Speaker’s Journal, Entry 2-2: Where the Wind Goddess Rests

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.

KhenarthisBeachI 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.

KhenarthiMapWhen 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.

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Speaker’s Journal, Entry 2-1: Sailing With the Wind

I moved around often as a child, traveling in my mother’s trading caravan, normally in concert with my father’s diplomatic missions.  Usually, we slept in tents, large enough in their own right but enormous to a child, and filled with fascinating things picked up for cheap in one place and sold as expensive exotics in another.  Sometimes the crew would stay with the camp while my family would stay in embassies — our own, or those of host nations — or in the homes of trading partners. Once we camped in a rather terrifying Nordic ruin, where you were certain that ancient dragon priests would crawl from the pits and pull you down to join them (as my brother insisted would happen that very night).  When I was older… well, let us simply say that the beds that I awoke in were not always my own, as is the way of such things.  Nirn is a vast world, Tamriel a great continent upon it, and the many lands across Tamriel provide a traveler with a vast array of opportunities to wake in unfamiliar surroundings.

So, feeling my way towards consciousness, rested and content but with the vague sense of something that perhaps needed doing at some point, I was hardly perturbed by the awareness of being in a strange bed.  The sheets beneath me were rough but wholesome, and the room smelt of good things: of wood, and fish, and moon sugar, a trace of pitch and smoke, and of people nearby.  I could hear a creaking of timbers, and felt a shift in the room, and the word boat formed in my mind, and with that word my stomach growled at me and the world around me started to become real and worthy of attention.  I pulled myself up onto my elbows and looked a bit blearily across the bunk-room of a ship’s hold… to the glowing blue visage of the Prophet’s projection looking back at me.  Jolting backwards, I banged my head against the bunk above me and swore like a sailor — which seems appropriate in retrospect.

{The Vestige awakens, once again.  Come here, we must speak.}

KhenarthiProphetWhile my bruised head throbbed, my heart sank into my stomach.  Coldharbour, soul stealing, Ferals, Lyris, Prophet, Molag Bal, all came rushing back.  Well, the brief forgetfulness was a gift of S’rendarr’s mercy, and I would take it with thanks.  I pulled myself out of the bunk, carefully avoiding another impact, and looked down at myself: worn but clean drawstring pants (far too short for me). To the side of the bunk was a pile of the pathetic things I’d been wearing and carrying in Coldharbour, also clean but not any more impressive because of it.  So, wherever I was, it was not hostile territory — a change of fortunes so great that I praised S’rendarr yet again and vowed a considerable sacrifice when next I found his shrine.  I looked at the Prophet’s image, and asked where we were.

{As I feared, we arrived in different locations.  I am in a city near the sea, in a land of eternal spring.  The air smells of the ocean, and of markets, and gardens.  It matters not.  You have awakened once again, and we must set you on your path….}

“How long was I unconscious?”

{Days? Weeks? I cannot tell. The voyage between worlds disrupted all sense of time and space.  I know only that you were deposited into the sea, and some charitable soul fished you out and brought you to dry land.}

Someone else that I owed a debt to, beyond S’rendarr.  Khajiit repay their debts, and if our paths crossed again I would be sure to.  Well, the Prophet had said that I must be set on my path, and seeing him here (or his ghost) made it unlikely that I’d be getting rid of him easily, so I had best get this out of the way: “What should I do now?”

{I’m afraid you will have to decide that for yourself.  I must focus on searching for a way to repay Lyris’s bold sacrifice.  I cannot simply abandon her to the wrath of Molag Bal.}

So, I’d have a breather then?  Sweet. Though what was coming was as inevitable as a sea squall when the wind changes: he was going to send me back in.  You know he was, Divines curse him.  And I was going to go, Divines curse me, because while this seemed more their fight than mine, still, I’d gotten pulled in and their machinations had — as a side effect of being their tool, if nothing else — gotten me out.  I owed them, and I owed the Prophet for the Skyshard, which I had not forgotten.  And, to leave anyone to Molag Bal’s tortures who was not an absolute villain… how could I not try to rescue them?  How could I look myself in the mirror for the rest of my life if I turned away? Such a thing could not be born, though returning terrified me.  Well, when the meat must be eaten, don’t waste time chewing it before it’s cooked. (Aunt Leaf, again.)  Hopefully, I’d have a little time as a free man again before I doomed myself.  “When will I see you again?” (Next year, perhaps?)

{I cannot foresee that.  Not yet.  But we will meet again.  There is still much we need to accomplish.  Be wary, Vestige.  Our very plane of existence is in peril.  The threat of Molag Bal looms across all Tamriel, and chaos spreads in its shadow.  Danger roams the land and will assume many forms.  Do not let it catch you off guard.}

This is why no one invites you to parties, Prophet.  My Uncle Man-Fisher used to say that growing up was a process of dreading steadily larger things, and I was feeling like a bit of a prodigy.  I had the feeling our conversation was soon to end, and so I asked if he had any advice.  Where to go, perhaps, given that I still didn’t know where I was?

 {You must find your own path.  But perhaps there is a reason for the place in which you find yourself.}

That resonated. If I was to trust to the Divines (good advice in all the heroic tales, when facing a Daedric Prince), then where I’d been deposited by Alkosh’s help would be significant.  Though, I still didn’t know where that was…

{Explore. Search for a cause to lend your hand. Join with others.  You might even seek out those who rescued you from the sea.  The choice is yours.}

Ah, good, back to that point: “How do I find whoever rescued me from the sea?”

{You were dragged ashore on an island beach, but I sense that you are now aboard a ship in port. Go ashore and seek out the captain of the vessel.  Perhaps he or she can point you toward the charitable spirit who was responsible for your rescue.}

If he knew that the captain was ashore, surely he could tell what shore that was.  But the person who’d pulled me from the drink… my instincts said to seek him out (or her).  Indeed, if the old tales were true, I was rather surprised to have awoken anywhere else than in their care.  But perhaps the Divines were like Lyris, and expected me to prove myself by way of making the effort.  A Khajiiti seer once said, “Do not expect to attain the Moon Fields without such trials as have come to those before you.”  I would expect no less (and would likely get no more).  As I was pondering my fate, I suddenly realized that the Prophet had continued speaking, going on about others in these lands facing their own trials, fighting the oncoming darkness in their own ways, who could do with my help and could offer me theirs.  That we were not alone in our fight, and others of courage and valor would rise up as well.  I think it might have been quite inspirational, and regretted not paying better attention.  But he ended his speech with finality, and was gone without giving me a chance to ask any more.

I changed into my clean but shabby gear — better boots were high on my list of upgrades, as a Khajiit’s clawed feet are ill suited to the shoes of the monkey-folk — and wandered out of the bunkroom.  (Where, I noticed, there had in fact been a crew member asleep through that whole exchange, a Bosmer woman showing a soundness of slumber that I don’t normally associate with Wood Elves.)  There was another Bosmer crewman sweeping, which cheered me immediately, though he seemed disinterested in conversation and merely grunted when I hailed him.  More cheery was a Khajiit crewman playing the lute for two more Bosmer; they smiled at me, and I touched my heart to them, but it would have been rude to interrupt and I did not.  I did eat and drink from the stores that I could see laid out, a bit reluctant to rummage but now too hungry not to.  When I felt a bit more whole, I headed out onto the deck.

VulkhelGuardPanoMiracle of miracles, I knew where I was!  This was Vulkhel Guard, a port city on the southern tip of Auridon, the Tamriel-facing eastern island of the Summerset Isles of the Altmer, the High Elves.  My family had been here once for about a month, when I was maybe 14, no, 15 years of age.  It was where I’d learned to ride a horse properly, and I remembered it as a wondrous, magical place, not the least because of all of the magicians.  I also remember my mother saying that the High Elves of Auridon were amongst the least pretentious of all the Summerset Isles.

(A note: As I prepare to give these pages to the courier, to be copied and sent to my editor, it occurs to me that the High Elves amongst the readership of his paper may well find that statement upsetting.  For this I am sorry.  But I promised not to edit my thoughts here, and you Altmer simply cannot expect to declare the superiority of your people over all others and not expect a reputation for, at best, pretension, and, at worst, outright racism.  However, many of your kindred races, from man to mer, share such viewpoints in varying degrees.  Argonians and Khajiit are less inclined to such things, for the Argonians live in partnership with the Hist, and the Khajiit come in a hundred forms, so thinking one sentient being better than another purely based on shape is more alien to our peoples. If it is equally alien to you, then my mother’s generalization does not apply to you, and you are my comrade no matter who or where you come from.)

