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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Henry v. Keiper

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I love to see how AARs interpret traits into actual personalities, great read.
Thanks. Originally this post was going to be a generic overview post, then I came up with the idea of a dream, which fit with the story any way.
 

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Thanks. Originally this post was going to be a generic overview post, then I came up with the idea of a dream, which fit with the story any way.
I love how you did it like that. Genius. I'm really interested to see who the Nerevarine is because unless I'm mistaken, Nethyn is only lighting the path for him to follow and grow from?
 

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I love how you did it like that. Genius. I'm really interested to see who the Nerevarine is because unless I'm mistaken, Nethyn is only lighting the path for him to follow and grow from?
Correct. Nethyn couldn't fit into the first major part of the prophecy, which is that the Nerevarine would be born "on a certain day, to uncertain parents," and we know Nethyn's birth date and parents (in the Morrowind game, your character is an orphan born somewhere in the Empire).

I will say that in the next update, or the one after that, the Nerevarine will be finally revealed...or at least hinted at...
 

Henry v. Keiper

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Chapter 2

”Azura is the only Daedra Princess I have ever worshipped who seems to care about her followers.”

-- From
Invocation of Azura​

Temple forces had raided along the Bitter Coast, starting first in Hlaalu lands, then moving northwest into Redoran territory, before finally retreating back to Vvardenfell. It was not Ordinators that led the attacks, but the Buoyant Armigers. It was odd to many that the Temple would send soldiers whose main purpose was to defend pilgrims on Temple grounds - indeed, Nethyn remembered, not too long ago, dining with Archcanon Farwil, and hearing him offer High King Rythe a detachment of Buoyant Armigers for their travels. However, Nethyn and most of his staff knew why it was now that the Buoyant Armigers were being used as frontline troops: the Temple was facing its swan song, and its military was badly depleted from the wars with Morrowind. In the face of a growing Ashlander problem, the Temple could not afford to sacrifice its Ordinators from their main armies - and the auxiliary troops had to come from somewhere. Even more telling was that the Buoyant Armigers had reportedly attacked some civilians, and were taking from widows and children as well as men and government coffers. Once upon a time, the Buoyant Armigers had been seen as one of the most noble of the Temple’s military orders...now, however, their depleted ranks seemed to be filled with whatever rabble or sellsword the Temple could afford. They were quickly becoming the Temple’s thugs - even worse than the Ordinators. It was a sign not only of the military decay happening within the Tribunal Temple, but the moral decay as well.

“How quickly can we raise an army?” Nethyn asked.

The advisers all exchanged nervous glances at that question. Nethyn had called an emergency council that morning, delaying it only a little when fresh news had begun to arrive from the north. All his advisers were there, Athyn included, as well as some of their staff and other important figures in the House Hlaalu. Nethyn had spent much of that hour in prayer, and Azura had spoken to him. She had made it clear that judgment was about to fall on the Temple. Judgment had finally come to the False Tribunal. This was why Nethyn had asked his question so matter-of-factly - in fact, he had asked it as soon as the update on the situation up north had been completed.

“At the moment, we can raise a little over 900 men,” Brelo Merosid replied, “but it would take quite a few months before we can have them organized and ready to fight as a single force. Grandmaster...does this mean you are thinking of attacking the Temple? Without the Kingdom?”

“They have violated Hlaalu sovereignty, have they not?” Nethyn retorted. “They have taken our gold for their own coffers, to help pay for their failed purging of the Ashlander revolts.”

“There are greater issues than that,” Priestess Drilame replied, “namely, the Temple believes that you are dishonoring the ALMSEVI - blessed be their names - by your adherence to blasphemy. I am certain they see this attack as divine retribution.”

Nethyn’s red eyes slowly glanced over at Drilame. Although she had remained as civil as possible since the council held not so long ago, she was still obviously quite bitter about Nethyn’s actions. Whether or not her words were true meant little to Nethyn - she may be speaking Temple policy, or she may simply be speaking of her own personal beliefs. As a priestess, she was, in many ways, an agent of the Temple, though Nethyn had kept her under watch to make certain she did not slip useful information to the Temple on his actions or whereabouts.

“They could have come to me by diplomatic means,” Nethyn replied coolly, “not send their thugs to plague my people. I do not believe Azura ever made her followers treat their fellow Dunmeri so.”

