yourself so- could you stay still?”

    Tra-Vel hoisted himself up. “Sorry, Ralsa. But our friend over there needs some supervision” He pointed to the wreckage of the table.

    Maius had been trying to crawl away from the fighting. Unfortunately for him, a large chunk of wood had lodged itself into his chest, hindering his movements. Ralsa and Tra-Vel had no trouble catching up.

    Tra-Vel casually walked forward until he was behind Maius. He stared at the man, and abruptly stamped down on his leg, causing Maius to cry out in pain.

    “How…?” Maius pleaded. “How…?” He pointed, and Tra-Vel followed his gaze until he saw a lone dice piece rolling across the ground. The Argonian instantly understood. Maius could’ve been two seconds away from dying and the only thing he cared about was how he had lost the game.

    “You haven’t figured it out yet? When Ralsa spilled the tea onto your trousers, she quickly switched your pair of winning dice with my losing dice. So when you rolled a loss, you unintentionally aided in my winning by handing me the winning dice. Nice sleeve trick, thane. If we hadn’t decided to track you for weeks and just barged in here today, we would’ve been in serious trouble”

    Maius laughed, blood splattering from his mouth. “I knew someday that someone would send you after me…damn your Brotherhood…”

    Tra-Vel actually snorted- something he only did when he found something utterly ridiculous. He raised his Battle-axe.

    “My Brotherhood? Do you mean the Dark Brotherhood? We’re Bounty Hunters, idiot” And with that Tra-Vel slammed the axe’s shaft into Maius’s face, breaking his nose and knocking him unconscious.

    “That was melodramatic” Ralsa commented, smirking.

    “You quiet,” Tra-Vel said half-heartedly, knowing she wouldn’t obey. “I’m still mad at you for letting these animals touch you”

    “I can handle it, Vel. I’m used to being groped”

    “Sure,” Tra-Vel shook his head. “If you say so”

    Ralsa pointed at the Breton, who had gone still as a board. “What are we going to do with him?”

    Tra-Vel signed, and knelt down to feel Maius’s pulse. His heart was still beating, but weakly. “He’s still alive, so we’re going to deliver him as promised. The Blackbriars should be pleased. Did you remember to pay the carriage driver?”

    “Yes. He should be arriving at the tavern soon”

    Tra-Vel nodded, and began to walk back towards the bar counter. “Make sure Maius doesn’t wake up and run off. I need to go find Thalin”

    Ralsa placed her hands on her hips. “You mean the tavern owner? Why?”

    Tra-Vel reached into his pocket and pulled out his money bag, signing as he imagined it half full. “I need to go apologize- and pay for the damage”

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 2 months ago by Profile photo of IceFireWarden IceFireWarden.

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    IceFireWarden

    Master

    Total Posts: 510

    Argonian Nightblade

    The Outriders

    Chapter Two

    21 Sun’s Height Fourth Era 221
    The Rift, Skyrim

    “I hope the Blackbriars are sent to the very depths of Oblivion!” Ralsa whispered furiously, as she and Tra-Vel as trotted through the light snow.

    “Ralsa, calm down” Tra-Vel said quietly.

    “I shall not! They cheated us and forced us to leave the Rift. And after all the work we had to do to capture that damn-“

    Tra-Vel urged his horse to ride in front of Ralsa’s, and then made it stop. The Dark Elf stared at him with her fiery eyes. “Ralsa, I know you’re upset about the pay. Yes, they only gave us 300 septims out of the 900 septims they said they would pay. But we’re talking about the Blackbriars. They have ties everywhere. Even if we could’ve taken all of the septims, fought our way through the town guards, and escape the Rift we would’ve been made criminals. And while you may not like your head, I would personally like to keep mine attached to my shoulders”

    Ralsa looked down at her horse, and then rose back up to meet Tra-Vel’s gaze. “You’re right, Vel. I know how much you hate criminals, I shouldn’t complain about it. Not after everything you’ve done for me”

    Tra-Vel placed a hand on her shoulder and grinned. “Hey, you’re my friend. And more than that, you’re my partner. I’m not upset”

    Ralsa nodded, and looked towards the sky as tiny white spots began to drift down on the wind. “It’s starting to snow again” She pulled the hood up on her cloak.

