PoTM: Chapter 30, Of Revelations and Keys


  • Foreign Views of Dunmeri Ancestor Worship and Spirit Magic

     

    The Altmeri and Bosmeri cultures also venerate their ancestors, but only by respecting the orderly and blissful passage of these spirits from this world to the next. That is, Wood Elves and High Elves believe it is cruel and unnatural to encourage the spirits of the dead to linger in our world. Even more grotesque and repugnant is the display of the bodily remains of ancestors in ghost fences and ash pits. The presentation of fingerbones in a family shrine, for example, is sacrilegious to the Bosmer (who eat their dead) and barbaric to the Altmer (who inter the ashes of their dead).

     

    The human cultures of Tamriel are ignorant and fearful of Dark Elves and their culture, considering them to be inhuman and evil, like Orcs and Argonians, but more sophisticated. The human populations of Tamriel associate Dunmeri ancestor worship and spirit magic with necromancy; in fact, this association of the Dark Elves with necromancy is at least partly responsible for the dark reputation of Dunmer throughout Tamriel. This is generally an ignorant misconception, for necromancy outside the acceptable clan rituals is a most abhorrent abomination in the eyes of the Dunmer.

     

    The Dark Elves would never think of practicing sorcerous necromancy upon any Dark Elf or upon the remains of any Elf. However, Dark Elves consider the human and Orcish races to be little more than animals. There is no injunction against necromancy upon such remains, or on the remains of any animal, bird, or insect.

     

    3rd of Sun’s Dawn, 4E 204

     

    Talvas watched Elynea administering the healing balm on the tower's roots, her hands moving with a gentle care, almost as if the tower was her lover. It was interesting to see a Dunmer caring more about mushrooms and flora more than about other Dunmer.

     

    But maybe it isn't all that surprising. Flowers don't need much, besides a little bit of care and watering and in return they grow and bloom. People are not like that. In most cases, care earns you a scolding and a betrayal. There were times, I cared about my own family and all I wish now is that they were flowers instead. Flowers don't have demands.

     

    He wondered about his grandfather. It has been months since he last heard of him, which was suspicious. Maybe he was planning something in some hidden hole, or right in Raven Rock. Or maybe he had left already. It was difficult to say. But Talvas didn't allow himself to hope Venhen Ules would just leave without his grandson. The patriarch of House Ules never gave up easily.

     

    “Alright, that should do it for now,” Elynea murmured and Talvas blinked. The mycologist was looking up at him from the hole they dug behind the tower, near the cliffs, her face and hands dirty with ash and mud. They had found the malignant growth just above the ground and Elynea had explained it was going down under the ground, withering the roots, so they had to dig a hole two steps deep to stop the growth from spreading.

     

    “How long before it begins to take effect?” he asked just as Elynea levitated up from the hole.

     

    “I might have to do few more rounds of treatment, but in a week’s time, we should see the effects,” she answered, standing next to Talvas, looking at the Sea of Ghosts and Red Mountain in the distance.

     

    “Do you miss it?” the apprentice suddenly asked, watching Red Mountain spewing ash. “Morrowind.”

     

    “Sometimes,” she shrugged. “But here I can do my research. I've learned so much about the Telvanni spores over the years, and yet I still don't know enough I suppose.” She shook her head in disbelief. “Bonding with the tower… What was Neloth thinking? Normally, Telvanni use soul gems to plant the spores, feeding the spores with magic through those said gems. But Neloth...he must have used his own soul. He and the tower are literally one now.”

     

    “All the magisters seek a way to achieve immortality,” Talvas commented, thinking about the consequences of the choice Neloth had made. Being bound to his tower...Every time he left the tower, he would grow weaker. On the other hand, all of his research was in the tower and he had an eternity to do the said research. “As long as the tower stands,” he observed, sighing. “I guess Master Neloth found his own way. I think that it's still better than making a deal with Daedra or falling for the lure of necromancy.”

     

    “Maybe,” Elynea patted his shoulder. “I'll go check on him.”

     

    “Yes,” he mumbled as he watched the mycologist walk away. He sighed and reached into his pocket, pulling out a simple silver ring. He rolled it between his fingers and grunted. Neloth had enemies no doubt, maybe even legions of rivals and enemies back in Morrowind, and all this; the first poisoning of the tower, the Ash Spawn trying to kill Varona and then the assault on the tower along with the second poisoning... It pointed at someone on Solstheim. Or something.

     

    Talvas put the ring on and immediately felt a tug, pulling him towards the north, along the coast. He rubbed his eyes and with a sigh, he began following the link. He had enchanted the ring with a bit of the ash from one of the slain Ash Spawn, hoping to figure out where it came from. And so far, it seemed to work.

     

    And as he walked, his mind slipped into the pondering of his own doubts. He always believed that he would live his life on Solstheim, in the tower and maybe one day, in the distant future, he would grow his own tower. That all around him would still be there, the thought of them being gone never even occurred to him in his early years in Tel Mithryn.

