PoTM: Chapter 21, More Tea

  • Testimonials on Mushroom Towers

    By Minerva Calo, Associate Chronicler

     

    The Telvanni, the most mysterious of the Great House in all respects, features one of the most looming curiosities - both literally and figuratively - the mushroom structures which they live and work within. The House has never given an official statement about their choice of architecture, and most are too frightened by Telvanni's vast power to ask. It's common knowledge that the Telvanni Magisters value their privacy, but why not build a tower of stone or wood? I decided to ask the common folk their theories. Names have been changed to protect the speakers from Telvanni attention.

     

    I first talked to local merchants who weren't officially affiliated with the House, but often sell wares to its members. A rather exasperated Dark Elf named Verna was happy to explain her theory:

     

    "It's the smell, that's what it is! They're obsessed with this Three-forsaken stench. Can't get enough of it. I think there's something about their biology, something different from other Dark Elves. Makes them just crave the smell of mushrooms, so much so that they magicked them into towers. I've heard they sit up there all day and just inhale the fumes. Me? I just get headaches. What's wrong with the fresh scent of pine, or stone, or any other honest building material? Sometimes I think I'd rather see the towers made of silt strider dung than of moldy old mushrooms!"

     

    An Argonian inn-keeper, Makes-Some-Waves, believed that the purpose was more functional:

     

    "Well, we all know that the Telvanni are isolationists. They can't even be bothered to attend the inter-council meetings. My guess is that they eat the mushrooms, to save on trips to the market. Only makes sense, doesn't it? Mushroom stew, mushroom pie, mushroom gravy! There's a lot you can make with bits of mushroom. We just don't notice because their slaves gather the stuff discreetly. Wouldn't want to ruin their image by being mushroom fanatics, would they? Well, more fanatical I suppose than simply having your entire house built out of the stuff."

     

    A rather friendly Dark Elf merchant by the name of Hader had a vastly different opinion of what the mushrooms were used for:

     

    "I've heard that mushrooms are a powerful aphrodisiac. Really makes you wonder what those Magisters do all day up in those towers. I've thought about taking up my own collection, for purely studious purposes, of course. But I'd rather not attract the attention of the homeowners. Telvanni mages aren't very giving Dark Elves, even when well pleased. And I suspect they might be pleased more often than they let on, if you catch my drift. By the way, you did say that you were changing my name for this, didn't you?"

     

    The merchants who cater to Telvanni were interesting sources of material and raised many questions for me to consider, but I found myself drawn to those who worked directly for the House. Though most slaves were unwilling to speak to me, I found an Orc hireling who had this to say:

     

    "Well, who else is using [the mushrooms]? If they're there, they're there. Might as well make some use of them. Only useful decision the Telvanni ever made, truth be told."

     

    Maybe the truth was that simple. The Telvanni found this native flora and simply wished to make use of it. A matter of convenience seems to be the most plausible theory I had heard, but was it the truth? I had but one more source I could find who would speak their mind, a Khajiit trader by the name of Rumoc, who explained:

     

    "This one always thought the towers were built to intimidate outlanders. Rumoc was most unsettled when he set up business in [retracted]. Having such a strange tower looming above you. Perhaps it represents the Telvanni themselves, yes? Imposing, mysterious, almost haunting. The Telvanni do not wish to welcome ones such as us to their lands. It is in their best interest to keep us frightened."

     

    I could get no official comment from a member of House Telvanni, other than a few strongly worded requests that I cease my inquiries. But my curiosity cannot be contained by mere threats, and the mystery of the Telvanni is something I will always find myself attempting to unravel. I take heart in the fact that even under the House's oppressive eye, so many shared with me their thoughts and theories, each more interesting and thought-provoking than the last.

     

    5th of Morning Star, 4E 204

     

    Grulmar was leaning over a cooking pot hovering above a fire, watching the water in the slowly reach the boiling point, watching the small bubbles rise from the bottom of the pot to the water’s surface. They were literally shooting up just like stars were falling down, fast and without thinking what would happen once they found their destination.

