Chapter 15 The Long Road Ahead
Last Seed 29
I sat, surrounded by the darkness of midnight and hiding from the rasp of a Vvardenfell ash storm. It was night and nearly pitch black. I was temporarily encamped on the outskirts of the Ashlands, where the mountains met West Gash. I had found a location to hide from the winds for the night. The storm, I assumed, would be over by morning.
The last few days I had spent scouring West Gash, and the Northern Bitter Coast. I had been seeking out all the bandit dens and smuggling bases I could find, looking for slaves. That was what I was doing in Morrowind. It was my mission, my charge: to free as many as my Argonian brethren as I could.
Years ago, I had been captured in one of the Dunmer border raids. They would come into our land and destroy small villages, looking for people who could become their slaves. It didn’t matter who: men, women, and children. They were all taken and forced into servitude. Any of us who would resist would be either beaten into submission, or killed. They told us we were beasts, incapable of the higher understanding of right and wrong. It was then that I lost everyone whom I cared for, and was brought here; to Morrowind. I spent almost a year in the capital city; Mournhold, under the service of a wealthy aristocrat. I escaped though, breaking my bonds and freeing others around me. After some months wandering the countryside of the Dark Elf land, I was captured, and brought to the province of Vvardenfell. The process of slavery, escape, and emancipation was then repeated. I wandered the land looking for Khajiit or Argonians to free. And there were many. The twisted Dark Elf society relied on slavery as a basis for labor. Every saltrice field, ore mine, or even large household had slaves to work where the elves desired not to. That was on top of all the smuggling rings that riddled Vvardenfell. They used slaves as bartering pieces for drugs, weapons, and artifacts.
I found these people reprehensible. As sophisticated as they presented themselves in the fields of art, literature, and magicka, they were all poisoned with an intense egomaniacal complex. It was common knowledge that elves lived much longer than the races of men, or the Khajiit or Orcish people. They used this as a divine cause for their superiority. They believed that their religious tribunal allowed them the right to enslave others and take their lives away. It disgusted me. The lowest point, though, which I had witnessed in my years in the Dark Elf land, was skooma smuggling. The apathetic Elves would force Khajiit to swallow packs of unrefined moon sugar. The slaves would be allowed to pass Imperial watch, undetected. Then the poor Khajiit would be killed and cut open for the drugs stored in their stomachs. It was a disgusting practice that I had seen many times. I hated the Dark Elves for it. I truly had lost any possibility of redemption for them. And with that I began to hate myself, because I had become a vengeance-driven beast. A beast; which was just what they had told me I was.
I would think about my old life. I remembered my country, my friends, my love and my children, and I cried because I knew that they were all gone. I truly hated the Elves and wished death upon them all. Upon gaining freedom, I had exchanged my steel chains for those made of spite and malice. So it was there in Vvardenfell that I stayed, unable to leave because of my mission, and unable to live because of my hatred.
Upon an awkwardly shaped stone I sat, waiting for the winds of the Ashlands to die down. My location was just around the main mountain ridge of where the rocky slopes began to form into subtle hills. As I kept my head down, to protect my eyes from the wind, I heard a noise. My head came up, to see nothing. After a few seconds, though, I spotted what it was that had alarmed me. It was a person, of what race I couldn’t recognize. The person took a few steps towards me. I immediately rose to me feet, with my halberd in hands. As I did, I noticed the small stature of the individual. It was a he, and he was a Wood Elf. “What is it you want?” I said aloud. The elf seemed startled, perhaps not having realized I was there.
“I…I’m just looking for something. I didn’t mean to disturb you.” I said nothing. I simply waited for him to either leave or speak again. And he did so, rather sheepishly. “I was…well... I was wondering if you have any potions of cure blight disease. I need them,” the elf said, unsurely. It was still very dark, and I had no reason to believe that Wood Elves could see in the night any better than I could.
“I do not have any. But if you need them, then perhaps I could help you make some. I am…I used to be an alchemist,” I responded.
