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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Henry v. Keiper

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Well, my friend, you certainly have my thanks since it's because of you I started playing this mod. :)
My work here is done. AAR finished :cool:

No just kidding. Update probably later on today!
 

Henry v. Keiper

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Chapter 5

“Faith conquers all. Let us yield to Faith.”

-- From
The Book of Dawn and Dusk​

Zabamund had struck, and spilled Hlaalu blood. Because of the potential blight from the storm, Nethyn had ordered all soldiers to remain in their tents, and hence there were no guards or sentries on duty - besides, the Ashlanders and Hlaalu had no reason to be in conflict with one another. Zabamund took this lack of safety and this false sense of peace to his advantage, and struck on the north side of the camp. His men swarmed in, invading the tents and stabbing Hlaalu soldiers where they lay. A few dozen were killed or wounded before an alarm was raised. Saren, Nethyn’s personal bodyguard, led a counterattack with a handful of armored Dunmer, killing several of the Ashlanders and sending them back.

By all rights, House Hlaalu and Zabamund’s forces were at war. At the moment, however, Nethyn did not desire to head further north, in pursuit of Zabamund’s host. A rumor quickly reached the Hlaalu camp that Zabamund had dispatched messengers to the other Ashlander groups to attempt to form an alliance against the “Morrowind aggression.” This couldn’t be too far from the truth, and Nethyn had no doubt that the other Ashlanders would only be more than happy to band together against a supposed invading force. As such, however, probing deeper into enemy territory was too dangerous when the ground they had taken already wasn’t solidified yet: pursuing Zabamund now would be a death sentence for the Hlaalu force. The grandmaster ordered his generals to take the army back to Pelagiad, where they would regroup.


At Pelagiad, a new headquarters was set up in a makeshift fort. Messengers were sent to Narsis, ordering certain persons to come to Pelagiad to perform their duties. Marshal Brelo Merosid arrived to attempt to rally Dunmeri faithful who would join the Hlaalu ranks to fight against the corrupt Temple or the marauding Ashlanders. Steward Varvur came to improve the economy and attempt to make the recently conquered land self-sufficient. Athyn Merosid, Nethyn’s priest and trusted friend, arrived to attempt to inspire the Nerevarine faithful, and win more converts. Folvalie, Muthsera of Velothis and Nethyn’s wizard, arrived to make sure that the people felt no infringement upon their lifestyles and well being. If Nethyn continued his campaign and drove deeper into the island, he wanted to make sure he had a good base of operations to fall back to, should things turn sour. Pelagiad was the link the Hlaalu had between Morrowind and the island.


It was during this time that Mornsu called upon Nethyn. The grandmaster was in an estate in the town, and was at that moment beside a fireplace chatting quietly with Athyn. The female Dunmer entered with a guard beside her and one of her female courtiers holding her up by the other arm. Nethyn winced when he saw her, for she seemed weaker than normal: it seemed when she rested, her body grew more frail, and when she rode out into battle and became more active, her body was able to work its muscles - perhaps that was why she had become a military officer.

“The general asked to see you, sir,” the guard said, bowing his head and departing. Mornsu waved her hand, and the courtier likewise bowed her head and left. Athyn was standing up himself when Mornsu waved her hand, saying:

“No no, chaplain...I desire you to talk to you as well.”

Nethyn and Athyn exchanged glances, unsure of what to make of this. The visit from one of the top three generals in the Vvardenfell invasion force was unexpected, and had been entirely unannounced.

“What is it, Mornsu?” Nethyn asked in a courteous tone, leaning back in his chair. “Is something wrong?”

“It is matters of faith I wish to speak with you,” Mornsu replied. She took a few feeble steps towards them, the light from the fireplace making her eyes seem far more active than her body ever was. “You are both faithful servants of Azura, are you not?” Nethyn and Athyn nodded. “I see...and upon what basis is this?”

Nethyn and Athyn exchanged glances again, and the grandmaster spoke first, “If you want me to be frank, Mornsu, I have seen and spoken with Azura. It is as real as you and I speaking here now. And I have seen her care for the House, and keep her promises.”

“And I have seen the change Azura wrought in Nethyn,” Athyn replied, “it’s a very great change. Only a Daedric Prince could do that.”

Mornsu smiled, perhaps a little too tenderly - it was almost like a mother smiling at the antics of her children. Gazing from one Dunmer to another, she spoke:

“I will be brief with you two. I have prided myself as someone who can judge by what I see, and I can ascertain. You have seen that on the battlefield, I hope. I look, I study, I calculate. I cannot do much with my body, but my mind is sharp. As such, I have never experienced anything you have seen, grandmaster, and, court chaplain, I can provide examples of other changes in men, good or bad, which have not come from Daedra. However, I do know that there are three gods sitting in Vivec City, and ruling with their power and might. Those are gods I can see. That is why I choose to worship those gods.”

Athyn said nothing, though he looked down at his lap, as if unsure what to say. Nethyn had been listening quietly, showing neither discomfort or grief at the general’s words. When she finished, he nodded slowly, and then said in a respectful tone, “You are very wise on the battlefield, Mornsu, and, if you will keep this private, I consider you my most prized general. I know that there are three people who call themselves gods in Vivec City, but might I ask, where did they get such godhood?”

Mornsu blinked, “They have rightfully earned it.”

“Correct,” Nethyn replied, “or more so, they took it, after much cunning. Yet if they obtained some form of divinity, from a source of divinity, would it not rightfully conclude that there was some divinity which existed before?”

Mornsu raised an eyebrow, “I suppose so.”

“Then I think the question comes for us, where does such divinity come from, and in what form did that divinity exist?” Nethyn stood up. “Please, general, have my chair. You are tired, I can tell, and besides, I consider it rude for a man to sit when a lady stands.”


Mornsu did sit, and for the next few hours, the three Dunmeri simply spoke on holy things. They spoke on the ALMSIVI, the Daedra, the history of the Dunmer, and the events in recent years. In the end, Mornsu seemed to have enjoyed the conversation, but did not seem at all convinced. Nethyn summoned Mornsu’s courtier and dismissed them both, bidding Athyn good night and retiring. He had not done much for most of the day, but for the last few hours that remained, he felt mentally exhausted.

In the month of First Seed, in 3399, Nethyn summoned the Hlaalu forces in Vvardenfell for the campaign against Zabamund. With reinforcements from Morrowind and some fresh recruits from among the local populace, the losses had been replaced and the numbers had swelled to close to a thousand soldiers.


