FROM THE PRIVATE JOURNALS OF GREEN-VENOM-TONGUE
Astara Caerellius, Matron of our Sanctuary, definitely carries the weight of responsibility upon her shoulders. You can see it in her eyes, in the deep creases of her face. She really needs to take better care of herself. On certain days, she looks every bit as old as she is. She could still gut me like a fish, hollow me out, and turn my empty skin into a backpack, but that doesn't change the fact that she isn't getting any younger. I wonder if I should recommend a lotion to help with that? A combination of troll fat, river mud, and Alik'r spices certainly keeps my scales supple and shiny.
I've been trying to better understand our Matron, but in many ways she remains a mystery to me. She holds herself apart and above the Brothers and Sisters that operate out of this Sanctuary, even as she worries and frets over each assassin she sends on a contract. She is definitely cold and calculating, an accomplished killer with a reputation for completing contracts faster and more efficiently than anyone else of her age category. She's probably lost a step or two, but I have no doubt her blade remains sharp and her aim deadly. Why does she insist on projecting such a hard shell, I wonder, when it's obvious she's as soft as yolk on the inside? I want to ask her, but the last time I broached the subject she threatened to cut out my tongue and hang it on the Black Door if I didn't stop bothering her with personal questions.
I spent part of the day following the Matron around the Sanctuary, hoping to glean more insights into her motivations and character. Even a cold-blooded killer can be curious, after all.
Astara took her morning meal in the mess, as she is wont to do. She had a large bowl of wine-soaked corn cake and chunks of wheel-barrow cheese. Interesting how she would spear a bit of cake or cheese with her knife, examine it carefully, and then plop it into her mouth. She chewed each mouthful eleven times—never more, never less—swallowed, then belched enthusiastically before diving in for more. She finished all but a sliver of cake and a wedge of cheese and departed just as Tanek and Cimbar entered. I was tempted to stay behind to see what the assassins were going to eat, but that would have conflicted with my observations of the Matron. Perhaps tomorrow.
I quietly followed the Matron into the library, where she continued her morning ritual of reading from "The Five Tenets" and then, when she assumed no one was watching, she picked up one of her beloved bawdy tales. I couldn't see which it was today. Probably "Investigator Vale" or "Tales of the Pirate Empress" if I had to guess. She does seem to enjoy a rollicking bodice ripper whenever she can get her hands on one. At that point, without even turning to look, she hurled a dagger. It buried itself in the wall beside my head, less than a claw's length from my right ear.
And so concluded my observations of Matron Astara for the day.
(Recovered from the corpse of Lieutenant Gavo Haderus)
I take up the quill with a heavy heart. My friend and comrade, Captain Midara, is dead. He had managed to evade capture for more than a month, but it seems the Clannfear finally sniffed him out. Even the oppressive stink of the sewers can't throw them off.
This is, of course, just another in a long line of tragedies. The city lies in ruins, its people are enslaved or sacrificed, and the Legion is shattered beyond repair. By last count, only two officers remain: myself and Captain Anatolius Caudex.
I remain baffled by Caudex's success in the Nobles District. While we scurry through drainpipes and sleep in puddles of our own filth, he holds the forum. The forum! Right there in plain view of Divine and Daedra alike. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. In my heart, I've always known he'd be the last soldier standing. Sergeant Shatabi calls him the "Zhazza-Ra." That's ta'agra for "The Crazy General." I suppose he does suffer from a kind of madness. His love for the Empire is just ... relentless. It's the kind of zeal that would burst the heart of lesser men. He would bleed on the Diamond to keep it red.
I'm reminded of our time in Fort Warden—before the provincials took it from us. The Covenant made a practice of shooting any officer that strayed into view. Most of us took to wearing standard infantry uniforms to avoid attention. But not Caudex. Every morning he'd polish his breastplate, comb the crest of his helm, and patrol the walls in utter defiance. He was shot three times, but never failed to make his rounds. We pleaded with him to stop. He just shook his head.
"These rebels must learn that the Empire is invincible," he said. "So we must be invincible."
Not long afterward, we were ordered to abandon the keep. Caudex was the last to leave.
It's funny. Even though I write this from inside the city walls, it feels like Fort Warden all over again. Enemies on all sides, officers in hiding, and Caudex defiant. I know that the city is lost. I know that the Legion is sundered. But in my heart I can't help but believe—so long as Caudex lives, the Empire is invincible.