Drilame pursed her lips angrily and crossed her arms, looking down with a glance that made it seem as if her red eyes would burn right through the table. Sensing the growing awkwardness in the room, Chancellor Vatollio spoke up:

“Grandmaster, if I may...send me to Queen Yelithah. I will put forward your grievances, and ask for the kingdom’s position to launch an attack. I will make it clear that we are defending ourselves, and making certain the Temple will not do such things again.”

“Very good,” Nethyn replied, nodding to his chancellor, “go as quickly as is convenient for you, Vatollio.” His red eyes darted quickly to his marshal, “Brelo, I want you to send an urgent message to all our officers: tell them to prepare all Hlaalu levies for war. However, await my summons.”

With that, the meeting was dismissed. As most began to move out of the room to attend to their specific duties, Athyn stayed. The court chaplain approached Nethyn just as the grandmaster was rising from his chair. He had a nervous look in his eye, one Nethyn was not acquainted to see - at least not in him.

“Grandmaster,” Athyn began, “if I may speak with you?”

Nethyn nodded, giving his court chaplain a small smile, “What is it, Athyn?”

Athyn was quiet for several seconds. For the first time in a long while, the grandmaster could see sadness and despair come over Athyn’s face. Finally, as if unable to find the words, Athyn bowed low, saying in a whispered tone:

“Forgive me, grandmaster...I have tried to speak with the people, and I have been unable to do so. They are not heeding my words. I fear that their traditions with the ALMSEVI are too great...I fear that I have only made things worse. There are rumors that when next I preach, there may be a riot. They may even tear down some of the Hlaalu banners. I am not worthy to perform this task.”


It seemed like the court chaplain truly feared being a failure to both Azura and Nethyn - perhaps it was, at that moment, his greatest fear in the world. A wave of sympathy came over Nethyn, and he gently placed a hand on the chaplain’s shoulder, “Athyn...it can’t be that bad. You must simply be strong. Azura will break through to them by her grace. Remember, it does not depend solely on you.”

“I shall be a stumbling block for Azura,” Athyn continued, his tone not being any more uplifted, “I...I stutter, and it is dreadful for even me to hear.”

It was true that Athyn stuttered, but only under certain conditions. When he was alone with Nethyn and felt comfortable, he didn’t stutter at all. At council meetings, he only stuttered if he felt pressed or put into a corner. Indeed, if you knew him well, or heard him speaking with friends and good acquaintances, you would swear that he never stuttered at all. However, speaking in front of other people - especially in front of a crowd he was unfamiliar with, or seemingly hostile towards him - would cause Athyn to stutter horribly. Sometimes it would get so bad that he could barely speak at all. This was one reason why, after his Temple training, he had pursued a career as a theologian rather than as a priest or even a monk. It is hard to stutter with a pen.


“You have a detriment,” Nethyn said, “but you will find, soon I hope, that Azura will either use it for you, or remove it from you. For now, I reject your request to be removed from your post. I don’t want anyone but you to do it, because I have faith in no one else but you. And I know that Azura has far more faith and love in you than even I. Rest on that.”

That seemed to lighten the chaplain’s spirits, and he departed to return to his missions. Nethyn spent the rest of the day in his private chambers, praying before Azura and the True Tribunal. He prayed that Azura’s will would be done, and that she would have mercy on the Hlaalu House’s situation. It had been made clear to Nethyn that only the House Hlaalu could serve Azura faithfully and efficiently, but at the moment there were many things hindering it. If judgment was to come to the Temple, Nethyn would need the kingdom’s backing, or the High Queen might very well turn against the Hlaalu for fear they were overstepping her authority. What’s more, Nethyn was praying for his friend and chaplain, Athyn. He pleaded with Azura to assist him in his preaching, and to help his quest to win the hearts of the Dunmer in Narsis. He prayed that Azura would give him strength and courage, and fill him with the sense of her love.

Weeks went by. Months. And then, one night, Nethyn had two dreams.

In the first dream, his chancellor, the Muthsera Vatollio, was in the high queen’s personal palace in Salen Vulgate, speaking with Yelithah herself. The Dunmeri queen was moving about the room, looking at a new sword that had just been forged for her. The familiar tapping sound of her pegged leg followed the softer plop of her good foot, and she seemed to be admiring the new sword and listening to Vatollio at the same time. It was an almost comical sight, as any great movement - however well balanced - would have caused her to tip over and lose control, stumbling over her bad leg. Yet despite this, the queen moved about, tapping her wooden peg on the floor as if it was perfectly fine, and she would have been able to handle a battle against a thousand swordsmen without any difficulty.

