The books in this section are....

Divad the Singer

Notes For Redguard History

Fools' Ebony, Part the Sixth

Biography of Queen Barenziah, Vol. III

King Edward, Part I

King Edward, Part 2

King Edward, Part 3

King Edward, Part 4

King Edward, Part 5

King Edward, Part 6

King Edward, Part 7

Divad the Singer

Destri Melarg

Divad The Singer Divad The Singer is in one body, two unique and distinct people. Divad is the most well known of the Redguard heroes. Frandar Hunding's son, probably the most accomplished Ansei who ever lived. Yet early in his life, Divad appeared to thoroughly have rejected The Way of the Sword. Divad was the only son of Frandar Hunding, and was born late in Hunding's life (2396 in the old way of reckoning, probably about 1E 760 by the Tamrielic calendar), when he was away most of the time fighting the last of his duels and engaging in the many battles and insurrections of the period. At eleven, Divad entered the Hall of the Virtues of War and began training, but at 16, he finally let his anger at growing up essentially fatherless get the better of him. Divad broke his swords and left the Hall to become an acrobat in a traveling circus. The life in the circus was unsatisfying to Divad, and after two years, his innate artisan heritage drove him to become a musician and finally a Bard. For two more years he traveled, singing in the cities of the empire -- gaining no ÷small amount of fame and recognition for his stirring and popular songs and music. Although Divad had publicly forsaken the Way of the sword, it would appear that he continued to practice the compulsory forms of training he was taught in the Hall. He carried no sword, but in the late evening, bright lights could be often be seen in his tent (my source says nothing more about this, but it may be assumed that the writer was suggesting that Divad was practicing the form of the Way known as Shehai Shen She Ru -- the Way of the Spirit Sword, or simply the Shehai). Divad was very popular with the people of the empire, and his music and concerts were well attended. Still he could not escape his heritage of the sword. When the Last Emperor ascended to power and began to persecute the sword-singers, Divad was among the first to attract his attention. Once the Emperor Hira and his consort decided to go to war with the Singers for control of the empire, he moved swiftly against those Singers who were visibly a part of empire society. Most he had killed, but Divad's music and fame were ÷so wide spread that he sent a team of his personal guards to arrest him. The Emperor's men were either very lucky or very unlucky depending on how you choose to view it. Being no fool, Hira sent 100 of his best guards, for even an unarmed Singer was a very dangerous foe. The luck was that they were able to capture Divad and place him in chains, for they came at him as he sat dining with his elderly mother. The disaster was that as he surrendered, they rashly struck the pleading old woman. Too hard, it would seem, for she fell dead with that single blow. That single thoughtless deed, as is often the case in war, was the one pivotal factor causing their eventual defeat. That act ignited in Divad the spirit of the Way. Up until that careless stroke, Divad was an ordinary artisan, no, an artist, a great artist, but no warrior. The moment of her death, Divad rose from his seat, took his chains between his two hands and began swinging the heavy chain in a deadly arc. He slew four of the guards, gaining enough space to run and dive through the window and into the ÷river He disappeared into the night From that point, Divad was spotted many times and told of in many more rumors all across the empire -- far more places than a mere mortal man could have ever been. At every point where Hira's men gathered to do mischief, the resistance was attributed to Divad. As Hira moved against the Singers and began forming his army to invade High Desert, it was Divad who carried the news to the Singers. Divad was among those who climbed Hattu to find Hunding in his cave. What is not well known is that Hunding, at first refused to take leadership of the Singers. The first attempt to interrupt him at his death poem cause him to drive the elders from his cave, he even formed the Shehai in his anger. It was Divad who reentered the cave alone to speak with Hunding. To this day, no one knows what was said, what happened in that cave. Scribes of the time reported bright flashes of light and angry voices. Five long hours came and went, then both emerged from the cave, Divad, at Hunding's side. The rest, as they say, is history ... Divad, who had not completed training in the Hall of the Virtues of War, became an adviser to Hunding and spent his time reading the newly completed Book of Circles, but his role in the Hammer and Anvil strategy was as a simple sword-singer and fighter. It was not till the Singers fled their native empire and landed In New Land that his story truly begins. barbed_wire

Notes For Redguard History

Destri Melarg

Notes For Redguard History Biographical Note: Destri Melarg was a well-known historian and translator of old Redguard verse, born as simply Destri in the city-state of Rihad in the 20th year of the 3rd Era. At the age of nineteen, he went to the Imperial City to study. There were few Redguards who had been to the Imperial Province at the time, and it may be that he took the last name Melarg in order to assimiliate with the Breton, Nordic, and Dark Elf cultures he encountered there. When he died ninety-four years later, he left numerous unfinished histories and untranslated verse. Very few of this fragmented work has found its way out of collections. What follows is an unmailed letter to Melarg's publishers in the Imperial City. The insights into the man who put the oral traditions of the Redguards to paper impressed me enough to seek its publication. Melius, it should be noted, was Melius Kane, Melarg's publisher in the Imperial City. --- Vune, Redguardic First Scholar Imperial University Melius, This is the outline of my final chapter for the series on Hammerfell heroes. I condensed Dendle's storytelling. I have my notes, but the story gets long with all the quotes. She puts a lot of dialog in her storytelling. I am amazed that the old stories about the 5 swords keeps cropping up. It's been a thousand years since Hellion's time, yet people continue to believe in the stories. The wagon master sat with me after listening to her story and smoked a pipe with me. In discussing the story, he said that his storyteller used to say that one of the five swords survived ÷the closing of the Goblin gate, and is yet hidden here in Hammerfell. It was the least of the five, but the story has it that it exceeds and modern blade magical or ebony by several orders of magnitude. Of course I take this with a grain of salt, since a ebony weapon is unparalleled in its keen cutting ability and personally I can't imagine a weapon doing more damage than a Claymore of Firestorm or a Saber of Life Steal. Dendle even believes that out in the countryside outside of Skaven in one of the Halls of the Virtues of War, there are still people who follow the old ways and can from a Shehai or spirit sword. In collecting these stories, I once thought I was seeing a Shehai being formed, by an old Hall master, but the thing, if it was a spirit sword was so faint that even the sword shape was questionable. I didn't want to insult the old man so I claimed I saw it too. But if that was a Shehai, I can't imagine it possibly used as a real weapon. Here's my outline of the new story: At the time of this story, Hammerfell is fully occupied by ÷Redguards. All the old cities of the Dwarves (but one - the Ghost City of Dwarfhome) are now the cities of today's modern Hammerfell. A second invasion of the giant goblins comes. Hammerfell is unprepared, except for a few faithful followers, all youths in the rural Halls of Virtue. Hallin, being the only Ansei, rallies the armies of Hammerfell. After a defeat, he brings back the old ways by telling each warrior to read the Book of Circles. The army fights the Goblins to a standstill, but things look bleak, just as in Divad's song. Somehow the goblins keep being resupplied both with arms and troops. Eventually the Army of Hammerfell will lose. The old master of Hallin's Hall of the Virtues of War has an ancient copy of Divad's will and testament, and reads it to Hallin. It tells him that the 5 swords aren't lost, just hidden and well guarded in 5 caves. Each cave is home to a master guardian, one of the old blind Ansei -- and also a maze. According to the will, Derik must, along with a virtuous companion of pure heart enter the cave, defeat each Ansei ÷Master and retrieve their sword. Dendle went into great detail here. It seems that each Master had an outstanding trait -- one Katrice, possessed feline grace, and had become very catlike; another, who had icy calm was something much like an Ice Golem. On each blade is inscribed part of an intricate message on how to use the power of the swords combined. Derik scours the rural Halls for Brothers of the Blade and Maidens of the Spirit Sword to accompany him in the quests. He finally one by one finds his companions, and wins each sword. They learn from the blades and together wield the force of the 5 swords to seal the rent in space time that the Goblins have made and from which springs their invasion. Hallin's companions avoided blinding by the magic swords by hurling the swords together into the void, and sealing forever the giant Goblins in the void between their world and ours. The land is saved and Hallin and his companions (3 women and 2 men) become Ansei and restore the teachings of Frandar Hunding to Hammerfell. That's the story in brief. I welcome any comments from you or one of the other editors. One other concern of mine. I understand that you are considering using a better known writer, Uthilla Abuhk or Casmyr Kreestrom, to write the stories I've researched. I can understand that a better known writer may mean that a few more copies of the books will be sold, but that should not be your only concern. Abuhk and Kreestrom, while fine writers and poets, will need to be lectured on the true history of the Redguards. Even if you are willing to pay me to do that, you will have to acknowledge that the books will take longer to write than if you just allowed me to do it. Just something to consider when you make the decision. I hope this letter finds you, your consort, and children to good health and humor. Yours faithfully, Destri Melarg barbed_wire