Nethyn was wearing his usual elaborate gold armor, tinged with silver along the edges and in the finer details, and flanked as always by Saren at his side, who wore a grayer form of the standard Hlaalu uniform. All the troops in their columns, with the generals at the head. Eldil and Vonos had already mounted, but Mornsu was having difficulty getting up. Her courtiers were attempting to help her, but she could not get a firm grip. Saren quickly rode over, getting on the other side of Mornsu’s horse and holding his arm out to her. With a grateful smile, Mornsu took his hand, and he gripped her wrist, pulling her up and helping her courtiers get her into the saddle. With that done, Saren turned and rode back to Nethyn’s side. Many house grandmasters in Morrowind would have flogged their bodyguards for leaving their side, even if to help a woman - but Nethyn wasn’t like most house grandmasters.

“Are you able to campaign, Mornsu?” Nethyn asked as he rode past her, getting to the lead of the army.

Mornsu nodded. “By what little strength I have,” she said. Then she added, with a big grin and a twinkle in her eye, “And by Azura’s grace…”


Nethyn said nothing. He simply gave her a smile, and then waved his hand forward. In a moment, the serenity of the scene was broken by the sound of hundreds of feet in bonemail boots marching across the dusty paths, headed towards the Bitter Coast that run up the western side of the island. Nethyn was in the lead, sitting tall and proud on his steed, with Saren behind him, glancing about. The three generals were behind them, Vonos in the lead with the two others behind. Finally, there came the Hlaalu levies, in formation, organized by what regions and towns they came from. With the sunlight gleaming through the clouds and glinting off the gold armor, it was perhaps the most astounding sight the island had seen in a long while.

And now, the campaign against the Ashlanders had begun.

****

AUTHOR’S NOTE: To clarify what’s going on in-game, I was actually fighting a series of wars between the Temple and the Ashlanders, and would continually declare war on one and then the other, after the peace treaties expired. For story purposes, I’m writing them as continual wars, since I consider them to be such any way.

Also, those who know Elder Scrolls lore, especially in regards to Morrowind, will remember that Pelagiad wasn’t named as such until the time period after this story takes place, when the Empire took Vvardenfell and built the fort there (Pelagiad was named after Pelagius, an emperor). It’s named as such on the map, though, and I decided to just ignore it.
 

KaiserWilhelmI

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Another great chapter, except Nethyn is wearing armour made of gold? He must be truly protected by Azura. (By Azura! By Azura By Azura! It's the Grand Champion!) Also it must be super heavy.
Anyways i'm thinking of starting a new EK AAR, mainly because of this great piece.
 

Henry v. Keiper

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Another great chapter, except Nethyn is wearing armour made of gold? He must be truly protected by Azura. (By Azura! By Azura By Azura! It's the Grand Champion!) Also it must be super heavy.
Anyways i'm thinking of starting a new EK AAR, mainly because of this great piece.
Well in truth it'd probably be more like Jaime Lannister's armor - made to look like gold (as with much of the armor among the Dunmeri).

And hey, do it! We need more!
 

Henry v. Keiper

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Chapter 6

”Also called 'the Smuggler's Coast', the region's secluded coves and islands provide refuge for criminal trade, and the frequent rain and fog hides small boats from Excise cutters.”

-- From
Savants' Notes on Vvardenfell


The Bitter Coast of Vvardenfell was a region many in Tamriel might have considered inhospitable, and suitable for no one except maybe a small family of Argonians. As it was, however, several trading villages had popped up along the coast over time, and engaged with merchants travelling about the Inner Sea. The Temple had also been fighting smugglers, who operated in the villages and in hidden caves just off the shores. With the recent collapse of the Temple infrastructure and the weakening of the Temple forces, smugglers had grown in number. Outside of smugglers and legitimate traders (and those who dabbled in both), the Bitter Coast had little else to offer than swampland, mud, wild animals (including the dreaded kolyfrogs), and rickety bridges.

The Hlaalu army, however, did not intend to deal with the smugglers - at least for now - nor did they intend to harass any of the traders or travelers (including those who continued their pilgrimages). Their goal was to find and destroy the Ashlander army of Zabamund and West Gash. The gold color of the Hlaalu armor had been covered in mud and dirt, and by now most of the soldiers had forsaken any attempt to clean it up. It proved to be beneficial in the weeks after entering the Bitter Coast: the force caught a large Ashlander raiding party in the Odai Plateau, and assaulted their camp. The Ashlanders were wiped out to the man, so as not to alert Zabamund’s main army.


Hlaalu scouts reported to Nethyn and his “General Tribunal” (as the soldiers had taken to nicknaming them) that a large force of Ashlanders was moving southeast, near Ald’ruhn, apparently hoping to sneak around Pelagiad and strike at Vivec City before Nethyn could. The scouts confirmed that these were not raiding parties, as they were too large, too organized, and too well equipped to be anything less than a standing army. The officers of the Hlaalu host met in Nethyn’s command tent to discuss what this meant.

“No doubt it is the exact same army that betrayed us at the foot of Red Mountain,” Eldil remarked, sneering in contempt.

“The scouts did not report seeing Zabamund’s standard,” Mornsu said, “however, I cannot imagine Zabamund has a massive contingent at his disposal. By all accounts from our reconnaissance, it is roughly the same amount in number that we encountered before.”

“Then it will be wise to seek revenge,” Eldil said.

Mornsu grinned at Eldil - something which everyone, by now, knew was intended to tick him off, “Revenge is one thing, but sporadic, rash revenge is another.” Eldil just smacked his gums and looked away.

Nethyn stepped towards a map of Vvardenfell that lay sprawled out across a table. Running his finger along the Red Mountains, he said, “The scouts reported that the Ashlanders are moving along here. That would put the Ghostfence to their flanks. If they were to be ambushed…”

“...then they would be in a precarious situation,” Vonos finished.

“There are too many routes and variables of escape in that terrain to ensure their utter destruction,” Mornsu commented, “however, I do agree that, with the Ghostfence against them, they will have little room to maneuver.”

“Good, good,” Nethyn said, tapping his knuckles on the map, “then let’s go teach the Ashlanders a lesson.”