“...but the good Grandmaster has concern for your highness,” the chancellor was saying. “He knows he cannot simply raise his armies and launch an attack against Vvardenfell without the kingdom’s approval. That is why he wants to be certain he has assurance that you will support him in his retaliation.”

“Retaliation,” repeated High Queen Yelithah, “or conquest?” She turned and looked rather coldly at the chancellor, who shifted a bit in place but remained where he was standing:

“If her highness believes he will be eating up land for himself, or usurping the Farwil’s title, then I believe she would have good reason to worry, given the affairs of court, but she would be mistaken. My grandmaster is not like that. The Hlaalu are not interested in the crown, only their personal safety. All property taken will be the property of the kingdom, and will still pledge loyalty to her highness. On that, I will give you my personal word.”

That seemed to satisfy the queen. She held the sword up horizontally, glancing down from the hilt to the tip of the blade, saying casually:

“You know, Vatollio...the Temple sent me a very angry envoy when rumors spread that your grandmaster had taken the faith of the Ashlanders. They think he’s a threat - they think he might start to work with the Ashlanders against them. They advised me to arrest him.”

The chancellor, again, shifted a bit, but did not move back, “And what did her highness say, in her judgment?”

Yelithah grinned towards him, “Nothing. I sent them home and told them my affairs are my affairs. I am not concerned over Tribunals or daedra or man-gods; a noble of mine who aggravates Farwil is a noble I love indeed. Now go. You have your war. You may push all the way to Solsteim for all I care.”


In the second dream, Nethyn recognized the local temple across the way, on the other side of Narsis. The Dunmeri common folk had gathered, and seemed very agitated. Some were armed with weapons, some seemed clearly skilled in some level of magic. Nethyn looked about for any Hlaalu guard or personal protection, but found none. What he did see was Athyn, wearing his robes and standing before the crowd. The peasants began to call out to him, and threatened to burn the city down if he did not shut up. Some began to rub their fingers over their lips, as if imitating a stutterer.

It was then that Athyn held up his hands and gave a mighty cry for silence. It was Athyn’s voice that left his mouth...but Nethyn had never heard him speak in such a way before. Indeed, even the crowd seemed shock, for all fell absolutely silent.

It was then that Athyn began to give a sermon. It was far too much from the heart to have been prepared beforehand, and yet Athyn spoke with great clarity and cadence. He spoke wonderfully, and without a single stutter or pause. In the end, he had the attention of the entire mob. Some even began to sit down, as if to better pay attention. Those that were armed dropped their weapons, those that had some skill in magic crossed their arms, covering their hands. Athyn continued to speak, though Nethyn did not know what happened when he finished, for soon the grandmaster woke up.

A few days later, Nethyn received two messages: one from Salen Vulgate, where Chancellor Vatollio informed him that Yelithah had given her blessings to the Hlaalu: the other was from Athyn, who said that a revival of sorts had broken out in Narsis, and now hundreds, if not thousands, were declaring their love and adoration for Azura and her coming champion.


This was it. Azura had answered Nethyn’s prayers.

And so, at the beginning of the month of Heartfire, 2E475, the Hlaalu sent a message to the Temple, giving them an official declaration of war. It was the Hlaalu push onto the island, and from there, Nethyn knew that Azura would drive them to Vivec City, and perhaps all of Vvardenfell.
 

DumBMan

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Interesting read, that's for sure. Now, you said you would at least hint who is the reincarnation of Nerevar. Could it be Athyn, since I have never read anything aboht his parents, and the prophecy is 'On certain day to uncertain parents' and given his ability to convert Dunmeri of Narsis?

Well, anyway, it is awesome that you are going to war against the Temple and False Gods by yourself. Good luck!
 

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Interesting read, that's for sure. Now, you said you would at least hint who is the reincarnation of Nerevar. Could it be Athyn, since I have never read anything aboht his parents, and the prophecy is 'On certain day to uncertain parents' and given his ability to convert Dunmeri of Narsis?
Maybe...

Or it could be some annoying Bosmer who runs around chanting, "By Azura! By Azura! By Azura!"
 

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Just a note for my readers...

I have NOT given up on this AAR. I'm still here, as my responses to other AARs have shown, and I still intend to finish this. I apologize for the delay in the next update, I've just been sidetracked by RL issues, including work and a pregnant wife.
 

