Another entry by Naveris Ralyoman. Again, details changed to fit TES lore instead of the setting it was written for, and this might've weakened the original piece too much. I'm really kinda iffy on this one.
My main concerns--
Why the heck an Altmer is halfway across the world bothering himself over Black Marsh-Morrowind politics. I tried to cast it as he's a political hipster/activist/nutcase, but I'm not sure that covers that plot hole well enough. I don't think the last few paragraphs would pack the same punch if I recast him to an Argonian rebel, however.
The writing's pretty heavy on the moralistic tone, without a whole lot of action. I'm not sure if the story is strong enough to carry itself or if it'd just come across as boring and preachy to a player.
by Naveris Ralyoman
[Editor's Note: Naveris Ralyoman was an Buoyant Armiger of the Third Era, most famous for his participation in the Arnesian War, and for his advances in Mysticism and Restoration in his waning years. This journal excerpt was written shortly after Sir Ralyoman accompanied Queen Barenziah to the Imperial City, to which she had fled after General Symmachus was murdered in Mournhold. After delivering her safely, Sir Ralyoman was recalled back to Morrowind. On the road home, he was ambushed by a band of abolitionist sympathizers, notably led by the Altmer Telmercilus Aedaendun and his three sons.
It may seem odd that Altmeri would become embroiled in the Arensian War, but this would be forgetting the peculiar character of Telmercilus. Highly curious of other cultures and an opponent to oligarchian means of government, the aristocratic Dunmer were twice the evil to Telimercilus that they were to his contemporaries, though as Sir Ralyoman has gone to point out, he was not so dissimilar from the Dunmer himself as one could be led to believe.
Whether because the Arnesian War was winding down, or because of Telimercilus' questionable ideals, Sir Ralyoman was eventually allowed to parley for the safe passage of himself and his band. Further accounts of his capture and negotiations can be found in Sir Ralyoman's treatise, On Diplomacy. This account deals mainly in Sir Ralyoman's critiques on Telmercilus himself. Surely a gem for students of history, in which one famous personage of the era critiques another!]
I and the abolitionists stood and stared at each other for the longest time. No one moved. It was like a game of Dagoth Says from my childhood. Dagoth says don't move, or you'll be the next one taken to Red Mountain.
The sun was close to setting, but its heat was still tangible in the air. I felt sweat tickling my neck. At some point I realized I would never get anything out of the abolitionists if I acted high and mighty and arrogant, so at last I bowed, only going down halfway so I didn't have to expose my back to those people.
The whispers started then, urgent and angry. I stood up straight again, directed my eyes up at the darkening sky, and waited. The whispers quieted. There was movement, and I tried hard not to look in that direction, as if they were wild animals and would attack if I did.
They had a fair amount of Altmer in their numbers, which I thought odd, considering most abolitionists were lizards. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched a pair of Altmer escorting their leader to me. They stopped a few feet away, and the two younger mer glared at me. The elder watched my face without any expression on his own. I was later to learn that this was the infamous Telmercilus, who had spread so much hateful rhetoric about the Dunmer in his home country, and then again abroad when his country men got tired of listening to him.
Strange that he did not strike me as the rabble-rousing sort when I first looked at him. After a long tense moment, I I dipped my head in greeting, and he returned it. The pair of bodyguards muttered mutinously, and Telmercilus quieted them with a raising of his hand.
"Why have you come here?" he asked, in the language of my homeland. I wondered where he had picked it up from.
I answered, "To talk."
"We do not talk to slave-beating Dunmer," said Telmercilus, in a tone of finality. And the two bodyguards--his sons--led me away.
I was separated from my fellows, perhaps for being the leader and thus a source of trouble. I understand my people were stripped of their belongings and made to do menial labor around the camp, while I was allowed to keep my Buoyant Armiger regalia and sleep in relative comfort in the tent of one of Telmercilus' underlings. In many ways, it reminded me more of a political dispute between two Great Houses, with all the complimentary hemming and hawing and oblique threats, than it did of the reality, which was that I had been waylaid by a group of ragtag ideological bandits on my way home from my mission.
As it was, once it was clear my request to talk was not going to be granted again, I settled in and made the best of it. I was allowed to wander the camp (with some limitations, such as not speaking to the rest of my band). I had an escort everywhere I went, except for the privy, for it seems even an Altmer taken to banditry still blushes to think of watching a mer do his private business!
