Nerevarine Rising

After being sent to jail for her stepmother's death, Ulina Therayn is sent to Vvardenfell under mysterious circumstances, apparently on the order of Emperor Uriel Septim himself. Ulina tries to make a normal life there, but instead learns about a strange prophecy concerning all of Morrowind. And she's a part of it. 

Book one in a three part series.

- INDEX:

Prologue.

Chapter one: Arrival

Chapter two: New Identity

Chapter three: Julan

Flashback: Training

Chapter four: Sleepers

Chapter five: Whispers

Chapter six: Explanations

Chapter seven: Dreams and Visions

Chapter eight: Duties

Chapter nine: Golden Ruins

Chapter ten: Informants

Flashback: Llethsea Therayn

Chapter eleven: Betrayal

Chapter twelve: Urshilaku Rite

Chapter thirteen: Shani

Chapter fourteen: Curse of Flesh

Chapter fifteen: Corprus Cure

Chapter sixteen: The Lost Prophecies

Chapter seventeen: Incarnate Moon and Star Reborn

Flashback: Dance For Him.

Chapter eighteen: Revelations.

Chapter nineteen: In Boethiah’s Name.

Chapter twenty: Ageless Sorcerers

Chapter twenty one: Bride

Chapter twenty two: Blackmail

Chapter twenty three: Dual.

Chapter twenty four: Erabenimsun

Chapter twenty five: Preparations.

Chapter twenty six: Nerevarine

Epilogue.

 


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Epilogue

Posted on June 20, 2014 at 9:35 PM Comments comments (87)

Seconds later, Julan and I were outside of Dagoth Ur's citadel. The sky wasn't the dark red it had been hours before, but a very clear blue sky. The sun was shining, too. The blight truly was gone.

 

"At last! Fresh air!" Julan laughed and then held me close. "I feel like we've been underground in the dark forever. I never want to see another Dwemer ruin as long as I live! And you did it!"

 

Julan kissed my cheek before he pulled away, laughing again.

 

"Urgh, you taste like a Blight storm!"

 

"I kind of expected that," I said.

 

"So. You're no longer bound by destiny... if you ever really were. How does it feel to be free?"

 

Free. I had been waiting for so long to get this over with for months now, but now that it was…

 

"I don't know," I admitted. "I guess it's going to take some time getting used to it."

 

"Don't worry about it. I think you've earned the right to relax for a bit. You'll feel less confused about everything in time."

 

"What about you?" I asked. "I mean, don't you have a tribe to lead?"

 

"Sinnammu can lead them for a little while longer," Julan replied in an offhandish way. "I mean, I'm a bit young to be an Ashkhan. But by the time I go back, I'll have gotten older and I'll know the way things are run…but until then, I suppose I can travel with you in the meantime, if you don't mind."

 

"What makes you think I'd mind?" I asked. "I love having you around. Of course, I should given that you're my boyfriend. But for awhile, I think I need to relax…"

 

"I understand," Julan said. "Let's just enjoy life and see what happens. And what should happen right now is me taking you to bed for a week!"

***

 

Ald Daedroth was well populated when Julan and I arrived there. Women were stringing up Ashlander decorations and taking care of the children, while men talked about their hunts and families. In one of the nearby corners was Shani, talking with Mamea until she saw us and grinned.

 

"You're back!" She yelped, the jumped into Julan's arms. Julan let out a yelp of surprise, but the patted Shani awkwardly on the back. Shani then turned to me, and gave me a hug.

 

"It's good to see you too, Shani," I said.

 

"And the blight's gone, too!" she said, "and we have you to thank for it."

 

"Well," Julan chuckled. "I did help."

 

Shani came with us for the next journey out of the grazelands, the nearest city being Sadrith Mora. People crowded around me when I got there, asking me a great deal of questions In fact, the guards in Sadrith Mora joined in as well. They forgot to ask for my hospitality papers!

 

Several weeks I spent traveling across the island, having people give me gifts, token or just simple words of thanks. It was wonderful that people were finally able to be happy, even if some encounters were a bit awkward (Crassius Cosades wanted to novelize the great tale of the Nerevarine, but given what I had read of his most recent 'play', I politely declined), I felt as if I was able to do some good.

 

But now it was time for me to do something for myself

 

One night, after rummaging through my backpack and getting rid of several useless items I had built up over the time I had spent in Vvardenfell, I found an old piece of paper. I hadn't seen this one before, so I picked it up and unfolded it.

 

Her name is Ulina, and she's two years old. She was born on the fifth of Rain's Hand. Because of her age, she is uncertain of her parents. I hope for her sake it remains that way.

 

- B

 

I had almost forgotten about my parents. The Therayn's and my real parents, wherever they were. And I still wanted to find them, as well as find out whether Dranen and Eriama were OK. Oh, Gods, I hope they're OK…

 

And who was 'B'? Was it one of my unknown parents, or some other relative? A family friend? That was the only clue I had as to finding out who I really was...and it wouldn't help at all. There were thousands - if not millions - of people across Tamriel with the letter B in their name. Not to mention it could have been part of an alias or something.

 

At some point, when the panic caused by the blight had calmed down a bit, I would see if I could travel to Mournhold.

 

I tucked the letter away, and then crawled into bed with Julan.

***

 

There was one more person I needed to see.

 

Julan and Shani decided that they needed to go shopping for some new weapons, so I had time to go about this task alone.

 

I climbed the long staircase to Vivec's palace, and opened the door. The living god sat where he was sitting the last time I saw him. He was smiling as if he was expecting me.

 

"The blight is gone," he began. "And we have survived. Now we must dedicate ourselves to rebuilding the Temple. And you must dedicate yourself to your responsibilities as Protector of Morrowind."

 

Trying to ignore what Vivec had said about me being 'Protector of Morrowind,' I realized that Vivec seemed to look a bit...tired since I last saw him.

 

"At what cost, though, Vivec?"

 

"We have lost our divine powers, but not altogether. Some token of the people's faith remains, and we shall dedicate it to rebuilding the Temple. Now that Dagoth Ur is gone, we can turn our energies to the more humble needs of the people. It is good, honest work, and I believe there is redemption in it.

 

"There are still issues to be resolved between the Temple and the Dissident Priests. And now that our greatest enemy is gone, we must reorganize the Temple to meet the needs of the people. We have less need of Ordinators, for example, and greater need of priests and healers and teachers. And we must find time to mourn and honor the dead.

 

"Without the power of the Heart, our divine powers diminish. Our days as Gods are numbered. I have told my priests that I shall withdraw from the world, and that the Temple should be prepared for a change. We may be honoured no longer as Gods, but as saints and heroes, and the Temple will return to the faith of our forefathers - the worship of our ancestors and the three good Daedra, Azura, Mephala, and Boethiah. The missions and traditions of the Temple must continue... but without its Living Gods."

 

If what Vivec was saying was true, the Tribunal were no longer gods. They were mortal again. Even if the way the Tribunal had gotten their power in the first place was unfair and ended up killing Nerevar, I didn't want to imagine what the other two gods thought of it. Their immortality was taken away without their consent.

 

"So...you three are mortal now?"

 

"Perhaps not completely yet," Vivec was no longer floating, but instead stood on his own two feet. He started walking around the room. "But Almalexia, Sotha Sil, and I gained our divine powers from the Heart of Lorkhan. And now we no longer have access to the Heart, so we must lose our divinity. I have always worn my divinity lightly - fundamentally, I am not at all a serious person - and I will not miss it. I have tried to do what was necessary. I am afraid I have done some harm. I assure you - I will be quite content to be a mere mortal again, dedicated to my own amusements."

 

"But what about Almalexia and Sotha Sil? Won't they be upset? Did you let them know?"

 

"We don't communicate," Vivec admitted. "Without the Heart, our divine powers must diminish. Almalexia takes her divinity very seriously, and the loss will weigh heavily on her. She tends to brood, and I fear she will do herself and others harm."

 

I hoped for everyone's sake that Almalexia wouldn't do anyone any serious harm.

 

"But as for Sotha Sil... I doubt he will even notice the loss. He is completely self-absorbed, and fascinated by the hidden world and its mysteries, and I do not think he even notices us most of the time," Vivec finished sadly. He seemed to me remembering something from his past as he said those words, before he looked up at me and smiled again. "I see you still have Wraithguard and Keening, but you no longer have Sunder."

 

"It...fell into the lava after I used it to destroy the heart," I confessed.

 

"Ah," Vivec nodded. "Be careful, Ulina Therayn. I fear there will be a shadow cast over the people of Morrowind in the coming days, and I may not be here to help you stop it."

 

Vivec's chilling words made me shiver with slight fear as I left his Temple, but the fear diminished the moment I saw Shani and Julan. Julan was wearing a Colovian fur helm, and he looked absolutely ridiculous.

 

"Shani made me wear it!" He declared. "She practically forced it onto my head."

 

Shani giggled.

 

"I think it looks quite good on you, personally," I snarked.

 

"I officially hate you both!" He said, even though I saw the corners of his mouth twitch as he said so.

 

New Life was only a week away, and when I heard that Ebonheart was having a huge celebration there, I talked Julan and Shani into going with me. The Inn was packed, and there no completely unoccupied table. There was a small table with only one middle-aged Dunmer man, though.

 

"This table free?" I asked.

 

He nodded, and then began to speak. His accent was odd. He wasn't from Vvardenfell. "Go ahead. The other chairs unoccupied, besides, you're the Nerevarine, so I'm not going to refuse you anyway."

 

"Thank you."

 

"I'm Sedas Omayn," the Dunmer continued. "I'm from Mournhold, but tonight I'm here on business."

 

Sedas retreated from the table after he finished his drink, and disappeared from sight, leaving Julan, Shani and I to celebrate with everyone else.

 

"I used to hate this place," Julan said, "but now I think it's growing on me."

 

"You're only saying that because they have Mazte," Shani giggled.

 

The evening finished with everyone going outside and watching the fireworks, and then everyone went to bed.

***

 

For some reason, I awoke in the middle of the night to hear the sound of footsteps from outside our bedroom door. It was an inn, but the fact that there was someone up and about at this hour was very confusing and unsettling.

 

"Ulina, go back to sleep," Julan said to me, even though had given him no indication that I had woken up at all.

 

So I tried to sleep, and sleep I did. For about five minutes. Then, I heard the sound of the doorknob turning, and someone walking around in the bedroom.

 

"Sha?" Julan whispered.

 

I was pretty certain that Shani didn't make a habit of carrying around daggers, and she most certainly didn't try to hit me with them either.

 

It was another one of those thugs that tried to kill me in Vivec months ago, I recognized the armor. I grabbed my sword, which I kept beside my bed, and whacked the thug over the head. He collapsed onto the floor. I knelt down, and felt the body, trying to see if there was any pulse. There wasn't. Julan pulled the black mask off his head, I recognized the man immediately.

 

It was Sedas Omayn, the man who we sat with at the table much earlier in the evening.

 

"He said he was here from Mournhold on business," Julan whispered. "Maybe that business was trying to kill you! Does he have a writ?"

 

I searched the mer's pockets. There was no paper in his pockets at all.

 

"No," I said.

 

The front door to our bedroom suddenly burst open, and surprised looking Shani stood in our doorway, wearing a long white robe I had lent her.

 

"What did you do?" She whispered.

 

I gulped. "He tried to kill me."

 

"Ulina, I don't think they're with the Morag Tong," Julan said, "the past two times this has happened, there's been no -"

 

"This has happened before?!" Shani squeaked.

 

" - writ. Who do you think they are?"

 

There was an awkward silence.

 

"I don't know," I finally admitted, "but I think I need to find out."

Chapter Twenty Six: Nerevarine

Posted on June 20, 2014 at 9:20 PM Comments comments (0)

I was ready. Without any sort of doubt clouding my mind, I knew I was ready. I picked up all of the supplies I would need (and that wasn't much, considering) and tried not to wake Julan as I did so. He was not coming with me. He's only going to get himself killed.

 

Sunder and Keening were packed up, and they were the only weapons I would be able to use while I was out, finally able to kill him. Dagoth Ur. The Shamat. He needed to die.

 

"Where are you going?" Julan asked.

 

I was surprised. I thought he was still asleep.

 

"I think you know where," I said, pulling on a pair of ebony boots over my shoes. I had obtained the ebony armor recently.

 

"You can't do it alone," he declared. Julan got out of bed and took my hand. "In fact, there is no way I'm going to let you do it alone."

 

"Julan," I said sharply, "he could kill you!"

 

"And at this point, I really don't care."

 

Julan was stubborn. He always was. There was no way I could convince him to stay at Ghostgate at least. Despite the fact that I was no longer a wanted criminal, the Ordinators still hated us both. Julan could hardly wait to be out of there.

 

I could at least let him walk with me until we reached Dagoth Ur's citadel.

***

 

There we were. Standing by the door to what looked like a dwemer ruin, overlooking what looked like Oblivion itself. The heat was unbearable and dust started blowing my way, but given the few months I had lived in Morrowind, I knew to keep my mouth shut this time.

 

"So, we're here," Julan announced, "and we have a plan...I mean, it's basically the same plan I had all along, aside from Kagrenac's tool's. Walk in, and kill Dagoth."

 

"Yeah, we're here," I chose to disregard Julan's other words, and turned to him with a sad smile. "You don't have to do this, you know," I said to him. "You can still go back, lead the tribe…people are depending on you, you shouldn't give all that up for me."

 

"I'm not just doing this for you," Julan said, "I'm also doing it for me. For Vvardenfell. Besides, this was once my mission. I want to see how it ends."

 

He pulled me closer after a few seconds. "Want to hear a secret, Ulina?"

 

I nodded.

 

"There have been times when I've wondered if I was doing the right thing...Dagoth had planned to drive the Empire from Morrowind, and that's part of what the Incarnate is meant to do, too. Sometimes I wondered if the prophecies really meant that the Incarnate would join with Dagoth Ur, to free Morrowind. And when we were on the mountain, that first time, I had a dream….a dream of Morrowind ruled by the Sixth House."

 

"What was it like?" I whispered into the ash-filled air. It was a wonder Julan could even hear me.

 

"It was wonderful, actually," he admitted. "The false gods and the Empire were gone, and the Dunmer were finally free. Everything was perfect…but even then I could tell there was something wrong with the image, an indescribable pale sickness about it all. Somehow I knew the image was false, but still I was so blind. I hated the Empire, the Tribunal, and sometimes I thought that anything would be better."

 

"Even Dagoth Ur?"

 

"Yes," Julan nodded. "Even Dagoth Ur. I told you I was blind. Now, I've seen enough of the Sixth House to know it isn't true. This land will become a place of misery, suffering and death if he isn't stopped. I may not like the Emperor, or the Tribunal, but...they're not evil. Things aren't so bad, really. Dagoth Ur is evil. I know destroying him is the right thing to do."

 

"You're right. Let's finish this," I said.

 

"Remember, my love, that I'm not afraid to die." Julan and I were now facing the door to Dagoth Ur's citadel. "But that doesn't mean I'm planning on it. And if I'm not dying, you're certainly not dying either. This is no suicide mission. This is just like any other quest. We complete it, and we go home. Now let's do this."

 

I nodded, and pulled the crank beside the door. Dagoth Ur had to be stopped, even if we didn't come back out alive.

***

 

"Come, Nerevar. Friend or traitor, come. Come and look upon the Heart, and Akulakhan. And bring Wraithguard... I have need of it."

 

"Ignore it," Julan said. "He's trying to trick you."

 

As if I need reminding, I thought. The sound of the working dwemer machinery in the room made me want to shake in fear. If it was only a few months ago, I probably would have.

 

A few steps into the ruin, I heard Dagoth Ur's voice again. It was louder this time.

 

"Come to the Heart Chamber. I wait for you there, where we last met, countless ages ago."

 

"Bastard," Julan muttered.

 

The halls ran deeper and deeper underground, and the air only became more sweltering hot. It was ridiculous, given that it was almost Evening Star. Even for Morrowind…

 

Downstairs, I found another large, metal door and I pushed it open.

 

"Come to me, through fire and war. I welcome you."

 

"Don't listen to him, Ulina," Julan reminded me.

 

Ash monsters and Ascended Sleepers were in the next room, but they spotted us. Fire spells and other nasty attacks headed our way, before they lay dead on the ground. I reassured myself by telling myself it would all be over soon.

 

"Welcome, Moon-and-Star. I have prepared a place for you. Come. Bring Wraithguard to the Heart Chamber. Together let us free the cursed false gods."

 

"Free them so that you can take their power for yourself, you mean," I muttered.

 

The chamber just kept getting even darker and scarier, with dwemer centurions and sixth house minions popping out of nowhere.

 

"I swear, when we're done here, I never want to see another dwemer ruin again," Julan said.

 

"Welcome, Nerevar. Together we shall speak for the Law and the Land, and shall drive the mongrel dogs of the Empire from Morrowind."

 

I felt bile rise up in my throat. He thinks I'm Nerevar.

 

There was one lone Dagoth standing by a rickety wooden door. Julan started aiming his bow at the monster in front of us, but the now booming voice in my head stopped me.

 

"Is this how you honor the Sixth House, and the tribe unmourned? Come to me openly, and not by stealth."

 

"Damn you," I spat, even though I was aware he couldn't hear a word I said. Julan still shot the Dagoth anyways, before I opened the door.

