The Curtain Falls on the First Act

  • Salen sat in his favorite chair, surrounded by bottles of cheap wine. His face was weathered and beginning to wrinkle, his back began to hurt if he sat reading for more than half an hour, and his ashen skin had more scars than he could count. After 254 years, he was showing his age.

     

    This was particularly bitter him, as he had spent his life in service to Boethiah. He had bested foes and risked his life for the entertainment of his Prince, but now he was useless. Salen knew that to fight in his master’s name and for his entertainment now was certain death. There were younger, stronger combatants to do that for him. With this realization, he drank. Preferably until death; he saw no point in living without purpose.

     

    Halfway through his first bottle of the cheapest wine he could find in Chorrol, he thought he heard whispers. At first they were quiet, but very rapidly the grew louder until they surrounded him. Salen looked around his home, but he saw nothing. Passing it off as a product of the wine, he cautiously put the bottle down.

    “What’s in this stuff? Already hearing things…” Salen asked himself before trailing off.

     

    In the now-silent night, there was a very loud knock at his door. Salen jumped out of his chair in surprise. There was a second set of knocks.

    “Wh.. who’s there?” he squeaked.

     

    “Me. Open up.” It was his acolyte Drals.

     

    Salen shuffled over to the door and opened it, relieved to have a trusted friend with him. The whispers had made him terribly jumpy.

    “He asked for you to meet him. By name.” Drals said.

     

    “Who?”

     

    “He did. I prayed to him, and he asked me to have you to go to the shrine immediately.”

     

    Salen was baffled. To be asked for by name by Boethiah was a great honor. He thanked Drals and changed into his priest robes. A short walk north of Chorrol brought him to a shallow cave in which he had set up a shrine many years ago. He knelt before the table and candles and prayed to Boethiah.

     

    There was a shift in the air. Salen felt an object of great power near him. It commanded his attention, forced fear and awe and courage into his very being all at once. Boethiah was near.

    “How might I serve you, Lord?”

     

    “Ah, Salen. I have one last task for you before your mortal body gives out. Go now to the Alik’r. There you shall find a camp of explorers, who have an item of mine. Bring it back to me, and shall show you the benefits of being my Champion.”

     

    Salen was perplexed; for centuries Boethiah's Champion was determined by the Tournament of the Ten Bloods. For Boethiah to forgo that and name offer the title to Salen for retrieving an object, it must have meant a great deal to him.

    “Master, what is the item you seek?”

     

    Boethiah was silent a moment.

    “It is an artifact of great importance to me. A gold chalice, gifted to me at the dawn of time. It was stolen from a long forgotten shrine in the Alik'r. Now go, I have little patience for mortals.”

     

    Boethiah's power faded away, and Salen knew he had returned to Oblivion to wait.

     

    It was all very intriguing to the old priest. Boethiah was not usually one to be sentimental. In fact, he had never seen the Prince display any emotion except anger and mild amusement. Salen also wracked his brain for who may have gifted him a chalice that was so important to him, but could not fathom who it might have been. However, he knew better than to question the instructions of a god, and accepted the quest.

     

    It had been many years since he had travelled very far from home. He had also never been to the Alik’r, but he was able to guess at what he might need; three filled water skins, a polished sword, and a suit of leather armor later, he left Chorrol and began the trek west to Hammerfell. The Colovian Highlands proved difficult to navigate but were fairly devoid of enemies. Once he crossed into Hammerfell, however, he ran across more bandits and soldiers than he expected. Salen often had to stay off the road for fear of an ambush or being stopped by a patrol. The tan grasses of the Colovian Highlands slowly gave way to greener, yet sparser, foliage found in north-eastern Hammerfell.

     

    After about a week of travelling through the countryside, he reached the city of Elinhir. It was an ancient city near the borders of both Cyrodiil and Skyrim. A guardsman opened the gate for him, and he walked inside. He found that, unlike towns in many other provinces, there were no shops. Instead, all buying and selling was done at outdoor market stalls or in small tents. Many exotic smells and sounds assaulted him at once, and Salen soon found himself somewhat overwhelmed.

