If you have any questions or comments, please email me at celestina.skymark@gmail.com

Saturday, April 6, 2013


Mysterious Akavir

Akavir means "Dragon Land". Tamriel means "Dawn's Beauty." Atmora means "Elder Wood". Only the Redguards know what Yokuda ever meant.

Akavir is the kingdom of the beasts. No Men or Mer live in Akavir, though Men once did. These Men, however, were eaten long ago by the vampiric Serpent Folk of Tsaesci. Had they not been eaten, these Men would have eventually migrated to Tamriel. The Nords left Atmora for Tamriel. Before them, the Elves had abandoned Aldmeris for Tamriel. The Redguards destroyed Yokuda so they could make their journey. All Men and Mer know Tamriel is the nexus of creation, where the Last War will happen, where the Gods unmade Lorkhan and left their Adamantine Tower of secrets. Who knows what the Akaviri think of Tamriel, but ask yourself: why have they tried to invade it three times or more?

There are four major nations of Akavir: Kamal, Tsaesci, Tang Mo, and Ka Po' Tun. When they are not busy trying to invade Tamriel, they are fighting with each other.

Kamal is "Snow Hell". Demons live there, armies of them. Every summer they thaw out and invade Tang Mo, but the brave monkey-folk always drive them away. Once Ada'Soom Dir-Kamal, a king among demons, attempted to conquer Morrowind, but Almalexia and the Underking destroyed him at Red Mountain.

Tsaesci is "Snake Palace", once the strongest power in Akavir (before the Tiger-Dragon came). The serpent-folk ate all the Men of Akavir a long time ago, but still kind of look like them. They are tall, beautiful (if frightening), covered in golden scales, and immortal. They enslave the goblins of the surrounding isles, who provide labor and fresh blood. The holdings of Tsaesci are widespread. When natives of Tamriel think of the Akaviri they think of the Serpent-Folk, because one ruled the Cyrodilic Empire for four hundred years in the previous era. He was Potentate Versidue-Shaie, assassinated by the Morag Tong.

Tang Mo is the "Thousand Monkey Isles". There are many breeds of monkey-folk, and they are all kind, brave, and simple (and many are also very crazy). They can raise armies when they must, for all of the other Akaviri nations have, at one time or another, tried to enslave them. They cannot decide who they hate more, the Snakes or the Demons, but ask one, and he will probably say, "Snakes". Though once bitter enemies, the monkey-folk are now allies with the tiger-folk of Ka Po' Tun.

Ka Po' Tun is the "Tiger-Dragon's Empire". The cat-folk here are ruled by the divine Tosh Raka, the Tiger-Dragon. They are now a very great empire, stronger than Tsaesci (though not at sea). After the Serpent-Folk ate all the Men, they tried to eat all the Dragons. They managed to enslave the Red Dragons, but the black ones had fled to (then) Po Tun. A great war was raged, which left both the cats and the snakes weak, and the Dragons all dead. Since that time the cat-folk have tried to become the Dragons. Tosh Raka is the first to succeed. He is the largest Dragon in the world, orange and black, and he has very many new ideas.

"First," Tosh Raka says, "is that we kill all the vampire snakes." Then the Tiger-Dragon Emperor wants to invade Tamriel.

