I love the sea. Well, truthfully, I love most places except perhaps for the deep swamp, which tends to have too many of the small bugs that get in under your fur to feed and the itching can drive you mad. My Argonian friends are welcome to their swamps, their scales do not suffer from such things. But forests, mountains, plains, deserts, all have their beauty. The sea, however,… its fresh scent fills the nostrils, clean and clear. It speaks of life unconstrained. Forests are rich in scents, and lush, and a forest glade with a waterfall and a spring on a summer afternoon is a happy thing, but it is the happiness of being surrounded and enclosed, supported and cared for. The sea is the happiness of freedom, of not being surrounded by people and society and constraints and manners, of not having to constantly think of strangers and conventions and how every comment of yours might be taken, and the delicate feelings of those with chips on their shoulders so large that you wonder how they bear up under the weight of them. You do not have to be careful, on the sea, except in the cut and dried matters of survival, and if you decide you no longer like where you are, you simply move on. I like people too much, men and mer, Khajiit and Argonian, Hist and spirit, to live apart from them, but we are all crazy in our various ways. The sea is always a welcome reprieve.
Trading caravans typically travel by land. You may be going from point A to point K, but at least half your profit comes from the small places in between, especially if you can get off the main roads and visit the smaller towns that are starved for the less common materials, and that will buy from you simply because you’re a novelty. Never underestimate the effect of a fur coat and a tail has on your profits, when you’re stopped in a place like Rorikstead in the wilds of Skyrim, where the locals rarely even see an elf. If you have a few crew members who can juggle, even better. My cousin Elf-Eater took a vacation with us once, and we raked in the loot simply by letting him speak! The locals simply couldn’t get that a great battle-cat like him was also a Khajiit, though he walked on 4 legs instead of 2; he was simply a trained tiger, until he opened his mouth and then he was the 12th wonder of the world. He gave the children rides, and made enough gold from the trip that he returned to his troop with a fancy new set of armor made from dwarven ore!
But I digress. Where was I? Oh, yes… so we traveled mostly by land. But there were a few ocean trips, where my father had a mission somewhere best reached quickly by sea, and my parents decided to move the caravan there rather than part for so long. That was how we ended up in Solitude, of all places — meeting the envoys of Skyrim and Hammerfell to discuss some trading issue that I was too young to understand — and then traveled the roads through Skyrim to Riften and into Morrowind, where we took another ship back to Elsweyr. I learned a lot on those voyages — mostly about knots, and how to stay out of the way of the crew, true, but a young khajiit can be a great help scampering about the rigging, and I think my family and caravan mates were relieved to have someone else answering my incessant questions for a change.
So, as I say, I love the sea. This trip with Sugar-Claws, however, on her sloop probably packed to the gills with contraband and smuggled goods, was barely a day in duration and could not have been over quickly enough. A hurricane had just passed through, and it seemed as though we rode in on its tail end, and the boat I was on was far too small to be out on those waves. The first few hours were fine, but the closer we got to Khenarthi’s Roost the rougher the seas got, and by 4 in the morning there wasn’t a moment that the deck didn’t have some wave or another crashing across it. Sugar-Claws and I were both tied to the deck, me mostly bailing and her at the wheel making the most gallant of pretenses at imparting any vague sense of direction to our motion. After some indefinite, nightmarish period, I realized that she wasn’t setting our course as much as she was simply keeping the boat pointed in a way that let us ride with the waves rather than against them. I bet sailors have a term for that; “not dying” is the only one that I can apply. I spent the last 8 hours questioning my judgement and all of my life decisions since I decided not to stay in Dune and study smithing with my Uncle Patchwork, and I’m pretty sure the Divines were ready to give up on me as a bad bet and pick some other Coldharbour escapee to sic their Prophet on.
After an infinity of soaking and bailing and wretched, bitter, daedra-cursed battering brine, the storm seemed to pass almost in an instant, as though it were a dwarven mechanism that had run out of steam and simply given up. (Beating me to that end by 10 minutes, at the most.) One moment, we were doomed, and then, in the next pause between waves, nothing. The next wave never came, the sun’s rays penetrated my brain’s haze, and when I looked up there was blue sky to the east and the storm was not so much passing as it was dissolving. I’d never seen anything like it. Sugar-Claws looked around, exhausted, and then shook her head and began clucking to herself. Storms do not pass like that, she said, there is something not right about it. But, what that was, she couldn’t say. We could see land in the distance, and Sugar-Claws continued steering east; after a couple of hours, and a couple of island sightings and course corrections, she was able to assure me that we were not too horribly far off course, and we arrived at the island by mid-day.
I was not surprised that we did not head to the port, in Mistral. Instead, Sugar-Claws dropped anchor on a southern beach already filled with boats — although those boats were mostly in pieces. From the look of it, a small fleet of ships had been torn up by the same hurricane we’d weathered, not at all aided by their greater size. Sugar-Claws said something about it being a great tragedy, but I could see her thinking of the cover it gave her to land without dealing with the authorities, and calculating how much she could salvage from the wreckage before us. I thanked her for the trip — the bad weather was hardly her fault — and she thanked me for my aid. She also told me to stop by again, if I needed a ride back, and I assured her that I’d keep her in mind. Which was true, though perhaps only in my nightmares.
When I got out onto the beach, my main goal was to find a place to sit down, and just let my world settle down into the calm, peaceful, restful, unmoving, unshifting, unheaving state that it was accustomed to. This turned out to be delightfully easy, for land, by and large, generally resides in this state without interruption, and even the turmoil of my recent life had not exempted me from the benefits of this condition. I found a boulder up away from the surf, settled down on it, and had a good 20 minutes of just drinking from my water bottle, eating a bit of hard tack and some kind of fish jerky, and just taking stock of my environment. As I mentioned, the beach was strewn with wreckage, and also with people moving about the wreckage or, less fortunately, being dragged from it. After a time, I realized that there was a theme to this: locals, mostly my people, helping (and scavenging); and Dominion marines, mostly Bosmer and Altmer, whose ships that wreckage had been. From the look of it, a modest-sized Dominion fleet had been wrecked on these shores; I couldn’t guess at how many ships, since it extended far up the coast from me. I seemed to be on the southern end of the island, and the wreckage ran mostly up the western coastline.
After a time, I decided I felt safe to move, and so I started to walk about a bit and poke around the wreckage. (You cannot ask a Khajiit to sit still when so much perfectly useful gear is at risk of going to waste. Surely, the tide could come in at any moment, and carry it all away! Someone must rescue it!) I also took the opportunity to hunt mudcrabs; while vicious creatures, they make excellent eating, and they have a kind of hide that can be turned into some decent leather armor, with a bit of crafting. I needed that. I also needed to regain my combat skills, still a shadow of themselves thanks to a certain Daedric Prince who will remain nameless. I must confess, I needed this break. A bit of simple exertion and exploration, with little or no risk of mortality, was really my idea of an afternoon idyll. I know there are warriors who love to charge from one life-threatening situation to another, and I am not one of them. High risk of immediate death is a numbers game, and the odds are in favor of the house. I prefer that condition to be the exception, rather than the rule.
After a couple of hours of this, it came to me that I was here for a reason. To find someone named Razum-dar, and perhaps I should get on with that. If the state of my part of the island was any indication, were this Razum-dar still here (and not killed by the storm), he’d be stuck here for a while longer, but there was little point in delay.
As it turned out, the delay was minor.