Fools' Ebony, Part the Sixth

Frincheps

Fools' Ebony, Part the Sixth Dramatis Personae Prologue The Adventurer, A Dark Elf Rascal Komon, A Priest of Akatosh Lheban, Another Priest of Akatosh Epilogue Stete, A Priest of Julianos Raic, Another Priest of Julianos Shub, A Mage Shub, A Different Mage of the Same Name Nephron, A Somewhat Sleazy Merchant 5 Armorers Ortho Crunn, Husband of Millie A Lusty Contessa Millie, Innkeep and Philosopher Gurnsey, Bovine Wench Assorted Wenches and Cads of the Taverns Soldiers Dwarves Giants Daggerfall and Environs in the Doldrums of the 3rd Era Scene 1: In The Adventurer's suite at the Dead Daedra Inn. Enter Prologue, the Adventurer, and Ortho. Ortho climbs into bed. Prologue: Thank you for allowing us the time to change ÷the meager set, while our bard sang that old favorite, "Hail and Farewell." Now then, imagine, if you will, the luxuriant and langorous suite of that Dark Elven rogue, the Adventurer, at the Dead Daedra Inn. The time is shortly after the last scene, which if you've forgotten, ended with our hero and his partner-in-crime, Nephron, making some arrangements to swindle from the mages, priests, and armorers. All are interested in getting their hands on a lode of Fools' Ebony, a miraculous burning mineral, and the priests and mages each consider the Adventurer their ally. The Armorers know better and have assigned one of their apprentices, Ortho, to watch the Adventurer's movements. Now, as Ortho slumbers, the Adventurer has his first moment of peace in days. I should mention that in the interest of common decency, this scene has been abbreviated from the original by order of the Guild of Playwrites, Actors, and Dramatists. It now contains little material of relevance. A full copy may be obtained from the playwrite after the show for a mere 50 g.p. copying fee. Now is the time for poor Prologue to shuffle away. (Exit Prologue) (The Adventurer begins to get undressed) (Tap-tap at the door. Adventurer jumps, startled) (Snore ÷from Ortho) Adventurer: Who's there? I'm coming! (Opens door - carefully) (Enter Contessa) Adventurer: Er, well ... er ... Come In! Please. (The Adventuer steps back, tripping over his trousers around his ankles ...) Contessa So sorry to surprise you, but I thought that we might find something in common ... Oh! You poor man, you have a wound! Here, let me fix that bandage ... it looks very fresh. (Fixing bandage, properly this time) Adventurer: Well, I ... just opened it up again. Evening exercises, calisthenics, so on... Contessa: How did you get this cut - if you do not mind me asking? Adventurer: No, not at all. I was ... in a fight, earlier. These three crazy people jumped me. Contessa: Really? This cloth looks like part of a Mage's robe. Adventurer: Well, yes, two of them were Mages. Contessa: Oh My! You must have been very good, to defeat them. Adventurer: Oh, ah, well, I've been in one or two fights. Not to be rude, but who are you? Contessa: Oh, I am so sorry, I quite forgot the proper introductions. I am the Contessa Aveet Videspreed -- call me Ave. From the Court at Daggerfall. Adventurer (aside) By Oblivion, what now? Contessa: Here, help me off with this robe, these inn rooms are always ... so hot. And let me check that bandage again, poor man. Ooh, you are wearing an ebony belt of stamina, ÷and bracers of strength. Ooh, a bracelet of endurance. This is my lucky night. Adventurer (aside) Help. Contessa: Here, let me help you off with that old shirt - got to check you for any more cuts - they can go bad so easily, you know. Adventurer (aside) Well, its not the Armorers this time. Maybe my luck has turned. Contessa: Well, everything seems all right...very all right, in fact... Adventurer: Er...well, Ave - tell me about ... er ... yourself. Contessa: If you want - just for a bit - Adventurer: Here, have some wine ... Enter Prologue Prologue: Here our worthy playwrite's speech has been ÷heavily edited by the Guild of Playwrites, Actors, and Dramatists. I will endeavor to fill in those removed passages. I should first mention that the Contessa is not meant to be a relative of any noble currently in Castle Daggerfall. The Contessa Aveet regales the Adventurer with tales of the peculiar and hearty members of her royal family. She has many brothers and sisters. They are all very -- close. Contessa: I think I must have been a bastard. I was the only one with red hair, and an affinity for magicka. Everyone else tried to hide this skill of mine. I remember one spanking very well ... Prologue: The Contessa relates futher differences between her siblings. Contessa: While my sisters were learning to curtsey in ten different modes, and my brothers were learning flower-arranging, I used to sneak off into the woods or town. I soon learnt how to get what I wanted, from just about anyone. Just for example, there was this merchant who had three sons ... ÷ Prologue: The Contessa goes into detail about her training. Contessa: I became quite good at the school of illusion. You never noticed me, downstairs, did you?. I also learned how to use some weapons. Let me tell you how I learned hand-to-hand ... Prologue: The Contessa relates an amusing anecdote, and then continues. Contessa: And on bad days, I used to dig in my father's library. He had a marvelous collection of old texts. I was fascinated by Old Dwarvish, managed to learn it quite well, I think. Of course, no one has seen or spoken to one in years and years. So its probably perfectly useless knowledge. But I've always had an interest in collecting new knowledge. At the Mages Guild, they taught me an old High Elven tradition. You spread this potion all over your body ... Prologue: The Contessa relates her current state of boredom. Contessa: The life up at the Palace bores me so. My sisters ... Prologue: The Contessa's sisters are entertaining some visitors. Contessa: And my brothers are now studying Advanced Floral Theory, so I come down here, do a little ... er ... business. I keep all my relations supplied with their favourite vices -- so I can blackmail the whole rotten lot. Adventurer: But is'nt it dangerous, down here? Did I not hear that some young Contessa got killed, recently? Contessa: That little twit was my cousin, and as far as I'm concerned, she got what she deserved. She thought she could just borrow a maids dress, muss up her hair, and pass for s commoner. She was spotted the first minute she left the Palace gates. Now, I use illusion, craft, guile -- and I carry weaponry. By the way, that was a neat scheme you and Neph cooked up. Adventurer: Well, lets change the subject, can we? ... ÷Just what do you carry? I can't see anything ... like a weapon, I mean ... Contessa: Here, let me show you ... Adventurer: Oh my, those are nice ... knives... Contessa: And there're more ... Adventurer: Oh yes ... Contessa: But we don't need these silly nasty weapons now, do we? Adventurer: My, my -- now those are what I call weapons ... Oh yes ... heavy duty, high class ones too, my ... Contessa: I think its time that we put that ebony to the test ... to say nothing of your Mages Staff ... Prologue: At this point, extensive material has been removed. However, please remember that any scholar who truly wishes to peruse this material can obtain a copy for only 50 g.p. - hand-drawn illustrations are of course extra. ÷The Contessa, after a bit of fun, volunteers to be a part of the Adventurer's party to find the fools' ebony lode. I know, I know. It didn't make much sense in the original draft either, if you want to know the truth. (Exit Prologue) Adventurer: Sure you want to go out there in the wilds? Contessa: Oh, yes. I am so bored here. Well, not right here and now, but generally. And I can really be of assistance. I'm pretty good with woods survival, knife work, hand-to-hand ... and it gets cold out there at night, even for big ebony-wearing men like you ... Adventurer: All right, then. Do you know where and why we are going? Contessa: Oh, of course. It's all over Daggerfall. Everyone is watching and waiting to see what happens. There is even a lottery or two running ... Adventurer: On what ..? ÷ Contessa: Oh, your life. Adventurer: Oh dear Oh dear! Oh my! Contessa: Look, don't worry -- I know all about the double-dealings with mages, priests, merchants, those crude armorers. And I intend that we come out on top. I love being on top. With the goods and the profits. I'll have yet another vice to sell to my stupid relatives in their boring palaces. Adventurer: But won't it be us two against hordes? Contessa: Oh no. Most everyone is waiting here in town to see what and who comes back. And I will have a surprise arranged for our 'escorts' - Ortho included. Out in the wilderness, they can be dealt with easily. (Ortho snores) Adventurer: Tell me more. Contessa: Certainly. But first ... lets see how many ÷uses you have left in that ebony. Mmm, your Mages' Staff is in good shape ... (Enter Prologue) Prologue: Exactly. Sorry to interrupt again, but we're going to have to stop this scene right here. After a frenzied night comes the placid dawn, tripping onto the sky like a budding rose. And then another day doth dawn, and then another. Ten dawns and ten frenzied nights pass as our wily Adventurer, the wanton Contessa, the clever and naughty Nephron, the loutish Ortho, and an assemblage of randy armorers and backsliding maidens take to the road. Imagine now that we are in the wildy wilderness of High Rock near the Wrothgarian Mountains. Scene 2 (Enter Nephron and assorted lads and lasses) (Exit Prologue) Contessa: I do so love a bucolic frolic. Adventurer: It's getting pretty wild now. I guess the dangerous part is coming up tomorrow...? Contessa: Yes, one last stop tonight, at that old inn up here -- Minnie's Inn. Adventurer: Minnie's Inn? Oh, those two old scholars who gave it all up, came to run the inn out here. they must get all of two customers a year. Contessa: I think they like the solitude. It gives them time to study. They know a lot about old Dwarvish stuff -- get them started on that, they will wear you ears out. Adventurer: Er ... when does your surprise happen? I should probably know. Contessa: Don't fret, dear. At the Inn tonight. Just sit back and enjoy the show. (Enter Prologue) Prologue: Time passes, the carts roll, things happen in the ÷backs of the carts. And there are strange furtive movements unnoticed by all, on the high ridges around. When next we see our players, they are at Minnie's Inn, home of Minnie and Crunn, the philosopher- innkeeps. Imagine, if you will, the rather dusty dining room of Minnie's Inn. (Enter Minnie, Crunn, and Gurnsey) (Exit Prologue) (Gurnsey goes to Orthos' table with more ale for him. She sits down suddenly. She stares into Orthos' eyes, Ortho stares into hers. Mouths drop open.) Minnie: ... er ... Crunn ... Crunn: ... yes ... Minnie ... Minnie: ... I was thinking ... Crunn: ... yes, you were thinking, Minnie ... Minnie: ... er .... thinking ... Crunn: ... yes ...so was I .... Minnie: ... can't remember now ... Crunn: ... yes, Minnie ... Minnie ... Minnie: ... Yes ..? Crunn: ... Shut up ... Gurnsey and Ortho (Together): Moo ... oooh ... moo. Adventurer: Moo? Contessa: See, Adventurer, Ortho's fixed. Adventurer: Is he? Contessa: You just watch. Adventurer: And what about the other armorers? Contessa: Any minute now. (Ortho and serving girl arise, approach Adventurers' ÷table. The floor shakes.) Ortho: This Gurnsey. Ortho love Gurnsey, oooh. Gurnsey: Gurnsey love Ortho ... moo ... Ortho: We go get marry, we is. Adventurer: Well, congratulations! And that was a fine long speech, Ortho! Ortho: We go raise piggies. Gurnsey: Grows animals too, farmers be we. (Exit Ortho and Gurnsey) Adventurer: Extraordinary. Ave, I think that you must have been up here before. Contessa: Oh yes. I often come up here to get away from the Palace and talk dwarves with Minnie and Crunn. Adventurer: You mean that these two ancient ... er, Scholar-I nnKeeps can actually talk and about dwarves? (All but Adventurer, Contessa, Minnie, and Crunn fall asleep in their meat pies.) Contessa: Oh yes, you must just be very patient. But look over at our other escorts ... Adventurer: By the Lady! Contessa: Minnie was an Alchemist before she met Crunn, and knows a lot of old forgotten Dwarvish potions. Adventurer: But what do we do with the bodies? Contessa: Wait ... (Enter Major) Contessa: Adventurer, meet Major Bloodnok, head of my own ...private little bodyguard. He's been with me since I was a mere girl. Served me very well, haven't you, Major? Major: We give our all, milady. Adventurer: Pleased to meet you, Major. Contessa: How are my other men? Adventurer: (aside) Other men? (Enter Other Men in Khajiit suits) Major: All present and accounted for, milady. Had a spot of bother with what looked like a party of Merchants following you. But they are out of the picture now, down a ravine. Only one thing. Contessa: Yes? Major: Me and my men, we've been noticing sort of furtive movements, up on cliffs, on ridges -- always just out of the corners of our eyes. And we keep getting this feeling of being watched. Now, me and my men, we're the best but there's something out there. Don't like it, not one bit. Contessa: Oh Dear - and just when it was getting to be fun. Major: Its not anything human. Not Mages, Armorers, Priests. And its not the usual werewolves, harpies, orcs, ÷daedra. Nothing like that, not at all. Minnie: Dwarves! Crunn: Where? ... oh ... Minnie ... you mean ... up ... there ... here ... Minnie: ... Dwarves, up there ... Crunn: ... How exciting ... mmmm ... Minnie: ... There, there, Crunn, calm down ... just dwarves ... I knew that one day they would ... Crunn: ... Wake up ..? Minnie: ... Come back ... Crunn: ... But ... I didn't go anywhere ... Minnie: ... The dwarves, Crunn ... Crunn: ... Oooh ... Back ... So excited ... Dwarves! ... ÷oooh ... Contessa: Well Major, is it possible? Major: Anything's possible, especially up here. Dwarves? I don't know. Me and my men, we'll get rid of this lot. There's a good deep mine shaft out back. (Exit All, but the Adventurer and Contessa) Adventurer: Dwarves, Ave! Is that trouble? I mean, they sort of own all the ebony down here, don't they? Contessa: Maybe. I guess we just have to push on, see what develops. I can try to talk to them, maybe? Oh, and Adventurer, you'll have to drive the first cart. I'll take old Nephron's. We'll leave the other here -- Spares for later. Adventurer: What, no more bucolic frolics? Contessa: Sorry, but we've got to get to the site and out again before the weather goes bad. Adventurer: Can't your Major and his men, handle the carts? Contessa: Oh, no. They will cover us from all sides and make certain there are no surprises. Adventurer: Oh well. All good things end, I guess. Contessa: Not quite. If you have any charges left in your bracelets of endurance, we can go upstairs and see what develops. (Enter Prologue) Prologue: Well, I guess we all saw that coming. Scene 3 takes place some time later at the site. Flanked by the Major's men, the Adventurer and the Wanton Contessa successfully follow the map of the dear, departed mages. Imagine great veins of glistening ebonyesque material piercing the surface of the ground, and a nice warm fire of Fools Ebony where the Adventurer and the Contessa sprawl. To the west are signs that the weather is turning and the first major snowstorm of the year is coming. For some time, they ÷have been mining and the Adventurer is beginning to feel the strain of actual labor. (Exit Prologue) Scene 3 Adventurer: I've got blisters on my hands from shovelling that black rot, blisters on my rear from that cart bench, and we are running out of ale. My bracelet is running down and my fingers are getting frostbite. Contessa: What, your bracelet is running down? Oh, now that is serious. (Enter Major, running) Major: Dwarves! Milady, dwarves, dozens of the little buggers caught my men! I'm sorry, milady. (The Contessa jumps to her feet) Contessa: Major, get out of here now. If you get away, ÷you can maybe help us later. I'll try to talk to them. (Exit Major) (Enter Dwarves) Contessa: Hhjgys jjvvu klpss Jjqqx zzyzx. Dwarves (Together): Jjpoo Kalagloo gashnoo bibloo franoo Xxnadoo Contessa Jnik? Balpo? Dwarves (Together) Gabloo! Wazzikoo! Eppapupu! Contessa Glooky, glooky, glooky. Adventurer: Ave, whats going on? Contessa: Relax. I think I've impressed them by talking their language. I don't understand everything, but it seems that they have only just 'woken up' or something. And that they will not let us take any of this Fool's Ebony -- it's somehow related to the real stuff or something. And it really belongs to the Lords of Oblivion -- the Dwarves are ÷just care or something. Adventurer: Very interesting. Now, what about us? Contessa: I made a deal with them the only way I could see. I told them about Minnie and Crunn, how those two old ones know lots of dwarven tales and legends. The dwarves tells me that, having just 'woken up' or something, they want three things -- ale, women, and us to leave the Fools' Ebony alone. Adventurer: Ah, flog my log. Contessa: Well,I told them about all the ale down at Minnie's Inn. And about the 2 redheads there. They are going there, leaving right now. We may take one empty cart, 2 horses. And they will keep us guarded all the way there. They also said that they will -- I don't know how -- destroy all the Fool's Ebony here. It shouldn't be on the surface like this, they say. (aside) Dwarvish is a remarkably compact language. ÷ Adventurer: By the great roaring buttocks of Sheogorath! All these blisters and backache for nothing! Ah well. At least we are still alive. For now ... (Exeunt) (Enter Prologue) Prologue: Farnoo Lickety Kanoo Gadfloo. Oh, I'm terribly sorry. As Scene 4 begins, we are back at Minnie's Inn, where the dwarves appear to be on holiday. (Enter the Adventurer, the Wanton Contessa, Minnie, Crunn, and Dwarves) (Exit Prologue) Scene 4 Minnie: ... ga ... sszx ... spnoo? ... Crunn: ... glurky ... Dwarves (Together): Jotcha potchka lazzo lanni joopy hoopy qui me amat, amat et canem meam Adventurer: Ave, any ideas? I can't seem to work my magical items. And when the ale runs out ... Contessa: Your ebony material is useless against them. Dwarves fashion the ebony, so I guess they can suppress it or something. Don't worry - just think, these dwarves have been asleep or something for hundreds of years. And Minnie has a huge stock of ale. Not many customers come this way, and she knows how to salt the ale just right to keep from spoiling for decades. Adventurer Oh, that's why my tongue always looks like a chunk of leather after a pint or two. Contessa Dwarves apparently love ale. I expect them all to pass out in an hour or so. (Dwarves fall into comas) Contessa: If not sooner. Come on, Adventurer. Grab a sack and start collecting! When the dwarves wake up, they'll finish the ale, and then us. (The Wanton Contessa and Adventurer pillage the dwarves) Adventurer: South, as fast as our horses will take us in this weather. Contessa: If we make enough distance before they wake up, we'll be all right - I don't think that they will leave their precious mountains. I hope not. (Enter Prologue) Prologue: The wailing wintery wind whirls wickedly, wafts whipping, wading waist-high, oh never mind. The Adventurer and the Contessa get lost in the snow storm. Several days later, we find them desperate for warmth and exhausted. (Exit Prologue) Adventurer: The horses have had it. They can't go another step and its going to snow again. No ale left, and just one loaf. Contessa: It will have to do. ÷ (Suddenly, a party of giants leaps on our hero and heroine. But after some quick work with Bracers of Firestorm, really dead giants lie around in heaps) Adventurer: Anything left, Ave? Contessa: No, no more fire anything - just my daggers Adventurer: Same here, just a common shortsword. Curse Sheogorath for those dwarves! Those oafs chewed up our horses! Do you think the Major made it out? Contessa: If anyone can, it's him. Guess we'll find out in town. Interesting thought just occured to me. Don't giants hunt in several groups? Is that more I hear? (sound of grumbling and gargling offstage) Adventurer: Yes, there are more giants out there. Quick, Ave. Help me with this one. (The Adventurer starts to disembowel a giant's body) Contessa: What on Tamriel are you doing? This is not the ÷time for studying anatomy! Adventurer: Don't argue, climb inside! Contessa: Poppydash and Baldercock! Inside that smelly dead giant? My dear Adventurer, I'm a Lady. Adventurer: It's our only hope! The giant smell will hide our scent, and live giants never touch dead ones. Quick! (The Adventurer and the Contessa climb inside the steaming giant's body) Adventurer: Here, help me pull the skin shut - and try not to throw up. Don't make a sound. (Enter Prologue) Prologue: A few hour pass. (Exit Prologue) (The Adventurer and the Wanton Contessa poke their heads out of the giant's belly.) Adventurer: They've all left, but it's snowing hard. Definitely getting real cold. We better stay here. Contessa: It indeed is warm. Adventurer: It will keep us warm, safe from the storm and giants, for a day or soif we can stand the smell. Here, want some bread? (The Contessa falls victim to nausea) (Enter Prologue) Prologue: For this, the last scene of the play, please forgive us, but we need to change the set. Remove the "giant corpses" and whatnot. Please be patient while our bard performs the timeless classic "Whither Goest Thou?" (Bard plays "Whither Goest Thou?" If the scenarists take too long, he also plays "For Further Consideration.") Prologue: Ah, here we are, back at the Dead Daedra Inn. The Contessa and the Adventurer made it, after all. They had to ÷pay three times the normal rate, for they were very dirty and stinky. Now poor Prologue will bid you farewell, goodly people. Scene 6 Contessa: Thank the Gods for hot water and soap! I thought I would smell like a giant forever. Adventurer: Me too. Where did you go while I was bathing? And why no mages, priests, armorers, or merchants outside yelling for our blood? Contessa: I took a quick trip to the Palace. I've fixed it so some cousins have told the armorers and merchants that we don't have cartloads of the Fools' Ebony. Adventurer: Pity that that's actually true. Contessa: But at least no one's interested in us anymore. Seems that some priests turned up dead in an old temple, up on Edward's Mountain. They were found with some girl, all dead from 'bad green powder' or something. And ÷some old mages named Shub have gone missing ... Adventurer: Now then, what did you stuff in those sacks thats so important? Contessa: Here, dump them out, take a look. Adventurer: By the Gods, just look at that! Contessa: Yes, those dwarves were just loaded with ebony. Look. Rings, torcs, bracers, belts, helms All solid old ebony. Adventurer: And this stuff feels just loaded with magicka. Why, I bet that this ring alone has a thousand uses ... whatever it does. Contessa: Ooh! Look! Bracers of Extreme Endurance and a Belt of Strength! Put them on, Adventurer, let's celebrate! Adventurer (aside) Help! ÷ Enter Epilogue Epilogue: As I feared, all the loose threads of the play were ended by wholesale slaughter. More of the adventures of the Adventurer will follow, unless, of course, they don't. We thank you for your tempered patience. Don't forget to tip your worthy wenches on your way out this evening, and enjoy our bard's rendition of the Khajiiti classic, "It's A Matter of Luck." Goodnight. (Flourish) (Exeunt Omnes) barbed_wire

Biography of Queen Barenziah, Vol. III

Stem Gamboge, scribe

Biography of ř\Queen Barenziah, ř\Vol. III Barenziah was welcomed kindly by the Emperor Tiber Septim and his family, who treated her like a daughter during her stay in the newly built Imperial City. After several happy months there learning her duties as a regent under the Empire, Symmachus escorted her to Mournhold where she took up her duties as Queen of her people, under his wise guidance. Gradually they came to love one another and were married and crowned in a splendid ceremony at which the Emperor himself officiated. ÷ After several hundred years of marriage a son, Helseth, was born to the royal couple, amid rejoicing and prayers to the goddess who had at last blessed their marriage. Although it was not known at the time, it was shortly before this blessed event that the Staff of Chaos was stolen from its hiding place deep in the Mournhold mines by a clever bard known only as Nightingale. Eight years after Helseth's birth, Barenziah bore a daughter, Morgiah, named for Symmachus' mother and the royal couple's joy was complete. Alas, shortly after that, relations with the Empire mysteriously deteriorated, leading to much civil unrest in Mournhold. After fruitless inquiries and attempts at reconciliation, in desperation Barenziah took her young children and travelled to Imperial City herself to seek the Emperor's ear. Symmachus remained in Mournhold. During her audience with the Emperor, Barenziah, through her magical arts, came to realize, to her horror and dismay, that the so-called Emperor was an imposter, none other than the Bard Nightingale who had stolen the Staff of Chaos. Exercising great self control she concealed this realization from him. That evening news came that Symmachus had been killed in battle and that Mournhold had been taken by the rebels. Barenziah knew not where to seek help, when a knock ÷sounded at her door. It was Eadwyre, King of Wayrest, and an old friend of Uriel Septim and Symmachus. He comforted her, pledged his friendship and confirmed her suspicions that the Emperor was indeed an impostor, and none other than Jagar Tharn, the Imperial Battlemage. Tharn had supposedly retired from public work and put his assistant, Ria Silmane, in his stead. As it seemed, Tharn had never left the Imperial City. Ria was indeed dead, but her ghost had appeared in Eadwyre's dreams and revealed that the true Emperor had been kidnapped by Tharn and imprisoned in an alternate plane. Tharn had then used the Staff of Chaos to kill her when she attempted to warn the Council of his nefarious plot. Together, Eadwyre and Barenziah plotted to gain the imposter's confidence and unmask him with the help of another friend of Ria's, who was currently in prison, but to whose dreams she had access, and who possessed great, albeit untapped, potential. Barenziah charmed and befriended the fake Emperor. By reading his secret diary she learned that he had broken the Staff into eight pieces and hidden them. She managed to obtain a copy of the key to Ria's friend's cell and bribed a guard to leave it within the cell, as if by accident. Their Champion, whose name was unknown even to ÷Barenziah and Eadwyre, made his escape through a shift gate Ria had openned in a dark rat infested corner of the prison where the cowardly goblin guards feared to venture. It took Barenziah several months to learn the hiding places of all eight staff pieces through snatches of overheard conversation and rare glimpses of the diary. Once she had the vital information, she and Eadwyre fled to Wayrest where they managed to stave off the sporadic efforts of Tharn's henchmen to obtain revenge. Tharn, whatever else might be said of him, was no one's fool save perhaps Barenziah's, and he concentrated most of his efforts in tracking down and destroying the great Champion. As all now know, the brave, tireless, and forever nameless Champion was successful in reuniting the Staff of Chaos. With it, he destroyed Tharn and rescued the true Emperor, Uriel Septim VII. Following the Restoration, a grand state memorial service was held for Symmachus in the Imperial City, befitting the man who had served the Septim family so long and so well. Barenziah and good King Eadwyre had come to care deeply for one another, and had married in the year after their flight from Imperial City. Her children remained with her and a regent was appointed to rule Mournhold in her absence. She planned to return after Eadwyre's death. He was elderly when they wed so she knew that event, alas, could not be far off as the elves reckon time. barbed_wire