 

In the next room, there stood Dagoth Ur himself.

 

He was the man in the golden mask.

 

He was the one that haunted my dreams more or less every night.

 

And there he stood, cackling madly. His skin was the color of ash, and all he wore was a red loincloth and several necklaces.

 

"Mephala…" Julan breathed.

 

I wanted to say something too, except I didn't.

***

 

"It began here," Dagoth Ur's voice was barely a voice. It was more like an echo. Probably because he was wearing that stupid mask. "So it will end here. Have you any parting words? Or would you prefer to skip the speeches, and get to our business?"

 

I said nothing, but took a few steps towards Dagoth Ur. I could sense that he wasn't taking this seriously at all.

 

"You are the challenger here, after all. So to you goes the courtesy of the first blow," He finished.

 

"Parting words?" I finally asked.

 

It sounded like I had lost my voice. Maybe Dagoth Ur had this effect on everyone?

 

"Now that you have come to me here, there can be but one result. Many times I have considered offering to share this place with you," Dagoth Ur was starting to walk - not pace, but walk - across the room, slowly circling me. He may have considered sharing this 'place' with me, but I didn't want him to. I wanted him dead. "I considered offering to accept your oath of service. You might try to buy my trust by giving me Wraithguard, Keening, and Sunder. I thought we might once again be friends... comrades... brothers in arms…"

 

Never, I thought. Who did he think he was? He sent his sixth house minions after me, trying to have me killed and then he wanted me to join him?

 

"Don't listen to him, Ulina!" Julan said. "Whatever he's telling you...it's all a lie!"

 

"But I have won this place and power by right of conquest..." the man in the golden mask continued. Despite everything, his voice was melodic. In fact, it was almost persuasive...

 

"...by right of daring and enterprise. I will not risk it to cunning and deceit. I offer you no deals. If you are my enemy, I cannot trust you. And even if you are not my enemy, I cannot let you live.

 

"It will all be decided here. I believe I will prevail. But I cannot be sure, and I am vain enough that, should I fall, I would wish to be remembered in my own words. So, if you have final questions you would ask, ask them now. I have final questions I would ask you, if you would answer. My first question is: Are you really Nerevar reborn?"

 

I looked towards Julan, who stood to the side as if he was made of stone. I had no idea what to say. What could I say that would scare Dagoth Ur?

 

"By the grace of gods and fate, I am Nerevar reborn," I replied, in as confident a voice as I could muster. In all honesty, I wasn't sure if I was actually Nerevar Reborn, but Dagoth Ur seemed too. I was certain of it. I thought I saw him tense up a bit, as silly as it sounds.

 

"That is bitter," Dagoth Ur said. "The gods and fates are cruel. I served you faithfully once, Lord Nerevar, and you repaid me with death. I hope this time it will be you who pays for your faithlessness."

 

I felt myself scowl. I am NOT Nerevar!

 

"My second question is: if you win, what do you plan to do with the power from the Heart? Will you make yourself a god, and establish a thearchy? Or will you complete Akulakhan, and dispute control of Tamriel with the Septims? Or will you share the Heart with your followers, as I have, and breed a new race of divine immortals?"

 

"That," my voice was heavier now, "is not your concern." It never would be. My plan for the heart was a secret to him, and by the time he would know, it would probably be too late. I can do this.

 

Dagoth Ur laughed again.

 

"Well. Perhaps there may be surprises in store for me yet. Or perhaps you obscure your plans on principle. Or perhaps you are an instinctive bluffer. No matter." He had stopped circling me. He was now staring directly at me. I would have to really stand my ground here.

 

"My final question is: if I had offered to let you join me, would you have surrendered Wraithguard, Sunder, and Keening to me to seal your oath?"

 

"No, I would never join you," I snarled, then as an afterthought, I added, "you monster."

 

I unsheathed my sword after that, and began attacking Dagoth Ur, and he started attacking back. With his bare hands! Luckily, I was quick enough to strike him. Dagoth Ur's corpse lay on the ground.

 

"Something doesn't seem right about this, Ulina," Julan said. "I mean, it's Dagoth Ur...didn't that seem a bit too easy?"

 

When I turned back to face Dagoth Ur's body, I saw that it had completely disappeared without a trace. There wasn't even any blood.

 

"Yeah," I said. "We need to find him."

 

Just as I said those words, another door opened, revealing a hidden room. I only had to take one guess as to where Dagoth Ur had gone.

***

 

Dagoth Ur didn't even attempt to hide his contempt when Julan and I entered the heart chamber. In fact, the first thing he did was shoot a formidable fireball at us.

 

"DUCK!" I yelled, and then pushed Julan safely out of the way.

 

"What a fool you are."

 

Back in the other room, Dagoth Ur actually sounded somewhat polite. That was no longer. He seemed to be running on pure rage now. He just kept shooting fireball after fireball, scorching the stone ground beneath us.

 

"I'm a god! How can you kill a god?!" He screamed.

 

But that was not my concern. Where in Oblivion is the heart?!

 

"What a grand and intoxicating innocence!" Dagoth Ur laughed after he said those words. I was starting to get really sick of his laugher. "How can you be so naïve?"

 

Just then, I saw it out of the corner of my eye; the heart. It was in a great pair of ivory ribs, beating faster and faster as time went by. The trouble was, it was way down. I could see no way of getting to it without jumping, and that would without a doubt cause my death.

 

"No Recall or Intervention can work in this place. Come. Lay down your weapons. It is not too late for my mercy."

 

"Shut up," I yelled at him. Dagoth Ur ignored me and started to move closer. Almost as if he was going to knock me off the ledge…

 

"Goodbye, Nerevar."

 

I was done for…

 

That was when I heard a yelp, and then a loud cry. Dagoth Ur's body had been knocked to the ground by Julan, and he was struggling to keep ahold of his arms and legs, preventing him from getting up.

 

"Run," Julan advised. I spotted a spiraling staircase down towards the heart, and then found myself face to face with it.

 

It was still beating. I took a deep breath, and then pulled out Sunder.

 

"What are you doing?"

 

I ignored Dagoth Ur, and then swung the hammer once at the heart. It looked more than a bit battered now.

 

"WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! STOP! YOU FOOL!"

 

Except it's you who's the fool, I thought resentfully as I threw Sunder off onto the floor. I threw it harder than I intended to, though, and it fell into the lava below.

 

"NO! STOP!"

 

I still continued to ignore Dagoth Ur, and then pulled out Keening and hit the heart once.

 

Twice.

 

Three times. And then a fourth. Blood began to spurt across the room, and I felt it spatter all over my face. It was warm and smelt strongly of the blight, if that was even possible. I was about to hit it a forth time, but I felt something grab the back of my neck.

 

"You have no idea what you are doing, do you?" Dagoth Ur spat. I didn't reply, but stabbed him in the shoulder with Keening. Dagoth Ur took a few steps back, but didn't cry out in pain. It probably didn't hurt nearly as much as it did when I attacked his precious heart. In the distance, I saw Julan across the bridge. He shot a formidable looking fireball from across the room, and Dagoth Ur turned to face him again. I took this chance to stab the heart one last time.

 

The heart disappeared, and a sudden white, blinding light struck across the room. I felt a sudden rumble underneath my feet, and then took that as my queue to run across the rickety bridge. Luckily for me, it collapsed as soon as I reached Julan, and I fell into his arms. Dagoth Ur, meanwhile, was not so lucky. He fell into the lava.

 

It was over.

 

I had done it.

 

The blight was gone.

***

 

The room continued to rumble and shake, and I looked up.

 

"We need to get out of here!" Julan yelled, and took my hand a second later. We ran to the top of the room, and I pulled a hidden crank in the floor. We were back in the cave. All was quiet, except for the sound of heavy breathing coming from Julan and I. I slumped against the metal door.

 

"I can't believe it's actually over," I said.

 

For a moment, I thought I had fallen asleep, but I saw a shadow appear by the wooden door. The shadow became more and more definite as time passed.

 

It wasn't a shadow. It was a woman, wearing a beautiful blue dress. Her skin was the color of ash, similar to the Dunmer. She held out her hands, and started walking towards me with a smile on her face, before holding out a hand. I took it, and then found myself back on my feet.

 

"Er, thanks?"

 

She nodded, and then took Julan's hand in a similar manner, and then began speaking. Julan seemed to be in shock. Her voice was familar to me for some reason. I had heard it before. In a dream…

 

"You no longer bear the burden of prophecy, Ulina Therayn. You have achieved your destiny. You are free. The doomed Dwemer's folly, Lord Dagoth's temptation, the Tribunal's seduction, the god's heart freed, the prophecy fulfilled. All fates sealed and sins redeemed.

 

"If you have pity, mourn the loss, but let the weeping cease. The Blight is gone, and the sun's golden honey gilds the land. Hail savior, Hortator, and Nerevarine. Your people look to you for protection. Monster and villains great and small still threaten the people of Vvardenfell. Enemies and evils abound, yet indomitable will might rid Morrowind of all its ills. For you, our thanks and blessings; our gift and token given."

 

The woman held out her hands again, and a ring appeared out of thin air, resting in her open palms.

 

"Come; take this thing from the hand of god."

 

Slowly at first, I took a step forwards, and then took the ring from her hand, and then she disappeared. I had no idea of what to make of what had just happened.

 

"Well, what do you know," Julan began, then took my hand and inspected the ring I held. "Azura was watching over us after all. Well," he smiled, "she was watching over you anyways."

 

I stared at him. "That was Azura?"

 

"I'll explain later, my love," Julan pulled out his telepathy ring, "but first, let's go home. I never thought I'd say this, but I think we could both use a bath after all this mess!"

 

 

Chapter Twenty Five: Preparations.

Posted on June 20, 2014 at 9:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Vivec stood before me, the cantons towering high. There was a very bright sunset, and the light glinted off the water. Gondolas went to and from different areas of the city, ferrying the citizens. I took Julan's hand and then paid seventeen gold to be ferryed to the Temple canton.

 

"Have you thought this through?" Julan asked. "I...I mean, what if they arrest you?"

 

"I don't have any choice," I said as I looked towards the temple, wincing as I passed the Ordinators, who were looking towards me nastily. I had no doubt in my mind that they knew who I was.

 

"Quickly! Over here!"

 

I turned around and saw an older Dunmer woman wearing light blue robes. Her dark hair had been pinned up in a tight bun.

 

"You're Ulina Therayn, right?" She asked.

 

"Yes -"

 

"Did you want to meet the archcanon?" Instead of answering, I glanced towards the Ordinators, and nodded quickly.

 

"I'm Danso Indules," she said. "The archcanon is in his private quarters, and he very much wishes to speak with you."

 

"I got that letter from him about two weeks ago," I replied. "I guessed as much."

 

"Oh, so you know?" Danso nodded towards the door. "I must warn you... avoid confrontations with the Ordinators at all costs. The archcanon has spoken with the High Fane Ordinators, but if you are a wanted criminal, they may try to arrest you."

 

So they'd probably ignore the archcanon anyways? Great.

 

"..If the blood of faithful servants of the Temple is spilled, it will make a reconciliation all that much more difficult," Danso finished.

 

I narrowed my eyes.

 

"Do you really think I'd try to kill an Ordinator?" I asked.

 

Danso blanched. "Of course not! I meant no disrespect -"

 

"Come on, Julan, let's go."

 

A few moments after we left Danso's line of sight, Julan leaned over and whispered, "for the record, I do think you'd try to kill an Ordinator."

 

I smirked.

***

 

Luckily for me, the Ordinators didn't seem to pay much attention as Danso seemed to indicate they would. The archcanon was sitting back in a chair in his office, and frowned when he first saw me and Julan.

 

"And you are…?"

 

"Ulina Therayn," I told him. "This is my partner, Julan. We've come to see what you have to say."

 

"Ah," he nodded. "I am Tholer Saryoni. Thank you for coming…" he glanced at Julan. "Would you mind stepping out, sera, so Ulina and I can -"

 

"With all due respect, whatever you have to say to me you can also say it to Julan," I told Saryoni. He scowled, but didn't order Julan out.

 

"Very well," he said. "You know the Temple's doctrine on the Nerevarine. Perhaps it is time to change that doctrine."

 

"Change it?" Julan asked. "You mean you won't persecute her anymore?"

 

"Perhaps not," Saryoni replied. "The Temple must, of course, protect the people from false doctrines. And your association with Imperial intelligence makes your motivations and integrity suspect…"

 

"So basically you summoned me here to tell me off?" I asked bitterly. I should have expected that.

 

"By the Three, bite your tongue!" Saryoni was angry now. "I was going to continue!"

 

I rolled my eyes and sat on one of the empty chairs. Saryoni cleared his throat.

 

"But, despite all that, you have been chosen Hortator and Nerevarine by the Dunmer people. And we have reached a crisis with Dagoth Ur. We can no longer defend the people against the awakened Sixth House. You and your prophecies may represent our last hope."

 

Great. They've called me Outlander, N'wah, Imperial spy and a traitor, and now I am a last resort for them. Sounds great, I thought.

 

"You're kidding, right?" Julan snorted. "After all the lies you and your temple has spread, now you want her to get rid of Dagoth Ur for you? Surely those 'gods' of yours would do a better job?"

 

"Therayn," Saryoni said sharply, ignoring Julan. "Lord Vivec has asked to see you about this."

 

I blanched. Lord Vivec? From what I had come to understand he was one of the three living gods the Dunmer worshipped. One of three that wanted me dead. The first thing that came to mind was that the whole thing was some kind of trick.

 

"Would you agree to a private meeting with him, and hear in person what he has to say?"

 

I exchanged looks with Julan. He didn't even have to say that he thought it was a bad idea. I could see it on his face.

 

"Of course," I said.

***

 

"Are you insane?" Julan yelled as we walked towards Vivec's temple. "He's going to kill you, Ulina! Again!"

 

"Yeah, well, I think it's better that I get this meeting over with," I told him. "I mean, what use would it be to walk from a god? He'd only hunt me down in the end."

 

Julan wanted to stay outside. I couldn't blame him; the thought of me alone seeing Vivec was scary enough. I took a deep breath and entered the circular shaped building in front of me.

 

"Ulina Therayn. We have business, you and I."

 

I didn't even close the door. It slammed shut almost of it's own accord. In front of me was Vivec. He was half Dunmer and half something else. It took me a few seconds to realize he was half-Chimer. Vivec sat crosslegged, floating in the air. His face seemed almost feminine.

 

"Vivec," I said.

 

The living god nodded. "When I was young like you, I was very impatient. So I will keep our business short. Then, later, there may be time for other things."

 

"So, what do you want?" I asked. "To kill me?"

 

"No," Vivec said. "First, I want to remove my curse upon the Nerevarine, end the persecution of the Dissident Priests, and proclaim to all Morrowind that Ulina Therayn is the Incarnate and Nerevarine, the prophesied savior of Morrowind, and the last hope to withstand the menace of Dagoth Ur and the Sixth House."

 

I opened my mouth to speak, but then realized I was too much in shock to say anything, so I closed my mouth again.

 

"These things I will do, whether you wish or not," Vivec said simply. All I could do was nod. "Next, I propose to surrender to you the power and responsibility of defeating Dagoth Ur. You may choose to refuse; I will not compel you."

 

"I won't refuse," I said quietly. I had come too far to refuse Vivec's help now.

 

"You will receive the power as a gift, in the form of an artifact called 'Wraithguard.' You may accept the gift, then do with it as you will. You will receive the responsibility as an oath. You may give your oath, then keep it or break it as you like. First, will you accept Wraithguard as a gift?"

 

"I accept," I said, again in the same quiet tone I used before.

 

Vivec looked surprised, but then he smiled. And it looked genuine.

 

"Good. Sensible of you. And now, will you give your oath, before all gods and men, before all spirits visible and invisible, before my honor and your honor, to dedicate yourself and Wraithguard to the defeat and destruction of Dagoth Ur, and the preservation of Morrowind and its people?"

 

I looked into Vivec's eyes. One of them was scarlet red, just like my eyes. The other was gold. Needless to say, I saw a look of expectation in his eyes.

 

"I've come this far, Lord Vivec," I told him. I felt as if I was a scrib about to be squashed by a guar. "So yes, I do swear."

 

Vivec laughed. "Not very sensible...But very good. I was hoping for someone who would have no hesitations about making such an oath."

 

I suddenly felt angry...as if I had been tricked. Vivec had been expecting that from me.

 

"You will now have a brief, momentary sensation of time passing. Don't be alarmed. You are being taken out of time in order to avoid the unpleasant experience of learning how to use Wraithguard. It will be over before..."

 

Suddenly, for a split second, I felt as if I was floating in the darkness. There was nothing else but me and a bright shining light in the distance…

 

"...you know it."

 

Then, I was back in Vivec's Temple, with a dwemer gauntlet on my left arm. It was enchanted. Wraithguard. I remembered back to when I was reading books about Nerevar, the Tribunal and the war with the Dwemer. One of the important things about it was Kagrenac's Tools.

 

"Now, I will notify the Temple that you are our champion. There shall be no more persecution of the Dissident Priests, and I hope both sides shall swiftly be reconciled," Vivec's voice was cool and reassuring as he said those words. The fact that neither me nor the Dissident Priests were to be persecuted anymore was wonderful news!

