|Posted on June 20, 2014 at 1:35 AM|
"Who are you?" Mashti demanded. "Why are you here with my son? I warn you, if you dare -"
"Mother!" Julan yelled over her. "It's fine."
He then handed her the amulet we bought at the Varo Tradehouse, but she didn't look at it. She only glared at me.
Mashti was actually a lot younger than I expected, though Julan didn't actually tell me how old she was, come to think of it. Though Dunmer did have longer life-spans than humans, Mashti looked ridiculously young.
"Ulina, why don't you light the fire in the...guest yurt?" Julan said. After seeing my quizzical look, he responded by saying "it's the middle one. That's where you'll be staying tonight. Let me explain things to Mother."
I sighed and left the yurt, and entering the guest yurt like Julan had asked me too. The yurt was filled with wooden crates and sacks of food, but it was also warm and dry with a bedroll on the floor.
"Guest yurt?" I muttered. "Yeah, right."
I used whatever knowledge I had of Destruction magic to light the fire. It made the room warmer than it was previously and I sat on the bedroll. I swore I could hear the sounds of a vicious argument coming from Mashti's yurt, and Julan swearing at his mother. I sighed and began reading a book until I heard a voice on the other side.
"Who is it?" I asked.
"Julan. May I come in?"
I opened the yurt and Julan stood at the doorway.
"I came to tell you that Mother and I have talked things over," Julan began.
"What did she say?" I asked. I was quite curious about what Mashti had to say about me.
"We've, um, agreed that Azura should be consulted," Julan said. I was secretly thrilled.
"She's not happy about your involvement but agrees that you may be able to help. She will seek Azura's guidance. This means a ritual to summon the Daedra Prince in a dream. Mother has to make prayers and incantations to receive the vision. I'd better go back and help her prepare."
"Oh," I said. For some reason the thought of him being away from me was a bit irritating.
"You can do what you want," Julan said. "Maybe get some rest. See you in the morning."
He was about to turn around and leave but I took ahold of his hand.
"Good luck with those incantations," I told him.
"I think I'm going to need it."
That was when Julan left me to climb into the blankets of my bedroll and fall fast asleep.
For some reason, I awoke later in the night to hear the sounds of footsteps outside the yurt. I thought it sounded faint, but couldn't go back to sleep. It was probably Mashti or Julan, or some kind of creature. I dismissed it and tried going back to sleep, but couldn't.
That was when I heard the sounds of my yurt opening. It was dark inside my yurt, and the fire had long been put out but I still made out the figure of Julan.
I felt myself blink.
"Is something wrong, Julan?" I asked.
"Are you awake?"
I shook my head. "What do you think? Of course I'm awake!"
"Right...um...stupid question. Sorry."
"Gee, you think?"
I lit the fire again and Julan sat down beside me. He looked absolutely terrible. As if he had seen a walking skeleton or something. He was also shivering from the cold. Something had to have happened, because I had never seen Julan that scared before.
"Are you alright?" I asked. "You look terrible."
"No, not really…" Julan's voice drifted off. "It's just...I...I think I'm going mad."
"What do you mean, 'you think you're going mad'?" I demanded. "Julan, you look like you've seen a Bone Ancestor!"
Normally, Julan would have laughed at that remark. He wasn't laughing now. I moved closer to him and brushed some strands of his black hair out of his face.
"I had another dream," he told me. "It was horrible. Worse. I wasn't climbing Red Mountain any more, I was in this cavern. There were these Ash Priest things standing around, whispering, whispering horrible things. And I could see, feel my skin rotting, growing monstrous, and not just my body but my mind too."
"That sounds... unpleasant," I said. I couldn't find any other words to say how I felt about such a thing. It didn't just sound unpleasant. It sounded absolutely horrible!
"It was," Julan said. "I felt them crawling around in my mind trying to change who I am, trying to change everything I believe in into something horrible and depraved, eating away at my identity until there was nothing left except what they had put there. When I woke I swore I could see them in flashes, the Ash Priest things, out of the corner of my eye. But when I looked again they were gone. I felt like I was losing it."
I suddenly remembered the strange dream about the man in the golden mask. There were other odd things about his dream, but I didn't want to go into great detail.
All I wanted to do was be there for Julan.
"So, what are you going to do?" I asked. "I mean, I -"
"I can't talk to mother obviously," Julan said. "She's deep in the dream-prayer. Maybe it's nothing, but it didn't feel like nothing. I felt so alone; I had to talk to someone."
That was understandable. I wanted to talk to someone, too. Except Caius had sworn me to secrecy about the real reason I was in Vvardenfell.
I couldn't even tell Julan.
"I hate to admit it, but I'm scared," Julan said. Our eyes met. "How can I fight? How do you fight something like that?"
"I don't know," I admitted.
"I don't want to go mad, and if Dagoth Ur wants my mind I won't go quietly! But, what if I'm not strong enough?"
I took his hand.
"You are strong, Julan," I said. "You'll make it. And I'll be there with you."
Julan moved closer to me and I wrapped my arms around him. After that kind of nightmare, anyone could use a hug.
That was when I felt his hot breath on my neck. It felt strangely pleasant...
"Julan, did you just -?"
Suddenly, there was a loud bang. Julan had fallen back and bumped his head on one of the outposts.
"I…I'll see you tomorrow," he said hastily, then ran out of the yurt in a hurry. I sighed.
I wasn't going to tell him to stop kissing my neck.
The next morning I emerged from my yurt and saw Mashti sitting around the fire. She gave me a suspicious look and all I could think of to do was give her an awkward wave in response.