The Hlaalu force headed out then, at the close of the month of Midyear, 2E479 and heading northeast to attack the Ashlander army. For most of the soldiers, the rocks and hills around Ald’ruhn were a welcome change from the swamps and muck of the Bitter Coast. The only aspect which caused many a trooper to grumble were the ashstorms, which still came down fierce from the Red Mountain, and which still threatened all living things with the mysterious blight. One particularly blighted kolyfrog actually managed to land a tongue on Saren’s cheek, and was pulled by its tongue up into the air, smacking him in the face. Nethyn managed to get it off him after some difficulty, and both men took their part in stomping on the diseased beast.


In the middle of the month of Sun’s Height, Hlaalu scouts reported sight of the Ashlander formation. They had still chosen to travel along the Red Mountain, close to the Ghostfence. Even from afar, Nethyn could recognize many of the uniforms from that fateful day when Zabamund incurred the wrath of House Hlaalu. Now, Nethyn intended to exact justice a hundred-fold. The Ashlanders had been used to fighting each other and the weakened Temple...now they would learn what it was to fight true Dunmeri in the House Hlaalu.

The Hlaalu forces were divided up into three sections of a little more than 300 men each. Coming out of all sides, they charged at the Ashlander forces, attempting to pin them against the Ghostfence. Many simply turned and fled, riding away. Some charged, others ran up the slopes of the mountain for greater defense. Those who charged at the Hlaalu were cut down, while those who went up to the mountains learned quickly that height was not a detriment to a determined attacking force. All of the Hlaalu soldiers had been angered by the betrayal of the Ashlanders, and they were eager to pay their enemies back. Nearly half of the Ashlanders were slain that day, with the rest escaping. Few Ashlanders found any mercy.

Those prisoners which were taken were interrogated, and it was discovered that Zabamund had suffered a terrible fall that had crippled his leg - as such, he couldn’t command any more. This force had been under the command of a Dunmer named Elms, who was the serving regent for West Gash. Nethyn had the Hlaalu force move after the survivors at once, and began to cut down Elms’ forces bit by bit. By Frostfall of that year, all 500 Ashlanders had been killed, while the Hlaalu had barely lost a hundred.


Zabamund’s army was, for now, out of the way, and the threat to Nethyn’s northern borders was removed. The grandmaster’s eyes, however, were still on Vivec City itself, which he intended to take soon enough. He pulled his forces back from Ald’ruhn, bringing them back to Pelagiad. Some he dispatched to the Bitter Coast, intending to make a base of operations there, and to profit from the trade which flourished there. He knew that securing this region from Zabamund would harm his financial base, and decrease his ability to field a sizeable army. The only danger, of course, was with the other Ashlander tribes...and whether or not they would ally with Zabamund to defeat the Morrowind invaders.

 

Henry v. Keiper

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Chapter 7

“Folly secures its power to harm.”

-- From
The Book of Dawn and Dusk​

Nethyn had intended to push to Vivec City, but affairs back in Morrowind had forced him to place a temporary pause in the campaign. After ensuring that efforts in Vvardenfell were underway to secure Hlaalu holdings, he crossed the Inner Sea with his personal guard and a detachment from the army. Saren was on the boat with Nethyn, along with the muthsera Eldil, who had to return to his demesne to make certain everything was in order (that was what he said - Vonos and Nethyn assumed it was actually to get away from Mornsu for a spell). Eldil had ditched his armor and weapons and refitted himself in the fine garments befitting his noble status. The way he walked about the ship with his back straight, shoulders far apart, and head held high, one might have assumed he was the captain. Nethyn, at that time, was at the edge of the boat, leaning over the side, glancing casually at Vvardenfell as it disappeared into the distance. He had dismissed Saren to get some rest, as his bodyguard had gotten little of it during the campaign, and the grandmaster feared for his health.

“A moment, grandmaster,” Eldil said. It was hard to tell if it was a question or a subtle command. If the former, it was respectable; if the latter, then Nethyn could have rebuked Eldil for his prideful intolerance. As such, the grandmaster simply let it slide.

“What is it you need, muthsera?” the grandmaster asked. He addressed Eldil by his title, something humbling for a grandmaster of a major Dunmeri house, and something which did not go unnoticed for Eldil. The muthsera blushed slightly, clearing his throat as if to shake off his emotions.

“I am wondering about your bodyguard,” Eldil began, “Saren, is it?”

“Saren, yes,” Nethyn said.

Eldil glanced over at a door not too far, into which were the grandmaster’s private quarters, where Saren also slept, “There is something...odd about him. I cannot quite put it.”

“Odd? What do you mean?”

Eldil raised an eyebrow, then turned and looked at Nethyn, curiosity drenching his red eyes, “When that kolyfrog attacked him...I’ve seen some of my men attacked in that matter. They were all affected by the blight and had to be treated by priests - not so with him. And the way he moves about during ashstorms...even with a cloth around his face, surely the blight would have gotten to him at some point.”

Nethyn thought back to when the blight infected kolyfrog had latched its tongue onto Saren’s face and sprung up, hitting him with an audible smack. The event had seemed so comical that he had thought nothing of it, and after the kolyfrog was disposed of, the two men shared a good laugh and moved on. It had not occurred to Nethyn that the blight-infected mucus of the kolyfrog should have gotten into Saren’s skin and caused him some sickness. As it so happened, no sickness came..

Eldil seemed to notice the grandmaster being lost in thought, and so he added, “What I mean, sir, is that your man seems to be completely unaffected by the blight.”

Words were whispered in the grandmaster’s head...verses recited by a soft, whispery voice: Neither blight nor age can harm him. The Curse-of-Flesh before him flies… These were the words of the second trial...the second trial of the Nerevarine.

Before nightfall, the ship landed on Morrowind soil. Eldil headed west towards his territory, while Nethyn rode with Saren and his guard towards Orcrom, where High Queen Yelithah had called a feast for the great nobles. Everyone was expected to attend...although quietly, no one expected anyone from House Redoran to appear. The territories of House Redoran, found in the northwest section of the kingdom, had been embroiled in civil war for the past few years. Each ruler seemed to be as corrupt as the last, and few people were any happier with the usurper. Given the conflict, few in the high courts of Morrowind expected anyone from that part of the country to put down their arms and come to a feast.