King Edward, Part I

Anonymous

King Edward, Part I Chapter One: Departure from Daggerfall Long, long ago, when the world was in its springtime, before the Redguards came and the glorious Septim Empire was formed, but after the goblins had driven the dwarves out of Hammerfell, a son, Edward, was born to King Corcyr I of Daggerfall and his Queen, Aliera of Wayrest. The young boy lay drowsing in the palace orchard, high on a breezy hill overlooking the deep blue bay of Daggerfall. The constant autumn fog of Daggerfall had blown away for the nonce and the sky was a deep endless blue. Moments like this were rare for young Prince Edward; this afternoon was the result of days of scheming, for he craved solitude as the other nobles he knew craved companionship. Now his tutor believed him engaged in extra arms practice, the master of arms believed him to be chasing deer with the huntmaster, who thought he was studying Elvish. His father had no idea where he was and didn't care, being occupied with his young wife and ÷their sons and other pleasures of noble life ... At the plop of an apple barely missing his head, he opened his pale grey eyes; there was a sweet rotten smell in his nostrils. He sighed and stared up into the blue. Why should things fall down instead of up? If you stared at the sky long enough you could feel as if you were falling into it ... his eyes glazed and the pupils grew huge as the dark-ringed irises dilated. He was weightless, drifting ... another apple fell, grazing his ear, and he thudded to earth, crying out as first his rump struck and then his head. A silvery laugh sounded. Edward sat up abruptly and stared around, jaw hanging slack. Two mounted men stood ten feet away, still as if they were carved from stone, regarding him intently. Princes are not easily intimidated, not even the gentle souled kind, but Edward had never seen or imagined anything like this pair. One had golden skin and eyes, was clad in white cloth trimmed with gold and rode a (Edward blinked. It is was still there) a unicorn! Beside the unicorn was a golden dragon, wings neatly folded. And on his back was a man clad in dark chain ÷mail, a long sword at his side. He was bareheaded; his eyes glowed red in his dark face ... and his pointed ears ... "You're elves! What--!" "He's a clever child." The dark elf's voice was sardonic. He spoke perfect Bretic, Edward noticed, his mind still working, although something seemed to have gone wrong with the rest of him. "So it would seem. He did that mostly of himself. Remarkable for an untrained child. I merely helped him to--- concentrate." The high elf also spoke Bretic, but hesitantly and with a slight singing accent. Edward's tutor said that elves were incapable of human speech. Edward's gaze shifted rapidly over the four beings in front of him, unable to find a comfortable resting place. He hoped briefly, fervently, that he was dreaming. His mind seethed with questions and demands, then quite suddenly his tongue ÷came unstuck. "But I wasn't concentrating at all! My masters all say I'm incapable--." Edward clamped his jaw down hard, suddenly realizing that it might be unwise to argue with beings such as these. But the golden elf smiled broadly, showing perfect white teeth, "Exactly." He radiated such warm approval, that Edward felt his skin tingle pleasantly. It was a feeling that he'd only known with his long-gone mother. But the other elf's face was expressionless; the red eyes bored into Edward as if they would pierce his soul. "Moraelyn! You're Moraelyn! The witch-king!" He jumped to his feet and faced the dark elf. "You stole my mother! My father will kill you." "I am. I did. Will he? Shall we call him and find out?" The dark elf straightened and his eyes glowed deeper. A tiny puff of steam escaped the dragon's nostrils. A glowing aura appeared around his companion. Edward knew he wasn't going to call the guard. Why should they be slaughtered? These two ÷looked capable of -- anything. Quite suddenly he was no longer afraid. If they were here to hurt him, they'd have done it by now. But a feeling of impotent rage remained. They'd taken his mother. And now-- "Why are you here?" he demanded. "Edward, will you come with us?" The high elf spoke. Hearing him was like hearing a harp, cool as a breeze, warm as a fireside... The boy stood very still. He wanted very much to say yes, to his own amazement. He wanted to ask if he would see his mother, but instead: "My father---" he croaked. "Will miss you no doubt." The irony was back in Moraelyn's voice, a voice that make Edward think of icicles sparkling and dripping in winter sun. But there was a sort of hunger in his glowing eyes, a longing? His father wouldn't miss him and he knew it. Shame ran through the boy, but he looked up at the broad-shouldered elf ÷defiantly. "Are you my father?" Edward had meant the question to match the elf's sarcasm, but his hand crept to his ear as if of itself. He wasn't anything like his short- tempered, hearty, red-haired father ... and Roane often said he had an elfin look. There was a heavy silence and Edward sensed that Moraelyn was taking the question at face value but that truth had nothing to do with what Moraelyn would say next. He would give the expedient answer. Still--. "No." It came reluctantly. He might be lying, of course, but Edward felt a deep wave of relief. "Does my mother have -- other sons?" Suddenly Edward knew she did not and that the question would hurt the dark elf. And was glad. "Your mother might be dead, for all you know. Or care, it seems." The dark elf's narrow nostrils twitched as if Edward stank, and the lines around his mouth deepened. ÷ She was not dead. Edward would have known. The bitter injustice of Moraelyn's contempt stung. "Did she send you to me?" "Do you take me for an errand boy!" he snapped, and spoke to his companion: "Let us take him now and be gone; we may discuss it at leisure." The golden elf held up his hand, "Patience, my cousin." and, to Edward, "Well, youngling, will you come?" Dark tales were told of human children kidnapped by elves, who hungered for young humans ... "I don't know your name," Edward temporized. "Do you love your life here so much?" Edward looked at the palace in the distance, the banners floating lazily above ... the town below, the sparkling ÷bay, the distant mountains. "I love Daggerfall." "Ah. And you shall return to hold it, Prince Edward. I, I'ric Harad Egun the ArchMagister, swear it to you." Moraelyn swung about, protesting sharply in Elvish. The dragon spat a bit of flame, but the unicorn did not move; its golden eyes regarded Edward steadily. "Unicorns do not abide any sort of falsity." The words floated through his mind in his mother's voice. "I'ric Harad Egun the ArchMagister, I will come with you." "You must ride with Moraelyn. The Lord Akatosh has consented to this--necessity. The elf made a sweeping gesture toward the dragon." He wasn't fit to touch a unicorn, of course. "Very well, then. I--I don't suppose I could bring my dog?" Where was he? Shag was always with him. Asleep in the grass! Shag, the ever-alert? Edward knelt to touch him. A heated discussion in Elvish ensued, during which the dragon scorched the grass. Moraelyn swung down and picked Shag up with distaste. "Very ÷well, then, but I warn you that Akatosh is at the limit of his patience. Mount, then." "Lord Akatosh, I am most deeply obliged by your indulgence. If ever I may repay it--". "You will," Moraelyn interrupted; he seized Edward by the belt and tossed him up onto the dragon. Edward settled himself between the dragon's neck and wings and the sleeping Shag was draped limply in front of him. "There isn't room for --" Edward began, and jerked in astonishment as the dragon shifted beneath him and grew larger. Much, much, much larger. Moraelyn vaulted up behind with a prodigious leap for one in armor. The unicorn jumped the nine foot wall, clearing it neatly. The dragon's great wings stretched; he crouched, then leapt into the air. His riders swayed wildly. The dark elf muttered something Edward couldn't understand in elvish and they steadied. The wings beat strongly and the dragon circled low over the Keep, gaining altitude slowly. People were running about now, shouting and ÷pointing. Edward saw his old nurse and waved and shouted, "Goodbye! Goodbye! I'll be back sometime..." Arrows flew through the air as bowmen shot, while the nurse screamed and clutched at the arms of those nearest. King Corcyr ran naked onto the battlements, screaming and waving his fists. "Child of a demon, come back and I'll thrash you within an inch of your worthless life. Moraelyn, come down and fight, like the man you aren't." Moraelyn's loud laughter rang clear as temple bells, cascading over the Keep. He shouted, "Be glad I don't, little King of the Small Cock!" The dragon circled almost lazily and let out a huge gout of flame. Arrows clinked harmlessly off his golden scales. "I'm off to see my mother!" Edward screamed down, noting the upturned faces of his stepmother and her red-haired sons. Roane had a fur- trimmed robe clutched round her, but her long hair floated wildly. Four pairs of eyes fastened on him, not Moraelyn, glittering with fury and hatred. Edward stopped waving and clutched Shag tightly with both hands. Moraelyn's mail clad arm was securely about his waist. Edward slumped against him, feeling quite safe for the first time in a very ÷long while. The bowmen had stopped shooting; most of them were looking at the royal family. The king danced with rage. The great dragon's wings beat harder now and they headed due south out over the water. "Aren't we going to Ebonheart?" the boy twisted round and looked up at Moraelyn. "Your mother awaits you at Firsthold in Sumurset, little Prince." "Why did you wait so long to fetch me?" "Querulous child, do you think dragons and unicorns do the bidding of elves or men? Your mother came to me full willing, but she could not bring you; you were too closely guarded by your father's men. Would you have had us lay waste your land to take you by force? She thought you would be safe and cared for ... and she was desperate. No, this was the dragon's plan." Of all the astonishing events of the afternoon, this was the most surprising: the notion that a dragon should take an interest in him, when not even his own family did. But, ÷willing, the elf said, full willing! "You are the focus of large events, youngling. Your task is to prepare yourself to be a king--a king such as your people have never known. Our task is to aid you. Sleep now." Waves of sleep assaulted Edward's mind, one after another. "But--" he meant to ask Moraelyn about his mother, but the last wave was too big; it crashed right over him and he slipped into dark fire-shot dreams. barbed_wire

