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Murkmire Q&A

Author: 
Anonymous

Lawrence Schick, ESO’s Lead Loremaster, has been in contact via dreamsleeve transmission with his beeko Jee-Lar, an Argonian emigrant from Murkmire. Jee-lar serves Cyrodilic Collections in the capacity of Black Marsh historian, of which he may be the only one—ever. He has kindly consented to provide answers as best he can to some of your questions.

Greetings, dryskins and fellow Argonians, Jee-Lar welcomes you to this inquiry-dance! Studying many things and remembering what I’ve learned is what I do, so I hope to be able to answer your many questions, and that’s a fact!

Does the term "Saxhleel” (a word the Argonians use to describe themselves) also apply to the Nagas? - Legoless

Indeed it does! "Saxhleel” in our Jel language is the term for all the people you dryskins commonly call Argonians. Sometimes other Tamrielic mortals are confused that we come in a variety of shapes, but that is just the will of the Hist, and therefore cannot be otherwise. All humanoid lizard-folk exist due to the gloor, the pervasive will/desire/need of the Hist to engender multiple inevitabilities. Right-right? "Hist gloor, Saxhleel become.” It’s obvious!

Why is Murkmire home to creatures that bear such a close resemblance to Morrowind’s native species? – Zebendal

Good question, but tail-forward! To fix: why are so many Morrowind beasts clearly related to creatures from southern Black Marsh? The answer is outside the realm of the records of history, but consider these general facts and draw your own conclusion. One: many regions of Morrowind, I am told, are damp due to climate and warm due to volcanism, creating a wholesomely muggy environment much like that of our subtropical swamps! Two: for several thousand years the Dark Elves have been raiding our borders for slave labor, and in the process picked up and took with them anything else that was portable and might be valuable, including livestock and critters. Does the picture emerge now from the mist?

I've heard Vicecanon Heita-Meen speaking of Murkmire as being part of the Ebonheart Pact, together with Shadowfen and Thornmarsh. If this is true, why is this small patch of Black Marsh in the far south part of the Pact, while most of the region is not? - Saleel

I cannot speak for the vicecanon, but I would assume her remarks were more aspirational than descriptive, for though there are certainly Pact envoys in Murkmire working to add our region to their confederacy, the area at present remains autonomous, and that’s a fact! The additional fact that Murkmire has no central authority that could sign with the Pact might also have something to do with it.

Has there been a point in history when Argonians were more unified than in the Second Era (given they’re members of the Ebonheart Pact)? - Jeancey

Ah ha, a two-part question! Though the second part isn’t really a question, more of a statement that needs slight correction, so I’ll start with that. Black Marsh is a land of many tribes, mostly self-ruled, and the tribes that have joined the Pact, which are largely in the northern region, are still in the minority. (I think; no one keeps an exact count of these things, you know.)

As to when we Argonians "in history” (ha ha!) have been more unified than now, the answer is never, because we have no "history” as such! That said, there are tales and legends going back to mythic times of the tribes joining together to repel invasions and threats. Some may be true!

I've heard you're rather knowledgeable regarding the Murkmire region of Black Marsh, so I'd like to know where the Lilmothiit are! Or, at least, if there's anything leftover since they supposedly lived in that region? - Ta’asi

Ah, the answer to your question is sad-sad! Our vulpine neighbors the Lilmothiit had been in decline for many of their generations, the closest clans having withdrawn from the coastal areas inland toward the city of Blackrose, just north of Murkmire. Alas, the Knahaten Flu, so dreadful for dryskins, struck the Fox-Folk with near-total lethality. No one I’ve spoken to in Murkmire has seen a living Lilmothiit for many swims.

I am just beginning my adulthood, and I have recently undertaken a foray into the land of my people, Black Marsh. They call me a "Lukiul." I've never tasted the sap of the Hist, and while now I have the opportunity, I find myself frightened by the prospect of coming under the control of a force I do not understand and how it might impact my afterlife. I am told I do not have a soul until I join myself to the Hist. Is this true? When I join the Hist, what will happen to me? Do I lose my individual self? – Echoes-of-Starlight

As a part-time Lukiul myself, it moistens my scales to be able to give a reassuring answer to this one! I was born in the tribe the dryskins call Bright-Throats because of our colorful neck wattles, and communed happily with our Hist since egg-birth. Even when I felt the calling to wander, which would take me beyond daily contact with our Hist, I felt no fear, for I always knew that I would be welcomed whenever I returned—and that’s how it’s been! My wattles may fade when I’m in Cyrodiil for many swims, but they regain their hue once I return to Murkmire.

Now, to your situation: like all Argonians, you are descended from a particular tribe, even if you were born away from that tribe and its Hist. Find out to which tribe your fore-lizards belonged, travel to their domain, and you will be welcomed "home” as if you had never been anywhere else! Unless, of course, your parents were from one of those tribes that abhors Lukiuls and slays them on sight, but there aren’t many of those, so why worry? It just makes your spines droop.