    Tra-Vel bared his teeth as he did the same. “This is the only reason why I hate Skyrim,” he shivered as he maneuvered his steed from in front of Ralsa, allowing her to proceed again.
    “You hate snow? If you can’t stand it, why do we live in Winterhold?”

    “Well, I don’t exactly hate the snow. The coldness just seeps into my scales, makes my body as stiff as a log and dries me out. My entire race is sensitive to cold weather; our scales absorb the coldness. But we can deal with the cold far better than the heat. That’s why you never hear about Argonians traveling to Hammerfell that much”

    Ralsa laughed, and rode forward until she was shoulder-to-shoulder with Tra-Vel again. “I’m sure you would travel to Hammerfell if you ever got the chance”

    “With all due respect, Ral, I prefer not being cooked”

    She wrinkled her nose. “I could imagine the smell. Not a pleasant thought” Ralsa stared at Tra-Vel’s cheek, where the scar from Maius’s dagger still showed. “So, why do you live in Winterhold?”

    “It’s near the Sea of Ghosts, which I’ve always wanted to see ever since I was a hatchling. And the water is very clean, with plenty of old wrecks to explore and loot”

    “You hate the snow, but you enjoy swimming in icy water?”

    Tra-Vel shrugged, and a thin layer of frost on his forearms cracked. “I’m estranged that way I guess”

    Ralsa nodded, and decided to stop asking questions. While Tra-Vel wasn’t actually much of a conversationalist, he was the most talkative Argonian she had ever known. But she could tell that he was getting uncomfortable answering her questions.

    The two rode in complete silence until Tra-Vel pointed at a small wooden cabin covered in snow near a bunch of trees. Behind the cabin was medium sized pond, iced over from the weather, and an old stable.

    “There’s my cabin,” he said. “I don’t like to stay in villages unless I have-” Suddenly, Tra-Vel broke out into a fit of coughing.

    “Tra-Vel, what’s the matter?” Ralsa inquired, worried about her friend. Her worriedness increased when her scaly friend fell off his horse and into the snow, and coughed up a string blood from his mouth.

    Ralsa immediately jumped off of her horse and crouched at Tra-Vel’s side, pulling a small flask from her pocket and uncorking it in one fluid motion.

    “Drink this, Vel. Come on!”

    Tra-Vel coughed up another pint of blood before emptying the flask down his gullet. The coughing subsided as Tra-Vel took in a deep breath.

    “Thank you, Ralsa. I forgot to bring that. Thank you for remembering”

    “Of course I remembered! Vel, you should see a healer. This is getting more frequent-”

    “No!” Tra-Vel said in sudden anger. “It’s just the weather causing it to act up” Ralsa stared back at him, uncertain. “I’m serious, Ralsa. I am fine”

    Ralsa nodded, and returned to her horse and mounted it. As she positioned herself more comfortably, she saw something in the distance.

    “Vel, I think we have a problem”

    Tra-Vel turned to follow her gaze. She was right. Sitting on the steps of the cabin as they drew closer was a young Nord with short blond hair, and wearing simple attire. A small dog was sitting down in front of the Courier’s feet. When he saw the two horses and their owners approach, he stood up and waved them down.

    “Hoy there!” he said. Tra-Vel dismounted and walked over to the Nord. “I’ve been waiting for you folks for hours”

    “Um, thank you for waiting. Why are you here?” Tra-Vel asked politely. His right hand opened in anticipation to grab his battle-axe in case the man was a hired thug. He looked out of the corner of his right eye to see Ralsa on her horse, smoke streaming from her hands.

    The Nord reached into his pocket, and pulled out a note which he presented to Tra-Vel. “You are Tra-Vel, Argonian of Black Marsh, are you not? It’s sure hard to get a hold of you! This note has practically traveled halfway across Tamriel”

    Tra-Vel frowned, but told the courier that he was indeed himself and accepted the note. The courier nodded. “Well then, I have to go. More letters to deliver” The Nord stood up and whistled, waking up his pup, and the two of them began to walk away.

    Ralsa followed him with her eyes until he disappeared into the hills. “He was pretty lively” She clenched her hands to dispel the small fires she had ignited in her palms, then jumped down off of her horse. She stared at Tra-Vel. “What did he mean your letter has traveled halfway across Tamriel?”

    “Exactly what he meant,” Tra-Vel said curiously. He showed her the letter, which was written on something that was certainly not paper. It had three letters, in common Tamrielic, written on it.

