The fourth chapter is up, and more action is coming with the next ones. The fifth will be released a bit later. I hope you'll enjoy.
Songs of Cinder, Book IV: Spellwrights and Magisters
The same male voice woke Urjorahn when he found himself in what seemed to be a camp of sorts. He never felt so comfortable all his life; a warm bedroll replaced the hard hay pile. He was a slave no more.
A young Dunmer guy stood near Urjorahn, examining him. He walked in circles, looking at the Khajiit's peculiar eyes and wondering why the lad had no tail. Then, he sat down near a low table. Urjorahn could see lots of cracked slave bracers lying on the table and around it.
"My name is Yen," the Dunmer said, still staring at Urjorahn, "How should I call you, my friend?"
"Oh, a Dunmer frees a slave. A Dunmer. Frees a slave. Contradictions in my head. You might be sick, no?" Urjorahn replied instead of introducing himself.
"The documents we recovered on that silt strider state that a gray tailless cat is Urjorahn, that's how I should call you?" Yen said, praying by Mephala's altar.
"The Dunmer is right. But no cats in there, Urjorahn assures you," he tried to stand up before he noticed the wounds, "How long has Urjorahn been asleep?"
"Oh, you slept for two weeks, Khajiit. Ha!" Yen chuckled.
"The Khajiit was born a slave, but not yesterday."
"How did you end up a slave?" Yen asked, staring at Urjorahn, who in turn looked at the slave bracers.
"End up? But you are wrong. We are born slaves. Freedom is but an illusion, a shadow of the truth that hides within our minds, friend. The night sky. This one surely must have seen the night sky. The dark waters flow. Realms beyond mortal grasp. Everyone is a slave, Yen. The Dro-m'Athra. The Slavemasters."
"Perhaps a long fall rendered you insane, Khajiit."
"And the Dro-m'Athra, they made us slaves. They sing songs of destruction and deception while mortals curse their realms. You are a slave, friend. We all are. As long as the void-like eye watches us from afar, hiding among the stars, we are under control. Possession." Urjorahn closed his eyes.
"Everything's all right?" Yen was afraid of asking him any more questions, as the latter's monologue was obviously terrifying.
"The mortal does not seem to understand Urjorahn. But the key to a greater understanding lies where the truth does. You bash and clash and slash while the Dro-m'Athra are watching. Silently. They do not interfere. They do not like it. A good show is what mortals provide them with," Urjorahn opened his left eye, "This one could tell Urjorahn which mortal is unlucky to have his deal ruined. Oh, poor Urjorahn is lost. Lost while searching for his own self. How awkward, that."
"The purchase agreement did not have any signatures. Only this," Yen showed Urjorahn a seal of House Telvanni with an "Oht" above it.
"Ah, the Great Houses like such agreements and arrangements. How boring, all these odds and ends. Slaves come and slaves go, but there can never be enough drakes in one's pockets. Ding-ding-dong, more gold is what keeps the machine running. Sadrith Mora, the Forest of Mushrooms, is the next checkpoint, no?"
"Yes. That's where the caravan was supposed to arrive," Yen looked down, and then, raised his eyes again, looking at Urjorahn, "The leader of the Twin Lamps has been brutally slaughtered. Folks say Camonna Tong was involved. Now, rumor has it that our unit at Ascadian Isles will be disbanded, I don't know where to go."
"Urjorahn is willing to take mortals with him. Ah, but the blade is way too sharp for him, sharper than his claws. Urjorahn doesn't know much. Urjorahn doesn't know the taste of combat, the thrill of the successful swing. Perhaps this one would show him the ropes?"
"We should travel to Ebonheart first." Yen said as he stood up and entered the small tent. Urjorahn managed to stand up and followed the Dunmer, a terrible pain in his side persisted. Once in the tent, one could see lots of weapon plaques and racks, old chests and mannequins, everything lit by a couple of candles and lanterns standing beside Urjorahn. Yen opened one of the chests with a loud and unpleasant creak; dozen of swords, round iron and Netch leather shields, maces and axes were there, glistening in the lanterns' light. He took a steel mace and handed it to Urjorahn, who bended under its weight.
"Heavy things do not appeal to Urjorahn. Perhaps this one could find a fine, short blade for him. He doesn't want to make much of a mess crushing and smashing skulls like this." Urjorahn said, dropping the mace on the ground. After rummaging in the chest, he took a shortsword instead. Eager to throw away the scabbard, he ran out of the tent, and attempted to deliver a blow to a dummy standing next to him. The strike reflected, and Urjorahn let the blade down before falling himself. Yen watched the silly Khajiit and laughed as the latter tried to swing a sword the right way, most often losing his grip on its hilt. As hours passed, Urjorahn got more used to the sword, swinging more confidently and letting the blade down twice as less, and Yen showed him how to hold it so that it won't be dropped after a reflected strike. The more Urjorahn trained on the dummy, the stronger he thrusted a sword in it. When the night fell, Urjorahn's blows were deadly enough to kill or severely wound anything that he could come across during his travels. Tired, with fast and labored breathing, he fell to the ground, still holding the sword steady.
"You seem to be doing well," Yen said, stretching out a loaf of bread to the Khajiit. Fresh bread was extremely rare when Urjorahn was a slave, and it was one of the few things considered as a blessing under the cruel hand of Tedryn Brenur.
