Speaker’s Journal, Entry 2-1: Sailing With the Wind

I moved around often as a child, traveling in my mother’s trading caravan, normally in concert with my father’s diplomatic missions.  Usually, we slept in tents, large enough in their own right but enormous to a child, and filled with fascinating things picked up for cheap in one place and sold as expensive exotics in another.  Sometimes the crew would stay with the camp while my family would stay in embassies — our own, or those of host nations — or in the homes of trading partners. Once we camped in a rather terrifying Nordic ruin, where you were certain that ancient dragon priests would crawl from the pits and pull you down to join them (as my brother insisted would happen that very night).  When I was older… well, let us simply say that the beds that I awoke in were not always my own, as is the way of such things.  Nirn is a vast world, Tamriel a great continent upon it, and the many lands across Tamriel provide a traveler with a vast array of opportunities to wake in unfamiliar surroundings.

So, feeling my way towards consciousness, rested and content but with the vague sense of something that perhaps needed doing at some point, I was hardly perturbed by the awareness of being in a strange bed.  The sheets beneath me were rough but wholesome, and the room smelt of good things: of wood, and fish, and moon sugar, a trace of pitch and smoke, and of people nearby.  I could hear a creaking of timbers, and felt a shift in the room, and the word boat formed in my mind, and with that word my stomach growled at me and the world around me started to become real and worthy of attention.  I pulled myself up onto my elbows and looked a bit blearily across the bunk-room of a ship’s hold… to the glowing blue visage of the Prophet’s projection looking back at me.  Jolting backwards, I banged my head against the bunk above me and swore like a sailor — which seems appropriate in retrospect.

{The Vestige awakens, once again.  Come here, we must speak.}

KhenarthiProphetWhile my bruised head throbbed, my heart sank into my stomach.  Coldharbour, soul stealing, Ferals, Lyris, Prophet, Molag Bal, all came rushing back.  Well, the brief forgetfulness was a gift of S’rendarr’s mercy, and I would take it with thanks.  I pulled myself out of the bunk, carefully avoiding another impact, and looked down at myself: worn but clean drawstring pants (far too short for me). To the side of the bunk was a pile of the pathetic things I’d been wearing and carrying in Coldharbour, also clean but not any more impressive because of it.  So, wherever I was, it was not hostile territory — a change of fortunes so great that I praised S’rendarr yet again and vowed a considerable sacrifice when next I found his shrine.  I looked at the Prophet’s image, and asked where we were.

{As I feared, we arrived in different locations.  I am in a city near the sea, in a land of eternal spring.  The air smells of the ocean, and of markets, and gardens.  It matters not.  You have awakened once again, and we must set you on your path….}

“How long was I unconscious?”

{Days? Weeks? I cannot tell. The voyage between worlds disrupted all sense of time and space.  I know only that you were deposited into the sea, and some charitable soul fished you out and brought you to dry land.}

Someone else that I owed a debt to, beyond S’rendarr.  Khajiit repay their debts, and if our paths crossed again I would be sure to.  Well, the Prophet had said that I must be set on my path, and seeing him here (or his ghost) made it unlikely that I’d be getting rid of him easily, so I had best get this out of the way: “What should I do now?”

{I’m afraid you will have to decide that for yourself.  I must focus on searching for a way to repay Lyris’s bold sacrifice.  I cannot simply abandon her to the wrath of Molag Bal.}

So, I’d have a breather then?  Sweet. Though what was coming was as inevitable as a sea squall when the wind changes: he was going to send me back in.  You know he was, Divines curse him.  And I was going to go, Divines curse me, because while this seemed more their fight than mine, still, I’d gotten pulled in and their machinations had — as a side effect of being their tool, if nothing else — gotten me out.  I owed them, and I owed the Prophet for the Skyshard, which I had not forgotten.  And, to leave anyone to Molag Bal’s tortures who was not an absolute villain… how could I not try to rescue them?  How could I look myself in the mirror for the rest of my life if I turned away? Such a thing could not be born, though returning terrified me.  Well, when the meat must be eaten, don’t waste time chewing it before it’s cooked. (Aunt Leaf, again.)  Hopefully, I’d have a little time as a free man again before I doomed myself.  “When will I see you again?” (Next year, perhaps?)

