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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Henry v. Keiper

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Chapter 6

“Rumors flow from the House of Troubles.”

-- From
The Book of Dawn and Dusk​

29 Heartfire, 451, 2E

It had been almost a year now - since Vvardenfell, since the dream, and since Nethyn’s return and his subsequent appointment to chaplaincy. Little success was seen from Nethyn’s continued work in Narthan, and there appeared to be no sign that the Cult of the Mad God was losing power. Every thunderstorm, Nethyn was sure it was Sheogorath, come to mock him again. At the end of every month, the grandmaster and realm chaplain was required to send the king a report on the status of things, and almost every letter said the same thing: no success, people in danger of rioting.

The only happy note from the grandmaster’s time in Narthan was that he became engaged. This was to Llavesa, a courtier in Narthan and a relative of Serjo Endryn II of Mournhold. Despite his title, Mournhold was held by the high king himself, while the lands around it (including Narthan) were owned by Endryn. Both Endryn and Llavesa were of the House of Indoril, which connected them with the hero of Red Mountain, as well as gave them ties to the archcanon and the high king. She was at the time 12-years old, but in about four years, the two would be able to be wed.


Throughout this time, the grandmaster was receiving letters from back home regarding the state of Hlaalu demesne. The Thieve’s Guild had shown up in the territory, and the magistrates overseeing many of the towns and provinces seemed incapable of stopping their activity. What’s more, there was growing political discontent. Muthsera Ethes, who had formerly been the frontrunner for succession to the House of Hlaalu, was now second to the grandmaster’s own son. Since his return from Vvardenfell, and his clearly changed countenance, many nobles had grown to appreciate the grandmaster more, and the grandmaster had begun to support his son politically more and more openly. With this, many began to follow his lead. Seemingly not happy with this, there were rumors that Ethes had begun to seek supporters for his claim, and may be willing to take it by force. Nethyn wrote back that monetary funds should be sent to Ethes’s provinces for their improvement, in hopes of placating the muthsera’s ambition.




Then came (finally) some happy news: the high king was holding a special feast in Mournhold. All of the top politicians, most influential nobles, and the like were invited, Nethyn included. Being so close to the city, of course, it did not take too long for the grandmaster to make it to the capitol. It had been quite a while since Nethyn had been in the great city, and was more than happy to tread its stones again. The great towers, the high stones...it was a testament of where the Dunmer had come after so many thousands of years.


The gathering was held in a large room within the palace, with servants moving to and fro with refreshments. As was expected, all the important figures of Dunmeri government were there, save for Temple representatives. The heads of the Houses of Redordan, Dris, Telvanni, and many others were present, though Nethyn paid them no mind. No sooner had he been announced into the hall that the high king himself turned and, grinning broadly, rushed forward, taking Nethyn by the hand and clasping him on the shoulder:

“Nethyn! My dear peer in pilgrimage! It is good to see you! I hear you have been engaged?”

Nethyn nodded slightly, smiling a little to return Rythe’s cheer, “From your house no less, your majesty.”

“Ah, that is not such a big thing - do not forget that Farwil is from my house too!”

The two men laughed. Rythe motioned quietly towards a more empty section, and the two men made their way there, at such a distance that the others in the room could not hear their hushed tones. Rythe turned towards Nethyn with his back to the wall and his front towards the room, no doubt to keep from anyone surprising him in one way or another. The high king began to speak with:

“How goes your corner of the world? I hear the Nords are bickering amongst one another with axes.”

“I am afraid I’m out of the loop there, your majesty,” Nethyn replied, “I have been to the south of here, serving as chaplain.”

Rythe smacked his forehead, wincing a bit as if in pain as he said, “Oh, of course, I had forgotten. I sent you there, didn’t I? No worries...let me ask instead how that wound of yours has been doing - it’s left you a pleasant scar.”

Nethyn nodded, reaching up and running a finger along the long indent that went along one side of his face, “I am merely thankful that I received a scar and not judgment on Vvardenfell.”

“A proper way to look at it...in either case, I was wondering what you would think if I stood up to the Temple? I think our armies might be ready.”

Nethyn blinked his red eyes at the high king. It was such a blunt, direct, matter-of-fact question, and yet it was about quite a serious matter. Rythe might as well have said something like, It was a lovely day today - oh by the way, do you think I should murder my entire family as they sleep? It would have achieved the same effect.

“Stood up, your majesty? Do you mean…go to war?”

Rythe nodded, “Yes, and I have one target in mind...Uveria,” he lifted up his wine glass to take a few sips, “you know, that province to the west of the holy city of Necrom. There is some contesting there about borders, I intend to use it to my advantage. Farwil has been bothering me ever since our journey. He thinks that just because he gave me food and drink, I owe him half of Morrowind!”

“What will the Tribunal think? Won’t they intervene?”

“I highly doubt it, and what if they do?” Rythe let out a short burst of derisive laughter. “My dear Nethyn, do you realize that, in actuality, they are as mortal as you and I? It was by their stupidity that we were nearly completely conquered by the Empire. If the son of a human emperor can outwit them, what real fear do we have of them?”

Nethyn had been pondering similar things for the past several months. He knew that the Tribunal had not always been gods, but had obtained godhood. How much of their will and nature was therefore godly, and how much of it was merely god-like? How much of it was still mortal? The high king had brought up an aspect Nethyn had not even considered yet: had they not shown traits of mortality in the past? Were they simply mortals with god-like powers? Why, then, were they worthy to be worshiped?

Then Nethyn remembered that strange vision he had beheld in Vvardenfell, after he had fallen to the Nord’s axe. That strange vision where Azura herself had spoken to him, and promised to care for him, to edify him, and to prepare him to serve her. Even after all this time, he had never told a single soul about that incident, for fear they would either consider him a heretic or a lunatic. As he stood there, face to face with the king, who had been there with him on the pilgrimage, he pondered if he should share his vision with the monarch. After all, they both seemed to be skeptical - perhaps the king would at least be understanding towards Nethyn’s susceptibility towards such visions? Perhaps the king would at least entertain the idea of such a vision? Then again, had it not been so long after that vision, with no others taking its place? Nethyn had not had another dream, let alone another figment, of Azura since that time - not even voices in his head had manifested since he left Vvardenfell.