Tedryn was staring at the walls of Urjorahn's cell, his facial expression so terrified that Fadril and Dalamus couldn't utter a single word. He leaned on the wall and reached out to Urjorahn's end table; papers scribbled with the same outlines as those on the walls tipped out of it. A lonely courier approached the slavemaster and informed him of the caravan's recent interception.
"No, it can't be..." Tedryn ran out of the grotto and towards the villas, he did not look so surprised in a lifetime, "By Azura... No!"
He bursted into his bedchambers and started searching for a book on his shelf in tense anxiety the guards have never seen before. He reached out to a black book, blew the dust and opened it; the very same outline. He glanced at Fadril, who turned his head to Dalamus, as both did not know what happened to the captain. Tedryn gave a sign to gather all the guards near the grotto's entrance immediately, his terrified and anxious look changing to an angry one before he said: "We're going to find this n'wah!"
Yen hasn't laughed so hard his whole life; Urjorahn managed to fall off Limp, the calmest of guar found at Twin Lamps' camp, six times during their journey to Ebonheart. But as with the swordplay, Urjorahn held the saddle steadier, and soon felt comfortable on Limp's back. Ebonheart's massive stone walls were seen from afar; Yen and Urjorahn could discern an Imperial castle through a thin veil of mist. Mere moments passed, and they were standing by the entrance, Urjorahn still trying to cope with Limp despite his best efforts. A large stone statue of a dragon stood at the center of Ebonheart's main street; a mythical and powerful creature. Yen used to know tales of those, but all of them were shrouded in mystery, and folks never believed in their existence.
"Dragons, huh?" he turned to Urjorahn.
"This one thinks they don't exist? Oh, but everyone knows they're hiding, mortal. Trust Urjorahn's extrasensory perception, they do exist. Beyond our understanding, beyond our petty and foolish concepts, just like everything is." Urjorahn smiled.
"You think these wretched things existed? Well, maybe we were pulling the silt strider way too hard."
"Urjorahn doesn't have evidence either."
As they walked down the streets of Ebonheart, past the blacksmith's workshop, glistening armors of steel and fine expensive raiments caught Urjorahn's eye. A leather cuirass, tightly fastened with strips and boiled by the looks of it, seemed to be most impressive for a young Khajiit, and he pulled Yen and pointed at the cuirass, hanging on one of the sticks of the tailor's bench. Yen reached out to his purse and took out a few gold coins. Urjorahn has not seen so many in his entire life despite being a slave, in an environment where gold is what kept things running. Once the deal was stroke, the Khajiit got himself a nice armor and a pair of boots. This was the first time he felt so happy, the first time he came to understand what happiness meant. What freedom meant.
Now, Urjorahn, clad in Netch leather, a shortsword resting on his hip, had everything he needed to venture out. Yen bought some salves and poisons as well as a new mace, a new knapsack to store everything he purchased, and the two were ready to bid Ebonheart goodbye. A new life for a couple of adventurers, the whole District ripe for plunder and teeming with dangerous creatures, yearning to be explored - true, Yen's thoughts were about seeking fortune in the new land. Urjorahn needed to know who he is, who he was destined to be.
The nightly guar ride across the rolling green plains and fields of the Ascadian Isles and Azura's Coast did not offer much of a challenge, with the exception of cliff racers, who were surfing the night sky, circling around the two but not attempting to attack either of them. They were close to Sadrith Mora; the road was going through the forests of Emperor Parasol, the moss hanging from the mushrooms and all the way down to the ground. The road itself was bordered by scathecraw bushes, giant roots could be seen among the Parasol. Soon, Urjorahn could see a banner hanging on a root; Great House Telvanni's insignia was pictured, as well as an arrowhead pointing at Telvanni capital's location. Sadrith Mora's stone gate, as well as the Gateway Inn's entrance lit by orange lanterns on the stairs, was only a few metres away from the adventurers, and Tel Naga's top was seen through the walls of the town. The two rented a room in the cornerclub, leaving their guars by the stables.
A week passed, and Urjorahn managed to become a Telvanni retainer and got himself some new robes as a token of his membership. The Mouths over at the Council House were not so lenient towards the Khajiit, but he did make some friends within the House, eventually ending up having enough coin to live, a place to stay in the town, and the experience of the arcane arts. Since that time, he spent the days in Tel Naga's lower levels and the vast library, his nose in the books and his satchel full of scrolls. The nights were spent in endless attempts at mastering the magics, understanding magicka's very flow and channeling it. Yen made a fortune by engaging in numerous profitable businesses in the town, such as being a blacksmith's apprentice or Morag Tong assassins' errand boy. Both became full-fledged citizens of Sadrith Mora, blended with the Telvanni society. As Urjorahn was going up the ranks, he came to know of the "less honest ways" of deceit and conspiracies. Athys Falen, a Spellwright of House Telvanni, was ordered to be taken care of by one of the high Magisters; luckily enough, Urjorahn had the skill in stealth, a trait which he exploited when escaping his cage and sneaking behind the guards back at Brenur plantation. House Telvanni's mages preferred taking care of the House's problems without the Morag Tong's help, relying on the cheaper retainers of lower ranks eager to go up. A few machinations of Urjorahn's - and poor Falen was sent to rot in Sadrith Mora's jail. No bloodshed, no mess to clean up, just as the Khajiit wanted for the fellow Dunmer's career to end.
Everything was going on well, before Urjorahn found a clue that might tell him who was the mysterious buyer.
A tattered note with the very same seal.