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Forever, forever - here forever, or might as well be - 199 years, though I will surely be dead before that eternity passes. No sunlight reaches me seven months out of the year and so the day and night and waking and dreaming are one and one and just as we two are eleven, one and one day and one night after another comes and goes - not that I can tell the difference anymore for if we switched places who would know and not that it matters for I know I am dead and only dream that I live on rinds slurry gruel and once a week bread made rough and hard so the worms and rats don’t get into it - they put something in it, I know, something poisonous, and I know it is weakening my mind and my body for I feel it in my veins and in my dreams and It sustains and feeds me for a time until I am slightly less hungry than before, though my brain should scarcely tire of feasting upon the thoughts of my failure - I can think of aught else for even the men in the cells nearest do not speak so loudly anymore and at some moments we struggle to remember our names KNOW THAT I AM THE SHARMAT AND I SLEEP AS YOU DO or that we were ever not here imprisoned OLDER THAN MUSIC, WAITING, DREAMING yes dreaming of blinding light BLAZING UNDER THE MOUNTAIN of pounding hooves and tumbling wheels THE RED TOWER on stone and dirt of unfamiliar roads and Nibenay sun WHERE I SHALL BRING MY STAR, until my body at least has reached the sea.

For a moment I am almost conscious to wonder, to wander where they have taken me; where is there such wind flying rushing falling over grey valleys bare trees and ashen sands where the moons tumble over the skies and now I am as the wind blowing over it

STAR-WOUNDED EAST COME MY CHILD I HAVE WAITED

Her voice is kind - she comes to me through red skies and dust, through wind and flame ---

WELCOME MOONSTAR SON CROWN REBELKING DEVIL GREAT DOOM

Great Ada. I do not understand ---

LISTEN

Her presence congeals now in my mind; I know where I am floating, even before she says it.

MORROWIND

She speaks plainly now and her voice is so beautiful

THEY HAVE TAKEN YOU FROM THE IMPERIAL CITY’S PRISON.

And so shall we both break free of our bonds - join us! Nu-mantia! Liberty!

FIRST BY CARRIAGE, NOW BY BOAT.

Yes for my dreams now smell of brine

TO THE EAST, TO MORROWIND.

where I died, where I was betrayed, where I wait and dance at the core

FEAR NOT, FOR I AM WATCHFUL. YOU HAVE BEEN CHOSEN

MANY FALL, BUT ONE REMAINS

The pregnant Masser hastens his dancing over the sky. She speaks again, but her voice has lost its kindness ---

”Wake up, we are here.”

Who is this? Not her -

“Why are you shaking?”

The red sky fades

“Are you okay?”

And then

“WAKE UP!”

I AWAKEN.


---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Garyn opens his eyes, blinking and still shaking for the dream has not left him yet. Leaning over him is another Dunmer, dressed in a prisoner’s sackcloth trousers and nothing else. His face is gnarled and laced by vicious scars. His one good eye flashes soft concern. Garyn gives his surroundings a bleary-eyed glance - he is below the deck of a ship. He had not laid his head here. It is dark and cramped and has the musty smell of the sea and it sways, sways as he does on blowing ash over Velothi hills and great plains of vast grey wide sweeping

“Can you stand?”

Garyn groans and blinks again, shaking clear the days of sleep from his head. Though he had not meant to say no, he gets a yank and a lurch for his troubles as the Dunmer pulls him from the floor where he had been sleeping. He grabs onto the mer’s shoulder to steady himself as he wobbles forward on unstable knees.

“Right. There you go. You’ll be alright,” he says, holding out his arm as Garyn finds the ground beneath him. “You, ah, you were muttering in your sleep. What’s your name?”

Garyn grunts a third time. Dry, cracked lips, lips that have not formed words in long months, grind together before slowly finding them. “Hrrrrnn…Garyn. Garyn…Balvadares.”

The prisoner jabs a thumb toward himself. “My name’s Jiub,” he says. “You’ve been out like a snuffed candle since they picked me up. Not even last night’s storm could wake you. For a while I was wondering if you were dead.”

“Well…’m not,” Garyn murmurs, as though unsure of it. His blurred gaze turns further up the cabin. “Where are we?”

“I heard them say we’ve reached Morrowind,” Jiub says. “I’m sure they’ll let us go.”

“Morrowind?” He can't have heard that right. He might be a Dunmer, but Morrowind is a thousand miles away from anywhere he has ever traveled. He has never laid an eye on it, much less set foot on her dry grasses and shrubs and steaming vents and

…He knows he had been dreaming of it, though the particulars have left him. Why were they letting him go here? Why were they letting him go at all? It makes no sense, it’s too easy, and as his thoughts continue to blur together he wonders if it is but the dream of a cracked and broken mind. The last twitch of a dead hope. A flea of assertion on a wolf of naught.

“But how…it…why …”

If this Jiub has an answer, he doesn't give it here. Instead, he looks back over his shoulder. “Quiet. Here comes the guard.”

A stocky, scowling Imperial strides into view down the narrow cabin. He points a stubby finger at Garyn. “You, this is where you get off. Come with me.”

Garyn looks back at Jiub, who nudges him forward. “Do as he says.”

He mutters a farewell as the guard turns back the way he had come. He leads Garyn along by the wrist, dragging his arm so quickly his feet can scarcely keep up. If he weren't so busy keeping himself upright, he might think to ask questions. Not that the guard would answer them anyway – it’s clear that he regards Garyn as a sack of elven garbage that he needs to haul above deck.

The sneering Imperial shoves Garyn toward the hatch. “Get yourself up on deck and let’s keep this as civil as possible.”