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Chapter 3

“Defy me, and you will know what it is to stand against a god.”

-- Vivec, from
The Battle of Red Mountain​

House Hlaalu had gone to war, and against the very Tribunal Temple. Some had whispered in the halls of other houses that Vivec himself would appear in Narsis and bring swift judgment upon Nethyn and his followers. Some of the common folk in Hlaalu lands who still held to the worship of the ALMSEVI said that Vivec would launch a massive rock from Red Mountain at Narsis, crushing it completely. As it happened, nothing like any of this occurred. The Hlaalu levies were called in Heartfire of 2E475 and were sent up north to gather together for the invasion of Vvardenfell. From there, they would cross the Inner Sea and land at a place known as Pelagiad.


The mobilization was completed in the month of Sun’s Dawn, and the troops entered into the Hlaalu vessels and made their way across the sea, landing on the coast of the southwestern region in the month of Second Seed, 2E476. They were completely unopposed as the just over 900 mer force left their ships and regrouped ashore. No gods appeared before them to bring judgment, let alone any Temple forces.

From there, they moved to a fortified temple at Arvel. It was located right across from the famous Fields of Kummu, and lay north of Vivec City, making it of some tactical importance. Taking Arvel would effectively cut off Vivec City from the Bitter Coast, which meant that the Hlaalu would create some space between the Tribunal forces and the Ashlander rebels. This Nethyn wanted to make sure about...he did not want Ashlander troops to beat him to Vivec City. It was he whom Azura had promised the city, not the Ashlanders.


Nethyn sat atop his steed, near the edge of the lake, gazing out towards the Kummu fields, where Vivec supposedly helped a farmer. He thought back to the pilgrimage, and how this had been the first stop on the pilgrimage with High King Rythe. At this recollection, a sense of sadness came over him, and he hoped that, wherever Rythe’s spirit might be, he was happy. How the Dunmeri lands had changed since that pilgrimage, so long ago: Morrowind was growing greedy and corrupt, Vvardenfell was descending into chaos, and a battle among the gods was beginning to brew. If Rythe had been alive, would he have gone willingly with Nethyn into battle? Would he have come to trust in the promises and love of Azura? There was no way to know that now. Rythe was gone, and all these questions were simply speculations that would never find their answer, even if they were taken into eternity.

Not too far from Nethyn were three other Dunmer, atop their own horses. These were the official commanders of the campaign, and although Nethyn was there to make certain everything was carried out properly, he permitted the execution of the campaign to those with far better martial skills than his own.

The Dunmer in the center was the commander of the entire force, and the mayor of a town called Taldeer. This was Vonos, a man well fit for his command, as he was knowledgeable of combat in hills and mountains - of which Vvardenfell had quite a lot. He had a bit of girth for the love of food he had embraced back in Taldeer, though Nethyn had no doubt he would lose much of it by the end of this campaign. At his sides were twin long swords, which he could handle properly in battle, be it in training or sincere combat.


“Cursed fool won’t surrender,” Vonos muttered, slamming his fist onto his thigh in a fit of anger, “by the Tribunal! What does he think he can do with his meager defense?”

Vonos was referring to the commander of Arvel - a one Rels Relsid. He was a lackey of Canon-Elector Narese, who had a position in the Temple itself and was overseer of the Pelagiad province. He was known for courage, but it was courage guided by immense stupidity. Some joked that he would charge headlong into a suicidal attack if it meant getting his name in the history books.


“He can delay us, and perhaps cause the Ashlanders to turn against us,” said a female voice. Vonos turned to the second of the three Dunmeri officers. This one was Mornsu, a lowborn Dunmer who had earned respect among the Hlaalu for her intelligence and martial command. Although she was wearing armor, she still sat the horse side stirruped, as if she were riding with other ladies in the court. She was an attractive Dunmer, and quite young for command, being only 16-years of age. Like Vonos, she had more weight on her than most Dunmer had, although she was more full figured than she was fat: much of the weight had gone to her bosom or her hips. Although she had the ability to lead armies with great ability, she rarely fought in battles - she had a weak, somewhat sickly disposition, and even had to be helped up and down from her horse by retainers.