King Edward, Part 2

Anonymous

King Edward, Part 2 Chapter 2: Reunion at Firsthold Edward woke to a red sky. The sun was just peeking over the western mountains. They were nearing a glittering tower, fire flashing from every facet. The dragon veered to fly nearer and shot a long blast of flame. A light flashed several times from the tower's top as they dropped suddenly. Edward's stomach felt very peculiar. He sighed and stirred and felt Moraelyn shift so that his right arm now held Edward. He stretched and yawned. "Not much longer now. It's several days by horse from the Crystal Tower to Firsthold but I judge that Akatosh will have us there within the hour." "We're not stopping at the Tower? I'ric---" "Do not use that name so lightly, not even to me. The ArchMagister will not return for days yet. Unicorns are brothers to the wind and travel as fast, even burdened, but not as fast as dragons fly. You see the Elven homeland at dawn from the back of a dragon. Count yourself fortunate among men." Edward's gaze roamed the deep green woods and rugged hills. T here was no sign of habitation. "It's lovely," he said politely, "but not so beautiful as High Rock," he added out of loyalty and truth. "Are there no towns or villages or farms?" "The Firstborn live nestled deep in the trees. And they do not tear up the earth and plant anew, but take gladly what Auriel offers ... and make return. Ahhh, the green smell of growing things." Indeed, the air was as heady as the wine Edward used to sip from his father's cup, before ... "I'm hungry." "I expect so." A bit of shifting and Moraelyn's left hand produced a small leaf-wrapped package. The dusky hand was large and strong and looked neither human nor animal. Edward stared at it with revulsion, then took the package gingerly so as not to touch the hand. He felt Moraelyn stiffen and the hand that held Edward relaxed its grasp a bit. Edward felt ashamed of his reaction. It was neither kind nor wise to give offense in the circumstances. Moraelyn ÷could quite easily drop him overboard. "I need to bathe, but so do you," he said stiffly. Moraelyn was deliberately misinterpreting the reaction, Edward knew. "Yes, I'm very dirty," Edward bit into the cake which proved much better than it looked. "My lady mother's used to seeing me like this--at least she used to be. But perhaps I should bathe first?" "I think you will not be offered that choice. Ah, at last!" The dragon spread his wings, sent a huge gout of flame soaring skyward and dropped to earth in a large clearing. The landing was abrupt and jarring. Elves appeared quite suddenly and arms reached up to take him and Shag, who woke at last, ran frantically in circles, and then sat panting at Edward's feet. A tall elf with fiery hair like copper greeted them formally. "Greetings, my lord King. Your lady wife awaits you. Prince Edward, I welcome you to the land of the Firstborn on behalf of all its people. May your stay here prove pleasant and productive." Moraelyn nodded deferentially. "Thank you, my host. My ÷Queen has waited long enough; we will go to her now." Moraelyn's hand on his shoulder steered Edward toward the largest tree he'd ever seen. The trunk was hollow; steps inside led up; openings gave out onto more steps and bridges along and among the mighty branches. They proceeded along these until they reached a large canopied platform, furnished with seats and chests as if it were a room. A golden skinned woman smiled at them and waved them in, then left. A tall slender, pale-skinned, dark-haired human woman paced toward them, her eyes on Edward. Only Edward. "Why did you leave us!" The cry came from deep inside, ringing through him. It stopped her several paces from him. Now her eyes lifted to Moraelyn, who said in a harsher tone than Edward had yet heard from him. "Thou wilt address thy Mother with respect, cub!" A glancing blow made his eyes water. Aliera crossed quickly to Moraelyn and placed her hands on his chest. "Greeting, my husband. All praise to Notorgo for bringing you and my son safely to me." ÷ "Thank also the Lord of the Dragons and the Bandit, who could not have lifted the boy more neatly himself. The ArchMagister had somewhat to do with it as well." Moraelyn's dusky hands came up to hold her bare arms lightly and tenderly. He laughed, looking relaxed and happy. But the hands against his chest formed a barrier as much as a caress. "I am blessed indeed. But it has been long since my son and I have spoken. We may find words more easily if we seek them alone together." Moraelyn's smile vanished instantly. "Are words then a thing which two can find more easily than three? Well. Perhaps. At times. Wife." He turned on his heel and left. The bridge swung and creaked, but his feet made no sound at all. Aliera watched after him, but he did not look back. Edward felt again the curious mix of satisfaction and regret that came with giving pain to his enemy. "Edward, my son, come and sit by me." Edward stood where he was, "Madam mother, I have waited many years and travelled many leagues to have an answer. I will wait no longer, nor go one step further." "What have you been told?" "That you were most treacherously kidnapped by night with the aid of magic, while my father slept, trusting in the honor of his guest." "Your father told you that. And Moraelyn?" "Said that you came full willing. I would hear what you say." "Would you hear why I left your father or why I did not take you with me, having chosen to go." Edward paused, thinking, "Madam, I would hear the truth, therefore I must give the truth. I would hear why you left me behind. The other, I think I know, as much as I can or would know, unless you wish to tell me more or ÷other." "The truth? Truth is not a single thing existing apart from those who apprehend it. But I will tell you my truth and perhaps then you may arrive at your truth. Aliera walked back to a softly pillowed chair and composed herself. Nearby a small ruby colored bird settled on a branch and trilled an accompaniment to her soft voice. "My parents arranged my marriage as is the custom of our homeland. I did not love Corcyr, but in the beginning I respected him and tried to be a good wife. He did not care for me, nor did he take care. And so he lost my respect and I died a little each day, withering like an untended plant. I was happy only with you, but Corcyr thought I was making you too soft. "Womanish," he said, and so, after your third birthday I was allowed to spend only an hour each day with you. I listened to your cries and sat weeping, without heart for anything. Finally, you ceased crying and asking for me, and my heart was left empty. I ÷formed the habit of walking and riding much of the time, alone save for a guard or two. Then Moraelyn came. He wanted to mine for ebony in the Wrothgarian Mountains. The land he wanted to use was part of my dowry. He was willing to train our people in the arts of its use and even to give them weapons of Dark Elf making. In return our people were to aid him in keeping the goblins away, and allow him to form a colony of his people in High Rock. Corcyr had no use for the land and he wanted the weapons very much indeed -- there are none better -- so he favored the proposal. There were many details to be discussed and arranged and it fell to me to conduct these negotiations. Corcyr despises Dark Elves and he was jealous of Moraelyn, who was already famed as the finest fighter in all Tamriel. "But Moraelyn is more than a skilled fighter; he's well-read and interested in everything under the sun. He sang and played as if taught by Jeh Free and Jhim Sei both. He was a companion such as I'd only dreamed of ... that and no more, I swear. We both love to be outside, so our discussions took place while riding and walking, but always ÷accompanied by his men and Corcyr's. When all was arranged, Corcyr gave a great feast to celebrate the treaty. All of High Rock nobility came and many from other provinces. At the end Corcyr was deep in his cups and let fall an insult that could only be washed out in blood. I had long since retired with the other ladies so I know not what it was, but I'd heard enough in private to know that Corcyr had a store of such to choose from. Moraelyn gave the challenge and gave Corcyr until noon, that he might recover such wits as he had. "Then Moraelyn came to me, alone in my chamber, and told me what had befallen. 'Milady, I think he will choose your brother as his champion; in any case there will be a river of blood between us that may not be crossed in this life or any other. I can live without your love, but I would not have your enmity. Come with me now, as wife or honored guest, as you choose. And you shall serve as blood price in stead of your kith or kin.' "And there, in the moonlight, in my terror, with my ladies sleeping about me, I knew I loved him. Doubted that I could live without him. And yet, I loved you more! 'My son,' I ÷whispered. 'I can't--'. 'Milady, you must choose. I am sorry.' You see, don't you, Edward? If I stayed, it meant my brother's death -- his innocent young blood. Or your father's! Or possibly that of the man I loved, though I counted that most unlikely. Moraelyn's fighting skills alone were supreme, and in an affair of this sort he would be entitled to call on magic aid as well. 'We could take him with us.' But Moraelyn shook his head sadly, 'That I will not do. It would go against my honor to part father and son.' "Leaving love alone, I am trained to duty", Aliera said proudly. "Should I have robbed you of your father or your loving uncle? And I thought it likely that Corcyr, should he survive, would somehow blame me for the affair and use it as an excuse to put me away. I thought that Corcyr would be pleased to have me gone. I knew he wanted the weapons very much. I could trade them for time with you, I thought." All this passed through my mind while Moraelyn stood waiting, not looking at me. ÷ "Lady Mara, help me to choose wisely, I prayed. 'You truly want me as wife? I--I could bring you nothing but trouble.' "Aliera, I would have you to wife. And I want nothing but yourself." He shed his cloak and wrapped it round my body, pulling the bedclothes away. "Moraelyn, wait--is this right, what I do?" "Milady, if I thought this wrong, I should not be standing here! Of the choices you are given, this one seems to me most right." He swung me up in his arms and carried me to his horse. And so I left your father's house, clad only in his cloak and riding before him. And wild joy mixed with my sorrow, so that I scarce knew how I felt. That is my truth." Edward said quietly, "But he has parted my father and me in the end." "With great reluctance. And only becaue the dragon says that you and your father were in truth already parted in hear t. It is only a matter of more leagues. Which provide a measure of safety for you. Moraelyn insisted that you should freely consent to come. You are as free to return any time you wish." "Moraelyn would have just taken me! It was I'r--I mean, the ArchMagister, who insisted that I must consent." "He's not a patient man by nature. And he is anxious to do Corcyr no harm. Doubtless he felt the discussion could be carried on as well elsewhere." "He called him King of the Small Cock. And laughed. Why? Are Daggerfall cockerels smaller than Ebonheart birds? And what does it matter, anyway? My father was very angry; I think he would have liked to fight. But it's true he hates me. I knew that, but I didn't want to know, so I pretended not to. I don't suppose Moraelyn would do that." "No." "He'd lie, though. He thought about telling me he was my father. I could see it." Aliera threw back her head and laughed her pretty rippling laugh; he remembered it from long ago, and it sent shivers down his back. "He must have wanted to claim it very badly indeed if he let you see it; he's usually quicker than that. And he does not lie under oath, or to hurt those he loves." "He doesn't love me; he doesn't even like me." "But I do, my dear son. You--" Edward thought she was going to say he'd grown; adults always remarked on his growth, even if he'd just seen them a week ago. Very strange, since he was small for his age. Instead she said, "You're just as I thought you'd be," with deep maternal satisfaction. "And he loves you. But he said he was no one's errand boy. Yet you dismissed him as if he were." Aliera's face and neck burned a deep crimson. "Nay, though I am reduced to serving man, it seems." Moraely n had entered silently, bearing a huge tray piled high with food. "Get me a stool, boy, you can play page if I can play server. You must be famished and I thought I'd best return before my wife gets round to the rest of my faults. Could take her most of the day listing them." He'd shed the mail and bathed and dressed in fresh black jerkin and hose with a silvery sash tied round his narrow waist. But the black sword still swung by his side. "Mara help us, you've enough food for a small army. And I've broken my fast." Aliera's small hand reached for the elf's arm, slid down it caressingly, then clasped his hand and squeezed it, lifting it to her still hot cheek, brushing it with her lips. Edward looked away quickly, discomforted by the sight of his dusky skin against her fairness. "This's for me, and a bit for the boy. But pray join us, my dear. You've grown thin. Pining for me, no doubt." He wrapped a lock of her dark curly hair around a finger and tugged at it, grinning, then fell on the food like a starving wolf, attacking it with small silvery weapons inste ad of eating with his fingers as humans did. The food was -- wonderful. Edward ate until he could eat no more. "Eavesdropping," he murmured thoughtfully. He'd been mulling over a list of Moraelyn's faults while he ate, and realized too late that he'd spoken aloud. "By Zenithar, boy, if you humans will shout your privy conversation all over the tree, d'ye expect me to shut my ears with wool?" He tapped one of his large pointed ears. Edward hurriedly tried to remember what they'd said. What he'd said. Lying. Oh dear. Maybe he hadn't heard. "So I'm a liar, am I, boy?" Vir Gil help him, Edward felt he was drowning. Could the Elf read minds? He hoped that wasn't the insult his father had used! "I -- I meant I thought that you were thinking about it. You did hesitate," Edward gulped. He was making matters worse. "Possibly, I was trying to remember ... " the sardonic ÷tone was back. "You don't even like me!" Edward burst out. "That doesn't seem to have stopped your true father from claiming you." "Moraelyn! Don't!" Aliera interrupted, but the Elf held up his hand to quiet her. "I'm not so sure." Edward flashed. "Why do you say that?" "I don't know--Roane says--things--and I'm not at all like him. Everyone remarks on it. And then stops talking." "What--things? Speak, boy!" "About how fond Mother was of her brother when they were young. How sad and angry he was when she was carried off. More like a lover, she said, than a brother. She says it very sweetly, but like she means something by it. Something too ÷dirty to say. Other times she talks about how elfin I look. And how quickly after marriage I came. Not as quickly as her first son, though." Moraelyn leaped up. "By the Avenger, I will go back and wring the vixen's neck! The human--", he bit off the insult, but his red eyes flamed rage; his muscles swelled and his hair stood on end. "You do not look half-elven. I never met your mother until four years after your conception. Roane, it seems, cannot decide which lie she wishes to use. But incest! May Kel strike her down if I may not." The tall elf paced furiously about the room, lithe as a Khajiit, hand fondling his sword hilt. The platform swayed and dipped. "She's ambitious for her sons, at Edward's expense. The question is, how many will believe her. Not enough if she was planning to have him killed instead." Aliera's smooth brow wrinkled a bit. "I never disliked her, you know. Nor she me. She wanted my place and I was glad enough to let her have it save for Edward." ÷ "You want me to be king so I'll let you have the ebon mines." Edward had just worked out the puzzle. "Oh, devil take the ebon, which he probably will. I've a better chance of getting co-operation from Roane's boys once your father's dead. They'd have reason for gratitude and the bargain's a good one. Although the chances they could keep a civil tongue long enough to sign a contract seem poor, given their parentage." "Then why? You don't even like me." "Mara, help me! 'Liking' a person is a human concept. One day they like you, the next day they don't. On Tirdas they're back to liking you again. My own wife does this to me, but claims to love me even when she doesn't like me. Except of course on the days when she doesn't do either, and talks about joining the Order of Riana. Fortunately that only happens once a year or so. I go hunting until she comes to her senses." "You exaggerate; that only happened once, and well you ÷know it." "I remember enjoying the recovery period. Maybe it should happen more often." They grinned at each other. "But why do you want me to be King?" Edward persisted. "I told you; it's Akatosh's notion. And the ArchMagister's. I just came along for the ride. Ask them." "I shall ask the ArchMagister when I see him." "An excellent plan. You'll spend a few weeks at the Tower before heading north with us." "Only that?" "Does the prospect of spending the winter with your mother and me displease you so much?" "No ... no, sir. But I agreed to go with I'ric." Not you. The words hung unsaid between them. "You will, in time. A few weeks there now will fit you to begin your training in magic; I can teach you spells. But you need hardening; your body must catch up to your mind. It is the ArchMagister's will." "Fighting magic? I want to learn other things. How to call beasts. How to heal. And float..." "You'll learn that, I doubt not. And d'ye think a fighter can't Heal? It's the first spell you'll learn. But a King must know how to fight." "I'm not good at it." "Dragon's Teeth, boy! Exactly why you must learn!" "If I cannot?" "You've courage and a clear head and the potential to learn magic; that's more than most people ever have. I can teach you the rest." Edward's head whirled with the unaccustomed praise. "I do? I have? You can?" "D'ye think any of your father's fool court would stand naked before a dragon, a unicorn, the ArchMagister, and the Champion of Tamriel and demand justice of them? Justice! Faced with such, they might have managed to beg for mercy, if they could speak at all, which is doubtful." "I did that? I did, didn't I?" Edward was astonished; he wanted to add that he hadn't known, hadn't thought about it ... "Aye, you did. And it's a deed that shall be sung from here to Morrowwind; I'll compose the ballad myself--as soon as I have a nap. I don't sleep as sound as some on dragon's backs." "You enchanted me and Shag asleep!" "And the rest of the castle, with the help of my friends." "Ooooohhhh. Can you levitate? Will you show me?" ÷ "Not so fast. I kept a holding spell on us all night to keep us on the dragon's back. Until I'm rested I couldn't light a candle with the aid of a match." "Oh. Well, I'd still rather be like the ArchMagister than be a fighter." "Hah! It'll be news to the ArchMagister that he cannot fight! I hope he'll find time to show you how to wield a staff. No better weapon for early training. And no better trainer. Now, of the four you saw before you, which would you say could best the others?" Edward thought carefully for several minutes. "Sir, my judgement is poor indeed, but if you would still have my answer, it would seem that the one who claims the title Champion of Tamriel must be the best. Yet must not the ArchMagister be your master in magic? And trained to arms as well, it seems. So which should prevail? Could any mortal stand against the dragon's fire and claws and teeth? And I know naught of the unicorn, save that it is fleet and has a very ÷sharp horn, and hooves as well. So I will guess the unicorn; it had the mildest manner. And since you asked the question it seems the unlikely answer may be correct." "Well answered, youngling! The unicorn would win easily in any single close combat. No mortal or even dragon can move quickly enough to land a blow and it cannot be burned or touched by any magic or elemental power. It's hooves are deadly and a single touch of its horn will kill any enemy, although the horn itself will burn away. The most powerful can regenerate it within moments, however. "And of the four the Champion of Tamriel would probably be the loser against any of the others, although the title is no idle boast! Moraelyn is not accustomed to being so outclassed. My manners may have suffered in consequence." "Milord King, I am most deeply in your debt. You have done me great honor and service. If ever I can repay you, I will. Forgive my brash words and ill manners. I have dwelt among the rude and boorish. And it seems I have no father, unless I may call you so?" The elf held his hands out to the boy, who placed his own in them. Edward's feeling of distaste was quite gone...as if by magic...the thought drifted through his mind ... and then he released his hands and clasped Moraelyn about his waist. The elf's hands stroked the dark hair and clasped the thin shoulders. "I thank you, my wife. After only five years of marriage, you have presented me with a fine son, nine years of age. Remarkable. In fact...magical." barbed_wire

King Edward, Part III

Anonymous

King Edward, Part III Chapter 3: Lessons The golden days passed swiftly. Edward spent most of his time in the company of his parents. He saw few other children. None at all lived in 'their' tree, only their wood elf host ÷and Moraelyn's six Companions, an oddly assorted, cheerful lot. Disrespectful, Edward thought. None of the Daggerfall court or servants would dared have addressed his father as these did Moraelyn and Aliera with their constant raillery. But these weren't servants or courtiers. Just ... Companions. Only one was a Dark Elf. There were a Khajiit woman, two wood elves, brother and sister, a Nordic man, even bigger than Moraelyn and a strange looking lizardlike man, who spoke with such a hissing accent that Edward couldn't understand him at all. The Nord man was called "Slave of Moraelyn" or just "Slave" for short, although Moraelyn usually called him "Mats" of "My-slave." Mats tended the group's weapons and gathered wood for the evening fires. But it wasn't unusual for the others to bring wood; Moraelyn himself often borrowed Mats' axe and fetched and split wood if there was need, or if he just felt like it. They spent much of their time roaming the woods and fields, hunting and gathering produce, in twos and threes. Usually Moraelyn, Aliera and Edward and Shade went off together. They carried bows for hunting. When Edward asked Moraelyn to teach him to shoot better, he was told to ask his mother, as she was the better shot. And it was Aliera's arrow that brought down a handsome buck, although both arrows had struck, and they quarrelled over who's arrow had killed as they ran toward the buck. "Bah!" Moraelyn exclaimed as he pulled his black fletched arrow from the hindquarters. "I don't know how I managed to feed myself before I married you." "You had the Companions." "Aye. Mats, Mith and I starved together, before we met Beech and Willow." Moraelyn pulled out his black dagger, Tooth, and began to skin the animal's body, calling Edward to come and watch. "You want to learn about animals, don't you?" "Live ones." Edward said with distaste. His dainty mother was ÷ripping the skin away with enthusiasm. "Such make tough eating," the dark elf said. "Give me your cloak; I'll make a package for you to carry." "I am a Prince, not a pack horse!" "You'll carry your share or you'll be a hungry prince this night." The elf had lost his good humor. "I won't. I don't want any. You can't make me." Moraelyn stood erect and appeared to think this over. "Can't I?" he taunted. "Edward, please--" Aliera appealed to him. "Tell me, Lord Prince, how then does one get the meat to one's table if one may not carry it. If Princes may not carry meat then certainly Kings and Queens may not ... or do Princes grow out of the incapacity when they become Kings?" "They have servants!" "Serve ants? What a clever idea. Only a human could think of that! Ants are excellent at carrying, I have noted, although I have not the trick of commanding them. Perhaps you can teach me." "Servants! Like Mats here," Edward shouted. He hated being teased. Mats and the other companions had come up, having heard their shouts over the kill. "Mats? You think I cannot make you carry deer meat, yet I could command Mats to do so?" Moraelyn stared up at the blond giant. "Well, one never knows until one tries. Mats, carry the deer." The blond scratched his head and jaw thoughtfully. "Highness, nothing would please me more ... .but it is a large deer and my old wound is troubling my back ... perhaps if you kill a smaller one." "Well, Prince, what now?" "You beat him." "At what? I can outrun him. Mats, if I reach that oak first, will you carry the deer." Mats shook his head slowly. "You beat him with a stick!" Edward yelled. "What promise you show as a Healer, my Prince. You will forgive me if I refrain from consulting you until you have further training. It is my judgement that beating with a stick will not improve Mats' back. Of course, I may be in error. "Silk, you carry the deer." "Me, milord? I am sorry, but I have just remembered that I am fourth cousin to the fifth house of Dibella, Queen of Heaven. My dignity forbids that I carry anything at all." Willow and Beech claimed that a mage had forbidden either of them from carrying any part of an animal while the moon Jone was risen. ÷ "Prince, are you truly certain about this rule? It seems to make life most inconvenient. We could bring the wood to the deer, which will take many hours and leave us benighted here. We could consume the meat raw on the spot, but I own my belly is not yet empty enough to make that option attractive. Aliera, can you help us? How do the High Rock folk get meat to table?" "Milord, when I lived there it was my firm belief that it appeared by magic. There were servants, but they were an irritating, lazy lot, more trouble than they were worth. Edward, my son, is it possible that this rule applies only in High Rock?" "I suppose so ... ." Edward carried a share of meat that bent his back, but he did not complain. And so it was settled, and the meal that night was a merry one. But for several days after, if the Companions caught him carrying anything at all they would inquire anxiously as to whether a High Rock Prince might do so. "If Mats is not a servant, then why do they call him 'Moraelyn's Slave'?" Edward asked one drowsy afternoon. "Well, he is my slave. I paid gold for him, all that Mith and I had. We came on a man beating him near Reich Parthkeep. He looked near death; when Mith and I tried to stop the beating, the man said Mats was a runaway slave, and he'd do as he liked with him. So I threw down the gold and told him he could take it and leave, else I would kill him out of hand. He chose the latter, so I told Mats to take the gold as his master's heir and go where he would. He chose to come with us, so we buried the gold with his master and Mats has been with us since." "Could he leave if he wanted to?" "Of course." "May I go pick some of those berries over there?" Edward asked, and Moraelyn nodded. Aliera was sleeping curled on her side. Moraelyn sat next to her, leaning back against a tree, his hand playing with her long dark curls. His eyes and skin were sensitive to the bright sun. Shade slept stretched in the sun nearby, his dark fur glinting with silver in the light. Edward wandered over to the bushes and picked the bright glowberries, so called because they glowed at night, although right now they were a rather dull gray. But they tasted very good. If he ate enough, would he glow at night, he wondered. Or if he smashed them and collected the juice ... the bushes caught at him, then he found a sort of tunnel through them and trotted along it, wondering where it led. It ended in a small clearing before a pile of rocks. There was a hole and something in it. Edward stepped back, making a small noise in his throat. The something heaved and presented a tusky snarling face and hooves that pawed at the earth. The boy backed away slowly. The beast's head went down, the shoulders ÷heaved and the immense bulk lumbered into a charge. Edward tried to throw himself into the bushes ... there was no room ... and then, incredibly, Moraelyn was in front of him, between him and the beast. There was a flash and a crash, and the elf seemed to leap backwards for several feet, landing crouched just in front of Edward's face. The air whistled as his blade seemed to jump out of the sheath of its own accord. There was a sparkle in the air around him, and a burnt smell. Silence. "Get out of here, boy! Now!" Edward fled, yelling for his mother, who was running toward the bushes and calling him. She clasped him to her, and began shouting for Moraelyn instead. There was no answer, then, somehow the elf was there, unharmed, his blade sheathed again. But he was breathing hard. "Did you kill it? Are you hurt?" "No and no. I was shielded. Barely. You disturbed a sow in her den with her litter. Fortunately, she thought she'd had eno ugh after the first impact. I daresay she's unaccustomed to finding her enemies still standing afterwards." "Why didn't you kill her?" Edward demanded, feeling bloodthirsty after his fright. "A katana, even the Ebony Blade, is not the weapon I'd choose against a mother sow. A spear, maybe. The longer the better. Besides, if we leave her be, there'll be six pigs here next year, with luck." "You made a magic shield," Edward said, wide-eyed. "Aye, barring the shield, she'd have left a few marks even on a tough old dark elf." "Edward, it would be gracious to thank your rescuer." His mother prompted. "Thank you," Edward said automatically, his mind busy with more questions. How had the elf known of his danger? How did he get there ÷so quickly? "There is scarcely need to thank me for saving my son's life. Thank Shade," Moraelyn said. "The cat told me there was trouble." Edward knelt and hugged the smug purring cat. "Good old Shade. I can always count on him." "My son". "Our son". The words rang proudly out at the least excuse. Edward puzzled over this for awhile; it wanted an explanation. The one he favored was that Moraelyn simply didn't know him very well yet, and was prone to give the benefit of the doubt to strangers. Eventually ... but in the meantime he might as well enjoy it. It was ... nice. Having a father that was proud of you, that liked being with you, took you places, talked to you, listened to you. And most remarkably of all, let you alone when you needed to be. Moraelyn only really liked being alone when he was composing a ballad. Edward told Beech and Willow about the mother pig. "I ran ÷when he told me to. Would you? Because he said to. I couldn't think of any way to help, but ... " Willow and Beech listened carefully, exchanged glances, and said they'd think about the problem. After supper around the evening fire, Willow took up her small harp and began to sing about the joys of an autumn afternoon and berries ... .except that Moraelyn sent the boy off to pick berries. They'd got that part wrong. Moraelyn sat up sharply and looked around, but the others had slipped away into the darkness and Willow wasn't looking at him. Mith strolled into the firelight, taking mincing steps, picking pantomime berries and eating them noisily. Moraelyn put his head down and groaned. Mith pantomimed finding something then skipped along in delight. Mats' head and shoulders lurched into the firelight. Mith reached a hand to pat him, then leapt back with a squeal as Mats tried to rip him with a tusk. Huge tusks and a pig nose adorned his face. Mith crouched, hands to his face in exaggerated horror. And Silk, clad in black, leaped between Mith and Mats with a shower of sparks, jerkin backwards, hose about its knees, shoeless. It reached for its sword, but Mats charged and knocked it flying; it spun out of sight. Mats, scrambling on all fours, missed Mith, but tore his hose. Mith scampered around the fire with Mats after him. Silk, sword in one hand, the other tugging at the hose chased after Mats, beating him with the sword. Another figure appeared, clad in Aliera's blue gown with Beech's head sticking out above wearing a long dark wig. Mith cowered behind her skirts. She glared at Mats and he froze. Silk tripped and sprawled behind him. Beech tossed his hair back, patted Mith reassuringly on the head, wet one finger and smoothed an eyebrow, then leisurely picked up his bow, aimed and twanged. Mats leaped backwards, collapsing on top of Silk with a very realistic death rattle. Beech and Mith embraced, ignoring Silk, still flat beneath Mats. Moraelyn had begun laughing when Silk first leaped out. ÷Aliera had waited for Beech's appearance. Now tears were running down her cheeks. Moraelyn was doubled over, pounding his fist against a tree. Ripples and giggles of silvery laughter sounded all around and showers of gold coins fell into the circle. The Companions gathered themselves together and bowed, as humans did. "Again, do it again!" "Noo-ooo!" Moraelyn gasped, still laughing. "Ah, you came nearer killing me than the sow did! I beg mercy!" "Another night, gentle persons ... our king has had a very long day. We thank you all." Gods, had the entire town seen? Edward stared behind him, but they were all melting away into the dark. "That's not what happened." he yelled. "You were a hero. They made fun of you." "Yes, yes and yes. Especially the last. By Jephre himself, that was funny!" ÷ "They all saw that! And you're going to let them do it again?" Edward was scandalized. They had all looked ridiculous. "Let them? It'll be done all over Tamriel for centuries to come, I doubt not. But never again so well." "But it didn't happen like that at all." "It would have if Mats--I mean the sow had charged again. Ariana's bow would have been far more effective than my poor blade. And she'd have seen Moraelyn leap like a khajiit!" His finger smoothed an eyebrow in a gesture typical of Aliera and he went off again into a long laugh. "Aye, she'd have slain the beast with a look, if she couldn't find an arrow. Mats, you were more like the sow than she like herself. Bigger, too, I swear! Mith, you old rogue, only you could look so innocent." "Bu-uut--it's not true!" Edward protested. "Boy, you think there's only one truth? Was what you saw today truth? Did you see all the truth? Even of what did happe n? What you saw here tonight will light up truths unseen, if you allow it ... you could spend a lifetime reflecting on it and yet not see it whole, for it goes ever further and deeper, spreading like ripples in a pool, beyond us all and out into the deep stillness of forever. What happens is only a tiny part of truth ... maybe the least part. And what you see is smaller yet." Edward still thought that a king really ought to have more dignity. But he didn't say so. barbed_wire