“Are you alright?” Rythe suddenly asked. “You look there’s something troubling you.”

Nethyn blinked, snapping out of his pondering. He turned to the king and, with a soft smile, said, “No, your majesty, I’m fine...forgive me, I may need some fresh air.”

So it was that the grandmaster decided not to tell the king of his vision. It was most likely some strange hallucination, as he had hypothesized before, and nothing to worry anyone about. Nethyn stepped out of the room, and out onto the back courtyard, in the garden, letting out a sigh as he took in the cool night air. In his mind were so many things. Where was the kingdom going? Where were the Dunmer going? Where were they supposed to go? By whose direction were they to follow? He had been experiencing so much doubt over the past few years, and that strange vision on Vvardenfell had only caused further confusion. Perhaps it was truly just a dream. Was it not a dream? Did it not fit the criteria of a dream? A strange deity who shows grace and mercy upon a people, though they do not deserve it? Would such a deity exist?

It was then that a strange, hooded figure suddenly appeared from the side, bumping into him. Nethyn moved back with a start, staring at the figure as it moved into the shadows and disappeared in an instant. Before he could call out to it, let alone think of a response, the grandmaster realized that something had been placed into his hands. He looked down, and saw that it was a thick, ancient book...

 

Henry v. Keiper

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A mysterious book... and Rythe going to war? Well hopefully the temple won't intervene.
Temple might end up being anticlimactic for some people in the next few updates.

In the meantime...update coming later on tonight.
 

KaiserWilhelmI

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Would be interesting if it was the Oghma Infinium. I'm interested to see what book it is.
Maybe its the fabled Lusty Argonian Maid Vol 3?
 

Henry v. Keiper

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Chapter 7

“We can have no opinions about Truth.”

-- From
The Book of Dawn and Dusk​

15 First Seed, 453, 2E

Ever since that time at the king’s feast, Nethyn had begun to read the book placed in his hands. What drove him to read it, he wasn’t sure. He wasn’t even certain what it was about, as it had no title on the front, and he had absolutely no reason to be interested in what the book had to say, but nonetheless he decided to read it as soon as he had returned to his chaplaincy post.


The book, as he found out quickly by the title on the first page, was entitled Nerevar at Red Mountain. A scholarly note at the beginning read:

The following is from the Apographa, the hidden writings of the Tribunal Temple. It is a scholarly retelling of a tradition transmitted through the Ashlanders concerning the battle at Red Mountain and subsequent events. The Ashlanders associate this tale with the telling of Alandro Sul, a shield-companion of Nerevar who came to live among the Ashlanders after the death of Nerevar and during the ascension of the Tribunal. There are many variant treatments of this story, but the primary elements are consistent throughout the tradition. The murder of Nerevar, the tragic fate of Dagoth Ur, and the profane source of the Tribunal's divine power are denied by Temple doctrine as ignorant Ashlander superstition, and not widely known among civilized Dunmer.

Nethyn paused here, writing a letter home to his court chaplain to ask if he had ever heard of a book (though he did not specify a name) regarding the Ashlander traditions around Red Mountain. He resolved not to continue reading until he had received a response. Within a week or two, Athyn had written back, saying that he was aware of a book recording Vivec’s own account, but nothing concerning the Ashlander traditions in detail. He added that most Dunmer are ignorant of Ashlander traditions anyway, and probably would not be interested in reading of them. Intrigued by this, Nethyn sat down and began to read the book some more:

Resdayn, present day Morrowind, was contested ground between two very different types of Mer: the Chimer, who worshipped Daedra, and the Dwemer, who worshipped a profane and secret power. These two people warred with each other constantly until their lands were invaded by a young, vibrant, and violent alien culture, the Nords. Two heroes, one from the Chimer and one from the Dwemer, Indoril Nerevar and Dumac Dwarf-Orc, made peace between their people and together ousted the alien invaders. Then these two heroes worked long and hard to maintain that peace thereafter, though their counselors thought it could not last or, worse, that it shouldn't. Nerevar's queen and his generals-- Almalexia, Sotha Sil, Vivec --told him to claim all Resdayn for his own. But Nerevar would not listen, for he remembered his friendship with Dumac. There would be only peace.

Until Dagoth-Ur arrived. House Dagoth had discovered the source of the profane and secret power of the Dwemer: the legendary Heart of Lorkhan, which Dumac's people had used to make themselves immortal and beyond the measure of the gods. In fact, one of the their high priests, Kagrenac, was building a New God so that the Dwemer could claim Resdayn for their own.

The Tribunal urged Nerevar again to make war on the Dwarves. Nerevar was troubled. He went to Dumac, his friend of old, and asked if what Dagoth-Ur said was true. But Kagrenac and the high priests of the Dwemer had kept their New God secret from their King, and Dumac said the Dwemer were innocent of any wrongdoing. Nerevar was troubled again and made pilgrimage to Holamayan, the sacred temple of Azura, who confirmed that all that Dagoth-Ur said was indeed true and that the New God of the Dwemer should be destroyed for the safety of not only Resdayn, but for the whole world. When Nerevar went back and told his Tribunal what the goddess had said, his queen and generals felt themselves proved aright and again counseled him to war. There were reasons that the Dwemer and Chimer had hated each other forever.


Nethyn meditated on all this a moment. In Vivec’s famous sermons and sayings, Nerevar was almost always portrayed as a brave but simple-minded (if not foolhardy) character, whereas in this account, told by Ashlander traditions, Nerevar was, in fact, an intelligent, caring individual, while Vivec and his colleagues were conniving and dishonest. He continued to read:

Finally, Nerevar, angered that his friend Dumac would lie to him, went back to Vvardenfell. This time the Chimer King was arrayed in arms and armor and had his hosts around him, and he spoke harshly to Dumac Dwarf-Orc, King of Red Mountain. "You must give up your worship of the Heart of Lorkhan or I shall forget our friendship and the deeds that were accomplished in its name!" And Dumac, who still knew nothing of Kagrenac's New God, but proud and protective as ever of his people, said, "We shall not relinquish that which has been our way for years beyond reckoning, just as the Chimer will not relinquish their ties to the Lords and Ladies of Oblivion. And to come at my door in this way, arrayed in arms and armor and with your hosts around you, tells me you have already forgotten our friendship. Stand down, my sweet Nerevar, or I swear by the fifteen-and-one golden tones I shall kill you and all your people."