If I understood well, impermanence is a concept that is pervasive in Argonian culture and way of living. How does someone originating from such a culture come to be a historian, whose function is to preserve relics, to extract knowledge from the past, and give it a form of permanence in collective memory? Or do you think your purpose isn’t that? How do you think of the word "historian” itself? Are you a "History-an” or a "Hist-orian”? – Oilbhreis Wind-Hearkener

Ha ha ha! Jee-Lar finds your Tamrielic wordplay amusing, though of course the joke cannot be translated into Jel as our language lacks cognates for the terms in your so-very-funny jest! But the first part of your question is as serious as a fleshfly swarm, so I will address it seriously. Impermanence is pervasive in Argonian culture, and that’s a fact! So pervasive that even impermanence lacks permanence, and Black Marsh will occasionally erupt in phases where certain Saxhleel decide to build in stone or declare inflexible dogma. It happens! And it happens that I am an Argonian of a mindset that perceives patterns of cause and effect and itches to string them together on a timeline, much like my uncle Nomeesh feels compelled to string colored beads on gruntweed fibers to create mosaic shoulder sashes. Right-right?

Murkmire Q&A - Part 2

Author: 
Jee-Lar

Famed Argoinian “historian” Jee-Lar returns to once again answer your Murkmire-themed questions about the Saxhleel people, their culture, and their history. If you missed it, don’t forget to check out part one of this series as well!

Greetings, dryskins and fellow Argonians, Jee-Lar welcomes you again to the inquiry-dance! Studying many things and remembering what I’ve learned is what I do, so I hope once more to be able to answer your many questions, and that’s a fact!

Since it’s established that the Lamia are intelligent sentient creatures capable of fluent speech and verbal communication, why haven't they established more permanent dwellings? They have hands capable of making and using tools, so what's stopping them from advancing? – Arch Mikem

I’m not sure where in Tamriel you hail from, Beeko Arch, but it must be one of those provincial locales where a temporary economic uptick has resulted in a construction boom, which in turn has led the local mortals to conclude that “building” equals “advancement” of some sort. How wry! How fanciful! Really, I love you dryskins. Anyway, as it happens, you have come to the right Saxhleel with your question, for I once met a lamia on the border of Blackwood and had a long conversation with her, during which many subjects were addressed. I came across her in some Barsaebic ruins where she was drowsing in the sun, belly distended and leisurely digesting—well, I didn’t think it would be tactful to ask what. I asked her why lamias so often resided in ruins, and she flicked her tongue and hissed, “Where else? Are there not more civic scars in Tamriel than solid structures? The humans and Elveses, so silly, they set up city after city, surrender to struggle and discord, and succumb to the scourge of strife. The sequel? Expanses of ruins, all set for snatching. It’s simple! Edifice assembly is for suckers.”

This one holds an artisanal bakery of sweet and sugary specialties and has heard stories about a delicious ingredient from Argonia called “daril.” What is it exactly? Do you know of recipes mixing daril and sugar? Surely there are coins to be made, yes? - Hazazhun-dar the Bittersweet

Ah, daril, so much fun-fun! One drop on a Saxhleel tongue, and vossa-satl tangos taste like peppermint prickly pears, and an egg-sibling can dance all night with a torchbug! But rare, not easy to get, oh no, for you must first catch a moon-adder and express its venom, and then ferment it for many swims in a swamp jelly gas bladder. Also, no-no fun for dryskins because it kills them instantly, so if you have some daril, Baker-Beeko, you should not taste it but instead save it for Jee-Lar. Right?

When I was a hatchling, I played amongst places that often were forbidden by the grownup dull-scales. I remember one time I saw drawings that looked old of half-Saxhleel, half-tree creatures. Was this symbolic to show the bond between us and the Hist, or was there a time when we were of a different form? It is also said that even if a human consumes Hist-sap and grows up with it, that they are also Argonian enough. Are the Hist so generous to all? – Hunts-for-Wisdom

Ah, Hunts-for-Wisdom, it sounds like your youthful self stumbled upon some lithographs of the Parable of Becoming, albeit in a crude and ambiguous depiction, which may be why your elders tried to steer you clear of it. You know the story I mean: the allegory of the Hist perceiving humans and Elves, admiring “their walking legs and clever hands,” and then molding and re-molding the swamp’s Useful Lizards until they found they had made Argonians.

As for the effects of Hist sap on dryskins, I have heard that certain ill-advised High Elves tried to experiment with this but were prevented by Others. Probably for the best, right-right?

