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.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Day Sixty-four: Paying the price of the blight

Having me for a mate has certainly put a whole new world of unpredictability in Ahnassi's life. Life on Vvardenfell is unpredictable enough, I suppose. My sudden appearance standing on my magic mark in her hallway may be a bit much. She is happy to have me home though, and I'm happy to be here. Ahnassi will bring Mebestian to the house in the morning so I can pass him this load of Dwemer relics and slip out of town unseen. Keeping my presence in Pelagiad unknown to the Dark Brotherhood is vital, and today fortune dropped a great tool into my hands for doing just that.

When I set out this morning on the road to Ald Velothi I had no idea I would end up here. The West Gash region is beautiful; clear skies glowing over lush vegetation. Even though the road did not follow directly along the coast the air carries a salty tang. I enjoyed the hike, though the numerous roads were sometimes confusing. As in any paradise, there were unexpected dangers, and as is often the case the most beautiful was the most deadly.

The sun was nearing its peak when I rounded a curve in the road and saw a lovely woman pacing agitatedly to and fro along the roadside. She exuded a wanton desire that instantly clashed with my commitment to Ahnassi. Perhaps without that commitment she may have commanded enough of my attention for her plan to work. As it happened, in my internal conflict my eyes darted about and picked up something. Something that raised my guard, though I wasn't sure what. A sense of movement, a brief outline of an armored shoulder perhaps. Not invisibility, but a powerful chameleon spell in use. Had I been riveted on the woman, as I would have been a month ago, the plan would have worked and I would be dead at the bottom of a murky pool.

The woman introduced herself as Synette Jeline, a 'private dancer' on her way to Gnises for an engagement. She professed to hoping for someone heroic to come by, as she had dropped her ring into the nearby pool. In the bright noon sun it could be seen glistening, even through the murky water. She pouted. "I couldn't just leave it, but I couldn't very well show up for my engagement smelling like a muck pond, now could I? If you would be my hero and get that ring for me I'm sure we could think of some suitable reward." Her sultry voice was intended to leave no doubt where this was going. Having noticed her lurking accomplice I already had no doubt where it was going. There was a steep, narrow approach down to the pond. The rest was rimmed with steep rock. It was a perfect trap.

I waded into the water. My black armor is light enough to swim in, so I didn't have to remove it, as I'm sure they intended. I ducked into the murk, grabbed the ring, and began casting spells. Shielding, armor skin; all the protection I could muster. Then I broke the surface. As expected, I was met by an arrow that seemed to spring from the rock, and a steel throwing star glowing with venom as it flew from the dancers perfectly formed hand. They tore through my sleeve and clattered off my armored forearm. Had I not been prepared they would have stopped in my skull. I was so sorry to be right. I dropped back below the surface, cast a water breathing spell, and hid in a patch of weeds.

Had they been patient I would have cast a levitation spell and invisibility, and floated up and out over the rocks to reverse the ambush. They were not patient. The two women charged into the water, expecting to flush cornered prey from the weeds. I went into the water with only a shortsword; the first thrust of my conjured spear caught them completely unprepared. Regretfully I watched the shapely form of Synette Jeline float lifelessly in the murk, darkening the water with her gushing blood.

The murky water and weeds made me just as hard to see as my chameleon shrouded foe; harder in fact. The rippling waters revealed the source of their disturbance, even if my eyes could not pick her out. She had to break the surface to breath, and I drove my spear into the center of the sudden rings that marked her location. Chitin armor sheared cleanly, and the fearsome Daedric spear tore through her throat. The spell ended with her life, and the swirling energies of the illusion were drawn into an amulet that hung from her neck as the corpse settled slowly towards the bottom. That amulet now graces my own neck, and will serve me well in leaving Pelagiad unseen. The rest of their armor and weapons I sold to a smith in Ald Velothi.

The smith, Orero Omothan, was the first person I met in the town, and she was not ready to do business. I actually met her in the street, far from her forge, not knowing she was the smith. She seemed to be just a distraught woman. After the ambush at the pond another distraught woman was not what I was looking for, but I stopped to see what the problem was.

Orero immediately put out a hand to relieve me of the bundled armor that I carried. "I'll hold that for you adventurer. Please. You have to help Madura! She is a harmless pilgrim. The savage Ashlanders have kidnapped her!" How do I continually walk into these things?

I did not want to get sidetracked on a fruitless search through the Ashlands. If they had taken this pilgrim away there would be no point trying to track the natives. "How long are they gone?" I asked.