So, this was Vulkhel Guard. But, surely this was not where I’d washed ashore, or they’d have taken me into town and not put me on a ship.  Unless a sailor had found me, I suppose, but even then…. Well, as the Prophet had suggested, the captain would know.  A bit of asking around revealed him to be still on deck, a stocky Breton man of middle years named Tremouille, who was pleased to see me up. “You slept all the way from Khenarthi’s Roost.  Right through the hurricane!”

Well, escaping torturous demonic realms does take it out of you, but there was already a lot to parse here.  Khenarthi’s Roost rang a bell: an island inhabited mostly by my people, off the southern tip of Elsweyr and while it was not terribly far from the Summerset Isles (if the wind was good), it was not especially close, either.  I couldn’t think of a reason for someone to put me on a ship bound for here, unless it was the only ship departing and they really wanted me gone.  This was puzzling.  I wanted to explore that further, but with no sense of who wanted what, it might be better to stalk these questions for a bit, rather than leap upon them precipitously.  So I circled, nonchalantly: “Hurricane? What hurricane?”

CaptainTremouille“You don’t remember? A Khajiit named Razum-dar fished you out of the ocean.  He paid me a small fortune to bring you here. We barely made it out of Khenarthi’s Roost before the hurricane hit!”  (A small amusement, that Khenarthi is the wind goddess, and a hurricane hits when I arrive there. One should be careful not to overread the signs, but this one tempts a “divine message” interpretation.)  But now I had a name: “Where is Razum-dar now?”

“He was headed to Eagle’s Strand, an old fort on Khenarthi’s Roost.  My ship won’t return there for some time, but a boatswain on the far dock can take you.  Look for Sugar-Claws.”  He pointed eastward along the docks, and I said I might do that. In fact, I wanted to do nothing else, but in uncertain terrain it never hurts to downplay your interest in things.

I wandered down the gangplank to the docks, and eastward almost to their end.  The city was bustling with life and energy, and I was sorely tempted to stay, find an inn, maybe even look for a bit of work, or a caravan to join — a Khajiit of my skills never lacks for gainful employment — until I could regain the wherewithal to return to my original travel plans.  But you know the Prophet would come calling (or sending) as soon as I’d settled in, and then I’d have to be off to Coldharbour again, and who knows where else if I survived that?  I could refuse, of course, but I’d covered that ground already: not gonna happen. So, best to use what time I had to get whatever answers I could, and if I was ever going to speak to this Razum-dar fellow, best to track him down now, while I knew where he was.

KhenarthiSugarClawsI found Sugar-Claws by her boat, and she seemed slightly alarmed by asking if that was her name. “What is it? Is this about the fish? I took what I paid for!”  When I begged her pardon, she looked at me more closely (my sorry gear suddenly seemed even pathetic), and relaxed.  “Um, never mind. What do you want?”

“I want to travel the Khenarthi’s Roost.”  “Good, I have business on Khenarthi’s Roos.  Passage is free!  The inspectors won’t be looking for two of us.”  Oh, great.  So it would be that kind of trip.  Well, beggars couldn’t be choosers, and I was maybe 40 pieces of scavenged gold from being a beggar — not in bad shape, all things considered, but any cruises I booked would be as crew, not as passenger.  So, if this was a bit shady, I’d live with it. As if realizing she’d been a bit indiscreet with a complete stranger, she coughed, and said, “Whenever you’re ready.”  Comforting. The willingness to depart at a moment’s notice is the sign of all the best cruise lines.  But I knew what this was already, best to get on with it.  (And perhaps the tide and wind was particularly suited to a speedy departure. Yeah. Sure. That’s it.)  I paused to buy some ale and a bit of fish and fresh fruit from a dock stall, and Sugar-Claws quickly stored the last crates on the small sloop (or was it a cog? I’m no expert, but it was single-mast coast-hugger, maybe 40 feet long, and had more room below decks for cargo than was readily visible), and we cast off.



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Speaker’s Journal, Entry 1-6: Shards of Hope

ProphetFreedThe Prophet in person was much like his projection, but less transparent. Thankfully. His eyes were white, in keeping with the blindness attributed to him, but it was a slightly unsettling white. People who are born blind don’t usually focus their eyes on you when they talk — they have never had a reason to. People who go blind in later life generally focus on where they think you are, out of muscle habit. The Prophet’s irises weren’t even visible in that whiteness, so it was hard to tell if he was focusing anywhere or not.  But you had the sense that he looking through you to things that you didn’t know existed, of which you were just the ice floes’ tip. And he did not seem pleased with what he saw — although I imagine anyone coming out of a Molag Bal custom-built cell would probably look grumpy. Nonetheless, I felt a bit as though my very existence was provisional, at best, and we would have to wait and see if he would sign off on its continuance.

If the Prophet was at all disoriented by being teleported from mid-air suspension in a glowy blue cage to solid ground, he didn’t show it. He turned to me, as comfortably as if he’d just stepped out of a carriage, and said, “Thank the Divines, you are safe! There is that, at least. Lyris sacrificed everything, that we might go free. Her sacrifice must not be in vain.” I could not argue with that, though a little voice in my head thought it a wonderfully convenient thing to be able to praise the sacrifice of others when it benefits yourself.

[Sorry, I’m a bit of a cynic. Didn’t mean to say that aloud.]

That’s all right, we agree on this one. Again, this was not my struggle, but it seemed only reasonable to ask, “Can we find a way to take her with us?” The Prophet shook his head. “I wish that were possible. But I promise you, once we escape Coldharbour we will find a way to rescue her together, Vestige.”

Oh, sure. ‘Cause people waltz into planes of Oblivion all the time, no problem. We’ll just come in with a tour group then, shall we, and slip away when they’re at lunch, find Lyris, and sneak her out in our luggage? They do that sort of thing all the time in pantomimes. Nip, tuck, 4 o’clock, and we’ll be out. I like it. (Harrumph.) Well, I didn’t think we could spring her, and there was no point in kidding ourselves about it. Best to turn the attention to something useful. “Vestige?” I asked.

“This is the name I have given you.” Oh, have you then? Ok, back to “Mad Rug Merchant” for you, if we’re doing the whole cute nicknames thing. Maybe a blind man can’t be expected to see my race or gender, and must address me as if I might be any one of millions of possible people who might be filling my role in this little drama. But it does seem like he could ask my name, once he met me. I suppose that I shouldn’t expect too much from a Mad Rug Merchant. But he went on: “You are but a trace of your former self. A soulless one. An empty vessel that longs to be filled.” Ok, this was getting creepy. Was he hitting on me? ‘Cause it sounded like he was hitting on me. Look, Rug Merchant, you’re not my type, what with being old, and human, and stark raving bonkers. (A little bonkers is healthy, but I was half certain that the dust of ‘a little bonkers’ passing had long ago settled, for this guy.) “It is as the Scrolls foretold, but not exactly as I imagined.”

What, the Scrolls are setting him up on blind dates, are they? Did they say I’d be taller? Putting “blind”, “Prophet”, and “Scrolls” together, I assumed he meant the Elder Scrolls, the fabled oracles read by the Moth priests, whose arcane study yielded both insights and physical blindness. But however powerful the Scrolls’ insights, I’d never heard them recommended for dating advice. Sorry to disappoint, old human. Best to distract him. Again. “Why does Lyris call you the Prophet?” (Since we were on the subject of names.)

“This is what I have come to be called. My true name is lost, even to me. Years of torment have taken their toll.” Fine, I’d cut him some slack: you can’t count on an old man who can’t remember his own name to be good at remembering yours. Let’s just stay away from the vessel-filling talk, though, shall we? “Quickly now, we must make haste to the Anchor!”

I asked, quite reasonably, what anchor?  If I was going to make haste towards something, knowing what it was seemed like a useful thing.  “The Anchors are Daedric machines of the darkest magic. Their chains bind our world and pull it towards Coldharbour. I can use one of these Anchors to return us to Tamriel, but you must lead me to it.” That did indeed sound like a useful thing to hasten towards. “All right. Stay close then,” I warned. I wasn’t sure that my current skills were up to defending a bystander, as well as myself, if we were attacked; but hopefully the blind man would have the sense to drop and cover if anything came at us.

As I’d roamed the hall during Lyris’s inspection, I’d seen an open archway up a set of stairs on the other side. I led us that way, and was pleasantly surprised by the Prophet’s ability to navigate, despite his blindness. His staff was clearly helpful — though I wasn’t sure why he’d been left with it in the cell. Contempt for its usefulness? Some enchantment on it that made it inseparable from him? A question for another time, perhaps. (You must be careful asking the aged questions: they always have a story, and this was not the place to pause for one.)

