This is the autobiographical journal of Arvil Bren, a somewhat reluctant hero who has been placed on an unknown quest by powers that he barely knows exist. Follow his journey as it is updated daily, Monday through Friday, and enjoy! These are the most recent entries in Arvil Bren's third journal; Politics of the Redoran. His first journal can be found in its entirety here. His second journal, Trail of the Archmage can be found here.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Day Two: Death of a taxman

My second day here in Morrowind offered yet another opportunity to establish myself with the local authorities. Perhaps it is my fate to become a good citizen and trod the straight and narrow path. The guards here are appreciative of me, the financial rewards have been good, and my memories of prison serve to remind me that my prior life wasn't all that desirable. My mind is not yet firm on this yet though, so I have no definite plan to depart for Balmora.

To expand on how I served the Empire today, let me start by recounting what seemed this morning to be the absolute talk of the town; the disappearance of the local tax collector. As intended, I set out this morning to meet some of the local townspeople and expand my knowledge of the area. It did not take long to realize that everyone I met seemed willing to speculate on the missing Processus Vitellius. I also recognized quickly that there was no great affection for the tax collector, and in my own mind had to suspect that he had met a bad end. If the good citizens of Seyda Neen looked at his disappearance with so little concern for his welfare, I was sure that some of the less law abiding would see his disappearance as such a good thing that they would have been willing to cause it. Even the guards were not too inclined to investigate the matter, adding credence to a rumor that they are on the take, and that a nearby cave is the headquarters of a smuggling operation.

I pondered the situation as I set out hunting in a new area southwest of town, with an eye towards any recent digging that might indicate an unmarked grave. In very short order it was made clear that my understanding of the situation was correct. The body of the dead tax collector had been abandoned to the crabs without even the minimal respect of a shallow grave, and I found it by the off chance of tracking a crab and some kwama; hive dwelling creatures whose foragers scour the surrounding areas for food. The kwama foragers and crabs had begun their grisly work before falling prey to my spear, but the body was easily identifiable. In a belt pouch containing two hundred gold septims was a scroll of tax records.

Making a note of the location I took the tax record and the money back to town. The first test of my newfound good citizenship came up very quickly. The guards directed me to Socucius Ergalla, the overseer of the customs house and the same gentleman who welcomed me to Morrowind yesterday. He also was not overly broken up about the lost life of the tax collector. Morrowind is a dangerous land, lives are often taken suddenly, and, as I was reminded in many conversations throughout the day, no one likes a tax collector. Apparently that even includes other tax collectors. Socucius did take a liking to me though, when to his surprise (and in fact my own), I admitted to finding the money on the body and turned it over.

My first actual act of honesty paid off handsomely as it turned out. Socucius offered me five hundred septims if I could bring the murderer to justice. At the time I was quite put off since he did not reward me on the spot for finding the body and turning in the money, and thought to myself that I should have kept the two hundred in hand rather than being sent on yet another errand for the Empire. As the day unfolded though the mystery was not that difficult to solve and by day's end I not only had a fat purse but a place to lay my head that I can call my own.

I began my detective work by examining the tax records. Four of the entries were not marked as paid, and I reasoned that one of them had opted for murder rather than paying their just due. Although she seemed an unlikely suspect, the Altmer woman Eldafire was nearest the top of the list, so I sought her out first. It was also easy to choose her since I had spoken to her earlier. In fact it was from her that I got the information about the smugglers in the nearby cave. She expressed no surprise at the news confirming Processus' death, but of course I was not the only one to suspect that his disappearance would turn out to be due to foul play. She suggested the smugglers as possible suspects, but I thought that unlikely. No one making their way in the smuggler's trade would leave a purse unsearched on a dead man.

In speaking to those who benefited from the death of the tax collector the lighthouse keeper, Thavere Vedrano, was mentioned consistently as having had some sort of relationship with the dead man, and I put off continuing down the list to speak to her. She was very upset at the news, and I suspect she will be even more of a driving force in having the body recovered and properly interred than the authorities will. In speaking to her I also got a much different sense of Processus. While many in the town assumed he was overtaxing them and skimming off the top to support an extravagant lifestyle, it turns out that Thavere had given him the ring that was most often mentioned as an indication that he lived above his means. While I could not completely dispel my doubts about pursuing an errand for the authorities, her obvious love for the man gave me good cause to seek justice. I promised her that I would pursue the killer, and also try to return her ring.

Thavere gave me a critical lead, saying that Foryn Gilnith, a local fisherman, had been disputing his taxes with Processus for some time. I went to his shack, thinking that if I confronted him with the tax records which showed him having a large unpaid balance he might slip and say something incriminating. I overestimated his intelligence, or underestimated his malice. I no sooner mentioned having found the body than he quite proudly claimed credit for the kill, and informed me that he would not hesitate to kill another 'lackey of the emperor'. He was a brute, with the strong hands of a fisherman, and I considered myself lucky to spit him on my spear before the beating he was giving me knocked me unconscious. I was quite sure that if he put me down I would never rise again.

In turning over Gilnith's body to the authorities I kept the ring he had in his pocket, and was pleased when I returned it to Thavere at the lighthouse. The five hundred septim reward is a comforting weight in my purse as I write, and I am seated at a crude but serviceable table in what is now my own shack in Seyda Neen. At least for the interim Gilnith's shack has been given to me, and under the circumstances I don't expect my sleep to be troubled as I take to the dead man's bed.


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