            Fen let the book fall closed in her lap. It was the fourth time she had read it that week, and still she could not make sense of what it was trying to say. There was something there, she knew, but what it was she could not tell.
She put the book aside and dug through the other stacks that had accumulated upon her desk throughout the evening until she managed to draw out a desk clock that had gotten lost under the books and papers. The spindly gold hands read 3:32 in the morning. Nearly four hours Fen had been poring over Mysterious Akavir, and still nothing. She set the clock aside and looked halfheartedly at her tea, perched atop a stack of books, which had undoubtedly gone stone cold since it’d been poured. Fen leaned back in her seat, instinctively reaching to fiddle with Julan’s telepathy ring on her finger. It had been three years since she had seen him in the Mortaag Glacier, five since the Clockwork City, and she still wore the ring constantly, holding on to the slight hope that he might appear again, if only briefly.
As Fen stood to stretch, only then realizing how tired she was, she heard hurried footsteps and a hand fumbling with the door to her study. She took hold of Trueflame, sitting on a small table beside her desk, and rested a hand on its hilt, ready to draw it out, when the door finally opened and a serving girl stumbled in, looking exhausted.
“Oh! Your Grace, please excuse me, I thought you’d have gone to bed.”
“That’s quite all right,” Fen told her, relaxing and lowering Trueflame onto the table. She folded her dressing gown closed, tying the lace over the front as she gestured the girl into the dim study.
“There’s a man here, Your Grace. From Ald’ruhn. He says he needs to speak to you urgently, and he looks…disheveled.”
“From Ald’ruhn?” Fen frowned.
“Yes, Your Grace.” The man was indeed disheveled, to put it lightly, Fen saw as she entered the audience chamber, flanked by guards. His dark hair had been singed and half burnt off and his clothes were torn and blackened with soot. A purple bruise had begun to form across his face and blood ran down one cheek from a nasty-looking cut beneath his hair. He was barefoot, and barely standing.
Fen looked angrily to the guard on her right. “What is the meaning of this? Get this man healer at once.” The guard nodded once and hurried back to the Imperial Cult shrine. The man on the ground coughed, spitting up blood onto the stone floor.
“P – Please, Your Grace, I must speak with you first.” Fen knelt beside him, taking his shoulder and helping him sit upright. “There has been – a g – great attack on Ald’ruhn, a horrible attack.”
“An attack by whom?” Fen asked urgently, struggling to keep him upright as his eyes drooped.
“Some sort of portal opened just outside the gate, Your G – Grace. Daedra spilled out, horrible, h – horrible Daedra, and so many, destroying everything, killing everyone they saw…” he coughed again, blood dribbling down his chin. “There weren’t enough guards, they were destroying the city, they were…” He doubled over, wheezing violently. The healer emerged from behind the thrones, hurrying toward them and already opening his bag, and Fen quickly stepped back to let him go to work.
“Send a messenger to Andasreth,” she said hastily to one of the guards beside her. “Armour him well, and see if this is true and try to see if any of the councilors are still alive.”
“Not directly to Ald’ruhn, Your Grace?” the guard asked, keeping in step with her as she started back toward the Upper Palace.
“I don’t want anyone teleporting into the middle of a town overrun by Daedra,” she replied quickly as the doors were swung open for her. “And rouse Effe-Tei and my grandmother, ask them to come to the main reception chambers. And Vedaves and Ethaso and Athesi. Raram too. And Karrod.” The guard nodded once and careened off down another hall while Fen continued the brisk walk down through a courtyard and into the main reception chamber. A servant quickly bustled in after her to light the lamps as Fen anxiously circled the table. It seemed like only a day ago she had been here in conference with her father and Duke Dren, discussing the Imperial colonization of Solstheim that had led to her participation in the Bloodmoon.
“What’s happened?” Fen turned and saw Barenziah had entered, her snowy hair loose around her shoulders. A second later Karrod hurried behind her, fully armoured, taking up his position on Fen’s right side.
“It seems the attacks that are happening in Cyrodiil have begun here as well,” Fen said as a few of her advisors hastily joined them around the table. “But all we have to go off of are rumours, as we’ve had barely any correspondence from the empire since Uriel Septim was assassinated.”
She did her best to explain what she believed to be happening, and as she finished, a messenger from the infirmary came in to tell her that the man from Ald’ruhn had died.
Not long after, the messenger from Ald’ruhn retuned, haltingly describing the confusion he faced in the city.
“I didn’t see any people, just bodies, everywhere. There were loads of Daedra, more than I could have ever imagined, just walking about the place, going around all the burning houses and shops. Skar was completely sideways, half-buried in the ground, and that portal was still open, all red and firey and spilling out more Daedra every minute.”