“Fits into his plan then, does it not?” said the third officer, a tall Dunmeri male wearing the armor of a nobleman. “Holding out against the first wave of an invading force. They will sing songs of him in Vivec City. Perhaps he will be made a saint.” This man was Eldil Omani, the Muthsera of Valus. He was the only nobleman among the high command, which had not gone unnoticed by him, and which had caused him to plead somewhat with Nethyn for a higher position. It had only taken a brief rebuke from the grandmaster to silence him, and Eldil had settled into his position without another complaint. He was well liked by the men, and could rouse them eagerly enough to do their duty, and so this made him a vital aspect of the army.


“Either way, he cannot hold,” Vonos said, “he will either be starved out, or we will overrun him. He has barely 170 men in there, how can they hold out against 900?”

“Any attack will prove costly,” said Mornsu, smiling a little, “I would highly advise against that.”

“One Hlaalu are worth ten Tribunal toadies!” Eldil retorted.

Mornsu tapped her chin a moment, “Let me ponder that, Lord Eldil…by a quick calculation, a battle will result in about seventeen casualties on our part. Those will be seventeen soldiers we will never use again. But then again, if they have mages, or anyone else, the number will be higher. And right now, we have the Temple forces to our south, and the Ashlanders to our north. We cannot fight a two front war with a small army.”

Eldil let out a sigh and said nothing, which meant he had nothing to say in disagreement. Vonos responded with a nod, saying, “You are right. We will need what little we have to face an Ashlander threat.”

The Ashlanders had become the great question of this Vvardenfell campaign. Nethyn had not declared war upon them, but they would no doubt catch wind to Nethyn’s intentions. What Nethyn would represent to them was an encroachment of Morrowind power into Vvardenfell, which would mean that the Ashlanders would have to be suppressed. As Azura had shown in his dreams, Nethyn knew that the Ashlander leaders had grown greedy and hungry for power, and would no doubt turn against one another as soon as the Temple was defeated. If Morrowind stepped in, however, that would end any idea of Ashlander independence, and they would seek to stop that threat. That would mean the Hlaalu would have to worry about the Ashlanders swooping down from the south and striking against them from behind as they warred against the Temple.

“So that is it,” Vonos concluded, “we sit and wait the blasted fool out.”

It would not last long. When the month of Sun’s Height came, Rels surrendered, and Arvel was secured. Leaving a small garrison to defend their supply lines, Nethyn said that the army should head east, towards the region of Suran. There they surrounded the temple of Bal Ur, defended by some inconsequential officer named Rilver. This siege too ended with the building being surrendered. By now, the Hlaalu had effectively cut off Vivec City’s ties to the northwest corner of the island.

This, however, did not mean that Temple forces could not operate to the northwest of the island. As the Hlaalu command discovered, a force of 130 Tribunal troops were moving around their forces, towards Ald’ruhn. The trio of officers held a meeting in Nethyn’s tent, with the grandmaster himself in attendance.

“Scouts and locals report no other activity around the south,” Vonos said, waving his finger along the region that represented that which was still controlled by the Temple. Little blue flags represented that which was held by the Temple, while little red flags represented Ashlander-held territory. “This force is most like one of their few field armies left.”

“Seems reasonable then to destroy it, now that it is cut off from Vivec City,” Eldil said. His red eyes glanced over at Mornsu, “Don’t you agree?”

Mornsu was leaning against a thick cane, in order to keep herself from falling at her side. A young Dunmeri woman wearing a simple dress stood by her side, keeping an eye on her as if to catch her should the cane fail. The female general simply nodded, saying, “It would deliver a blow to their offensive capabilities. I think we now have the opportunity to decide the fate of this war.”

“Good,” said Vonos, “then I say we move out at dawn tomorrow, after the men get a good rest.” He glanced over to Nethyn, bowing respectfully as he added, “If the grandmaster so wishes.”

“Very much indeed,” Nethyn replied, nodding in response, “all of you, get some rest. It is a long journey from Suran to Ald’ruhn.”


The trio command bowed and left the tent, all of them gone in a matter of seconds. Nethyn sighed as he rubbed his face, thinking about the campaign ahead. The Ashlanders were still unpredictable, and yet he knew they would play a part when Azura’s champion arose. Was it not written in the prophecy, after all, that the Ashlander tribes would be united under him? And yet they were divided into three power groups, and they hated the “civilized” Dunmeri almost as much as they hated each other. What was Nethyn to do with this? Perhaps Azura would show him this soon enough.

