The editor of this news broadsheet was most insistent that I write an introduction, if he was going to publish from my journal, and so I have agreed. I go by Speaker to Animals, and this is an account of my adventures, from the time that I awoke in a dark cell in Coldharbor, the realm of Molag Bal, my adventures in escaping that terrible place, and what has happened since. You will find much of it difficult to believe, but that is in the nature of such things and I do not require that you do so. Feel free to consider this purely a work of creative fiction, and I shall not blame you for it. But I have tried to write these matters down exactly as I experienced them, my memory is quite well trained, and I have been assisted — at the suggestion of the editor and for the satisfaction of you readers — by the talents of Curwe, the well known Auridonian artist currently resident in Vulkhel Guard, whose renderings from my descriptions are so true to life that you might well be standing in these places yourselves. But without the peril to any of your souls, of course.
I met my soon-to-be editor and publisher, Aiwendil, when he found me scribbling in the tavern in Vulkhel Guard shortly after my arrival. I had desired to record my experiences in a journal, to better reflect upon them and to preserve a record for friends and family in case things went poorly for me. I was only a few entries into the process when he came upon me and insisted on reading my poor words, barely more than scratchings. His desire to publish them — in what he called the “Travelogue” section of his paper — was flattering, but seemed impractical to coordinate given that I was unlikely to be staying in one place for long. (As the events that I shall describe will explain.) However, he offered me a token that I could use to post pages to him from wherever I was, and promised a modest stipend to be left in the Queen’s Bank for me at the arrival of every entry. Adventuring is commonly a rewarding profession, if you are not killed, but the expenses are high, and every little bit helps. And if I was keeping a journal anyway, so little effort was added by sending a copy. Therefore, I accepted. Aiwendil assures me that the writings of a Khajiit will be a novelty to his mostly Altmer readers — High Elves not always having ready access to the minds of other races — and if it goes well we could see circulation in other lands as well. Perhaps a book deal! There is no saying no to such a proposal.
My friend says that there are two things I should clear up before I continue, to eliminate confusion from the reader: my name, and my grammar. Both stem at least partly from the same causes. Speaker to Animals is my use-name — a nickname, as you people call it. My true name I do not share freely. The reader may be accustomed to the common Khajiit pattern of naming, such as Bisha, or M’Aiq, or Ri’Vassa, and this is indeed the fashion of most of my people, named at their birth in our own tongue. My own clan is different; we live on the eastern edge of Elsweyr, on the Topal Sea, and have frequent commerce with our neighbors the Argonians, and our naming habits more closely resemble theirs.
I am told that, before the coming of the monkey folk — for so we often call the humans and mer, even as you refer to us as catmen and the Argonians as lizard people — our land suffered from the depredations of daedra and all manner of unholy magics. Not so terribly that we did not prosper, and our legends look at that as a happier time (especially in light of the wars and plagues that followed), but still, there were troubles. Because it was believed that names have power, which could give curses and possessions hold over us, our races learned ways to obfuscate names. Most of my people simply avoided claiming identity with their names, referring to themselves always in the 3rd person: “Ma’Khar thinks we should not go there,” or “It would please this one if you could pass the Alit.” This practice has waned in some parts of our land, but it still dominates our speech and is how other races know us. The Argonians used descriptive phrases as names, like “Swims in Rough Waters” or “Great Benefit” (in their tongue, rendered like “Gah Julan”). My people took pages from each: we are given names by our parents at birth, but none know them and we go by use-names, sometimes bestowed by parents, sometimes by friends, sometimes chosen ourselves, and they change as we grow up (though rarely after reaching adulthood).
My father was a diplomat, my mother a trader, and we traveled all over the Empire with my two older siblings, in the company of my mother’s caravan. Everywhere we went, my parents took us to meet people, introduced us to local schooling wherever such things were known, and generally made us as integrated and aware of the world as could be managed. As such, I became so comfortable with non-Khajiiti, and adopted so much of their language and patterns of speech, that when we stopped back in our native province, my cousins named me Speaker to Animals, and I have remained that since.
So you will hear no “this one”s here, but rather “I” and “me” in the common manner, and if I call you monkey people in these pages (which my publisher has sworn not to adulterate, lest my character be misrepresented in the reading) then please take it with the same fondness that you would use in calling a Khajiit child a kitten. We do the same ourselves, and a bit of fond mockery warms the heart. I shall continue writing this journal for my own purposes, as I began it, and you may judge me as you will. Feel free to simply call me “Speaker”.