 

"We have time for questions, if you like," Vivec nodded towards the door. "Or you may leave, as you wish. But I think there are at least two things you ought to know before you leave: how to use Wraithguard, and how to defeat Dagoth Ur."

 

"There are specific instructions?" I asked. "I...I thought…"

 

"That you knew?" Suddenly, a piece of paper appeared out of thin air. I didn't take it. "It's not as easy it sounds, Ulina, but if you are the Nerevarine, then you can do it.

 

"To defeat Dagoth Ur, go to Red Mountain to recover the artifact hammer Sunder from Gate Citadel Vemynal, then recover the artifact blade Keening from Gate Citadel Odrosal. Then proceed with Wraithguard, Sunder, and Keening to the citadel of Dagoth Ur. Within the citadel, find the Heart of Lorkhan. Use the three artifacts to sever Dagoth Ur's connection to the Heart, and he will be destroyed, and the Blight ended on Morrowind."

 

I didn't say anything. I just stood there, like I was some kind of mannequin in a store front. In all honesty, I had no idea what to say. The instructions already seemed kind of complicated.

 

"To destroy Dagoth Ur, you must sever his connection with the Heart of Lorkhan," Vivec continued. "To do this, strike the Heart with the artifact hammer Sunder once, then strike the Heart more than once with the artifact blade Keening. You must wear Wraithguard, because you cannot handle either Sunder or Keening unless you are wearing Wraithguard."

 

I glanced at the large gauntlet that was wrapped around my arm. At least I had Wraithguard.

 

"That is the short, simple explanation," Vivec finished.

 

"You mean there's more?" I asked, not surprised but more than a bit disappointed

 

Vivec gestured towards the floating piece of paper. "That is the long, detailed explanation, written down for your convenience. Read it, study it and commit it to memory."

 

With Dagoth Ur becoming stronger than ever, I decided it was time for me to take my leave and 'commit the instructions to memory,' as Vivec had so kindly put it.

***

 

The instructions were clear after rereading the piece of paper the next morning. There were five Citadels, but only two held Sunder and Keening.

 

"Vemynal and Odrosal," I said aloud while reading. I would have to attack more of Dagoth Ur's horrible Sixth House monsters. Between Dagoth Ur and his minions, I didn't know what I was scared of the most.

 

Then, I would have to step inside Dagoth Ur's citadel and kill him myself.

***

 

The body of Dagoth Vemyn fell to the ground, and with him so did Keening. I picked up the sword (oh, GODS, it's heavy) and managed to get it onto my back with little to no trouble, even if I felt it weighing me down.

 

"One more Citadel to go," Julan reminded me. I nodded in response, and we ran outside and across the dusty ground to Odrosal, where Dagoth Odros jumped out of nowhere.

 

"Sheogorath!" Julan yelled, then unsheathed his sword. Dagoth Odros laughed - and his laugh wasn't a very pleasant noise. It sounded like a cross between a witch's cackle and a scream.

 

"Have you come to serve, Ulina?" Odros asked. "Or have you come for Sunder? It's well hidden, I assure you."

 

I looked around. Sunder was right behind him! Obviously Odros realized I found Sunder, because it looked as if he was about to cast some sort of spell.

 

"MOVE!" I shouted, and Julan and I ducked as a bolt of lightning shot across the room. If these monsters could have facial expressions, I'm pretty sure Odros's would be rage. He started taking a few steps towards Julan and I, but I took advantage of that and ran behind him, grabbing Sunder and then hitting Odros over the head with it before he could respond.

***

 

"I guess you know what this means now, right?" Julan said as we trailed back to Ghostgate. I held both Sunder and Keening. They were both really heavy, but no one else would be to carry them back. "It mean you're going to have to go in there and defeat Dagoth Ur."

 

I looked towards Red Mountain. Somewhere up there, Dagoth Ur was waiting for me, and one of us would have to kill the other. I wasn't looking forward to it, and I would have to set my affairs in order before I went up there the next morning.

 

 

Chapter Twenty Four: Erabenimsun

Posted on June 20, 2014 at 9:05 PM Comments comments (0)

"What are you doing here, Outlander?" I heard someone snarl. "Any Outlander with common sense knows that this place is not for n'wah like you."

 

I broke away from the person who was holding me by the shirt, shaking off the feeling of disgust and anger.

 

"I'm Ulina Therayn," I said. "And I'm here -"

 

Before I could even continue with what I was saying, there was a chorus of jeers coming from the Erabenimsun. Men, women and children sat back and laughed. It was hard for me to tell if it was as a result from anger and embitterment, or if it was genuine amusement. They all stopped laughing when a fierce warrior pulled out a sword and started walking towards me with it in his hands, and started aiming for my throat.

 

"Get out of here, scum," he seethed. "Get out of here before I have to kill you."

 

"Don't threaten her!" Julan yelled, then charged forwards. I blocked his way with my arm.

 

"I just wanted to be named Nere -"

 

"Liar!" A woman shrieked. "Imperial scum! N'wah!"

 

And then followed a whole host of intelligible insults I couldn't understand, but judging from the looks on both Julan and Shani's faces, it was best if I didn't know. The Erabenimsun soldiers pulled out swords, spears and some even began readying magic.

 

"Ulina," Julan began, "I think it's best if we -"

 

"Stop it!"

 

Everyone turned around to see an older woman rushing towards us. She was wearing an old, tattered looking dress and had her greying hair in long braids down her back.

 

"They are with me," she said firmly, nodding towards the yurt ahead. It didn't take long for me to guess she was the Wise Woman of the tribe.

 

"Manirai," one of the soldiers growled in disgust.

 

"They are with me," she repeated, "go back to your duties."

 

With that, the crowd of Erabenimsun retreated, still giving me angry looks but this time saying nothing.

 

"No standing about, Outlander," Manirai ordered, "follow me."

***

 

Manirai poured all four of us a cup of her homemade tea, made with ingredients she had harvested from nearby. I had to admit, it did taste a little strange, but I quickly got over it. It was nice of her to give me anything in the first place, especially given how horribly her people had treated me.

 

"So," she began, eyeing me with interest. "You decided that it would be a smart idea to march into our camp, unannounced and declare you were the Nerevarine, just like that? Weren't you warned about Ulath-Pal and his war-loving ways?"

 

She didn't even attempt to hide her disgust for her Ashkhan.

 

"Er, no," I replied. And it was the truth. I honestly hadn't been told much about the Erabenimsun at all.

 

"Then you are a fool," Manirai continued. "Ulath-Pal will never name an Outlander Nerevarine. I suggest you get out of here as soon as you can."

 

I shook my head; I wasn't going to let it all come to an end now. Not without a fight, at least.

 

"You are the last tribe I need to convince before I can fulfill the Fifth Trial," I explained. "If you have a plan - anything - please, tell me."

 

Manirai's expression softened a moment.

 

"I think you might care for some more tea, Outlander. This is going to take awhile."

***

 

There was no way I would be able to be named Erabenimsun Nerevarine without killing Ulath-Pal and most of his Gulakhans, something I dreaded doing. I felt as if I had killed enough people recently. But if that was the way it had to be, I would just enter the yurts and kill them all.

 

When I left the yurt with Julan and Shani, I saw that four older Ashlanders, all carrying long, sharp looking spears. The one in front was wearing old bonemold armor (except for a helmet) and had scars all over his face. I could only guess that the mer was Ulath-Pal.

 

"So," he began, taking a few steps towards me, "you're the one who wishes to be named Nerevarine." he shook his head and laughed as if the whole thing was hilarious. "I can just imagine it; Nerevar reborn as a little girl like you."

 

"Oh, please," Shani said from behind me. "Little girl? Surely he could have come up with something better than that? Even that crazy woman who called you a wh -"

 

"Shani," Julan warned.

 

"Do you want something?" I asked Ulath-Pal coldly.

 

"A chance to say I put you down myself," Ulath-Pal replied nastily, then he started charging towards me. I wasn't expecting that. Someone must have overheard the conversation Manirai and I had in the yurt. There was no other explanation. Ulath-Pal then yelled out something in Ashlandic. I didn't understand the language fully yet.

 

"He wants to dual with you," Julan explained. "As if you haven't had enough trouble for one week."

 

"If that's what it takes," I said with a shrug, pulling out my sword.

 

Ulath-Pal was no Bolvyn Venim, but he was strong even in his ridiculously old and damaged armor. When he went to impale me with the spear, I blocked him with my sword.

 

"You're strong," he observed, "but not strong enough."

 

The dual lasted for about five more minutes until Ulath-Pal accidentally fell against my sword. I heard cheers from the crowd of Ashlanders behind me, but there were also angry protests.

 

"I shall crush you like the scrib you are, N'wah!"

 

Two more Ashlanders - Ahaz and Ranabi - rushed forwards. This time, Julan sprung from the crowd the help me fight. Blood spilled onto the ground, but that was the least of my worries then.

 

"Watch out, you two!" Shani yelled, and then began pulling out her bow, preparing to shoot something. It was the last Gulakhan. Ashu-Ahhe.

 

"You murderous scum!" He yelled. His eyes shifted towards Julan. "Traitor!"

 

Julan shrugged. "They charged at us first."

 

The end result was the same as before; Ashu-Ahhe charged at us with his pear, intending to kill us. But this time, it was three against one and the last Gulakhan fell to the floor.

***

 

My clothes were ruined. They were covered in blood stains and dirt marks and I would have to get rid of them as soon as we left the camp. Manirai seemed to be very much in shock after the events of the battle, and left the yurt carrying things like an axe, an amulet and a robe. Julan and Shani cast me strange looks, but I only shrugged. I had no idea what was going on.

 

When Manirai returned, it was with a young mer who was wearing the robes, necklace and the axe. He was smiling.

 

"Hello," I said.

 

"Greetings," he responded. "I'm Han-Ammu, and I'm the new Ashkhan."

 

"You are?" I asked.

 

"Well, yes, but at first I didn't want to be, but now I see that I have to. It's my destiny, just as much as defeating Dagoth Ur is yours."

 

I then noticed that all of those items he was wearing were enchanted, but then shifted my eyes away and looked towards Han-Ammu, who handed me a belt.

 

"The Seizing of the Erabenimsun," he said with a nod. "Good luck."

***

 

The fifth trial was over, and the thought that I would have to go to Vivec and face the Arch-Canon's wrath was looming over me that night, as I tried to sleep.

 

"Are you OK?" Julan asked.

 

"Yeah," I lied, then turned over and closed my eyes again. Sleep wasn't going to come any time soon.

 

"Look, I know this whole Nerevarine thing has been occupying your mind a lot lately, so I...now that you've been named Hortator and Nerevarine I think you should, y'know, relax."

 

Julan's idea of relaxing was taking a trip back to the Azura's Coast region and spending time on the beach,, so we used our rings. I quite liked the beach, and walking towards the water's edge, and watching the cliffracers doing something other than attacking me for a change.

 

Suddenly, I felt a pair of hands cover my eyes.

 

"Guess who?"

 

"Shani," I chuckled. She pulled her hands away and smiled.

 

"Where's Julan?" I asked.

 

"Getting the fire ready for dinner," she said. "Have you thought about what you're going to do after this? I mean, are you going to meet the Arch-Canon or...what?"

 

"I don't think I have a choice," I replied.

 

"Well, tomorrow I think I'm going back to the Ahemmusa to help them move," Shani told me. I raised my eyebrows. "To Ald Daedroth. The last time we were there, the Blight was heading this way. We can't afford to lose anyone."

 

"I understand," I said.

 

"Just let me know how everything goes when you get back," Shani said. She spoke as if she was sure I would come back.

 

The evening was spent on the beach, eating a meat that consisted of Mudcrab meat, mashed ash yams and Mazte Julan had saved.

 

"Remember when we were here when we were kids, Shani," Julan said, pointing towards a rock in the distance, "and I met that talking mudcrab?"

 

"Remember how I said it didn't exist?" Shani retorted.

 

The day had been fun, and some part of me didn't want it to end. But it did, and after breakfast the next morning, Shani had to say her goodbyes.

 

"You will take me to Mournhold when this is all over, won't you?" She asked.

 

I hadn't forgotten; I wanted to go to Mournhold, too. That was where my adoptive mother, Llethsea Therayn had lived before marrying Dranen. If I wanted to find out more, that would be the place to start.

 

"If I come back alive," I said.

 

Shani said her goodbyes, and then started up the hill to Ahemmusa Camp. Julan and I just stood there for a few moments. I was going to miss Shani. Despite how hot-headed and rude she could be at times, she had been a good friend. I almost thought of her as a younger sister.

 

Then, Julan and I began packing. It was time for me to see the Arch-Canon, but not before stopping to see Mashti on the way.

Chapter Twenty Three: Dual

Posted on June 20, 2014 at 8:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Venim manor was even more well decorated than the Sarethi's, with more guards patrolling and more servants to scream for help. I wasn't good at sneaking, but I'd have to try.

 

"Julan, Shani," I began with a nod, "I think it's best if you stay outside while I handle this alone."

 

"But...who's going to help you if you get caught?" Julan asked.

 

I reassured him that I'd figure it out, then slipped on a long, black cloak I had managed to obtain before I continued through the house, trying to be as quiet as a skeever. The guards were talking in hushed voices about Mistress Brara Morvayn and her recent tragedy at her home. I shuddered. Losing a husband and home all in the same day must have been very traumatic for her...and she was invaded by sixth house creatures, no less. I decided then and there that if I was going to have to be the one to stop it all, then I wanted to do it so I could help others and make sure that nothing like this ever happened again.

 

Varvur Sarethi was behind a large tapestry in the Right Wing, sitting on the floor. He wasn't wearing very many clothes - something I was quick to remedy right then by throwing him another cloak.

 

"What-? Who are you? What are you -?"

 

"Shh!" I placed a finger to my mouth, indicating that he should be quiet. "I've been sent to get you out of here."

 

"You've been sent to rescue me?" Varvur paused. "Did my father -?"

 

"Shh! Just follow me and keep quiet!"

 

The guards seemed oblivious to us leaving the Right Wing; but when we entered the front hall the guards were standing there waiting for us.

 

"In the name of House Redoran, stop right there!"

 

"Run," I advised, eyeing Varvur cautiously. He ran towards the stairs that lead towards the way out, and I cast a weak fireball before running towards Varvur, slamming the door to the manor behind me.

***

 

I was relieved to find Shani and Julan waiting outside for me, and even more relieved to take Varvur back to his father and be on safe grounds again. Athyn Sarethi held out his arms and gave his son a hug, before letting him go.

 

"Thank you," he said with tears in his eyes.

 

"You're welcome," I said. The mer produced a piece of paper and handed it to me. It was the votes of almost all the other Redoran counselors!

 

"I spoke with everyone and they agreed to vote for you as Hortator," he said, "though I'm afraid you have one more obstacle in the way; Bolvyn Venim. The Archmaster."

 

"What's wrong with him?" Julan asked.

 

"He would never agree to name an Outlander Hortator," Sarethi replied.

 

I expected as much. That was all I had been getting recently...The one in charge of the camp or the Great House refused to vote for me because of my status as 'Outlander,' like I had control over it.

 

"However, if he can be persuaded, he may agree to an honorable dual."

 

"Oh, Gods," Shani gasped.

 

"I suggest you speak with him in the morning," Sarethi said, "because it's late now. I think we could all do with some rest."

 

I was going to take Julan and Shani back to the Ald Skar Inn, but Athyn Sarethi insisted we stay at the manor.

 

"You saved my son," he said, "and I have more than enough space here."

 

Not for the first time recently, it took me awhile to get to sleep. I was scared I was going to have another dream about Dagoth Ur, that someone else was going to try and attack me in my sleep or both. And meeting Bolvyn Venim...he was sure to hate me.

 

The sounds of the servants outside the bedroom's didn't help much, either. Julan was already asleep, but even in sleep he had a worried expression on his face. Considering how hot it was, the blanket was left alone. I tried turning over and then finally, after some ungodly hour of the morning, I managed to fall asleep.

 

In the morning, all of us sat at the Sarethi's dining room table, eating roasted Kwama eggs for breakfast. Varvur looked a bit nervous. That was understandable to me; he had just been rescued from Venim's manor the day before.

 

"Be careful there," Sarethi warned. "I'm not going to be surprised if Bolvyn orders the guards to attack you on sight."

 

And so, after breakfast, I found myself marching back to Venim Manor, a place that, despite how nicely decorated it was, I really didn't want to go back to. When the Redoran guards were looking at me with anger and suspicion, I held my head high, ignoring the whispers and chatters. I wasn't going to let anymore 'anti-Outlander' talk get to me than was necessary.

 

Bolvyn Venim was sitting in his room, eating his own breakfast. When I opened the door, and then slammed it shut, he looked at me with alarm. And then displeasure.

 

"What are you doing here, you n'wah?" He snapped. "Get out! Get out or I will call the guards!"

 

"Please, sera." I was getting really sick of trying to be polite to those who insulted me. "I came to talk to you...I'm Ulina -"

 

"I am very much aware of who you are," Venim spat. "And before you ask, the answer is no. I won't name you Hortator."

 

His features twisted into an even more livid expression. If I didn't know any better, I'd have said he was about to breathe fire.

 

"It would be a disgrace!" Venim continued. "Not that I would expect you to understand."