     

    The first thing he did was get a drink of water from the town well. After many days of hiking through the brush, a cool drink was very refreshing. After he finished, he looked around the stalls for food. He wanted something that would stay fresh and be easily packed, but he didn’t know where to even start. The foods and spices were so foreign to him, so colorful and distinct, that he barely recognized anything as even being edible. He eventually swallowed his pride and asked for advice. A local swordsman pointed him to salted and seasoned crocodile steaks, which he found tough but otherwise acceptable, and cactus, which was quite bland without the various spices the locals put on it and which he bought a small bag of. He briefly thought of hiring a guide, but decided against it to not anger Boethiah.

     

    As he travelled west, the climate grew increasingly hotter and arid. He found himself needing to stop in small villages to gather more water more often than he liked.  However, the closer he came to the desert, the villages became few and far between. A little over two weeks since leaving Elinhir, he came upon the widely agreed upon edge of the great Alik’r. He knew that once he entered, there would be very little opportunity to rest in safety. The great desert was filled with dangerous creatures and criminals fleeing justice. If he ran out of water, it meant death. If he lost his way, it would also mean death. Steeling himself for the hike ahead, he wrapped a cloth around his head in the traditional Redguard fashion to keep sand out of his eyes and mouth, then crossed the threshold.

     

    He was only five days into his journey across the dunes when he heard footsteps running towards him in the sand. Before he could react, he was shoved to the ground and pinned down. His mouth filled with sand and he felt something pop under his torso. He heard a short blade come unsheathed, and Salen feared that this would be his end. However, the assailant merely cut his coinpurse loose and ran away. Salen stood and began to give chase, but soon gave up. He knew that he would never be able to catch the thief as the deep sand prevented him from moving quickly. Besides, he figured that he would have little use for coin in the wilderness. He went to brush the dirt off his leather armor and felt clumps of wet sand clinging to it. Panicking, he looked down to his belt and his worst fears were confirmed; his waterskins had popped under his stomach when he fell.

     

    He was waterless.

     

    Salen knew he had two options; one was to push on and hope the group of travellers he sought would give him supplies, or he could turn back and hope he made it to a town before he dehydrated. Unsure of what to do, he prayed. He plead Boethiah for guidance, yet none came. The Lord of Conspiracy and Deceit helped those who proved strong, and he had proven weak. Desperate for answers, he asked the two other Reclamations, the Divines, and in a state of panic, even resorted to praying to the old Tribunal for help. None came.

     

    Finally, he decided it was best simply to continue. If he succeeded, he would win back the favor of his god. If he failed, he wouldn’t live long enough to know it. He continued further into the Alik’r until nightfall. Once the sun set, he curled up into a ball next the tallest sand dune he could find and slept. Howls and other threatening sounds kept him awake for most of the night.

     

    When Salen awoke in the morning, he was already thirsty. He struggled to get to his feet, and felt a headache coming on. In the heat of the late morning, he was already dehydrating. He stumbled on until noon, when he could go no further. His mouth felt like the very sand he crawled over and his head felt like it had been split open. His eyes throbbed with his headache and felt scorched by the sun. In many ways, he wished the thief had just slit his throat. He dropped to his knees and looked all around. He could see nothing but sand and heard only wind and shifting dust.

     

    It was then, in the distance, he saw it; a small black dot moving towards him. Whether it was a bandit or a friend, he no longer cared. He tried to call out, but his voice was too hoarse to manage it. When this figure noticed him, it jogged towards him best it could. In what he thought to be his final moments, Salen fell to the ground, and baked in the sun. As he lost consciousness, he was just aware of being dragged through the sand by two large hands.

     

    Salen woke suddenly. He was confused, at first, because he was not out baking in the sun. Instead, he was in a small tent. A half used healing potion was next to his bedroll, and his mouth no longer felt like it was on fire. Judging by the temperature and light from outside, he could tell it was the evening, though he didn’t know of what day. He sat up and crawled out of the canvas tent.

     

    Outside, there was a group sitting by a campfire. Two were Altmer, though they were very different from each other. One had the typical blonde hair of her people and wore a mage’s robes. She had a staff on her back and a dagger at her side. The other had uncharacteristically dark brown hair. He had a pointed nose and green eyes. The mer wore a relatively light steel cuirass over a leather tunic and carried a sword and shield.