The tunnel ended in a door, which opened into another vast chamber, one filled with more machinery, surrounding a large pit, over which was suspended a series of huge rings, creating the sense of a vertical tunnel or archway along which something (light? weapons? people?) might travel. It was guarded by two skeletons, who rushed towards us the moment we entered. Before I could warn the Prophet to drop, he’d charged past me at them, emitting bolts of energy from his staff. The people who’d been describing him as blind had not been telling me the whole story, but I wasn’t going back to harangue them for it. We dispatched the skeletons quickly, to my relief.

But the moment the second of them went down, the space over the pit filled with a huge, crackling, translucent, daedric-looking form, and a voice boomed through the cavern, proclaiming angrily, “I am the face of pain! The souls of the damned are my weapons! You will know eons of suffering!” If I’d eaten more than rancid cheese that day, I might have soiled my makeshift armor, but thankfully cheese is binding. “Molag Bal,” I thought. These rabbits are caught, and that’s the end of it.

ColdharborMolagBalInstead, the figure faded, and a large-but-not-nearly-so-vast form heaved itself from the ground before us, a behemoth of discarded bones cobbled together into the shape of a great ogre and bound together by seething dark energy. As it lunged towards us, with more speed than I expected for something that looked so lumbery, the Prophet danced aside with equal deftness and cried to me, “Come, I will protect you!” This sounded like an invitation to run away, which I’d have happily accepted. However, the Prophet only moved so far, and I knew that what he meant to say was, “You get up in that thing’s face, and I’ll do something magical from a safe distance.” It is in the nature of the old to send their young into wars for them, and if we’d had the time I’d have taken him to task for it. But the beast before me was a more pressing matter.

ColdharborChildOfBonesThis battle was not so short as the others, and I did not expect it to be. I spent most of my time dodging the behemoth’s blows; thankfully, as unexpectedly fast as it was, and as slow as I felt, the thing was still slower than I. Which was good, as even its glancing blows nearly knocked me off my feet. I kept circling, trying to stay behind it as much as possible, and gradually wore it down, aided after all by the Prophet, who sent a steady stream of healing energy to me from that staff of his. So, not quite the armchair commander I’d accused him of being in my thoughts. After what seemed like a eternity of dodging and hitting and trying not to get ribs broken, the thing went down, with an earth shaking thud and a clatter of now-unbound remains.  No new phantom arose from the pit to swear to our destruction, so perhaps the previous one had not, in fact, been Molag Bal; perhaps it had merely been his shade, left to the defense of the Anchor and now defeated?

Good, for the shade had been quite enough.  As I wheezed like an asthmatic, hunched over, my heart pounding fit to explode from my chest, the Prophet calmly said, “The Dark Anchor’s portal is high above us. I will prepare a spell to lift us to it. But first, you must re-attune yourself to Nirn in order to regain your physical form. To do this, you will need a Skyshard.”

If my pounding heart had, in fact, exploded out my chest and all over this damnable Prophet, would this have corrected this idea that I had no physical form? At this point, I was almost willing to accept that fate. “Dead”, “soulless”, “vestige”,… Khajiit are a generally phlegmatic race, but having just beaten a creature 3 times my size into the ground I was finding it hard to keep my temper in check in the face of what seemed a constant level of condescension. After a few moments of struggling on the knife’s edge, I finally caught a decent breath of air and started to unwind a little. “A Skyshard?” I growled, without nearly as much hostility as I had been feeling a moment before.

“A shard of Aetherial magicka,” he replied, unaware of my receding desire to continue rending something, “that carries the essence of Nirn. Some link them to Lorkhan, the missing god of creation. If you collect and absorb its power, it should restore your corporeal form. I will summon one of these shards for you to absorb.”

All right, I thought, let me see if I can parse this out a little better. Let’s say that my magicka soul has been cut out to power Molag Bal’s machines, which fits what I have experienced so far. Without the magicka soul to connect my higher soul and body, I should be dead — and yet, here in Coldharbour, an unnatural realm, I still live (despite Lyris and the Prophet’s views on the subject). So, perhaps I am attuned to this realm now, and the remnants of the magicka soul are enough to sustain me in such a place. But, in order to survive in my own world, in Nirn, I need something to replace the magicka I have lost, and to re-attune me to my own world instead of this one — to restore my form to a state in which it can survive there. He says that his Skyshard thing that he is going to summon is a big chunk of magicka that is connected to Nirn and will serve the purpose. That sounds plausible… if only because my standards for “plausible” have gotten very low since I woke up this morning.

Aunt Leaf always said that I lived in my head too much. While I was working through all of this, frustrated scholar that I am, the Prophet was off incanting something that I was barely aware of until a blinding glow distracted me in time to see a brilliant crystalline formation materializing in mid-air. SkyshardA cluster of rock shards maybe three feet high and half that across, almost too bright to look at and humming with contained energies. The Prophet directed me to them, and as I reached out, their energies leapt across the gap between us and flooded through me.  I was pulled up off of my feet into mid-air and enveloped, by a surge of warmth, and joy, and autumn days, and home cooked meals, and tender moments, and a voice breathing gently through my soul saying that all of this had a purpose and I should trust in the Divines to carry me through it.

The energy faded, and I nearly wept from its passing; thankfully, the Prophet was no longer looking as I regained my composure. But I could feel something had changed; those connections that I’d felt myself struggling to rebuild now felt… well, not restored, not yet. But no longer raw edged and painful, just sore, and perhaps healing in a way that they hadn’t been before. It felt good. Conversely, the space around me now felt not simply menacing to look at but wrong. I should not be here, this was not a place for beings like myself. I needed to be gone.

The Skyshards were fading, and the Prophet was already moving towards the central pit with the giant rings overhead. Facing up to a platform that extended out over the void, he cried, “Great Akatosh, Dragon God of Time! Your children are lost in the fog between worlds! They cry out for mercy! Hear my voice, Akatosh! I require your strength!” I moved up behind him, properly grateful to him for the first time since I’d seen him in the cell. “Let the way be opened! Let these wandering souls return home! Let the will of Molag Bal be denied!” As he spoke, a glowing column of light formed in the center of the space above the pit, rising up through the rings. When it reached its brightest, the Prophet yelled, “Hurry, we must go now!” He ran straight up the stairs and leapt from the platform into the light; empowered by desperation, fully expecting to fall to my true death in the pit below, I leapt after him. The light overwhelmed me as I fell not downwards but up, and I passed out as I fell.

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Speaker’s Journal, Entry 1-5: A Prophet in Trade

The Undercroft was a windy maze of damp cavern tunnels, with glowing fungus, pools of water, and, as promised, Ferals and spiky traps. Map Guy?


[No problem.]

It also had so many crates and pots that I began to wonder if Molag Bal was a hoarder. Monsters often are, and surely Daedric Princes are the ultimate monsters. It’s that insecurity that comes with being all scaly and evil; you’re sure nobody loves you, so you try to fill the void with acquisition: gold, maidens, knick-knacks, parallel worlds, souls, etc. I’m not a big fan of hoarding, myself. I sympathize with the thrill of “getting” as much as the next Khajiit, but the “keeping”? Largely useless and simply more madness. But madness that at least provided me with some replacement armor; the condition of the bits I’d found had not been helped by the fights we’d been in.

The tunnels had the virtue of being out of the valley’s wind, and the flaw of being out of the valley’s wind, and hence richly overfilled with the smell of dank decay and rust. And maybe sulfur. At this point, my normally sensitive nose was entirely overwhelmed, and if anyone snuck up on us I would not smell them coming — a paranoia-inducing condition for a Khajiit to be in. It made me even slower and more sneaky, and we took out all of the Ferals we encountered before they even knew we were there. So, perhaps the paranoia was helpful. (I am certain that this is the conclusion of all paranoids.) The spiky traps were about as obvious as they were dangerous — they call Molag Bal the God of Brutality and Domination, not the God of Subtlety, but I was starting to wonder if he’d delegated this realm (or this part of it) to a particularly blunt and simplistic underling. Perhaps delegating to simpletons, and then abusing and torturing them when they inevitably failed, was part of MB’s thing. You go with what you know. At any rate, the traps were easy to spot, and generally easy to walk around or jump over or disarm, and eventually we found the ladder that Cadwell had promised and nipped up it into a vast and noisy space.

ColdharborProphetsCellMy father always said that you could tell the important prisoners in any civilized jail because they had the suites, and the Prophet was clearly the most important person that we’d seen so far. And yet I could not bring myself to envy him his status. In the center of a vast hall filled with as much clanking machinery as any Dwemer ruin was a giant floating cage, spinning slowly, with a small floating person inside of it who was suspended in a blue glow. I’ll confess that my first thought was that this must be really good for his back — prison beds are really terrible if you have any back problems at all. But there were probably downsides also, and few prison cells are worth their fringe benefits.

