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Jobasha tells you before that a Breton came to Jobasha's shop. Very nervous this Breton. As Jobasha said, the Breton sells Jobasha the minutes to a historical society. But this Breton also sells much fiction. Most of it very sadly autobiographical. Maybe this one is a good example.
"It was late last night that the dreadful theft occurred," Foroch said. "They took it all. Every drop of it."
That's how he greeted me. I said nothing at first. Foroch's brewery was high in the trees, and I had just climbed the Great Spiral all the way around from the dirt below. "I just. Stopped. To say. Goodbye. Because."
"I know it. You're off to Cyrodiil to get your education. You just dropped in for a bit of ale before leaving, is that it? Well, they took every drop of it, so there's no use begging a mug from me."
I didn't contradict him. I was still panting, and he was right. I came to see him for one last taste of his fine summer ale.
"But if you want to take a keg to that fancy studium of yours, I might have a deal for you."
"Didn't you say it was stolen?" I asked.
"I did say that, because it was stolen," said Foroch. "But if you can get it back, I'll let you take a keg of it. They didn't take my regular ale. They took the Sun's Dusk ale."
"I don't believe I've ever had the pleasure of that one," I said.
"Few have, for the brewing of it is a trying task. It takes years for all the meat and bugs to fall in. And--"
"Bugs?" I asked.
"You can't just go dumping them in, you know," Foroch said, "they have to fall naturally. Crosswings have a fierce bitterness when they die afraid. First, you must stretch seventeen strings of Alfiq-gut over each barrel. Then you must press fresh boar meat onto the strings, being careful not to let any fall before it has properly rotted. Then you must dust the meat with the finely chopped skins of the red-striped frog to make sure the crosswings are drunk and happy when they fall. You do this every month for three or more years, until you have enough meat and bugs to fill the barrel. And that's not even counting the enchantments. You have spells to attract the crosswings and mimics. And spells to keep out the flipbacks, tree-hoppers, and hoarvor young. There are spells to encourage the green mold and prevent the brown and white molds. Then you have to seal the barrel for nine or more years until the last of the green mold turns--"
"It sounds very difficult," I said, preferring ignorance when it came to Green Pact brewing. "Do you know who took it?"
"It was those filthy, miserable Imga," spat Foroch. "Six kegs I had. They're the only ones who could carry a keg over each shoulder. And the brewery stinks of them."
I knew which Imga he was talking about. Boff's band. "Aren't they in their clearing? Why don't you round up a few mer and take it back?"
"I can see you've no proper understanding of the matter. I can't talk with them. I'm the proper owner, so seeing them would acknowledge the theft. You Bretons are half elven, or so they say. Imga will listen to you."
"Why me? I've lived here a few years, but I'll always be an outsider," I said.
"I only know what you just told me," I said.
"And as you just pointed out, I don't fully understand the situation," I said, desperately.
That's how I got the job.
I walked the Great Spiral all the way back down and set out towards the Imga's clearing. As a Breton living in Valenwood, I often saw things from an unusual perspective. Namely, the forest floor. The Bosmer around Greenheart rarely went all the way to the ground, unless they planned on leaving the city. This had a few unfortunate consequences, I thought, when I tripped over a deer antler jutting out above the other garbage. Since the Bosmer rarely visited the ground, they had no qualms about throwing their trash down from the treetops and forgetting about it.
I knew I was getting close to the Imga's clearing when I heard the drumming. This was a bad sign. They usually only got out the drums when they'd been drinking. I hoped they still had some of Foroch's ale left.
When I got in sight of the clearing, I waited patiently for the end of their impromptu concert. I'd never be an admirer, but there was something to be said for their music. What the Imga lacked in rhythm, they made up for in enthusiasm. Pickler saw me first and stopped beating the hollow log he'd almost mashed down to pulp. "What is that terrible smell?"
"I do believe it's a man, Pickler," said Boff.
"Indeed. It has that spoiled milk odor," said Noggin, the last member of Boff's clan.
"Boff," I said. "It's been a long time."
"Duke Boff to you, nemer," he said, as he adjusted his cloak and pulled himself up to this full height.
"Of course, Duke Boff," I said quickly. "Forgive me. The long journey has left me without any graces."
"You're lucky I'm in such a forgiving mood today," said the Duke. "What brings you to my lands?"
"My Lord, I heard that you acquired some of Foroch's ale."
"Oh?" Boff asked. "Do you want it? I might be looking for a buyer."
"I take it there's still some left, then?" Perhaps this journey wasn't wasted after all.
"Yes," said Duke Boff, slowly. "We haven't finished it yet."
"Why don't we give him a taste?" Pickler asked, with a grin.
"That sounds like a fine idea, Pickler. Fetch one of the kegs."
I watched as Pickler lumbered off into the forest, but he passed out of sight before I could see where the kegs were hidden. He returned carrying a keg so effortlessly that I flinched when he slammed it on the ground. Obviously, the keg was still nearly full. He produced a wooden bowl and worked the tap just enough for a few swallows of ale, crinkling his wide nose as he poured.
I took the bowl and sniffed it. I've heard that some connoisseurs judge ales and wines by their aroma, but with Bosmer drinks, this is simply a wise precaution. The Sun's Dusk Ale smelled nothing like Foroch's summer ale. Nor did it resemble the less palatable Bosmer drinks, such as Jagga, which has a truly unique odor. It smelled, if anything, like a juicy steak marinated with plum wine and coriander. I took a sip and gently closed my eyes. It was dreams of flying. It was the breathless moment of my first kiss. It was a gentle fire that brought a deep smile to my face. It was happiness, distilled.
