53: Casting out the outlanders
The mighty bull netch, prize of Dren's herd, floated in the moonlight. Its great tentacles hung limp, trailing lightly across the ground. The huge beast was famed throughout Vvardenfell; sire to a line of netch known not only for great size, but also for the suppleness of the leather their hides produced. It drifted in its sleep on the gentle breezes, occasional sighs of its vents pushing it away from the walls of its pen. It is unfortunate that such a magnificent creature ended up in the hands of such a foul specimen as Orvas Dren.
A betty netch, brought in to breed with the great bull, was more restless. In the wild, or a free roaming herd, a breeding female would have a number of bulls flocking around her. Being penned with only one suitor was not to her liking. Her owner had paid a hefty fee, and the herders who had brought her in were nearly exhausted by the effort of the trek.
I slipped deeper into the darkness of the hut, where the glow of magicka would be out of sight. The Daedric longbow solidified in my hands. I stepped again to the doorway. The bowstring sung its quiet song and the arrow sped on its deadly course. The brain case of the betty netch, located on the bottom of the gas bag, burst silently. The tentacles gave a single jerking spasm. The lifeless gasbag continued to float, drifting with the breeze. Only when it bumped against the high wall did the herders become alarmed.
They cautiously approached the netch. Certainly no healthy netch would allow itself to be blown against an obstacle, but they had no way to grasp that the beast was dead. Only when a bold herder had grabbed a trailing tentacle and pulled the corpse away from the wall to protect the leather hide did the magnitude of the situation set in. Then the great bull woke up, and instantly sensed the presence of death in its pen.
The overnight shift was not awarded as a prize. The herders were sleepy, but roused to horrified wakefulness. In short order the panic set in. Shouts for their own supervisor and the leader of the visiting herders began to echo off the compound walls. As could be expected the watch captain was drawn to the commotion. I slinked through the shadows to Dren's villa.
Dren's bodyguard sacrificed himself for time. Caught up from sleep by the growing chaos outside he had not donned armor. When the chaos outside entered the villa, personified in my gleaming armored form, he courageously threw himself in my path. He fell to my shortsword, but not in vain. As his red eyes closed for the last time he could see his leader appear at the top of the stair, encased in full Orcish mail, armed and ready.
"You bear the Moon and Star," he said.
"Yes. It is time to unite the houses." The voice was mine, the words were not, although I was in complete agreement.
"Yes, and it shall fall to me to unite them! Seeing Moon and Star on your pale hand disgusts me outlander, but suddenly my destiny is clear. You bring the ring to me! It is I who shall lead my people! I who shall throw off the yoke of the outlanders!"
"Your touch would defile the ring, and the ring would end your life. It is not this body, born of Breton parents, that is the abomination that must be cast out. There is corruption in the outlander empire, and it oozes into Morrowind. You, Orvas Dren, you are the focal point of that corruption. You have twisted Dunmer society, twisted great House Hlaalu, twisted your own brother, all to promote your own interests above those of your people."
Again, the voice was mine, the words were not. I was still in complete agreement, but I wouldn't have put things quite that way. I was pretty sure there was a way that Dren could have been bought off. The spirit of Nerevar would not have it. It was today, at Dren Plantation, that the legend was realized. I am a Breton, but I am a Redoran. Dren is a Dunmer, but he has abandoned the spirit and principles of Vvardenfell. Today Nerevar stood for the Velothi, in the body of a Breton, and cast out the outlanders.
Of course, Dren did not go quietly. I was momentarily dismayed when he seized up an ebony spear and charged. I know well the benefits of the long reaching weapon he held against me. But the significance of the moment would be served well. The legend of Nerevar was not founded on subtlety, but on theatrics. The eyes and ears of the household staff would record the event, and the story would spread.
Deep in Dunmer history lies a mighty sword, the Foeburner. Long before the Dwemer split from their Dunmer cousins the united Velothi stood against invasion from the savage precursors of the Nords. The leader of House Dwemer, the dwarf king, forged the Foeburner in the fires of Red Mountain. The Nords, who swept fearlessly over all opposition, were turned back. Their greatest warriors fell before the blazing blade, and eventually just the presence of the dwarf king and his sword could turn the barbarian hordes into fleeing rabble.
As I swept the great Dwarven claymore from the scabbard on my back Dren laughed. "A replica of Foeburner outlander? Am I supposed to quake with fear? The Foeburner struck terror in the Nords, but it did not serve the Dwemer against the Dunmer. The Nords may be of hardy stock, but fire is an ally of the Dunmer, we do not burn like the outlanders."
"I know. I also know that the real power of Foeburner was the dessicating spell that was woven into the flaming blade that made each stroke more devastating than the last. This sword is not a replica of Foeburner. The threat to the Velothi is now armored in the flesh and dark skin of the Dunmer, like a parasite. Foeburner protected the people, this sword shall cleanse them. This is the Foeshocker." The huge blade smote his ebony spear with a strike of lightning, and thunder boomed.
Again Dren laughed. "Very dramatic outlander, but hardly impressive. A minor jolt, nothing more. But after I spit your pinkskinned husk on my spear I may even use your sword. Against the steel clad legions it might prove useful."
He jabbed with the spear as he spoke, disdaining the sword. Even the great blade could not begin to match his reach. The jagged lightning again struck against the ebony shaft with a boom of thunder. Another jolt that Dren brushed aside with a mocking sneer.
The words had not been mine for a while, but this time it was the very voice of Nerevar that roared from my throat. "Your last chance to repent Dren! Cast off your wealth, shave your head, live among the people as a beggar and shout that Nerevar has returned!"
Of course, Dren had seen nothing that made him even consider taking such a course. Neither had the onlookers. The Foeshocker struck once more. The mesh of magical metallic tendrils that had been growing through the ebony of the spear at every strike had reached its mark in Dren's gauntlets. His flesh exploded in a flash of light and steam, bursting the brittle shell of Orcish plate.