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   Chapter 4 No.4

An Enchanting Tale By AaronDennis Characters: 15708

Updated: 2018-01-10 12:02

"Mmm, I thought as much. It's good to hear you made a safe return from that damnable ruin, but you need to know there's nothing down there; nothing but death and ash. Settle down here, and keep working away, " Rosoleola said.

His tone had not been condescending. Some of the other mages were much more arrogant, however; they chastised S'maash. They pointed out all the flaws in his search. Secretly, they were envious of his challenging magickal theory. Moreover, they disliked the fact that he was willing to try something different. After they succeeded in weakening his spirit, S'maash went home for the night. His brother was already home and happy to greet him.

"We all received promotions, " S'maath smiled.

"Truly? That is excellent, but why?"

"Because travelers of all sorts are willing to pay top coin for escorts who can say I have braved dwemer ruins, fought their machines, and lived."

S'maash smiled weakly. He was happy for his brother, but was growing despondent over his own lack of success. Words of his fellow mages rang throughout his mind. He had not noticed his brother moved closer to squat beside him.

"What troubles you, " S'maath asked. S'maash told him what the more experienced mages had said. "Don't be foolish, brother. You need not listen to them. You are the only person I have met who can truly discover something new. I admit your studies bore me, but still, you must follow your passion, your heart." S'maath stated with concern.

"Thank you. I will consider it."

It was days later that the elf was caught off guard. As normal, he was rearranging reagents and dusting tomes at the mages' workshop when a glint off the welkynd stone caught his eye. He stared at it. The soft, greenish light held his gaze.

Mages were aware that those stones allowed one to replenish the spirit. Ayleids believed fire was a corruption of the true form of magick, light. I wonder, did the ayleids have light enchantments? Rosoleola might have been correct about Damlzthur, but he mentioned nothing of traipsing through ayleid ruins. S'maash, impetuous, made his decision once more.

The young, dark elf simply left work without telling anyone of his plans. Rosoleola had been kind enough, but the rest were just arrogant know nothings who mimicked what little they garnered from known studies. Their scorn was of little concern, so he ran home to make plans for a move to Cyrodiil. He hoped his brother would join him.

It was hours before his brother came home. During the slow passage of time, S'maash thought out a speech, but whatever words he strung together felt contrived. The warrior entered the living space, passing the fire beneath the mantle as he approached S'maash. The elder brother was all smiles.

"Some good news, I take it, " S'maash asked.

"Indeed. I'm going to accompany some priests on their journey to Balmora. The coin is more than ample."

"Oh, " S'maash said, his tone almost depressing.

"What's this? I thought my brother might be happier for me."

"I am, truly. I just…I think I'm moving to Cyrodiil. I was hoping you might join me."

S'maath, in total surprise, took a seat on a wicker chair next to his brother. "Where did this come from?" The younger brother explained his theories once more, that time referring to some notes he had made on ayleid ruins, just copies from texts, nothing concrete. "Fascinating. You should go…."

S'maath was concerned, yet he was aware that an insatiable yearning for magickal studies brewed inside his brother. It would be wrong to try to talk him out of it, he thought. The flicker of flame reflected off S'maash's red eyes.

"Maybe, I can wait for your return. Then, we could go together, " the wizard smiled.

The elder brother placed a hand on Smaash's shoulder. "No. My life is here with the Reyda Tong. This is my future, and I enjoy it. Your future rests in your hands alone. It will not be an easy road, but if you postpone once, you will postpone again. The longer you wait, the slimmer your chances of going then the less likely it will be for you to discover what you are meant to.

"You are ready, S'maash. The time for you to begin is now. It is reasonable for you to be wary of traveling on your own, away from your family, from familiar surroundings, but if you don't follow this path—the road you were born for—you will live with regrets and scorn, " S'maath spoke, sincerely.

"I don't know that I can do this on my own, " S'maash complained.

"You are capable, and you are not alone. Our ancestors are with you. Focus on your goals. Nothing will stand in your way."

For a moment, they were silent. The fire crackled quietly beside them. S'maash stirred first.

"I'll have to hire a silt strider to Bravil, " he started.

"I can give you extra coin. I've saved quite a bit. I could spare…oh, about a hundred Septims."

"That is appreciated. I really don't have much to pack. I can leave tomorrow, " S'maash said, ambivalently.

The brothers looked each other over. They had been there for one another for years. It was difficult to part ways, but they both knew a reunion was in their future. A bittersweet emotion hung in the air. While S'maash was indeed nervous, he was also quite excited.