However the giant floaty thing worked, it was unlikely to open to a simple key, and Lyris ran forward and began searching for controls. I did my usual thing, searching through containers for useful things. Areas of expertise and all. Plus who knew, the key could be in one of these pots. You would hate to fail the world because you did not exercise due diligence, and my due diligence has always been well exercised, lithe and muscular.

I got back to Lyris at about the same time she’d reached some conclusions. “All right. The good news is, we made it here in one piece and the Prophet looks unharmed.” I braced myself for the other half of that statement; if Lyris was about to call something bad news, it must be truly terrible. “Now, the bad news. It’s going to be up to you to keep him safe and get him back to Tamriel. I’m not going with you.” I tried to conceal my relief; I liked Lyris, but when you’re expecting terrible news, and all you get is, “Hey, good to meet you, we’ve had a great couple of hours killing things, but I’m going to have to be on my way now,” the urge to do the happy dance is difficult to resist. Out of politeness, I asked her where she was going. (As one does in such situations.)

“I probably should have mentioned this before, but it never seemed like the right time. There’s a trick to opening the cell. The only way for a prisoner to leave is for another living soul to take their place. I need to swap places with the Prophet.” Ah, well then the “bad news” part makes sense; for her, this would be quite unpleasant. Particularly when the exchange was discovered. A part of me thought, “Do what you must,” because these people were not my people; they were all strangers and they’ve swept me along in their affairs and I have no inclination to say yay or nay to any peril that they wish to bring upon themselves. But I did not dislike Lyris, and, again, out of courtesy if nothing more, I asked if there was not another way.

“Believe me, I wish there was. But… I don’t see anyone else here with a beating heart, do you?” I did, for mine had nearly leapt out of my chest several times since I awoke in my cell. But this was clearly not the time to expound upon the nature of souls and death — and I certainly wasn’t volunteering to go in her stead, even if my stolen magicka soul wouldn’t disqualify me. “If Molag Bal isn’t stopped he’ll destroy everyone and everything we’ve ever loved. The Prophet chose you for a reason.” (Gullability, I was starting to suspect.) “Get him to safety. I’ll be fine.”

She would not be fine, but I respected the lie and left it at that, as she clearly preferred. I promised to keep the Prophet safe (returning a lie for a lie, since my ability to do that was more in S’Rendarr’s hands than mine, and my tally of gods to thank if I made it out of here was growing long), and Lyris then pointed to two glowing obelisks on opposite sides of the cage, with beams of blue light shooting at it. “There are magical locking devices on either side of cage. You need to deactivate both of them so I can begin the transfer. Once it’s done, get moving. The Prophet will know where to go, but he’ll need your eyes and your protection.”

I nodded and wished her luck. I feared that the locks would be as inscrutable as a Dark Brotherhood assassin, but in fact they were as simple as an Imperial baker, and a twist to their housing yielded a satisfying thunk and the beam shut off. I turned off both in this manner, and by the time I returned to Lyris she was floating in mid-air intoning something that I couldn’t make out (though I caught the words “Prophet” and “free”, so it cannot have been too arcane). A blue glow enveloped her, extended up and over to the cage, and she and the Prophet both blinked out in the glare and reappeared in each others’ places. “Baan Dar protect her,” I thought. (What’s one more god to thank, at this point?)

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Speaker’s Journal, Entry 1-4: A River Runs Through It

Passing through the last door, we emerged into a vast space of tall cliffs, strange, sharp edged spires, scattered fires in red and blue, clusters of tents, and an assortment of distant people. The sky was a shifting blur of grey and dark blue, and the wind was chill and acid-tinged.  If I’d had any doubts about this place being in Oblivion, that sky erased them.  I had not been everywhere in my family’s travels, but I had been in many places, and this sky was found in none of them. It hurt the eyes to look at, so I decided not to.  “If you can’t eat it, and it can’t eat you, you are free to ignore it.” (Another of Aunt Leaf’s sayings.) I did have a nagging urge to open my map, which, seeing as I did not have a map, seemed a bit daft.

[Here, let me do that for you.]

An image bloomed in my mind, of the space in front of me.


I shook my head. And there I thought I was doing so well, and now we’re back to voices and hallucinations.

[Look, I’m sorry you’re hearing me right now. You’re not really supposed to, I’m supposed to be an instinct and you’re just supposed to go with it.  See, look at the map: you’re that little blue arrow at the top.  See how the valley in front of you lays out to the south and matches what you’re looking at?  That’s helpful, right? My advice is to ignore me, and just let me be helpful.]

I am full of helpful voices in my head today. You’re the same one from before, right, the one talking about Jypshins?  And what should I call you, “Mad Prophet #2”?

[“Egyptians”.  But, yes, that was me.  And I said I’m not him, I’m another part of you.  You can call me Charles, but really, just ignore me. Sorry to distract you; you mentioned the map, so there it is.  Do go on.]

Fine, J’Arlz, just don’t show me things like that during combat, or we’ll both be dead.

[No problem.]

“Come,” Lyris said, almost as if she weren’t talking to a raving lunatic. “The Sentinels are at the top of those towers. We need to find a way up.” To my natural question, she responded, “Magical constructs created by Molag Bal” (I winced at his naming) “to guide his vision in Coldharbor. The Sentinels are connected. If we destroy one, the others will be blinded. With any luck, that will buy us the time we need to find the Prophet.”  Nothing like relying on luck to avoid the threat of eternal flaying.  Hoping that there was some practicality to her, I asked, “How can we destroy it?” “I’ve no idea. Brute force? We’ll find a way. We have to. Be ready for anything, I doubt Molag Bal left the Sentinels unguarded.” This is practicality to a Nord: in lieu of a plan, she offered more danger, a homeopathic treatment of peril. Lacking a better idea, and with every indication from her that I still needed to prove myself by leading, I proceeded down the stairs from our entry platform, into the valley of madness and packing in my own supply.

The floor of the cavern was a patchwork of tents and lean-tos, clustering around rocky outcrops, with burning fires that offered scant warmth, chests and barrels with meager foodstuffs, and several kinds of people. Well, people-ish. The Lord Sheggorath holds sway over many forms of insanity, and so many were on display here that I wondered if my new friends were blaming the right Daedric Prince. Panic from my fellow prisoners was the ruling emotion, as they ran to and fro looking for a way out or defending themselves from random attackers who were clearly surprised and displeased by the jailbreak. Enthusiasm from the small handful of those prisoners who were clearly adventurers with a poor sense of self preservation. Savage fury from scattered, white faced folk who clearly must be those “Ferals” that the Argonian had warned me of, who would leap at anything that moved, ripping and tearing with clawed fingers and, in at least two cases that I saw, feeding afterward. Or during. Catatonia from many, who stood by the hundreds gazing blankly at nothing, perhaps safe from the Ferals by virtue of their immobility. And then the Daedra, a new kind: elemental atronachs of blue flame, perhaps serving as guards to the rest, although their guardianship seemed limited to hurling fire at anything that got near them.

I had seen the towers that Lyris had mentioned, but how to get up to them without dying horribly? Lyris confessed that she knew the way up no better than I.  Could Map Guy help?

[You’re doing fine.]

ColdharborCampOf course he would say that; why be useful when you can just annoy me?  Fine, then; as a methodical Khajiit, I turned immediately to my left, and started exploring the valley as if it were a garden maze, sticking to one wall and following its twists and turns, looking for any stairs or doorways. This had a couple of secondary advantages: it gave me a chance to approach threats cautiously and kept me from being surrounded by melee on all sides, and it let me check every crate, chest, and bag I encountered, looting like mad in the hope of finding any weapon or shabby piece of armor better than these old rags.  Lyris started to protest the delay, but I cut her off. Did she know the way up? No. Did she have armor for me? No. Then if she wanted my help with their addled scheme, she could put up with me being able to survive long enough to give it. She grumbled, but started to settle when I found an iron chest piece and a second sword. She settled further when we hit our first enemy, a Feral whose engagement with another prisoner had brought them to block the exit of a cul de sac we were about to leave.

ColdharborFeralWith two swords and a bit of armor, I felt confident enough to leap on the creature — in defense of my unnamed compatriot — slashing at the thing’s vulnerable back from behind. Lyris joined in, and the thing was down in seconds.  The woman nodded her thanks, and ran on her way, and Lyris was grinning her widest yet, a Nord in her natural element.  After that, we fell into a pattern: loot, look for enemies, and I’d do my best to hit them from behind before Lyris alerted them with a battle cry.  “Scream and leap!” may be my ancestral motto, but I’ve always preferred “Leap and no time to scream” as being much more satisfying.