     

    He was staring into the water while he was playing with a throwing knife, spinning it between the fingers of his right hand. Somewhere in the corner of his mind he knew he was doing that, but he was actually barely noticing it, his fingers doing all the work on their own.

     

    Grulmar of Tel Mithryn. Doesn't sound that bad. But just...meh.

     

    The New Life Festival had been really boring this year. It almost seemed like no one really gave a damn about it among the Telvanni. So Grulmar had been mostly minding himself the whole time, studying and practicing. What really irked him though was that little sissy called Talvas. He had been holed up in the Steward's house the whole time, not coming out, barely eating and such things.

     

    Grulmar gro-Mithryn? Nah, too Orcish.

     

    Like...Grulmar understood what it meant to lose someone, sure. He knew that very well, but as far as he could remember, he certainly didn't go through such a depressive phase. Seriously, just looking at Talvas' dead face was pretty much ruining Grulmar's whole day. It was that depressing.  

     

    Varona got herself killed. So tuskin’ what? He just didn't understand why Talvas had to blame himself for that. Alright, maybe he did understand why the Dunmer was blaming himself, but couldn't he just blame himself without all that depressing nonsense? A certain Orc was trying to hone his magickal skills and all that negativity was...distracting. Shit. Now that sounds like good ol' Grim the tuskin’ Rothan.

     

    Just one day after the New Life Festival Neloth had called Grulmar to his laboratory, saying something about the state of things at Tel Mithryn and that it couldn’t continue like that. That Grulmar would finally be rewarded for all his work and the Orc certainly felt pride at that moment.

     

    Grulmar the Retainer of House Telvanni. Nah, too long.

     

    So yeah, he was rewarded for all his hard work.

     

    His fingers suddenly lost their rhythm and he hissed in pain as the knife cut his skin and then fell into the hot water, the drops splashing onto Grulmar's other hand. He jumped from the chair and waved his hand around, biting his lip. “Tuskin' shit!” he cursed out loud, which got the attention of Ulves, who raised his eyebrows in amusement.

     

    He was accepted into House Telvanni. Formally accepted.

     

    Grulmar Telvanni. That actually sounds good.

     

    The Orc looked at his hand, watched how it shook and he was slowly starting to feel dizzy. He sank into the chair again, now noticing both hands shake as the withdrawal was slowly taking over.

     

    Grulmar the damn steward of tuskin’ Tel Mithryn! he growled in his mind, clenching his trembling hands into fists as his anger rose. ‘Now go and fetch me my tea, Orc!’ were the first words that came out of that Telvanni tusker's mouth when he accepted him into the House. Not as a student or apprentice. As a tuskin’ teamaker! Who the tusk ever heard of an Orc steward?

     

    His forehead was slowly beading with cold sweat and he looked into the pot, watching the few drops of blood flowing on the water's surface, slowly mixing with it, and at the knife at the bottom of the pot. Tuskin’ bloody tusker! His head was slowly beginning to hurt and the room suddenly started spinning. Grulmar rubbed his temple with the knuckles of his right hand, then scratching his forehead.

     

    Was it all worth it? Just suffering all that with the hopes of better things to come? And am I thinkin’ about the tuskin’ job or the tuskin’ withdrawal? Can't even think straight!

     

    He reached into a pouch at his belt, pulling out a small vial with blue liquid. His savior. His killer. He looked into that bright blue liquid, watching the tiny sparkles flow in it and frowned. Just damn it! He opened it and took a proper swig.

     

    It was as if lightning hit him, the energy sparkling behind his eyes and he took a deep breath. He felt so alive! He rubbed his eyes and blinked several times, looking at the knife in the pot. He shook his head and brought forth the magicka, levitating the knife out of the pot and set it down on the floor, letting it cool off.

     

    He took a ladle and used it to pour the now boiling water into a cup with Canis Root in it. He was pouring until it was full and then he just sat there, watching the roots float in the water. The water still had a slightly red tint from his blood and he grimaced. Ya think he’s goin’ to notice? Then he snorted and shook his head. Hardly. He wouldn't notice even if I pissed into the cup.

     

    “How much longer?” he looked at Ulves who frowned and came to him, sniffing to the tea.