    “See here? This one stands for Cyrodiil, and this one is for Morrowind, and the last one signifies Skyrim”

    Tra-Vel grabbed his horse’s reins and started to walk behind the cabin to the stables.

    “Let’s tie up the horses and take care of them first. Then we’re going to read the contents of this letter. I have a bad feeling about this”

    ****

    Tra-Vel’s cabin surprised Ralsa. She knew from experience that her lizard friend only cared about the simplicities to life, but his home was surprisingly elegant.

    While the entirety of the cabin was made from wood, the inside was decorated with some of the most beautiful pieces of stone and greenery she had ever seen. Each corner of the room held a stone podium, with a stone carving of a kneeling Argonian warrior presenting an egg on top of each one. Underneath the podiums were stone pots filled with strange flowers. But the most beautiful thing of all was the hearth in the center of the room, which was surrounded by a moat of water and filled with fish. Hanging above the hearth was another stone object, a large disc with a terrifying Argonian face carved onto it. It faced the door.

    “Tra-Vel,” Ralsa whispered. “This is beautiful”

    Tra-Vel nodded, and the Dunmer could tell he liked the comment. “Thank you. My…I brought it with me when I left the Marsh”

    “So you can remember your home?”

    Tra-Vel didn’t answer, and sat down in a chair near the hearth, his letter clutched tightly in his claws. “The spare room is up the stairs. You should take your stuff and get acquainted with it”
    Ralsa frowned, and stared at Tra-Vel. “Your fine, right Vel?” Tra-Vel looked up from the letter, which he had been staring at intently.

    “Yes Ralsa, I’m fine.” The Argonian went back to staring at the strange letter, and then turned back to Ralsa and smiled. “I’m fine.” Ralsa seemed to like this answer, and went up the stairs, leaving Tra-Vel by himself.

    Tra-Vel set fire to the hearth, illuminating the room. He then retrieved some dried salmon he had cut into slices pieces some days prior, carrots, apples, cabbage, and some exotic herbs from the pantry and proceeded to ready them for a stew. After several minutes of slicing and cutting, Tra-Vel placed the contents into a pot of water and hung them from the hearth, alongside a kettle of water for tea.

    Once settled again in his chair, Tra-Vel reached into his pocket and pulled out the letter. He had hidden his surprise and immediate dread off his face when he had first saw the note from Ralsa to avoid concerning her. She had been through enough lately.

    The ‘paper’ the letter was made out of was either the skin of a Wamasu or a Pantu that had been boiled to the point where it had the same consistency of normal paper. Vel lifted the letter to his nostrils and a sharp sour smell made him recoil. Definitely Pantu skin, he thought to himself. He undid the small rope that kept the letter together, and examined the contents. It was written in Jel, insuring that only an Argonian was intended to read it.

    My son, I believe that you have long passed the desired time of the Hiljatunei. You were still a hatchling when I sent you to learn from the mer of the north and the men of the west. But you have been gone for far too long. When I requested your return, you refused to follow my call and traveled further away. Why did you do that? Why did you not listen to me son? But now, you must return home. Our king is preparing to speak to all of our people in three days’ time, and you must be there to hear it. This is not something you can, or should, ignore my son. I miss you. Your mother misses you. Please return to the Marsh. It is time.

    The letter shook as the hands that were holding it began to tremor.

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    IceFireWarden

    Master

    Total Posts: 510

    Argonian Nightblade

    The Outriders

    Chapter Three

    31 Sun’s Height Fourth Era 221
    The Thorn In The Light, Off the Course of Black Marsh

    “Sir, the Argonian island of Durentitu is in sight. We’re preparing for dock.”

    Thelryn nodded grimly to the Shipmaster, a fellow Altmer named Mellrano, as he grasped the rail of the Thorn in the Light and breathed in the fresh air. The gleaming rays of sunlight was just appearing over the horizon, pronouncing a new day as the Psijic began to calmly walk around the deck.

    Durentitu, he thought to himself as he began recalling the history of the island. This means ‘diving turtle’ in Argonian, if my knowledge is correct. Like Black Marsh, it was once a part of the Hist’s original realm, but broke off during the Ehlnofey Wars and managed to stay afloat despite being massively flooded. Every one hundred years the island sinks beneath the sea, only to rise again in another hundred years due to some unknown phenomenon.

