|Posted on June 20, 2014 at 8:55 PM|
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."
"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 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!
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.