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.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Day Eighty: Literate Ashlander

I left early this morning, though leaving Ahnassi is difficult. Too many loose ends to be wrapped up, and my next assignment from Caius was pressing. I used an intervention spell and teleported to the temple in Balmora as dawn was breaking over the city.

Ranis was not up and about when I passed through the guild hall, which was fine. I left the notes she wanted with Ajira and hurried to Caius' house to share breakfast. He filled me in on the Ashlander he wanted found. Hassour Zainsubani was born in the Ashlands, but left to become a trader. A wealthy trader, as it turns out. When I got to Ald-ruhn I started asking around among the local merchants. Zainsubani gets products from the Ashlands that most traders cannot get, or at least have to pay premium prices for. He is a fair man, and does not exploit them, but he is able to deal effectively with the Ashlanders where no one else can. The more I heard about him the more I looked forward to meeting him.

I had taken the guild guide transport to Ald-ruhn, so my first stops were in the guild hall. The Ashlanders who are learning to read at the school there were a great help. I asked them about Ashlander customs, and how I as a stranger should approach the trader. They told me about the Ashlander gift customs. When a stranger wants to do business, he shows the depth of his interest by bringing a gift. The quality and effectiveness of the gift is not measured by its value. It depends on how the gift fits the recipient. A stranger who is willing to research his subject and learn their likes and dislikes and what would suit their needs will be well received.

Before setting out into the city I gave the excavation report from Nehuleftingth to Edwinna. I also told her about my own impressions of Senilius Cadiusus. She was saddened by the news of Anes Vendu's death, but excited about the book and the possibilities of translation that it represents. The book is safe in my room until a suitable scholar can be found.

To present the right gift the first thing I wanted to know about Zainsubani was where to find him. Caius had suggested he would probably be known around the Ald Skar Inn, and as usual he was right. The trader not only frequents the inn, he actually has a permanent room there. The proprietor was happy to talk to me, being as there was little business at the early hour. "A fine man, Zainsubani," he said. "Picked his own self up, right out of the Ashlands. Taught himself to read before the Mage's Guild set up their fancy school, then taught himself all about business. Since he speaks their language and knows their ways he does a lot of business with the Ashlanders. And he takes care of his own. Truth be told he provides most of the provisions for the kitchen here at great prices, and never sniffs for a break on the fair rent I charge."

The lone morning patron chuckled aloud. "Old Hassour wouldn't pay the rent if it wasn't fair Boderi. He'd be back in an Ashland yurt before he'd pay more than fair for a room. Now if ya charged him special for that chair he sits in readin', that he'd pay for." At that the proprietor chuckled as well. I gave the brief laugh of the outsider that sees the humor but only secondhand. I also took note to myself. A reader.

Satisfied that I would be able to find the man I was looking for once I had the gift I set out again into the streets. Various merchants confirmed what I already had heard. A hard trader, but fair; self made, with little concern for the affairs of the great houses; and an avid reader. It was hard to get them to talk about Zainsubani though. It seemed they were mostly interested in talking about Ienas Sarandas.

The Sarandas family, I learned, has been a pillar of the Ald-ruhn community for a long time. Their solid reputation and accumulated estate had fallen into the care of Ienas, a charming and likeable lad by all accounts, upon the recent death of his parents. By all accounts...not the ideal phrase to use when speaking about young Ienas. More than a couple of the local merchants openly asked if I would be willing, for a fee, to collect from Ienas monies that he had failed to pay for goods purchased on account. I noticed that the goods were all of the finest quality. If he had just spent the money he put as down payment he could have bought usable items outright. As one merchant put it 'dresses like a lord and not a drake for a meal'. I felt sorry for the young man, but agreed to help the merchants recover their goods.

I found Ienas at home. The house was a bit disheveled, but he welcomed me warmly. He is a good hearted sort, but not wise. He didn't even seem to be holding a grudge as he told me the sad tale of the sure thing tips he had gotten that led him to betting heavily on the guar races. Sure things that had, for the most part, gone wrong. he had no cash to pay his debts, to the merchants or the local gambling agents. The gamblers had made their fortune from him already, and I had no sympathy for them, but the merchants had delivered their finest in good faith. Moved by my recent pilgrimage to the Shrine of Generosity I suggested to Ienas that I would be willing to buy his expensive clothing from him, paying what he had put down on it so he could have food, and I would provide him a more suitable wardrobe. He was surprised by this offer.

"An outlander, just joined in the temple, and you have the virtue of generosity so clearly," he said. "While I, who was raised in the temple, have been nothing but a fool and a drunkard." His eyes were sad, but strangely peaceful. "Arvil Bren I thank you. Keep your money, and return these fine things to the merchants with my apologies. Any money you gave me the gambling syndicate would only try to claim, or swindle me out of. I am going to donate my house to the temple and devote myself to their good works."

If we had been in Vivec City I would have doubted that the Temple was any more deserving than the gambling syndicate, but I have confidence in Tuls Valen. I am sure he will put the house to good use and set Ienas on a solid path. I returned the goods, collecting some finders fees, and went to the temple. Tuls Valen was pleased with my completion of the third pilgrimage, and the demonstrable results. I gave him the fees I had collected and told him to hold them in trust for Ienas. We talked about the next pilgrimage, but I told him it would be a while as I had Mage Guild duties to take care of.

While making the rounds of merchants I made one all important stop. The local book seller. Codus Callonus stood surrounded by books. If I were a merchant that is how I would want to do it. No stacks of hides and slabs of meat, no sweating over a blazing forge, just piles of books, leisurely reading until a customer came along. Anyway, Codus was very helpful. Apparently Zainsubani is one of his best customers. "He reads everything, fast as he can get his hands on it. He says the written word is magic and it is a sad lament that his people have turned their backs to it. Every book has magic in it to him, but what he really enjoys reading is poetry, particularly the spare poetry that speaks to the harshness of the Ashlands and the hardiness of its people."

I told him I wanted to buy a gift, and he made some recommendations. As it happens the book I chose Zainsubani already had, but he graciously pointed out the worn bindings of his old copy. "The gift was well thought out Arvil Bren," he said. "Very well thought out since you could not be expected to know Ashlander customs. What is it that I can do for you that would have you come to me this way?"

Hassour Zainsubani and I talked far into the night. He told me Ashlander customs, how they live in the harsh wastes, what I could expect from them and how I could approach them. He told me all about the Nerevarine Cult, which is actually very small and only really active in one of the four tribes. He gave me names of the leaders of the cult and told me how to find them. Whether Caius sends me or not I will be following this path. But first I have a favor to do for my new friend and benefactor.

Hassour not only told me more than I could retain about the Ashlanders, he agreed to write an outline for me. I left him to that with the impression that the notes were for me to keep everything straight, which they are. They are also to share with Caius. While he is doing this writing, I will go to Mamaca, an abandoned underground complex in the West Gash. Hassour's son went there some time ago to explore, proposing that it may be a source of ebony and other goods. It has been a while since he has sent word home, too long a while for a father. There is no reason to think Mamaca dangerous or that anything bad has befallen the very capable young man, but I will check just to ease his father's mind.


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