     

    “Just little bit longer,” the cook murmured. “Watch the roots and as soon as you see them letting out fluid you remove them from the tea. Too little and it won't have any flavour. Too much and you'll probably paralyze Master Neloth for few hours.”

     

    “Sounds like fun,” the Orc snorted which prompted the cook to shake his head, going back to his table where he was cutting vegetables.

     

    “You're really the worst steward ever,” Ulves shook his head in disbelief.

     

    “Yeah, don't I know it?” Grulmar shrugged and narrowed his eyes when he noticed Ulves taking something yellow in his hands. A vegetable? Fruit?

     

    “What's that?” he asked out loud, pointing at the yellow thing.

     

    “That's a banana,” was the answer he got. “A fruit that grows in certain parts of Hammerfell and Elsweyr.”

     

    “Looks like a dick.”

     

    Ulves raised his eyebrows and the knife hovered just above the dick-like banana. “I can assure you, it doesn't taste like dick.”

     

    Now it was Grulmar's turn to raise his eyebrows. “And how do ya know that? Ever had one?”

     

    Tel Mithryn's cook frowned and put on one of those famous Dunmeri looks of repulsion. Ya know, that look when ya see a nasty bug crawling over yer leg and y’are not sure if ya should crush it ‘cause that way it will stain yer pants or if ya should even touch it. Ulves shook his head and sighed. “Master Neloth certainly must be insane if he made you a steward.” He then narrowed his eyes, as if he just remembered something. He reached behind his apron and pulled out a paper, handing it over to Grulmar.

     

    “What's that?” the Orc asked with raised eyebrows.

     

    “A list. Of things we need.”

     

    “And what am I supposed to do ‘bout that?”

     

    The cook rubbed his eyebrows now, clearly annoyed, but Grulmar still wasn't understanding what was he getting at. “You're a steward. One of your duties is to make sure Tel Mithryn is well supplied. That means buying supplies, if you still don't understand, steward.”

     

    Grulmar bared his tusks, not liking that tone at all. Like I was completely stupid or somethin’. He took the paper and looked at the list. “Since when are the tuskin’ cooks above stewards? Shouldn't I be bossin’ ya around?”

     

    “Just get the supplies if you want to eat ever again,” Ulves growled. “The first part of the list are things we need now. The second part are things that we want to order for the next time you visit Raven Rock.”

     

    Grulmar’s eyebrows shot up again, finally realizing the severity of his situation. “Wait, Raven Rock? But there's that tuskin’ loan shark-”

     

    “You're a Telvanni, a steward of Tel Mithryn,” Ulves interrupted him resolutely. “Start acting like one. Some loan shark won't dare to touch you. And the tea's ready. You should bring it to Master Neloth now.”

     

    Grulmar understood that was his cue to leave and just shook his head, taking the roots out of the cup before taking it into his hands. “If I'd known the steward job is all about listenin’ to bloody cooks barkin’ all the time I would have thrown myself off a cliff.”

     

    “Just make sure you land on rocks and not in water,” Ulves quipped and Grulmar mouthed a silent laughter, grimacing like an idiot during that, as he headed for the door. Idiot. He carefully closed it behind him, making sure he didn’t spill a single drop of the tea.

     

    “You!” a woman's voice sounded and Grulmar nearly jumped out of his pants - also nearly spilling that tea but he managed to keep at least his hand steady. He turned to see Elynea coming towards him through the ash, a frown on her face.

     

    “What?” he barked, not really in the mood. If she sends me on another tuskin’ chase for taproots, I'm goin’ to splash the tea in her face.

     

    She was about to hand him when she probably noticed his frown. “When are you heading to Raven Rock? I need these ingredients as soon as possible,” Elynea said with an annoyed tone. Almost as if everyone in Tel Mithryn was repulsed by just talking to him.

     

    “Oh, for tusk's sake, give me a break. What's today? The day we all bugger the shit out of the new Orc steward? Why don’t ya-”

     

    She tossed the paper at him and it hit his chest before dropping into the ash. “Just get those things!” she growled and turned on her heels, heading back to her apothecary.