Orcrom was no Mournhold, which saddened Nethyn, who had come to miss the splendor of the royal capitol. It was, rather, Yelithah’s personal domain, and had remained hers even after becoming queen. It was formerly a religious center, used by the Temple, but had fallen into disrepair after Yelithah took the throne, and now seemed to do little but house dead ancestors. Relur II, of the prosperous House Dres, seemed to share Nethyn’s sentiments, though he was more open about them. Walking over to the Hlaalu during a lull in the feast’s social gathering, he whispered quietly to Nethyn:

“I am impressed the queen grew so concerned that the rats needed friends for a night…”

Nethyn chuckled a bit, happy that Relur was speaking to him - they had rarely done so before. He was amazed he was speaking to him at all, given Nethyn’s spiritual beliefs and the Dres House’s infamously immoral tactics. Nonetheless, given the lack of good leadership among the Dunmer nobility, perhaps Nethyn should consider it a compliment that Relur considered him a peer; good enough of a noble to speak to.

A familiar click-plop-click-plop was heard, and Nethyn knew that could only mean one thing: her royal majesty. The High Queen was wearing a more casual dress, but it did nothing to hide the fake leg that announced itself with every step on the hard stone. She seemed to be smiling and looking intently at Nethyn, which worried the grandmaster immensely.

“Ah, Hlaalu House has come,” Yelithah said. She put a dark blue hand over Nethyn and said curtly, “Walk with me.” Nethyn saw Relu mouth, “Walk like you,” but was grateful the queen did not see - she would not have been very happy.

The two stepped away from the party, into a darker, lonelier hallway. Torches burned along the walls, hung by iron hooks, and mold was infecting much of the stone. A dripping sound was heard somewhere, as water somehow snuck into the structures. Nethyn suddenly got the uncomfortable feeling that he may have walked into a tomb.

“I hear the campaign is going well for you,” the high queen asked. “You have even dispersed an Ashlander army - something the Temple has not been able to do since that rebellion started.”

“Azura has been gracious to us,” Nethyn said, perhaps carelessly.

Yelithah shot him a glance. It was a glance of surprise, though not without any malice. Nethyn was well aware that Yelithah was hardly religious, and did not mind “spiritual insurrection” so long as it countered the influence of the Temple leadership. She waved her hand as if to dismiss any tension in the room, and said:

“I feel inclined to inform you that the kingdom will be intervening in a limited war against the Ashlanders ourselves.”

Nethyn blinked, “Whatever for, your majesty?”

Yelithah turned to Nethyn and faced him head on, her wooden leg making a particularly loud clacking noise as it landed on the stone. “As it so happens, some of the Ashlander tribes in eastern Vvardenfell got on their boats and began to pillage some of our islands. I’ve ordered a force to head in and teach them a lesson.”


Eastern Ashlander tribes? Those would most likely be the Zainab...which would mean that Mausur had been behind it. Mausur, you old fool! Nethyn thought bitterly. Power had corrupted him. Victory had made him too bold. He would now have to fight a war on two fronts, with one of those by a far superior enemy. His campaign against the Temple would be set back by years. How quickly he had changed from that devoted follower of Azura whom Nethyn had met during his second trip to Vvardenfell. Was it thus so easy to fall from Azura’s grace? Or was it that, perhaps, Mausur had never received Azura’s grace at all?

“The kingdom has a right to defend itself,” Nethyn said, attempting to choose his words carefully.

“I am glad you understand,” Yelithah said, “we will not be marching on Vivec City, I assure...well, some of the nobles have clamored for that.”

Nethyn pondered who that was. The high queen would not tell him, and dismissed him without another word. Leaving the dank, mildew-infested hallway, Nethyn returned to the only slightly more cheery main hall. It had far less mildew, which helped with the grandmaster’s breathing. On his way in, Relu appeared to the side and asked:

“So, what did her limpiness have to say?”

Nethyn ignored the insult at Yelithah’s expense. Instead, he just let out a sigh and whispered to the Dres archlord: “A man with a crippled heart just attacked a woman with a crippled leg. And as a result, the entire situation on Vvardenfell is going to be crippled.”

As it happened, Yelithah did send a small force to drive away the Zainab tribesmen. In Sun’s Dawn of 2E481. They were defeated on the islands and fled to their ships, only 300 men making it back to Vvardenfell. The Morrowind army then sailed onto Azura’s Coast, defeating any remaining Ashlander in the region and claiming it for the kingdom. This was all completed by Sun’s Dusk of 2E484, and the high queen did not, at the moment, seem inclined to press any further into the island. Nethyn had been unable to launch any campaign due to worried about Yelithah being prodded to go any further on the island. One thing was for certain, however: Nethyn desperately wanted to Vivec City before any Ashlander or Morrowind army beat him to it. It appeared that there were some in the kingdom who were growing more and more jealous of House Hlaalu’s gains, and so like vultures they gathered and flew over the carcass that was Vvardenfell, biding their time…

 

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Finally sat myself down and gave this a read. I was a rather big fan of Morrowind back in the day, although it's been some years since I last played it. I have to say that I'm greatly enjoying the story so far, and that I'm hoping to see Nethyn and Saren's ultimate triumph over the False Tribunal -- and perhaps even their rise to the throne of Morrowind itself.

A small question, as I'm not entirely familiar with how the mod works: Is there an actual set of decisions or events that will model the coming of the Nerevar in-game, or are you just roleplaying it all out at the moment? (Not that it would lessen my enjoyment of the story either way, of course.)
 

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Finally sat myself down and gave this a read. I was a rather big fan of Morrowind back in the day, although it's been some years since I last played it. I have to say that I'm greatly enjoying the story so far, and that I'm hoping to see Nethyn and Saren's ultimate triumph over the False Tribunal -- and perhaps even their rise to the throne of Morrowind itself.
Glad you're enjoying it!

A small question, as I'm not entirely familiar with how the mod works: Is there an actual set of decisions or events that will model the coming of the Nerevar in-game, or are you just roleplaying it all out at the moment? (Not that it would lessen my enjoyment of the story either way, of course.)
At the time of this writing, there are no in-game events for the Nerevar legend itself. People have been talking about it in the mod's subforum, but I'm not aware on whether or not it's going to be in a future update. Most of what you see in game is me playing it and fitting the Nerevar legend (for example, Nethyn really was wounded by bandits while on a pilgrimage, but I added the part about Azura appearing to him).
 

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Chapter 8

”For I was there, and fought and cried, and tasted blood and thunder.”