There was one more person in the tent with the grandmaster: the bodyguard, who had originally been a common Hlaalu soldier, but whom Nethyn had promoted after saving his life in battle. He had been standing off to the side, keeping to himself as he always did. He never spoke, unless Nethyn spoke first, and never moved, except to accompany Nethyn if he went somewhere, or to step in if Nethyn appeared to need some form of help. This one time, as Nethyn rubbed his face and sighed, the bodyguard spoke:

“Are you alright, m’lord?”

Nethyn nodded, and addressed him by name, “Yes, Saren, I am fine. It has just been a long, slow campaign so far. I suppose I am slowly growing homesick. One of my sons will be coming of age soon...well, come to think of it, I think he has come of age now.” Nethyn let out a small chuckle. He glanced over to Saren, and asked quietly, “Do you ever think of your family?”

Saren’s red eyes glanced down to the floor. He did not say anything a moment, as if trying to find the right words, but finally he replied, “M’lord, I have no family.”

Nethyn blinked. He had never known about this before. “No family? None at all?”

Saren shook his head, “I was an orphan. I do not know who my parents were. Until I came to adulthood, I was raised by Nords, far beyond our borders.”

Raised by Nords? Outside of Morrowind? That would make this Dunmer an Outlander; even if he was a Dunmer, he still bore similar traits to those outside of Dunmeri lands. He knew the language of Skyrim, and was well versed in the Nordic customs and religions - that much Nethyn knew, though he had assumed it had come from some possible mercenary work he had obtained. But as it turned out, he had grown up in the Skyrim region all his life, and was uncertain who his parents had been, where they had come from, or what they did.

Could it be…? Nethyn thought. No, he was being absurd. It was the exhaustion and the time of day meddling with his thoughts. And so it was he dismissed Saren for the night, and then retired to bed.
 

Henry v. Keiper

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We may have found him at last! Praise Azura!
Unless I pull an M. Night Shyamalan. :cool:

"Whoa! Yelithah was the Nerevarine?! WHAT A TWIST!"
 

Henry v. Keiper

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This AAR still lives - will probably update it soon(ish).
 

Henry v. Keiper

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Chapter 4

“Gather no seeds in the fields of Hell.”

-- From
The Book of Dawn and Dusk


“I would say scouts were correct. There seem to be only a little more than a hundred of them.”

Nethyn nodded towards Eldil. From their vantage point, high on the cliffs of Red Mountain, just near the Ghostfence, the Hlaalu high command could make out the Temple forces down in the valley. Their armor, which had formerly shined wonderfully, was covered in ash and dirt. No doubt they too had been suffering through the ashstorms that the Hlaalu had been forced to endure on their long march towards Ald’ruhn. Nethyn had encountered the ashstorms of Vvardenfell before, but these were somehow...different. These seemed even more fierce, and far more dangerous. Local Ashlanders had warned that a blight disease seemed to be following most of the ashstorms these days, and that it was safer to stay indoors when they struck. Some of Nethyn’s men had already been forced to kill some of the wild animals which had been affected by the disease and driven mad. The kolyfrogs were the worst: though seemingly harmlessly, they would attempt to grab your boot off your foot with their tongue. This usually ended with them being stepped on by the offended Hlaalu soldier.

For now, however, the concern of the Hlaalu army was the Temple army below. The Temple would be outnumbered nine to one, and Nethyn had the utmost confidence in his men and commanders. They had proven themselves before, and would prove themselves even now, as battle was drawing near.

“Are we sure it isn’t a trap?” Vonos asked. One of his hands was rubbing his belly a bit self-consciously - he hadn’t lost any weight yet from the campaign, like most had expected. “It seems a bit too obvious.”

“It would be quite wise, when facing an outnumbered force, to set up traps among the terrain to give you an advantage,” Mornsu said, then added, with that usual mischievous smile of hers, “however, we are dealing with the Temple here.”

Nethyn nodded, “Mornsu is right. I cannot think of anyone in Farwil’s ranks who have proven themselves capable commanders, and their veterans are all dead and gone in the wars with Morrowind - they only have untrained thieves and murderers among their ranks. Even if they know we’re coming, they won’t be smart enough to set up a trap for us.”

“As it is,” said Mornsu, “we have the utmost advantage. We have the high ground, and they have foolishly placed themselves in the valley.”

“I do not think it was entirely foolishness,” said a fourth voice. The grandmaster and his three generals turned their red eyes behind them. It was Saren, Nethyn’s bodyguard. It was rare for him to speak unless spoken to, and him speaking now, and about this subject, caught everyone off guard.