King Edward, Part IV Anonymous King Edward, Part IV Chap 4: Stories Edward faced his mother defiantly. "I'm not sick and I'm not a baby. I can stay here by myself. I don't need Mith." There was a dangerous glint in Moraelyn's eyes. Aliera's lips thinned. "You will mind him, Edward." "Yes, madam," Edward said sulkily. "Come on, wife. Mith knows how to deal with princes who don't want his company." The three adults laughed a bit in their irritating way at a joke he didn't understand. The weather was drizzly and Edward had the sniffles. His mother had decided that he shouldn't go out, even though they were only going visiting. Moraelyn had taken his side, but threw out his hands and raised his brows at Edward in a helpless gesture when Aliera insisted that he stay behind. Mith, whom Edward liked the least of the Companions, had volunteered to stay with him. Even Ssa'ass would have been better. Mith was -- scruffy looking. Like a stableboy. And cheeky, even for a Companion. Edward sulked silently for awhile longer. Mith had fetched a broom and was sweeping the house out, brushing dirt from the room ÷above into the room Edward was in. What on earth was the use of staying in when there wasn't really any 'in' to stay in? Edward got tired of sulking, fetched a broom and went up to help sweep. "Mith", Edward said. "have you ever been to the Crystal Tower?" "I have. It's an unchancy place at first, but you'll grow used to it." Mith was applying his broom with energy and whistling. Sweeping was kind of fun here. There weren't any sides to the platforms so all you had to do was brush the dirt and leaves over the side. You started at the top and worked your way down. "You're quick with the broom, Mith. I haven't half finished my side yet. Will there be others there like me?" "Oh, some children, I'd think. Most'll be somewhat older. I should be quick with a broom. My father had me sweeping out the king's stables when I was your age. I used to dream and talk too much like you; he beat me for it. So I learned to be quick." Edward swept faster, stirring up dust. "Not like that, boy. Watch me. Anyway, there's no hurry; it's just habit with me. Moraelyn'd serve me my head on a platter if I touched you. My father, heh, he was always....well, he was a hard man to please. He was a Nord." "Your father?" Edward stared at Mith, but Mith looked much like the other Dark Elves he'd seen. Not many. Dark elves didn't come to Daggerfall; Gerald had banned them. But he'd seen some on his rare trips to other courts. And there were some in Firsthold besides Moraelyn and Mith. "Did he have red hair?" Mith's hair was a dark red. Gerald had red hair. "He tended the stables for Moraelyn?" No wonder Mith looked like a stableboy. But Edward kept his tone polite. Mith had a sharp tongue....and Edward knew that neither of his parents would be sympathetic if he complained that Mith had been impertinent. "He did have red hair. Maybe I got mine from him...but mostly mixed elf and human children come out dark elf. No, Moraelyn wasn't a king then or expecting to be....'sides this was in ÷Blacklight, where I was born. Moraelyn's brother was king in Ebonheart in those days. He came up to visit our King and brought Moraelyn along. To keep him out of trouble, he said." Mith grinned. "I grinned when I heard him say that, and I saw the boy looking at me out of the tail of his eye, but he wouldn't take notice. Like I was the dirt or something worse. His brother tossed him a pouch and told him to go into town and get his knife mended. Jerked his thumb at me and told me to show him the way. "Moraelyn said he didn't need an escort to find a store and stalked off like princes do." Mith grinned knowingly at Edward. But the grin wasn't unfriendly. Edward smiled back a bit, and Mith went on. "Our king eyeballed me, so I took off after him. Moraelyn didn't spare me so much as a glance. Went four blocks out of his way, down by the wharfs, and when I tried to tell him where the store was he shoved me right off the pier. I could Levitate, of course, but he caught me by surprise and I went in with a big splash....and everyone laughing like jackasses. I got myself out and went straight to the store and waited for him...but not so he could see me....and when he finally showed up, I lifted the pouch right off him. He didn't even know it was ÷gone. So in he goes and tosses the knife on the counter and tells the smith to fix it right off. Which he does. Only then Moraelyn can't pay him....tells the smith he's the King of Ebonheart's brother...the smith just laughs and says, "And I'm the Archmagister"....then the smith calls the guard and three of them show up. Well, Moraelyn wasn't what he is now--three guards wouldn't even warm him up nowadays--but he was even faster then. He was out of there so fast he nearly knocked me over at the door. He lost the guards pretty quick; all that armor slows 'em down. I found him crouching in one of those hedge mazes in the park. He was doubled over out of breath but still I stood a good ways off while I asked him real nasty if he needed an escort back to the Palace. Not that I was planning to go back! I was gonna take the money and run and never look back, I tell you! But I had to have the last word. I wasn't born high but I was born proud. "He glared at me for a minute or so, catching his breath, then he just rolled over and started to laugh that laugh of his. Prince ÷or no, I started to like him then. When we'd finished laughing, more or less, we started talking. I told him I didn't want to go back. Nor dared to. "Princes don't get blamed, Prince," I said, "Stableboys do." He said that wasn't entirely the case, but he saw my point. Then he said that as I was his escort then he must obey his brother and come with me. And that his name was Moraelyn, not Prince. We've been together ever since....more or less." Edward smiled politely. He could see why Mith had run away, but not why Moraelyn had gone with him. Unless he was afraid to face his brother about the stolen money. Edward tried to imagine Moraelyn being afraid to face anyone and failed. "I wish I was brave. Like you and Moraelyn." "Why, you are brave. And your courage will grow with the rest of you." "Are there only High Elf boys at the Tower?" "There'll be other sorts, too, most likely. A few Dark ÷Elves, for sure. D'ye miss your own kind?" Edward shook his head. "Human boys don't like me much anyway. Nor High Elf boys..." His eyes filled suddenly and he turned his head away. But Mith's voice was unexpectedly gentle. "I thought you wanted to go to the Tower." "I do. But--" "You'll be lonely." Edward nodded. "That's a hard thing to face." "Did you go there alone, Mith?" "No. Moraelyn did, but he was older than you, by a good bit. A grown man, in fact. They didn't take any but High Elf students in those days, you know. But Moraelyn heard of them and said he wanted to go there. We were together already, the seven of us, save for Aliera, and a handy bunch in a fight. Moraelyn had already gotten that Dragon's Blade he wears, ÷and the Dragon's Tooth to go with it....remind me to tell you about that sometime....and he was a famous fighter already. And the rest of us aren't slackers. But he thought we could be better at the spellcasting and the Tower was the place to learn that. Well, no one goes near the Tower without an invitation. No one! No one would even tell you where it was. But they'd tell you where NOT to go. So he went there. Alone. One morning he was gone and there a note saying for us to wait for him. So we did, here in Firsthold. He was gone two weeks, then he came back one night, rowing across with the tide. He just said they'd accepted him, but he couldn't say anything more about it. But he asked me to come back with him. "'They want me?' 'Well, they've accepted one Dark Elf,' he said. 'One more shouldn't bother them too much.' So we go there, and bless me if the Archmagister himself didn't meet us at the door and demand to know the meaning of this. I wanted to turn myself into a rock! I was wishing hard that I _was_ stable dung! And figured I was like to get my wish soon. But Moraelyn speaks up real polite that this is the friend he'd mentioned and the Archmagister had expressed an interest in ÷his abilities, and naturally he'd want to see for himself.... "But the Archmagister was real interested. See, they don't wear armor or carry anything but a staff and a dagger. They think it interferes with their spellcasting, all that metal. But Moraelyn could cast pretty well even with chain and with any one-hand weapon at all. And I could cast wearing leather and as much as a saber, though it's an unwieldy weapon; I like my short sword better. Truth, they didn't think that much of me, but Moraelyn....he'd camped outside their door. And when they tried to move him he just sat there! They threw all the spells they had at him, the troll guards...everything. Nothing. He laid the trolls out flat and left 'em to regenerate. If they tried to beat him with their staffs he'd ward them off with his blade...and the spells didn't turn him a hair." Edward's mouth gaped open. "How'd he do that!?! He said--" "Well, it was a trick, in a way. He'd picked up something that came natural to Willow. See, Willow is different." "I didn't know Willow could cast!" "Well, she doesn't have any mana, ordinarily....but she can absorb it if you cast a spell AT her, see. O'course it wasn't much use to her, since she'd never been able to learn what t'do with it once she got it. Couldn't get it back once it was gone, so she couldn't practice. Until Morelyn got hold of her and trained her. Well, Moraelyn had figured out pretty much how Willow did what she did....though it cost Moraelyn mana to do what came natural to Willow. So Moraelyn sat there absorbing everything they threw at him and burning it off into a big shield. Drove 'em wild." "He said the Archmagister could best him, though." Edward suspected that Mith was making up the whole story. "Well, so he did, when he finally came. But all the rest of 'em together couldn't do it. And all Moraelyn wanted was to study with them. We were a sight, the two of us dark elves in our battle gear among all that white and gold. I felt li ke a fish out of water, but Moraelyn was interested in what they had to say....and you can bet they hung on every word he said. Not too many words at first. After a fortnight or so, he told me one night to tell the Archmagister that he'd be back in a couple of days. And he shows up with Silk! 'Course he'd been telling 'em about the Khajiits...and they'd been asking questions. "The Archmagister's no fool. He just stared at Silk, and she purred real loud and rubbed up against him and asked "How ya doin', Archmagister, baby?" The Archmagister kinda pushes Silk away and says in a whisper, "How--many--more?" "Just two, sir." "What are they?" "Wood elves, sir." "Just wood elves. Plain ordinary wood elves. No horns, hooves or tails." ÷ "Yes sir. Ah, one of them has an extraordinary Absorb ability with some very unusual features. The other's just a Bard." "Very well. You may bring the one with the Absorb. We don't want a Bard! They are not true mages." "Well, that's most generous of you, sir, but the Bard's her brother, sir and I swore to their parents that I wouldn't separate them. So it'll just be the three of us." "Her brother." "Aye, a pair of twins." "You may bring them both." So three days later he's back with the twins AND Ssa'ass AND Slave. The Archmagister looks at them and sort of bobs up and down, but he speaks real quiet. "Dark Elf, by pair of twins, did you mean TWO SETS of twins? Are you going to tell me that these--these are twins???" Well, I could see ÷that Moraelyn was kinda sorry he hadn't thought of trying that, but he said, "No sir, the twins are Beech and Willow. The Argonian and the Nord are not prospective initiates. They are specimens. For your collection. You don't have any like them so I thought--" "You thought. I do not have a dragon either! Are you going to think to bring me that next?" "Oh, aye, I could. Would you like one?" "Tell me you are not serious." "Well, I couldn't promise. And it would take quite a long time, a year maybe, but--" The Archmagister's eyes rolled up toward heaven. "Thank you, All-Mother, I have at least a year to prepare." he whispered. "I don't think Mats and Ssa'ass should have been made specimens. They're people. Even if they aren't elves." ÷ "Oh, they made Ssa'ass an initiate when they found out that he had some interesting Heal spells." "But Mats?" "Mats never minds anything. He hasn't a bit of magic; he couldn't be an initiate. Anyway he'd have hated it. He spent his time gaming with the guards. When he wasn't being studied. Seems he has some interesting magic resistances. Anyway, since then, the initiates aren't just High Elves. And they don't all follow the Mage way." "I shall. I shall be just like the Archmagister." "Oh, aye, exactly," Moraelyn's voice sounded lightly behind him. "I'll cut the ears off a donkey for thee and dye thy skin with saffron. Bleach thy hair white and stretch thee a foot--" Moraelyn swung him high. "Art well, son? I told thee so, Aliera. He's not ill at all. Good, because the Archmagister's returned. We go to the Tower tomorrow." 'We' was just Moraelyn and Edward. Aliera had caught ÷Edward's cold and they took some pleasure in insisting she remain in bed. Moraelyn rowed them across the river in a small boat and they walked for most of the day, resting a little at midday. It was evening when they reached the tower and the setting sun was glinting off it. Even the sea far below looked red. There was a hush over the countryside. "It's tall, isn't it?" Edward paused to look. "Towers generally are." "Did you really--" Edward broke off. Questions starting in that fashion did not draw satisfactory answers from the elf. "Has Mith been telling thee tales? He's had ten years to polish that one. I doubt not it glistens like the Tower." "He told me how you met, too." "I thought he would." "I didn't understand why you went off with him? He was a ÷thief and a stableboy and you were a prince." "You have just named three excellent reasons, Prince." "You never give me serious answers." "A serious charge. Very well, then. I saw myself through Mith's eyes and misliked what I saw: a callous bully and a coward, fit to be neither boy nor man nor prince. Why did you run off, Prince?" Edward hung his head mutely. "Nay, _I_ do not require answers. Come, it grows late." Moraelyn reached his hand for Edward's, but Edward shook him off. If Moraelyn was a coward what did that make Edward? He looked at the Tower door where Moraelyn had demanded and won entrance, though all would shut him out. Edward could never do anything like that, but at least he could walk in on his own as an invited guest. barbed_wire