 

Every single word that came out of Venim's mouth was like a dagger aimed at my throat. It took me a great deal of effort to look the mer in the eye instead of running out of the room in anger.

 

"I do," I said coldly. "I understand that it would be a disgrace, mostly because I know you are afraid of change, even if it would be for your own good, sera."

 

Venim glared at me. He obviously didn't miss the venomous tone in my voice.

 

"You have played your tricks with the other Councilors, but they will not work on me, little one. This has gone far enough."

 

He walked towards a locked cabinet, opened it and took out a large, two handed daedric weapon. It was made of similar materials to my mother's - Llethsea's, I thought - bow. He looked at it for a few moments, before he turned back to me with a nasty smile on his face. Obviously he intended to scare me. Oh, if only he knew about the sixth house monsters. The Corprus. I've seen far, far worse than him...

 

"If you are not a coward, as well as a fraud, I will put a stop to your ambitions at the Arena in Vivec in two days time," Venim said. "I will meet you there if you dare face me in a duel to the death."

 

"Done," I promised. "I'll see you there soon."

***

 

"You're insane," Julan said to me in a low tone of voice when I went back to Serethi Manor. "You actually think that this dual is a good idea? What if you don't get out alive?"

 

"Have some faith, you s'wit," Shani snapped at him.

 

"I don't think it's a good idea," I told him, "but I don't have any other choice."

 

Dinner wasn't eventful that night aside from the fact that I got to try out some new recipe the Ald Skar Inn had bought; mashed Ash Yams with fried guar and apples. It was delicious. The next day after that the three of us packed up and left to go to Vivec. I was starting to dislike travelling in Vivec and today didn't make it better. The city was crowded.

 

"What in Azura's name is happening here?" I heard Julan ask as we stepped over some of the refuse that was left on the ground.

 

"Haven't you heard?" A small child asked us. She was a Breton, with long curly hair and bright blue eyes. "The Nerevarine's coming to Vivec! To fight for honor. My mommy and daddy said that everyone's who's anyone is gonna be there!"

 

The child then stalked off, leaving me standing there to think. The last thing I needed was attention.

***

 

The next day was the big day. The dining hall at the inn was crowded, and I saw a male Bosmer handing out leaflets and telling everyone to go to the Arena at five that evening to see the big fight. I slunk slowly back into my chair, and read from the menu.

 

"Nervous?" Shani asked.

 

I smiled at her. "No, I'm not nervous. I'm only going to fight for my life later this evening. It's no big deal."

 

"Listen to her," Julan chuckled. "That's something I would have said."

 

"Honestly," I said, "I think I am a little. I mean, I saw that sword he was carrying. It's more likely he'll kill me."

 

"Well, I have faith in you," Shani responded.

 

"And I'll teleport to you if you need me," Julan added.

 

Four o'clock came and I donned a new set of armor I purchased the hour before. The old set was getting tattered, and was becoming damaged. It wouldn't be good enough for a fight to the death in the arena. Then, I set out to leave the Foreign Quarter. Shani and Julan left me after a few moments to go join the crowd on the balcony, while I entered the pit while donning my helmet.

 

Bolvyn Venim was standing across from me, giving me a very nasty smile as he walked towards the center of the arena.

 

"People of Morrowind!" He cried. "Today I have come to dual the false incarnate, Ulina Therayn. And to teach her a lesson in messing around in matters she knows nothing of."

 

I looked towards the crowd and saw Julan and Shani. I couldn't see Julan's expression, but I knew that he was no doubt angry.

 

"This is Ulina Therayn, but she is no Nerevarine; she is an Outlander, a faker and an Imperial Spy!" There was a chorus of boos from the crowd, but then I heard a small group of people cheering my name. There are people on my side!

 

"And now, I shall strike down this false Incarnate, so she may know the true power of House Redoran against the N'wah!"

 

There were cheers for Bolvyn Venim then as he unsheathed his giant daedric katana. I took out my sword and started to hit him back. The sound of metal against metal was loud in my ears, but I didn't back down. I couldn't.

 

"Afraid to face me without enchanted weapons, n'wah?" he taunted, before swinging his katana. Unfortunately for him, I was small enough to duck and roll over.

 

"Look who's talking," I sneered, "I bet you can't fight without that pathetic daedric katana, you xenophobic son of a -"

 

CLANG! The daedric katana clashed against my sword again. I felt an aching pain in my arms. That was probably because I was using all my strength trying to hold the huge daedric katana back. Venim drew the sword back and then looked at me in disgust.

 

"You're going to die in this arena pit, Outlander," he continued.

 

More loud sounds of metal against metal issued. I was beginning to get used to it now. I was strangely reminded of my old cellmate in the Imperial Prison, Valen Dreth. He kept telling me I was going to die, too.

 

"No, I don't think so," I said.

 

Unfortunately for me, I was knocked down again. I felt hot blood spill into my mouth, but that was the least of my worries right now. What worried me the most was that Venim was standing over me with his large, daedric katana, his red eyes filled with loathing.

 

"Time to die, faker."

 

I didn't think about it. I didn't have time to. I just rolled to the side, got up and grabbed Venim by the neck before he could react. I then pushed him to the floor and picked up the katana - it was so heavy I felt my arms begin to shake - and threw it across the room.

 

"Do you still want to live, Venim?" I asked. I didn't want to kill him, even if he had acted like an absolute s'wit.

 

"I will...never, never..." he spat in my direction. Literally. "...stoop so low as to accept your mercy."

 

I sighed.

 

"You asked for it."

 

I pulled out my sword and then closed my eyes as blood spilled all over the floor. I didn't want to see it right now. I then looked up towards the crowd. There were even more people cheering different variations of my name; my first name, my last name, my full name and there were a small handful of people calling me 'Nerevarine.' Some people were holding up hand-painted signs. I had no idea where they got them from, but I didn't care.

 

I won.

 

I. Won.

***

 

I rushed back into the waistworks upstairs and saw Julan giving the Ordinators an angry glance.

 

"See, I told you we knew her," he said, then gave me a hug. Shani did the same a few moments later, before we were joined by the rest of the Redoran counsellors, including Athyn Sarethi, who was holding a brown paper package in his hands. It looked similar to the one I delivered to Caius Cosades long, long ago…

 

"Congratulations on your victory, Ulina," he said with a nod. "That was an impressive show."

 

I shifted my eyes uncomfortably. I honestly didn't want to kill Venim, but the deed was done. Sarethi produced a shiny gold ring from the front pockets of his robes.

 

"The Council of House Redoran is in agreement, Ulina," he continued. "You are now the Hortator of House Redoran."

 

I felt as if my heart was doing fifty thousand dances for joy; I had completed the fourth trial! Of course, there was still the Erabenimsun to convince, but that was only one group of people left.

 

"I hope you are as successful in persuading the rest of Morrowind to unite against Dagoth Ur and his blighted hosts."

 

"The ring is for you, by the way," I heard another counselor pipe up. Brara Morvayn. Slowly, I took the ring from Sarethi, and the slipped it over one of my ringless fingers. It seemed I was wearing several of them by now.

 

"I also have a sealed package for you," he handed me the brown package he was holding and I inspected the seal.

 

"Ayem, Vehk, Seht," I read aloud, before turning to Julan and Shani. "Do either of you know what this means?"

 

Julan gulped. "I think it's from the Temple," he said.

 

"It is," Sarethi confirmed. "I do not know what it contains, but I received it from a contact in the highest ranks of the Temple. My guess is that it has something to do with the Temple's position on your claim to fulfill the Nerevarine prophecies."

 

I didn't open it to read it, but instead stuffed it into my pocket. I could only guess what it was if it was from the Temple. It was going to be a letter telling me off for my 'wrongdoings.'

 

"And here is a copy of a recent public notice identifying you as an Imperial agent," Sarethi handed me piece of yellow parchment with recently printed large letters on it. Some of the ink came off on my hands.

 

"I am satisfied of your sincerity, but I warn you that others may not be so understanding."

***

 

WELL-BELOVED PEOPLE OF MORROWIND!

 

TAKE HEED!

 

TAKE WARNING!

 

The outlaw named Ulina Therayn, stated trade of Freelance Adventurer, lately called 'Incarnate' and 'Nerevarine,' now is shown to the investigating Ordinators and Magistrates of this district to be an agent in the pay of the Imperial Intelligence Service. This outlaw's claims are false. The prophecies this outlaw cites are discredited. The dishonest character and base purposes of the outlaw in perpetrating this hoax are now made clear to all observers. Therayn is sought for various crimes by Ordinators and town guards. Report all encounters with this outlaw to the proper authorities. If you see this outlaw in public, give the alarm.

 

Published by the authority of the Temple, the Order of the Watch, Magistrates of Vvardenfel District, under the signature and authority of Grandmaster Berel Sala, Captain of the Watch.

 

Hear and Heed!

 

"What a load of guarcrap," I heard Julan say after he finished reading the letter aloud. I had already read the letter, but hearing Julan actually read it aloud made me realize how stupid it was. "'Sought for various crimes by Ordinators and town guards...' Aside from trying to overthrow their false gods, what have you done that's supposedly illegal?"

 

"The reason I'm here," I reminded him. "I was a murderer, remember?"

 

"But you were released," Julan also reminded me. "That doesn't count."

 

"I also stole the Progress of Truth from the Library of Vivec," I said, "but I don't think anyone caught me. Aside from that…"

 

I picked up the letter from the Temple that sat between us on the bed, unopened. The seal was red with the words "Ayem, Vehk and Seht" on the outside of the rimming with a great, golden 'T' in the middle. There was some untidy writing below the seal.

 

"To the Outlander lately proclaiming her identity as the Nerevarine, to be delivered with haste," I read, before I pulled it off and opened it, the brown paper becoming torn in the process (I wasn't much good at opening letters neatly), feeling a sense of dread as to what the letter inside said.

 

The assertions made being in direct contradiction of the doctrine of the Tribunal, namely, that you are the Nerevarine, the reincarnation of the Sainted Lord Nerevar, are, in addition to being against Temple teaching, incredible and implausible in the extreme.

 

The revelations made by the Inquisition, namely, that you yourself are in fact an agent of the Imperial Intelligence Service, otherwise known as the Order of Blades, lately made with substantial evidence by the Lord High Archordinator, Berel Sala, further calls into question the validity of and motivations behind your claims.

 

However, as incredible as your claims are, as much as they are in direct contradiction of the teachings of the Temple, and tainted as they are by the inferences to be made upon your close association with the covert policies and interests of the Emperor, the interests of the Temple and its leadership, and in particular, the interests of His Immortal Lordship, Vivec, are best served by a close and personal examinations of the claims being made, and close and personal examinations of the motivations and character of the claimant.

 

The Temple, through its examinations of its records, in particular, the records of the Heirographa and Apographa, is intimately familiar with the many and varied claims of signs and feats that would mark the Nerevarine according to prophecy.

 

Therefore, in the event of the fulfillment of certain of those most remarkable and scarcely credible claims - namely, that the claimant should, at one time, be the acknowledged holder of several ancient titles of power and authority of the Dunmer people, to whit, Hortator of the Great Houses and Nerevarine of the Ashlander tribes - the Temple proposes that the claimant of the identity of the Nerevarine shall present himself for inspection before his Reverend Honor, Archcanon Lord Tholer Saryoni, High Archcanon and Chancellor of Vivec, Archcanon of the Canonry of Vvardenfell, Arch-Priest of the High Fane, for a review and consideration of his claims and identity. However, until such time as the claimant actually has been named Hortator separately and jointly by the three Great Houses of Vvardenfell, and at the same time has been named Nerevarine separately and jointly by the four tribes of the Ashlanders, there is no purpose in reviewing or discussing these claims.

 

Because of the Temple's official position on the prophecies of the Nerevarine, and in the interests of preserving the security of the claimant from those parties who might wish to do him harm, it is convenient that the claimant of the title Nerevarine shall present himself in secret to Archcanon Saryoni in the archcanon's private quarters in the High Fane of Vivec.

 

To signify agreement with these terms and conditions for a meeting with the archcanon, the Nerevarine claimant may present himself to the healer of the High Fane of Vivec, Danso Indules, and the necessary arrangements will be made. Once again, no purpose is served by a meeting until the claimant is named Hortator of the three Great Houses and is named Nerevarine of the four Ashlander tribes.

 

Written at the request of and in the name of his Reverend Honor Tholer Saryoni, Archcanon and Chancellor of Vivec, Dileno Lloran, priest of Vivec, assistant to the Archcanon.

 

"This is stupider than the public announcement," I said flatly. "Basically the Temple has said I am not the Nerevarine and never will be, but in the unlikely event that I am the Nerevarine…"

 

"And, according to them, you aren't," Julan interjected.

 

"Exactly, but if I am the Nerevarine, the archcanon would like to meet me," Julan raised his eyebrows, so I added "secretly" to the end of my sentence.

 

"Well, it looks like they wrote this to you weeks ago," he said. "In fact, they're probably not so sure of themselves now that you've been named Hortator and have one more Ashlander tribe to go."

***

 

Erabenimsun Camp was half-way across the island, meaning that the best bet was to go to Molag Mar and walk the rest of the way. Molag Mar was a pretty place, but it was also a Temple place, and I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. Shani, on the other hand, wanted to see the sights to we only ended up staying there about two hours before continuing onwards, passing a few small villages on the way. We stopped at one for the night, and then arrived at the camp the next day.

 

The Erabenimsun lived in the Molag Amur region, a place I didn't particularly like the look of. It looked dry and desolate. I began to wonder how the Erabenimsun survived out here, until I felt someone grab me by the back of my shirt and I forgot all about it.

 

 

Chapter Twenty Two: Blackmail

Posted on June 20, 2014 at 8:40 PM Comments comments (0)

We never found out who tried to kill me that night, although Julan and I did sit on our bed the next morning, discussing it extensively.

 

"If it's not the Morag Tong, then who could it be?" I asked.

 

"Perhaps someone from the Temple," Julan said darkly. "I mean, they are probably after you now. You're going to have to be more careful now."

 

"It might have been a mistake, though," I said. However, the idea of the Temple coming after me and trying to kill me didn't seem unlikely. "Maybe we should just forget about it."

 

I knew Julan wasn't going to want to leave my side now, after what happened. But we both seemed to agree not to tell Shani about what happened. That would only make matters worse.

 

After a hearty breakfast, the three of us left for the Hlaalu canton where the Curio manor was. Crassius Curio was one of the important Hlaalu counselors, and considering I didn't know where the others were living yet, I figured it was better to start there. The manor was decorated with expensive things - I saw ceramic replicas of things like netches and silt strider cover the space above the fireplace. There was a long dining table in the next room with delicate looking plates, bowls and cups covering it. There was a candlestick right in the middle of the table, though it wasn't lit.

 

"Look at this place," Julan said, wrinkling his nose. "It's disgusting! I can't believe the settled people think they need such expensive things to be happy!"

 

"Julan, don't be a grump," Shani chastised while inspecting one of the paintings on the wall. "I think it's really pretty."

 

An older Dunmer woman saw us. he was carrying a tray of desserts on them. They looked like the kind of snacks I was accustomed to eating back in Cyrodiil.

 

"Are you lost?"

 

"No," I said, "I'm actually here to see Crassius Curio."

 

"He's downstairs," she said, "I was just heading that way myself, so you can follow me."

 

So we followed her downstairs, where she opened one of the bedroom doors. Crassius Curio was sitting at a small table, finishing a meal. The woman took one of his finished trays, and then put the tray of baked goods on the table in it's place, before leaving the room. Crassius looked up, and then smiled widely at me.

 

"Care for a sweetroll, pumpkin?"

 

"A what?" Julan asked.

 

"A sweetroll," I replied, "it's actually a common snack back in Cyrodiil. I'll explain more later." I turned to Crassius Curio, who was eyeing me curiously. " "Ser Curio, I -"

 

"Call me Uncle Crassius, dear," Crassius said with a wink. I saw that Shani was attempting to keep from bursting out into hoots of laughter at this remark, and I couldn't blame her, either.

 

"OK...Uncle Crassius…" I began again hesitantly. I heard Julan snort in the background. "I came here to ask you about being the Hlaalu Hortator."

 

Crassius's grin suddenly widened. "You want to be Hortator?"

 

Well, yes, I just said so, I thought.

 

"Well, isn't that a pity…"

 

"What's wrong?" I asked.

 

"I'm afraid that Orvas Dren does NOT want you to be Hortator, dumpling," Crassius told me. "And very few councilors would be willing to risk Ser Dren's disapproval...But your eloquent passion, your exquisite vulnerability moves me to risk all, and defy Orvas Dren…"

 

"So you'll give me your vote?" I asked, suddenly anxious to get out of Curio manor as soon as possible.

 

"Yes, sweetie, I will name you Hortator," Crassius said with a nod. "But I have something to ask of you..."

 

"Oh, no," Julan interjected. "I don't think so. She's my -"

 

"I was just going to ask for a kiss, nothing more!" Crassius assured him with a chuckle. I laughed nervously and then shook my head. No way. "The answer is still no, Uncle Crassius. But will this gold be enough to satisfy you?"

***

 

The first stop was Yngling Manor ("He can't very well call it 'Half-Troll' manor," Julan remarked with a smirk), where a tall Nord was standing in the first room, talking to his Dunmer servants like they were no more than dirt.