     

    Grulmar was gritting his teeth, already thinking about murder. He then took a deep breath and spat into the ash, lifting the paper from the ground with a sigh. “Yeah, y’ave certainly won it, matey.” He started walking towards the tower, murmuring under his breath. “Y’are a big boy now, got promoted from a low-life thief and mage-bungler to a tuskin’ teamaker and a mule everyone just barks at! Good job, Grulmar, just tuskin’ good job, ya can pat yerself on yer shoulder.”

     

    As he opened the door to the tower he resisted the urge to slap his forehead. He forgot his knife in the kitchen! I hope Ulves won't start choppin’ vegetable with it…

     

    Seriously, the nerve of these people! He was the steward! Shouldn't they treat him with respect and obey him? But apparently, they didn't give a crap about that, not when he was just a simple Orc to them. How could anyone treat an Orc with respect? Maybe they held a higher position in the Great House Telvanni, maybe he still was beneath them. How would he know what ranks they actually held?

     

    He focused on the ring on his finger and started levitating up the mushroom shaft towards Neloth’s laboratory. When he reached the top, he was immediately assaulted by an awful stench of something being gutted. And he wasn't exactly wrong. He noticed Neloth standing beside a table with...something dead and cut into pieces lying on it. Grulmar frowned and looked around. Where's Mahtii?

     

    Neloth whirled around and his eyes spotted the Orc and then tea he was carrying. “It is about bloody time. Where in the Oblivion were you to take so long with that tea?” The Dunmer's fingers flickered and the cup left Grulmar's hand, levitating towards Neloth.

     

    “Teeeeeee,” Mahtii suddenly shouted from under the table with the corpse and Grulmar let out a sigh of relief. Of sorts.

     

    The magister tasted the tea and his brows furrowed. Uh oh. “What did you do to the tea?” he asked, looking at the Orc. Grulmar was quickly trying to come up with some very elaborate story of how Ulves dropped a blood into the water or something, but Neloth didn't even let him mutter a single word. “It's not so bad. Surprising. With you being an Orc and all that.”

     

    For a second, Grulmar was of a mind to tell Neloth the truth, that he cut himself and a few drops of his blood fell into the water. The Dunmer would spit the tea out no doubt. Though it was probably better receiving this really weird and awkward compliment then getting insulted for being clumsy and idiot and whatever else the magister would pull out of his arse.

     

    Grulmar grimaced and his tongue touched the tip of his tongue. “Master Neloth?”

     

    The magister turned around again with a frown, sipping his tea. He raised his left eyebrow. “Yes? What is it?”

     

    The Orc licked his lips, thinking on how to start. “Well, the thin’ is that the others, Ulves and Elynea were barkin’ at me to go Raven Rock for supplies-”

     

    “Ah!” Neloth nodded. “I understand.” He turned around and produced a paper that levitated into Grulmar's hand. “Here is my list of things I require from Raven Rock. Mostly Soul Gems, but only Grand ones and Black Soul Gems too, if they're able to be acquired.”

     

    Grulmar stared at the paper, feeling his face slowly burning as he turned red, his blood boiling. So that's all I tuskin’ am? A mule?! He was about to say that out loud but bit his lip instead, the self-preservation in him kicking in. He certainly didn't want to give Neloth a pretence to blast him to Oblivion. Or something similar. “And how am I supposed to pay for all this stuff?” he said instead.

     

    The Telvanni magister narrowed his eyes. “Why should I care? I never cared how Varona payed for it, I won't start now. You're the steward, figure it out.” Then he waved his hand, dismissing Grulmar, and focused on the butchery work lying on his table.

     

    The Orc levitated down the shaft, somewhat shaken. It was then the realization really struck him. He was the steward of Tel Mithryn. He was in charge of the day to day business, as well as acquiring the supplies needed for the residents. And to do that he needed money, money the magister wouldn't give him. I'm bloody supposed to acquire money too!

     

    Tel Mithryn's tusked.

     

    He heard the door behind him close and turned around to see Mahtii shuffliing out, his lower lip protruding in something that could have been only a mimicry of grumpy Neloth. “Teeee?”