King Edward, Part V

Anonymous

King Edward, Part V Chap 5: In the Crystal Tower Inside the Tower, Edward's first impression was of whiteness. Floors, walls, ceiling, all were white and radiated light. Their footsteps made soft crunching noises on the rough floor surface. Except for that, it was very still ... with occasional soft, unrecognizable far-off sounds. Moraelyn moved confidently through winding halls and long rooms. He seemed very black in all that white. They passed long pools of water with fountains that sparkled in the light. "Where is everyone?" Edward whispered. "At table, I hope. I'm hungry. Aren't you?" "No." Abruptly a big, broad ugly shape appeared in front of them and roared a challenge. Edward grabbed for Moraelyn's arm with both hands. Moraelyn shook him off irritably. "Gods, boy, don't grab my sword arm if ever you do spot a monster. Stay clear!" But Moraelyn didn't reach for his blade. He stood still while the monster wrapped its ÷long arms around him and pounded on his back, still roaring. Moraelyn roared back and pounded on the monster's chest. Then he introduced Edward to the Captain of the Archmagister's guard. "Don't hug him," Moraelyn warned the troll, who grinned at Edward showing pointy teeth. "He'll break." "I thought trolls were dangerous!" Edward gasped as they ascended a long winding stairway. "They are. I'll have bruises for a fortnight. I'd have shielded, but I didn't like to hurt his feelings." "He likes you?!" "Oh, aye, it can be done, you see." "Why does the Archmagister keep troll guards?" "They keep the rats down." More trolls, but these paid them little heed. Another long ÷stairway. More corridors. A sort of guardroom where three trolls appeared to be gaming with bones. One of them shambled to his feet and led them down a shadowy passage. A row of cages with huge rats, then some with small odd creatures that looked rather like elves seen in a badly distorted mirror (though Edward kept this observation to himself). They gobbled and squeaked as the elf and boy paced quickly by. "Goblins," Moraelyn said with distaste. They turned a corner and went past two cages that held only large stone statues. There seemed to be more cages off down other hallways. The troll unlocked a huge black metal door. It clanged shut behind them. A very large green and yellow hooved creature sat man-like in one corner. Its unwinking eyes didn't flicker as they passed quickly and climbed still another stair. More white halls. These were patrolled by huge black dogs that sniffed at them as they passed. Edward stretched a hand to pet ÷one, but it snarled at him. "I wouldn't." Moraelyn said. "Yes Sir." They came to another massive black metal door. A voice sounded. "What is black and white, has one body, two heads, four arms, four legs, two red eyes and two brown?" "That's disgusting!" Moraelyn yelled at the door, hands on hips. "You are correct, mortal. You may pass." The door swung slowly open, creaking. There was no one behind it, just a narrow stairway that wound sharply. It seemed dark above. Moraelyn raced up the stairs, leaving Edward clinging to the bottom rail, shaking. There was not a thing to do but follow. "Welcome, Edward." The Archmagister stood white and gold in the center of a large dim room. Huge windows looked out on the purple twilit sea below. "Come here, child. Give me your ÷hands." Edward put his hands in the Archmagister's who smiled down at him. Edward's fatigue and fear vanished instantly. He smiled back at the Archmagister, who said softly. "It is well. You may go," to the furious dark elf who stood glowering to one side. Edward was barely aware of him, his whole attention occupied by the Archmagister. "Goodbye, Edward." "'Bye." Edward didn't take his eyes off the Archmagister. From far away he heard the dark elf go down the stairs. "He calls you son," the Archmagister said. "Yes sir. I asked him if I might call him father." "But you are not entirely comfortable about it." Edward sighed. "No sir." "That may be as well. You will return to Daggerfall one day. And then you must be Corcyr's son. So let the claim be on Moraelyn's side." The Archmagister moved companionably to the windows with him. The dusk was fast gathering as Edward stared out over the hill through which they'd journeyed. A dark figure appeared below and strode swiftly off into the night. "That's Moraelyn! I thought he was going to stay the night. It's dangerous out there alone in the dark. There are evil things out there. Can't you--" "Dangerous for any evil that meets Moraelyn in his present mood. He will go safely, I promise you." "Oh. But I haven't thanked him. He's been very kind, really. Why was he so angry about the door? It was just a silly question. The answer was him and my mother, when they're asleep and I'm not there. How do you make a door talk? Is it ÷an illusion?" "That's three questions. Which of them do you want answered? Aren't you hungry? Would you like a bowl of stew?" "Yes, please. I'd like to hear about the door, please." "Ah. You think the talking door may prove more comprehensible than a surly dark elf? More interesting? Or safer?" The Archmagister's large golden eyes regarded the boy thoughtfully. "I don't know if I, uh, like him. Sometimes I think I ... and then other times I ... do you understand about liking? He said he didn't." "You would be more comfortable if you felt the same way about him at all times, yet you do not." "Yes, that's it, exactly. You do understand." "Moraelyn is not a comfortable man." "Well, I don't mean that exactly. Sometimes he is. Like when we rode the dragon." The Archmagister laughed aloud. His laughter reminded Edward of chimes. "Yes, yes. I find comfort myself in having Moraelyn near at hand when dragons are about." A young high elf brought in a bowl of stew and set it down on the table. Edward felt a bit disappointed that the stew had come in such an ordinary way. Until he remembered that the Archmagister hadn't sent for the stew. "The priest at home in Daggerfall said it was a mark of evil things, that they cannot bear the light," Edward said between mouthfuls. "Moraelyn doesn't like sunlight. And he's black." "I see. Do you know what evil is?" "Um, well, if you do bad things, then you're evil?" "I see. If the cook had burnt the stew, would he then be evil?" Edward grinned. "No, just a bad cook. But if he did it on purpose, then I guess he'd have done an evil thing ... but maybe he wouldn't be altogether evil. Maybe he was just angry about something." "Or perhaps the sort of person who is pleased by spoiling others' pleasure?" "I guess that'd make my little brothers evil. They sure like to spoil my fun." "And you?" Edward felt his face redden. "I don't take any notice of them," he said quickly. The Archmagister's large golden eyes regarded him steadily. To his own dismay, Edward began to cry. He bawled like a baby. "I don't know what's wrong with me," he gasped. "I never cry, really, I don't -- hardly ever --" "Why ever not?" Edward looked up. His tears had blurred his sight, but there seemed to be tears on the Archmagister's face. His hand reached up to feel the wetness. "You have been very alone, have you not?" the Archmagister said. "Yes. Until you brought the unicorn for me, I was all alone. They endure no evil," Edward sighed with satisfaction, feeling relaxed and comfortable. The Archmagister was wonderful. "We summoned the unicorn, Moraelyn and the dragon and I and others. It's a great magic and one no single man or woman may command. But don't trouble yourself overmuch with judging good and evil. That's a human notion. Life is complex; I know of nothing that is wholly good or wholly evil. Not even the unicorn." Edward's time in the Tower passed quickly. There were few other novices and the youngest of these was several years ÷older than Edward. The boy spent several hours each day with the Archmagister. He learned to cast a few spells and to open his mind so that he could renew his magicka quickly while he slept. But often they just talked. Sometimes Edward was given a book to read. Other times he was allowed to choose one from the thousands in the library. He usually tired of them quickly. He didn't read Elvish script easily; his tutor had taught him the letters, but their few books were in Bretic. Spellcasting was more fun. Fire spells came easily to him and he learned to shield himself readily, but to his chagrin, he couldn't Heal at all. He invariably made things worse for the unlucky rats he was allowed to practice on. "I don't know what I'm doing wrong!" Edward cried out in frustration. He sent a dart of fire at the writhing rat and it turned into a charred corpse. "Edward, it will be well if you let the Heal spells wait awhile yet." "Moraelyn said Light Heal is the first spell anybody learns," Edward said sulkily. "Did he? Well, he is a practitioner of magic, not a theorist. Even I would hesitate to say what a Breton might or might not learn, and when he might learn it. You are the first of your people with whom I have worked. Certainly Moraelyn has had no experience with your race, except for your mother, of course." "My mother can't do magic." "No, but we think the ability lies within her. She has not been able to learn to master it, possibly because she was too old when she first tried. If you want my opinion it is your thoughts and not your hands which are causing your difficulty. Weeping might help." "I don't feel like crying," Edward said rather sullenly. He felt more like kicking something, although incinerating the rat had helped relieve some of that. "Meditation might help, then." barbed_wire

King Edward, Part VI

Anonymous

Edward, Part VI Chap 6: Training The day Edward was to leave the Archmagister summoned him, presented him with a mithril staff and bade him farewell. Back in his small cell Edward removed his novitiate robe and donned the grey shirt, black pants and red sash he'd worn to the Tower. He fingered the sash lovingly. His mother had purchased the shirt and pants, saying they looked sturdy and maybe wouldn't show the dirt from the journey. Moraelyn had given him the silk sash with its embroidery of twined leaves and flowers, birds and butterflies in mithril, dwarven and elven metallic threads. But he'd waited until they were across the channel. Aliera had said it cost too dear; she'd suggested cutting down one of Moraelyn's old ones to fit, but the elf had adamantly refused to let her have any of them. Edward smiled, remembering, and wrapped the sash twice round his waist then knotted the ends carefully. He took the staff and ran down to meet his parents. He'd meant to fling himself at them, but Moraelyn was alone and Edward stopped still. "Where's my mother? Is she--?" ÷ "She wanted to stay and choose a horse for you. Didn't trust it to Beech." "A horse? For me! Really?" "Of course. You can't walk all the way to Morrowwind." "I thought I'd have to ride behind--someone. Look, the Archmagister gave me my staff! Isn't it beautiful?" The elf took it and hefted it, trying a few swings and feints. "Good balance and weight for thee, I think. Light for me. Show me how you use it. Suppose I attack you." He used his bare hands and Edward fell into a defensive position, blocked him, then thrust the staff toward Moraelyn's ribs. He danced easily aside, but praised the boy. "A mage should have a dagger, too. I thought you might like to have Tooth here." Edward's eye popped. Tooth had an ebony blade and a hilt made from a real dragon's tooth. The elf slid it from its sheath and handed it to Edward who took it carefully. The blade had a wicked point and the edge was sharp enough to ÷shave with. Mats borrowed it sometimes. He'd carved the hilt, too. "Are you sure Mats doesn't mind?" "Quite sure." Moraelyn unbuckled his belt and slid the sheath off it. There was a new belt for Edward of snakeskin, soft and pliable and a buckle with the black rose of Morrowwind on it, just like Moraelyn's. "It's from the Companions." He knelt to fit the belt and dagger and the sash over it properly, and Edward threw his arms about his neck. "It's wonderful. I do thank thee and them, too! And oh, I've missed all of thee so much." "We missed you, too, son. Let's go or we'll miss our tide." "I wouldn't want to worry mother," he said, trying to sound casual about having a mother that would worry about him. "No fear; I told her not to look for us until tomorrow ÷night....just in case. But we'll surprise her." "Good thinking." They made good speed and reached the inlet before the tide was full. "Shall I show you how to use Tooth, or would you rather rest?" "Tooth! I can rest in the boat while you work." Moraelyn shielded himself and Edward too, saying that Tooth's bite was no joke. "I could have shielded myself," Edward said proudly. "I'm good at that. But my Heals go all wrong." "It'll come. Give it time." Evidently Tooth wanted time too. Try as he might, he couldn't get near the elf with the blade, even though Moraelyn kept his feet planted and simply swerved his body, ducking and weaving...and laughing. Frustrated, Edward ÷sheathed Tooth and picked up the staff and whacked at him, swinging it with both hands. It wasn't doing any harm, but it made satisfying sounds as it thwacked against the spell shield. Moraelyn let him hit, but stopped the staff easily when the spell had been used up. Edward threw it on the ground and turned away; the elf reached for him in consolation. Edward snatched Tooth from the sheath and thrust it straight at the elf's heart. The blade was knocked spinning from his hand. Edward had braced to stop the thrust and hold it and he felt the shock even through his shield. Then Moraelyn was kneeling before him, nursing his left hand across his right knee, his face grey with shock and disbelief. Blood was gushing from his wrist like a fountain. "Give me thy sash!" "I--I didn't--" Edward's teeth were rattling in his head. He felt sick and dizzy. Bile washed up in his mouth. "D-d-didn't--m-m-mean." So much blood. "Boy, don't faint now. I need thy aid. The sash. Now, Edward! Pack it into the wound. Gods, what a mess!" The hand was half severed at the wrist. Edward sat down abruptly, shaking all over, but his hands packed the sash into the open wound, then he wrapped the rest round the hand and wrist. "Take my sash and make a sling." Moraelyn eased the injured limb into the sling and then released his other hand. He took the water bottle from his belt and drank it down. "I need more water. Where's thy staff? There's a well two miles back. Where's Tooth? Go find it and don't cut yourself on it." "I don't want it." "Not many blades have bathed in Moraelyn's blood. 'Twill bring you luck. Do as I say." "The tide's in." "Aye and Firsthold could be on Jone for all the good it does us. I can't row one handed." "I could--" ÷ "No, you cannot. You haven't the strength. The current's swift here. I prefer to die on land. Edward, we cannot stay here. The blood smell will draw beasts. If I faint, get well away and climb a tree. And pray." He climbed to his feet and leaned on the staff, breathing hard. "Stay close, but don't grab at me, no matter what happens." He took a small step, then another. "I'm sorry." "Doubtless. You picked a poor time and place to turn assassin. A good assassin always has an escape planned." "Yessir." Edward sniffed back his tears. "Sir, I cannot Heal you, but I can restore some vigor." "Can you? 'T'would be of great help." The spell Edward cast shook the elf; he gasped, but stood straighter and firmer after the shock wore off. "I can do it again," Edward offere d eagerly. "Nay. You have plenty of power but want finesse. But 'tis much better, now." Moraelyn was walking better; he sounded better too. Edward tried to blot the picture of the injury out of his mind. They moved slowly, Moraelyn leaning against a tree from time to time to rest. Nothing molested them. After an interminable time of silent travelling they reached the old well. Moraelyn drained the first bottle and Edward refilled it, drank himself, then filled it yet again. "We'll spend the night in there." 'There' was a large ramshackle building, apparently deserted. The elf kicked the locked door open. Inside it was pitch dark. "Light?" Edward offered. "Nay. I can see. Save your power and stay by me." There was a skittering noise. Rats! Edward shielded them both without thinking, pulled Tooth out, and placed his back to the elf's. A rat leaped and drove itself onto the blade. Moraelyn swung the staff and laid out two more. Others scurried off. "Well done, lad!" They found a small windowless room and shut the door behind them. There seemed to be some wood about; probably it had been some sort of storage room off the kitchen. Moraelyn sat down against the wall. "So. You can use a knife. Was all that pretense? To put me off my guard?" Edward was appalled. He burst into tears, protesting that he'd never harm Moraelyn willingly. "I meant it for jest; I thought it'd make you laugh...I was angry, at first, but at myself, my clumsiness, not you...it was a sudden thought....I love you dear!" The elf reached out with his good arm and pulled Edward down to him. "That's worth a hand, then, any day." ÷ Edward sobbed against his shoulder while Moraelyn soothed him with pats. "You are my real father." "Edward, I am not..." "Nay, thou art. Thee puts my well-being ahead of thine and loves me when I least deserve it. Thee's been kind and generous and never asked anything of me save to my own profit. Thee'd give thy very life for mine. That's what real fathers do. And I've given thee naught but pain. He who sired me despises me and my mother because we are unlike him. We are not like you either, and yet you love us well. I will do better by you, dear Father." "I gave thee cause enough for offense. I took thy mother from thee." "You risked losing her because you would not part me from my father. You did not know me and my father was your bitter enemy. And yet you took thought for us. You could not know how unnatural he is. It isn't in you." "Granted. And yet the offense and your anger at it remain." "I love you!" Edward protested. But he heard an angry edge in his voice. "And hate me." Moraelyn's voice was so calm and quiet that they might have been discussing the weather. "I can't do both....can I?" "Can you?" "I didn't mean to hurt you." "I believe you." "Am I -- am I, evil? I _was_ sorry; I'd give anything if it hadn't happened, but--I--". "Took some measure of satisfaction in it." Edward's throat was choked with sobs; he couldn't speak, but nodded into Moraelyn's shoulder. The elf's hand stroked him gently. "Did I'ric tell you of the Daedra?" "The demons? No. Is it a demon makes me do such things? I am evil, then." "No, you are not. But the daedra feed on actions such as that. They--encourage them. And your anger draws them. But they can't make you do anything. And they or it's not inside you. But it is connected to you." "I don't want it. I want it to go away. How can I make it go away?" "Why don't you want it? You draw power from it. That's what let you shield us both with the rats attacked." "Mana? That doesn't come from demons." "No, but the ability to use it can. Look, some of your deeds feed the daedra. But you draw power from it at the same time. Then the power's yours, to use as you choose." "Do you have a daedra?" "I do and it's a big one, too, but I think everyone has one or more. Some are stronger than others, that's all. But don't go around asking after them. It's not polite." "I want mine to go away!" Edward wailed. "So you say. But pretending it isn't there will not accomplish that. Having a daedra is a bit like riding a horse. You must keep control. The daedra do not care for you. It would as lief feed off your pain or injury or death as any other, and find a new host. They do not think or plan as we can and I do not think they experience time as we do. So acts that feed the daedra take place in the moment and while you are caught up in them, past and future cease to exist for you too. It is an intensely ÷pleasurable experience, but it can also be very dangerous. And very addictive, so that you begin to think only of feeding your daedra. You cease to think of the gods and those you love and even yourself. When you have walked too far along that path, you lose the will to choose another." "How terrible! What must I do then?" "It is terrible, the worst that can befall a person. Remember this night. How you felt. Learn to recognize the daedra's hunger for what it is, and think about what you do. You are young and this is heavy for you, but you are at risk. Ah!" The elf's body stiffened and he caught his breath. Edward guessed that the wound was paining him. Moraelyn said that he must sleep a bit, and could Edward keep watch and wake him in an hour's time. Then he could set a lock on the door and they could both rest. "Aye, sir...and I might do somewhat more. I cannot set a lock, but..." The door would not latch, nor would it stay open, but would swing nearly shut. Edward felt about near the wall behind it and found a wedge. He shut the door and drove the wedge home with a chunk of wood. "I thought so. 'Tis awkward to pass such a door with both arms full of wood. We have such at ho--in Gerald's palace. Now anything trying to come in will rouse you; you can use your power to cast heal instead of lock." "Why, well thought of, indeed." He freed his blade and laid it on the floor beside him. "We may as well both sleep then." They slept fitfully. There were often scrabblings at the door and in the walls, but nothing entered their small closet. Moraelyn cast Heal several time during the night. By morning he pronounced himself as fit "as a one-handed man can be." He unwrapped the sash-bandage and inspected the wound. The bleeding was stopped; the hand was still warm to the touch; it no longer hurt him nor was it swollen or discolored. But the wound was still open and the hand useless. Nerves and muscles had been severed and some of the small bones broken. Such repair was beyond his skill. Edward, feeling the daedra feed on the sight, turned quickly ÷away. Moraelyn grinned. "You may as well let it feed; it's a harmless sort of feeding. The damage is done." "I mean to starve it," Edward said firmly. "You can try to do that or you can learn to control it instead, and still walk with the gods. I think we'd best go back to the Tower." "Aye, they'll be able to heal you there, will they not?" "I know not. At the least they'll be able to attach it more firmly than it is at present. Ah, do not look so downcast. The skill to mend it is somewhere, if not in the Tower. Ssa'ass is good with battle injuries and there are Temples which know more of the healing arts than the Tower mages. Besides, it's only my left hand." He held up the wadded sash, stiff with his dried blood. "The color's more practical t han thy mother thought. Let's see if we can wash it out a bit. Never have I come so ill-equipped on a journey. I might have been strolling down the main street in Ebonheart. Thy mother will kill me." "Right after she kills me," Edward sighed. "At least returning to the Tower will delay that." They came out into the bright courtyard. The morning sun was already high in the western sky. "Not so. Edward, the Companions are coming now! I hear them. Mara, let me think of a real good lie!" Mith trotted into the courtyard. "Here they are!" he called back to the others. By Torgo, you ARE injured. Let me see that. We thought to row across to meet you; we saw the blood on the shore and tracked you here. What attacked you?" "A demon." "A demon! What!? In the open like that in daylight? Gods, ÷what was it carrying, an ebony dai-katana?" Mith whistled as he inspected the injury. Aliera and the others ran up. She hugged Edward, "Are you all right, darling? I was worried." then paled as she saw her husband's hand. "You must be slowing down. How'd you let a demon do that to you?" Mith demanded. "It was the boy...he grabbed at my arm in fright and my shield spell failed. It wasn't his fault; it was an accident. Ali, don't look at it. Edward, why don't you take thy mother to see the rat you killed?" "I want to watch Ssa'ass," Edward objected, then remembered that it would feed his daedra. But he might learn something about healing if he watched, which would be a good thing. This was going to be more complicated than he'd thought. "Oh, Edward," Aliera said. "You must keep clear in a fight." "He killed a rat in the old inn there, after. Did right well. Kept his head, put his back to mine, shielded us both. Anyone's apt to panic in his first fight. Especially if he isn't expecting it." Ssa'ass came up last, as usual, elbowed the others aside and inspected the injury, hissing. "I cann fixxxx thissss. It'ss cleann." He looked it over carefully, bending the hand back to open the wound. Then he brought the hand forward, so that the edges of the tissue met. He was very particular about getting it aligned just so. Then he had Mats hold it in place while he cast spells over it. All outer traces of the injury vanished, leaving not even a scar. Moraelyn swung it with satisfaction, twitching his fingers. "Thanks, Ssa'ass. It's stiff, but..." "Tomorrow, I ffinissshhh." "My poor baby," Aliera fussed over Edward. "You must have been so frightened. And you spent the whole night in that awful house?" "I'm not a baby. I wasn't afraid; my father was there." barbed_wire