Royal Communique: For the Eyes of High King Emeric
While taking in the sights of the work in progress known as Orsinium, I encountered another Orc we both know from Kurog's time in Wayrest. Do you remember Bazrag gro-Fharun? I'm sure you do! He was as quiet as Kurog was loud, but just as deadly with a sword or axe. This one-time friend and ally of King Kurog is now a clan chieftain. But despite their history, Bazrag refuses to accept Kurog's rule. He's a stubborn old hardliner, and perhaps the most prominent of the chiefs who still haven't given Kurog their full support. When Bazrag followed Kurog on his mercenary adventures, he battled across Tamriel at Kurog's side. Now he takes his role as clan chief very seriously, always keeping the needs of Wrothgar and the Orcs clearly at the forefront of all his endeavors.
Chief Bazrag considers the old customs and traditions to be sacrosanct. He's a firm believer in Malacath and the Blood Code. A proud and accomplished Orc, he wants to see the rise of a new Orc empire as much as Kurog does. However, Bazrag thinks the process will take generations and can't be hurried along—no matter how many cities Kurog decides to raise. To his mind, patience and adherence to tradition are the keys to uniting the clans and rebuilding Orsinium. Anything else is the addled dream of a reckless fool that threatens the glimmer of hope he sees for his people's future.
Gruff and serious, Chief Bazrag refuses to accept a new god or a new approach to life for the Orsimer. The old ways have served the Orcs well, Bazrag believes, and abandoning them for Trinimac and his ideas about truth, honor, and unity is anathema. In fact, I've heard Bazrag proclaim that the Trinimac movement is nothing more than a plot by the High Elves to spread their own religion to Wrothgar. I'm sure he's just being paranoid, but I have noticed an increasing number of High Elves arriving in Orsinium.
My king, as a chief and opponent of Kurog, Bazrag needs to be handled very carefully. If King Kurog has an equal among the clan chiefs, it is Bazrag gro-Fharun. He has the support of the chiefs still opposed to Kurog's plans. He never displays the slightest bit of fear when confronting Kurog. And his stern and regal bearing keeps the traditionalist Orcs flocked around his banner. He's definitely a force to be reckoned with among those who initiate events and inspire influence in Wrothgar.
Zephrine Frey, Royal Chronicler of Wayrest
Chief Inspector Rhanbiq
Dossier: Chief Inspector Rhanbiq
by Talsim, Master of Secrets for Her Majesty, the Queen of Taneth
Per your request, I examined the recent matter concerning Magnifica Falorah's sudden interest in Abah's Landing. It seems there was a breach of her family tomb, and she has employed the Iron Wheel to find and punish those responsible. This is in no way a threat to your Majesty; in fact, it would seem Falorah is taking pains to preclude any embarrassment to the crown itself by preventing official entanglements with the merchant lords of Abah's Landing.
For your edification, I have prepared a brief dossier on Chief Inspector Rhanbiq, the man beholden to complete Falorah's task.
Rhanbiq is one of the Iron Wheel's few chief inspectors, and by all accounts earned the title through unassailable duty and competence rather than family name or political connections. We place Rhanbiq in the middle to latter half of his fourth decade. He has no known living relatives and has never married. He cannot be bribed, he has no known vices, and numerous (but unconfirmed) reports indicate he is a private but devout adherent of Stendarr. His martial capabilities are passable, at best. As one of his colleagues says, "the only weapon Rhanbiq wields is his mind—but he keeps it razor sharp."
We have learned the chief inspector is not native to Taneth. He transferred here two decades ago from the Sentinel branch of the Bailiffs Guild, which has always been a pale shadow of the Taneth branch in terms of capability and expertise. He quickly flourished under the tutelage of then-Inspector Braswila, and was personally involved in some rather high-profile investigations:
When the Bailiffs Guild effectively collapsed during the Imperial troubles, Rhanbiq argued passionately to retain the structure of the Taneth branch for what I can only deem as idealistic interests. I have provided an excerpt:
"We cannot disband. We should not disband! We are not the watchmen wielding the cudgel of a bounty paid to make a problem simply go away. We are the desert falcon watching from on high, providing justice—true justice—to the people of Taneth. If we dare call ourselves the Iron Wheel, let us turn ever onward until the Bailiffs Guild restores itself!"
In my opinion, a passionate idealist can be far more dangerous to the crown than a hundred Lady Varmonds. It is therefore my recommendation to avoid further investigation into Magnifica Falorah's affairs while the Iron Wheel is in her employ. Though ludicrous to think the crown had any cause to invade her family tomb, Chief Inspector Rhanbiq is like a clothier who plucks at every loose strand before him until he unravels the entire jacket. Best not to dangle any thread.