    As he passed by a small mirror affixed to the side of the Shipmaster’s cabin, he stopped and decided to look himself over.

    Thelryn was twenty-two years old, and had just been recently fully admitted into the Psijic Order beyond the rank of initiate. He was rather tall and thin, but muscular to a certain extent. His hair was tied back into a ponytail as he always wore it, although no one could see it underneath the hood of his new yellow cloak.

    This new addition to the wardrobe of the Psijic Order had been supervised by the new Lore Master Galus Nuven about twenty-five years ago, as a way for members of the Order as well as the other races of Tamriel to identify Psijics who were performing special and deadly errands, and thus stay out of their way. Many of the older Psijics were opposed to this new change, his Overseer Talia had told him, but they eventually conformed to the new rule. Despite this happening before Thelryn’s time in the Order, he quietly sided with the Elders; he felt uncomfortable in this new cloak and quite missed his gray one.

    A small creaking noise emitted from the middle of the deck and Thelryn turned around to see one of the crew members, a Khajiit named Yaz’Gha, climbing out of the Crew’s Lodgings with something resting on his shoulders.

    “Yaz’Gha has taken the liberty of bringing you your belongings.” he said, and handed a leather satchel to Thelryn.

    “Thank you, Yaz’Gha, but I could’ve gotten them-”

    The Khajiit shook his head. “It is one of the many things Yaz’Gha can do for you, for Yaz’Gha likes to help. And besides, Yaz’Gha could not bear the thought of those fowl lizards touching your nice, clean things.”

    Yaz’Gha gave a little chuckle, and then went to join the Shipmaster at the stern.

    Thelryn shook his head humorously, and walked towards the front of the boat to get his first glimpse of Durentitu.

    The island – for the most part – resembled a medium sized forest that had been submerged underwater for far too long. The coast was decorated with large, orange reeds and green ferns, and tall trees with thick black trunks could be seen in the distance. The only sign of civilization he could see was a medium sized village that rested on a cliff, with buildings made from pure white stone and reeds. The dock was located in a cove somewhat beneath the village, and opened to the sea.

    “Not much to look at, huh?” said Mellrano, who had walked over from the stern to stare at the island too.

    “That it is.” Thelryn agreed. “But it is usually the most boring places that are the most interesting.”

    Mellrano laughed. “Spoken like a true Psijic. To me, it looks like someone picked up a garden, placed it in a huge bathtub, and let it fester for a few centuries.”

    Thelryn raised an eyebrow. “If I thought like that Mellrano then I wouldn’t have come here to live.”

    “But as I stare at you Thelryn, you do not strike me as the type to live on a island swamp. What would a member of the Order do in a place like this?”

    “That’s a good question. Too bad I will never have time to answer it.” answered Thelryn as the crew docked the ship. He could hear the sound of the anchor falling into the water with a soft splash. “Goodbye Mellrano. I hope the blessings of Auri-El shine upon you as I take my leave.”

    Mellrano raised his eyebrow in mock humor as he shook Thelryn’s outstretched hand as the Psijic stepped off the ship and onto a wooden pier. The air smelled faintly of dirt and mud, mixed with cooked fish and clams. Thelryn approached a standing Argonian wielding a harpoon. He was staring into the water intently.

    “Excuse me-” The Psijic began to say just as the Argonian threw the harpoon into the water, speared a rather large fish, and began reining it in. He looked at Thelryn.

    “Sorry, I’ve been trying to catch this all morning. What do you want elf?”

    “My name is Thelryn, I’m a member of the Psijic Order and was hoping you could tell me where I can find a guide.” Thelryn answered.

    The Argonian laughed. “A guide? You could travel this entire island without a map in a about six hours. Why do you need a guide?”

    “Because I’m not planning to stay on Durentitu. I’m looking for transport to the mainland. I need to get to Helstrom.”

    ********

    Tra-Vel gripped Ralsa’s hand as he dragged her from the inn known as The Moldy Stump, the innkeeper yelling at them from the porch.

    “Let me go!” she snapped at him as he pulled her towards the stables.

    “I will not because I’m afraid you might try to hurt someone again.” Tra-Vel said thoughtfully, keeping a firm grip on his friend’s wrist. “I specifically told you not to play any betting games with those men, xhu? Or was I imagining you and that smuggler beating each other into mush?”