King Edward, Part VI

Anonymous

Edward, Part VI Chap 6: Training The day Edward was to leave the Archmagister summoned him, ÷presented him with a mithril staff and bade him farewell. Back in his small cell Edward removed his novitiate robe and donned the grey shirt, black pants and red sash he'd worn to the Tower. He fingered the sash lovingly. His mother had purchased the shirt and pants, saying they looked sturdy and maybe wouldn't show the dirt from the journey. Moraelyn had given him the silk sash with its embroidery of twined leaves and flowers, birds and butterflies in mithril, dwarven and elven metallic threads. But he'd waited until they were across the channel. Aliera had said it cost too dear; she'd suggested cutting down one of Moraelyn's old ones to fit, but the elf had adamantly refused to let her have any of them. Edward smiled, remembering, and wrapped the sash twice round his waist then knotted the ends carefully. He took the staff and ran down to meet his parents. He'd meant to fling himself at them, but Moraelyn was alone and Edward stopped still. "Where's my mother? Is she--?" "She wanted to stay and choose a horse for you. Didn't trust it to Beech." "A horse? For me! Really?" "Of course. You can't walk all the way to Morrowwind." "I thought I'd have to ride behind--someone. Look, the Archmagister gave me my staff! Isn't it beautiful?" The elf took it and hefted it, trying a few swings and feints. "Good balance and weight for thee, I think. Light for me. Show me how you use it. Suppose I attack you." He used his bare hands and Edward fell into a defensive position, blocked him, then thrust the staff toward Moraelyn's ribs. He danced easily aside, but praised the boy. "A mage should have a dagger, too. I thought you might like to have Tooth here." Edward's eye popped. Tooth had an ebony blade and a hilt made from a real dragon's tooth. The elf slid it from its sheath and handed it to Edward who took it carefully. The blade had a wicked point and the edge was sharp enough to ÷shave with. Mats borrowed it sometimes. He'd carved the hilt, too. "Are you sure Mats doesn't mind?" "Quite sure." Moraelyn unbuckled his belt and slid the sheath off it. There was a new belt for Edward of snakeskin, soft and pliable and a buckle with the black rose of Morrowwind on it, just like Moraelyn's. "It's from the Companions." He knelt to fit the belt and dagger and the sash over it properly, and Edward threw his arms about his neck. "It's wonderful. I do thank thee and them, too! And oh, I've missed all of thee so much." "We missed you, too, son. Let's go or we'll miss our tide." "I wouldn't want to worry mother," he said, trying to sound casual about having a mother that would worry about him. "No fear; I told her not to look for us until tomorrow ÷night....just in case. But we'll surprise her." "Good thinking." They made good speed and reached the inlet before the tide was full. "Shall I show you how to use Tooth, or would you rather rest?" "Tooth! I can rest in the boat while you work." Moraelyn shielded himself and Edward too, saying that Tooth's bite was no joke. "I could have shielded myself," Edward said proudly. "I'm good at that. But my Heals go all wrong." "It'll come. Give it time." Evidently Tooth wanted time too. Try as he might, he couldn't get near the elf with the blade, even though Moraelyn kept his feet planted and simply swerved his body, ducking and weaving...and laughing. Frustrated, Edward ÷sheathed Tooth and picked up the staff and whacked at him, swinging it with both hands. It wasn't doing any harm, but it made satisfying sounds as it thwacked against the spell shield. Moraelyn let him hit, but stopped the staff easily when the spell had been used up. Edward threw it on the ground and turned away; the elf reached for him in consolation. Edward snatched Tooth from the sheath and thrust it straight at the elf's heart. The blade was knocked spinning from his hand. Edward had braced to stop the thrust and hold it and he felt the shock even through his shield. Then Moraelyn was kneeling before him, nursing his left hand across his right knee, his face grey with shock and disbelief. Blood was gushing from his wrist like a fountain. "Give me thy sash!" "I--I didn't--" Edward's teeth were rattling in his head. He felt sick and dizzy. Bile washed up in his mouth. "D-d-didn't--m-m-mean." So much blood. "Boy, don't faint now. I need thy aid. The sash. Now, Edward! Pack it into the wound. Gods, what a mess!" The hand was half severed at the wrist. Edward sat down abruptly, shaking all over, but his hands packed the sash into the open wound, then he wrapped the rest round the hand and wrist. "Take my sash and make a sling." Moraelyn eased the injured limb into the sling and then released his other hand. He took the water bottle from his belt and drank it down. "I need more water. Where's thy staff? There's a well two miles back. Where's Tooth? Go find it and don't cut yourself on it." "I don't want it." "Not many blades have bathed in Moraelyn's blood. 'Twill bring you luck. Do as I say." "The tide's in." "Aye and Firsthold could be on Jone for all the good it does us. I can't row one handed." "I could--" ÷ "No, you cannot. You haven't the strength. The current's swift here. I prefer to die on land. Edward, we cannot stay here. The blood smell will draw beasts. If I faint, get well away and climb a tree. And pray." He climbed to his feet and leaned on the staff, breathing hard. "Stay close, but don't grab at me, no matter what happens." He took a small step, then another. "I'm sorry." "Doubtless. You picked a poor time and place to turn assassin. A good assassin always has an escape planned." "Yessir." Edward sniffed back his tears. "Sir, I cannot Heal you, but I can restore some vigor." "Can you? 'T'would be of great help." The spell Edward cast shook the elf; he gasped, but stood straighter and firmer after the shock wore off. "I can do it again," Edward offere d eagerly. "Nay. You have plenty of power but want finesse. But 'tis much better, now." Moraelyn was walking better; he sounded better too. Edward tried to blot the picture of the injury out of his mind. They moved slowly, Moraelyn leaning against a tree from time to time to rest. Nothing molested them. After an interminable time of silent travelling they reached the old well. Moraelyn drained the first bottle and Edward refilled it, drank himself, then filled it yet again. "We'll spend the night in there." 'There' was a large ramshackle building, apparently deserted. The elf kicked the locked door open. Inside it was pitch dark. "Light?" Edward offered. "Nay. I can see. Save your power and stay by me." There was a skittering noise. Rats! Edward shielded them both without thinking, pulled Tooth out, and placed his back to ÷the elf's. A rat leaped and drove itself onto the blade. Moraelyn swung the staff and laid out two more. Others scurried off. "Well done, lad!" They found a small windowless room and shut the door behind them. There seemed to be some wood about; probably it had been some sort of storage room off the kitchen. Moraelyn sat down against the wall. "So. You can use a knife. Was all that pretense? To put me off my guard?" Edward was appalled. He burst into tears, protesting that he'd never harm Moraelyn willingly. "I meant it for jest; I thought it'd make you laugh...I was angry, at first, but at myself, my clumsiness, not you...it was a sudden thought....I love you dear!" The elf reached out with his good arm and pulled Edward down to him. "That's worth a hand, then, any day." ÷ Edward sobbed against his shoulder while Moraelyn soothed him with pats. "You are my real father." "Edward, I am not..." "Nay, thou art. Thee puts my well-being ahead of thine and loves me when I least deserve it. Thee's been kind and generous and never asked anything of me save to my own profit. Thee'd give thy very life for mine. That's what real fathers do. And I've given thee naught but pain. He who sired me despises me and my mother because we are unlike him. We are not like you either, and yet you love us well. I will do better by you, dear Father." "I gave thee cause enough for offense. I took thy mother from thee." "You risked losing her because you would not part me from my father. You did not know me and my father was your bitter enemy. And yet you took thought for us. You could not know how unnatural he is. It isn't in you." "Granted. And yet the offense and your anger at it remain." "I love you!" Edward protested. But he heard an angry edge in his voice. "And hate me." Moraelyn's voice was so calm and quiet that they might have been discussing the weather. "I can't do both....can I?" "Can you?" "I didn't mean to hurt you." "I believe you." "Am I -- am I, evil? I _was_ sorry; I'd give anything if it hadn't happened, but--I--". "Took some measure of satisfaction in it." Edward's throat was choked with sobs; he couldn't speak, but nodded into Moraelyn's shoulder. The elf's hand stroked him gently. "Did I'ric tell you of the Daedra?" "The demons? No. Is it a demon makes me do such things? I am evil, then." "No, you are not. But the daedra feed on actions such as that. They--encourage them. And your anger draws them. But they can't make you do anything. And they or it's not inside you. But it is connected to you." "I don't want it. I want it to go away. How can I make it go away?" "Why don't you want it? You draw power from it. That's what let you shield us both with the rats attacked." "Mana? That doesn't come from demons." "No, but the ability to use it can. Look, some of your deeds feed the daedra. But you draw power from it at the same time. Then the power's yours, to use as you choose." "Do you have a daedra?" "I do and it's a big one, too, but I think everyone has one or more. Some are stronger than others, that's all. But don't go around asking after them. It's not polite." "I want mine to go away!" Edward wailed. "So you say. But pretending it isn't there will not accomplish that. Having a daedra is a bit like riding a horse. You must keep control. The daedra do not care for you. It would as lief feed off your pain or injury or death as any other, and find a new host. They do not think or plan as we can and I do not think they experience time as we do. So acts that feed the daedra take place in the moment and while you are caught up in them, past and future cease to exist for you too. It is an intensely ÷pleasurable experience, but it can also be very dangerous. And very addictive, so that you begin to think only of feeding your daedra. You cease to think of the gods and those you love and even yourself. When you have walked too far along that path, you lose the will to choose another." "How terrible! What must I do then?" "It is terrible, the worst that can befall a person. Remember this night. How you felt. Learn to recognize the daedra's hunger for what it is, and think about what you do. You are young and this is heavy for you, but you are at risk. Ah!" The elf's body stiffened and he caught his breath. Edward guessed that the wound was paining him. Moraelyn said that he must sleep a bit, and could Edward keep watch and wake him in an hour's time. Then he could set a lock on the door and they could both rest. "Aye, sir...and I might do somewhat more. I cannot set a lock, but..." The door would not latch, nor would it stay ÷open, but would swing nearly shut. Edward felt about near the wall behind it and found a wedge. He shut the door and drove the wedge home with a chunk of wood. "I thought so. 'Tis awkward to pass such a door with both arms full of wood. We have such at ho--in Gerald's palace. Now anything trying to come in will rouse you; you can use your power to cast heal instead of lock." "Why, well thought of, indeed." He freed his blade and laid it on the floor beside him. "We may as well both sleep then." They slept fitfully. There were often scrabblings at the door and in the walls, but nothing entered their small closet. Moraelyn cast Heal several time during the night. By morning he pronounced himself as fit "as a one-handed man can be." He unwrapped the sash-bandage and inspected the wound. The bleeding was stopped; the hand was still warm to the touch; it no longer hurt him nor was it swollen or discolored. But the wound was still open and the hand useless. Nerves and muscles had been severed and some of the small bones broken. Such repair was beyond his skill. Edward, feeling the daedra feed on the sight, turned quickly ÷away. Moraelyn grinned. "You may as well let it feed; it's a harmless sort of feeding. The damage is done." "I mean to starve it," Edward said firmly. "You can try to do that or you can learn to control it instead, and still walk with the gods. I think we'd best go back to the Tower." "Aye, they'll be able to heal you there, will they not?" "I know not. At the least they'll be able to attach it more firmly than it is at present. Ah, do not look so downcast. The skill to mend it is somewhere, if not in the Tower. Ssa'ass is good with battle injuries and there are Temples which know more of the healing arts than the Tower mages. Besides, it's only my left hand." He held up the wadded sash, stiff with his dried blood. "The color's more practical t han thy mother thought. Let's see if we can wash it out a bit. Never have I come so ill-equipped on a journey. I might have been strolling down the main street in Ebonheart. Thy mother will kill me." "Right after she kills me," Edward sighed. "At least returning to the Tower will delay that." They came out into the bright courtyard. The morning sun was already high in the western sky. "Not so. Edward, the Companions are coming now! I hear them. Mara, let me think of a real good lie!" Mith trotted into the courtyard. "Here they are!" he called back to the others. By Torgo, you ARE injured. Let me see that. We thought to row across to meet you; we saw the blood on the shore and tracked you here. What attacked you?" "A demon." "A demon! What!? In the open like that in daylight? Gods, ÷what was it carrying, an ebony dai-katana?" Mith whistled as he inspected the injury. Aliera and the others ran up. She hugged Edward, "Are you all right, darling? I was worried." then paled as she saw her husband's hand. "You must be slowing down. How'd you let a demon do that to you?" Mith demanded. "It was the boy...he grabbed at my arm in fright and my shield spell failed. It wasn't his fault; it was an accident. Ali, don't look at it. Edward, why don't you take thy mother to see the rat you killed?" "I want to watch Ssa'ass," Edward objected, then remembered that it would feed his daedra. But he might learn something about healing if he watched, which would be a good thing. This was going to be more complicated than he'd thought. "Oh, Edward," Aliera said. "You must keep clear in a fight." "He killed a rat in the old inn there, after. Did right well. Kept his head, put his back to mine, shielded us both. Anyone's apt to panic in his first fight. Especially if he isn't expecting it." Ssa'ass came up last, as usual, elbowed the others aside and inspected the injury, hissing. "I cann fixxxx thissss. It'ss cleann." He looked it over carefully, bending the hand back to open the wound. Then he brought the hand forward, so that the edges of the tissue met. He was very particular about getting it aligned just so. Then he had Mats hold it in place while he cast spells over it. All outer traces of the injury vanished, leaving not even a scar. Moraelyn swung it with satisfaction, twitching his fingers. "Thanks, Ssa'ass. It's stiff, but..." "Tomorrow, I ffinissshhh." "My poor baby," Aliera fussed over Edward. "You must have been so frightened. And you spent the whole night in that awful house?" "I'm not a baby. I wasn't afraid; my father was there." barbed_wire