Garyn limps up the ladder as best he can, and is thrust like a newborn into the blazing white sunlight. His eyes, which have known nothing but dimness at best for over a year, are seared blind by the hot light of summer. He backs away from it, blinking and rubbing his eyelids. It’s nearly enough to make him duck back below deck.

Even when his sight clears enough to open his eyes, the brightness scarcely subsides – all around him the edges of the world look as though they are on fire. And it brings the sheer, unmitigated strangeness of what surrounds him into sharp relief. They have moored at the end of a small jetty near a small village built in the standard Imperial style. There are thatched stone houses and small reed shacks arranged loosely around muddily-trodden paths and circles. It would look almost like any village in the West Weald if it weren’t for every other thing about it – the lush jungle of strange trees, vines, and algae-choked swamps that threaten to swallow the whole town; the humming and buzzing that fills the air at all times; the greasy soup that passes for an atmosphere; and is that a giant bug standing on the outside of town? At the furthest point of the coast, a stone lighthouse juts out of the moss and rocks, blazing defiantly, arrogantly above the unreclaimed wilderness - a monument to the idea, the naked Imperial hubris that would cause a man to think he could impose Cyrodiil upon this natural bedlam.

A Redguard steps forward and addresses the bewildered Dunmer: “This is where they want you. Head down to the dock and he’ll show you to the Census Office.” He gestures toward another Imperial Guard strolling down the jetty to meet him. Another cattleman to grind another sausage through the abattoir of Imperial bureaucracy.

Perhaps, he thinks, this is real after all.

The Census officer introduces himself as Socucius Ergalla, speaking in the shrill and mannered tone of a Temple castrato. Garyn is barely awake as the man wheezes his way through the formalities, introductions, and would-you-please-sign-heres – and "barely" is being charitable. He stammers. He mutters. This is the first real conversation he's had in months and he has to share it with this bloviating functionary. He tells them that he is twenty-six years old and a mercenary by trade. He confirms that he was born in the month of Frostfall under the sign of the Serpent to uncertain parents. He signs it. Ergalla barely looks at it. It might touch his desk before he stamps it with the Imperial Seal.

“Very good,” Ergalla says. “Show your papers to the Captain when you exit to get your release fee.”

Yet another guard unlocks the door in front of him and gestures down the corridor. “Head through to the next building and talk to Sellus Gravius.”

Cradling the papers in his hands, Garyn makes his way through the corridor and across the small courtyard that separates the two buildings of the Census and Excise Department. He finds himself in a small, well-furnished office with a single desk overflowing with papers. Buried within them sits an Imperial Legionnaire in full uniform. The soldier looks up at Garyn.

Not for the first time it occurs to Garyn that he holds his freedom in his hands. All he needs to do is hand it to this Imperial and he will have notarized his life back. Two whole centuries of imprisonment shall be lifted from him with a few strokes of a quill. It cannot possibly be. There can be no reason for it. Yet it is about to be so.

The officer’s eyes narrow. “…Well?”

Garyn clears his throat. “Er…Captain Sellus Gravius?”

The corners of the captain's lips turn downward. “Yes?”

“These are for you.” He thrusts the papers toward the captain.

Gravius sets his quill down and sighs, looking at the release form. He addresses Garyn, not looking up from the form as he does so.

“Hmm, yes. I do apologize. Word of your arrival reached me only yesterday, which left us little time to prepare for your being here. But that is no matter. I’m here to welcome you to Morrowind.”

Garyn nods. “Morrowind…” he repeats. “Where in Morrowind, exactly? And why the hell am I here?”

“Specifically, this is the Vvardenfell District, the island at the center of the province,” Gravius says. “Though no one would confuse it for the beating heart of it. Aside from a few major settlements, this is a rough and tumble place. You’re on the frontier, Dunmer. Be thankful you at least look more or less native.

“But as for your other question, I’m afraid I've no idea. That answer’s beyond my pay grade. When you leave this office, you are a free man – that’s all I know and all you need to know. What I do have for you are some very important instructions on your duties. Instructions from Emperor Uriel Septim VII himself, who personally authorized your release, so pay attention.”

Garyn blinks, his mouth agape. He had not been expecting that.

Oblivious to Garyn’s reaction, the captain grabs a parcel and a small letter from his desk. “This package came with the news of your arrival. You are to take it to Caius Cosades, in the town of Balmora. Go to the South Wall Cornerclub, and ask for Caius Cosades – they’ll know where to find him. Serve him as you would serve the Emperor himself. I also have a letter for you, which explains more, and a disbursal to your name.”

Garyn's dumbness finally subsides. “…The Emperor authorized my release? Emperor Uriel Septim?”

Captain Gravius shrugs. “As I said, I can’t tell you why. It’s all very mysterious. But that’s the way the Empire works. Silence. Secrecy. Let not the left hand know what the right hand is doing. I’m sure if you deliver the package as instructed you’ll find out more.”

He places a small sack of coins on the desk. “Here’s your gold. You’re free to go. Balmora is north of here. If I were you, I’d take the silt strider – that’s that giant bug you saw at the edge of town. It’s cheap and a good deal safer than walking. Good luck.”

There might exist some witticism, some intelligent thing one can say when one is a released convict who has been tasked to deliver the Emperor's mail. If there is, it isn't coming to Garyn's mind right now. He remains where he is, half-catatonic.

The captain glares at him. “Please leave my office.”

Hurriedly, Garyn gathers the package, the letter, and the coin purse and stumbles out the door, out into…

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Garyn Balvadares

January 2017

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