     

    And yet… Ildari. Varona. Ulves. Even Revus. All dead. It was just him and Elynea now. And Neloth, of course, who would most likely outlive them all. How could the magister cope with that? Losing all his friends, loved ones. Talvas then shook his head, realizing his mistake. Neloth has no friends or loved ones. Just servants, helpers, associates. To invite friendship into eternal life would mean to invite pain. Maybe it's no surprise he is so distant with everyone. Talvas somehow didn't expect that becoming a Telvanni magister would mean to live such a… lonely existence. Is that it? Am I afraid to be lonely? It is why I always seek someone to cling to? First Ildari, then Varona… and now, I'm lonely again.

     

    He followed the link towards Tel Mithryn's graveyard and suddenly he felt his heart pounding. Fear gripped his insides and squeezed with the unrelentless strength of terror. His knees almost gave up under him as he walked towards the sarcophagus. He felt the magic from it and he gulped.

     

    He never understood why Master Neloth had insisted on putting Ildari’s body into a stone coffin instead of burning her and sending her ash to her family. It would completely wipe away the traces of the experiment Neloth had conducted, so there was no reason not to send them. Unless Neloth feared the ashes would be imbued with the heart stone’s magic.

     

    Talvas never understood that, and now he was terrified of what would he find inside. The rotting corpse of his love? Dead were meant to be burned, if only for the living to take away the potential of seeing their loved ones rotting away. Burning the body meant burning the bridge, every person clinging to the image how they wanted to remember the departed and he was clinging to his memory of her like a man graspsing for grass as he sinks into the bog..

     

    Maybe the enchantment failed, maybe it’s not working properly, he thought and then he shook his head. He was sure the magic was true, he didn't make a mistake. Whatever summoned the Ash Spawn came from the grave.

     

    He was beginning to wonder if this actually wasn't the work of his grandfather. An elaborate plan to torture Talvas by forcing him to look into the dead face of his love. It made sense. Venhen Ules had the most to gain from destroying Neloth, from killing everyone. His grandfather no doubt hoped that it would force Talvas into going back home.

     

    The apprentice shook his head. No, he wouldn't give his grandfather that satisfaction.

     

    He walked to the sarcophagus and pushed against the lid, opening it, bracing for the worst.

     

    But it was empty.

     

    Empty, save a single heart stone lying there.

     

    “Ildari…”

    Sapphire was sitting on a chair, watching the Dunmer girl in front of her eat. The Nord expected the Dunmer girl would have trouble eating with only one hand, but to her surprise, she actually managed to feed herself with the spoon well enough. She was holding the bowl between her knees, keeping it steady while she was burying the spoon into the meat stew Sapphire had prepared.

     

    Sapphire didn't know what she would do if she lost an arm. She just couldn't imagine it. How it must feel to try to reach for something only to realize the hand to reach with wasn't there. Maybe she would push through that phantom pain, just as she did with that other pain long time ago. Or maybe she wouldn't, maybe it would be just the last drop that would break her, make her crumble like a castle of ash.

     

    In the past weeks, she visited Neriila more than several times, always bringing her food -  proper food, not that shit Slitter was making her. It was obvious the Dunmer girl was losing weight and Sapphire guessed she wouldn't last long under Slitter’s care.

     

    “Why does he keep you alive?” she wondered out loud and the girl looked at her, tilting her head. “Is it his goal just to make you suffer? I wonder.”

     

    “Maybe. He needs to feel in control, especially now that he's losing control over Raven Rock,” Neriila said, shrugging. “It makes no difference to me. He'll eventually run out of patience. Then he will kill me. Or maybe he'll use me first and then kill me. One last act of control, of domination.”

     

    “And that doesn't bother you? You will just let him?”

     

    “Would you let him?”

     

    Sapphire clenched her jaws. “No,” she growled. No, she wouldn't. If he had tried to make her feel helpless and powerless in that way...she would kill him. Slit his throat, even before he could touch her. No man would touch her like that ever again.

     

    “I am at peace with my fate. It doesn't matter,” the Dunmer girl shrugged again and Sapphire shook her head. How could anyone be at peace with death? Yes, it was true that everyone would die one day, but if Sapphire had a choice, she would decide when and where.

     

    “Why it doesn't matter? Since when does life not matter, especially yours?”

     

    “I was raised and trained for one thing only. To be an agent and protector of my House, to be the extended hand holding the knife in the dark, serving the patriarch of House Ules. And the patriarch is now dead.”

     

    “Doesn't that make his son the patriarch now?”

     

    “Venhen Ules's son is...weak,” Neriila murmured, looking away. “Everything Venhen Ules was building will crumble now. He always believed that he was doing everything for his House and for his children and yes, he has secured for House Ules power and stability, a place in the society even though House Hlaalu is no longer in control. But now? We will stagnate. And eventually we will fall.”

     

    “Then leave all that behind,” Sapphire leaned closer. “There is more to life than serving others, more than honor and duty.”

     

    “Like what?”

     

    “Revenge,” Sapphire growled. “Justice.”

     

    Neriila laughed at that, silently, but still it stung Sapphire. “Vengeance? Justice? All my life I've killed because I was told to kill. Do you think I cared whether my victims deserved it or not?”