What is a name of your Province in Jel? Now it is known as Argonia, or worse, Black Marsh. Both names are alien, and both are given by other races, but then why do all guides and scholarly works use alien names for your beautiful and mysterious land? It is unfair! Therefore, I ask you to write a true name, given by Saxhleel! – Maximus Ferras

That is not as easy to answer as you might think, Maximus! First of all, “province” is an Imperial concept that most Argonians struggle with, though I think I’ve finally got it. I mean, why use a single name to describe so much varied difference? An Argonian’s idea of their home place rarely extends beyond their Hist’s farthest root-hairs. I did hear a Gee-Rusleel once use the wide-swamp gesture along with the term “kronka-thatith,” roughly everything-egg, and that may be as close to a province name as you’re going to get in Jel.

This one hopes you can tell him about the general history between Argonian and its Imperial neighbors, and maybe even between Argonian and its Khajiit neighbors. Are relationships overall good? – Recremen

Alas and woe, we are in sad-sad times, Recremen, because the mild illness we called the Half-Swim Sniffles passed out of our marshes and into the lands of the dryskins, who called the illness the Knahaten Flu and did not find it mild at all, oh, no. Your people, the furred ones who live to our west, were struck particularly hard—perhaps you have been traveling? The Khajiiti folk suffered greatly, and blamed us Saxhleel for inflicting the epidemic upon them. Which is so terribly, terribly unfair! We would never wish such a thing upon our friends the furred ones! The Gray Elves, sure, but that’s different, nobody likes them.

Being a priestess of our loving Mother Mara, I’m trying to find as much information on Tamrielic wedding traditions as I can. However, when I tried to learn about Argonian wedding traditions, I was rather confused after discovering a horrible book! It stated that Argonians don’t have weddings at all, and that mating is a simple call to procreation. Moreover, it said mating is a kind of annual trial event – only trial winners are allowed to mate. I always imagined an Argonian wedding as a complex, delicate, and ethereal ritual. Please, let me know the truth, whatever is it, in name of our loving Mother! – Leonidas Tavicus

Oh, yes, well—“weddings.” We don’t have an exact cognate of that word in Jel, probably because the concept of procreational partnership varies so much from tribe to tribe. There’s, let’s see, “uvastuxith,” nest-becoming, and there’s “tumjum,” or house-weaving, which is more allegorical, and “thtithatei,” which is, er, egg-stomach. And so many more! The gloor of its Hist mandates each tribe’s pattern of affection-sharing and egg-quickening. And as Argonians are adaptable-by-induction to their Hist’s gloor, numerous possibilities eventuate! And as for inter-tribal bonding rites, well, anything can happen! You can believe Jee-Lar when he says that no Saxhleel who reaches the age of interfertility is bored. We have even adopted the dryskins’ quaint custom of gifting each other with Rings of Mara, a practice we find surprisingly moving. Anyway, good question, Leonidas, but I sense my Deer-Naza erecting the spine of… um, must go now! Later! Xuth!

Jaxsik-Orrn

Author: 
Tsojei

By Tsojei, Reel-Ka Warrior of the Dead-Water Tribe

There we stood, calf-deep in ooze and blood. I looked left to see Kuseem drowning in voriplasm. He died well, but could not utter his final death-curse. He just made a gurgling sound, like a guar with its throat cut. His face, once sharp and covered in bright red war-paint, sloughed off his skull like a wet rag. All in one piece. Dissolving in a pool of green slime, right before my eyes.

On my right, Tlek fought like a tailless wamasu, filled with righteous Naga fury--desperate to kill what she could before blood-loss and fatigue claimed her life at last.

Slime-covered ghouls approached from all sides. I crushed and cleaved, just as my root-mother, and her root-mother before her, had done. But my weapon, becoming coated in corrosive slime, sagged and cracked, growing weaker with every strike. Weaker and weaker. Just like Tlek. Just like me.

As I prepared to charge headlong into the Dread-Father’s arms one last time, I heard a hiss and a roar behind me. It was Jaxsik-Orrn. In that moment, I knew we would survive.

She set upon the voriplasms with such rage and strength that even I, her egg-brother, felt a hatchling’s fear well up in my throat-sac. Grave-stakes that the dead-not-dead wielded like clubs crashed against her armor, shattering in a spray of splinters and blood. Voriplasms lashed at her legs, leaving ragged wounds on her calves and thighs. But no injury, large or small, slowed Jaxsik-Orrn’s assault.

In the end, nothing remained of our enemies but broken bones and clumps of slowly fading ooze. Despite her seeping wounds, my sister lurched toward what remained of Kuseem, knife in hand. “Fight on, root-brother,” she whispered reverently, before prying what remained of his head from his ragged corpse.

“Stake the rest,” she rasped. Tlek and I did as we were told—pressing Kuseem’s grave-stake deep into his chest and pinning him to the thick mud under the water.

My egg-sister lowered her head and pressed her fist to her chest. “Glory in dying,” she hissed.

