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.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

22: Renewed acquaintance

This morning I set out to get a feel for Gnisis. Before I approach the Hetman I thought I'd talk to the people a bit and see what public opinion might be. If there is a widespread desire for revolt there may not be much that Abelmawia will be able to do about the taxes.

I started out browsing the merchant stalls near the temple. On my previous adventures in Gnisis I was on errands for the guild; merely a journeyman if I recall. I did not present a very memorable picture then I suppose. In any event I was not recognized. When I identified myself as a Redoran housecousin I was given due respect, though clearly there was some surprise, and even doubt, that such a rank would be given to an outlander.

That doubt boiled over as I conversed with the woman running a stall filled with what could be called 'general merchandise'. When I approached she was talking to a man...elf I should say; a Dunmer. I took him to be a customer, and signaled that she could complete her business with him as I was in no hurry, but their conversation stopped. There was something awkward in the sudden silence; a furtive undercurrent that reminded me of other days and other places. He wasn't a customer. He was a supplier. A supplier either of regular goods delivered tax free, or possibly goods that were not on open display due to their illegality; a smuggler.

As our eyes met there was the unspoken challenge that hangs over such men. Something in my face or posture tripped his alarms, and he knew that I knew. But at the same time there was something else; a familiarity that we both also recognized.

"The Redorans have...taken...a new view on outlanders," he said. He might has well have said that they had sunken very low with their new view, it was clearly written on his face.

"Some outlanders," I replied, letting the slur fall as if it was just another word to let him know I would not rise to that bait. "The only Dunmer who completely close their minds are the Cammona Tong, but they are just back alley cut-throats, not house councillors." I expected that to raise a response, since the Tong justify themselves as standing for the Dunmer ideal of self rule, and are usually quick to point to their close ties with the leadership of House Hlaalu. He let it pass without a twitch of an eyebrow. Either he was not Cammona Tong, or he had a strong desire to hide it and a good degree of self control.

"It doesn't take a criminal syndicate to get on the wrong side of the empire around here," he sneered. "Just surviving seems to be enough."

"The mine..." I said, groping in my memory. "Is the mine still closed?"

"Most times. The legion lets most people work just enough to keep us from starving but not enough for anyone to avoid being hungry. They say the lower levels, the really productive levels, are too dangerous; protecting their precious Dwemer ruin..."

"Quiet Hainab," the merchant hissed. "You may think you can outrun the Orcs, but I have a shop to keep." In my memory pieces were clicking into place.

"Hainab. Hainab the miner."

"Former miner," he said with a sneer. "I said they let most people work. Not me. They blamed me for the death of one of their precious Orcs, even though they had no proof, so there's no work for me."

"So you became a smuggler. A real smuggler; more than just sneaking into the mine." Smuggling had treated him well in some ways. Like myself he was much better dressed. In other ways it had not been kind. There was a hard edge to him that had not been there, and the shadowed, haunted look of a basically honest man pushed into less than honorable work. "There are ways to be responsible for a death even if your hand doesn't hold the blade, but I'm sorry you were blamed. That Orc was not worth the ruining of your life."

"What do you know about it outlander," he said heatedly, then a puzzled look came over his face. "The Breton..." He looked more carefully at my face. "It is you, Breton," he finished.

"Well! Breton certainly sounds better than outlander. How about if I buy you a drink and we talk about what has befallen us since last we met?"

"You'll have to buy it here," he said. " I don't frequent the tradehouse."

"The trail south of town?" I asked. He nodded quickly and was on his way.

This time I was much more wary, and he did not take me by surprise. Perhaps he has gotten past needing the pretense of an ambush. "Ridiculous that they could blame me," he said as he stepped from the bushes. "There was no way I could have stood up to that Orc demon...then."

"Hard lessons since then?"

"Many," he said. "And many scars."

"And the burden of many corpses," I suggested. The man had grown up, spent centuries, in a simple mining village, living the simple life of a miner. The scars on his conscience marked him clearly; more clearly than whatever scars his shirt might conceal.

"You seem unburdened," he grated.

"You said it yourself. That Orc was a demon. A thief stealing from all sides; the legion, the empire, the miners...probably whoever he sold the artifacts to. I may have regrets about some that I've killed, but not him."

"I shed no tears for him either, but I regret that the end of his life and the ruin of my own did no good."

"The miners ended up with nothing," I said, "even the ones who do get to work."

"Right. The artifacts were gone, but most of the mine is still closed off. The general was furious that a soldier was killed, and never really got to the bottom of what had happened, so he doesn't see things in the same way you and I do. He sees the closure of the mine as fair punishment."

"How did you get blamed? And how are you still here?"

"I was conspicuously in the town while you were in the mine, and there was no way to convict me of the crime, so I'm a 'free man'...but the Orcs blame me. I had to learn to move fast...and kill. Then the Cammona Tong decided I was competition, and I had to learn to move faster...and kill more."

"War is at hand," I said. "Moving fast will serve you well, and it's better to kill than be killed, especially by the likes of the Cammona Tong, or the minions of House Dagoth."

"House wars," he sneered. "They make no difference. Redoran, Hlaalu, either one will turn their people over to the empire as long as they get to keep their manors. You think House Dagoth would do any worse?"

"I know they would," I said. "I've seen it myself."

We stood beside the trail. Neither of us had asked for the violence that fills our lives. I have come to terms with it. There are killers far worse than me, and true evil in the world. Hainab's life had changed the first time he crossed my path. I hoped it would again.

"You would do better if you got away from here," I said.

"How? I know the coast. I know the people; who I can trust. I wasn't raised to be a smuggler...or a killer..."

"I know." I pressed a bag of coins into his hands. "Your people will need the skills you've learned. All of your people. Catch the caravan to Ald-ruhn. No one will know you there. There's an Ashlander turned merchant, retired. You'll find him at the Ald Skar. He can tell you how to survive with the Ashlanders, and where to find the Urshilaku. Speak to Zabamund. Tell him you are friend to clanfriend Arvil Bren."

I don't know if he will go. I don't know if he will survive the journey, or the coming war. I only hope that he will find that he had to learn to fight for a reason.


Anonymous mikekearn said...

Yet another great chapter. You have a true talent for bringing an already vivid game to true life, making everything seem far more real than the best interactive game.

11:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

tremendous reading. Thank you, as mikekearn says, your journal brings Morrowind to life.


12:21 AM  
Blogger Joseph said...

Now that was very, very good. A character's response to violence and other extreme stress is something I always find interesting.

- Joseph.

6:41 AM  

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