"Not long, and not far. They have her in their camp on the top of the hill there." She pointed, and I could see the wisp of smoke from a campfire. "They want to ransom her, but who can afford to pay them. Savages! If we pay them they will just kidnap someone else tomorrow."

I handed over the bundle. "Take these to the local smith. I'll be there to barter them later today."

She smiled. "I am the smith. Rescue Madura and I'll give you a great price." Chitin armor; if she gave me twice what it was worth it still wouldn't be much. I trudged towards the Ashlander camp.

The chameleon amulet is extremely effective. I slipped through the camp like a shadow, pausing to listen to snatches of conversation, and locating the leader's yurt, where I guessed the hostage would be held. These ashlanders had lived peacefully in the west gash for generations, and given the centuries long lifespan of the Dunmer, generations is a long time. The coming of the Redorans had squeezed them, and now their own brethren, driven down from Red Mountain by the blight, were squeezing them further, beyond a breaking point. To them there was no more right or wrong in ransoming a pilgrim than there would be in taking a cliff racer or harvesting the trama root. What their ancestors brought to their land was brought for their use, from their point of view.

I Pulled the amulet off as I entered the leader's yurt, bypassing his guards. The Daedric spear glowing in my hands and my sudden appearance conveyed that I would be a dangerous opponent, keeping the point down and a relaxed grip would let him know I did not really want to fight, I hoped. "It is death to enter an Ashkahn's yurt uninvited outlander, but I forgive you. You are here for the woman no doubt." He waved dismissively towards a sturdy Dunmer woman who sat on a stool. "As you can see she is unharmed. Not even bound. There is no need, she would not make it past the warriors outside. You might. She won't. If you want her you will have to pay for her."

I activated the amulet, briefly, and pulled it off once more. "Or go out and kill them one by one while she waits in safety, but no one wants that. I would actually rather pay a reasonable ransom so your people can be fed. Is that what you would prefer, or do you want to lead them into death? Or you might even kill me, and her, and starve. You choose."

"We did not take her to kill her outlander. Nor do I want to kill you, or your blood would be seeping into the floor right now. My people are hungry. The soft people of the great house clans take more food than they can eat, and ship it away to markets, while we go hungry. They are soft, but the Redoran soldiers are not. They have honor, and I do not want to fight them, but the soft ones have no honor and let the guards fight for them. When the Tribunal Temple let the great houses onto the land they gave away what was not theirs to give, now with the blight we must take it back, or starve."

"The blight will pass Ashkahn. Learn to live with the great houses. They aren't going to go away, but hopefully there will not be many more of them invading your land." I gave him a thousand gold pieces. "Buy the food that they ship to far away lands. They will do better selling it to you, and they will know that if they cheat you you will run out of gold, and that will just cause more problems. War can be honorably chosen, but don't let the blight drive you to it."

He nodded reluctantly, and shook my hand. "Go in peace, outlander, and take this one with you." He pulled the woman roughly to her feet. I wondered as we walked out of the tent if he would signal the guards to let us pass, or have us slain. To the great house Dunmer the Ashlanders may be savages, but they keep their word. I brought the hostage, much subdued, into the outpost.

"It is up to you to let the townspeople know that cheating the Ashlanders, or refusing to sell them food, will lead to war, a war without honor. The Redoran guard doesn't need that, the Ashlanders don't need that, and the townspeople don't need that." She nodded quiet agreement.

"Outlander, you paid a king's ransom for my release. Why? They would have taken far less."

"And then they would have taken someone else. Hopefully that was enough to hold them over until the blight eases," I explained.

"What makes you think the blight will ever ease?" she asked with no hope in her voice.

"I'm working on it," I said, as if that would somehow make a difference.

The ruins were easily found by following the coast west from Ald Velothi, just as Edwinna said. I am glad I didn't have to approach this redoubtable fortress during the Dwemer's day. It stands on a rocky pinnacle, high above the sea. A series of two stout bridges, made of Dwemer metal, must be crossed as mighty chasms yawn below. The remains of a mighty siege engine, a device like a crossbow, but with a span longer than the height of two men, still points the length of the bridge. Charging into the bolts such a device could hurl would be a daunting task for the boldest warriors. A towering statue still stands, overseeing the ruined defenses.

The ruins yielded the tube Edwinna needs, and enough other artifacts to make a good load for Mebestian, but I suspect it will not cover my losses on the day. A small price paid for peace, however fleeting. The blight must be stopped, or this island is going to be torn apart.


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