     

    Next to the Altmer sat a dark haired and hammer-wielding Redguard in a cloth tunic typical if his people. He squinted against the setting sun and kept his face hidden in the shadow of his hood. To the side of him was a tan-colored Khajiit in line pants and sheepskin boots, exposing his furry chest.

    “Um… hello.” Salen said. The group all turned to him. The male Altmer stood upon noticing him.

     

    “Oh, you’re awake! Good. I found you half-dead out there, brought you back to the camp. Might I ask your name?” he said in a somewhat worried tone.

     

    “Salen.” he stated bluntly.

     

    “Ah. Well I’m Almenar, that’s Luarale, Ma’Dato, and Azast” he explained, pointing to each of the others. “Luarale healed you up. Are you feeling well?”

     

    “Uh.. yes, thank you”.

    Almenar led him over to the fire and handed him a plate of food and a tankard of water. Azast looked at him suspiciously, and both Laurale and Ma’Dato completely ignored him, instead choosing to patrol just out of the camp, watching for any roaming bands of marauders. Salen ate quickly, and handed Almenar the plate when he was finished. Almenar took the plate to a tent, leaving the Redguard and the Dunmer alone at the fire.

     

    “Well Salen, where are you travelling to?” Azast inquired in a deep, harsh voice. “Rather odd for a Dark Elf to be wandering the Alik’r.”

     

    Salen paused for a moment. He tried to think of an excuse for his being there.

    “I’m a merchant on my way to Sentinel” he finally managed to say weakly.

     

    “You have no goods.”

     

    “Uh, yes. I was robbed by bandits and lost my way”. It wasn’t the entire truth, but it was not entirely wrong.

     

    Ma’Dato, who had been listening from the edge of the camp looked over at him. He squinted until his yellow eyes were tiny slivers against his tan fur.

    “Bandits! This one hates bandits!” He spat for emphasis, but it was more strange than threatening to Salen.

     

    Laurle looked at him, amused. “Ma’Dato, you were a bandit.”

     

    “This one thinks you are most crazy.”

     

    Azast chuckled. “What about when you suggested we raid that Ash’abah caravan?”

     

    The Khajiit frowned. “This one wants to stop talking.” With that, he walked away and sat far from the fire. Laurlale followed him to calm him to calm him down. Azast turned his attention back to Salen.

     

    “What kind of goods were you carrying, elf?”

     

    “Oh, you know… things. Various things. I'm a general merchant.”

     

    Salen became worried. He was grateful to have been rescued, but it was obvious that the Redguard did not believe his story. Azast slowly rose and, continuing to watch Salen, went to his tent.

    “Well then, I hope you didn't lose too many 'things’. I’m going to bed. It’s late.”

     

    Almenar walked back to the fire and sat across from his guest. In the light, Salen noticed that despite his cheerful attitude, his eyes were tired. He looked up to the stars and lay back.

    “Hm. There’s the Tower” he observed softly, more to himself than to anyone else in the camp.

     

    Salen looked up at the sky. Sure enough, there was the Tower constellation shining back at them.

     

    “That marks a year since I left home.” Almenar lamented. He seemed saddened by the fact he had been gone so long. “Maybe I should hang up my sword and go back to Winterhold.”

     

    “You’re an adventurer, then?” Salen asked, putting emphasis on the word “adventurer”.

     

    Almenar slowly nodded. He had been traveling with Ma’Dato since his expedition in the north of Cyrodiil, and over time the two of them had travelled with many groups. The pair's teaming with Azast and Luarale was simply the most recent, and the longest lasting. Almenar explained his situation; his departure from the College of Winterhold, his adventures in ancient Ayleid cities and the hunt for the Uderfrykte of Dive Rock.

    “Laurale we met in the Imperial City. She had been kicked out of the College of Whispers for dealing with members of the Synod. Azast we picked up in Sentinel; he offered to guide us across the Alik'r. We don’t do much exploring anymore. Mostly we just pick up ancient trinkets and sell them off to collectors.”

     

    “Any good finds recently?” Salen asked his host.

     

    Almenar shrugged. “Not much. A few old bits and odd pieces of junk. Nothing worth much except a gold cup I found next to an old statue half-buried in the sand.”