“Why do you say that, Saren?” Nethyn asked.

“Sir,” Saren said, lowering his eyes out of respect, “there is something on this mountain...something wicked. Something evil. I cannot explain it. But…” Saren lifted his eyes up and over towards the top of Red Mountain, just over the hum of the Ghostfence, kept up by the magic and power of the ALMSEVI gods. “But...I feel as if the mountain has a life of its own right now. And I...I suppose I cannot blame the weak Temple army for not wanting to camp too close to the Ghostfence, just at the edge of madness.”

Nethyn considered Saren and then the mountain carefully. In his mind, he could think of only one thing...that friend of Nerevar, who had supposedly been betrayed by the ALMSEVI, and cast into Red Mountain. He had disappeared, but...the prophecy spoke of…

“Sir, look.”

Nethyn snapped out of his momentary daze, turning back to the Temple army. The camp was a buzz now, the Ordinators and Buoyant Armigers running about, picking up their armor, placing it on, taking their weapons, steadying their horses, and above all preparing for battle. Some were putting out campfires, and others were knocking down tents.

“They’ve spotted us!” cried Eldil.

Mornsu pointed towards a ridge, on the opposite side of the valley, “No, look there.”

Dust had begun to form on the top of the ridge, rising high in thick columns. As it neared the other side of the ridge, just over the peak, shapes could be made out. There were men on horseback and soldiers on foot. Nethyn could recognize their uniforms immediately:

“Ashlanders.”

Mornsu grinned more broadly. “What an interesting development.”

“What do we do?” Eldil asked, turning towards Vonos and Nethyn.

Vonos stood up straighter and reached for his blade, “Summon our levies. The Ashlanders and us have a common enemy, and today we fight them together.”


The commanders made for their horses. Mornsu had to be assisted up by her maidens, who had been standing not too far from the small council. Messengers were dispatched to the units about the slope, and the Hlaalu army was fully mobilized as soon as the Temple and Ashlanders had engaged in battle. There were about 500 Ashlander warriors that poured over the ridge, and now with 900 Hlaalu troops storming down into the valley, the Temple didn’t have a chance. Already outnumbered, most were too concerned fighting off the Ashlander horde, and were struck in the back. Some tried to fight about the tents and were overwhelmed. In the end, the entire Temple force was wiped out, while the opposing losses were minimal.


The Ashlanders had initially not known of what to make of the Hlaalu, and kept their distance. This was until their leader rode forth, and called for the Hlaalu leaders to speak with him. Nethyn rode out, flanked by his generals. As he drew closer, he recognized this Ashlander, though not from any personal encounter: this Ashlander had been one of those seen in that great dream of his, when Azura showed him all the world. This was Urkhan Zabamund, of the Ahemmusa tribe, and leader of West Gash. He was much fatter than Nethyn had remembered in his dream, though he did not say as much.

“Who are you?” Zabamund asked curtly.

“I am Grandmaster Nethyn, of the House Hlaalu. We were pursuing these men, when we saw you attacking. We attacked to help, but nothing more.”

Zabamund grinned, “You are from Morrowind?”

Nethyn nodded, “Yes, that’s right.”

Zabamund’s eyes looked about, which was rather unsettling to all the Hlaalu officers present. The Ashlander warlord’s wide eyes made it look like he was gazing at you, and at the same time not...it was a strange experience. Eventually he seemed to be gazing at Nethyn again as he said, “You are the strange Morrowind lord who worships Azura?”

Nethyn nodded again, choosing his words carefully, “Yes...and the real Tribunal.”

Zabamund chuckled, “But I hear wind that your own officers do not.”

The grandmaster frowned. There was much truth to that: most of Nethyn’s officers, including generals such as Mornsu, and the vast part of his army, were not Nerevarines. However, they were also loyal to their grandmaster and the House Hlaalu, and with the Temple’s raids into Hlaalu lands, most saw this war as a chance for Hlaalu to defend itself. “What my officers believe are their prerogative. I am here to make war against the False Tribunal, sitting on their blasphemous thrones in Vivec City.”

Zabamund smiled broadly, showing some rows of nasty teeth, “As am I. I intend to take Vivec City, and let Ashlanders rule Vvardenfell.”

“Dunmeri should rule Vvardenfell,” Nethyn replied, “Ashlander or not, together.”