-- From
The Battle of Molag Beran​

It was 2E485 now, and Nethyn was eager to get the campaign in Vvardenfell started again. Everything seemed to be perfect for a continuation: all the losses from the war had been replenished, and reports from Mornsu and other Hlaalu on the island confirmed that their previous gains had been secured. Many of the Vvardenfell locals - Ashlanders and Morrowind Dunmer alike - welcomed the Hlaalu with cooperation. Though some were tepid in giving their full support to their new rulers, the vast majority saw them either as less oppressive as the Temple priesthood, or less ruthless as the Ashlander tribes. The Hlaalu troops along the coast were especially helpful in combatting the smugglers, who had thrived during the chaos; economy and life in general began to thrive once again. If the Hlaalu were to launch an attack into the deeper parts of Vvardenfell, they would have no issue with their rear guard. On top of all this, Brelo Merosid, Nethyn’s marshal, had enacted some reforms in the Hlaalu forces, making the light infantry far more capable in combat, which would suit the House’s army well in the heavy and often rugged terrain of the island.

The only concern on Nethyn’s mind was whether or not a prolonged campaign would awaken the vultures in Morrowind again, but in Frostfall of that year, a fortuitous event occurred: on the eastern side of the kingdom, a warlord by the name of Sadstar had raised an army of 1500 men and declared a rebellion against the monarchy. Yelithah would have her hands tied putting down this armed revolt, which meant she would be in no position to launch any further attacks into Vvardenfell. Nethyn could roam free again.


Over 1100 men were raised in the Hlaalu base of Pelagiad, with Nethyn taking personal command of his army. Vonos was another one of his generals, but this time Nethyn appointed another one of his nobles to lead the third column: Varvur, the Muthsera of Bodrum. He was a capable civil leader, but as a military leader he had shown that he was above all others: he was armed with a great battle hammer, which he would wield in battle like a crazed Nord, screaming and crying out and instilling fear even in those who fought alongside him; he was also immensely intelligent as a strategist. Thus the nobleman was both a brave warrior and a sound commander: Nethyn was simply glad that he was on their side!


The goal in this campaign was to take the region of Suran, which the Hlaalu had sacked before but been unable to hold. In doing so, they would secure the territory from those Ashalnders to the north and northwest, and continue surrounding Vivec City. Indeed, Suran was one of the few holdings left to the Temple. As they moved into the region and surrounded Bal Ur, scouts reported to Nethyn that Archcanon Farwil himself was leading a small force of barely 200 men around their armies, apparently refusing to meet them in combat. The grandmaster couldn’t blame him - what little could he do against 1100 well trained Morrowind soldiers?


In Sun’s Dusk of 2E487, Bal Ur fell, and Nethyn attempted to meet Farwil in battle. However, Farwil in battle. However, the archcanon’s smaller forces were easier to move, and he quickly fled down to the Ascadian Isles, just east of Vivec City. Nethyn began to think that Farwil was going to run about all of Vvardenfell, just to mock him. He made as such known to his generals when they held a meeting in his command tent, attempting to discover what to do.

“Bah!” cried Varvur, smashing his fist on the table. “I will shove every one of his holy scrolls up his derriere when I get my hands on him!”

“That would strike fear into his ranks,” said Nethyn, patting his general on the shoulder in a vain attempt to calm him down, “but we would need to get our hands on him.”

“He’ll run about Vvardenfell, knowing full well that battle against us would be death,” Vonos said.

Nethyn nodded, “I once ate at his table, and spoke to him face to face: he’s a close-minded man, but a prudent one nonetheless. He knows we outnumber him, and that his forces are a sad shadow of what the Temple army used to be. Our men would clobber him no matter what.”

Just then, Varvur got a gleam in his red eyes. It made Nethyn nervous: it was the same gleam he got when he chose a small animal to swing his hammer at (many blighted kolyfrogs had already fallen victim). Then, a low chuckle began to rise from his throat, breaking into a laughter. He looked at Vonos and Nethyn, laughing all the more as he began to tap two dark fingers against the side of his head.

“I have an idea!” Varvur finally said. “What if we sent a small party ahead of our main force, eh? Make him think he could ambush a large scouting party, right? Then, we attack him after he’s exposed his forces! Then, we can stick holy scrolls up ALL their derrieres!”

Nethyn grinned. If a person didn’t know Varvur, they would assume he was just a big brute - few realized the cunning mind behind it. He was much like Mornsu, but with less subtlety and far, far more strength.

“That’s a brilliant idea,” Nethyn said. “Varvur, take 200 men, march south on the morrow. We will follow you at a distance. Once you are about to be engaged, send word to the main force, and we will come meet you at all speed. If there are no other words, gentlemen, I think this meeting is dismissed…”

As Varvur and Vonos left the tent, Saren stepped forward and bowed towards Nethyn, “Sir, I would like to make a special request, which you are free to reject at your leisure.”

Nethyn raised an eyebrow, “What special request is this, Saren?”

Saren kept his red eyes to the ground, as if he expected something to rise from it, “I wish to make a pilgrimage towards Red Mountain, for reasons I cannot say now...but I expect I shall be able to return shortly after your battle with the Temple is fought. However, I know I will be violating my duty as a personal guard in this endeavor, and hence if you wish to dismiss me for such impudence, I shall not object.”

Nethyn grinned. He stepped forward, placing a hand on the guard’s shoulder, “Saren...you have my permission. Whatever it is you seek at the Red Mountain, I hope you find it. Only come here all the more.”

Saren gripped Nethyn’s hand and bowed low, “Thank you, sir. I am your sworn sword, whether side-by-side or miles away.” With that, the guard left. To Nethyn’s surprise, he left that very night, heading west. What it was that drove him to Red Mountain, Nethyn was not sure, but he was also not entirely sure even Saren knew what it was. He only knew that Saren had seemed strangely drawn to Red Mountain ever since they first began the campaign against the Temple, and part of the guard seemed to go to the mount, least he feel unfulfilled.


In First Seed of 2E488, Varvur made contact with Farwil’s forces. Sure enough, the archcanon had attempted to launch an ambush against the Hlaalu forces, hoping to wipe out a chunk of the enemy army and score an easy victory. Unfortunately for him, 900 Hlaalu soldiers were now arriving on the scene, ready to wipe his army from the field. When Nethyn rode onto the scene, he could see that Varvur very nearly had the battle under control: he was surrounded by dead Ordinators, swinging his hammer this way and that, crying out at those who dared oppose him, and when they were too close for his hammer to strike, he grabbed them by the head and nearly tore them from the necks.