    Ralsa smiled as she used a handkerchief from her pocket to wipe the smuggler’s blood from her check. “Well, I do seem to recall you saying something like that.”

    “Haha, very funny Ralsa. You shouldn’t get into it with those men and women, their dangerous. A bunch of thieves, foragers, and bounty hunters, they are.”

    “But we’re bounty hunters, Vel” she reminded him.

    “I know that, Veran. I added you to that list.” That earned him a swift punch to the midsection from Ralsa. “Ow! That wasn’t very really nice!”

    Ralsa finally freed herself from his grip and rubbed her wrist. “I know. That’s exactly why I did it.” She approached her stead and caressed it’s neck. The mare neighed. “I’m surprised this island has stables; I thought Argonians didn’t like horses.”

    “We like horses, you silly elf. We just don’t see the point of dragging the poor beasts through miles of bog and stink and dangerous creatures. That’s a little cruel.”

    Tra-Vel unhitched his steed and began leading him out of the small foreclosure. “And besides, we don’t really use roads like you do. Where would they walk?”

    “On the water.” Ralsa laughed, causing Tra-Vel to laugh along with her. “Why did we travel to this island anyway, Vel? I thought we were going to Helstrom.”

    Tra-Vel stopped for a moment and pointed to the sea. “Did you notice the dark strait of water that we traveled here in?” Ralsa nodded, following his gaze. “My people call that the Serpent’s Tongue. It’s the only passageway by sea that leads from Skyrim to Black Marsh directly. And it’s safer then traveling through Dunmer-controlled Morrowind.”

    He turned back around and was about to mount his horse when he heard a frightened cry. Tra-Vel turned to Ralsa. “Did you hear that?” She nodded her head, equally concerned.

    The Argonian waited for his companion to mount her horse before spurring his own, galloping towards the spot where the cry seemed to have come from. As they traveled the cries became more frequent. Suddenly, there was a loud cracking noise and a cry of pain, followed by a series of cursing in Jel. Tra-Vel and Ralsa galloped over a small hill and came to a stop in a small meadow. Five Argonians were harassing an Altmer, and were currently holding onto each of his limbs and were trying to stretch him as far as possible. A sixth Argonian lay unconscious on the ground, scorched marks on his chest.

    Tra-Vel noticed the yellow robe the elf was wearing and he blinked to make sure he wasn’t seeing things. A Psijic? Here? He dismounted his horse and unsheathed his battle-axe, twirling it in his hands. “I am he called Tra-Vel. Let us know each other marsh-brothers and sisters and discuss are problems.” he addressed his brethren in Jel.

    One of them, a male with pierced horns wearing a dirty brown tunic, answered in Tamrielic. “Sunned and warmed, Tra-Vel. I am he called Skras and I am disposing of this Altmer trash.”

    “And if you mind me asking,” Tra-Vel began in Tamrielic. “Why are you disposing this…trash?”

    “This Dak is one of the elven spies. He is attempting to steal our secrets.” the Argonian replied.

    “I am not a spy!” the Altmer yelled, and struggled against his. “I’m just trying to get to Helstrom to perform an important experiment…” He trailed, realizing that he had chosen the wrong words to say.

    Skras shook the Psijic’s arm. “See? He speaks as if our entire race is nothing more than one of his Order’s experiments. He should be punished, nest-sibling.” The other Argonians growled in agreement.

    “No,” said Tra-Vel firmly. “This Altmer is a member of the Psijic Order, and thus anything he is doing here must be of the utmost importance. Stand aside, nest-sibling, before I am forced to act.”

    Skras’ expression grew deadly. “Do you think you can scare me, foreign-lover? One who travels with Dunmer and protects Altmer? Why should I let this elf go?”

    Tra-Vel stepped forward until he was only a leap away from the group of Argonians. “Because if you don’t, all of the forces of Velderfern will descend upon you. And trust me, you wouldn’t like that.” he said in Jel once more.

    Skras narrowed his eyes. “Velderfern…” He let go of the Psijic’s arm and walked in front of Tra-Vel until their snouts were touching. They stood there for what seemed like ages to Ralsa, who felt quite out of place. Suddenly, Skras redrew his gaze and hissed at his friends. “Let the pointy ear go.” He then walked away, but not before the shooting a hesitant look at Tra-Vel.