King Edward, Part VII

Anonymous

King Edward, Part VII Chap 7: Dragon "So you saw a demon? And killed a rat with Tooth? That's a fine ebony dagger, Tooth is. They're rare so you want to take real good care of it," Mith said. "I can't tell you about the blade except it came from Moraelyn's father. It's the one his brother sent him to repair just before we ran away. Would you like to hear about how they got the dragon's tooth that Mats carved the hilt from?" Edward nodded, caressing the curved hilt with its lightly carved intertwined roses, thorns and leaves. It was well after supper and everyone but him and Mith had left the fire for one reason or another. Aliera and Moraelyn had gone for a walk hand in hand, Aliera holding Moraelyn's newly healed left hand in both of hers. They'd laughed and shaken their heads when he'd offered to come along, "Not tonight," Aliera had said. "Go to sleep soon. We'll be leaving before dawn." Willow had gone to visit a High Elf friend. Beech, Ssa'ass, Mats and the Khajiit woman, Silk, had also gone off together, laughing. They'd invited Mith to come along, but Mith had declined. "Khajiits! They're all turning into a bunch of shameless Khajiits," Mith said. The short Dark Elf sat close to the ÷glowing embers, knees to chest. His hair and eyes glowed in the dim light. "If you're going to pair, you should pair, not turn it into an tourney. They'll be selling tickets next. But each to his own. Khajiits think we're weird because we like eating as a group. Silk says it put her right off her food at first, listening to everybody chew. Well, having a bunch of watchers puts me off--I s'pose you're too young for this kind of talk." Edward shrugged. It was a beautiful night, crisply cool, no moon, but the stars were very large and bright. "Anyway, it was just a few months after Mats had joined up with us. We were up in Skyrim, travelling from town to town. Just three kids seeing the country a bit, picking up odd jobs where we could. Moraelyn entered tournaments if we heard about them, but he wasn't winning that much ... just about enough to cover healing him up afterwards. You can get beat up pretty bad fighting Skyrim style -- that's without shielding spells, or any other spells for that matter, no magic allowed -- even if it isn't to the death. And he drew a few types that didn't mind seeing a little dark ÷elf blood spilled in the sand. Or a lot. And the crowds were against him at first. It can get pretty lonely in the arena, especially if you're beating the home town favorite. And it's even worse if he's beating you. "Mats and me 'ud be the only ones for him, and sometimes we didn't dare cheer too loud. They'd look real funny at a Nord boy cheering a Dark Elf back then. 'Course Mats was so big, not many wanted to start anything with him. That was a long time ago. Moraelyn's the favorite now if things get tough. 'Course the crowds will cheer for a good match, but hardly anyone really wants to see him lose now. They like seeing the best, even if it comes wrapped in a dark elf hide. And when he walks into an arena you know you're seeing the best. Not but what they'd like seeing a Nord that's better. And Mats may get there soon. He doesn't fight his best against Moraelyn, though. Maybe he doesn't want to, or maybe Moraelyn just knows him too well. Oh, well, you want to hear about the dragon ... "So Moraelyn was gambling with this Nord in a tavern one night, trying to pick up a little easy gold. The pot's pretty big, and the man can't match his bet, so he says he'll pu t this map on the pile and tap Moraelyn. Says it's a map to the hiding place of the best blade ever made. Says there's a spell on it so that if you hit your opponent, you get as much heal as he gets hurt. That some Mage hid it just before he died so's only someone worthy of it can get to it. "'And you think I look worthy?' Moraelyn says, grinning. We were young and dumb, but not all that dumb. "The Nord grins back and says 'I saw you fight in Falcreath, kid. You look like you'd take a chance.' "'Why not? The story alone is worth the gold. You ought to be a Bard.' So anyway Moraelyn wins the pot and tosses the man enough back to keep his throat wet all evening. Just for laughs we look at the map. It showed the Dragon's Teeth Mountains down in Hammerfell. Real wild country. And there's an 'X' and some writing saying 'Fang Lair'. Mats gets excited and says he's heard of the place, but he'd never known just where it was. "'And you still don't,' I say. 'Any fool can draw a map, just as any fool can look at one. I could do as much myself.' "Mats says Fang Lair is an old dwarf mine, but there's supposed to be a dragon there now, and the dwarves are gone. Moraelyn looks real interested at the mention of a mine, and asks what they mined there. Mats says mithril and gold. "Moraelyn says, 'Hmmmmm.' "The mithril had him interested. We couldn't afford really good weapons. And mithril's scarce, but it's light to carry for its worth, and easy to mine and work if you know how; and he did. He didn't believe in the magic blade or the dragon, but he thought the mine might be real. Mining's in his blood, as it is in all the R'Aathim, the royal Kin of Ebonheart. "It took us a couple of months to get there. We couldn't afford horses. We never would have found it without the map. It's tricky country, full of canyons and hidden valleys. We sure never expected what we saw when we did get there. You could see the towers from the canyon mouth, way ÷back in there. Dark elves live right in caverns if they mine, but the dwarves had built a hall over the top of their mines. It's a pretty thing on the outside. Narrow towers, and arched bridges between them. Delicate looking; you wouldn't expect work like that from Dwarves. Merged right into the rocks too. And there was a big stone dragon mounted above the gate. "'There's your dragon, Mats,' I said. The inside wasn't much to look at, just rock wall. The doorway was enormous, but the doors were gone. There was a balcony running right around a big open pit ... probably the start of the mine, turned into a hall. And right in the middle was more treasure than you can imagine ... piled up almost like a haystack that'd been flattened out. And what had flattened it was a golden dragon curled right over it; we didn't even see him at first, 'cause he blended with the rest of the gold. Well, we just froze in place. We hadn't seen a sign of live dragon outside. The place smelled of brimstone, but most mines do. And there that dragon was, just lying there. And it's gotta be two miles to any kind of shelter. "'I told you there was a dragon,' Mats whispers. "'Shhhhh,' Moraelyn says. 'Look what's in front of his nose.' "I'd been busy looking AT his nose, believe you me. But there was a sword lying right there naked, sure enough ... .and the blade was dark metal that looked just like his dagger. "'You two start back,' Moraelyn says, 'I'm going to try for that blade, anyway. If that's not ebony, I'm a wood elf. Maybe the dragon's dead, or asleep for the winter ... or maybe it's not alive at all. Just something the dwarves made to guard their treasure. Like the scarecrows the Nord farmers put in their grain fields. At worst, I'll distract him long enough for you to get clear.' "I'd a mind to take him up on it, but Mats just shook his head, and I was kinda ashamed to go back alone. "'Let's all just clear out,' I said. That thing looked real enough to scare ME away. But Moraelyn casts Invisibility ÷and heads on down the stair, not making a sound that even I could hear. I could see Mats hated letting him go down alone, but Mats couldn't sneak past a blind, deaf beggar in a fish market. So we strung our bows and figured we could try to get off a couple of shots and maybe get lucky and take out the eyes if the dragon woke up and went for Moraelyn. Mats and I move around to where we can get onto a tower stair fast if we have to, figuring the dragon can't get in there. Then we scrunch down and peer between the railings. Not that there was anything to see except the dragon lying there. Which really is a lot to see, at that. "Then those dragon eyes popped open and my heart gave one big jump and then seemed to quit entirely. "'Ahhhhh! Dinner comes to me today,' the dragon says. 'Take a good look at my hoard, dark elf. You will not steal it nor even view it long, but your bones will keep it company ... .forever.' "'I don't want your hoard, dragon, just the sword you guard. I'll trade you mine for it; mine's bigger.' I ÷couldn't see Moraelyn, but his voice was coming from right near where the sword was. Which was practically in the dragon's mouth! "'I get a meal and both swords. Why should I settle for just your poor sword?' "'Let me pass and I'll get you more gold from below.' "'I have gold enough.' The dragon yawned and I thought he was going to swallow Moraelyn right then, but he turned his head away -- away from us, too. Mats was looking to get a shot, but it was really dark in there for Nord eyes and he was scared of hitting Moraelyn, since he couldn't locate him that well by sound. 'Course Moraelyn's too smart to get between us and the dragon, but Mats wasn't smart enough then to think that far along. Slavery dulls the wits in some ways, Mats says, and he hadn't been free very long. I could see well enough, and I could tell by sound exactly where Moraelyn was, but the shot was clean out of my range. "The dragon goes on, 'But there is something you can do for ÷me, elf, and prolong your life a few more minutes.' "'A few more minutes sound pretty good just now, dragon. What would you ask of me?' Moraelyn's voice sounded as calm and easy as if he was asking if there would be rain tomorrow. He can keep his head in a tight spot, I'll give him that. "'I have a toothache. It's too far back for me to reach it with my claws. Canst see it, elf?' The dragon gapes his jaws to bare his teeth. "Moraelyn's invisiblity spell wore off about then, and I could see him standing there staring up into that cavern of a mouth. 'Lower your head a bit so I can get a good look.' He puts out his hand and pulls the upper lip aside, cool as you please, and examines the inner gum carefully. Damndest thing I ever saw. "'It's abcessed. Thy gum wants lancing, and the tooth should come out. I can lance it if you trust me in there with a sword.' "'And why should I trust you, dark elf? I hear no good of ÷your kind.' "'You must be spending too much time with Nords, then. I wouldn't be able to kill you before you killed me. Why should I even try? Listen, I have some friends up above. Suppose they hunt you up a nice fat deer. I'll lance your gum and you can let me go and eat the deer. Else you can just eat me now, toothache and all.' "'Hssssssss. What makes you think your friends will return once they're away?' "'They're not very smart. I think for them. They'd be lost without me. Good hunting, guys! Uh, if they can't find a deer, is there anything else you'd like? Pig, maybe? A few rabbits? Nuts? Berries? Hurry up, will you?' But we had hand signals and his hands said to get out of there and stay out! "I'd a been glad to; I mean I'm fond of Moraelyn but I didn't see my dying alongside would bring him any comfort. I'd a been glad to see him clear if it was me that was on the menu, and I figured he felt the same way. But that thick-skulled Nord wouldn't listen to me! Said if dying beside him was all we ÷could do, then that's what we'd do. Nord nonsense. Sounds good in a song, though. "So we took a couple hours getting a deer and headed back with it. I figured Moraelyn was filling the dragon's belly by now, and the dragon would be happy to add a deer, another Dark Elf and a Nord to round out his day's rations. But Moraelyn was still sitting there, chatting with the dragon. He didn't look that pleased to see us, either. Told us to leave the deer and go and he'd lance the abcess once we're away. But Mats says he's been thinking. Oh, brother, I thought. Mats doesn't think too often, and that's a good thing, really. He's decided he can get a chain round that bad tooth, fasten down the end to the floor, and then the dragon can give it a good yank himself. "The dragon likes the idea, so Moraelyn lances that abcess to take the swelling down to where the dragon can gulp the deer with some comfort. And then they rig up a chain and get that tooth out. Made a hell of a mess, that. Blood and pus everywhere. And Moraelyn's got us casting Heal spells on this dragon to stop the bleed ing and close up the wound. "'Ah, hum, good, very good. All right, Moraelyn, you've proven yourself. Take the sword and go.' "Moraelyn looks at him. 'You mean this was some kind of test?' he says. 'How long have you had that toothache?' "'Long indeed, as you measure time, mortal, yet not very long at all for dragonkind. Hear my story then: a scraggly young mage came along, hoping to steal my gold. I caught him at it; we had increasingly harsh words, and he attempted a spell aimed at me. His pitiful spell affected me little, and I killed him. But ummmm...' The dragon looked away briefly, then resumed his tale. 'The little runt had apparently cast a home-made Curse spell upon himself, and when I crunched him...' The dragon scowled fiercely, remembering, then continued, 'Anyway, the ache only came on bad when someone came along to try for the sword. The sharpest pain went away if I ate the intruder ... but I usually didn't, though I've singed a few in ÷self-defense; heh, waft a bit of fire and most of them fled. Deer are plentiful; there is something er, ah, unpleasant about eating someone you've talked to. That greasy mage gave me indigestion for days. Cramps and runny bowels and too much gas, even for a dragon. So that toothache never did completely go away. And the people who've come along haven't been very pleasant either ... all in all one of the most unpleasant stretches in my life. I couldn't stay away from the vicinity of the sword for very long of course. Part of the curse.' "'We could stay on for awhile, if you like. We're good company. I'm Moraelyn; my red-headed friend is Mith, and the big guy is Mats. I'd still like to look for mithril below and I've never had a dragon friend before.' "'I might like that. You have good friends, and even though you have said that you must do the thinking for them. I think that they can do some thinking on their own, and it would appear that they have decided that you are a worthwhile fellow,' The dragon hesitated for a second and actually managed to look shy! 'You can call me ÷Akatosh.' "So we stayed for a couple of weeks. Hunted with the dragon -- now that's an experience! Searched the mines ... didn't find much down there. But the dragon gave us the jewels from his hoard. Said he only needed the metal; they absorb it into their scales while they lie on it. So we did pretty well out of it after all. Moraelyn tried to give Mats the sword. Claimed that he'd have sure tried to kill that dragon if we hadn't come back, and would have been toasted. But Mats wouldn't take it. Said the dragon gave it to Moraelyn so that was clearly who was supposed to get it. Mats took the tooth, but he made the hilt you've got now and gave Moraelyn that, too. Told me he'd never had anything worth giving before, and it made him feel good. He's real pleased Moraelyn chose to give it to you." "I think Mats should have got the sword," Edward said. "He didn't try to steal anything. It was really brave of him to come back, even when he didn't think it'd do any good. Moraelyn tried to steal, got caught and then just tried to talk his way out of it. You could ÷all have been killed because of him." "That's just what Moraelyn said. Ah, well, Mats likes that big axe of his better than a blade anyway." Edward sighed. "I wish I was brave like Mats. I guess I'm more like you." "Aye," Moraelyn's voice sounded behind him, startling the boy. "Tart tongued, like Mith. No matter. I'll be well pleased if you're as brave as Mith. And if once I'm gone they say no more of me than 'he did what he had to do', my spirit will be at peace." barbed_wire