My Dear Sister Clivia
From Unpublished Notes for "Life of a Cyrod Daughter," by Magus-General Septima Tharn
Back when we were all studying different parts of Father's curriculum for world domination, a corner of the White-Gold Tower library was set up as a classroom for me, my sisters, and our tutors. I had a natural talent for spell-work, and by the age of thirteen I was already quite advanced in the family tradition of Battlemagic. However, I always had trouble with combat teleportation, and I remember one day I was working on trying to 'port a rat from one desk to another, when I was distracted by an argument between Clivia and Euraxia. Euraxia was about six years old at this point, and Clivia was seven and a half, but she already wore that haughty majesty that would serve her so well later in life. They were playing the basic version of my father's boardgame, "Imperial War-Chess," and Clivia had just moved her Guar Cavalry from Morrowind to Nibenay over the Velothi Mountains to take Euraxia's Rimmen Mercenaries—an illegal move, as the speed of cavalry is halved over difficult terrain. Euraxia protested loudly at this violation of the rules, calling Clivia a big cheater. Clivia just slapped her and told her not to be such a baby. This only made Euraxia madder—she drew herself up to her full height and declared that one day, when she was Queen of Rimmen, Clivia would get hers, and then she knocked Clivia's cavalry piece off the board. In response Clivia simply kicked the board hard from below, sending the game, pieces and all, showering over her younger sister's head. "Queens don't scare me," she said coldly. "Because I'm going to be EMPRESS, and then you'll ALL bow your heads."
She turned to me, unprovoked, and added, "And that goes for you, too, Big Ugly. Learn every spell in the library. Just see what good it does you." Then she stood, every lovely hair still in place, turned and marched out of the room. Wailing, Euraxia went after her, begging forgiveness.
That was Clivia: ever the regal one, with everyone always falling all over themselves to win the crumbs of her favor. Imperious, beautiful, statuesque even, she had a dazzling smile, but she only bestowed it on one who'd paid for it somehow—or was going to. She had no talent to be a Battlemage, she lacked Euraxia's instinctive grasp of power politics, she never learned Father's trick of demanding a good man's loyalty, and yet she was the one Abnur groomed for the Ruby Throne. Because Clivia had the inborn aura of command: people simply wanted to do her bidding, and when she gave an order, it felt wrong to disobey.
How did she do it? I never did figure that out. There was no magic involved, so far as I could tell. It was just her nature. When Prince Leovic came back triumphant from his first campaign against the border raiders, our family was there in the Great Hall with the other councilors and great nobles to receive him. His father, Emperor Moricar, praised the prince and decreed that he could name his reward. Prince Leovic didn't hesitate: he walked right up to us and said, "Your Majesty, I want the Chancellor's daughter." And though Abnur Tharn had many daughters, we knew which one he meant.
Drake of Blades
Attn: General Nesh-Tan
As per your request, I have compiled a report on all matters related to this masked woman, the "Drake of Blades." I must admit, it is far from exhaustive. Even my most gifted scouts could only keep pace with her for a few minutes at a time before losing her to the shadows. And even in those cases, I suspect she wanted to be seen for some reason—perhaps to lead us away from an ambush, or draw our attention to something noteworthy. I am confident that she means us no harm, and I thank the Three for that. If she did want us gone, I suspect we'd all be dead many times over.
Judging by her height and complexion, I'd say she's probably Imperial. But we've never observed her wearing anything other than a weathered Akaviri panoply, so any connection to the Legion seems unlikely. So far as we can tell, she has no companions in the city. We have reason to believe she has made contact with our enemies in the Covenant and the Dominion, but those meetings have been infrequent and cursory. So, in short, we can't say with certainty who she actually works for. Our best guess is some clandestine offshoot of the former Dragonguard.
What worries me the most is her temperament. There is something about how she carries herself that makes the troops nervous. She often appears agitated—pacing or walking in circles. Other times she will sit, almost catatonic, for an hour or more before giving us the slip. This would be less troubling if she wasn't so ... I guess "murderous" is the word? We've found hanged cultists and severed heads in almost every district of the city—left as a warning for Molag Bal's troops, and perhaps us as well.
In the weeks we've been stalking her, we've only had one actual meeting. One of my junior pathfinders, Elam, bumbled into an old tea-house full of Dremora. They seemed poised to burn him alive before the Drake arrived. She slew the lot of them in three strokes of her sword. Split one of their heads like melon and cut the other three in half. Elam stammered out a faint "thank you." She stood there staring at us for a moment, like she was struck dumb. Eventually she called him an "idiot" and disappeared out the back door.