Nethyn let out a sigh and said in a low voice, “Praise Azura he’s MINE…”

The Hlaalu reinforcements stormed onto the field, coming from all angles. Farwil quickly realized what was unfolding, and ordered a retreat. It was too little too hate: no one except himself and some of the Temple officials were able to escape, while the small Temple army was crushed. Nethyn pulled back to Suran, where he placed Therana, a common-born Dunmer, in charge of the region to make certain Hlaalu rule could be enforced.


Not too long after the Hlaalu army had arrived back in Suran, Nethyn was informed that someone had come from the west to see him. He headed to the front of the Hlaalu camp only to find Saren, covered from head to foot in dirt, ash and mud. Saren bowed low and said, “I have returned, sir.”

“I am happy to see you safe and sound,” Nethyn said, reaching out and hugging his guard. They embraced for a moment, and then the grandmaster began to lead him back to their tent. “What was it you did?”

“I felt drawn to a...a cavern,” Saren appeared to be finding the right words, “I cannot explain it, sir. I met some men who gave me some artifacts, and who told me about rumors and legends across the island, and...I came to a doorway. To get in, I had to solve a riddle, and when I entered, I found a statue of Azura. It was there that I found this…”

He held up his right hand and removed his gloved. There, on his middle finger, was a strange ring that bore both a moon and a star…


Nethyn blinked. He recognized the ring. He had read about it, seen sketches of it...but here it was, before his very eyes, and on Saren’s finger. It was the Moon-and-Star.

In caverns dark Azura's eye sees, and makes to shine the moon and star… Those words whispered in Nethyn’s mind, as if Azura were speaking to him, reminding him...they were the words of the third prophecy concerning the Nerevarine.
 

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Says you. Saren is actually Dagoth Ur in disguise #OhWhatATwist
Hah, that would be quite the twist! Whether genuine or fake, I'm certain that news of the return of Nerevar is going to have a galvanizing effect on friend and foe alike. Almost certainly neither the Temple nor the monarchy are going to take the news well, I'd bet...
 

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Given the state of the Temple at the moment, can they really do anything?
 

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Chapter 9

“It is important to her that our emotions be engaged in her worship. And our love must also be directed inward. If we love her and hate ourselves, she feels our pain.”

-- From
Invocation of Azura​

Vvardenfell was a divided island - that was putting it mildly. The Kingdom of Morrowind effectively owned most of the south, save for the region around Vivec City; this was all that remained of the Temple holdings. Dunmer historians could only look at this with sadness: at one time, the Tribunal had owned the entire island, and kept it under control with a stable, if oppressive grip. Thanks to the disastrous wars with Morrowind, and their failure to crush the initial Ashlander uprisings, all of that had been lost. Now it was but a shadow of once it once was - a city that was the religious center for most Dunmer, but with barely even a fraction of the power it had once carried.


For Nethyn, the intervention by Queen Yelithah had been an annoyance, but it did prove to be beneficial in one aspect: Morrowind armies had effectively cut off the Ashlanders from the Temple, and separated the two warring factions from one another. This would mean that the Ashlanders could not march south and take Vivec City as so many of their tribal leaders had dreamed. This also meant, however, that the Ashlanders hated the Morrowind Dunmer all the more. The days ahead would see the bloodshed of Dunmer against Dunmer, in a scale never before seen in Morrowind history.

What made Nethyn curious was the fact that the Tribunal had not yet shown up. He had read accounts of the ALMSEVI leading Morrowind’s forces against the Empire when it had attempted to subjugate the region. Vivec himself had fought in battle, winning again and again, until treachery had forced them to come to a peace agreement. The fall of the Empire had led to greater freedom for the Dunmer yet again, but, in the midst of the Temple’s fall, and the failure of her armed forces, where was Vivec the General? Where were the other members of the Tribunal? Did they remain holed up in their temples in Vivec City, doing nothing?

For now, however, Nethyn had other concerns. With the south secured, he wanted to further separate the Ashlanders from Vivec City, and make sure there was no way for them to sneak through his territory and take the city before he could. There had been a slight delay when Mornsu had sent word that she was dealing with an outbreak of cabals that had crept up along the Bitter Coast region. Apparently some of the Ashlander wise women had begun to claim that Azura spoke directly through them, which was normal...except this involved certain substances, which most expected to be skooma. They were causing a problem among the local populace, as their religious sessions tended to end in chaos and with many of their members wreaking havoc on the small towns along the region. Mornsu was initiating tough measures against them, and sending small bands of Hlaalu troops through the swamps and riverways to root them out.


Making sure she had her necessary forces, Nethyn now took his his 1,000 Dunmer army, still fresh from their victory against the Temple, and turned northeast, along the bottom of Red Mountain. His goal was to strike at the army of Mausur, the ashkhan he had once met and believed to be a sincere follower of Azura. Mauser, who was once again leading an army after his terrible maiming, and who was now being fancied as “the Giant” for whatever reason, had pulled his armies back to the Grazelands, preparing to meet Nethyn in battle. This gave the Hlaalu forces time to enter the region of Molag Amur, which they overran in the month of Second Seed, in 2E489.


By now, the men were very confident in Nethyn as a commander, and he had earned the respect of most Hlaalu warriors. If one had gone to them decades ago and told them that they would consider their grandmaster a great leader of men and armies, they would have probably laughed at such a notion - now, there was no denying it: Nethyn had gone from a grandmaster who kept in his palace to a man comfortable in the field, and capable of leading an organized force into battle. For his part, Nethyn simply owed it all to the grace and edification from Azura; he also attributed much of it to his bodyguard Saren, who was a tactical as well as courageous warrior. Nethyn learned much from him in the way of how to handle oneself in battle.


With Molag Amur in their hands, the Hlaalu army moved north. Nethyn, Vonos, and Varvur were the commanders again, and Varvur had begun to get very talkative with Nethyn as of late.

“I shall be glad to be out of Molag Amur, and into the Grazelands,” he remarked, riding alongside his grandmaster as they moved through the rock and dirt, “place is more depressing than...than...well, a depressing place.” He squinted his eyes and snarled, angry at himself for not being able to think of better terminology. Nethyn could only give a warmhearted laugh:

“The land around Red Mountain does get a tad bit dull, doesn’t it? The Grazelands are hit from the northern seas, and offers more green. I traveled there long ago, and must confess I have missed it.”