The other Great House Councilors were summoned to Mournhold, and they had all arrived by the time dawn broke. Fen had dispatched nearly five hundred men to Ald’ruhn with no word back. They worked late into the next night, sending letters and messengers and pages for everything they could think of, trying to work out a way to understand what was happening. It was only when Velanda Omani slipped off her chair in exhaustion that they called for a brief recess.
“Have we sent word to the other provinces?” Fen asked, for the third time, as she and Effe-Tei left the chamber together, Karrod close behind.
“Yes, Your Grace,” the Argonian replied, rubbing his eyes with his knuckles. “And we have not heard from any of them. All we know is that the city of Kvatch has been destroyed, likely in a way similar to Ald’ruhn.”
“A fine job Ocato is doing, not even telling us what’s happening,” Fen snapped irritatedly. “I tell you, Effe-Tei, if it were not for the economy and trade revenue we get from the Empire I would have broken off Morrowind long ago.”
“Your Grace.” A passing page stopped and bowed as she neared him, then quickly stepped forward. “There is a man here wishing to speak with you.”
“Who is it?” Fen asked, pausing and rubbing her eyes. “A councilor? I told the steward to –”
“Not a councilor, Your Grace, someone different. He will not tell us his name, only that he must speak with you immediately.”
“I don’t have time to see every man that strides into Mournhold demanding an audience at once,” Fen replied shortly. “Surely a steward can –”
“He refuses to leave without a personal conversation, Your Grace.” The page quieted, but looked as if he wanted to speak again.
“What is it?” Fen prompted tiredly.
“I do think you should receive him, Your Grace. He does not look like he is…uh…Tamrielic.” Fen gave the page an odd look, but he quickly bowed again and went on his way. She glanced at Effe-Tei, who shook his head.
“I would say it is worth investigating, Your Grace,” the Argonian told her.
The man was indeed not from Tamriel. He stood with his back to Fen as she entered the small reception chamber where he waited, and when he turned she found herself more caught off-guard than she had imagined she would be.
“Ah, Queen Fenara Almalexia Helseth,” he said, his voice strangely slurred in some places and accented in others. “You are as fair as they claimed you were in the stories.” His eyes were a pale sea-green, bright beneath heavy brows, and while his bronzed skin was smooth, it seemed to bristle like fur when he moved. Dark stripes started at his cheeks and disappeared into finely ornamented armour of gold and steel, etched with designs of flowers and vines. He wore his dark hair down his back in an intricate braid tied with hanging cloth knots. For a moment Fen could only stare, taken aback as she was by the stranger’s appearance. Once she regained her composure, she held out a hand for him to take and offered a tired smile.
“I don’t use the name ‘Almalexia’ anymore,” she told him. It had been years since anyone had addressed her as such. “To whom do I owe the pleasure of this…unexpected visit?”
“I am Shavir Baadar Raka Ka Po’ Tun, Lady Queen,” the man said, bowing deeply. “And I have come for an audience with you.”
“I am sorry to be forward,” Fen began as Shavir straightened. “But I am going to hazard a guess and say you are not of Tamriel.” Shavir smiled, his slanted green eyes bright.
“They said you were clever as well, Queen Fenara, and I had a feeling it was true. No, I am not of Tamriel. I hail from Ka Po’ Tun, called the Tiger-Dragon Empire in your tongue, a land across the Padomaic Sea known as –”
“ – Akavir.” Fen finished for him, and Shavir smiled again.
“Quite so, my Lady Queen. I am surprised you know of my land. It seems few Tamriels understand where I come from.”
“We have few resources in the way of Akavir,” Fen told him, gesturing for him to sit. “And those we do have are considered incomplete or inaccurate.”
“Yes, there is certainly a…poor history between our nations,” Shavir said, almost amused, accepting a cup of flin from a serving girl.
“If I may be forward again, serjo,” Fen began, gesturing for the servant to leave. “Morrowind is faced with a very uncertain time, and I have urgent business I must attend to. I would love to entertain you as a guest for as long as you wish to stay, but I’m afraid you’ve come to Mournhold at a very inconvenient time.”
“Ah, but good queen, I have come at the most opportune of times.” He leaned forward on the table, green eyes flashing. “I was once in the service of Emperor Tosh Raka, His Divine Holiness and Lord King of the Ka Po’ Tun. When we conquered the dragon-men, Tosh Raka became a dragon and was known to be divine. He plots to invade Tamriel and consume it in his dragonfire.”
“The Akaviri have made attempts to destroy Tamriel before,” Fen replied skeptically. “They never ended well for Akavir.”
“But this would be different. Tosh Raka has been preparing for this battle for many years, more than you could think to comprehend. He has our own armies at his back alongside those of the Tang Mo, and the Akavir are anxious to exact revenge upon the Tamriels that once wronged us.” There was silence for a time, Fen’s scarlet eyes boring into the Akaviri’s sea green ones.
“Why are you telling me this?” She finally asked, and a small smile twitched at Shavir’s lips.
