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Sotha Sil watched the initiates float one by one up to the oassom tree, taking a fruit or a flower from its high branches before dropping back to the ground with varying degrees of grace. He took a moment to admire the day. The whitewashed statue of Syrabane, which the great mage was said to have posed for in ancient days, stood at the precipice of the cliff overlooking the bay. Beyond, ocean, and the misty border between Artaeum and the main island of Summerset.
"By and large, acceptable," he proclaimed as the last student dropped her fruit in his hand. With a wave of his hand, the fruit and flowers were back in the tree. With another wave, the students had formed into position in a semicircle around the sorcerer. He pulled a small fibrous ball, about a foot in diameter from his white robes.
"What is this?"
The students understood this test. It asked them to cast a spell of identification on the mysterious object. Each initiate closed his or her eyes and imagined the ball in the realm of the universal Truth. Its energy had a unique resonance as all physical and spiritual matter does, a negative aspect, a duplicate version, relative paths, true meaning, a song in the cosmos, a texture in the fabric of space, a facet of being that has always existed and always will exist.
"A ball," said a young Nord named Welleg, which brought giggles from some of the younger initiates, but a frown from most, including Sotha Sil.
"If you must be stupid, at least be amusing," growled the sorcerer, and then looked at a young, dark-haired Altmer lass who looked confused. "Lilatha, do you know?"
"Karvinasim, but very good, nonetheless," said Sotha Sil. "Now, tell me, what does that mean?"
"I don't know," admitted Lilatha. The rest of the students also shook their heads. "There are layers to understanding all things," said Sotha Sil. "The common man looks at an object and fits it into a place in his way of thinking. Those skilled in the Old Ways, in the way of the Psijic, in Mysticism, can see an object and identify it by its proper role. But one more layer is needed to be peeled back to achieve understanding. You must identify the object by its role and its truth and interpret that meaning. In this case, this ball is indeed grom, which is a substance created by the dreugh, an underwater race in the north and western parts of the continent. For one year of their life, they undergo karvinasim when they walk upon the land. Following that, they return to the water and meff, or devour the skin and organs they needed for land-dwelling. Then they vomit it up into little balls like this. Grom. Dreugh vomit."
The students looked at the ball a little queasily. Sotha Sil always loved this lesson.
4 Sun's Dawn, 2920
"Spies," muttered the Emperor, sitting in his bath, staring at a lump on his foot. "All around me, traitors and spies."
His mistress Rijja washed his back, her legs wrapped around his waist. When he was in a mood like this, it was best to be calmly, soothingly, seductively sensual. And not to say a word unless he asked her a direct question.
Which he did: "What do you think when a fellow steps on his Imperial Majesty's foot and says 'I'm sorry, Your Imperial Majesty'? Don't you think 'Pardon me, Your Imperial Majesty' is more appropriate? 'I'm sorry,' well, that almost sounds like the bastard Argonian was sorry I am his Imperial Majesty. That he hopes we lose the war with Morrowind, that's what it sounds like."
"What would make you feel better?" asked Rijja. "Would you like him flogged? He is only, as you say, the Battlechief of Soulrest. It would teach him to mind where he's stepping." "My father would have flogged him. My grandfather would have had him killed," the Emperor grumbled. "But I don't mind if they all step on my feet, provided they respect me. And don't plot against me."
"You must trust someone."
"Only you," smiled the Emperor, turning slightly to give Rijja a kiss. "And my son Juilek, I suppose, though I wish he were a little more cautious."
"And your council, and the Potentate?" asked Rijja.
"A pack of spies and a snake," laughed the Emperor, kissing his mistress again. He whispered, "As long as you're true, I can handle the world."
13 Sun's Dawn, 2920
Turala stood at the black, bejeweled city gates. A wind howled around her, but she felt nothing.
The Duke had been furious upon hearing his favorite mistress was pregnant and cast her from his sight. She tried again and again to see him, but his guards turned her away. Finally, she returned to her family and told them the truth. If only she had lied and told them she did not know who the father was. A soldier, a wandering adventurer, anyone. But she told them that the father was the Duke, a member of the House Indoril. And they did what she knew they would have to do, as proud members of the House Redoran.
Upon her hand was burned the sign of Expulsion her weeping father had branded on her. But the Duke's cruelty hurt her far more. She looked out the gate and into the wide winter plains. Twisted, sleeping trees and skies without birds. No one in Morrowind would take her in now. She must go far away.
With slow, sad steps, she began her journey.
|The Year 2920, Vol. 4|
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