And so the Chimer and Dwemer went to war. The Dwemer were well-defended by their fortress at Red Mountain, but the bravery and cleverness of Nerevar's queen and generals drew most of Dumac's armies out into the field and kept them there, so that Nerevar and Dagoth-Ur could make their way into the Heart Chamber by secret means. There, Nerevar met Dumac and the Dwarf King and they both fell from grievous wounds. Dagoth-Ur slew Kagrenac and took the tools the Dwemer used to tap the power of the Heart. He went to his dying lord Nerevar and asked him what to do with these tools. And Nerevar summoned Azura again, and she showed them how to use the tools to separate the power of the Heart from the Dwemer people.

And on the fields, the Tribunal and their armies watched as the Dwemer turned into dust all around them as their stolen immortality was taken away.


Nethyn paused. So this, indeed, was how the Dwemer had vanished. It was their supposed immortality, taken away, and like all mortal things they had turned to dust. Now nothing remained of them but their ruins all throughout Tamriel. How strange, Nethyn thought, that the Tribunal would eventually go and seek power from that which had brought about the end of its former user? The Dwemer had turned to dust...was there not a possibility that the Tribunal would turn to dust?


Putting these thoughts aside for now, Nethyn continued to read:

Back in Red Mountain, Nerevar told Dagoth-Ur to protect the tools and the Heart Chamber until he returned. Dagoth-Ur said, "But shouldn't we destroy these tools at once, so that they might never be used for evil again?" But Nerevar was confused by his wounds and his sorrow (for he still loved Dumac and the Dwemer people) and so went to the fields outside of Red Mountain to confer with his queen and his generals, who had foreseen that this war would come and whose counsel he would not ignore again. "I will ask the Tribunal what we shall do with them, for they have had wisdom in the past that I had not. Stay here, loyal Dagoth-Ur, until I return."

Then Nerevar told his queen and generals all that had transpired under Red Mountain and how the Dwemer had used special tools to turn their people into immortals and of the wondrous power of the Heart of Lorkhan. The Tribunal decided that the Chimer should learn how to use this power so that Nerevar might claim Resdayn and the world for their people. Nerevar did not expect or want this, so he asked his queen and generals to help him summon Azura yet again for her guidance. But the Tribunal had become as greedy as Kagrenac upon hearing of the power of the Heart and they coveted it. They made ritual as if to summon Azura as Nerevar wanted but Almalexia used poisoned candles and Sotha Sil used poisoned robes and Vivec used poisoned invocations. Nerevar was murdered.


Nethyn paused yet again. His red eyes stared at those last three words, as if transfixed. Nerevar was murdered. It was as according to the Ashlander accusations against the Temple and the Tribunal. It was as Farwil had denied and called a blasphemous accusation. Yet here it was, in the recorded Ashlander traditions, supposedly dating back to Red Mountain itself: Nerevar was murdered, and it was by the hand of the Tribunal. All his life, Nethyn had been told that Nerevar’s death had been from a hard fought battle against Dagoth Ur. Then Nethyn remembered that old Ashlander by the Ghostgate...what had the man asked him, when Nethyn had brought this very point up? “Told by whom?” That was what the old man had asked.

The grandmaster continued to read:

Then Azura came forth anyway and cursed the Tribunal for their foul deeds. She told them that she would use her powers over dusk and dawn to make sure Nerevar would come back and make things right again. But the Tribunal laughed at her and said that soon they would be gods themselves and that the Chimer people would forget their old ways of worship. And Azura knew this would be true and that it would take a long time before her power might bring Nerevar back. "What you have done here today is foul beyond measure and you will grow to regret it, for the lives of gods are not what mortals think and matters that weigh only years to mortals weigh on gods forever." And so that they might know forever their wicked deeds Azura changed the Chimer into Dunmer, and their skin turned ashen and their eyes into fire. "Let this mark remind you of your true selves who, like ghouls, fed on the nobility, heroism, and trust of their king."

Nethyn lifted up the hands from the pages, looking them over. They were dark indeed, and he did not have to look in the mirror to know his eyes were red. Was it all because of a curse? Was he to hate how he looked - indeed, how all his people looked? Were the Dunmer, for the color of their flesh and eyes, a group of people to be hated? Were they a group of people who, upon being seen, should be considered as nothing more than haters of those who had served them loyally for years, and traitors of those who had been their captains?

He continued:

And then the Tribunal went into Red Mountain and met with Dagoth-Ur. Dagoth-Ur saw what had been done, for his skin had changed as well, and he tried to avenge the death of Nerevar but to no avail. He was driven off and thought dead. The Tribunal found the tools he had been guarding and, through study of Kagrenac's methods, turned themselves into gods.

This was just as shocking as the concept that Nerevar was murdered. All accounts Nethyn had read or heard said that Dagoth-Ur had been slain by Nerevar, after having gone mad. Here, Dagoth-Ur was, in fact, a loyal assistant to Nerevar, and had been slain by the Tribunal for following the great captain’s orders. Again, was this true?

There was only a little bit more to read:

Thousands of years after their apotheosis, the Tribunal are still the gods of Morrowind and the old ways of worship are remembered only by a few. And the murder of Nerevar is known to fewer. But his queen and generals still fear his return, for the words of Azura linger long and they see the mark of her curse on their people every day.

And suddenly, Nethyn no longer felt cursed. No - it was as if in the twinkling of an eye, all disdain for his skin and eye color had vanished. He realized now why he looked the way he did: it was to remind me of the curse that had befallen on his people...and the freedom that Azura shall bring to them. There was a curse, and there was a hope - that hope was in the Nerevarine, destined to come by Azura’s will, and destined to restore that which has been lost, and bring the lost people back to glory. At the moment, the Dunmer walked in darkness, but soon Azura would lead them into the dawn, and she would do that through her coming hero: the Nerevarine. The Great Captain would return, and the Dunmer would have a hero yet again.