“We are very loyal to our king, my Lady Queen, but we live a long time, and we have all seen many years of suffering. We do not desire war. If you could come with me to Akavir and plead your case to Tosh Raka, we believe that you could convince him to forge a peace between our nations. And, if you can broker that, we can help you with the crisis here.”
“How?” Fen asked skeptically.
“In our capitol city of Kavir S’Raka Tosh is the greatest library in all the world. My people have been on this world far longer than yours, and our scholars and sages have acquired all the great knowledge in the world. I spoke to them before I departed for this world.” His sea-green eyes glimmered. “They assured me that there is an answer to your problems within their shelves.” Fen returned his gaze readily.
“I wish I was in a position to leave at any time, serjo, but I cannot up and abandon my people, especially now. Perhaps I could send an emissary back with you in my stead…?”
“No,” he replied at once. “No, it must be you. Tosh Raka will not hear the words of any others. You must be the one to speak against the war.” Fen rubbed her eyes. They knew very little of Akavir on Tamriel – she had no idea if this was some sort of plot to get her out of the way or if the strange Khajiit-like man sincerely wished to help her. It was impossible to know. But I’m running out of options.
“How long is the voyage to Akavir?” she asked after a time.
“Half a day, in a good Ka Po’Tun vessel.”
“That quickly?” Shavir nodded.
“We have magicks that make travel easier.” Fen stood.
“I won’t be able to give you an answer until I have a clearer idea of what’s going on in the rest of Morrowind,” she told him. “I hope you’ll be able to stay until then.”
“Certainly,” Shavir replied simply. “But I would not tarry too long, Queen. For the fate of both our countries rests on this decision.”
Morrowind’s fate, at least, was looking grimmer and grimmer as the hours wore on. Fen had been building up a standing army during her reign as queen in preparation for resistance from the Empire when they eventually seceded, but it was not near enough to control the situation. The Imperial troops had been recalled to Cyrodiil to defend their own cities. The Redoran had started to fight, she’d heard, but it was a losing battle. It seemed like they were brought more news of desolation across Vvardenfell and the mainland every few hours.
Barenziah, to her granddaughter’s surprise, did not seem overly shocked at the Akaviri’s proposition.
“We don’t have many other options at this point,” she’d said grimly as they took a brief break from the council on the terrace over the gardens.
“I could go see one of these gates,” Fen had suggested. “See if I can figure out how to close it myself.”
“You’re one person, you expect to close every one? And on the chance that you get killed, Morrowind will have no heir and will fall into chaos again.”
“I’ve done an awful lot that gives me the chance to get killed and it hasn’t happened yet,” Fen reminded her. Barenziah sighed.
“The decision is up to you, my dear,” she said. “If this Akaviri speaks the truth, we may be able to learn a great deal from them.” Fen stared out at the tired, cloudy sky over Mournhold, the silent gardens and the bustle of the great city beyond.
“Then I’ll go,” she said firmly. “I will do anything to protect my people.”
The other councilors were much more surprised than Barenziah, most expressing skepticism. Fen challenged them to find a better solution to the Daedra portals, though, and they were silent. The following morning dawned pale and pink, the shell-coloured sky greeting them as the cart trundled into Necrom. Fen sat in the back, looking up as the day drew to an end, Azura’s star shining down at her. They’d left hours before daybreak, her, Shavir, and a small retinue to get them safely on their way. She’d been unable to sleep last night, instead writing a short letter to the Dunmer people to be distributed the next day, explaining that she had gone to find answers and would be back within a week. Her grandmother had said little before they left, fixing her with a knowing look and promising that she would look after Morrowind. They need someone, Fen had said. They need someone to look to while I’m gone.
They did not cause a scene when they entered Necrom. Fen’s letter had not been sent out yet, and she didn’t want to cause a panic riding through. Shavir had left his vessel slightly to the north of Necrom’s docks, and they were unhindered as they followed the road out of the city.
The Akaviri commanded them to stop just as Necrom dropped out of sight, though Fen could see no boats along the coastline. The guards and laymen that had accompanied them looked confused, but jumped down and began unloading the wagon all the same.
“Where’s your ship?” Fen asked, her boots squelching into the muddy shore.
“You don’t expect me to let it get stolen by Tamriel thieves, do you? Here,” he said simply, and he drew his arm in a wide, simple arc. The water, still purple with the reflection of the setting sun, began to churn, turning over itself and bubbling as a mast emerged, then a prow, and, gradually, an entire ship rose out from the sea, water spraying off its decks. The vessel was unlike anything Fen had ever seen – carved from some sort of twisted wood, hung with green-glass lanterns, outfitted with a sail made from some sort of woven hide and painted with bizarre, angular designs. It was a small ship, but Fen still couldn’t imagine how one man could sail it alone. The laymen, too, looked baffled, but with a word from Fen they proceeded to carry the supplies on board, staring up at the strange carved wood and muttering to one another as they did so.