"Then, you should rest tonight, and we will say goodbye tomorrow, " S'maath replied.

The warm night passed slowly. Both elves had a hard time falling asleep.When morning finally came, S'maash rose to find that his brother had packed some extra gear for him. He had included a steel dagger for protection, new, fur boots, and extra food and drink. S'maash gathered his equipment before finding his brother outside, sitting on the stoop.

"So, you're all set then? I will walk you to the silt strider, " S'maath smiled.

They slogged along the paved road, speaking of plans for arrival in Cyrodiil. S'maash was going to stay in Bravil until he found the best ayleid ruin to study. Then, he spoke of hiring guides for protection in case there was trouble in the area. Slow, meaningful steps took them towards the large insect.

Cyrodiil had suffered tremendously over the past many years, and the recent decades especially. After the signing of the White-Gold Concordat, the Empire had become a puppet for the Aldmeri Dominion. If that alone had not been enough, Alduin, the World Eater, had risen. While it was Skyrim he had terrorized, the dragons had found their way across the borders. They had a small effect on Morrowind, not as drastic as in Cyrodiil; it was unfortunate that during the same time, the Stormcloaks began a rebellion.

The defeat of General Tullius and the death of many imperial soldiers left the Empire in a weakened state. Furthermore, the murder of Emperor Titus Mede the Second at the hands of the Dark Brotherhood left the Empire all but destroyed. While this bolstered the stranglehold of the Aldmeri Dominion, it also created a wave of crime and uncertainty in all of Cyrodiil.

News had reached Morrowind that the whole of the imperial province was awash in blood and terror. S'maash was aware of the fact. He was not so much afraid of the crime, but afraid of the possibility of being marooned in Cyrodiil with no options short of working for scraps at a local inn. He expressed that last bit of information to his brother as he boarded the giant insect.

"You will find a way, brother, and if not, you will write me, and I will come get you. There is no shame in failing at a task, so long as you do not allow that failure to prevent you from further attempts at success, " S'maath assured him.

They smiled to each other and waved. S'maash sat on the silt strider's cart, and the creature let out a prolonged wail before starting off for Cyrodiil. The ride was rather slow paced. He glanced at the landscape from high above, riding all the way t

o the border.

A small settlement of dunmer had built cabins along the eroded mountains. They were always looking for new pilgrims to accompany into Bravil or the Nibenay, so, S'maash hired a group for a two-day walk to Bravil.

The dunmer were little more than a band of friends, warriors, and mages, well versed in the local terrain. Their leader, an older woman named Sahla, was aging, but lean. She led the group by deciding when to break, resume, and also teaching about the paths they traversed. Upon arrival, S'maash paid the remainder of the gold, as they had asked for half up front and the remainder upon safe arrival. He bid them safe travels and spent the night at The Lonely Suitor Lodge, Bravil's inn.

The city was comprised of little more than wooden homes. While they were neatly designed, the rustic appeal was nothing overly special. At the center of the town, the lucky, old lady—an eerie statue—awaited travelers. It was legend that the statue of the elderly woman might bless them with good luck. Other legends, ones no longer told, indicated something quite a bit more sinister.

The Lonely Suitor Lodge was as modest as the town of Bravil. It, too, was rather simple in its design of wooden walls and floors. At least, it was clean and warm. It was there that the elf heard an interesting bit of information.

A bard was performing a song about Umaril, the Unfeathered, who had apparently reappeared during the time of Martin Septim. The song spoke of the reunion of the Knights of the Nine. A few patrons booed the poor bard, shouting that Talos was no God and the Knights of the Nine were a false creation. S'maash did not believe it a coincidence that upon his arrival the mention of ayleids was foremost on the citizens' tongues. He waited for the poor, blonde haired lad to finish his song, and approached him at the counter.

"They do not believe in Talos, " S'maash said, taking a seat next to the man.

"They do not appreciate a good song. Regardless of his existence, it is a good tale, " the bard complained.

"I am called S'maash."

"And I am Ruterius, the Rich…though, not so much at this moment, " Ruterius replied with a weak smile. "What brings you to The Lonely Suitor? You have the look of a traveler."

"I have plans to study an ayleid ruin. I'm conducting important research."

He went on to explain his mission to the young imperial and shared mugs of ale to pass the time. S'maash learned where the nearest ruin was located, who to ask in town for protection, and who in town to avoid. Ruterius also revealed some political issues in Cyrodiil.