Nethyn closed the book. He was done, but he did not have to read anything else a second time. He had it now. It was all in his heart. Something had come over him, and at once he felt a connection to that vision of his in Vvardenfell. It was not that Azura was appearing to him again, nor that he was hearing voices, but that same feeling - that strange connection between his natural senses and his perception of the supernatural - had returned. It was as if he was a spiritual being living in a mortal world, and that was the only way he could think of describing it to himself.

He stood up and walked to the window, gazing out into the sky. There were no storm clouds, and no thunder like there had been before - it was as if the open expanse reflected his own mind. Yes, he had to return back to his homeland, and back to his own house. He had to ask for a leave of absence from his position as chaplain, and go back to where he served as leader. That small chair which he had always found so plain, back in his main compound, would have himself sitting on its cushions yet again.

“Praise Azura,” he whispered to himself, “praise her mercy and love.”

The words no longer came out of his mouth by accident or carelessness - they were said with full intent by the one who spoke them. They were said by a man who knew he was forever changed.

 

Henry v. Keiper

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Chapter 8

“Oh, how rarely wisdom rules our hearts!”

-- From
The Book of Dawn and Dusk​

1 Sun’s Height, 459, 2E

High King Rythe was hesitant to send Nethyn home, but eventually he relented to his chaplain’s demands. Nethyn returned home in the first week of Morning Star, 454, and just in time for his marriage to Llavesa, which happened on 8 Morning Star of that same year. Obviously, she was quite different than her time as a youth, when Nethyn had first met her: she had grown somewhat wrathful, and was known to have a short temper. Nethyn had to lecture more than once on not rolling her eyes when servants messed up, or when one of his councilmen attempted to give her advice on how things were done in Narsis. All the same, Nethyn and Llavesa got along as well as husband and wife could, and there were no major conflicts in their relationship.


It was not more than a year later that major news reached the halls of Hlaalu: on 29 Midyear, 455, war was declared between the Kingdom of Morrowind and the Temple government. It was over the contested territory of Uveria, just as Rythe had told Nethyn some years before, at the royal feast. For his own part, Nethyn did not raise nor send any troops, and the war found itself isolated towards the eastern regions, especially around the city of Necrom. This meant the Hlaalu regions, if not most of western Morrowind, could live in relative peace.

Nethyn spent most of this time attempting to regain the political losses he had suffered while away as court chaplain. By Last Seed, the common Dunmer once again had respect for the House Hlaalu’s ability to rule, and by the middle of Heartfire, the Thieve’s Guild was disbanded. Marshal Brelo Merosid had discovered that the entryway to their hideout was just outside of Narsis, in the ancestral tomb of a long lost family. Brelo led a band of men into the tunnels, taking the thieves by surprise. Most were killed, some were captured, and a few escaped, but the power of the Thieve’s Guild had been obliterated, and their grip on Narsis finished. This did much to boost Hlaalu’s opinion among the people, as well as the morale of the Hlaalu soldiers.


Well into the year 456 (as the war continued to rage in the east), Nethyn attempted to rule fairly, even when his councilmen seemed opposed to this stratagem. For example, when his steward came to him with a plan to rough up peasants in order to obtain further income and taxes, Nethyn refused, saying that it would not be fair. When the steward commented rather snarkily, “The Grandmaster Nethyn I used to know would have approved of this,” Nethyn replied coolly and with no sign of offense, “I know - and I am no longer that Grandmaster Nethyn.”


The truest sense of Nethyn’s morality, however, was tested when dire news came in from his spy networks: Eldrar, the Muthsera of Thir, had begun a plot to take the position of grandmaster for himself. This plan had begun sometime at the beginning of Frostfall, and reached the ears of the grandmaster’s spies by the end of the month. Unlike previous plotters who had eyed the grandmaster’s chair, Eldrar seemed immovable from his intentions. The most disheartening aspect was that Eldrar had, within his demesne, a sizeable army that could equal - if not rival - any levies Nethyn could call up. The grandmaster’s advisers warned him that confronting Eldrar openly might lead to war, and that the only option was one that Nethyn wanted to desperately avoid: assassination.


Hlaalu spies quickly found out that Eldrar had lost respect in his own court at Thir as well as the high court in Narsis. Many nobles and councilmen came forward, offering their assistance in the scheme, and even making suggestions or plans on how to handle this issue. Nethyn was slightly worried regarding this, as he quietly believed men who could betray their direct superiors could no doubt betray their liege as well.


By Heartfire, 457, the war between Morrowind and Vvardenfell had ended, with Rythe successfully taking Uveria from the Temple. There was little celebration in the Hlaalu regions, as they had been neither affected positively or negatively by the conflict. Even House Redoran, up to the north (and who usually revelled in a chance for combat), did not partake in much celebrations. Some saw it merely as the high king and archcanon taking their arguments and petty bickerings into the battlefield - although, of course, no one in all of Morrowind was sorry that their side lost.

Meanwhile, a secret meeting between Nethyn and several of those in Eldrar’s courts was held on 15 Sun’s Dusk, 457, where it was suggested that Eldrar could come to an untimely end by a carriage mishap that would appear to be a terrible accident, and nothing more. The plan was to be carried out on 13 Evening Star of that year, along the coastline facing the inner sea. Nethyn was, for the most part, hesitant about the idea, and was beginning to think that it would be more proper to coerce or negotiate a settlement with Eldrar, in order to temper his ambitions. Eldrar’s courtiers and Nethyn’s advisers, however, were adamant about seeing it through.


The plan was carried out on 13 Evening Star, as scheduled. The muthsera’s carriage was traveling along the shores, reaching a wooden bridge overlooking a high overpass, when the structure suddenly gave way. The carriage went down, killing the team and driver.

There was, however, no passenger.

This was because Eldrar had cancelled his traveling plans last minute, due to a severe bout of illness, and decided to wait at a court friend’s estate. He had sent the carriage to pick up some family members and bring them to him, and it was while on this journey that the carriage met its untimely fate.