 

"Even more disgusting here than it is in that pervert's manor," Julan said. I turned to him and shushed him.

 

"What are you doing here?" the Nord snarled. I cleared my throat and then told him my story - it felt like I had told this story a thousand times over already. Yngling Half-Troll didn't seem to be paying attention, but when when I was finished he just laughed.

 

"That's a touching story, woman," he began, "but if you don't have two thousand drakes, you won't get my vote."

 

"WHAT?" Shani, Julan and I squawked. We sounded like cliffracers.

 

Half-Troll raised his eyebrows. "Oh, I think you heard me. Gold, or no vote."

 

"Oh, fine," I snapped. I still had a lot of the money Caius had given me before he left. Of course, if I gave Half-Troll two thousand drakes, most of it would be gone, but there wasn't any other solution. "Here."

 

The Nord counted it, and then smiled greedily. "Perfect. Now you get my vote."

***

 

The next two hours were left for me to figure out where Dram Bero lived. All three of us were sitting at a table in a small tradehouse in the St. Olms canton, until Julan 'borrowed' a few Septims and came back with a huge grin on his face.

 

"He's at the Haunted Manor," Julan said.

 

Shani raised her eyebrows. "Haunted Manor?"

 

"And where's my gold?" I demanded.

 

"Haunted Manor! Now!" Julan gestured towards

 

I rolled my eyes and then the three of us wander half-way across the canton's plaza until we came across an old manor. Maybe once it was a beautiful manor, with expensive furnishings and a rich, well-to-do family but now everything had fallen to disrepair. The left window was broken.

 

"Haunted manor?" Julan asked. "Oh, yes. It's so haunted."

 

He opened the front door and and I saw that the inside was even worse than the outside of the manor. Cobwebs and spiders were absolutely everywhere. I thought I saw some tiny scribs crawling all over the floor. They had made a nest behind some old abandoned crates.

 

Downstairs, there was a locked door. I found an ancient lockpick fashioned with daedric metals on the floor. I wasn't much good with lockpicking; I wasn't a thief. In fact, I had only stolen things when I absolutely needed to here in Vvardenfell. It turned out that Julan didn't know how to open the door either. We both tried for what seemed like hours.

 

"Oh, let me!" Shani snapped at us, taking the lockpick and then cracking the door open. Julan and I exchanged looks of suspicion.

 

The rooms downstairs were surprisingly well furnished with expensive things. I saw two people sitting at a dining table, talking extensively about something before someone - an older Dunmer with dark hair tied back - looked up in annoyance.

 

"Are you Dram Bero?" I asked.

 

He scowled. "Yes. I take precautions to ensure that I am not found easily… I see I will have to take more precautions."

 

"Oh, I won't tell anyone," I said, not wanting to know why Dram Bero was hiding. "I just wanted to ask about being named Hortator."

 

Dram nodded. "OK, then. Sit down. We'll talk."

***

 

Velanda Omani and Nevana Ules wouldn't name me Hortator without the approval of Orvas Dren; the racist, Outlander-hating Dunmer who happened to be the leader of the Camonna Tong.

 

"And just how are you going to deal with him?" Julan asked. "He'll kill you!"

 

"Well I have to try," I said.

 

Later in the evening, while Shani was out shopping in the Foreign Quarter, Julan and I headed for the Dren Plantation. It wasn't too far from Vivec. I saw Netches floating around and slaves hauling large wooden crates across the grass. There were guards standing by the largest building on the site - it was probably Dren's house.

 

Without looking at the Dunmer guards, I stepped inside and went upstairs and saw Dren's disapproving glare.

 

"And just what are you doing here?" He snapped. I cleared my throat.

 

"Sera," I began, "I am here to ask for your support as Hlaalu Hortator -"

 

Dren started snickering.

 

"What's wrong?" I asked.

 

"An Outlander? Our Hortator?" He stopped laughing. "Clearly you're joking?"

 

"No, Sera. I'm actually dead serious."

 

"Then the answer is no," Dren pointed towards the door. "Now get out of my sight."

 

I was about to turn and leave, but Julan showed up. I hadn't noticed he was gone. He was carrying an old piece of parchment. Without saying anything, he handed the note to Dren, who read it quickly. I thought the mer was going to faint, due to the expression he was pulling.

 

"How did you…? How did you find this?!" Dren whispered. Julan gave him a smug expression.

 

"It really doesn't matter. What matters is what will happen to you if you do not name Ulina Hortator."

 

Dren had the worst expression; under other circumstances, I might have laughed. But now was not the time. He looked as if he was going to pound Julan to a bloody pulp, but he only handed the note back, and then turned to me.

 

"So…you want the title of Hortator?" He snarled.

 

"Yes."

 

"Then if that's all you're after, get out of here! I'll make sure to inform Velanda and Nevana about this."

 

As soon as we left, Julan handed me the note.

 

"Here," he said, "I knew you were going to ask what the s'wit was so scared of at some point."

 

Ranes and Navil,

 

You have served me well over the years. My brother has been trying to stop our business. We've lost over half our shipments recently. The Duke may be my brother, but if he keeps interfering I am afraid he must be killed. I will be next in line and can consolidate my power before the Redorans even come up with a candidate. I am telling you this so that you know the risks you may be taking. If you are unwilling, I will accept your word of honor not to speak of our business. If you stay, I will reward you.

 

D

 

"Murderous bastard, isn't he?" I asked in a disgusted tone. "Oh, well. At least I can be Hortator now. Let's head for the other two manors."

 

Velanda Omani and Nevana Ules were well aware of what had happened with Orvas Dren, and both times they gave me their vote before shooing me out of their homes. Clearly they were afraid of me, or Dren or both - but it didn't matter to me. What mattered was getting out of Vivec as soon as possible.

 

The next morning, after packing up, we went to Ald-ruhn. Shani wasn't impressed with the ash storms, and that was unsurprising to me given that she was more used to the Grazelands. I rented two rooms and the Ald Skar inn. It felt weird to be back there. It was one of the first places I spent any real time with Julan. Julan was sitting behind me, reading Guide to Ald-Ruhn to try and learn as much about the counselors as possible.

 

"They live in Under-Skar, or the manor district," Julan said. "I've never been there - not that they'd be particularly welcoming to me there anyway."

 

"I'll go see them tomorrow," I told him.

 

So the three of us went. The first person I ended up meeting was Athyn Serethi. It was almost as if he was expecting me to be there.

 

I then realized that he shared a name with my stepmother. Serethi Therayn. Athyn Serethi...oh, Gods.

 

"You have told a remarkable story," He said. "It has the ring of truth. You may have been deceived, but I believe you."

 

I felt myself beam. At least he was nowhere near as rude as Hlaalu...

 

"I may be able to persuade other councilors to believe you as well. But, as a condition of my support, I require a favor."

 

"What kind of favor?" I asked.

 

"Rescue my son, Varvur Sarethi, from Venim Manor," Serethi grimaced. "I have heard Bolvyn Venim is keeping him in the right wing of his manor. You must be careful not to kill Bolvyn Venim himself, or the other councilors will turn against you."

 

Great, I thought, how am I supposed to get into the manor and rescue Varvur without getting him or me killed?

Chapter Twenty One: Bride

Posted on June 20, 2014 at 8:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Ashkhan Kaushad was standing up, appearing to be waiting for me when I arrived. He laughed when he saw me and then shook his head.

 

"So. You're the Outlander I've been hearing so much about. The one who claims to be Nerevarine."

 

"She doesn't 'claim' anything," Julan began heatedly, but I cut him off before he could continue. The one thing I didn't need right now was to irritate the Ashkhan. When Julan nodded in silence, I showed Kaushad my ring. He looked at it a moment and then smiled at me.

 

"Now, could you please name me Nerevarine?"

 

"Ho, ho! Excuse me!" Kaushad said, sounding as if he was going to choke. "Do not think me rude, but seriously...do you even believe this story yourself, Outlander?"

 

I shifted my eyes away from him. Well, there was nothing to contest what I had learnt now.

 

"I mean no offense, but you must admit, you are an outlander, and completely ignorant of our ways. How could you ever be our war leader? What sensible ashkhan would ever choose you to lead the tribes? Ho, ho." Kaushad shook his head.

 

"Let me prove it," I said to him.

 

Kaushad rolled his eyes. "Oh, very well. A vampire named Calvario has taken refuge in nearby Nerano Ancestral Tomb."

 

"I know where that is!" Shani said excitedly from behind me. Kaushad ignored her.

 

"If you are as worthy as you say you are, it should be a small matter for you to dispose of this vampire.. Now perhaps you would leave me in peace for a bit?"

 

I nodded, and the three of us left the yurt.

 

"S'wit," Julan muttered, "He's nothing more than a netch-headed, selfish, thoughtless a -"

 

"Julan, he might hear you," I warned.

 

"I don't care! Let him!" Julan growled as we continued to walk. Shani didn't seem to hear us, or if she did, she didn't care. She lead us towards the Nerano Ancestral Tomb and after that, I took the lead.

 

"Maybe we could lead him outside," Julan suggested. "Vampires hate the sun and it's a perfectly sunny day."

 

"Or we could just kill him," Shani said. I pushed the door and the three of us went inside. I almost tripped down the stairs, because as soon as I entered the tomb, I saw a skeleton walking around with a large sword. It turned around and saw us, and came running in our direction. I hated those things.

 

"This is going to be fun!" Shani cried, pulling out her bow. I saw Julan start casting destruction spells in the skeleton's direction while I pulled out my sword and then hit it. Bones flew everywhere as soon as I did, one flying in my direction and hitting me on the forehead. I let out a sign of disgust.

 

"So he's a necromancer as well as a vampire," Julan remarked. "That suddenly makes everything a whole lot worse."

 

"Who says he's a necromancer?" Shani asked, wrinkling her nose.

 

We kept going. The burial ruin didn't seem tomb that big (thank Gods), just filled with various insects and undead. Then, in the last room, I caught Calvario casting spells on a small skeletal body, before he turned towards us in a rage.

 

"WATCH OUT!" I cried. Shani nodded and began peppering the vampire with arrows from her bow, while Julan and I started slashing the vampire with our swords. Unfortunately, Calvario healed quickly.

 

"You really think you're going to stop me with those?" He asked in disgust. Julan started hitting destruction spells at him in response. The vampire screamed.

 

"Back away," Julan instructed. Shani and I did so. The three of us ran upstairs and opened the door to outside. Apparently the vampire was too stupid to stay inside, because when he left the tomb, his body turned to ash. I carefully scooped up the remains. This would be something to show to Kaushad.

***

 

"Well. So you killed the vampire Calvario?" Kaushad asked. I nodded. "Well. I will be happy to acknowledge you as Zainab Nerevarine. But…"

 

"But what?" I asked.

 

"It is customary for one seeking an honor from the Ashkhan to offer the Ashkhan a generous gift as a mark of respect, Outlander," Kaushad said. "Because you are an outlander, and do not know our customs, I will do you the great favor of naming the gift I wish to receive - a high-born Telvanni bride."

 

I snorted. "Please tell me you're joking." There was no way in Oblivion a high-born Telvanni bride was going to want to marry an ashlander - even an Ashkhan.

 

"Joking?" Kaushad smirked. "No, Outlander, I'm serious; I want a Telvanni bride. And make it a pretty one, plump, with big hips to bring me many sons."

 

"With all due respect," I said, "you ca -"

 

"Where will you find a high-born Telvanni bride?" Kaushad said this as if I was asking the question. "That is simple. You should visit high-born Telvanni lords and inform them that Ashkhan Kaushad of the Lordly Zainab would do them the honor of making their daughter his bride. Surely many Telvanni lords would be honored to receive such an offer."

 

No. Absolutely not, I thought. He's crazy and insane.

 

"Consider carefully the many daughters offered and choose for me the finest," Kaushad continued. "Take counsel with my wise woman, Sonummu Zabamat. She knows my mind well in such matters."

 

That was when we left the yurt, with Julan practically yelling out his disgust to anyone who was willing to hear.

 

"He's nothing more than an immoral, arrogant, scrib-sucking fetcher!" He said. This time, I made no attempts to stop him. I secretly agreed.

 

"Who does he think he's kidding?" Shani asked. "A Telvanni bride? We're never going to find one who'll be willing to marry an Ashlander."

 

"Especially considering the Telvanni's I've met," I muttered, thinking of Neloth and Gothren especially - who considered themselves to be more important than the rest of the world.

 

"I dunno," Julan said, "I'd consider it an honor to marry an Ashlander chief. Just not that s'wit."

 

"Quiet now," I instructed, then opened the door to the Wise Woman's yurt, where we met Sonummu Zabamat, the Wise Woman of the tribe. She was busy grinding herbs with a pestle and mortar. I asked her about Kaushad and his task for me, and she shook her head and snorted, obviously just as annoyed with the idea as we were.

 

"Kaushad wants a Telvanni bride, eh?" She asked. "He was always so full of himself. No high-born Telvanni would wed an Ashlander." She continued grinding her herbs. "But I have a plan."

 

I nodded. "Go on."

 

"Go to my friend, Savile Imayn, slavemistress of the Festival Slave Market in Tel Aruhn, and tell her you need a pretty Dunmer slave to pose as a Telvanni lady. Then Savile Imayn will tell you what clothes to buy, and will dress her like a high-born Telvanni. Then escort the pretty slave to Zainab camp and present her to Ashkhan Kaushad as a high-born Telvanni bride. He won't know the difference."

 

"Wait…." I began, "You actually want me to buy a slave?"

 

Sonummu nodded. "But of course, Outlander. You do want to be named Nerevarine, don't you?"

 

I groaned.

 

The slave business, although outlawed in the rest of the Empire, was still fairly common in Vvardenfell. Most of the slaves were Argonians and Khajiits taken away from their homeland and brought to Morrowind to be sold, but the slave business was still filled with humans and elves, too. As soon as I had learnt about it, I decided to do my best to stay well away from it, given that there was nothing I could do to stop it from happening - despite how awful I thought it was. Julan hated it too, and I knew he was going to call me out on it as soon as we left the yurt.

***

 

"Please tell me you're not actually going to buy a slave?" Julan said, "Because I don't think we should be supporting the slave trade."

 

"OK," Shani began scathingly, "plan B; we dress you up as the Telvanni bride."

 

"Fine!" He fumed. "We'll get him a damned slave. I suppose she'd be better off the wife of an Ashkhan than a slave anyway."

 

"That's the way to think," I said, pulling out my map. "Let's get going."

***

 

"You want a slave to pose as a Telvanni bride?" Savile, a tall middle-aged Dunmer woman asked in surprise. I nodded.

 

"Sonummu Zabamat sent me," I said, as a way of explanation.

 

Savile nodded and gave me a knowing smile. "Sweet Alma, Sonummu and her cunning plans..." She paused. "I do have the slave you want, Falura Llervu, a pretty Dunmer girl. But first she needs some nice clothes to dress her in. Go get these exquisite clothes and bring them to me, and then we will discuss a price for her."

 

I sighed and then made for the direction of the nearest shop - that was right on the other side of town - and bought an exquisite dress (at Shani's suggestion) along with any other supplies we would need. Shani bought a bottle of Telvanni Bug Musk - much to Julan's chagrin - before we left the store carrying a bundle of supplies. I ended up carrying the tent as well as my own stuff.

 

"Ah! There you are!" Savile said to me when we arrived. "I trust you have the clothes? No, don't give them to me," she said. "You will give them to Falura after you buy her. Now, I need some Telvanni Bug Musk."

 

I rolled my eyes. "Not like you couldn't have told me this before I went to buy her clothes."

 

Savile looked slightly annoyed. "I just need a little more time to coach her into the role of a Telvanni noblewoman. Well, what are you waiting for? Go to the apothecary!"

 

Julan and Shani decided to wait for me there while I went to the apothecary and bought another bottle of Telvanni Bug Musk, trying not to breathe in the strong smell that emitted from the bottle - even though it was sealed. Then, I saw a now much happier Savile nod in my direction as I neared the slave market.

 

"Now. Let me tell you my price," Savile was grinning wickedly as she said this. "For this superb specimen, skillfully coached to play her part in your little scheme, I am pleased to accept from you the modest sum of 1200 drakes. And I only offer you this special price out of my friendship for Sonummu."

 

"That's daylight robbery," Julan said under his breath. I ignored him and handed over the gold to Savile, who was now had the greediest expression on her face. I decided that if I could help it, I was never going to set foot in a slave market again. Savile handed me a strange looking key.

 

"Now, here's the key to her cage. I've removed her slave bracers. When you're ready, you should speak to Falura, give her the presents - the exquisite clothes and Telvanni Bug Musk - and explain to her that she is to follow you back to Zainab camp to meet her future husband, Ashkhan Kaushad."

 

I nodded and then headed towards the nearest cage - where a pretty Dunmer woman was sitting on the cage floor, looking down at it with sad eyes. I opened the cage and took her hand and stood her up gently before passing her the dress and Bug Musk.

 

"It's time to go," I said.

 

She nodded. "Yes, muthsera. Falura Llervu of Velothis Haven, daughter of Andrano Llervu, lord of Tel Llervu, pleased to make your acquaintance." She curtsied. "See? Savile Imayn has taught me well. I shall BE a high-born Telvanni lady, and no one will know the difference. Just like a lady."