My counsel is this: give her a wide berth. Accept what aid she offers, but don't get in her way.
Blood for the Pact,
This one has done as you have asked. I joined up with the Wood Elf known as Eveli Sharp-Arrow and even now we travel toward the Orc city of Orsinium. To the Wood Elf, this one is nothing more than another adventurer seeking fame and fortune in the wilds of Wrothgar. She has no reason to suspect that I am one of the Eyes of the Queen and a trusted friend of the infamous Razum-Dar. But what you hope I'll discover about this untested novice, I'll never understand.
Let me be blunt. The Wood Elf is practically a child. As far as I can tell, this is her first trip out of Valenwood. She has as much business answering King Kurog's call as a newborn lion has trying to vie for leadership of its pride. This one suspects she won't last an hour once we cross the border into Wrothgar. She'll turn around and run back to Valenwood at the first sign of trouble—or she'll be dead. I don't see any other option.
Eveli Sharp-Arrow reeks of innocence and inexperience. She talks of nothing but going on a grand adventure and becoming a hero. Her naïveté would be cute if she hadn't signed on to help tame one of the wildest and most dangerous regions in all of Tamriel. This one has a mind to just tell her to go home now, before it's too late. But no, I have my orders. I will simply observe and report. But damn you, Razum-Dar! This young woman doesn't deserve to be tested in your fires. I know you expect her to become a weapon, but from what I've seen, she'll crack when her metal is exposed to too much heat!
* * *
This one hasn't changed his mind about the Wood Elf, but what I saw today has given me much to consider. I suppose this is the kind of news you wanted to hear. We're still about a day from the Wrothgarian border, serving as guards for a caravan full of supplies, artisans, and Orc peasants bound for the city of Orsinium. The trip has been uneventful. Until today. We were set upon by Red Rook Bandits who saw us as easy pickings. Before I could react, Eveli leaped to the top of a wagon and launched arrow after arrow into the surprised marauders. Every one of her arrows hit its mark. Almost as quickly as the attack began it was over, the bandits fleeing as fast as their wounded pride could carry them.
The Wood Elf acted bravely, but as soon as the danger passed she turned pale and sat down hard. I think she was actually sickened by putting arrows into live targets! Still, she performed better than I expected. Maybe you're right and there's more to Eveli Sharp-Arrow than I suspect. For now, this one will keep watching—just as the great Razum-Dar has ordered.
Aroz'lai, the Queen's Eye in Wrothgar
My patience wears thin--very thin indeed. I have always valued your counsel, such as it is, when it comes to the matters of state, but this business with Father Egnatius cannot be allowed to continue. I have spent years preparing for the arrival of our dark patron, Molag Bal. My worms have woven plots of intrigue that would make even Mephala blush. And yet, this simple priest continues to walk the halls of power, unmolested. This is wholly unacceptable.
It troubles me that you do not see the risk that a man like Egnatius poses. I grant you that he is not a member of the Elder Council, but his shadow looms over every proceeding. Just yesterday I saw him breaking bread with Falco and that paunchy fool, Gulsanius. Egnatius was urging them to reconsider the Memorial construction project—a project that is vital to our interests.
If he were just a common priest, I would have no cause for concern. I have shaken the faith of prophets and driven saints to suicide. Alessia's sheep are easily shorn. Easily slaughtered. But not this Egnatius. No, not Egnatius, with his books and his scrolls and his warm-hearted smiles. He is too well read. He strikes me as a scholar first and a priest second. There is no zealotry left in him—no secret malice for me to twist and shape. It is maddening. I tell you, Tharn, there are few things I hate more than an educated holy-man.
You have cautioned me against spilling his blood before. I know he is well-loved, and his death would be an unwelcome distraction. But faith is unpredictable. In the hands of a learned man, it can spell doom for plots both great and small. I will not allow our great undertaking to die at the hands of a frumpy, balding friar. Remove him from play or I will flay him alive.
Forge Mother Alga
Letter from Orsinium
Oh, Mother, I miss you terribly! Life as King Kurog's forge-wife isn't awful, but I long to smell the fires of Morkul and feel the heat of the blazing forges on my face. Does that make me an ungrateful wife for the king? I promise I'll try to do better and not bring disgrace to our clan, but sometimes it's all I can do not to steal a royal mount and ride away from this loud and boisterous city!