In that fashion, I acquired a motley but nearly complete set of armor from assorted chests — bits of cloth, leather, and iron, all in bad shape and ill fitting, and I would win no fashion shows, but thank Rahjin nonetheless. ColdharborAtronach2I also gathered enough distressed foods to open a restaurant for carrion crows, a book on Orcish crafting styles that would surely prove an invaluable diversion later when we paused at a tea shop to relax and take in the night air.  And a handful of golds.  And to keep Lyris happy, we slew no less than a dozen Ferals and nearly that many Atronachs, who, it turns out, go down just as quickly from punctures to their flaming kidneys as do any more conventional enemy. Though you must jump back quickly once they go; their flame explodes when they discorporate, and the first nearly burned my whiskers off.  (I’d not have dared them, but for Lyris charging in when one surprised us.)

ColdharborAtronachIn the process, I felt myself strengthening, almost by the minute. This, of course, was relative. I could swing and dodge a bit better, but I couldn’t manage more than a couple of special techniques, and they quickly left me winded.  As did sneaking for any distance… my thighs would start to burn from the constant crouching, an embarrassment to any self-respecting Khajiit.  But it was the right direction.

ColdharborSentinelEventually, we found our way up a ramp, past a few routine adversaries, and arrived at a giant floating eyeball.  It matched the description of Sentinel On A Tower remarkably well, certainly better than anything else we’d seen so far.  Neither of us was a mage who could blast fire or lightning at it, but as Cousin Elf Eater says, “When all you know are horseshoes, everything is a horse.” (Cousin spoke rarely, but as a battle cat the size of a small house, you could tell that such mistakes were a sore spot for him.)  So I used the tools I had, summoned what little skills and magicka I had, and leapt upon the eyeball, blades first, finally taking the opportunity to scream beforehand.  This was probably overkill: eyeballs are notoriously fragile things, and this was no exception.  There was a soft bang and a great wash of light, and the thing evaporated as if it had never been.  A bit anti-climactic, if you ask me, but that’s probably for the best.

“Quickly! While he’s blinded, we must get to the Prophet’s Cell!” Lyris nearly led the way this time, spurred by her own enthusiasm; I think she caught herself at the very last moment. I began to wonder what she knew that I didn’t, letting me take the lead when she was the one that knew the route.

{The God of Brutality knows of your escape. Hurry!}

The Prophet again. It must be frustrating to be in a cell, know how you can get out, and have to rely upon nagging others to do it for you.  Out of compassion, I would try to move faster. The place Lyris led us was up a broad set of stairs, but when we got there, the door was blocked by a shimmering blue barrier. “Damn it! Destroying the Sentinel must have triggered these wards. We need to find another way in.” She paused in thought, while I sent helpful prayers to Khenarthi, the Goddess of the Winds. “Hmm. Maybe Cadwell can help us.”

“And who is Cadwell?” I prodded.  “Cadwell is the oldest of the Soul Shriven. After years of torment, Soul Shriven usually go insane and turn feral, but not Cadwell. He was already insane before he left Tamriel. Mad as a box of frogs, but completely harmless. You’ll see.”

I myself prefer to label people and things no more generously than “mostly harmless”, and I wasn’t changing this preference for Lyris’s sake.  I asked how this mad man could help us — not that he couldn’t.  With all the mad people and the disembodied voices already in my head, another mad man could only be a positive boon!  But more to the question of what he could do.  “Cadwell sees things as he wishes them to be.  To him, Coldharbor is a wondrous place. It’s his home. And he knows it like the back of his hand.  He’s usually down by the river. Let’s go find him.”

I was getting a pretty good sense of the place, after all this wandering about…

[And the map.]

CadwellYes, and the map. And Cadwell was so close that I moved towards his location unerringly, as if he had an arrow hanging over his head.  When we arrived, we found a man who looked for all the world like he was having a rustic camp at a summer fair, playing for the enjoyment of a few friends. (Instead of another cluster of catatonic drones.)  He looked up and exclaimed delightedly, “Hello, what’s this? Out for a stroll then? Lovely day for it.”

[He sounds like he has a silly walk.]

Shut up, Map Person, you’re not helping. “You must be Cadwell,” I replied, distractedly. “Sir Cadwell, yes indeed,” he corrected gently. “A pleasure! And fair Lyris! Good to see you, m’dear” How are you then?”  I gave them a moment to exchange greetings, and when he asked if he could help us I responded, “We’re trying to get inside the Prophet’s enclosure.  The door is sealed.”

“Oh dear, oh dear.  Well, that is inconvenient, isn’t it?  Tell you what — I happen to know another way in!  Much more of a scenic route. Rather a fun little jaunt, actually.  Full of traps, and corpses, and nasty beasties filling up the bits in between.”  Hoping that he knew of a trick to bypass all of that unpleasantry, I asked, “How do we get through all of that?”  “Rather cautiously, I expect.” Well, said, sir! What delightful company he was. “Watch your step, hold your nose, and do mind the traps.  There’ll like as not be a fair dose of running and skull-bashing as well.”  He directed us to the entrance: down the river, through a door at the water’s edge, follow the lights of the tunnel, and go up the ladder at the end. “Do give him my best.”

Before we left him, I had to ask if he wanted to accompany us out.  I’d have asked the Argonian, too, but he was long behind us. Cadwell then launched into a tale of how he’d gotten here to begin with, “Gallant knight, epic quests, rescued maidens!” and so forth. Followed by decapitation, eons here, and now he thought the place felt like home.  Didn’t think anyone could really find a way out, either. “But a good uprising now and again is a pleasant diversion, so where’s the harm, eh?”

We took our leave, with thanks, cut our way through the atronachs between us and the river, and followed it to the door he’d mentioned.  We weren’t the only ones trying this route, but for us it wasn’t a random guess, and we moved through the entry and into — what had Cadwell called it?  The Undercroft.


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Speaker’s Journal, Entry 1-3: A Tall Tail

I had barely passed through the door when the rug merchant’s voice sounded in my head again:

{An enemy approaches. Strike it down.}

There, this is how it begins, I thought.  Vengeful ghosts spare you, but only so that you can do their bloody bidding, as you’re slowly driven mad yourself by their whispers and commands, until one day the Mane’s guards corner you in a tower raving and slavering over the remains of honest factors that in life had cheated you in every transaction and now in death you have shown them all!  How my family shall mourn their son’s insanity, and wonder how they went wrong, forgetting how they passed off his earliest complaints of a voice in his head as mere jokes, or weariness, and recommended he have another pint of moon sugar mead and a nap instead of calling for a cleric and an exorcism. How sad that such a promising young life as mine should, in its very prime,…. Oh, wait, is that heap of bones standing up?

Some 30 feet away, another fiendish spectre from myth rose before me, a monkey-person’s skeleton, brandishing a sword that looked every bit as bad as mine, and staggering towards me, picking up speed and some measure of coordination. (More than I normally expect in the deceased, at any rate.)  It didn’t look like much of a threat, except for the fact that I had no armor, just prison rags. And that I was still feeling unsteady and weak. And that he was the walking dead with no obvious weak points except, if I was lucky, osteoporosis. The moment he got within range, he swung, gracelessly but with some force, and I barely blocked him with my own sword. I hadn’t felt particularly clumsy up until now, merely weak, yet suddenly all of my fighting moves, honed in years of practice since I was a cub, deserted me. Or, not deserted, but disconnected, as if whatever bound my body’s instinctive responses to my will was gone, and I was left with the bare minimum needed to be upright and speak and feed myself, but little more.

Coldharbor SkeletonThe creature swung again and I stumbled back, taking a light cut along my side, and the pain washed away my growing panic in a instant, leaving a wonderful focus of mind. Concentrating as if I were once again walking a tightrope for the first time, I held my memory before me of one of my oldest practice drills, a step, parry, and broadside step-riposte  (the point of this sad excuse for a weapon would do little good again a thing with no fleshy parts).  And when the thing swung again — thankfully, with the rotting of brain tissue must come a deficit of creative variation — I followed the steps like I was tracing dancing marks on a ballroom floor. Step to the outside, beat down his weapon to his inside line, and then flip the sword up towards his neck as I stepped forward.  To my joy, I connected — somewhere vaguely around his clavicle and so badly balanced that we were both staggered by it.  I recovered slightly more quickly, and as he came at me again, with what seemed to be the only move he had, I tried again, this time connecting solidly with his neck.  He nearly went down that time, and as he struggled, bent over, to pull himself upright, I hacked at that thin web of bone and sinew again and again, like a peasant farmer at an aggressive tree root until, at the third blow, it snapped. The head came off its body and in that moment its entire structure fell apart as if I’d yanked the  central dagger in a game of Cut Me Not.