There was no immediate implication against anyone in the wake of this event - however, Eldrar was not ignorant, and he could easily figure out that the bridge collapse was the work of Dunmer hands. What’s more, he knew that such an operation could not be carried through without the cooperation of someone with great power. His relationship with the grandmaster was strained greater than it had been before. Far from a tempered ambition, Eldrar’s desires grew increasingly hostile. There were rumors that he was holding private meetings more frequently, and beginning to send letters to nameless Outlander contacts.

Nethyn, for his part, felt remorse over the incident. He realized it had been a mistake to try to secretly murder someone, when a peaceful route could have been taken. He was especially disheartened when he heard about the situations around the carriage’s journey, and realized he would have felt eternally guilty if one of Eldrar’s innocent family members had been in the carriage when it fell. He began to realize that he was feeling a growing distance between himself and his faith, in particular with his relationship to Azura. It was that same empty, hollow feeling he had felt before his pilgrimage, when he knew nothing of Azura and her love. This was a terrible, terrible feeling. It was like a man who, in a brightly lit room, is suddenly cast into utter darkness. There was some doubt seeping in him as a result of this, like a fungus growing in the aforementioned darkness. Was it truly right to believe what he had read in the book? Was it truly proper to pursue this Nerevarine belief system? He was sick of doubt - he wanted some kind of assurance. He wanted, once and for all, to know the direction in his life to take.

That was when the grandmaster received word from Vvardenfell that caused him to consider his next move. During the war with Morrowind, some of the Ashlander tribes had risen up against the Temple in open rebellion. Apparently, the persecutions had become so bad that the tribes no longer agreed to simply submit quietly, and what had begun with fighting back against Temple agents turned into armed conflict. The rebels had even made it to Vivec and sacked some of the city. The Archcanon Farwil had been gone to war during this, and hence the event was a major embarrassment to him. Most of the Ashlanders had returned home, to the north of the island, but others had begun to spring up, and the Ashlander tribes were starting to declare their independence bit by bit. The Temple’s hold on the island was slipping more and more as the years went by, as the combination of the failed war against Morrowind and the successful uprisings showed the kink in their armor.


If the Ashlanders were becoming independent, that would mean that they were being permitted to worship freely, which meant that the Nerevarine faith could be discussed and preached more openly. Nethyn realized that he could find further answers about Azura, the Nerevarine controversy, as well as what he had read in his book. Most of all, he desired to know from the Ashlanders what assurance they truly had that the Nerevarine faith was true, and Azura truly was blessing them. He wanted to see what Azura could do for her people, firsthand.

So it was on 1 Sun’s Height, 459, that Nethyn gathered a small force of just under 200 soldiers, and prepared for a second pilgrimage to Vvardenfell, and into the independent realms of the Ashlanders.

 

Henry v. Keiper

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Great developments! To War!
All in due time...war will become more frequent...mwa ha ha...

Actually, I was surprised the Ashlanders started to gain independence from the Temple lands. I'd never seen them do that before. Would have been interesting to see them try that in the lore.
 

Henry v. Keiper

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Chapter 9

“The clan Wise Woman should never be ignored and her advice never dismissed. Not if you want to successfully deal with an Ashlander tribe.”

-- From
Ashlander Wise Women​

20 Second Seed, 460, 2E


Nethyn’s forces crossed the Inner Sea through the middle of Morrowind, arriving at Vvardenfell on 24 First Seed, 460. They came in from the south, along Azura’s Coast, avoiding Vivec and other major centers of Temple power. They continued to move up the coast, unharassed by bandits or Temple soldiers. The journey, in all, did not experience many difficulties, nor did it take very long. In fact, after only a month of traveling, the small Hlaalu force finally arrived at the region known as the Grazelands in the middle end of Second Seed. It was here that the first rebellion against the Temple, under the command of an Ashlander general named Urkhan Mausur, had begun. Nethyn had heard about Mausur’s exploits from his previous information, as well as what he heard from the locals: with his Ashlander forces, Mausur had proven trouble for the Temple, have taken most of Azura’s Coast, and even reaching Vivec itself. Because so many Temple troops had been deployed to war, there were few guarding the holy city, and many of the buildings were sacked before Mausur withdrew in the face of enemy reinforcements coming from the west. It had, overall, been a very embarrassing moment for Archcanon Farwil and his Temple lackeys.

On the day of their arrival to the region, they were greeted by a mounted patrol of Ashlanders, wearing their usual traditional garb that no doubt the Chimer had worn when they first came to the Morrowind region. They demanded to know the reason for the presence of Nethyn and his forces, to which the grandmaster replied that he had come in peace, merely wishing to speak with Urkhan Mausur himself. The patrol ordered the Hlaalu caravan to wait here, riding off and returning not an hour later, saying that they would lead them to where Mausur was.

After a brief travel through the plains, Nethyn and his men were brought to the ancient city of Tel Mora, which featured a tower built by Aldmeri explorers long before the beginning of the First Age. It was a tall and strange building, with horn-like points jutting out from it and pointing towards the sky. It was at one point mortal-made architecture, and at another point an entity of nature. Although it was hardly the palaces in Mournhold, Nethyn could not help but feel awed by the sight of it.


The Ashlander guards said that Mausur would see Nethyn, but that his men had to wait outside. Although some of Nethyn’s officers were unsure about this, he told them it would be fine. Nethyn knew, from his previous time in Vvardenfell, that Ashlanders were patient with visitors, but would react in a hostile manner to those guests who they considered were acting rude. He would have to appeal to Mausur’s sense of hospitality, and thus Nethyn had to further show that he could be trusted.

Nethyn was brought into the tower, and taken to a private room. No sooner had he arrived that another Dunmer, wearing thick leather armor with a simple sword at his side, appeared. He had a short trim for his hair, similar to the grandmaster, but a growing beard on his face, similar to the fashion of many on Vvardenfell. He eyed the grandmaster up and down, then walked over to a cabinet, pulling out some wine and pouring them two glasses. He wasn’t looking at Nethyn when he finally spoke:

“You are the one curious about the Ashlanders?”


Nethyn nodded, “Yes...forgive me if I am being rude, but I am in the presence of Urkhan Mausur himself?”