“Ashlanders are the true worshipers of Azura,” Zabamund said, his tone getting suddenly aggressive. He took a few steps forward, placing his hand on his belt, near where the hilt of his sword was, “I would watch who you are talking to, you-”

Suddenly, the sound of a blade being unsheathed was heard, and Nethyn saw a hand hold a sword in front of him, tip pointed towards Zabamund.

“I would watch your hand, and your distance,” Saren said. His tone was icy and cold, something Nethyn had never seen him in, not even in battle. For once, even Nethyn was afraid of Saren. “Urkhan...”

Zabamund backed up a few feet. He considered Nethyn, and then Saren. Slowly, his strange smile crept over his face, and he let out a laugh. Shaking his head at Saren, he sniffed the air a few times and muttered, “Outlander!” And spat on the ground. He turned and headed back to his troops, who had already begun to make a camp on the hill.

“That discussion could have gone better,” Mornsu murmured, as Saren sheathed his blade.

Nethyn let out a sigh, “I had hoped we could affirm some form of unity.” He turned and gave Saren an appreciative smile, reaching out and patting him on the shoulder.

That night, an ash storm blew through the two camps, pouring down from Red Mountain. For fear of the blight, Nethyn ordered everyone to remain in their tents or whatever shelter they could find. While in his own tent, Nethyn studied a map of Vvardenfell and thought to himself. If the three Ashlander tribes could be unified with him through diplomacy, it would secure the island against the Temple, and perhaps bring an end to the war that had engulfed it for so many years now. He may even speak with the High Queen, and ask her to grant Vvardenfell some level of autonomy. It could be as it was before, only with the island being a safe haven for Azura worshipers instead of the false Tribunal.

A commotion. Noise on the distance of the camp. Through the high winds blowing outside, Nethyn could hear the sound of footsteps racing over the dirt and grass. He leaped up as the tent flap rolled away, and Saren stood there. He had a sword drawn, and a piece of cloth wrapped around his face to save himself from the blight. As soon as he stepped into the tent, he pulled the cloth down, saying in an exasperated voice:

“Traitors! The Ashlanders have killed some of our men and fled north!”
 

KaiserWilhelmI

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It lives! Onwards to the victory of the Nerevarine!
 

Henry v. Keiper

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It lives! Onwards to the victory of the Nerevarine!
I apologize for the delay. I actually got scolded from my wife for that :D She said, "Dear, don't keep your fans waiting!"
 

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I hope to see further installments of this AAR; what you have written so far lead me to nominate you for WritAAR of the Week! Congratulations.
 

Henry v. Keiper

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Dec 13, 2003
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I hope to see further installments of this AAR; what you have written so far lead me to nominate you for WritAAR of the Week! Congratulations.
Holy cow! Thank you so much! I really am flattered :D Now I'll have to pick someone for next Sunday.

I'm very glad you like what you read, as well as my use of CK2's internal politics. That's my goal when I write for CK2, so it gladdens me that it seems to be working. Also, I used to play the heck out of Morrowind back in the day myself. My freshman year roommate in college had a copy of Morrowind for the Xbox, and he let me play it...and I think I hogged his machine too much. It was my first introduction to the Elder Scrolls world, and I never looked back (minus checking out the games that came before it, of course).

Your wife is a clever woman, Henry. Don't keep us waiting. :)
Otherwise, great update. I like Saren's character more and more.
Glad to hear it. Mark Twain once said that a good writer makes you love the heroes and hate the villains, and a bad writer makes you wish everyone had drowned by the third chapter. Considering Saren is probably going to get more character development in the future, I'm glad people are enjoying him.

You winning the WritAAR of the Week led me here. Very impressive! The Elder Scrolls series is such a good time :)
Glad you liked what you read :) And yes, Elder Scrolls is a good time. I love the series, and I think the mod is really well done (especially the last update, which really improved the faces). I wish it got more attention in the CK2 AAR forums - not that the Game of Thrones mod is terrible (I play the heck out of that) or the GOT AARs are bad, but it seems like most AARs are either Vanilla CK2 or the GOT mod. The Elder Scrolls world presents a world rich in politics, religion, and enough cultural differences to appeal to everyone's tastes.

Granted, I get that the setting isn't for everybody. Not all people are into worlds with talking kitties, lizard people, or dragons who lead monastic sects. I respect that, of course. All the same, I hope this AAR and the other ones out there bring more attention to the mod, and encourage more people to try it out.
 
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