I paused, sides heaving, wondering where all of my moves had gone, and feeling that empty pain within me again. Perhaps some disease in this filthy cell was to blame for the disconnect? Either way, if I could escape, a cleric was clearly my first stop. Healing, exorcism, and beer, in that order.  (Ok, maybe the beer first.)  While I did that, I rifled through the healing mantras I’d learned, frustrated as each in turn failed to respond until I got to the very first, that I barely even recalled from my childhood. The one every peasant without a trace of magicka could learn, that one responded and the bleeding from that creature’s sword subsided and the cut closed and faded. I paused, waiting for my magicka to recover. Slowly. Soo slowly.  Right: soul stealing. I had no magicka reserves to summon to the task, and the links that enabled my will to direct my body were so enfeebled that I had the coordination of a kitten.  How much would I have to rebuild, and would I survive long enough to rebuild it?

{Do not slow, Vestige. With the passing of time, indecision becomes decision.}

Now, that sounded almost Khajiiti.  I wasn’t sure what name he’d just called me, but it was moot; I was out of breath and still healing and a mad ghost who needed to do neither would just have to wait for me.  When I was ready, I moved on. More dungeon, more rummaging looking for anything to augment my survival, more marginal tripe instead and still no better weapon than I’d found at first, and then another warning in my head from the rug merchant and another mobile skeleton.  I silently thanked the ghost for the warning and set myself for the attack, and that was almost the death of me, for it didn’t have a sword but a bow.  At the last moment I dodged, now cursing the ghost for the vagueness of prediction common to his kind, and caught the arrow in the fleshy part of my bicep of my off arm.  Painful, but hardly lethal.  I charged him as he drew again, dodged clumsily as I saw him hit full draw and was rewarded with a clean miss, and then I was on him. A bow is of little use at close range, and I beat him with my sword until he fell apart like his kinsman.  As he did, I felt a little surge of energy, as if the exertion had restored something, or rebuilt a damaged connection; I felt a little less weak, maybe strong enough to pull off one of my earliest power moves, if I could stay focused. One step at a time… “Screw these jailers, and their master!” I cried, or would have, if I could have caught my breath.

As I got my wind back, I focused on healing the arrow wound — thankfully, like most living archers, this creature formed his arrows from life force (or whatever moved his bones), and not from wood and iron, so I did not have to worry about the tip left in the wound. The bow had snapped when it got in the way of one of my blows and was useless to me. (As it had mostly been to him.)  But that was alright, I was never much good with a bow anyway, and probably even worse now.

As I agaLyris Titanbornin recovered, a truly towering Nord woman in what seemed to be the common prison garb ran up to me asking if I was all right.  She had a much better sword than I did… if she was so concerned, could she not have stepped in and helped?  Well, if she wasn’t close… and it had ended quickly. Perhaps I would forgive her this time. I said I was fine, and she laughed and replied, “You’ve got more meat on your bones than most of these poor bastards. And I see you’ve armed yourself. Good!  I hope you’ve still got some fight left in you. You’re going to need it.” It is comforting that in a world as mad as this, you can still count on some things; the ability of Nords to observe and loudly proclaim the obvious is renowned across the Empire. The woman was reassurance personified. Perhaps, when we escaped, I could get her a job with my Uncle Knows-His-Mark, proclaiming victory scores in the Alit races and awarding trophies to their riders.

As I straightened up, I realized that, as tall as she had seemed to be when I was bent over and gasping for air, she was even taller when I stood and could not blame perspective for her apparent height. I have seen Hist grown many years past seedling that were shorter than this woman.  Non-Khajiit would call me tall for one of my people, for they mostly know our Suthay-raht who are of human stature. They have no clue that the many folk that we “confusingly” all call Khajiit are, in truth, one people, born from the same parents. In one family, you may find “cat-men” of varying stature, from smaller than wood-elves to taller than Nord berserkers; people the furless would mistake for true cats, from house-cat sized to as large as mammoths; and many who look like the monkey-folk themselves, from wood elf to human sized, with or without tails. We are one people, our final shapes manifesting within weeks after birth in obedience to the ja’Kha’jay, the waxing and waning of the greater and lesser moons, Jode and Jone. Their gift to our people, that we should not forget that one must not become attached to the forms of this world; all things change, and it is the cat who knows when to leap that survives the landslide.

But I digress. I simply mean to say — as a Cathay, nearly among the tallest of my bipedal kin — that this woman was a mighty oak among her kind and clearly a warrior born. A foot taller than I, with a long blond mane, light skin, and a scar across her left eye (which seemed whole). I think her kind would find her attractive, though impossibly huge, but I am a poor judge of such things.  I honored her stature, and her Nord simplicity, with an obvious question: “Who are you?”

“A fellow prisoner.” She graced me with an obvious answer; perhaps she was more adept in social niceties than I had given her credit for. “The name’s Lyris.”  That was the name that the rug merchant had given me, and the Argonian.  “Lyris Titanborn? I was told to find you.”

“What? Who told you to find me?” She seemed slightly alarmed, which seemed rather sensible given the circumstances. I wanted to say, “A ghostly rug merchant,” but Nords sour quickly on you if they think you’re having them on, so I decided to keep it to the basics. “A strange figure appeared in my cell. An old man in rags.”

She seemed excited by this — naturally, for I made the story come alive. It is a gift. “The Prophet! He spoke to you? What did he say?” Aha! A little light shines upon this mystery! He is not the ghost of a mad rug merchant, he is the ghost of a mad prophet. I could feel myself relaxing a bit. It explained the foreknowledge, and prophets are commonly mad, it is nothing I needed to be worry about. My future as a blood crazed lunatic was not yet as certain as I’d feared. This had been a day of many changes, but perhaps I had been keeping up with them; surely Jode and Jone would be pleased with me.  “He said our fates are intertwined.”

“Ha! That sounds like the Prophet, all right. He’s a prisoner here, too. It was very dangerous for him to speak to you, even for a moment. He must think you can help him.” This Prophet must live for danger, then, for he won’t stay silent. “I can still hear his voice in my head. What does he want me to help you do.”  My gold was on break him out, for what else does a prisoner want? Plus, he had said so, which is often a clue to those who can read such things.

“Break him out, of course!”  Good, we chase the same prey.  Let us hope that it is a rabbit and not a daedroth.  She continued, “Believe me, I can use all the help I can get. That blind old man is the only person alive who can help us get back home. Tamriel’s a long way from here.”

Well, if I was looking for a guide to take me from the Coldharbor plane of Oblivion back to our own lands, who better than a blind man?  Of course.  As Aunt Leaf always said, “When gaming with insanity, good sense is not your ally.”  “I’ll help you,” I chimed in, as cheerfully as possible.  Lyris smiled and looked at me expectantly. Apparently, she needed a more positive affirmation than that.  Nord heroes, they always need the grand gesture.  This blade was too pathetic to swear on, and I would not dare risk ritual blood shedding in this place, so I merely started moving in the only direction that remained to me, and she dropped in with me.  We passed through the next door, and the sky opened up.

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Speaker’s Journal, Entry 1-2: To Take Arms

I emerged into another cave, much larger, with multiple doors and a tunnel or hallway leading out, through which the pale Argonian was disappearing.  More bones and garbage strewn about, burning braziers, skeletons in cages hanging by chains from the ceiling. I’d been invited to a party in a place like this once, just after college, and that had not turned out well.  I had no higher hopes for this one.

Wailing Prison

{Quickly. Follow the disease.}

The ghost’s voice in my head again, had I not left him behind?  Well, in fairness, I was still 3 steps from his cell, so it is not as though he even needed to yell.  “Follow the disease?”  What does that even mean, I wanted to ask, but also I didn’t want to encourage him.  Did he mean the Argonian?  I hope that wasn’t some racist tripe… though maybe he’d said “diseased”. The fellow did look very pale and a bit withered, now that I thought about it.

I started down the tunnel, as quickly as I dared.  Sometimes others who looked like prisoners also ran past me, perhaps leaving those other cells later than I did. They didn’t stop to talk, and I did not take it as a snub; this was not the place for casual pleasantries. “Greetings, Speaker, how delightful to see you!” “Good to see you, Flavius. How is your day?” “Oh, you know, the usual. Imprisonment, impending horrible death, haunted by mad rug merchant’s ghost. The usual. You?” “The same. Never changes, does it?” “No, never does. Though the tunnels smell unusually putrid today.” “So they do, so they do. Well, best be getting on. Later, then?” “Later.”