    The other Argonians seemed surprised, but obliged, dropping the Altmer heavily on the ground before leaving. Tra-Vel immediately ran to the Psijic’s side and helped him up.

    “Sorry we couldn’t get here sooner, mage,” he apologized to the Psijic dusted off his robes. “I haven’t been on Durentitu in years. Forgot how bad the island’s hamyas- gangs- were.”

    “No need to apologize, I assure you.” The Psijic smiled, and extended his hand at Tra-Vel. “I should’ve foresaw the consequences of an encounter of that kind. Let me introduce myself, I am Thelryn, Neophyte of the Psijic Order.”

    “My name is Tra-Vel, but you can just call me Vel.” said the Argonian as he shook Thelryn’s hand. “And that lady over there is Ralsa Veran.”

    “Well met, Vel. I’m glad that you stumbled upon me when you did. The concept of being stretched limb by limb quite frightened me and I believe I wouldn’t have enjoyed it at all.” In his mind Thelryn thought, That was quite embarrassing; Talia would’ve been very disappointed in me.

    “Oh,” Ralsa began. “He’s always jumping into other people’s business, helping them and what not. Actually, it’s sort of our job.”

    “You help those in unfortunate situations for septims?”

    “Kind of,” Tra-Vel said as he began scratching his neck. “We’re bounty hunters.” He felt an unpleasant feeling in his stomach; he had always found it awkward to bring up his occupation.

    “Bounty hunters?” Thelryn repeated, raising his eyebrow. “We don’t have bounty hunters in the Isles, or at least while I was growing up. It’s actually quite interesting to meet you. Tell me, do all Bounty Hunters dress as rugged and look as beaten upon as you do?”

    Ralsa and Tra-Vel glanced quickly at each other, looking at each other’s ripped clothing and the splatters of blood, ale, and other things best left un-described from the fight in The Moldy Stump.

    “On occasion,” Ralsa replied. “Depends how dangerous the bounty is. Except this didn’t come from a contract. A couple of rude braggarts decided to pick a fight.” Tra-Vel rolled his eyes at Ralsa’s smug expression. She spoke the truth, but not the full truth.

    “We handled it though. Now if you excuse us, Neophyte, but me and my friend should be going now,” she continued. “We need to get to Helstrom for an errand.” She looked at her companion as if hurt, and Tra-Vel avoided her gaze. He still wont tell me what is going on, she thought.

    Thelryn looked happy at this. “Helstrom, you say? What a coincidence that I need to get to Helstrom myself! Would you mind escorting me there myself? I would go myself but…”

    “You don’t want to run into any more hamyas.” Tra-Vel finished and the Psijic nodded.

    “I don’t have much to pay you,” Thelryn continued. “We do not use currency on Artaeum. But I promise I will compensate you for the assistance.”

    “I don’t mind,” Tra-Vel said. “But let me talk it over with my partner. Ralsa, do you wish to do this?”

    The Dunmer folded her arms across her chest and raised her eyebrow at her friend. “When have I ever disagreed with you?”

    “Let’s not answer that,” Tra-Vel grinned. He then turned back to Thelryn and gave him a curt nod. “We are in agreement, Thelryn. Let us travel to Helstrom together.”

    How will my family think of me when I arrive with company like this? The Argonian thought to himself somberly. Suddenly, the music of his Naming Day filled his head, slightly startling him since he had not been thinking of this before. The Hist are comforting me, Tra-Vel realized. I feel silly now, worrying about things like this.

    Tra-Vel mounted his horse again, then helped the Thelryn mount it behind him.

    “Let us go. If I remember right, the ferryman is an old sod who stops sailing to the mainland around dark. So let’s try to get there as he’s closing up.”

     

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 2 months ago by Profile photo of IceFireWarden IceFireWarden.

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    IceFireWarden

    Master

    Total Posts: 510

    Argonian Nightblade

    The Outriders

    Chapter Four

    Ralsa didn’t know how long it would take the Psijic to make her lose her wits, but she knew it was going to be soon.

    It seemed that not a minute could go by without Thelryn asking Tra-Vel a question about Black Marsh, which he preferred to call Argonia. Her companion didn’t seem to mind at first when the questions seemed simple. But as they became more intrusive and complex he began to shift uneasily on his bench in the tiny boat, called The Plume by the Ferryman.