What am I going on about? Sometimes I think I must sound like one of those spoiled Breton dowry wives, Malacath forbid! In your last letter, you asked me to tell you all about life in the king's court. You seemed especially interested in Forge-Mother Alga, so let me start there. The king's mother represents everything I hope to become as Kurog's forge-wife. She's strong-willed yet caring, firm but diplomatic. I've seen her calm a room full of angry clan chiefs with nothing but a reasoned argument and a couple of pointed revelations designed to subtly break the tension. She really is amazing!
Alga epitomizes the concept of the elder Orc matron. She's positively ancient! But age hasn't slowed her down as far as I can tell. She gets around better than I do with that staff of hers. She never goes anywhere without it. She's strong, sharp-witted, and she might be the smartest Orc I've ever spoken to. She seems to know something about everything and everyone, and she's wise and kind—especially to me and the rest of Kurog's wives. She treats us like the daughters she never had.
Whenever Kurog travels, Forge-Mother Alga remains behind to run the kingdom. Oh, she's delegated certain responsibilities to me and the other wives, but make no mistake—the forge-mother's in charge. Practically every Orc female in Wrothgar owes her a favor, and I've seen her use these connections to get the chieftains to act as she wants them to. She makes it all look so easy, but I know the amount of work she puts in to maintain these important connections.
What else can I say about Forge-Mother Alga? She's a devout Orc, devoted to that newfangled god that everyone in Orsinium is wild about. Trinimac. He's much too weak for my taste, not a proper god like Malacath at all, but you won't catch me saying that when the forge-mother is around. She even brought in a high priestess, a city Orc named Solgra, to oversee the temple and lead the prayers to Trinimac. Her religious views aside, I really do admire the forge-mother and what she stands for. She's helping Kurog fulfill his dream of a united Orc nation, and I'm doing my part to follow her example. She's an inspiration!
I'll write again soon,
Your daughter, Tugha
Esteemed Count Carolus Aquilarios,
I am once again writing to you on behalf of my master, the Provincial Governor of Anvil and the almost universally accepted ruler of the entirety of the Gold Coast—the beautiful and the beguiling, the brave and the bawdy, the one and the only, Fortunata ap Dugal.
Her Excellency has ordered me to request for this one last time that you finally acquiesce and bow down before her Governorship. Accept her as the true and solitary leader of all she surveys. In return, she promises to allow you to retain some semblance of rulership over Kvatch and your uncle's original holdings, provided you declare your faithfulness and undivided loyalty to the Her Excellence's banner. It is, after all, the right thing to do.
Need I remind you that, unlike yourself, Fortunata was not born to nobility. Everything she has attained she earned through blood and sweat and deception. You must admit, she really is a remarkable woman! It didn't take her long to rise to the top of the Gold Coast Trading Company, securing a place on the ruling council of the shipping magnates and filling the company's coffers with unprecedented amounts of gold. She had a dream and an ambition that went beyond mere business, however. In short order, she used her connections and considerable charms to rally the Red Sails pirates to her side, amassing an armada of merchant vessels and pirate ships united under her white flag emblazoned with a blood-red saber. That was when she earned the title of Pirate Queen.
Thanks to your uncle's ill-timed revolution, Anvil was left nearly defenseless and ripe for conquest—and that's exactly what Fortunata did. She sailed her armada into port, squelched a few half-hearted attempts to repel her approach, and took Anvil Castle as her own. The city leaders saw the value in accepting Fortunata's leadership and quickly set out to garner Her Excellence's favor. That was when she took the title of Provincial Governor.
Now, Her Eminence knows all about your objections to the fact that she has annexed the entire Gold Coast and placed everything southwest of Varen's Wall under her protection. She has done this because she cares and because she has the means and resources to fulfill her promise to the people of the Gold Coast. Why can't you just accept her generosity and stop this continuous bickering? Don't we have real problems to deal with here? The Dark Brotherhood, for example, operates openly throughout our region, flouting our power and threatening everything we all hold dear. I wouldn't be surprised if they're responsible for the recent murders that have plagued both our cities. You can't deal with them. Primate Artorius and his Cathedral can't stop them. Submit to Fortunata's rule and let her do what she does best.
In the end, do you really think you have any other choice?
In Governor Fortunata's name, I remain,
Braccus Klinicus, Master Scribe of Anvil Castle
Your whispers concerning the Sanctuary in the Gold Coast territory ring true. I am quite certain that events in the area have begun to conspire against the Dark Brotherhood, just as you predicted. As such, I have started to take a closer look at the Brothers and Sisters operating out of the Gold Coast Sanctuary. Of the various assassins available to us, of particular interest to me is our Brother, Green-Venom-Tongue.