When I recovered my senses I said, "Frostfire! What is this?"
"That's what I said," said Pickler.
"No, Pickler, you said, 'By the rotted and flaking third claw of Herma Mora, what is this putrid filth?'"
Putrid filth? I couldn't believe my ears. This ale was surely a gift from the gods!
"As bad as it is," said Noggin, "I can't see why Foroch won't let us have a taste."
"He did it just to spite us, Noggin," said Duke Boff. "He never gives us the respect we deserve. He always has some excuse to ignore the old deal."
"What does this taste like to you?" I asked.
"Bitter," said Boff.
"Rotten," said Pickler.
"It's like that stuff that comes out when you squash a crosswing between your fingers," said Noggin.
"Indeed," said Boff. "I hope the winds pick up tonight and carry the stench away from my lands."
"Hm," I said. "Boff? Would you return the ale if Foroch says you're allowed to have some?"
"Duke Boff to you," said the Duke automatically. "I wouldn't want my subjects in Greenheart to think that I am a harsh ruler. If Foroch says we can have some of the ale, he can have all the kegs back."
"It's the principle of the thing," said Noggin.
"Duke Boff," I asked, "can you have these back at Foroch's by midnight?"
"Sure, we can do that," said the Duke. "And then we can listen to Foroch say we can have the Sun's Dusk Ale anytime we want."
"It's a deal," I said. "I need to hurry back to Foroch. I fear he may take some convincing."
Foroch was waiting for me at the entrance of the brewery. His crossed arms and scowl didn't bode well. "I see you're back," he said, "and without my Sun's Dusk ale. Well, I'm not giving you any of the summer ale. Not when--"
"The Imga," I panted.
"I send you out on a simple job--"
"And you dare to come here--"
"Bringing it back."
"Without even an apology! No, the first words out of your mouth were... Did you say the Imga are bringing it tonight?"
"Yes," I said.
"How much is left?" asked Foroch.
"Almost all of it, I believe. I think they only tapped one of the kegs."
"Excellent," said Foroch, getting out a couple of mugs. "This calls for a celebration."
"Wait," I said. "Wait. Please. I need to explain the terms."
"Terms? Your words fill me with dread," said Foroch as he swiftly put the mugs away. "What did you promise the filthy Imga?"
"That you would let them have as much of the Sun's Dusk as they wanted, once they--"
"Wha... You... Why... If I... How could..." For once, Foroch was speechless.
"Wait," I said. "Let me explain."
I had no chance to explain until nearly midnight. Foroch, who soon regained the gift of speech, ranted and raved about me, the Imga, and our common ancestors until he nearly lost his voice. When Foroch finally wound down, I tried to explain again. "The Imga won't ask for much ale," I said.
"Won't! Won't! Have you never drunk with an Imga? Their thirst is legendary. The Abecean Sea wouldn't sate them."
"They don't like the ale," I said.
"Insult to injury! Now they criticize my ale after stealing it."
"Listen," I said. "They won't drink much of the ale because they hate the stuff. That's why they didn't tap any of the other kegs."
"Maybe there is some sense in your plan after all," Foroch rasped. "But, still, to give the Sun's Dusk to the Imga..."
"You'll have to if you want any of it back," I said. "If you think it's bad for them to steal it, imagine them dumping the barrels in the river while they pinch their noses."
"There are precedent and principles, you see. We've lived together since the days of Aldmeris. And now, having lost our empire, our honor, our rights and dignities, now a man asks me to break traditions older than the arrival of men. To break traditions the filthy Imga half remember and rarely obeyed. There are times, Rascien, when I must say that I hate you men nearly as much as I hate the Imga and the Khajiit."
I was shocked. Not at the sentiment, for it was common in Valenwood, but that it was spoken so plainly. "In all the years I've lived here," I said, "I've never heard--"
"I said it, and I meant it," said Foroch, staring into his mug. "And we'll not speak of it again."
Our silence was broken by the arrival of the Imga and the ale.
Foroch stood unsteadily. "So you've brought me a gift, have you?"
"No gift, Foroch," said Boff. "This is the ale we rightfully stole and--"
"Rightfully?! Rightfully?!" spat Foroch.
The Imga interrupted Foroch's fast-approaching rant by slamming the kegs on the floor, shaking the entire brewery and knocking a few mugs off the shelves.
Boff placed his elbows on a keg and leaned forward. "I want to hear it, Foroch. I want to hear the whole formal thing."
"Not on your life," said Foroch, backing away. "You ask too much, Boff."
"Duke Boff to you, Bosmer." Boff's mouth hung open, as if he was surprised by his own words.
Foroch went speechless again. He grinded his teeth together and glared at me. I whispered, "Think of the ale, Foroch. Think of the ale."
"I, Foroch," he spat, "acknowledge that you fil... you lyi... chea.... mis... That you, Duke Boff, R-Rightfully stole these barrels and that..."
"And from now on we can have as much of this ale as we want, having rightfully stolen it."
"And from now on," said Foroch through clenched teeth. "You may have. As much. Ale. As you want."
Boff held out his hand. Foroch stared at it a full minute before shaking it hastily.
"How about a mug all around to close the deal?" I asked. I couldn't resist.
"Maybe just a swallow," said Boff. I could almost see him turning green beneath his fur.
Foroch scowled the whole time he poured. Boff scowled the whole time he drank. And me? I sipped the best brew in all Tamriel and smiled.
My smile didn't fade until halfway to Silvenar when I discovered that the keg Foroch gave me was the tapped one and already half empty.