“How does that work, exactly?” she asked, shouldering her bag and making sure Trueflame was in place on her belt.
“It’s a simple enchantment,” Shavir told her brightly. “I can teach it to you when we reach Ka Po’Tun.”
“Perhaps on a visit,” Fen replied firmly. “I need to figure out how to stop these attacks and get back to Morrowind as soon as possible.”
“Of course, Lady Queen.”
“You sure you don’t need a crew, Queen Fenara?” one of the guards asked her as the laymen stored the last few crates and jogged through the shallows to the shore. Fen glanced at Shavir for an answer, and he smiled his strange, catlike grin.
“No, thank you, friend, but an Akaviri ship takes only one man to sail.” He nodded to Fen. “When you are ready, Lady Queen.” He turned, wading out into the surf and climbing lithely up onto the deck.
“Thank you,” Fen told the guards and the laymen, and, to her surprise, they all suddenly sank to their knees in the mud before her.
“Don’t be too long in Akavir, Queen Nerevarine,” one of them told her, and the others murmured agreement. Fen bade them to stand and one of the guards met her gaze readily.
“You were the first person to bring the Dunmer hope in hundreds of years, my Queen,” he said earnestly. “Morrowind could not go on without you.”
“I won’t be more than a week,” Fen assured them, trying to keep her face blank, but she was touched by their sudden devotion.
Fen turned from them and followed Shavir into the surf, climbing up and jumping over the railing into the ship. When she turned back, she saw their her retinue standing at attention, their arms outstretched and holding up four fingers toward her, the traditional Dunmer salute to a great hero. They stood stock still, each with a hand held out, their faces stoic. Fen straightened her back and returned the salute, giving them a nod. The sky was growing darker now, and the wind pulled a few hairs loose from her braid and made them dance around her face.
“Are you ready, Queen Fenara?” Shavir asked her from the steering deck, and she looked back at him and nodded. He went to the prow of the ship and raised his arms, green light winding from his palms and down his arms, soaking into the very wood of the ship. The great vessel shuddered, its sails unfurling and filing with wind as it lurched and turned suddenly, pointing out toward the vast emptiness of the Padomaic Ocean. Fen stood at the rail, watching as the jagged cliffs and hills of Morrowind began to drop away.
I’ve grown so much, she thought, her hands curling around the rough, carved railing. She thought of how lost she’d been that first day in Balmora, stumbling into the cornerclub and shrinking away from Caius Cosades in fear. She remembered how blindly she’d traipsed around Vvardenfell, gradually growing stronger, braver, as she worked spells and enchantments through her fingertips, fought off adversaries that blocked her at every turn, the first time she’d killed a man. Remembered when Moon-and-Star had fallen into her palms, when Azura had spoken to her and told her of her destiny. She thought of the conversation she’d had with Hasphat Antabolis in the Fighter’s Guild, how he’d asked her the question that had stuck in her mind for years: What about you? Are you going to change the world? Or just be carried by the flow?
She supposed she’d changed the world, though that seemed like such a grand way of putting it. It had been her fate as Nerevarine to put an end to Dagoth Ur, but it was her own love for Morrowind that led her to push even further than that, to strike down the names of the Tribunal and take her place as queen after her father’s death, change the way the Dunmer viewed the world from a grim perspective of ash and death to one of light; of hope. And now she was going to Akavir to help again. To save Morrowind. Because that’s why I did all of it, she thought. For them. For my home and for my people.
She slid Julan’s dark telepathy ring from her finger and held it so that it perfectly encircled the setting sun, letting the metal grow warm to the touch. Fen remembered when she’d found him, about to be decimated by the clannfears she used to tease him relentlessly about. She remembered how her frustration in the world had boiled over then, how she’d shouted at him and grudgingly agreed to let him follow her for a time. Fen closed her eyes, letting the ocean spray cool her face. He died so that you could live. She knew that now, that the Ahemmusa had memorialized him as a hero for saving the life of the Nerevarine. And she knew that he was proud of how he had gone. And that he was proud of her.
So she let herself look forward. She stepped away from the stern, going to join Shavir at the prow and look out at the endless ocean that stretched out before them. She would go to Akavir and return. And when she did, she would continue to live as Julan would have wanted her to – for her people. The night had almost completely taken hold of the sky now, and Fen looked up at Azura’s star, fading into the darkness but still there, watching over her.
And so Fenara Helseth, the Queen of Morrowind, the Nerevarine – but really just Fen – turned her eyes forward, into the great unknown.

No comments:

Post a Comment