“That you are,” said Mausur, turning and smiling, a mischievous gleam in his eye. The grandmaster quickly caught on that it had been a quick test. Of course...treat your guest rude, and see if he is humble enough to accept the poor first impression. No doubt Mausur was used to dealing with Temple dignitaries, who loathed it when they were not shown the proper respect they thought they deserved. Nethyn, thankfully, now had grace and patience that only former saints had shown.

“I thank you for permitting me to have an audience with you,” Nethyn continued, as Mausur turned and handed him a glass of wine, “and thank you for the drink. I have traveled from Narsis to come see you.”

“Narsis…” Mausur said, as if in thought. He leaned against the counter behind him, swirling the wine around in his goblet as his red eyes looked about, “Narsis - ah. That’s in the southwest of Morrowind - am I wrong?”

“No, you are right,” Nethyn said, smiling, “I am Grandmaster Nethyn, of the House of Hlaalu. I have come because I desire to know of Azura.”

“I know,” Mausur said, “I had a dream of your arrival last night.”

Nethyn blinked. He did not know what to say. What does one say to such a thing? Mausur seemed to sense Nethyn’s confusion, and so explained:

“I had a dream where I saw men in foreign armor riding through an ashstorm, and a voice told me that one was coming from Narsis to see me - I would know him by his humility to rude hosts. The voice said that this was humility given to him by another power.”

Now the way Mausur had treated him made sense...but a voice?

“Forgive me for intruding upon your dream, Lord Mausur,” Nethyn began, “but did it sound female?”

“Yes,” Mausur replied, nodding. He had a sip of his wine, then added, “I believe it was Azura herself.”

Now, Nethyn’s jaw dropped. Mausur let out a laugh, then said:

“Do not be alarmed, Grandmaster Nethyn. It has been common for our mystics - especially our mabrigash, or wise women - to hear from Azura. You have probably never heard of this, because the Temple has suppressed much of this information from common Dunmer. They have been suppressing much as of late - that is why I went to war. I did not go to battle willingly, mind you. What happened, you see, was the Temple began to become harsher against the Ahemmusa tribe, because we seemed to be becoming more and more faithful to the religion of the Incarnate, despite their laws and tyranny. Then, one day, they lit fire to an entire village not far from here, and killed all its inhabitants. Many of them were children. Ashlanders became outraged - they began to make raids against Temple troops, killing Ordinators and other Temple thugs. When the Temple sent out a force and threatened to burn every Ahemmusa village to the ground, we decided to take up arms. I was placed in control because of my skill. We joined forces with the Zainab tribe, and together we met the Temple forces at the fortress of Indoranyon. We lured them in with a small force in the complex, and when they had committed most of their forces, we attacked from behind. It was our first victory. After that, Azura blessed us with victory after victory, until finally I came to Vivec itself.”

“You believe it was Azura behind all this?” Nethyn asked.

“I know it was,” Mausur replied, “she was assisting us, to prepare the way for the coming of her champion.”

“You mean the reincarnated Nerevar?”

Mausur nodded, “She spoke this to our mystics, saying she was preparing the way for his coming. She spoke likewise of one who would act like a messenger and a prophet to prepare the way for him - one whom she had been raising up over these past years…” A grin crept across the Ashlander’s face, and his red eyes never left Nethyn’s, “...and I believe she may have been speaking of you.”

Nethyn cleared his throat, nervously sipping his wine as he said in a quick tempo, “I highly doubt I am. I struggle with the very notion.”

“Did you meet an old mystic at the Ghostgate?”

An old mystic at the Ghostgate? The old man? Was that who Mausur was referring to? But how could he have known about the old man?

“You mean an old man, who claims to remember the days when the Dunmer worshiped the original Tribunal?” Nethyn asked. “How did you know of him? Who is he?”

“He travels here and there,” Mausur explained, “no one knows his name. I believe he forsook it long ago, because he no longer cared about such things as personal identity, fame, and glory. He is waiting for the day when Azura will call him to Moonshadow, in the realms of Oblivion. Yet not long ago, he passed by here, and spoke of a Dunmer from the south who had shown an interest in the Nerevarine prophecy, and said that Azura was going to use him for her purposes.”

The grandmaster felt his knees buckle under him. He had come to Vvardenfell to gain insight and wisdom on spiritual matters, but this was too much. So much seemed to suddenly be centered around him, and what’s more, so much of it had Azura’s authority behind it. Yet why was it, when Azura seemed to speak so commonly and casually to these Ashlanders, that, in all these years, she had only spoken to him once?

Nethyn remained there, at Mausur’s behest, for the next few weeks. He learned more about the Nerevarine prophecy, as well as the facts around the death and betrayal of Nerevar and Dagoth Ur. Without citing the book he had read, Mausur almost retold the entire account word for word. What’s more, Mausur claimed that it had originally been told to the Ashlander tribes by one of Nerevar’s former officers, who had witnessed much of the crimes committed by the Tribunal in Vivec.


It was then, at the close of Midyear, that Nethyn was summoned to the Hlaalu camp - and it was urgent. He rushed there, and found a messenger wearing Hlaalu armor, covered in mud and dust and panting heavily. He looked with tired eyes to Nethyn and then fell to the floor, prostrate. Speaking through heaves and gasps, he exclaimed:

“Grandmaster! I have ridden here as quickly as possible! Terrible news! Muthsera Eldrar has risen up against you! Prathan has fallen!”
 

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Chapter 10

“Let faith be your only law.”

-- From
The Book of Dawn and Dusk


The news had been difficult to take. On 18 Midyear, 460, Muthsera Eldrar had declared his intent to take the House of Hlaalu by force, and depose Nethyn. By 11 Morning Star, 461, he had taken the city of Prathan from Hlaalu loyalists and was preparing to march south towards Narsis. He had clearly believed that Nethyn’s pilgrimage granted him an opportune time to try to take the grandmaster’s chair, knowing that it would be some time before Nethyn could set foot back in Morrowind again.