     

    Salen could not believe his ears. Not only am I alive, but I’ve found Boethiah’s cup! he thought. He and Almenar talked a while, as he waited for the others to go to bed. One by one they did until Salen was the only one awake. He put the fire out and slowly looked around. He was certain that the chalice would be stored in Almenar's tent. Salen crept over to it and poked his head in. There was a small sack in the corner across from his bedroll, where Almenar slept peacefully. He silently walked over to it and dug through the pile of useless old junk until he saw the familiar gleam of gold. He removed the chalice as quietly as possible and took it outside. It seemed to glow in the moonlight, it’s embedded jewels reflecting the crescent moons.

     

    Salen ran excitedly through the desert. If I can just perform the ritual, he thought, I’ll be home free!

     

    He stopped a good distance from the camp and lay his sword in front of him. He drew some daedric letters in the sand on either side of it and muttered some words. A voice he knew well answered his summons.

    “Ah, Salen. You have my cup… very good. I’ll take that”.

     

    The gold chalice disappeared with a purple glow.

     

    “I think this time I shall keep it close at hand.” Boethiah mused to his servant. “I hold it very dear to me. Now then, your reward; do not move.”

     

    Boethiah vanished, presumably to prepare his reward.

     

    Salen thought he heard a sound behind him. A slight shifting of the sands, like a person stumbling. He listened intently for another noise, but non came. He brushed it off as a trick of the wind. Boethiah now spoke out once again, saying;

    “Finally, you're here. Had you kept me waiting any longer, I would've had you killed. Get on with it.”

     

    Salen was perplexed. Boethiah was clearly not talking to him anymore. He tried to stand, starting to sense something wrong, but felt the point of a blade press against his back between his shoulders.

    “Stand up.”

     

    He knew from the voice that it was Azast. Salen stood and turned around with his hands up. Azast had exchanged his warhammer for a scimitar, which he gleefully pointed at Salen’s chest.

    “You thought you were special, old man? You thought the mighty Boethiah needed your help? Hah! Fool; you are nothing but a plaything to the Lord of Plots”. Azast’s eyes reflected the gleam of his sword in the moonlight, and a twisted smile crept across his face.

     

    “You serve him as well, do you?” Salen asked defeatedly. He knew instantly what had occurred. The Deceiver of Nations had tricked him into being slaughtered for his own amusement, a deed Salen himself once committed in his youth. All at once he felt a fool and a martyr.

     

    “Of course, old man. I just want to know one last thing before I kill you; that cup you travelled all this way for? It’s worthless. Just a cup!” Azast laughed and reveled in his cruelty. The Dunmer closed his eyes and awaited a short pain, followed by nothingness. Boethiah’s favored priest shifted the scimitar in his hand, prepared to swing it into Salen's stomach, and…

     

    Died. Just as Azast prepared his fatal strike, the tip of a sword just peaked through the Redguard’s chest. He coughed blood and tried to grab the blade before falling to the ground. The sands of the Alik’r were stained a deep, almost beautiful red.

     

    Salen, still awaiting his divine execution, slowly opened one eye. There stood Almenar, bloodied sword in hand. He glared at Salen for a moment before turning to walk back to camp.

     

    “Come on. You must need some sleep.”

    Salen rushed to catch up to his new friend.

Comments

3 Comments   |   Sotek likes this.
  • Sotek
    Sotek   ·  August 7
    That was a turn of events. You kept me guessing the outcome till the every end.
    Nicely played Accursed and I particularly liked the first half. You done well with the trials and pitfalls of the crossing. 
    • Accursed Gloom
      Accursed Gloom
      Sotek
      Sotek
      Sotek
      That was a turn of events. You kept me guessing the outcome till the every end.
      Nicely played Accursed and I particularly liked the first half. You done well with the trials and pitfalls of the crossing. 
        ·  August 7
      Thanks, Sotek. I'm still getting back into the rhythms of writing so your words mean a lot to me.
      • Sotek
        Sotek
        Accursed Gloom
        Accursed Gloom
        Accursed Gloom
        Thanks, Sotek. I'm still getting back into the rhythms of writing so your words mean a lot to me.
          ·  August 7
        I had a play with the formatting (word wall). Just to help out a bit. Don't worry, the formatting plays up once in a while.