The tunnel opened into another room with more hanging cages and piles of bones now, and large fires, and rusted weapons.  There was little usable, just bits of food, bits of what seemed like ectoplasm (if I remembered my alchemy lessons correctly), bits of people, worms and crawlers (inevitable, given all the bits).  I dutifully checked everything, salvaging anything that might remotely seem useful. My uncle Sheep Chaser taught me that a Khajiit must embrace all that the divines present him, lest they become insulted by his refusal and give him no more blessings. (And sometimes, when a Khajiit sees another failing to properly embrace their blessings, they must liberate those blessings from such unappreciative masters, so that the gifts may have a happier home that truly honors the divines. Khajiit have many such duties, and we take them seriously.)

Daedra BodiesThere were bodies in the tunnel; some were clearly prisoners like me, dressed in rags and many pale and wasted like the Argonian had been.  But others were… wrong. Not any of the races of Tamriel, they looked like the monkey people, more like mer than humans, but they were colored grey and black and red, and had pronounced horns. A name was starting to come to me, things out of tales to frighten cubs: daedra.  Not petty daedra, such as any sorcerer might summon to his needs, but higher daedra, strong willed and deadly and corrupting. They were armored, but I was afraid to try to take it; who knows what touching them might do, much less wearing them?  I thought the bones were disturbing, this was far worse. Were they guards, and this some daedric prison?  Had the escaping prisoners had killed them; if so, with what, and could I have some?

{There are weapons in the forge beyond these cells. Arm yourself!}

Well, now there’s a useful madman. Arms were sounding really good all of a sudden. Arms, and very fast legs. Good, if the ghost is going to insist on following me about, at least he can start earning his keep in my psychic space. Sure enough, the tunnel opened up into another room, decorated in the usual horror decor.  Hanging the skeleton cages over roiling steam jets was a nice addition.  (Just how big was this place, anyway? Had someone found a network of caves and turned them into a haphazard cells? I applauded their efficiency, if not their taste.)  At the other end, next to the doors, was the pale Argonian, calling out, “Don’t stop, now. Keep moving! More guards are on the way!”  More of those things? Consider me persuaded, I’m moving… as soon as I search the room. Ah ha! Tables with weapons… terribly weak, pathetic weapons, and I could make better myself given a forge and a few hours, but they were a step up from my claws. Other prisoners were running in behind me — I must have missed a passageway, there were not so many many cells in the route I’d traveled — and the Argonian called out to take a weapon and leave the rest for others.  I preferred two swords, or sword and dagger, or even two maces, but I couldn’t deny the fairness of that, so I took a sword and hoped to pick up another later.

Er-JaseenAs I reached the door, the Argonian called out again to hurry, and on contrarian impulse I paused and asked, if more guards were coming, what was he doing standing there? “Like you, I am escaping. But, since I have been here for some time, the Tall One asked me to help the newer prisoners find the way. Those who are captured will be flayed. Sadly, that will not end their torment. The Soul Shriven cannot die.”

For some reason, that term sent a shiver down my tail. Though that might have been caused by the bit about the flaying. “Soul shriven?” I asked? He waved at more prisoners and called out again, then replied to me, “We are the vestiges of people whose souls were stolen by… The God of Schemes. I dare not utter his true name in this place.”

Molag Bal. There are several Daedric Princes whose attention you do not wish to attract, and the lord of domination and enslavement is high on that list.  If Molag Bal was, in fact, involved in my predicament, things had just gotten very dire very quickly. But it explained the torture decor and the daedra bodies, and… soul stealing?

That sense I had of something missing, cut away, suddenly fit perfectly, and yet the Argonian betrayed his misunderstanding of what souls even were. Not his fault; many both common and learned make the same mistake, encouraged by men and mer who think of souls merely as a power source for magic, enchantments, and “soul gems”.  Saying that Molag Bal had stolen my soul, as if a soul were a thing that could be stolen. Was I not here, and thinking, and aware? Was not he? Were we not conversing? Thanks to the advantage of educated parents, I am not entirely unenlightened in such matters.  Where there is cognition, there is soul, therefore ours were not gone.  But a body born has many pieces of subtle energy, that are all confused together and called the soul.  There is a body’s life force, nourished by food, and weakened by disease and injury. There is the mind, filled with thought and memory and turbulent emotion. There’s the energy that we call psychic force, that can speak and cause effects at distances, and can imprint in a space to create a ghost. There is magicka, which bridges the higher cognitive spirit and the body, which can be harvested at death as that bond breaks, and stored in soul gems to power enchantments. There is the cognitive agent itself, the “I”, the seat of awareness in that lifetime, and then there is the great motivator behind all lifetimes’ “I”s, a thing upon which space and time have no hold.

[That sounds like the Egyptian concept of the soul.]

What fresh hell is this!  Yet another voice in my head?  How many of you rug merchants are there?

[Sorry, didn’t mean to interrupt.  I’m not another — ‘rug merchant’, did you call him? Heh, that’s great!  No, you’re focusing on your different aspects, and in your newly disjointed state, you’re more aware of them, so you’re hearing me.  I’m just a part of you.  Perhaps that “great motivator” part you were thinking about; bleeding through into your awareness a bit.  Just ignore me; see, Er-Jaseen’s looking at you….]

Jone and Jode, this is maddening!  Perhaps literally — I would not be the first Khajiit driven mad by moon sugar.  Though I hardly touched it last night.  When I escape from this place, I should start a journal and report these delusions; nothing is more amusing to read than the journal of a sapient mind descending into madness. It would be my gift to the literary world, a repayment for all of the books of others that I have read, and will console my parents in my inevitable demise. “Yes, poor Speaker went mad; but, at least, he was published!”

Well, whatever…  Perhaps this Daedric Prince has taken my magicka soul to power his devices, and I’m barely held together by its residue; that would explain the feeling that something is missing.  The Argonian was staring at me, and I realized that my mind had wandered. I frantically replayed his last words in my mind, “The Soul Shriven are doomed to slavery in Coldharbor for eternity, or at least until we are no longer useful.”  Casting about for a response to cover my lapse, I blurted out the first thing that came to mind, “Do they all look like you?”

My face burned beneath my fur. What an impolite question, my mother would box my ears!  But he took no offense and answered, “The longer we remain here, the less… whole we remain.  Our bodies waste away, our skin shrivels, and eventually our minds twist and lose any notion of reality. The oldest of the Soul Shriven are completely insane. We call them Ferals.”

That explained his looks: not disease, but time served. It seemed prudent to ask if these ferals were dangerous.  “Oh, yes. The lesser daedra actually fear them. Ferals have no fear of pain or death, because that is all they know. That, and eternal hunger.  They will attack and eat anything they can get their claws on, even each other.” My stomach chose that moment to growl at me, a reminder of that gnawing hunger I still felt. An effect of the absent magicka soul, if he was right, and the fate he described made mere escape sound inadequate.  Unless I could solve my condition, madness was assured.

I instinctively reached for a distraction: “You said the Tall One asked you to help?” “The half-giant, Lyris Titanborn. She leads this uprising. I do not know how or why she is here, but to the Soul Shriven, she is a gift from the Divines.”  I knew that name: the rug merchant had mentioned it. I was going to ask more, but the Argonian was starting to look impatient; he broke off again to call to the laggards to grab a weapon and move on, and he looked me full in the eyes this time as he said it.  I do not mistake the wolf’s howl for a prayer to Jone and Jode, so I thanked him for his help and wished him luck, which he returned in kind. Pathetic sword in hand, I followed the others through the door.

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Speaker’s Journal, Entry 1-1: The Hangover


Speaker To Animals
Khajiit Nightblade

(Beingness blurred, alternate existences winking in and out, choices so many choices. Races, alliances, shifting, changing, taller, lanky, patterns, does the nose have to be so pink?, no not dreads are you insane?, not a tank more a scout, the thrill of naming, Done!)

I came to with my head pounding and a weird, nagging feeling of something missing. Something I’d forgotten or misplaced or, no, cut away, and still painful around the edges.  I could feel stone under my cheek and a chill in the air.  Even without opening my eyes, I could tell: it must have been a hell of a party.

Must have, right? I was traveling with the caravan, on my way to the Summerset Isles to catch up to my parents and their trade delegation from Elsweyr. We camped for the night, there was food and ale and moon sugar and I’d stumbled into the night to take care of some business and then… Sudden flash of pain in my head, the ground coming up to meet me, blurry people in robes torches ropes a dagger pain in my chest screaming ripping

{How do you feel? Can you move?}

The voice broke through the seizure, and I bolted upright, heart pounding. A cave? A couple of burning braziers, filthy fur pallets. The floor grungy and garbage strewn, the walls soot-stained. Bones, human from the look of them — they were flat faced and too squat for the elven folk (though the Bosmer folk looked more human, those wood elves’ skulls were still longer).  There was no one else here, but there was a gate at the opening, perhaps the voice had come from outside.  I climbed shakily to my feet and staggered over to it, but it didn’t budge when I pushed. I couldn’t see a keyhole, but this was started to feel unpleasantly like a cell.  Not my first time in one of these — adolescent pranks aren’t always beloved. But the bones were troubling.