    The Plume itself was an interesting vessel. When Tra-Vel convinced the Ferryman to agree to take the three of them to Helstrom, Ralsa had been expecting something akin to one of the rowboats used on large sailing ships. The Plume was very different then those boats; it was long but also considerably wide. It was made, from what Tra-Vel told her, very strong reeds that were tightly woven together to become impervious to water leaking. It came with two benches that could seat four people, with space in the back reserved for the Ferryman. The old Argonian was equipped with an unusually large oar, which he used to steer. It reminded Ralsa of the gondolas used in Morrowind.

    “Is it true that your race uses different types of soul gems than everyone else?” Thelryn asked. He was sitting next to Ralsa on the back bench, facing a tired looking Tra-Vel. He sat on the middle bench in front of the standing Ferryman, who was busy rowing the group lazily through a small muddy river, surrounded on both sides by marshy banks full of orange and green reeds. Fleshflies flew around the boat, but the Ferryman had sprayed some odd-smelling fragrance onto the sides of the boat that kept them at a considerable distance.

    “We use eggs.” said Tra-Vel, who began to look over the side of The Plume and gaze at the schools of fish that swam pass. “And no, we don’t use our own.”

    “I wasn’t thinking that!” Thelryn protested. “I was just curious. My Overseer taught me a lot about your kind on Artaeum. She was pretty fascinated with Argonia.”

    Tra-Vel snorted. “What’s so fascinating about endless miles of bog and stink?”

    “Not all of Argonia is surely like that,” Thelryn said. “The northern regions that border with Cyrodiil and Morrowind-”

    “Belong to the Archein and Veman clans,” said Tra-Vel, growling deep in his throat. “And I personally don’t care about their affairs!”

    Ralsa and Thelryn exchanged looks, surprised by the sudden anger in Tra-Vel’s voice. The Argonian must’ve seen their expressions, and he looked down at the planks of the boat. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have yelled.”

    “No,” Thelryn began. “The apology is mine. I was rambling.”

    Ralsa stared at Thelryn, confused. A Psijic apologizing? Curious? Then it hit her.

    “You just became a Psijic recently, am I right?” she asked. Tra-Vel shot her a look as if to tell her to mind her own business. Thelryn smiled weakly.

    “Well, I’m…I didn’t just…” he stammered. “Yes, you are correct. I just passed my initiation a few months ago.”

    Ralsa nodded, satisfied that her assumption had been correct. “I thought that was the case. You still speak like a apprentice; not a master.”

    “I’m not a master,” Thelryn protested. “I might have passed my elementary training but I still have much to learn.”

    “You shouldn’t think like that,” said Tra-Vel, who unstrapped his battle-axe and began to sharpen the blade. “Learning shouldn’t be something you should want to do; the way you’re speaking of it makes learning seem obligatory.”

    “Learning is obligatory. You have to be willingly to learn something. You can’t just acquire knowledge without caring.”

    “Have you ever tried?”

    For one brief moment Ralsa saw a look of skepticism flicker across Thelryn’s face. “And you have?”

    “Of course. To my people, you don’t gain knowledge because someone orders you too, and you don’t gain knowledge by thinking that you want to gain it either. You learn by simply taking it in unconsciously. Nobody taught you how to think when you were growing up, did they?”

    “Of course not, but you can’t relate that-”

    “Sure I can. From smelling food to edging closer to the hearth for warmth, it doesn’t matter. You learn from acknowledging things and acting accordingly.”

    Tra-Vel smiled and turned to stare over the side of the boat and into the water, clearly displaying he didn’t wish to speak anymore. Thelryn looked at him with new admiration and curiosity. Even Ralsa was impressed. Despite the past two years in the Argonian’s company, she had <i>never</i> heard her friend talk like that before.

    The Ferryman growled deep in his throat and turned around to look at Tra-Vel, who glanced up at him. He growled and snarled back at the old Argonian, who nodded and went back to his work.

    “He says that we are almost there,” he translated. “We’re near the hamlet of Seaspring.” He finished sharpening his blade, and returned it to his back.

    Thelryn stared at Tra-Vel for a moment, before deciding to speak. “Earlier when I asked you about the different climates of Black Marsh, you mentioned clans. Are they like <i>hamyas</i>?”

    Tra-Vel snorted. “No, but we could certainly argue about some of them being <i>hamyas</i>. A clan is, how else can I put it, a family. Your parents, siblings, cousins, uncles, and aunts; everyone in your immediate family is your clan.”