 

"Well, you certainly had me convinced," Julan quipped. She smiled at him. "I admit, I am a little anxious about marrying an Ashlander, even an Ashlander chief, but anything is better than being a slave, and I am very tough and smart, and determined to make the best of my chances."

 

"That's good to hear," I said. "Now, it's time to go meet your new husband."

***

 

The journey back to Zainab camp was a long one; so long that we had to set up camp for the night when we had reached the mainland again. Julan and Falura were talking about something - something I couldn't hear - and Shani was looking at the maps in some of Julan's books.

 

"Mournhold?" She asked, turning to me. She pronounced it 'Monhold.' "I mean, I know how to read but I'm worried I might be saying it wrong -"

 

"Mournhold," I replied, glancing at the texts. Shani then turned the page and we both looked at one of the pretty illustrations of the Almalexia Gardens that were a part of the city.

 

"Now I want to go there," she said longingly.

 

"Maybe someday we will," I said, thinking about my parents. Not my real parents, but Dranen and Llethsea. The idea suddenly came to me that after I stopped Dagoth Ur - and I lived - that I could go to Mournhold and ask about my parents. the Therayn's and my real parents.

 

The next day, after a breakfast of Kwama eggs roasted over an open fire, we packed up and continued on the way towards Zainab camp. When Falura was out of sight, Julan started talking to me about Falura and her past.

 

"She's amazing - I mean, after all she's been through, being passed from master to master - it's amazing how she managed to keep up with all that and still manage to smile."

 

Shani nudged me. "It sounds like you have some competition, Ulina."

 

"SHANI!" Julan yelled.

 

Thankfully, Falura heard nothing.

 

Then, we finally reached Zainab Camp, where Kaushad was standing in front of his yurt. Falura nodded and smiled.

 

"He is very distinguished-looking, isn't he?" She asked. No, I thought. He looks more like a greedy guar. "A bit severe, perhaps, but the lines on his face, there, show that he likes to smile. Oh, Ulina...I think I will be very happy."

 

Falura then gave me, Shani and Julan a hug before talking to her husband-to-be and then entering one of the unused yurts. Kaushad then made a move to walk towards us, grinning.

 

"I am very pleased with your gift, Therayn…" Kaushad lowered his voice to a whisper, "though she is not so generous in the hips as I would like."

 

Julan scoffed and I frowned.

 

"But no matter!" Kaushad grinned. "I promise to make her a happy bride, and to do her honor as a high-born Telvanni lady. And, as I have said, I will now name you Zainab Nerevarine, War Leader of the Zainab, and Protector of the People."

 

"Thank you," I said.

 

"I must also give you the Zainab Thong, an enchanted heirloom of the tribe, which shall be a sign to all Dunmer that the Zainab have named you Nerevarine." Kaushad then handed me an enchanted amulet. I now had three hanging around my neck, and the amulets were beginning to grow heavy. Goodness knows I wouldn't want a forth.

 

"Now, if you'll stay for the wedding?" Kaushad asked.

 

I shook my head. "Oh, no. I really need to -"

 

He took my hand. "I insist."

 

We arrived in Vivec two days after the wedding, thoroughly exhausted from the journey. Shani decided to leave the inn room I had rented to take a shower downstairs while Julan went to eat. I decided what I needed more than anything was a nap. At first it took awhile to fall asleep due to the terrible lighting and the headache that was coming over me, so I grabbed a sleeping potion from my side table and swallowed it in one gulp, hoping for dreamless sleep.

***

 

The girl continued through the dark hallways. She now recognized details of the room she hadn't noticed before. Is this a dwemer ruin? Then, the dark halls up ahead revealed a door. The door revealed a cave, and there he stood again. The one with the golden mask.

 

This time, she understood what he was saying.

 

"Lord Nerevar Indoril, Hai Resdaynia! Long forgotten, forged anew!" he shouted. "Three belied you, three betrayed you! One you betrayed was three times true! Lord Voryn Dagoth, Dagoth Ur, steadfast liegeman, faithful friend, bids you come and climb Red Mountain! Beneath Red Mountain, once again, break your bonds, shed cursed skin, and purge the n'wah from Morrowind!"

 

She backed away. "No, never. Not after what you've done."

 

He laughed darkly, but didn't reply. He only started casting spells in her direction, causing her to scream -

 

I sat up quickly, and noticed sweat dripping across my face. I took a deep breath, and then fell back down, trying to go back to sleep. But I couldn't. I heard footsteps. It's probably Julan, I told myself. Or Shani. But instead it turned out to be someone else. From head to toe, they were wearing black leather armor and were carrying a small, but powerful looking dagger.

 

"Whoever it is, you need to go away or I'll call the guards," I said snappishly. They didn't listen, they only tried to stab me with the dagger. Almost instinctively, I thought, I rolled over and onto the floor, grabbing a spear from under the bed. I wasn't good with spears. We didn't have them back in Cyrodiil, and I hadn't used them much here, either. But it was the only weapon I could find, so I grabbed it and hit the person over the head. He fell against the wall, knocking clothes and decorative items everywhere, but managed to get himself up afterwards. I felt my blood run cold. I was left alone in a room with someone who wanted to kill me. What could I do?

 

I found my sword on the ground by the door and slashed them with it. Blood was now everywhere - on the floor and on me - and I sat on the floor for a few moments, trying to get over what had just happened.

 

Who was that person? And why did they try to kill me?

 

I heard the sound of the bedroom door open and Julan was standing in the doorway. He looked shocked, and for good reason.

 

"Who was that?" He asked in surprise.

 

I looked up at him. "I don't know! I woke up and just like that, this person was trying to kill me!"

 

Julan said nothing but knelt down and began searching the person's body. When he was finished, he shook his head.

 

"They don't have a writ…"

 

"A what?" I asked.

 

"A writ," Julan replied. "They aren't with the Morag Tong - Morrowind's legally sanctioned assassin's guild. This person...they were going to murder you, Ulina!"

 

"Maybe it's a mistake," I replied weakly.

 

Julan looked at me worriedly. "Maybe it was...but if it happens again, then you have to do something."

Chapter Twenty: Ageless Sorcerers.

Posted on June 20, 2014 at 8:25 PM Comments comments (0)

The Ahemmusa celebrated that night with Julan being the guest of honor. I was happy to see him accepted among his people again, and even happier to see him declared "a great ashkhan." Shani and I laughed when Julan blushed at the remark.

 

"A great ashkhan?" He asked. "Me?"

 

"Sure," Shani replied with an eyeroll, while eating through her roasted kwama egg. "Well, I think - at the very least - you'd vie for the most obnoxious."

 

I scoffed and shook my head.

 

Julan and I stayed the night at the Ahemmusa camp in the now unoccupied Ashkhan's yurt, then made our way to Mashti's in the morning. I watched while Julan and Mashti hugged and Mashti burst into tears again. Then, to my great surprise, she hugged me.

 

Then, Julan and I sat by the beach, contemplating what I had to do next now that I was the Nerevarine.

 

"I need to talk to the Great House counselors," I said. "Who's nearest?"

 

"The Telvanni," Julan replied with a grimace. "I used to spend a great deal of time in Vos. Tel Vos isn't too far away and apparently Aryon lives there. Perhaps you'd best start there?"

 

I grimaced then too. I remembered Tel Fyr - the only Telvanni tower I had set foot in so far - and it wasn't the most pleasant I remembered.

 

"Hey, guys!"

 

A familiar voice shouted from across the beach, and I turned to see Shani, running towards us. Her red hair wasn't in long braids, instead it was left to hang loose over her shoulders and to blow in the wind. She was also wearing a dress. <i>Shani? In a dress?</i>

 

"I've been looking all over for you," she remarked.

 

"Is something wrong?" Julan asked.

 

Shani shook her head and turned to Julan.

 

"No. Sinnammu just told me to let you know that if you have any obligations to Ulina, she can watch the tribe for awhile longer. And also…" Shani glanced at me. "...I have something to ask."

 

"Shoot," I said.

 

"I was wondering if maybe...I can go with you?" Shani asked. "I mean, I'm not as good a warrior as you or Julan, but I just want to see more of Vvardenfell. Mamaea taught me some recall spells and Sinnammu made a ring just like yours and Julan's! Just in case."

 

I exchanged looks with Julan, who shrugged; it would be entirely up to me.

 

"We're going to Tel Vos first," I said. "Coming?"

***

 

Tel Vos was the only Telvanni tower nearby that wasn't on it's own island, and was surrounded by the grazelands. The tower itself was a hybrid of a traditional fort and a Telvanni tower. I asked the guard for the quickest way to see Aryon, but the only way to do so was to levitate to the top of the mushroom tower.

 

Aryon was sitting down at a large desk and inspecting an old looking book, until we came in and he looked up, with raised eyebrows.

 

"And you are?" He asked in an aggravated tone of voice. I cleared my throat and tried my best to look calm.

 

"I'm Ulina Therayn. These are my companions, Julan and Shani," I nodded towards Julan and Shani, who were also doing their best to remain calm.

 

"Oh, yes," he nodded. "You're the Outlander that claims to be the Nerevarine."

 

I was shocked, then tried to wrap my head around the fact that someone knew I was pursuing the prophecies. I hadn't told anyone. How did Aryon know?

 

I showed Aryon the Moon and Star ring on my finger. "I came to ask how a Hortator is chosen, sera."

 

Aryon quickly explained that all the counsellors would have to agree, and then he told me about the other counsellors of House Telvanni. I listened attentively when it came to Neloth, Dratha and Therana, but Gothren had me worried.

 

"Archmagister Gothren never directly refuses requests; he just delays indefinitely, never giving an answer," Aryon explained. "I don't know of any solution, other than killing Gothren."

 

I choked, and heard Shani do the same. Julan snorted, and then muttered, "you're kidding me," under his breath.

 

"Certainly not," Aryon said to him. "In House Telvanni, it's perfectly normal to settle disputes in this manner."

 

"Because that's normal," Shani muttered in response. Aryon pointedly ignored her.

 

"I'll tell you plainly, Therayn; I stand to gain if Archmagister Gothren dies," Aryon said. "I say this so you won't think I'm trying to trick you. My advice is still good. Gothren won't name you Hortator, but he'll never come out and say so. And as I said, in House Telvanni it is customary to settle disputes in this manner."

 

I sighed and made way to leave Tel Vos with Julan and Shani trailing along behind me.

***

 

Tel Naga - Neloth's tower - was placed slap bang in the middle of Sadrith Mora. That meant walking through the Mushroom City again. The past few times I had passed through this city, the only place I had been was Wolverine Hall. Outlanders were not allowed to pass though most of the city without special papers. I purchased these and then left Shani and Julan at Wolverine Hall. They were playing a game of cards. I thought it best that I dealt with Neloth alone.

 

Neloth was sitting at the top of his tower, drinking what I thought was a cup of tea, and reading a book. But then he looked up and saw me. He scowled.

 

"Whatever you want, Outlander, the answer is no. Now get out of my sight," he snapped, then turned away and began to sip from his cup again.

 

"Please, sera," I began, trying to keep my cool. After all, he had just insulted me. "I just wanted to ask you to give me your vote for Hortator."

 

Neloth looked as if he was about to spit out his tea. "Hortator? War leader of House Telvanni? Is that necessary?"

 

"With deepest respect, yes it is. Dagoth Ur and his minions have -"

 

"Why doesn't anyone tell me about these things?" Neloth interjected. He had obviously not paid any attention to my last few words. He gave me an irritated look. "So. Do you want the job? Are you qualified?"

 

"Sera -"

 

"Good," He snapped. "Then go ahead. I really don't care. Be the Hortator. Just go away."

 

I turned around and started to float back downstairs. Now there's one person I can live with never seeing again.

***

 

The next two counselors were Dratha and Therana. Dratha was easy enough to convince; I was a woman. Therana, required distractions - a magic trick from Julan was good enough to get her attention - before all three of us made our to Tel Aruhn to see Gothren.

 

"I heard rumors that this guy spends a great deal of time around Daedra," Julan told us.

 

Shani turned towards me.

 

"And you're actually going to go see him?" She asked.

 

I nodded solemnly. "I don't have much choice, Sha."

 

Julan was right; Gothren was a tall Dunmer man wearing the standard Telvanni robes and beside him were two Dremora, who were staring at all three of us suspiciously, their red eyes boring into me. I shuddered.

 

"What do you want, Outlander?" Gothren demanded. I turned towards Julan and Shani, who shrugged.

 

"I have come to ask you about you giving me your vote for Hortator," I said calmly. Gothren scowled, but I chose to ignore it as I told my story. When I was finished, he scowled even more.

 

"No," he said.

 

I sighed. "Please consider it, sera."

 

"I wasn't finished, Outlander," Gothren said. "I was going to tell you to wait. Let me think... Yes. I understand perfectly. Your story makes sense. Your proofs are persuasive... But a decision on such a remarkable matter is a grave responsibility, and not to be taken in haste. I will need some time to reflect and consider, and to confer with the other Telvanni counselors."

 

"I already talked to them," I told him. "They gave me their votes. Why can't you?"

 

Gothren's expression was livid.

 

"I suppose I'll have to explain. Or you'll just keep annoying me," he sighed. "I have no intention of naming you Hortator of House Telvanni."

 

This wasn't a big surprise to me; Aryon had warned me this would happen.

 

"S'wit," Julan muttered.

 

"...It is not in Telvanni interests to name an unknown and unreliable outlander and outsider to such an important position, Therayn," Gothren continued. "My opinion will not change. If you persist in bothering me, you will regret it. This discussion is ov -"

 

All of a sudden, a fire started in the middle of the room. The Dremora looked over at me and Julan and unsheathed their swords. Julan started casting ice spells at them and I started hitting the Dremora with my new glass sword. Shani was nowhere in sight. I hoped she was OK. I accidentally hit Gothren, but he healed himself and then fell down the stairs. I heard a crack, and then saw Gothren's corpse on the floor.

 

Shani then reappeared with a huge grin on her face.

 

"Where were you?" I asked.

 

"I cast an invisibility spell," she said. "And then started the fire."

 

"Thank you," I said.

 

"Er, guys," Julan said, then pointed towards the Telvanni guards that were floating upwards towards us. "I think we need to get out of here. Now."

 

Before Shani and I could say a word, Julan grabbed onto our arms and then teleported us back to Ahemmusa camp.

***

 

I returned to Tel Vos the next morning alone, and Aryon greeted me by handing me a pink and yellow robe.

 

"It's called the 'Robe of the Hortator,'" he began It is an ancient artifact, and hasn't been used in centuries. But I think you'll be pleased."

 

I nodded.

 

"I see you've gathered the votes of all the surviving Telvanni councilors. That means you are now the Hortator of House Telvanni. Congratulations. I wish you luck, Hortator. I may even pray for you."

 

"Thank you," I said to him.

 

"And thank you," Aryon replied.

***

 

"I think we should stay out of the cities for now," Julan said as all three of us sat on the beach, watching a group of Ahemmusa warriors cross the water nearby. "I mean, that thing with the Telvanni was a bit much. Maybe we should try talking to the other Ashlander camps first? Oh, and Ulina," he said.

 

I raised my eyebrows. "Yes?"

 

"I hereby declare you Nerevarine of the Ahemmusa. Sorry I forgot to name you earlier. You can ask Sinnammu for the Madstone later."

 

So we stayed there as Shani told us about the warriors who were going to clear out Ald Daedroth of Sheogorath worshippers so they could stay there until the blight cleared off. And the next day, we went to see the Urshilaku. I didn't have to do anything there but sit and listen attentively to Sul-Senipul, who gave me 'counsel' before he named me Nerevarine.

 

Then, then next nearest place was Zainab camp. The area nearby looked much like the Ahemmusa camp. I took a deep breath, then opened the door to the Ashkhan's yurt.

 

 

Chapter Nineteen: In Boethiah's Name

Posted on June 20, 2014 at 7:55 PM Comments comments (0)

The first thing we did was open the door to Mashti's yurt. She was sitting by her small fire, sipping from a clay cup. Her face looked puffy and she looked exhausted. She must have been crying all night. I cleared my throat and Mashti looked up. She smiled.

 

"Julan," she began. "You...you brought him back."

 

I turned towards Julan, who was looking at her with the coldest expression I had ever seen on his face.

 

"Julan," Mashti began, turning to face her son, "you must -"

 

"Be silent," Julan snapped. "I 'must not' do anything! I'm here for answers from you, and nothing else."

 

I glanced at Julan, but he didn't turn to look at me. He was obviously too angry to do so. And with good reason.

 

"I know you murdered my father," Julan continued angrily. "But I want to hear it from you. Why you did it. And why I shouldn't kill you where you stand."

 

Oh, gods. I hope he doesn't really kill her! I thought. For all her faults, I didn't think Mashti deserved to die.

 

"So," Mashti began coldly. As usual. "That is why you have come. You ask me why I murdered Han-Sashael?"

 

"Of course," Julan returned. He didn't say anything else, but I thought he was going to finish the sentence with a rather sarcastic, didn't I just say that?

 

"I shall tell you everything you wish, my son. But you already know everything, do you know not? If you know that I killed him, then surely you know the rest? Please tell all the sins of your wicked mother since you know them so well."

 

Mashti voice was full of sarcasm and anger, but at the same time I could sense her hurt. I felt Julan tense beside me and I held onto his arm.