Of course, when I went there last, Nethyn thought to himself, I went as a brother in Azura, not as an enemy.

Varvur gripped the reins of his horse a moment, as if to think on something. His red eyes darted back and forth, and then he cleared his throat as he said, “Grandmaster...it has uh...come to my attention that uh...my attitude has not always been the most...er...perfect...and uh...as such I believe it is my duty to uh...apologize…if I have ever overstepped my bounds and...uh...forsaken proper eating kits…”

The grandmaster raised an eyebrow and turned his red eyes towards Varvur. The poor muthsera was looking around nervously, his eyes darting back and forth as if reading words that were in midair, and visible only to him. It was quite obvious that he was repeating something he had memorized, perhaps even been taught (most likely by one of his officers). However, these words were obviously said with humility and heart. Nethyn met them with a soft smile.

“I believe you mean etiquette, not eating kit,” said Nethyn, laughing some more. All the same, he reached out and touched Varvur on his broad arms, “However, your apology is accepted, Varvur. I do not recall any moment where you slighted me, and if you had, I probably missed it, and thought nothing of it. You have been a great warrior.”

Varvur grinned back, now looking very relaxed, “I simply wanted to serve you. And Azura. Want to prove to the Nerevarine he has good men in his army, I do.”

Nethyn nodded, then turned suddenly when he saw a rider coming up. It was Hlaalu horseman, wearing light leather and carrying a bow on his back. It was a scout.

“Grandmaster! The Ashlanders are up ahead, coming towards us.”

“To arms!” Nethyn shouted. “Vonos, take the western flank - Varvur, our east. I will lead the center. Hlaalu! Formations!”

The generals rode off to take their commands. The armies quickly assembled, forming their lines. Many of the scouts were returning, flying over the hills and ridges and joining up with the army. Nethyn knew that could only mean one thing: the enemy was close. Sure enough, some minutes later, the Ashlanders came marching over the hill. Many of them were mounted, while others sat on the ground, working as support for the cavalry. There may have not been more than half what the Hlaalu had, but it was a decent force nonetheless.

The concentration of the Ashlanders was on the eastern and central flanks, and their cavalry came rushing towards those sections on the Hlaalu line. Nethyn kept his forces stationary, knowing that going on the defensive would give them more time to organize. In the central and western flanks, the Dunmer lifted up their bows and let loose a volley of arrows, taking the Ashlander left flank from the front and side. Dunmer and horse alike fell to the earth, struck by the arrows. More volleys came after that, and the Ashlander attack against Nethyn’s position was stunted.

On the eastern flank, Varvur had led his mounted force against the Ashlanders, obviously hoping to turn their right flank. It was a brilliant move to make, given the Ashlander left flank was occupied, and Nethyn thought that he would have to comment Varvur for it later. The big muthsera was seen on his large steed, wielding his great warhammer with one arm. If it hadn’t been for his dark blue skin and red eyes, one might have confused him for an orc.

The Hlaalu cavalry crashed into the Ashlander troops, and began to inflict serious casualties. Spears and swords flew, and in the midst of it, Varvur was swinging his hammer left and right, taking out any who dared get near. Blood and dirt rose up from around him as one Ashlander rider after another was knocked off his horse, never to rise again. Suddenly, Ashlander infantry began to storm forward, and Nethyn watched as Varvur’s horse was killed under him. The grandmaster let out a gasp as he saw Varvur fall to the ground, surrounded by Ashlander forces.

Then suddenly, one Ashlander warrior went flying through the air, followed by another. Varvur popped up, and swung his hammer in a circle. Skulls were crushed and flesh was ripped as the blow made contact with several enemies. Varvur was clearly in a rage. He swung this way and that, killing the attacking enemy, and adding to the tally of foes killed that day. His men stayed true to him and kept up the fight, and the Ashlanders began to fall back…

It was then that a lone arrow struck Varvur right in the chest. Nethyn watched in horror as Varvur let out a cry, tearing the arrow from his body, causing more bleeding. He threw it aside and swung his hammer, killing an Ashlander before another came up and thrust a spear into his belly. Like an enraged animal, Varvur gripped the shaft of the spear and broke it in half, bringing the hammer down onto the Ashlander’s skull with a swing of one arm. More Ashlanders gathered around, thrusting into him again and again, and though some were taken down, eventually Varvur disappeared in the midst of them…


“No…” Nethyn muttered allowed, “No...no...no no no!”

He drew his sword and ran in front of his men, pointing towards the Ashlander armies and screaming at the top of his lungs:

“Charge! Everyone charge! Take no prisoners! No prisoners!”

His men let out a cheer and obeyed him. Suddenly, the entire Hlaalu line was surging through the grazelands, right for the cracking Ashlander line. The mounted Hlaalu ran down the Ashlanders, taking them off one by one, and soon the entire force fell away. Those whom the cavalry did not kill were slayed by the infantry, or plucked down by the archers, or struck by the mages. Nethyn had called for his horse and rode ahead of his forces, killing any Ashlander he could find. He was in a rage. He did not like any of his men dying, but he had just witnessed one of his generals perish in the attack - and this general had been a brother in Azura.


At the end of the day, the field was strewn with Ashlanders. Many had fled north, including the ashkhan himself, but most of them had perished. Cliff racers flew down from the mountain and began to peck off the bodies, and had to be chased away by mages and horsemen. Nethyn himself was moving through the scene on foot, his hands and sword covered in blood. As his red eyes glanced across the scene, he quietly prayed to Azura...and it was an imprecatory prayer. He wanted Azura to raise these men again. He wanted this filth to be raised alive once again, so that he could slay them again. He wanted to kill them as many times as Azura would let him. He wanted to see them die until his arms got tired, and his bloodlust satiated. He wanted Varvur’s death to be atoned for.

They brought his body to him, carried on a banner. His armor had been torn up, and it could be seen that the Ashlanders had cut him everywhere. The spears had thrusted not only into his chest and belly, but his arms, legs, and face. He was barely recognizable. The only thing to distinguish him from other Hlaalu dead was the warhammer that lay beside his corpse. This heap of flesh and blood had, just months ago, been the instrumental mind behind the defeat of the Temple in battle, and it was without a doubt his doing that the Ashlander attack was halted, and the reason the Hlaalu counter attack was successful. This was the man who just before battle had shared a smile with Nethyn, and who had been alongside him in worship of Azura. This was the man whom Nethyn hoped to live long enough to see the Nerevarine return and restore the kingdom.