    “Like Great Houses,” Ralsa said.

    “In a matter of speaking,” Tra-Vel said. “But yes, almost like that.”

    The Plume rounded the last corner of the bank and the Ferryman steered them into one of the largest bodies of water Ralsa had ever seen so far inland. It appeared to go on for miles.

    “We call it the Internal Sea,” Tra-Vel said with a grin when he noticed Ralsa’s expression. “The water flows directly in from and into the Padomiac Ocean, along with some sea drakes.”

    “What are sea drakes?” Ralsa asked as she fiddled with the sapphire ring on her left hand. A fleshfly landed on her arm, but she quickly swatted it.

    “Large monsters,” Tra-Vel answered back. “Look like crocodiles with paddles instead of legs. Don’t worry though, they don’t usually swim this far inland until mating season and that’s not for um…weeks.”

    Ralsa noted her friends um and usually, and was about to question him how often sea drakes swam inland when Thelryn, who had been rather quiet, entered the conversations.

    “I don’t mean to interrupt,” Thelryn inquired. “But who is in charge of Helstrom, Tra-Vel? When we arrive I need to speak to someone who is reasonably in charge.”

    Tra-Vel shifted uncomfortably on his bench. “The An-Xileel of course. Each major city of Black Marsh is the center of a political region of Black Marsh. An Underwarden a member of the An-Xileel and is usually the Draxco of a clan.”

    Draxco?” asked Ralsa. “Who or what is that?”

    “The head of a clan,” Tra-Vel answered simply. “They set the rules and obligations for their families. It is usually a male figure, but <i>Draxca</i> is the term used for the female head of the family, or for the wife of the Draxco.”

    “Who is the Underwarden now?” Thelryn asked.

    Tra-Vel slightly look pressured. “Well, the current Underwarden is–” Suddenly, the Ferryman growled loudly to Tra-Vel, whose eyes widened as he turned back around to face the others. “Squeeze together, do not move.”

    Ralsa and Thelryn quickly did as he said, and the three of them huddled together while the Ferryman stood absolutely rigid like a figurehead.

    “What is it?” Thelryn whispered. He looked entirely composed, but his voice had a quirk of nervousness to it.

    “Creature in the water,” said Tra-Vel grimly. “Might be a sea drake, but it’s far too big for one. They only swell in size during mating season, and like I said that’s not for weeks.”

    “What do we do?” Ralsa inquired. “We can’t sit like this forever.”

    Tra-Vel growled low in his throat. “I am so not equipped for a situation like this. By the Hist, why didn’t I bring–”

    Something slammed into the side of the boat, tipping it towards one side, but the Ferryman quickly used his oar to cause the Plume to stay afloat. Something bellowed from beneath the waves as Ralsa and Thelryn tumbled into each other while Tra-Vel was knocked towards the stern.

    “Okay, definitely not a sea drake,” Tra-Vel groaned. “It would’ve bitten the boat in half. We’re dealing with something smart.”

    And that’s when it erupted from the waves. Ralsa stared up at it in horror. It was a snake, but its body was a thick as an tree trunk and was twice as long. The scales were a dull brown that made it blend in with the water, and its eyes were bright blue. It opened its mouth, revealing at least three rows of serrated teeth.

    “Ophidian,” Tra-Vel whispered.

    The Ferryman screamed, which seemed to get the Ophidian’s attention. With a roar it lurched forward towards the Plume and bit into the old Argonian’s shoulder before crashing straight through the boat itself, ripping the Plume apart. Ralsa, Thelryn, and Tra-Vel were thrown into the water as pieces of reed fell down around them.

    “No!” Tra-Vel yelled into the water. “I can’t let that thing take him. Ralsa and Thelryn, swim for the shore. I’ll return.” And with that the young Argonian dove underneath the water and disappeared from sight.

    “Tra-Vel!” Ralsa screamed into the waves, but Thelryn swam up to her.

    “Come one, Veran. We need to move!” he said as he began to swim forward in the direction the boat had been traveling. Ralsa began to swim as well; there was no reason to grieve for her friend just yet.

    “Come on Vel,” she whispered to herself without realizing it. “You can do it as long as you don’t do anything stupid.”

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 2 months ago by Profile photo of IceFireWarden IceFireWarden.

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