 

"I know what the Ahemmusa said happened. I never believed it could be true, until now," Julan said.

 

"And now you no longer believe me," Mashti replied sadly.

 

"You speak nothing but lies. Lies to hide your shame and your failure. Everything they said about you was true, yet I defended you. But you... you are despicable. You lured him to his death in some cave-"

 

Mashti snorted in disgust. "Some cave? Julan, the cave is known as Sanit. It lies south of here. Its tunnels run deep, even running beneath Red Mountain. It is the source of the Daedra and Corprus beasts invading these lands. Sashael... he was so bold, so reckless. Drunk with the thrill of the chase, perhaps he thought he could drive back the beasts beneath the mountain, and finally make his people safe..."

 

"And then he was lured there by you!" Julan spat, unsheathing his sword. I let out a small scream and pulled on his arm, trying to stop him from attacking his mother. Mashti, however, remained strangely calm and didn't stop Julan.

 

"I know you can summon Hungers!" Julan shouted. "And make them obey you. I know you were seen approaching the cave!"

 

"Yes," Mashti replied, glaring at Julan. "I was watching. I scarcely believed he could be so foolish..."

 

"Shut up! You killed the guard, Mashti. Then you entered the cave to finish the job!"

 

I had to say something. Anything. Anything to break up the horrible argument Julan was having with his mother.

 

"You really killed the guard, Mashti?" I asked. Julan and Mashti turned towards me, as if realizing I had been standing there.

 

"I did, Ulina," Mashti told me. I felt my heart sink even lower than it had from watching the argument, if that was even possible. "He refused to let me come near him. His fear made him rash... I was forced to defend myself. I had to follow Sashael, to stop him. I had seen the things that dwelt deep in that cave. There was far worse than Hungers in there."

 

Julan snorted. "Oh, so you went in to save him? Yeah, right! Funny how they all ended up dead, then, isn't it? And you came out without a scratch!"

 

Mashti shook her head in frustration. I thought I saw tears welling up in her eyes. Again.

 

"I-I was too late," Mashti whispered. "His men were dead, and he-he had gone deeper in, lost in a haze of slaughter. Killing all in his path, unaware that he was the only one still standing. I ran and ran through caves of corpses, but deep beneath the mountain the tunnels were dark and maze-like, and I could not find him. I heard him, dying, but I could not... I never even found his body."

 

There was a sudden silence in the yurt, and then I saw Mashti turn towards me. "I shut myself in my yurt for a week. I said that I was praying to Azura, so that my son might not know of my grief."

 

I turned towards Julan, who lowered his sword. "I...I think I remember that," he said softly.

 

"It is the truth, Julan. I am sick of lies, and now it matters not. He is lost to me, and now you too are lost to me. Nothing matters to me now."

 

I heard Julan sigh heavily.

 

"Perhaps I might believe you," Julan said, "but... why did you never tell me, while he lived? He was my father, and I never knew him. How could you deny me that chance?"

 

"Deny?" Mashti snorted in disgust. "What have I denied you, Julan? The chance to be rejected and reviled, as I have been! If you would tell me of my sins, then tell of his as well. He denied you, not I, he refused you as his son, I merely spared you the pain of knowing it. I loved you too much to make you endure what I suffered. And now you truly know all I have to tell you. You may kill me now, if that is your wish, I have no reason to live any longer."

 

Julan stared at Mashti, but then turned around and left the yurt. Mashti gasped and started for the direction to leave after him, but I pulled on her arm. "Mashti, let him go."

 

Mashti looked at me. "There is nothing else I can say, Ulina."

 

"But there's stuff I can say."

***

 

Julan was lying on his back on the beach. It looked like he was watching the sky. I sat beside him and then he sat up. Julan had gotten sand in his hair.

 

"I've decided to return my father's bones to the tribe," he said at once. I gave him a puzzled look.

 

"But what about the ancestors -"

 

"I'm still not sure about that," Julan admitted. "Perhaps if I find where my father died, there will be evidence of what happened, and some way of proving if Mother's story is true."

 

"And what then, if... she did kill him?"

 

"Then…" Julan hesitated. I understood why. "I'll do whatever I have to do. It's my duty. You see, I realised, I'm not the Nerevarine and I never was. But there is one thing that's been true all along – I have a sacred mission to save my people. And now, I know how. But, I think it's time we talked about you."

 

"About me?" I asked.

 

"About what you will do, now that you are the Nerevarine."

 

I sighed, and looked at the Moon-and-Star ring that was around my finger. I had almost forgotten it was there.

 

"I guess I'm going to have to try, aren't I?" I asked. I took his hand, "but you come first, Julan."

***

 

I shoved the door to Sanit open with my hand, and took in the sights before me. The red candles, the eerie feelings, everything...it was unpleasantly familiar.

 

"This isn't Daedra!" Julan seethed. "This is Sixth House! I can't believe those bastards are building their filthy altars over my father's bones! I'm going to gut each and every last one of these lunatics!"

 

"We'll get to the bottom of this," I said, "I promise."

 

Ash zombies made their way towards us, no doubt because they heard Julan's shouts. I unsheathed my sword and proceeded to hack them to pieces. Julan did the same and we continued through the cave, careful not to step on the corpses of the zombies.

 

The cave was filled with sixth house servants, and Julan and I had to kill them all. Deeper into the cave there were daedra. I saw hungers as well as something else I hadn't encountered before. Tall, golden women who were carrying spears.

 

"Golden saints," Julan told me. "We need to get moving."

 

I ran towards the next room, bumping into an invisible barrier. I saw a hunger in the distance. It began to run towards me, but went through the barrier instead.

 

Well, that got that out of the way.

 

"ULINA! GET OUT OF THE WAY! NOW!"

 

I turned around and saw what was probably the most frightening sight ever; a giant hunger. Julan readied his bow and arrows and began shooting at the thing. It began to shriek. I rolled out of the way and found a way to stand up, unsheathing my sword. Then, I began to hit it. Blood spilled into my hair and onto my clothes, but I kept hacking away anyway.

 

The body of the hunger fell into the pool of lava across from us. Julan and I stood there, watching the bones and the skin melt away.

 

"You do realize you're a mess, right?" Julan remarked.

 

I nodded."I'll clean up when we get out of here."

 

Julan and I continued on through the cave, and then I saw it. I saw a pile of bones on the floor beside a spirit.

 

"Hah! Han-Julan!" The spirit said, before going on to say something in Ashlander dialect, a language I didn't fully understand yet. I tugged in Julan's arm.

 

"Julan, do you know what he said?"

 

Julan didn't answer; he just stared blankly at the spirit in front of him.

 

"You do not understand me, Han-Julan?" The spirit asked scornfully, deciding to speak in Tamrielic. "You are no son of mine, then, who no longer speaks the language of his people!"

 

I suddenly understood that the spirit was Han-Sachael. The man who made Mashti fall in love with him, fathered Julan and then left them without saying a word to defend them. What a coward.

 

"He said: 'what took you so long?'" Julan told me, turning to me.

 

"Oh, so you do still remember some of your culture, do you? Ai, these young ones of the tribe, all speaking the tongue of the n'wah, talking like outlanders, forgetting the language of their ancestors." Han-Sachael said in disgust.

 

Julan coughed. "I'm just a little out of practise is all…"

 

"Ai, such a generation we have upon us," Han-Sachael smiled, despite himself. "No respect for the tribe. No respect for the ancestors. Leave their father's bones to rot in a cave for three years, his soul trapped, unable to join with the tribal spirits. How will the tribe survive, with children such as this?"

 

Julan looked down. "Youre right. I have failed you and I'm sorry…"

 

I suddenly lost it then.

 

"Julan, you didn't fail him! He failed you! You never even knew he was your father!" I cried. I then turned to Han-Sachael, who was looking at me coldly. "You...you should have said something to your wife, made her accept -"

 

"You shall not judge me, outlander," Han-Sachael interrupted me. "There are others here who have that task. Such as my son here, he has the right to demand those answers from me."

 

"And I demand nothing," Julan said. I looked at him, my expression probably dumbstuck. "I understand how it was; you made a mistake – a brief affair, an unwanted pregnancy. What could you do but deny it? Your honour could not be stained by such a thing, your wife was too respected – and you had her feelings to consider. You could not shame the woman you loved by raising another's son as your own, while she remained childless. I cannot blame you. It was a mistake, and you dealt with it as you had to."

 

Han-Sachael nodded. "Yes, a mistake. I made a terrible mistake. I married the woman my parents wanted me to, because she was a most religious woman, a respected servant of Boethiah, although I did not love her as she loved me. And when she threatened to summon her Daedric lord to destroy you and your mother, I made a deal with her.

 

"She would let you live, even allow you into the camp, so long as I never named you son, never even spoke your name. Another mistake. I see now I was a fool to think she would harm you, since she would lose her hold over me, and any little love I held for her would be destroyed. But in my folly and panic, I swore binding oaths to the Gods and the ancestors, staking the very safety of the tribe.

 

"It was always my plan to tell you. When you were a man and had nothing to fear from Ahmabi and her threats. But it is not an easy thing to do, after nearly twenty years... and I had sworn oaths that were dangerous to break. So I hesitated, like a fool.

 

"But then, your Shani came to me, weeping, and told me of your mother's plan for you. That you were to go to Red Mountain and defeat the devil. That you had to know the truth before it was too late. I sent for you, but you were nowhere to be found. So I went to Ahmabi, and demanded that she release me from my oaths. I no longer cared about her threats. She obeyed me, or, she let me think so.

 

"No doubt she prayed to Boethiah that very night. What did she pray for, I wonder? I cannot think she intended my death, as, for all her faults, she loved me. But the Daedra interpret requests as it suits them, for their own amusement. She received the trap that ended my life the very next day."

 

I felt myself blanch. Oh, gods. And Mashti was blamed for his death all that time. Oh, gods. Oh, gods.

 

"I have made many mistakes in my life, Han-Julan. Many, many regrets. But loving your mother, and fathering you, those things I have never ever regretted. It was the most joy I knew, even if it brought the most sorrow. And now you are here, fulfilling my greatest hopes for you. You will return my bones, and save the Ahemmusa. Take them, and release me from this place. My spirit will no longer retain this mind, and these memories. I shall become one with the ancestors."

 

Julan gulped. I placed a hand on his shoulder.

 

"Farewell, Han-Julan," Han-Sashael said. "You will serve the Ahemmusa better than I did. One last thing, before my soul is finally released. Tell your mother - tell Mashti - that if I could keep but one memory of this life, to hold with me always, it would be of her dancing..."

 

That was when the spirit of Han-Sachael disappeared, and I watched Julan gather up the bones of his father.

***

 

The Ahemmusa camp was a welcoming sight when Julan and I arrived. Shani was sitting by the beach nearby. and she was the first one we saw. She demanded the whole story so we told her, and Shani jaw dropped by the end of it.

 

"So you mean - you actually saw -"

 

"Yes," Julan answered, holding the bones in a sack. "Now we need to go see Sinnammu. Coming?"

 

Shani opened her mouth, but closed it again and nodded firmly. I smiled and then all three of us proceeded towards the Wise Woman's yurt. Sinnammu was sitting on the floor, meditating. She was a lot older than Nibani - the only other Wise Woman I had met - with long grey hair and a wrinkling face. She was wearing a guar-skin dress and was barefoot.

 

"We brought the bones back," Julan said suddenly. Sinnammu got up and took the sack from Julan, inspecting them quickly before smiling.

 

"I shall prepare the necessary rituals as soon as possible," She said. "This is a wonderful thing you have done for the tribe. You must tell me everything that has passed."

 

And so we told the story for a second time that day. Sinnammu sat and listened attentivly, and when it was over she nodded.

 

"So. This is how it was," she began angrily, then the Dunmer scowled and looked away. "And we blamed Mashti all this time."

 

"So you believe us?" Julan asked.

 

Sinnammu nodded, and with that Sahni and I let out our sighs of relief.

 

"Oh, yes. But there are others here who will not," she warned. "Ahmabi is known as a deeply religious woman, and a loving wife. You must make her confess her crime, if you would prove Mashti Kaushibael innocent. She is easily angered, and if you provoke her, she may admit all. I shall listen outside, to bear witness."

 

With that, all four of us left the yurt and and Julan entered Ahmabi's, with me and Shani following along behind. Ahmabi's expression was livid.

 

"What are you doing here?" She snapped, pointing an accusatory finger in Julan's direction. "How dare you come in here?"

 

"You have no choice in this, Ahmabi," Julan said coldly. "I know Han-Sashael was my father, and I know about your little bargain."

 

"And we know how Han-Sachael really died," Shani taunted, "how could you do that, you faithless bitch?"

 

Ahmabi's eyes widened; if I didn't know any better, I'd say they'd pop out of her skull. "How DARE -"

 

"Oh, come off it you withered old hag," I snapped, speaking for the first time since I entered the tent. "You're no better than the common murderer and you know it."

 

"You murdered him, and let my mother take the blame!" Julan raged.

 

Ahmabi screamed.

 

"How dare you say that!" she shrieked, "she did kill him! She tried to take him from me!"

 

Ahmabi pushed Julan out of the tent, and he fell onto the ground. At that, Shani and I attempted to hold her back as she walked towards Julan, who was lying on his back.

 

"She forced me to act, she forced me to protect my marriage!" She continued.

 

"So what did you pray for, the night Han-Sachael died?" I asked coldly.

 

Ahmabi turned away from Julan to face me. He red eyes may as well have been daggers.

 

"I prayed for vengeance!" She seethed. "I prayed that witch might know half the pain I felt when he betrayed me for her, and the only joy left to me in the blighted world is that, in that at least, I succeeded!"

 

"The truth is out, Ahmabi," Shani told her, "you can stop it now."

 

"Curse the ancestors, just as I long ago cursed the Gods!" Ahmabi yelled. "And curse you all, for I will not give you the satisfaction of taking my life."

 

Suddenly, the woman pulled out a lethal looking dagger from the inside of her robes. I pulled out my swords, as did Julan, but Ahmabi held it towards us, before she held it towards her heart.

 

"Lord Boethiah!" Ahmabi called, looking towards the blue sky. "If you care anything for one who was once your servant, avenge me!"

 

And then she stabbed herself, her body dropped onto the dirty floor. Her blood spilled everywhere, and all we could do was watch the scene in shock.

 

 

Chapter Eighteen: Revelations.

Posted on June 20, 2014 at 7:40 PM Comments comments (0)

"Mashti!" I screamed, when I reached the camp, "Mashti! Mashti, open the godsdamned door!"

 

There was no reply, only the distinct sounds of sobbing. I attempted to open the door to her yurt again, but she had done something to make it unopenable. Either she put a barricade in front of the door, or she had done some sort of magic to force the door shut. Mashti was a Wise Woman once. The idea of her using magic to do such a thing didn't seem unlikely.

 

"MASHTI!"

 

"Go away!" she snarled, though her voice was shaky. I sighed and slumped up against the wall of the yurt, trying hard not to cry myself. The rain was pouring hard now, and my clothes were damp, and my hair was dripping down my shoulders but I didn't care. Without thinking about it, I rubbed the telepathy ring Mashti had given me. There was still no response from Julan.

 

That was when I got up and trudged towards the Ahemmusa Camp, where I saw Shani talking in hushed voices to the camp healer until she saw me and said goodbye to the woman.

 

"What are you doing here?" She asked. "Has something happened?"

 

I gulped. "Julan's missing. Do you know where -?"

 

"Wait, Julan's missing?" Shani exclaimed."Oh, Gods...what happened?"

 

I explained my story to Shani as quickly as I could, and I personally thought my speech sounded almost incoherent but she seemed to understand what I was saying.

 

"You're the Nerevarine?" she whispered, not bothering to disguise the shock in her voice. I nodded slowly, and showed her the ring on my finger. "And Mashti did what? But Ahmabi said -"

 

"Yes, I forgot to ask?" I snapped. "Who in Oblivion is Ahmabi?"

 

"She's the previous Ashkhan's wife," Shani replied, "and she really, really hates Mashti and Julan. In fact, no one is supposed to talk about them here. So you really shouldn't - ULINA, WAIT!"

 

Before Shani could say another word, I rushed through the crowd of Ahemmusa Ashlanders and burst into the Ashkhan's yurt, where an elderly Dunmer woman sat on the floor, praying. She was dressed pretty well for an Ashlander, and looked pretty disgusted to see a younger, drenching Outlander girl like me burst into her yurt without permission. Ahmabi.

 

"Yes?" She asked, her voice curt. "How can I help you?"

 

"You can help me by telling me why you hate Mashti Kaushibael!" I flared.

 

Ahmabi's expression was even more angry than it was before. "WHAT DID YOU SAY?"

 

"I heard she married someone in this camp," I continued.

 

Ahmabi began readying a fire spell. "Han-Sachael was only ever married to one woman, and that woman was me! Get out!"

 

But I didn't want to get out. I wanted to ask her more questions, even if it killed me. But an invisible force pulled me out of the yurt and I was suddenly face to face with Shani.

 

"What in Mephala's name were you thinking?" She snapped. "She would have killed you!"

 

"Well, I need answers," I snapped back. "And no one's telling me anything! Julan's gone; I need to find out why."

 

Shani paused for a minute, then glanced back towards Ahmabi's yurt, where two male Ashlanders were trying and failing to calm her down. Then, Shani turned back to me.