{I cannot foresee that.  Not yet.  But we will meet again.  There is still much we need to accomplish.  Be wary, Vestige.  Our very plane of existence is in peril.  The threat of Molag Bal looms across all Tamriel, and chaos spreads in its shadow.  Danger roams the land and will assume many forms.  Do not let it catch you off guard.}

This is why no one invites you to parties, Prophet.  My Uncle Man-Fisher used to say that growing up was a process of dreading steadily larger things, and I was feeling like a bit of a prodigy.  I had the feeling our conversation was soon to end, and so I asked if he had any advice.  Where to go, perhaps, given that I still didn’t know where I was?

 {You must find your own path.  But perhaps there is a reason for the place in which you find yourself.}

That resonated. If I was to trust to the Divines (good advice in all the heroic tales, when facing a Daedric Prince), then where I’d been deposited by Alkosh’s help would be significant.  Though, I still didn’t know where that was…

{Explore. Search for a cause to lend your hand. Join with others.  You might even seek out those who rescued you from the sea.  The choice is yours.}

Ah, good, back to that point: “How do I find whoever rescued me from the sea?”

{You were dragged ashore on an island beach, but I sense that you are now aboard a ship in port. Go ashore and seek out the captain of the vessel.  Perhaps he or she can point you toward the charitable spirit who was responsible for your rescue.}

If he knew that the captain was ashore, surely he could tell what shore that was.  But the person who’d pulled me from the drink… my instincts said to seek him out (or her).  Indeed, if the old tales were true, I was rather surprised to have awoken anywhere else than in their care.  But perhaps the Divines were like Lyris, and expected me to prove myself by way of making the effort.  A Khajiiti seer once said, “Do not expect to attain the Moon Fields without such trials as have come to those before you.”  I would expect no less (and would likely get no more).  As I was pondering my fate, I suddenly realized that the Prophet had continued speaking, going on about others in these lands facing their own trials, fighting the oncoming darkness in their own ways, who could do with my help and could offer me theirs.  That we were not alone in our fight, and others of courage and valor would rise up as well.  I think it might have been quite inspirational, and regretted not paying better attention.  But he ended his speech with finality, and was gone without giving me a chance to ask any more.

I changed into my clean but shabby gear — better boots were high on my list of upgrades, as a Khajiit’s clawed feet are ill suited to the shoes of the monkey-folk — and wandered out of the bunkroom.  (Where, I noticed, there had in fact been a crew member asleep through that whole exchange, a Bosmer woman showing a soundness of slumber that I don’t normally associate with Wood Elves.)  There was another Bosmer crewman sweeping, which cheered me immediately, though he seemed disinterested in conversation and merely grunted when I hailed him.  More cheery was a Khajiit crewman playing the lute for two more Bosmer; they smiled at me, and I touched my heart to them, but it would have been rude to interrupt and I did not.  I did eat and drink from the stores that I could see laid out, a bit reluctant to rummage but now too hungry not to.  When I felt a bit more whole, I headed out onto the deck.

VulkhelGuardPanoMiracle of miracles, I knew where I was!  This was Vulkhel Guard, a port city on the southern tip of Auridon, the Tamriel-facing eastern island of the Summerset Isles of the Altmer, the High Elves.  My family had been here once for about a month, when I was maybe 14, no, 15 years of age.  It was where I’d learned to ride a horse properly, and I remembered it as a wondrous, magical place, not the least because of all of the magicians.  I also remember my mother saying that the High Elves of Auridon were amongst the least pretentious of all the Summerset Isles.

(A note: As I prepare to give these pages to the courier, to be copied and sent to my editor, it occurs to me that the High Elves amongst the readership of his paper may well find that statement upsetting.  For this I am sorry.  But I promised not to edit my thoughts here, and you Altmer simply cannot expect to declare the superiority of your people over all others and not expect a reputation for, at best, pretension, and, at worst, outright racism.  However, many of your kindred races, from man to mer, share such viewpoints in varying degrees.  Argonians and Khajiit are less inclined to such things, for the Argonians live in partnership with the Hist, and the Khajiit come in a hundred forms, so thinking one sentient being better than another purely based on shape is more alien to our peoples. If it is equally alien to you, then my mother’s generalization does not apply to you, and you are my comrade no matter who or where you come from.)