Now, this man was gone from this realm.

“No,” Nethyn muttered. Healers and officers alike looked at him in confusion. After a moment of silence, Nethyn added, “No...no, no...that’s not him…” He knelt down on one knee, just beside Varvur’s corpse. His lip quivered, and his red eyes moistened. At last, he held his blood-stained hands to his face, rubbing his eyes as he shivered and said, “No, that’s not him!”

The Hlaalu army camped on the border between the Grazelands and Molag Amur. Mornsu had been sent for, and arrived to replace Varvur; however, it had been decided by then that the Hlaalu would pull back into their own territory. At the moment, Nethyn did not have the spirit to continue - and Mornsu could see that. As she was carried by her female courtiers into Nethyn’s command tent, she could see him in a chair over his table, staring at nothing and fidgeting with his fingers folded together. Saren had warned Mornsu to speak tactfully to him, as the death of Varvur was still affecting him greatly.

“All is well in the bitter coast, grandmaster,” Mornsu replied, showing a soft side of hers that was rare. “Is there anything I can do to be of service for you now?”

Nethyn shook his head, not even turning to look at her. He merely hung his head low and said in a low voice, “No, that is all...thank you, Mornsu. I shall be fine.”

Mornsu nodded, motioning for her courtiers to help her out of the tent. She had an arm over a courtier each, and they were helping to keep her up, due to her weak (and ever weakening) state. As they reached the tent flap, she turned and cast a sad, wearied glance towards Nethyn. She stared for quite a moment before continuing out, and leaving him alone.

As soon as he was certain he was alone, Nethyn finally acted. He grabbed the edge of the table and flung it over, letting out a scream.

“Where are your visions now?!” he shouted upwards, looking about. “Where are your cryptic words?! Where are your visions?! Where are your prophecies?! Where is your love! Speak to me! You have been silent for so long - speak to me!”

Nothing was spoken. Not even a thought. Nethyn stood there for a while, and eventually began to feel like a fool. This only made him more angry.

“He loved you and worshiped you!” he continued to shout, his voice growing hoarse as his chords strained. “He was fighting for you! He wanted to meet the Nerevarine! And you let him perish! You let him die! Why?! Where is your wisdom?! Why did you let him die?!”

Nethyn wanted to throw more things. He wanted to let out his anger. The chair became his first victim. It was thrown against a pole holding up the tent, and thrown with such force that a leg shattered. Next came one of his gloves, lying on a crate near his bed. It was thrown on the ground, bouncing once before turning over. Its kinsman became the next victim. Then Nethyn decided that he was still angry enough at the chair, and threw it on the ground, and then again, until the object was all but shattered in pieces. When this was done, he found himself standing there, alone in the tent, panting, feeling his heart race within his chest. His red eyes stared at the ground, seeing the scattered bits of wood that had formerly been his chair.

“That wasn’t him…” he suddenly whispered. “That wasn’t him that I saw...it wasn’t the smiling face, it wasn’t the courage, it wasn’t the life, it wasn’t the loyalty, it wasn’t…”

Suddenly, a new wave of emotion came over the grandmaster. He felt like something was wrong with his face, as if it were melting...and then, he realized that there were tears pouring down his cheeks. As quickly as he had gotten angry, he was on the floor, his knees bent, his back hunched over, and his eyes buried in his arms. He was weeping terribly.

“I’m sorry…” he whispered. “I’m sorry. Forgive me please…” He wept, feeling more tears flow, soaking into the fabric of his tunic. “I’m so sorry...please forgive me…”

He was alone that night in the tent. No one disturbed him. Not Saren, not Mornsu, not Vonos - no one. There were guards posted nearby, to keep anyone from disturbing him, and after Mornsu left, no one else was seen entering that tent. And yet, that very night, as he lay weeping, Nethyn could feel a woman press against him, and he felt comforting arms wrap around him in an embrace. Someone was holding him close to her, and weeping with him. He could feel the face of a Dunmer woman pressed against the back of his tunic, and feel the moisture of her tears as they fell against him. That was all he remembered before his exhausted body fell asleep upon the ground.
 

Specialist290

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Ouch! Sad to see Varvur go, although I suppose it's fitting that he died doing what he loved in service to Azura and his House. I have no doubt that once Nethyn awakes, he'll be out to reap a red tide of vengeance for the loss of his companion and best commander.

Also nice to see the way you've woven those two battle events together to create such a touching and emotionally charged scene. That one hit me "right in the feels," as they say :(
 

Henry v. Keiper

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Ouch! Sad to see Varvur go, although I suppose it's fitting that he died doing what he loved in service to Azura and his House. I have no doubt that once Nethyn awakes, he'll be out to reap a red tide of vengeance for the loss of his companion and best commander.

Also nice to see the way you've woven those two battle events together to create such a touching and emotionally charged scene. That one hit me "right in the feels," as they say :(
Gameplay-wise, losing Varvur in battle was one of those "Awe c'mon!" moments we so often have in CK2. He had some nice stats, and would have been perfect for future campaigns, or if I had decided to keep playing after this story ends and conquer the world or something. As it happened, he died before I could really get to use him for too much.

Storyline-wise, well...sadly I've had to go to a funeral lately for an in-law, and much of what I witnessed in regards to people reacting influenced what happened in the story.
 

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Gameplay-wise, losing Varvur in battle was one of those "Awe c'mon!" moments we so often have in CK2. He had some nice stats, and would have been perfect for future campaigns, or if I had decided to keep playing after this story ends and conquer the world or something. As it happened, he died before I could really get to use him for too much.
Hate it when that happens.

Storyline-wise, well...sadly I've had to go to a funeral lately for an in-law, and much of what I witnessed in regards to people reacting influenced what happened in the story.
Ouch! :( My condolences to you and the rest of the family.
 

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It's alright, it was a while ago. It was harder on my in-laws, the individual had been well a close family member.
 

Henry v. Keiper

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Glad to read through and catch up. I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes.
Glad to hear it! I'll still be updating this, just not as much as my GoT one most likely. In fact, I should plan on updating sometime around this weekend...