|Posted on June 20, 2014 at 8:35 PM|
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?"
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."