Green-Venom-Tongue, an Argonian from Black Marsh, has served the Night Mother and our Dread Father practically since he emerged from his egg. As a ruthless and accomplished killer, Brother Venom takes on many of the choice assignments from the Sanctuary's matron and the resident keeper of contracts. I have even utilized his services a number of times for clients who performed the Black Sacrament. His technique and use of the Blade of Woe does the Brotherhood proud. I have no doubt that he will play an important role as events related to Anvil and Kvatch unfold.
All that being said, Green-Venom-Tongue elicits a number of concerns that you need to be aware of so that anything that occurs later doesn't surprise you. The Gold Coast Sanctuary was not Brother Venom's first home within the Brotherhood. We both know what happened and how Brother Venom was exonerated, but a few doubts and questions still linger regarding that time. He also owes as much allegiance to us as he does to Black Marsh and he often returns there to fulfill his duties as a Shadowscale. This is as it should be, though it means that Brother Venom may not be available to us when we want to utilize his talents. Beyond that, Brother Venom has a few peculiarities that mark him as strange among his more grounded Brethren.
First, Brother Venom remains distant and cut off from the rest of his Brethren. While I am sure this relates to events surrounding his former Sanctuary, it nevertheless serves to make his Brothers and Sisters uncomfortable in his presence. Second, he has an overly curious mind. In fact, I would go so far as to say that his persistent attention and endless stream of questions come off as quite unsettling. He makes his fellow assassins nervous. Third, he carries one or more journals with him wherever he goes, and he constantly jots down notes and makes meticulous records of everything that he observes. He never allows anyone to see what he's written, and he guards his journals with an almost jealous zeal. I would venture to guess that Green-Venom-Tongue isn't completely sane. Then again, who among the Brotherhood truly is?
Despite his distinctive oddities, Green-Venom-Tongue represents an important asset in the Dark Brotherhood's arsenal of weapons. As sharp as the keenest blade and as dangerous as a sudden storm, Brother Venom has risen to the top of my short list of assassins that will help shape and ensure the future of the Gold Coast Sanctuary. I am heading to the area now to supervise events personally—and to check on a potential recruit who may be able to help us as well.
Yours in the Night Mother's cold embrace,
Royal Communique: For the Eyes of High King Emeric
As requested, I have traveled to the new city of Orsinium to report on the progress of your friend and ally, King Kurog. Contrary to the state of affairs presented to you by Kurog himself during his last visit to Wayrest, the Orcs aren't a united nation and the city is far from complete. Despite Kurog's proclamation of kingship, many of the clans still operate as independent city-states, and some clan chiefs directly oppose Kurog's reign. Regardless, the king continues to promote his agenda of a united Orsimer nation and a rebuilt Orc city. If anyone can succeed at these momentous tasks, it is definitely Kurog gro-Orsinium.
Through all these difficulties, King Kurog remains an imposing figure. He really is the ultimate warrior-king. He's strong and savage in battle, boisterous and fun-loving in private, and utterly ruthless in politics. He has an amazing appetite for life in general, as well as a singular love of food and drink. In some ways, Kurog reminds me of an exuberant child—full of wide-eyed wonder and a sense of humor that ranges from Orcishly crude to remarkably sophisticated. In many ways, he's a true conundrum: carefree and gleeful one moment, brooding and deadly the next.
Kurog believes that the time has come for the Orsimer to change; change their religion, change their traditions. "Our customs served us well in the past, but now they hold us back," the king has said on numerous occasions. "It makes it very difficult to have a civil discourse about anything of substance if someone, sooner or later, is going to reach for something sharp or heavy to promote his or her own point of view."
Is Kurog a worthy ally? Yes, I believe that he is. Will his program to rebuild the Orc city of Orsinium and unite the Orc clans into a single nation succeed? I hesitate to make predictions, but I can tell you with all sincerity—I believe in King Kurog. I believe that when he brings his intellect and his considerable strength of will to bear, he can succeed at whatever he sets out to accomplish. If nothing else, under Kurog's rule, Wrothgar is in for interesting times. Very interesting, indeed!
Zephrine Frey, Royal Chronicler of Wayrest
Faithful of Akatosh,
As another Mid-Year Celebration approaches, this is a good time to reflect on the myriad of blessings provided by the Dragon God of Time. Of all the bountiful and numerous boons Akatosh bestows upon us, none gives us more pride and good cheer than the Primate of our Great Cathedral, the pious and righteous Artorius Ponticus.