     

    Grulmar felt his eye twitch. “No tuskin’ tea!” he growled and the Riekling lowered his head, cowering in front of him, and Grulmar sighed after seeing that. He rubbed his eye with his palm and loudly inhaled through his nose. “Sorry, little guy,” he murmured. “Just gettin’ fed up by all this bullshit.”

     

    “Sheeeet,” Mahtii repeated and Grulmar nodded.

     

    “Yeah.” He looked at the steward's house where Talvas was holed up and felt his jaws clench. “Plus I have to figure out how to pay for the supplies. And where to get more money, cause I have no damn clue where Varona got it.”

     

    “Vrooona,” Mahtii pointed towards the steward's house and Grulmar shook his head. He looked at the house and then narrowed his eyes. She had to get the money somewhere. Couldn't be easy. What if she left a stash behind? Or at least some clue? He quickly ran towards the house with Mahtii right behind him.

     

    He barged inside, noticing first that Talvas was sitting on her old bed. The Dunmer just sat there, staring at the wall, not even flinching when the door loudly slammed. He looked at Grulmar for a second and then resumed staring at the wall. “Go away,” he said weakly.

     

    The Orc shrugged as he went to the drawers and cupboards on the other side of the room. “Can't do.” He began opening them, tossing the things out, looking for pouches of gold, or  anything that might help him figure out a solution to his situation.

     

    “Stop it,” the Dunmer apprentice said more strongly now, but Grulmar ignored him as he rummaged through a cupboard full of clothes, tossing them out. “I said stop it!” The Orc was then abruptly stopped by a hand pulling at his shoulder. He spun around and the palm of his hand struck Talvas' cheek, making him stumble few steps back. The Dunmer's eyes grew wide with surprise as he instinctively raised his hand to the hurt spot.

     

    “Why?” Grulmar growled, baring his tusks at Talvas. He was thinking about Decimus in that moment, about the days after his death, how he had to cope with it. And he certainly didn’t sit on his arse doing nothing, he kept himself busy. If Decimus was in my shoes right now, he wouldn't tuskink mess around. “What are ya goin’ to do ‘bout that, huh?” He slapped Talvas again and this time he saw small fires of anger flickering in the Dunmer's eyes. “She's tuskin’ dead, matey. Ya can't do anythin’ ‘bout that, can’t change it. I'm the steward of Tel Mithryn now and this is my tuskin’ house.”

     

    It was little bit cold from him, but he was angry and frustrated. With how the rest of Tel Mithryn was treating him, with Talvas drowning in that melancholic nonsense. Maybe a little bit of cold was precisely what they all needed.

     

    Talvas blinked several times, confused. “Steward?”

     

    “Yes!” Grulmar snapped, stepping closer to Talvas who narrowed his back, clenching his jaws in defiance of the Orc's anger. “And I'm tired of this melancholic mournin’ bullshit. So either pull yer head out yer arse, matey, and help me figure out how to tuskin’ pay for all of Neloth's shit, ‘cause Varona isn't goin’ to fix that. She's tuskin’ dead. So pull yer shit together or get the tusk out of my house.”

     

    For a moment it seemed like Talvas was going to summon all Oblivion and rain it down on Grulmar's arse, anger flashing in the Dunmer's eyes as the Orc's words were clearly getting under his skin. Yeah, I'm good at that. Gettin’ under people's skin. The Dunmer then just grunted and walked away, slamming the door behind him as he left the house.

     

    Mahtii was watching all that with horror on his face and he twitched when the doors loudly banged. “Sheeeet?” he asked carefully and Grulmar shook his head.

     

    He then waved his hand dismissively. “Nah, it's goin’ to be alright, matey. He just needed a slap, to wake up. Though he might be pissed for a while, but he'll snap out of it, trust me. Now search the drawers, yeah? Look for shiny things.”

     

    “Shyyyyneee!” the Riekling squealed in joy as he began rummaging through the drawers while Grulmar was looking through the ones on the other side of the room.

     

    Grulmar reached the lowest drawer and was met with a few leather pouches, which seemed to be full of gold. When he opened one he found out there were precious gems too. He shook his head in disbelief. Where the tusk did ya get all this, Varona? Been stealin’ from the old codger? He noticed a book among the pouches and lifted it up.