Nethyn knew it would be a while before he could arrive in Morrowind again, and so he left at once. Mausur understood the seriousness of the situation, and bid Nethyn “the blessings of Azura.” The Hlaalu grandmaster made his way southwest, around Red Mountain, and towards Prathan. Of course, his force of over 200 men would not be enough to stand against Eldrar, who could field a decently sized army, but Nethyn worried more about the rest of the Hlaalu forces. Would they be enough? Had they already been defeated? Much could have happened since the last messenger was sent. As he came closer and closer to Morrowind, Nethyn feared what he would hear more and more.

On 25 Sun’s Dawn, 461, Nethyn found himself in his tent, praying quietly, asking for assistance. It was then that he suddenly heard a whisper - it was that same voice he had before, in his first vision on Vvardenfell. As before, it felt real, and yet felt unreal, and it spoke inside him, as if his heart were speaking to his mind. It said:

“Do not fear, Nethyn...your house is safe. I am protecting it.”

Nethyn did not ask who it was speaking. He knew. He was not even surprised, although it had been over a decade since he had last heard that voice. Instead, he merely asked, in a soft tone:

“What has happened?”

“Tomorrow,” answered the voice immediately, “you will hear news of what has happened. It will be good news. Then you will know that I am caring for you, and you will know that I love your house, and will preserve it.”

And that was it. The voice spoke to him no more that day, or that night. Nethyn thought nothing of it, but as he awoke the next morning, 26 Sun’s Dawn, he remembered what the voice had said, and pondered what he would hear when they crossed the Inner Sea and finally reached Morrowind.

When they had crossed the waters and arrived on the mainland, they were greeted by messengers bearing the standard of Hlaalu. They were muddy and had some blood on their golden armor. Nethyn felt his heart sank, and thought to himself that the voice must have been false - perhaps Sheogorath, mocking him for a laugh. As he drew close to the messengers, one of them suddenly burst into a smile and bowed, saying:

“My lord! We are victorious!”

As Nethyn would find out, the two armies had met the day before, in Prathan. Hlaalu loyalists had arrived in the province, and had met Eldrar’s men. Over half of Eldrar’s men had been beaten, and they had retreated towards Balfalls.

Nethyn met the victorious army some days later. He was shocked to see that they seemed to much larger than he expected. He was told there were altogether 1200 soldiers, when at most he could have only imagined there being 600 from his personal demesne. Then, when the officers of the army approached to greet Nethyn, he found out why there were so many. One of the officers was a tall, grinning noble with a swarthy complexion, round ears, and colored eyes.

He was a human. He was an Imperial. He was a mercenary.

Accompanying the man were two of Nethyn’s own council members, both of them in armor. There was Brelo Merosid, the marshal, and Varvur, the steward, who, though his primary function was monetary, also had some skill in the military as well. Eying the two familiar Dunmer, Nethyn pointed towards the Imperial and asked:

“Who is this?”

“This is Captain Clibergus of the Great Company,” Varvur replied, “when we heard wind of the revolt, and knew that our numbers would be too few, we sent for any nearby mercenaries to come to our aide. Clibergus answered it quickly - for a price, of course.”


Nethyn could tell that the Imperial was paid well, given his extraordinary armor and the fine garments over and under them. The man had a gleam in his eye that said he killed for a living, and he loved it. No doubt he would gladly pull out a sword right now and stab Nethyn in the heart if someone offered him enough coins for it.

“Very well,” Nethyn said, “I understand the enemy is in retreat? Then we shall pursue. To where have they gone?”


On 21 Second Steed, 461, the two armies met in the region of Balfalls, not too far from the rebel fortress there. Eldrar’s men were outnumbered, and were easily routed no sooner had the battle started.


They fell back to the region of Omayni, while Nethyn laid siege to the fortress near the battlefield. It fell on 14 Frostfall, 461, and Nethyn began to move his armies towards Omayni, hoping to find the main rebel army and finish it off. On 1 Evening Star, as the army camped, and the various soldiers - both Dunmeri and human - began to retire for the night, Azura again spoke to Nethyn, and told him words that sent a chill up his spine:

“Nethyn, you will disband your Outlander mercenaries and send them home.”

This seemed illogical to the grandmaster. It was only by the mercenaries that the Hlaalu were able to obtain any early victories at all. While they were draining the House’s coffers, Nethyn could still avoid a few more coins to keep the mercenaries on for another month, and by then the war would surely be over. Yet here was Azura, commanding that Nethyn send the Imperial mercenaries home. This would tip things in greater favor for Eldrar’s forces.

“But our numerical advantage will be gone!” came Nethyn’s very mortal reply.

“Did I not tell you that I am with you?” the voice corrected. “Your numbers shall be equal, but you have me, and they do not. My favor is with you, and not with them. I shall not see your house in ruins - no, I will bless your house, and you shall see this. Obey what I command, and have faith.”

And so the Imperial mercenaries were paid their final dues and sent away. As they left, many Dunmer felt that the one advantage the Hlaalu had in the war went with them.

 

KaiserWilhelmI

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Ah! Mercenaries, saviors of realms, destroyers of enemies, protectors of (wealthy) nobles!
 
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Henry v. Keiper

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Ah! Mercenaries, saviors of realms, destoyers of enemies, protectors of (wealthy) nobles!
And they come in quite handy when you need a numerical advantage against the AI and have some coins to spare :D
 

KaiserWilhelmI

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And they come in quite handy when you need a numerical advantage against the AI and have some coins to spare :D
They are also quite handy when your army is fighting in High Rock, and suddenly there is a rebellion in southern Cyrodiil....
 

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They are also quite handy when your army is fighting in High Rock, and suddenly there is a rebellion in southern Cyrodiil....
Hire Imperial mercenaries like I did. Imperial on Imperial crime. Mwa ha ha...
 

Henry v. Keiper

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Chapter 11

2 Evening Star, 461, 2E

As evening ascended over the two opposing forces, both sides began to retire with knowledge that the next day would bring the final battle between them. Word had quickly reached the rebel ranks that the Imperial mercenaries were gone, and hence the Hlaalu numbers had been divided in half. What’s more, the rebels had paid for their own mercenaries: Argonians, from the south of Morrowind, ready to kill as many Dunmer as they could - even if it meant siding with Dunmer in doing it.

