We had another close call today. Despite strenuous protests from our native guide, the expedition elected to cross the Keel-Sakka River by bridge. One of our guides (a bright-scaled Argonian named Reelus) urged us to ford the river farther downstream and avoid the bridge. (For the record, I argued in favor of this plan, as Reelus has never steered us wrong.) But there are many scholars in our group who are unaccustomed to hard work and hostile environments. We very nearly paid for their comfort with our lives.
It turns out that the bridge is "owned" by a tribe called the "Tum-Taleel," or the "Root House People" in the common tongue. They are a belligerent and warlike people—quick to anger and known throughout the swamp for their brutal and subjugating ways. They make a practice of attacking peaceful villages and killing or driving off the inhabitants. Then they settle into the now-vacant huts and exhaust all of the village's resources. Other Saxhleel often compare them to "burglar crabs"—creatures that eat snails and smaller crabs, and afterwards move into the empty shells.
Several members of the tribe appeared in front of our caravan as soon as we crossed onto the bridge. I knew we were in danger as soon as I saw them. The Tum-Taleel are significantly larger than other Argonians I've encountered, with broad shoulders, narrow eyes, and wide, powerful jaws. They wore nothing but loin cloths and war-paint, and they wielded huge wooden clubs bedecked in feathers and splattered with dry blood.
Reelus quickly stepped to the front of the caravan and began speaking in urgent croaks and hisses. I have no idea what she was saying, but the Tum-Taleel seemed to consider her words for a moment. The leader pointed at us and growled something in a low, rumbling voice. Reelus seemed disturbed by this and turned to face us.
"He wants the horses," she said.
It was very clear that we had no choice but to acquiesce. We cut the horses free of their tethers, four in all. The Root-House People took three of the horses, and led them off the road and into the swamp. The leader of the brigands led the fourth horse to the middle of the bridge, stepped back a few paces, and then brought down his club on the animal's skull with a sickening thud. The poor beast's head was pulped. I've never seen anything so ghastly! One of my compatriots retched over the side of the cart. Reelus wasted no time gathering the strongest of our party to push the carts to the end of the bridge. Luckily, the next village is only a half-day's push away. I think everyone will heed Reelus from now on.