So, this was Vulkhel Guard. But, surely this was not where I’d washed ashore, or they’d have taken me into town and not put me on a ship.  Unless a sailor had found me, I suppose, but even then…. Well, as the Prophet had suggested, the captain would know.  A bit of asking around revealed him to be still on deck, a stocky Breton man of middle years named Tremouille, who was pleased to see me up. “You slept all the way from Khenarthi’s Roost.  Right through the hurricane!”

Well, escaping torturous demonic realms does take it out of you, but there was already a lot to parse here.  Khenarthi’s Roost rang a bell: an island inhabited mostly by my people, off the southern tip of Elsweyr and while it was not terribly far from the Summerset Isles (if the wind was good), it was not especially close, either.  I couldn’t think of a reason for someone to put me on a ship bound for here, unless it was the only ship departing and they really wanted me gone.  This was puzzling.  I wanted to explore that further, but with no sense of who wanted what, it might be better to stalk these questions for a bit, rather than leap upon them precipitously.  So I circled, nonchalantly: “Hurricane? What hurricane?”

CaptainTremouille“You don’t remember? A Khajiit named Razum-dar fished you out of the ocean.  He paid me a small fortune to bring you here. We barely made it out of Khenarthi’s Roost before the hurricane hit!”  (A small amusement, that Khenarthi is the wind goddess, and a hurricane hits when I arrive there. One should be careful not to overread the signs, but this one tempts a “divine message” interpretation.)  But now I had a name: “Where is Razum-dar now?”

“He was headed to Eagle’s Strand, an old fort on Khenarthi’s Roost.  My ship won’t return there for some time, but a boatswain on the far dock can take you.  Look for Sugar-Claws.”  He pointed eastward along the docks, and I said I might do that. In fact, I wanted to do nothing else, but in uncertain terrain it never hurts to downplay your interest in things.

I wandered down the gangplank to the docks, and eastward almost to their end.  The city was bustling with life and energy, and I was sorely tempted to stay, find an inn, maybe even look for a bit of work, or a caravan to join — a Khajiit of my skills never lacks for gainful employment — until I could regain the wherewithal to return to my original travel plans.  But you know the Prophet would come calling (or sending) as soon as I’d settled in, and then I’d have to be off to Coldharbour again, and who knows where else if I survived that?  I could refuse, of course, but I’d covered that ground already: not gonna happen. So, best to use what time I had to get whatever answers I could, and if I was ever going to speak to this Razum-dar fellow, best to track him down now, while I knew where he was.

KhenarthiSugarClawsI found Sugar-Claws by her boat, and she seemed slightly alarmed by asking if that was her name. “What is it? Is this about the fish? I took what I paid for!”  When I begged her pardon, she looked at me more closely (my sorry gear suddenly seemed even pathetic), and relaxed.  “Um, never mind. What do you want?”

“I want to travel the Khenarthi’s Roost.”  “Good, I have business on Khenarthi’s Roos.  Passage is free!  The inspectors won’t be looking for two of us.”  Oh, great.  So it would be that kind of trip.  Well, beggars couldn’t be choosers, and I was maybe 40 pieces of scavenged gold from being a beggar — not in bad shape, all things considered, but any cruises I booked would be as crew, not as passenger.  So, if this was a bit shady, I’d live with it. As if realizing she’d been a bit indiscreet with a complete stranger, she coughed, and said, “Whenever you’re ready.”  Comforting. The willingness to depart at a moment’s notice is the sign of all the best cruise lines.  But I knew what this was already, best to get on with it.  (And perhaps the tide and wind was particularly suited to a speedy departure. Yeah. Sure. That’s it.)  I paused to buy some ale and a bit of fish and fresh fruit from a dock stall, and Sugar-Claws quickly stored the last crates on the small sloop (or was it a cog? I’m no expert, but it was single-mast coast-hugger, maybe 40 feet long, and had more room below decks for cargo than was readily visible), and we cast off.

 KhenarthiSloop

 

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