"Er, good morning," I said. "Where is Julan?"
Mashti nodded towards her yurt, but didn't say anything. I turned away from her and went inside. Julan was sitting on a wooden bench by Mashti's bed.
"She let you in?" He asked. I noticed how he was pointedly avoiding eye contact with me and chose to ignore it.
I shrugged. "So it would seem."
"Outlander," a voice behind me said, "Julan. I would speak with you now."
Just then, Mashti entered the yurt with her arms crossed over her chest, still giving me that same suspicious look.
"I have spoken with the Daedric Prince who guides me in all matters concerning my son," she began, keeping her red eyes focused on me.
"What did she say?" I asked. Mashti gave me a look that was nearly as piercing as daggers.
"She informed me that you can be trusted and that you may yet even be important to the fulfilment of the prophecies," she replied. "My son has chosen to disclose to you the secrets of his mission."
At this remark, Julan lowered his head and refused to make eye contact with his mother.
"Outlander, you cannot hope to comprehend its importance to this land, but I hope for your sake that you will try," Mashti continued gravely. "The Gods deal harshly with those who would stand in the way of destiny."
"Oh...oh, I won't stand in the way of destiny," I said. I didn't want to, either. Mashti gave me a slight smile when I said this.
"I understand that you have been training my son," she said. "In faith, I myself can see the improvement. Perhaps it is that you have been chosen to aid him on this difficult journey. If so, you have a choice. You can continue to support him as he carries out his work of destiny, and be rewarded with all the gifts that the Gods bestow."
"Or?" I had to ask; she said I had a choice after all.
"Or," Mashti's voice was cold again, "you can betray him, and I will cast down the curses of a thousand vengeful ancestors upon you to hound you waking and sleeping to the end of your brief, miserable life."
Goodness, she really knows how to make a threat, I thought.
"I understand," I told her.
"Good, I am glad we understand each other," Mashti said. "Continue to train then. Quest together as travelling adventurers. My son needs experience of the world, and you can offer him that. I will contact you again when the time is right."
Mashti then produced a small cloth bag and opened it, revealing two rings encrusted with sapphires. Well, they looked like sapphires anyway.
"These are rings that will allow you both to communicate with each other via a spiritual link," Mashti said as I inspected them. "They will also enable you to travel to one another's position in much the same way as Mark and Recall, as well as to return here, when the need arises. Go now."
Julan suddenly took ahold of my arm and tugged me out of the yurt. I had to say I was glad.
Mashti was a good person, but she didn't seem to like me at all. Maybe she'd get used to me. Maybe.
Julan and I began walking along the beach, heading back to the nearest city (Sadrith Mora) so we could look for some decent jobs. We were half-way to Vos now, and it was only now that Julan opened his mouth.
"So, I suppose I should apologize for last night…" his voice trailed off.
"Apologize for what?" I asked him.
"Well...when I broke into your yurt in the middle of the night," Julan began, "I didn't want you to think I was -"
"Taking advantage?" I finished. I didn't Julan of all people would something like that, but still. That's what he probably thought I was thinking.
"Well, yeah," he said slowly. "I apologize, I didn't mean to scare you. Some people think all Ashlander men are savages... I'm not saying YOU do, but... well, anyway, it's not true. If I was going to make a move on you, it wouldn't be like that! Uh... not that I'd make a move on you, of course."
"Oh, really?" I was angry that Julan was denying what was obviously true. "Why did you kiss my neck, then?"
We kept walking onwards, passing through the "Mushroom Forest" now.
"Oh... gods... I was hoping you'd forgotten about that," he said. There was no way in Oblivion I could forget something like that, and I told him as much.
"Or not noticed, or thought you were dreaming, or something… anything less embarrassing than…" Julan looked a bit panicked now. "Oh gods. Um. Sorry. I got a little... carried away."
Obviously, I thought.
"You should apologize, Julan," I said. "Why did you stop?"
He suddenly stopped, and turned to face me.
"Wait...you're saying you actually liked it?" he was amazed.
"'Not in your right mind' I see," I scoffed. "You do the math, Julan!"
"You're not offended?" he asked, approaching me.
"No," I told him. "What made you think I'd be offended, Julan?"
"Uh... past experience!" Julan said hastily. "See, there was this one time I was…" Julan stopped and raised an eyebrow at me. "Hey... wait. Are you saying you wouldn't be offended? If something like that were to happen again, I mean?"
Are you even listening to a word I'm saying? I thought. Instead, I replied with a grin and "well that would depend, wouldn't it? I mean...no. No, of course not!"
Julan gave me a wicked grin. "I see... That's very... interesting. So... purely hyperactively speaking... would you be unbearably offended if I were to do this?"
He started running his fingers gently along my jaw. For some reason, I felt myself start to shiver.
"Don't you mean 'hypothetically'?" I corrected. When I saw the look on Julan's face, I knew I blew it.
"What?" he asked.
"You said 'hyperactively'. I think you meant to say 'hypothetically,'" I told him.
Gods, I'm so stupid!
"Hypo- what? ...Oh, nevermind!" he cried. "I thought for a minute that- look, I was about to kiss you then, but the moment's gone now, hasn't it?"
I raised my eyebrows.
"No, no, it's fine, forget it, temporary insanity, I'm going to stop talking now -"
"You were going to kiss me?" I asked.
"I was," Julan said. "But like I said -"
"Hey! You can't just... come back h-!"
Suddenly, I felt myself being turned around and my back was up against one of the mushroom-trees. Julan smiled.
And then he kissed me.