The devotion and piety demonstrated by Primate Artorius on any given day barely hints at his humble beginnings. As the fourth son of the wealthy Ancrus family, young Artorius grew up without a clear idea of his place in the world. Service to the Divines was a natural path for Artorius to follow, but he had little interest in a life of spiritual devotion and prayer. Instead, young Artorius found himself drawn to the notorious crime boss, Vodunius Monrius. It wasn't long before he was running messages and performing errands for Vodunius and his lieutenants.
Primate Artorius never hides from his past. He tells us that he was full of "vinegar and fury" in those days, trying to find his place in the world. He was on the verge of either discovering his passion or losing his way when Akatosh intervened. Four members of the City Guard caught him collecting gold from a shop owner—the daily fee charged to protect the merchant from Vodunius's wrath. Instead of tossing Artorius in a dungeon and throwing away the key, however, the Guard sent him to spend a year and a day with the priests of the Divines as penance for his crimes.
Temple life soon became too exhausting for Artorius to maintain his rage. Study, meditation, and prayer were juxtaposed by various chores to maintain the temple and its shrines. Despite every attempt to do otherwise, the young initiate soon became fascinated with the tales and tenets of the Divines. He questioned the priests of each shrine endlessly about the Divine honored there, until Artorius eventually found his fate and pledged his service to the Dragon God of Time.
Of course, you've all heard the story of the "Miracle of the First Shrine," when Akatosh first used Artorius to reveal his will to the faithful. After that fateful event, Artorius received a post here at our Cathedral in Kvatch, where he quickly rose through the ranks and eventually took his place as our beloved Primate. Under his guidance and care, the Cathedral of Akatosh has remained a stabilizing force in our part of the world for most of the last decade. And, as we contemplate our blessings on this Mid-Year Celebration, remember that everything that's good and worthwhile in Kvatch and the Gold Coast comes from Akatosh and his chosen representative, Primate Artorius.
Do not let the pirates of Anvil disturb your tranquility. Do not fear the shadows or the cowardly assassins that hide within them. For Akatosh is the light and the power, and Primate Artorius is his good right hand.
As Akatosh wills it, so shall it be.
Grand Sermonizer Fithia
A LETTER FROM THE LILLANDRIL ILLUMINATION ACADEMY
This is my third and final letter regarding your daughter, Quenneth—or "Quen," as she insists everyone refer to her. I must assume your lack of response to my previous letters is a delay in the packet ships. Piracy in the Abecean is rife this time of year.
We at Lillandril Illumination Academy have always been quite clear on our criteria for Quen's matriculation. It pains me to speak so plainly, but you have reneged on your pecuniary commitment to our institution.
Therefore, I am presented with an unwelcome duty. It is our decision to suspend Quen from Lillandril Illumination Academy, effective immediately.
We did not arrive at this decision lightly. There were a number of contributing factors:
Should you once more see fit to deliver the works of art you had previously guaranteed, we can discuss Quen's potential return. However, an additional three months of silence will convert Quen's suspension to a permanent expulsion.
On a personal note, I urge you to speak directly with Quen about her future. Though her time at the academy is most likely at a close, she is still a capable young Altmer with a future only somewhat diminished. Perhaps she can find a career in our proud Dominion forces, where she can learn to appreciate the simplicity of following orders. A tradesman's work might suit her unremarkable lineage, such as a warehouse worker or seamstress. Whatever her decision, you should be a part of it. Without guidance she may do something rash, such as join a circus.
Most Illuminated Intendent
Lillandril Illumination Academy
A GIFT AND SOME CONCERNS
It is I, your friend, the most humble and magnanimous Silver-Claw! I do hope you haven't grown too lonely during your well-deserved retirement. Despite your many protestations regarding gifts, I have enclosed a small packet imported directly from Valenwood. I have no idea what "strangler seeds" are, but it seemed exotic enough for your garden. Sadly, the instructions must be in error, for it seems you must "bloodlet thrice daily" so the plant "positively associates your scent." I must admit, Bosmer metaphors are quite beyond me.
If you haven't left your garden recently, I assure you that life in Abah's Landing continues apace. The Iron Wheel no longer marches through the streets, for the merchant lords insisted they decamp from the city. Rumors say Hubalajad Palace was recently occupied by a wealthy new tenant. (Next month's rumors will assuredly speak of a destitute would-be merchant lord evicted from Hubalajad Palace.) Oh, did you hear of the new pirate Commodore demanding tribute from her captains? Should you plan to travel, I would suggest overland routes until she is fully appeased.
Though I know you are far too polite to ask, and I am of course exceptionally embarrassed to inform you, I do not write you entirely to exchange pleasantries. In all honesty I have grave concerns regarding my business.