The escort, comprised of the remnants of Telimercilus' household, was nice enough, but the other abolitionists did not treat me kindly. Some spat on me. Others shouted at me--I still wonder if that I didn't understand a word of their foreign languages. Still others just glared at me as they walked past, then proceeded to ignore me.
After all, I was a Dunmer, which meant I was automatically a slaver, a nob, a heathen, and whatever else these people told themselves while they were gathered around the campfires. The fact that I was a celebrated soldier, honored of the Queen, healer and adherent of the blessed Temple...none of this had any meaning. It was like my people, with all our glories, shouldn't have had the gall to exist.
But among that vicious lot, there was one youth that I still remember to this day. He was the third son of Telmercilus. In contrast to his father, he was soft-spoken and seemed to prefer watching birds over training Argonian rebels to fight. Every morning I would watch him eat his ration, spreading the last few crumbs to the robins. The robins would go on their way after the last crumbs had disappeared, and he would come find a perch near my shelter and just watch me.
There wasn't any hate in his eyes, or even any fear. Once I tried yelling at him to see if that would make him go away. He would frown as if pondering a great existential riddle, but he wouldn't budge.
Slowly, as the other abolitionists grew used to me, my guards dwindled down to three, then two, then finally just one, who often fell asleep. Despite how easy it would have been escape at this point, I still had no word from my fellows, and so stuck around in hopes of escaping with them, as well.
It was during one of these times when the guard leaned, snoring up against the side of a tree while I played cat's cradle with myself, that the youth snuck up to visit me.
For a while, he just watched me like he had always done. Then he said something, but as usual, I couldn't make out a word of the strange language. I put down the string to look up at him, shaking my head. He paused, and then tried something else. I shook my head again.
He tried one more language, and I almost understood it. Now I know that it was the language of the Altmer. Dunmer had once been Chimer, who had once been cousins of the Altmer, long, long ago, before the blessed Tribunal were born. Some of his words were strange to me, and others were pronounced so I barely recognized them, but I could still understand the boy.
We made some halting conversation in whispers, while the guard snored on. He asked me who I was. I didn't answer, except to give him my name. He asked me what I was doing in Cyrodiil, if the fighting was over in Black Marsh. I could have asked him the same, but I only said that I had been on campaign and was now returning home. He frowned at me in such a way I knew he knew I wasn't telling him the full truth, but he didn't comment on it.
About that time the guard started awake and yelled at the boy to get away from me, and he left with a smug smile that I knew he would return again with more questions.
Return he did, later that evening. I expected him to continue with his questioning, but he didn't. He asked me how I was feeling, and I told him bluntly just how long it was since I had had a proper meal, bed, and someone to share it with. He blushed deeply, but to his credit, took the comment without complaint. After a few remarks that would have been more at home in a polite dinner party somewhere than a bandit camp, he crept over to sit down beside me.
He took one of my hands in his. I didn't see anything wrong with that, so I let him. He examined my fingers, the nails on the ends of them, the way my double-jointed thumb could turn backwards on itself. Then he held his hand flat against mine, finger to finger.
"Look," he said. I looked. I didn't see anything odd about it.
This time the youth looked into my face. He touched my cheekbones, feeling their shape, my chin, my jawline, the shape of my ears. He was very gentle, and any misgivings about the situation I had quieted.
"Look," he finally said again. "You and I, we are not so different after all."
And looking at him then, I could suddenly see what he meant. Our ears were the same shape, though mine were many shades darker in color. His eyes slanted the same way that mine did, his nose had the same tilt to it. There was the same expression carved into our mouths and eyes. It was as if a buffoon had come across the work of a great artist, and after smudging some of the lines with his sleeve, had accidentally spilled paint over the whole thing.
I looked back down to my hands, where the Altmer still had one of his hands lined up with mine. Slowly I clenched my fingers around his.
I didn't know what to say in his language that would express what I was thinking, but I think he understood me anyway.
[Editor's Note: Though Telmercilus and Naveris Ralyoman met several more times, he could not persuade the Altmer leader to let his people go. Later, the camp was attacked by a border patrol out of Kragenmoor. Sir Ralyoman and his men escaped in the heat of battle, but the abolitionists were massacred to a one.]