I had a kind of nagging hunger, that feeling of something missing manifesting as a hole in my gut that really wanted filling.  There was a plate with a wedge of cheese on the step before the gate; I’m not a fan of eating food whose provenance is unknown, but in this case… it was as nasty as one would expect from unidentified cheese left out on the floor, and did nothing for that nagging hunger.  Rummaging about, I found a couple of wilted radishes, that I tucked into a pocket of the threadbare prison garments I seemed to be wrapped in. There was nothing else in the room that was useful; I suppose a couple of the bones could be used as clubs, but my claws would be far more effective. Craning to see through the bars of the gate, I could only discern a large cavern beyond, and maybe a hint of other gates, but no sign of people.  I could hear a distant din of yelling, though, and it seemed like it was getting louder.

Rug Merchant GhostAt the swirl of blue light over my right shoulder, I jumped back. The image of a man formed, an old human in a cowled robe, with a staff, looking calm but worn, and strained.

{Slowly now. You’ve been through an ordeal. Take a few moments to collect yourself.}

The voice was the same as the one that had brought me to myself a few moments before. But I heard it in my head, not through my ears, and the vision’s lips did not move. Was it a ghost? It seemed to be waiting for some response from me, so I tentatively spoke, “What’s happening? Who are you?” My, so deft with language I am; my Khajiit teachers would be embarrassed by their pupil, who could not craft even a simple witticism from that question. I sound like a Nord all confused without something to beat to death with a metal club. “I’m hung over,” I whined to the teachers in my head. “Give me a minute!” They waited, with disapproving glares.

{Like you, I am a prisoner in this place, yet so much more.}

Ah ha! A prisoner. I was right, this is a cell. A cell with bones in it. Perhaps this is the ghost of one of those skeletons? I quickly ran through the things that I had disturbed in my rummaging, in case he was some of them. I did not think so, but ghosts have strange views of vengeance. I tensed for his attack, readying my claws to rake futilely at his ectoplasm before my ignominious demise.

{I am the past and the future both. I am despair, and hope. The tapestry we weave is a complex one. You cannot hope to see its pattern in its entirety. Not yet.}

Certainly this ghost is mad. A mad rug merchant, driven to haunt the cell in which he was left to rot by jailers fearful of his dementia. Why did they put me in this cursed cell, what could I have done to deserve such a fate? Perhaps, since he was a merchant, I could bargain with him. “What do you want from me?” I asked. Perhaps a mad rug merchant ghost knows a way that a mortal could escape?

{You must rescue me. And I, in turn, must rescue you. You must escape from this cell, take up arms, and protect yourself. Then, find Lyris Titanborn.}

Well, escape sounded good.  I was not sure how I could rescue a mad ghost, but if this confused creature and this Lyris chap could help me with that, I’d return the favor.  This cat pays his debts. “Lyris Titanborn? Who is that? I don’t understand…”

I was going to say, “I don’t understand how I’m supposed to escape this cell, could you help a fellow prisoner out, there?” But the ghost faded before I could finish. This is what comes of relying upon spirits: all full of “Woe to thee!” and “My doom upon thee!” and “Buy these sweet carpets!” but when push comes to shove they’re just a bit of vapor or a badly digested bit of potato. Never there when you need them.

I started to look around the cell again — perhaps I could find something to jimmy the lock? — when I realized that the noise outside the cell had gotten considerably louder while I was talking to the rug merchant. I moved back to look out the bars, when the palest Argonian I had ever seen ran up to them, did something at the gate, exclaimed, “You there, we are escaping! You must escape before the guards return,” and ran off. I immediately tried the gate, which now opened (what, he couldn’t open the gate himself, just to be sure?), and paused in the doorway to the cell to look back. “Noble ghost, I hope you find your way from here, to a place of better fabrics and restful beddings.” I genuflected, turned, and ran.

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Speaker’s Journal: An Introduction

Speaker_PortraitThe editor of this news broadsheet was most insistent that I write an introduction, if he was going to publish from my journal, and so I have agreed. I go by Speaker to Animals, and this is an account of my adventures, from the time that I awoke in a dark cell in Coldharbor, the realm of Molag Bal, my adventures in escaping that terrible place, and what has happened since.  You will find much of it difficult to believe, but that is in the nature of such things and I do not require that you do so.  Feel free to consider this purely a work of creative fiction, and I shall not blame you for it.  But I have tried to write these matters down exactly as I experienced them, my memory is quite well trained, and I have been assisted — at the suggestion of the editor and for the satisfaction of you readers — by the talents of Curwe, the well known Auridonian artist currently resident in Vulkhel Guard, whose renderings from my descriptions are so true to life that you might well be standing in these places yourselves.  But without the peril to any of your souls, of course.

I met my soon-to-be editor and publisher, Aiwendil, when he found me scribbling in the tavern in Vulkhel Guard shortly after my arrival.  I had desired to record my experiences in a journal, to better reflect upon them and to preserve a record for friends and family in case things went poorly for me.  I was only a few entries into the process when he came upon me and insisted on reading my poor words, barely more than scratchings.  His desire to publish them — in what he called the “Travelogue” section of his paper — was flattering, but seemed impractical to coordinate given that I was unlikely to be staying in one place for long. (As the events that I shall describe will explain.) However, he offered me a token that I could use to post pages to him from wherever I was, and promised a modest stipend to be left in the Queen’s Bank for me at the arrival of every entry.  Adventuring is commonly a rewarding profession, if you are not killed, but the expenses are high, and every little bit helps.  And if I was keeping a journal anyway, so little effort was added by sending a copy. Therefore, I accepted. Aiwendil assures me that the writings of a Khajiit will be a novelty to his mostly Altmer readers — High Elves not always having ready access to the minds of other races — and if it goes well we could see circulation in other lands as well.  Perhaps a book deal!  There is no saying no to such a proposal.

My friend says that there are two things I should clear up before I continue, to eliminate confusion from the reader: my name, and my grammar.  Both stem at least partly from the same causes.  Speaker to Animals is my use-name — a nickname, as you people call it.  My true name I do not share freely.  The reader may be accustomed to the common Khajiit pattern of naming, such as Bisha, or M’Aiq, or Ri’Vassa, and this is indeed the fashion of most of my people, named at their birth in our own tongue.  My own clan is different; we live on the eastern edge of Elsweyr, on the Topal Sea, and have frequent commerce with our neighbors the Argonians, and our naming habits more closely resemble theirs.

I am told that, before the coming of the monkey folk — for so we often call the humans and mer, even as you refer to us as catmen and the Argonians as lizard people — our land suffered from the depredations of daedra and all manner of unholy magics.  Not so terribly that we did not prosper, and our legends look at that as a happier time (especially in light of the wars and plagues that followed), but still, there were troubles. Because it was believed that names have power, which could give curses and possessions hold over us, our races learned ways to obfuscate names. Most of my people simply avoided claiming identity with their names, referring to themselves always in the 3rd person: “Ma’Khar thinks we should not go there,” or “It would please this one if you could pass the Alit.”  This practice has waned in some parts of our land, but it still dominates our speech and is how other races know us.  The Argonians used descriptive phrases as names, like “Swims in Rough Waters” or “Great Benefit” (in their tongue, rendered like “Gah Julan”).  My people took pages from each: we are given names by our parents at birth, but none know them and we go by use-names, sometimes bestowed by parents, sometimes by friends, sometimes chosen ourselves, and they change as we grow up (though rarely after reaching adulthood).

My father was a diplomat, my mother a trader, and we traveled all over the Empire with my two older siblings, in the company of my mother’s caravan.  Everywhere we went, my parents took us to meet people, introduced us to local schooling wherever such things were known, and generally made us as integrated  and aware of the world as could be managed.  As such, I became so comfortable with non-Khajiiti, and adopted so much of their language and patterns of speech, that when we stopped back in our native province, my cousins named me Speaker to Animals, and I have remained that since.

So you will hear no “this one”s here, but rather “I” and “me” in the common manner, and if I call you monkey people in these pages (which my publisher has sworn not to adulterate, lest my character be misrepresented in the reading) then please take it with the same fondness that you would use in calling a Khajiit child a kitten.  We do the same ourselves, and a bit of fond mockery warms the heart.  I shall continue writing this journal for my own purposes, as I began it, and you may judge me as you will.  Feel free to simply call me “Speaker”.

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