As you well know, Spotless Goods Shipping Concern has always been the metaphorical feather in my proverbial cap. It is true that I wear no cap due to my naturally flowing mane, and also that I am particularly allergic to feathers, but my point stands. I took Spotless Goods from a back-alley merchant stall to the harbor-side warehouse it is today. I made friends of my rivals, for I never aspired to be the best merchant in Abah's Landing—I simply wish to earn my place at the table. As you know, I have always dutifully paid the right people, whether merchant lord or your former shadowy associates.
Still, the shadows have been exceptionally quiet since the Iron Wheel's arrival. Even the merchant lords whisper of invaders from Taneth. I fear some delicate balance has been upset in the city I love. Remove too many spokes from the wagon wheel, and you break the wagon.
It is probably nothing. How did you put it once? That I have a tendency to "step on my own tail and claim it was a mammoth?"
Yet I see my heretofore most trusted overseers whispering in the warehouse shadows when they think me departed. I notice my invitations to social occasions have sharply declined, as though my fellow merchants seek to distance themselves. From what? I cannot predict. Since your retirement, I cannot trade favors for word from the shadows—and with the Iron Wheel's recent activities, I do not care to provoke their interest. My situation is most worrisome.
This is why it pains me so to remind you of the favor you owe me. A pain worse than freshly plucked whiskers, I pledge to you! If I did not hold the future of Spotless Goods in such high esteem as our friendship, I would never be so crude as to mention it.
But should I find a mammoth standing upon my tail, I fear you are the only person in Abah's Landing who could help me pry it off.
2E 582: Entry 18
I loathe spying upon my friend.
I've known Zeira since she was a young cutpurse. I wasn't part of the guild then, but our paths crossed. At first, she thought I begged for food on the streets. I did nothing to convince her otherwise. She always paid extra for information—gave me more coin than others from the Thieves Guild. Sometimes she'd slip me a roll, or a piece of fresh fruit.
When she learned I posed as a beggar, a merchant, and a fire juggler depending on the day of the week, she wasn't angry—she was beside herself with amusement. Zeira was the first person in on a joke only I had known for years. I made a true friend that day, sitting on the roof of Hew's Mane and sharing a bottle of grog pilfered from a fishing boat.
I remember when she asked me to join the Thieves Guild. I had no interest, for my experience was with the guild Bright Ilmund built. I'd received enough beatings from that bunch to know I should keep away. But when I turned her down, she didn't push, cajole, or otherwise manipulate me into doing what she wanted. I kept waiting for her to do so. I was prepared to vanish, if it came to it.
It never did. Zeira was part of a new assortment of thieves brought in by Nicolas. She lived by the rules the guild follows to this day. She showed me the principles by which she stood—the kind those of us raised in the alleys of Abah's Landing can appreciate. She set an example, and I realized it was a good one. I still remember the smile on her face when I told her I'd changed my mind. I'd never seen her beam before.
Now, I find reasons to stand within earshot. I pretend to inspect my jacket for lint, but steal a glance at her features in my hand mirror. I watch for signs she isn't her old self.
I was lucky to watch Zeira flourish in the guild. A few years after I joined, Nicolas elevated her to the Thieves Council. Velsa couldn't stand her, of course, but I believe she appreciated the verbal sparring partner. Edda warmed to her quickly. Daldur made a point of frowning and scowling, but always weighed her words.
It's no wonder Nicolas relied upon her as the years turned. She was the guildmaster's right hand, but she never let it go to her head. I once asked if she ever thought about taking his place. She laughed and said, "What does running a guild compare to pulling off a heist? I'd rather make us all rich. I'm not the type to stare at papers and plan our next move."
But now, Nicolas is gone. Edda and Daldur are gone. Velsa wants nothing to do with the Thieves Guild. There is no one but Zeira to plan.
All the weight falls on our new guildmaster's shoulders. She must gather the few of us who remain, shelter us from the Iron Wheel, and find a way to restore our honor, such as it is among thieves. She must learn to run the Thieves Guild with Velsa's pragmatism, Edda's spirit, Daldur's boldness, and Nicolas's calculation. She must do things she previously disdained, if she's to lead the rest of us from this dark and lonely place.
For example, if she noticed me acting strangely, she might feel the need to read through my journal.
If she did, I'd want to let her know that she doesn't need to bear all the weight alone. That despite the way he carried himself, Nicolas did have people to confide in. I'd hope she realizes those few who remain have survived and stuck together because of her actions. I'd tell her she was among family, and that all she truly needs to do is keep setting an example.
When I was certain she understood—truly understood—I could stop spying upon my friend.