“Thank-you,” the elf said. I invited him to sit down as I began to ask him about the potions he needed.
“Well, I have party members that are ill. They have been infected by two viscous nix-hounds and they need a cure,” he said.
And what have they been infected with?” I asked him. He then paused and seemed unsure in his response.
“Well, I believe that it’s black-heart blight.”
“You believe?” I began. “If you are not sure of the cause, then it is unwise to administer a cure. What are the symptoms?”
“Well, they spoke of the lack of strength, and the inability to use magicka. They also mentioned trouble breathing and swallowing, and difficulty moving their limbs.” I sat silent, and pondered on the conditions he spoke of. It was true, that the black-heart blight affected strength and one’s will, but it had nothing to do with the respiratory system, or movement. I knew of no one disease that brought all the effects that he mentioned. I could only then assume that there was more than one disease affecting each of his friends. After listing every common and blight disease in my head, and had eliminated all but a few. Rattles, dampworm, wither, and the black-heart blight. The combination of any of these diseases would be very weakening to the victims. I then reached over for my pack, and found the ingredients I needed. I also pulled out my mortar and pestle, and began preparing them.
“How many people are sick?” I asked him.
“Three,” he said.
“I’m going to prepare potions for curing common diseases. It is possible that your friends have been infected with the black-heart blight, in which case I can do nothing for them. I don’t have the proper reagents.”
“Well, thank-you for your help. What is you name? If you don’t mind my asking.” I did not respond for a moment.
“Actually, I’d prefer not to give you my name.” I said to him. Often I would find myself in trouble with the Dark Elves. Their authorities looked out for me. That was why I rarely went into towns. I was especially cautious after what had happened in the Ascadian Isles one week ago, at the Dren plantation. For all I knew, House Hlaalu could’ve put a bounty on my head. And I didn’t need my name being repeated by the young elf.
“Oh, all right. I understand. My name’s Prophiter,” he said to me. By then, the winds were weakening. As I continued mixing the chokeweed and red lichen, a thought then dawned on me.
“So, these friends of yours, are they Wood Elves, like you?”
“Oh, no,” he responded. I stopped mixing and looked him in the eyes.
“They are…Dark Elves?” I asked.
“No, no. Nords, and a Khajiit.” I put my head back down and continued blending the ingredients. A few more moments of silence passed until I asked him another question.
“The Khajiit with you. Is he free, or in chains?” Prophiter seemed a bit startled by that question. It was quite forward, but I didn’t really care for subtlety.
“No he’s free. Heh, someone would have quite the task trying to put him in chains.” I dropped the subject after that. The elf seemed to have no intention of any such activity. I then took the mixed pulp and stirred it in with some water. As I continued the process, Prophiter asked me questions of his own.
“So…were you a slave?” he asked, meekly.
“Yes,” I responded.
“And you’re on your way home then, to Black Marsh?” he continued. I sighed momentarily.
“Someday I will go home. When I can take the others with me.”
“The others? You mean all the slaves in this county? No one person could do all that alone,” he emphatically stated to me. I sighed again.
“We do what we must.” The elf looked at me, but questioned me no more.
I had soon finished mixing the formula, and was pouring it into a few empty vials that I had in my pack. The winds had mostly died down by then and the clouds had been blown away. The moonlight then began to shine down on us. I looked over at the elf, and got a clear view of his face for the first time. He did the same with me. “Your medicine is ready,” I said, standing up. He rose to his feet and took the vials from me, putting them in his pack.
“Thank-you and…good luck with your work,” Prophiter said to me.
“You should hurry. Your friends may be growing agitated.” He nodded in response.
Prophiter then turned and left for the Ashland region. I returned to my uncomfortable seat. The moonlight shone down and illuminated the long, dusty road and the grassy plains to the east. I stared out across the land, as I contemplated the work that was yet to be done. The task seemed insurmountable. My mind grew tired and my skin grew cold in the province of Vvardenfell. I needed to leave, in one way or another.