Ulfric Stormcloak's rise to High King of Skyrim had inspired some imperials to unite and attempt to overthrow the Aldmeri Dominion. To date, they had been slaughtered. The remnants attempted to petition Skyrim for help. It was unclear as to whether or not Ulfric was going to provide support.

"Yes, these are difficult times, " Ruterius said. "I wish you luck on your endeavor. If the Mages' Guild were still in existence you might be better off, but…well…the Synod has no interest in travelers' research."

"I left a guild of sorts in Morrowind. We were not the Mages' Guild, per se, but we were a guild of practitioners of magick. They were not much help in my field. I find that most people, even very capable people, refuse to question their predecessor's knowledge. I am not one such person, " S'maash explained.

The night ended for the two. S'maash rose early the following morning and walked around town, talking to the guard, and anyone else who might point him in the direction of Barbas, the Brute, a mighty nord who had sided with the Empire during the Stormcloaks' uprising. Upon reaching the nord's house, S'maash knocked on the wooden door.

An older woman answered. "Yes?"

She was tall, slender, and wore her graying hair in a tight ponytail. Her garments were nice, but aged, giving her the appearance of a retired merchant.

"Apologies, I'm looking for Barbas. I was told he might help me, " S'maash said.

"Looking for protection, " she asked with a haggard tone.

"Yes. I need a group to accompany me to Anutwyll. Ruterius said I might conduct my studies inside. If there's any trouble, it will be nice to have some help. I have coin."

She nodded. Seconds later, she returned with the biggest man S'maash had ever seen. He stood close to seven feet tall and was wide as a house. Barbas was a bald man with a monstrous, gray beard, and all too many scars. His grin showed an abundance of empty spots where teeth may have once resided. Large muscles and a round belly pushed through drab, green clothing.

"I am Barbas, the Brute. My wife, Celia, tells me you need assistance, " he said with a thick, nord accent.

"Yes. I just need to make sure it's safe to journey through Anutwyll. I've journeyed through Damlzthur, a dwemer ruin, with a small group from L'Thu Oad's Reyda Tong. They're not unlike your Fighters' Guild. I was hoping for something similar, " S'maash explained.

"Of course. I'll need payment upfront, so that I may pay my men to join me."

"That's fine."

"Myself and four others comes to two hundred and fifty Septims per day. What do you say, " Barbas asked.

S'maash was taken aback. He had not expected the cost to be so high. He barely had enough for one day.

"What about you and two men? And you can keep most of the treasures. I'm only looking for something to advance my research on magickal theory."

Barbas stroked his beard. "You play a good game, elf. Myself and two men for one hundred Septims per day, and we keep the spoils if there are any left."

S'maash handed the man two hundred Septims. "When can we leave?"

"Eager to start, eh? Meet me at The Lonely Suitor in two hours. We will journey, " Barbas said and shut the door in S'maash's face.

With nothing left to do, he returned to the inn, packed his gear, and waited for Barbas and crew to arrive. As he waited at the bar, the innkeeper looked him over, but said nothing. The stocky imperial with thick, dark, hair was not one to converse freely with dunmer.

Finally, Barbas had arrived and with a massive, orcish, war hammer strapped to his back. The crescent head of the green, metal hammerhead looked menacing. Barbas was also flanked by two others.

"Greetings to you, dark elf. This is my crew, Freya, who is my cousin, and Elohar, the bosmer, " Barbas said.

Freya, a thick, nord lass with long, braided, red hair nodded. Elohar, the bosmer, was a wood elf with bronze skin. He had a neatly trimmed mustache and beard. They appeared more than capable to S'maash. Suddenly, he was reminded of his brother and the warriors of the Reyda Tong back home. The bosmer then tipped his fancy hat.

"Thank you for your help, " S'maash said.

He picked his pack off the ground and promptly left the inn. Barbas took the lead once they reached the outskirts of town. As they rounded the walls of Bravil to the northwest, birds chirped in the distance. During the trip, S'maash told them of his expedition through Damlzthur. They were surprised to find that he had some experience.

"You think you'll find what you're after in two days, " Elohar asked in disbelief.

"Unlikely. My goal is merely to ascertain that it is safe enough in the ruin to begin conducting my studies. After that…well, time will tell."

The rolling plains and subtle hills of Bravil's region were a radically different sight from the normality of Morrowind. S'maash was unable to stop staring at the verdant foliage and wonderful flowers. Along the way, they spoke of their respective homelands. The migratory trees of Valenwood were a strange concatenation of the Gods as far as anyone who was not wood elf was concerned, and the cold snowstorms of Skyrim sounded brutal to anyone who wasn't nord.

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