 

"I'll meet you at the Varo Tradehouse tonight," Shani whispered. "Then, I'll tell you what I know."

***

 

Some part of me hoped Julan would be sitting in the Varo Tradehouse, drinking to his heart's content, but instead I was greeted by Shani, who was sitting at one of the tables, trying to keep a low-profile. I approached her and she smiled weakly.

 

"Right, this should be private enough to talk," she began. "I'm sorry to drag you over here, but you never know which of the hunters might be lurking in the Grazelands, listening in. This was the only place I could think of where we might get some privacy. This was always where we used to come when..."

 

Shani shrugged and let the sentence hang in the air.

 

"Anyway, I promised you some answers, didn't I?" She asked.

 

"You did," I responded.

 

"Julan's mother – virtually everything she's ever told him is a lie. She never found him in the Grazelands – of course not. She got pregnant by Han-Sashael, our Ashkhan. Everyone knows what really happened, but we don't talk about it to spare Ahmabi's feelings. She could never have any children of her own you know..."

 

"So she lied to him," I muttered bitterly. "How...how could she do that to him?" How could she give him that sacred mission when she knows just how dangerous it is? "And Julan never suspected anything?"

 

Shani shook her head. "She has him brainwashed, Ulina! But... sometimes I do wonder if he doubted her, he just was too proud to admit it."

 

I began to wonder the same thing, a thing wasn't out-of-character for Julan to do.

 

"...I mean, he used to spend a lot of time at the camp when we were growing up, he heard what was said. But then, Ahmabi wanted to hide the truth from him so much that she started a hundred different rumours about Mashti, to disguise the true one. Most of them were false, so of course Julan thought they all were. And, well, he loves her," Shani finished simply.

 

Shani then told me the story of Mashti's murderous deeds, and another reason why she was never to be forgiven by the camp.

 

"Mashti actually killed the Ashkhan?"

 

Shani nodded.

 

I sighed and leaned back in the chair. "Good Gods…"

 

"Julan just wanted to believe her," Shani continued, "and of course he wanted to think that he was special, and not just some illegitimate outcast with no future. I mean who wouldn't?"

 

Shani had a point there.

 

"And Han-Sachael...he said...nothing?" I whispered angrily.

 

Shani shook her head.

 

"Never, Ulina. He knew of course, but he never let Julan suspect. I honestly don't know why. Perhaps it was Ahmabi's doing. But I used to see him watching Julan in the camp sometimes. When he thought Julan wouldn't see him. And it's too late now. You know what Mashti did, in the end. She can never be forgiven. I should have told you this earlier. He might have believed it coming from you..."

 

Probably not, I thought.

 

"Julan's…obviously crazy about you," Shani continued. "But even then there was never anything to disprove Mashti's lies. Until now. He must realise he can't be the Nerevarine. I just don't know what he might do. You have to make Mashti talk. She has to know something. I'll wait here, it wouldn't do any good for her to see me."

 

Damned right I'll make her talk, I thought.

 

"Thanks, Shani," I said to her. Shani smiled.

***

 

It was already early morning when I made my way back to Kaushibael Camp, and I was already tired when I arrived back. I saw the door to Mashti's yurt low open and I stepped inside.

 

"I knew you'd come back," she said blankly.

 

"I'm sure you did," I said dryly, entering the yurt. The woman looked absolutely exhausted. "How could you? How could you do that to Julan?"

 

"Do what?"

 

"Don't play dumb with me!" I flared. "You told Julan he was Nerevar; you lied to him! How could you do such a thing, send him on such a dangerous mission -"

 

"How?" Mashti interjected, her cold eyes looking at me angrily. "We were outcasts, Ulina. His father would not, or could not acknowledge him. I could never return to my people. What kind of life could I offer my child, reviled and rejected? When I left the Urshilaku I took little with me except my knowledge of the prophecies. So I gave him a dream, a purpose. It was all I could give him. I had nothing else."

 

"You could have just told him the truth!" I snapped, then realized I wasn't yelling at Mashti anymore; I was yelling at my parents for not telling me who I really was. I took a deep breath and began talking again, trying to keep my tone of voice as calm as possible. "If you had told him the truth, he wouldn't be where he is now! Why, Mashti...why did you have to make him believe something that wasn't true?"

 

"Not true?" Mashti retorted. "You know nothing about truth, Ulina. No, you speak of facts, and what are facts? Facts mean nothing to me. Julan could have become the Nerevarine, no matter what the prophecies say. There is always another prophecy, and if there is not, then you can make your own. He could have done anything, anything, that he put his mind to, if only he believed in himself. The fault is mine, for not making him believe enough."

 

Her eyes flickered towards the ring on my finger, and I pulled my hand away from her eyes when I noticed.

 

"I know you are the one to bear Moon-and-Star," she continued. "Perhaps my son and I have been mere tools to guide you towards your destiny, or perhaps you will fall, like so many others have done. I no longer care about the prophecies. Whether I used them, or they used me, it is all over now. It is finished, Ulina."

 

That's when I lost it.

 

"Mashti, I don't have time for this!" I screamed. it took an awful lot not to smack her across the face. "I need to find Julan!"

 

Mashti scowled. "No. It is finished. I have lost the final thing that it was possible for me to lose. I have lost my son."

 

I shook my head and then turned around. "Not if I have anything to say about it."

 

Mashti's expression softened.

 

"Please, Mashti," I begged, "I know you know. Just tell me."

 

"It matters little where he went. He will never return to me, I know that much. I have lost him forever. He never even raised his voice. His face as he left... he looked so much like his father, like Han-Sashael... I know he will not be coming back."

 

"Mashti, I already said -"

 

"I danced for him," she blurted, "when he came with his men to make trade agreements with my father. All the girls, we performed a sacred dance, before the evening meal. We only called it sacred in order to justify its place as traditional, but we were right. It was sensual and beautiful, and what could be more sacred than that?"

 

Now I knew I had to shut up and listen. This was obviously very important.

 

"He came to my yurt that very night," Mashti said. "He was charming and handsome. Perhaps I was a fool, but I believed him when he said he would marry me. We left at dawn. By the time we arrived in the Grazelands I was deeply in love, and stunned by the beauty of my new home. I was happy, too happy. I soon discovered the truth.

 

"My love was already married. He wept, and begged my forgiveness. He had been captivated by my beauty, he had lost his wits, he would make things right, his wife did not understand him, he loved me. Male talk. But I was very young, and I loved him. And I could never return home. So I accepted everything he said.

 

"He told the tribe that I had come to train as a wise-woman. Ahmabi was suspicious, but she had no proof. I saw him in secret, whenever he could get away. I knew people were talking, but I cared little for their opinion. I was happy. But of course it could not last.

 

"I became pregnant, and we could no longer conceal the truth from his wife. I imagine you know the rest by now. He never said a word in my defence when she wove her lies to cast me out. Not a word."

 

That was when Mashti burst into tears again. I had no idea what to do or what to say, and it felt so awkward after a few seconds. But from the sounds of things, Han-Sachael didn't love either Mashti or Julan enough, otherwise he would have done something. As I was thinking these thoughts, I saw Mashti rummaging through an old wooden chest, pulling out what looked like various alchemy ingredients until she pulled out what looked like a dress. The dress was beautiful and was almost white. I'd say it was a cream color. Ashlanders make awesome clothes sometimes, I thought.

 

"Once it was going to be my wedding dress," Mashti said. "My sisters and I sewed it, when I was betrothed to my father's gulakhan, and I took it with me when I left with Sashael. Of course I never used it."

 

To my surprise, she handed it to me.

 

"Mashti, I -"

 

"Here, you take the thing." She insisted. "I have kept it too long already, and it has nothing but sad memories. It's only a dress; someone else should wear it, and make new memories for it. Or throw it away, I care not."

 

I saw that she was not going to take no for an answer, so I took it and stuffed it into my rucksack.

 

"Now, I think you want to know where Julan is," Mashti said.

 

I nodded. After all, that was why I was there.

 

"The last time he left me, when I told him to abandon that girl from the camp, he later told me he had been living in a cave to the southwest of here," Mashti pointed in that general direction. "I think he said it was west of the caves known as Dun-Ahhe, in the mountains near an outcast camp. Perhaps he is there, perhaps not. But before you go... He asked me to give you this."

 

Mashti handed me an old, tattered piece of paper.

 

"I don't know what it says, I never learnt to read," she admitted. "Take it and... I should confess something."

 

"Yes?"

 

"I had not intended to give you the note, nor to direct you. Why should I help one who, day by day, has drawn the affections and loyalty of my son from me?"

 

I felt myself flush and attempted to open my mouth, but Mashti held up her hand.

 

"No, do not speak, Ulina. I am not so poor a mother that I cannot read his heart in such matters. I have learnt from the past. When I made him choose between that Ahemmusa girl and myself, I thought to strengthen his loyalty to me, but... I miscalculated. I underestimated his attachment to her, and perhaps I underestimated him. I nearly lost him then, and now, now that I have truly lost him..."

 

I nodded.

 

"Thanks, Mashti. I'll bring him back."

***

 

Before I left I opened the letter that Julan had written to me, and I felt rage rise up as I read it over and over again.

 

Ulina,

 

Sorry for running off like that. I needed some ansers and well now I have them. I just need to figure out what to do with them.

 

Dont worry or anything like that Im fine I just want to think. And dont think Im angry about you being nerevarine in a way I think I knew it all along. Or maybe I just knew I wasn't. Doesn't matter much now I suppose.

 

Anyway looks like I wont be needing a trainer any more and you never did need me and least of all know. I know youll make a good Nerevar better than me anyway but that's not hard.

 

Keep an eye on Sha for me wont you. And mother too I suppose funny how just when I find out she really is my mother I dont want to call her that any more.

 

Good luck but you dont need it.

 

Julan.

 

I sighed. He had tried to say goodbye, but I wasn't going to to let him. Not now. Not yet. Not if I had anything to say about it.

***

 

I opened the door to the cave and slipped into the water below by mistake. The clothes I was wearing were now a mess again. In the distance, I heard the humming of scribs and water. I approached the water and saw Julan's ring sitting on top of a large rock in the water. There was no doubt in my mind that Julan was here.

 

I quickly stripped off my now ruined clothing and jumped into the water. The cold was terrible, but my worry for Julan kept me going. I picked up the ring when I found it, slipping it onto my finger for safekeeping, then put the ruined clothing back on.

 

"JULAN!" I shouted. "JULAN, IF YOU'RE HERE PLEASE ANSWER ME!"

 

No response.

 

I continued through the cave, until I found an old, wooden door. There was no other way through the cave, except through that door. And there was an ancestor ghost guarding the door.

 

"You shall not pass," it hissed. "Leave now."

 

"I'm looking for Julan Kaushibael," I said.

 

"He is ours now."

 

"He's...he's not dead?"

 

"He still walks the earth, but he is ours now. He will hear our words. He will do our bidding."

 

No, no...this just cannot be!

 

"Who are you?" I snapped.

 

"We are the ancestors of the Ahemmusa. For too long, he has ignored our cries for vengeance. For blood. But his mind is clear of the lies of his mother, and at last he can hear us. We have waited too long. But now he is ours. He will do our bidding."

 

I tried to keep a calm demeanor, hut knew I was failing. The thought of what Julan was going through while I stood there scared me more than ever. More than when I had been shipped to Morrowind for the first time.

 

"Let me talk to him -"

 

"No, he is our now."

 

"But I'm his -" I broke off. Just what will I call myself. A girlfriend? A lover? "- friend. I can help!"

 

The ghost paused for a moment.

 

"Yes. Perhaps you can help him, if you are his friend, but bring me some token of his that proves your friendship, then I will let you pass."

 

I pulled off Julan's telepathy ring and showed it to the ghost. It seemed to be all the proof it needed.

***

 

"Just remember, he is ours now."

 

"GET OUT OF MY WAY!"

 

"You cannot have him; he is ours now."

 

"JUST TELL ME WHERE JULAN IS!"

 

"No, for he is ours now."

 

It felt that for the longest time I was running around in circles in the back of the cave, until I heard Julan's shouts from the very bottom. I climbed down a set of stairs and found him, lying on the floor, crying out things like "no, no! Get away!" The ghosts were hovering over him and I made no hesitation to rush towards the crowd and attempt to push them away from him.

 

"Julan!" I cried.

 

Julan coughed. "Ulina? Is that -? GET AWAY!" He yelled at one of the ghosts, that was attempting to release him from my grasp. "Not you, them. Make them get out of my head!"

 

I turned towards the crowd of Ahemmusa ancestors, who were still floating around, trying to near Julan. In a rage, I shouted. "LEAVE HIM ALONE!"

 

The ghosts were furious.

 

"Earthwalker, why are you addressing us? This is clan business, family business. You have no place in this."

 

"You're hurting him!" I shrieked.

 

"Yes, we are hurting him. Because he will not listen. So we make him listen. Until he agrees to carry out vengeance for our kin."

 

"But in the process, you're breaking his mind!"

 

"His mind matters little. What matters is blood – blood shared and spilled. We called to him in his dreams, but the lies of his mother made him unable to listen. Now he can hear us, but still he resists!"

 

I was so stunned, I let my jaw drop. It wasn't Dagoth Ur Julan heard in his dreams, it was these abominable things.

 

"Why does blood matter?" I asked.

 

"We demand blood in payment for that of our fallen brother, Han-Sashael. He lies unburied in the Daedra caves, cruelly slain through a woman's evil and jealous love. She must pay and his bones must be returned to the tribe for burial. He must do our bidding. We are his ancestors. His duty of vengeance is clear."

 

I was even more stunned, but I said nothing. They wanted Julan to kill Mashti; to kill his own mother.

 

"I'll tell him," I said at once. The ghosts made a sound of protest, but I held up a hand. "You're obviously not getting through to him. Please."

 

There was an awkward silence. "Very well. But if you do not succeed, we will try again and again until he obeys."

 

The ghosts retreated, leaving me with Julan, who was laying on the floor. I put my things down and helped him to his feet.

 

"Ulina...you've save me again, haven't you?"

 

"Looks like it," I said, before hugging him.

 

"Thanks," he said slowly. I noticed he was avoiding eye contact with me.

 

"Julan, it's going to be OK -"

 

"No, Ulina, it isn't! She murdered him. It's all true! I heard the story that the scout told of course, but I never believed it. But she did, they said so! The ancestors told me! My mother killed him, killed Han-Sashael, the Ashkhan, my father!"

 

Julan looked as if he was close to hysterics, so I put an arm on him. "Julan, calm down. We'll do something to fix this."

 

"They want me to kill my mother! To avenge a father I never even knew! Ulina, this is crazy! But... it's her fault I never knew him. She's lied to me my whole life! She murdered him! Maybe she deserves to die! But... she's still my mother. I can't do this! Can I?"

 

"Like I said, we'll think of something" I replied.

 

"But what? They say they won't leave me alone! It's always been them in my dreams, Ulina, the voices! But I couldn't understand them! I thought it was the Sixth House, because they were trying to stop me completing my mission. The one on the mountain I thought was Dagoth Ur... I-I think maybe it was my father. Trying... trying t-to stop... me... g-getting myself k-killed..."

 

I shook my head. This whole thing had been a mess, and we had to think of something to fix it. For Julan's sake.

 

"Come on," I said, passing him his telepathy ring, "first things first. We need to get out of here. Then, tomorrow, we'll think of something."

***

 

We were standing outside Kaushibael Camp, both tired and soaked to the bone. I held Julan close and we both sat by the fire for a few moments, warming up and letting our clothes dry.

 

"Ulina, can I ask you something?" Julan asked.

 

I nodded.

 

"Are you a religious person? And if so, what do you believe in?"

 

"I'm not really that religious," I answered, unsure as to why Julan was asking. "I mean, in Cyrodiil, most people worshipped the Nine Divines, but my family didn't take it entirely seriously. There maybe Gods out there; but I really don't care right now. It's not the most important thing, is it? Well, there's Azura, but..."

 

I felt my voice trail off.

 

Julan nodded. "I see. That makes sense. My people worship the Good Daedra of course. And our ancestors, although, well, I don't have any myself. Mother said that Azura would protect me, but I'm not so sure anymore. She watches you now. It's funny; I used to think that anyone who didn't share the same beliefs as me was wrong and, well, a bad person. But now I've met so many people who believe all kinds of different things. And lots of them are good people. Like that priestess, Mehra Milo, or Divayth Fyr... and you."

 

"Me?" I asked.

 

"Yeah. I mean it, Ulina," Julan said, taking my hand. "Maybe not perfect, but a good person. I mean, you put up with me for how long now? You've save me; twice!"

 

"And you've saved me plenty of times," I responded.

 

"Thanks, Ulina. Now, you know that I...I was stupid to throw away that ring, but I guess that when this is all over, you can go on with your sacred mission, and I can go back to the camp. I don't need a trainer anymore."

 

"You can still come with me," I said hastily.

 

"But you don't need me around -"

 

"But I'll want you around," I snapped. "Julan, in case you haven't noticed I'm in love with you!"

 

There it was. A kiss. And then there was more. I felt clothes being ripped away. I felt the sounds of heartbeats. I felt myself being carried away to Julan's yurt.

***

 

Morning came. I awoke and Julan did a few moments later, and we both hastily got dressed. It was time to talk to Mashti.


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