Nethyn stepped through his camp, going to the very edge of it and looking out. Far ahead, across the valley, he could see the campfires of the rebel camp. He had been blessed with a victory for the Hlaalu while he was away, and he had been blessed with another victory after he had arrived…would he still be blessed with yet another victory? Things had turned from his advantage to a kind of neutral point, with no side having any clear chance for victory. It was up for grabs, which meant there was great uncertainty...which meant Nethyn did not know for certain what was going to happen tomorrow.

“Azura,” he whispered, with a long sigh, “you are loving and kind, but your ways are hard.”

The voice returned - that voice Nethyn had heard so many times before, and so easily recognized:

“Look at your men, Nethyn - who do you see?”

Nethyn obeyed the voice, turning towards his army, looking at each individual soldier. Most of them had their helmets off, with some standing and chatting, and others resting on the ground, playing some well known game or just gazing at the sky. Many were fairly young, with some a little older, showing their age through the otherwise smooth skin, but all had the usual dark skin and red eyes.

“I see Dunmer,” Nethyn finally replied.

The voice whispered back, “Yes, they are Dunmer. They are my people. And it is with these people that I will assist you, and bring your house victory. Then you will know that I love you, and I love my people, and you will know that I am doing great things through this people...”

Nethyn nodded, “I understand. We shall meet in battle tomorrow, and - however you please, Azura - dispose the day.”

3 Evening Star, 461, 2E

The two armies met for the third time on the plains near Omayni. Many of the Hlaalu officers could see that Eldrar’s men were pointing and laughing, having seemingly become cocky from the size of the opposing enemy force. No doubt they originally had been worried about the superior numbers, but with the Imperial mercenaries gone, the loyalist forces were now on equal with the rebels. The Argonians could easily be seen on the flank of the rebel formations, their features and familiar armor causing them to stand out.

As the Hlaalu soldiers lined up and awaited their orders, a horseman suddenly appeared before them. To their surprise, it was their own grandmaster. They were surprised because Nethyn had never been known to be a soldier, let alone a commander, and yet here he was, in his full grandmaster armor, riding out before the ranks. He stopped midway through turning his horse to face his men. Glancing his red eyes to and fro among the formations, he began to shout, saying:

“Soldiers of House Hlaalu! Are you frightened?”

“No!” came a resounding cry back.

“Do not be afraid!” Nethy continued. “Do not let the Four Corners strike fear into your hearts! Know that today, you stand with the blessings of the Daedra!” Taking his sword and drawing it out to hold it high, Nethyn cried out louder, “Let the strength of Boethiah guide your arms! Let the cunning of Mephala guide your focus! But most of all, let the love of Azura fill your hearts and give you the courage to conquer! And now, my soldiers…for the House Hlaalu, for the Great Tribunal, and for the glory of Azura…FOLLOW ME!

And with that, Nethyn turned and charged forward. The Hlaalu soldiers let out a cheer and surged after him, keeping their formations. The rebel forces were taken aback by this, their mockery and cheeriness replaced by seriousness and hesitancy. They tried to press together in their ranks, raising their shields and weapons. The distance between the two armies shrunk closer and closer. Finally, the Hlaalu army came crashing into them, swinging and striking left and right, and most of the rebels on the front lines died instantly.


Nethyn had ridden his horse into one of the weaker parts of the front line, and was swinging his sword left and right. Rebel troops were cut down, falling about, building up piles around his horse. Then, a spear was pressed hard into his horse’s throat, killing it. The grandmaster fell off, landing just before the beast could crush his leg under its weight. Many enemy troops began to gather around Nethyn, and though he fought most of them off, he realized soon that their numbers were too much. He struck down a few, but more appeared, clearly recognizing his role as grandmaster and knowing the prize for his head. Soon an entire circle was around him, and Nethyn realized that in a matter of minutes, he would be engulfed in certain death.

It was then that a figure leaped out of the ranks, landing upon one of the rebels, crushing his head beneath the blow of his blade. The figure then spun, striking two more rebels in the neck, letting them bleed to death on the ground. Spinning towards another foe, he cast a fire spell, lighting the mer on fire. The rest he fought with his blade, killing left and right, spraying blood into the air, covering his face and bright armor with the red substance. When most of the rebels had departed, the Dunmer soldier rushed over to Nethyn, saluting and asking:

“Are you alright, sir?”

Nethyn panted, still recovering from the sudden realization that he was not dead, nor about to die. He gave the soldier a small nod, then patted him on the shoulder, “Stay with me, I shall reward you afterward!”


The spirit of the warriors in the center broke the rebel army in two. The left flank, made up of Dunmer, retreated and fled, and were cut down by the Hlaalu cavalry. The right flank, made up of the Argonian mercenaries, ran for the inner sea, hoping to swim away. Many Hlaalu arches came to the shores, shooting what they could, striking many of the Argonians before they could submerge. Mages ran to the shores as well, manipulating the waters and exposing the Argonians to the archers, or manipulating the waters to harm or tarry some. Few made it into the water and were able to swim away.

After a hard fought hour, the battle was won, and the Hlaalu had come out victorious. Among the loot left behind by the fleeing enemy, mithril armor was discovered, and handed over to Nethyn. The soldier who had saved his life was given the position as bodyguard, and granted the ability to accompany and advise Nethyn wherever he went. What’s more, treasured mithril armor had been discovered. Nethyn awarded it to his new bodyguard, as a further way of saying thanks.


With the rebels’ crushing defeat, Nethyn’s army moved to take Thir castle. After a long siege, the fortress finally fell on 18 Rain’s Hand, 463. Some days later, Eldrar would arrive with an envoy and personally surrender himself to the grandmaster, surrendering his arms. This time, the grandmaster was merciful with him, locking the traitorous muthsera away in his own realm with Hlaalu guards attending him at all time. Eldrar was now a muthsera in name only. As a way of giving thanks to the Daedra Prince, Nethyn built a small altar to Azura near Thir Castle, out in the wilderness to prevent too much attention from hostile minds. With peace secured in his realm, Nethyn moved with his army back to Narsis.