|Posted on June 20, 2014 at 8:40 PM|
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.
"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.
"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?