     

    He sat down on the bed, opening the book, narrowing his eyes. There was everything in there. What Varona bought in Raven Rock, how much gold it cost and other things usually written in ledgers just like this one. But there wasn’t a single mention of where the gold came from. He was scanning through the pages with a frown and then suddenly on one page he found a folded paper.

     

    The Orc took it and unfolded it, reading through the words.

     

    He realized his mouth was gaping open as he stared at the paper, at what was written on it. “Well, slap my arse and call me an Orc princess,” he murmured, covering his mouth with his palm, breathing through his nose. “Varona, ya clever bitch!”


     

Comments

12 Comments   |   KaiserSoSay and 6 others like this.
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  October 10
    Good thing Grulmar is good at 'acquiring' things, though the image of him dressed like a princess is burning my mental retinas now, thanks Karver...
    • The Lorc of Flowers
      The Lorc of Flowers
      Exuro
      Exuro
      Exuro
      Good thing Grulmar is good at 'acquiring' things, though the image of him dressed like a princess is burning my mental retinas now, thanks Karver...
        ·  October 10
      You're welcome :D
  • Teineeva
    Teineeva   ·  October 3
    Damnit, after all our musing on how Tel Mithryn got their supplies I was really hoping to see how you fixed that issue. Anyway; great read. Also: Grulmar Gro-Mithryn doesn't sound half bad, I can get why Grul doesn't like it with him being an outcast and ...  more
  • Paws
    Paws   ·  September 30
    Best steward ever :D Grul's going to do a bang-up job handling the household, of that I' certain. No way will he tusk it up. He's as empathetic as ever, too. It's funny but had he been born a dark elf he'd have made a great Telvanni.
    • The Lorc of Flowers
      The Lorc of Flowers
      Paws
      Paws
      Paws
      Best steward ever :D Grul's going to do a bang-up job handling the household, of that I' certain. No way will he tusk it up. He's as empathetic as ever, too. It's funny but had he been born a dark elf he'd have made a great Telvanni.
        ·  September 30
      Yeah, Grulmar doing bang-up job. That´s precisely him :D
  • A Shadow Under the Moons
    A Shadow Under the Moons   ·  September 30
    HE CUT- BLOOD- SERVED- GAH- BANANAS- HRRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHH
    *starts frothing about the mouth at Grulmar's disrespect for proper tea etiquette*
    Well, at least Neloth didn't find it half bad.
    • The Lorc of Flowers
      The Lorc of Flowers
      A Shadow Under the Moons
      A Shadow Under the Moons
      A Shadow Under the Moons
      HE CUT- BLOOD- SERVED- GAH- BANANAS- HRRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHH
      *starts frothing about the mouth at Grulmar's disrespect for proper tea etiquette*
      Well, at least Neloth didn't find it half bad.
        ·  September 30
      I bet you liked the banana joke... :D And why am I not surprised you came here preaching about proper tea etiquette? :D
      • KaiserSoSay
        KaiserSoSay
        The Lorc of Flowers
        The Lorc of Flowers
        The Lorc of Flowers
        I bet you liked the banana joke... :D And why am I not surprised you came here preaching about proper tea etiquette? :D
          ·  September 30
        To be honest, I didn't realize there 'were' bananas in Elder Scrolls.
        • The Lorc of Flowers
          The Lorc of Flowers
          KaiserSoSay
          KaiserSoSay
          KaiserSoSay
          To be honest, I didn't realize there 'were' bananas in Elder Scrolls.
            ·  September 30
          Elsweyr definitely has them, Hammerfell most likely too. That kind of exotic food that is exported to other provinces for good money. 
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  September 30
    Great to see a chapter that explores the inner workings of being in the House, that says that money doesn't grow on mushroom towers, and that tea flavored with blood is extra yum! :D
  • KaiserSoSay
    KaiserSoSay   ·  September 30
    Tea? Why thank you. :) (C)
    • The Lorc of Flowers
      The Lorc of Flowers
      KaiserSoSay
      KaiserSoSay
      KaiserSoSay
      Tea? Why thank you. :) (C)
        ·  September 30
      (6)