     

    “You said it yourself,” Sapphire snorted. “It doesn't matter anymore. You are dead to your House. Don't you at least want to kill the Orc who holds you captive here?”

     

    Neriila looked away without an answer and the room became silent for a short while. The Dunmer girl then looked back Sapphire, narrowing her eyes. “How will you reach the vault?” she surprised Sapphire.

     

    The Nord frowned and then sighed. “I need a key. And Mogrul keeps it hidden somewhere, because he doesn't carry it with him. I made a copy out of wax, but now I need someone to make it.”

     

    “What about your father?”

     

    “He's not my…” Sapphire started, but then shut her mouth, biting her lip. “It's complicated. We're not on good terms. More importantly I don't want to talk to him.”

     

    “You might have to,” Neriila said. “Family is the standing stone of life. It doesn't matter if you are on good or bad terms, because family is about sacrifices. What your father did is not relevant now, because whatever it was, do you believe he doesn't regret it? No, don't answer, just think about it. Is he hurt by what he did? Family is an interesting thing. People who don't, in reality, share much beside blood and yet they are linked together, sometimes even forced to just get along.”

     

    “My father is a coward,” Sapphire growled. “He ran away. And when he had the chance to make it right, he ran again.”

     

    “I have a cousin,” Neriila said as if she didn't hear Sapphire. “He ran away from his family, from us. From his duties to our House and he ran here. To Solstheim. This is why my grand-uncle and I were here, to convince him to come back. In the name of family and his House.” She paused for a second, sighing. “He sent us away. Was I angry at him? Maybe I was. But what he did wasn't out of spite, he didn't run away to hurt his family, though he did so by just doing that. He ran away because the family was hurting him.” She then narrowed and slowly blinked her eyes. “Maybe you don't know the whole story with your father. Or maybe you do. But you share a bond with him whether you want to or not. Go talk to him. Hear him out.”

     

    Sapphire suddenly heard footsteps outside the room and she quickly walked towards the door, giving Neriila one last look and then she walked out. Only to meet Slitter, with a bowl of that disgusting mash.

     

    He frowned. “What were you doing there?”

     

    “Feeding her,” she replied with no emotion in her voice. “Because what you are feeding her is not food. She would die and Mogrul wants her alive, no?”

     

    Slitter growled, leaning closer. “Since when do you know what the boss wants?”

     

    “Since I've grown ears,” she growled back, tossing the bowl from Slitter’s hand. The mash ended up all over the floor and Slitter cursed. “Maybe you should stop sitting on yours, idiot,” she bared her teeth at the Dunmer. “Now clean this shit up and stop carrying it to that Dunmer. I'll be taking care of her food from now on.”

     

    “I-”

     

    She pulled out her dagger in one fluid motion and the tip of the blade stopped under Slitter’s chin, barely puncturing the skin. “You got problem with that? Run to Mogrul, like a good boy, and hide under his skirt.”

     

    “I'm waiting for the day Mogrul decides to kill you,” the Dunmer grimaced.

     

    “He’ll be dead before that,” she whispered. “And you with him,” she added and then walked away, leaving Slitter to clean up the hallway. He was good at such things, cleaning up after someone. It was all he was good for actually, because that Dunmer had the brains of an ox. It was a surprise he survived so long.

     

    She headed towards the market square and noticed Glover working his forge. She stopped dead in her tracks and watched, biting her lip.

     

    There wasn't anyone else capable of forging the copy of that key and yet still she hesitated to ask him. By doing that, she would make him an accomplice and thus tying him to herself, calling for a familiarity, when all she wanted was to keep her distance.

     

    Neriila's words rang inside her head and she grunted. What did it matter if he didn't want to hurt Sapphire and her mother? He just left. And yet, Sapphire didn't remember a single time her mother complained about that, or felt unhappy. Sapphire and her mother were happy, even without Glover. And when the bandits came? What difference would Glover have made? Because it certainly wasn't his fault they came and yet Sapphire was keeping herself warm at night by blaming her father for everything - even though she didn't know who he even was.

     

    And now she knew him and… He wasn't the man she imagined. He wasn't cruel, selfish, the only thing she could blame him for was that he was a coward, too afraid to face the responsibilities of a family, too afraid to face her when she showed up in Riften.

     

    Most of the times, hate was fed by the unreal. Imagination created the pictures of terrible actions, of wrong attributes, feeding the hate with false accusations. And when hate met the reality, it was just so difficult to let go if it, even though the proof of truth was right in front one's eyes, dispersing those images away.

     

    She hated Glover. But only because she conjured up her hate from the shadows of the unknown.

     

    She hated Mogrul. She had every possible proof for that hate to be real and yet she indulged the Orc with more patience than she did with Glover.

     

    She needed the key.

     

    She sighed and walked towards Glover. To ask him for a favour. To exchange a few words. She couldn't forgive him, but she at least could give him a chance to prove that her hate was unjust.

     



     

Comments

1 Comment   |   KaiserSoSay and 3 others like this.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  December 1
    It'll be interesting to see where you go with Neriila and Sapphire. I like Neriila. She is like a closed book, one that you want to read, but it's good and locked. Sapphire better be careful around her.