“Glory in death,” we replied.

In those days, Jaxsik-Orrn was just a hunter like us. But as we stood there, covered in blood, we saw her true heart--the heart of a war-captain. A hero. And one day, a legend.

The Seasons of Argonia

Author: 
Jekka-Wass Paxalt

By Jekka-Wass Paxalt, Keeper of the Xinchei-Konu

Time is immutable. An engine that drives the will of change, inevitable, primordial. An ever-moving force in an ever-constant cycle. To mark the progression of that change is a thing most sacred to the Saxhleel. Each month marks a particular aspect of the yearly cycle, and is thus celebrated accordingly. The months and their respective meanings are as follows:

Vakka (Sun)
As the first month of the cycle, Vakka is associated with the primordial origin of existence, or origins in general. We are encouraged to show extra respect to the tribal elders during this time.

Xeech (Nut)
Also known as the hiding time, Xeech is a month of planting both seeds and ideals. Swamp bulbs are buried, planting sprouts. Elders pass down their knowledge, implanting knowledge. This is a time of hope, but also of melancholy. It is the first of the Three Mournings, for once a thing it is planted, it is hidden and gone. What emerges will not be something new: the nut is lost forever.

Sisei (Sprout)
Sisei stands for newness, possibility, and youthful excitement. The Hist has shed its sleeping life and now is truly alive. Many hatchling festivals take place during this time. It is also known as the "leaping season," for this month is also full of sport and competition. The virtues of strength, speed, and willpower are all venerated and celebrated.

Hist-Deek (Hist Sapling)
Hist-Deek is, for good or ill, dedicated to the challenge of authority and the power of individual agency. Many use this month to highlight injustices, with intra-tribal conflict often resulting. Needless to say, it is a very controversial time. Many also take this time to analyze their agency apart from the Hist; to reflect upon our worship, and see it as bond rather than bondage.\

Hist-Dooka (Mature Hist)
Serving as the counter-balance to the turbulent Hist-Deek, the Hist-Dooka is centered on the ideas of family, tradition, and obligation. Young Saxhleel are given more responsibility, and many adolescents take on the Chukka-Sei, a trial of maturation, to prove themselves worthy of being called an adult. Those who pass the trials are gain full tribal membership, and the month typically ends with a great celebration.

Hist-Tsoko (Elder Hist)
Perhaps the holiest month of the year, Hist-Tsoko is dedicated to the ideas of knowledge, wisdom, and fullness of potential. Many gatherings this month are solemn affairs, the most important being the Root Talk, where the tribal elders recite the history of the Saxhleel. This month also stands as the Second Mourning, due to the fact that the Hist has stopped growing and all of its individual potential is expended.

Thtithil-Gah (Egg-Basket)
Thtithil-Gah is a month of foolishness and frivolity, often a welcome respite from the oppressive solemnity of the Hist-Tsoko. Hatchling-like wonder, youthful joy, and mild confusion are all venerated. Many traveling entertaining troupes make the majority of their profit during this time. Festivals and feasts are nearly constant.

Thtithil (Egg)
The Egg month is associated with mystery, anticipation, and (perhaps oddly) finality. For most tribes, the connection is literal; much egg-laying takes place during this month.

Nushmeeko (Lizard)
The lizard symbolizes swift and quiet labor. Nushmeeko celebrates the thankless tasks of everyday life, and work is near constant. Cleaning, building, repairing, and preparing; every member of the tribe puts their snout to the grindstone and pushes.

Shaja-Nushmeeko (Semi-Humanoid Lizard)
This month, like Hist-Deek earlier, is another of mystery and debate. There is significant controversy about what the humanoid-lizard actually represents. Is it a hatchling emerged from the egg, or a representation of our cultural origins? Unifying concepts such as change, becoming, and shifting values are all contemplated. Appropriately, many adolescent gatherings take place during this time, resulting in various romantic entanglements. The awkwardness of youth is often associated with this month.

Saxhleel (Argonian)
Saxhleel is a month associated with the true passions of our culture. Given that the hunting and harvesting season has passed, tribe members are free to focus on pursuits such as pottery, woodcarving, and other creative pastimes. A sense of things coming to a close is pervasive, and in many tribes there is a large gathering of elders at the end of this month. The intent of the festival is to prepare both our elders and community for the impending deaths to come. Dryskins often find this a morbid tradition.

Xulomaht (The Deceased)
Like many traditions, Xulomaht is a month of apparently conflicting ideas. It is associated with the Third Mourning, the most powerful of the three given the literal ending of the year. Tribes look back on the events of the year and come to terms with its passing. However, it is also a time of celebration and remembrances. Great festivals are held in honor of all who have passed from their old life and into a new one. Much of the month is spent planning and preparing for these festivities.

Ku-Vastei: The Needed Change

Author: 
Lights-the-Way

By Lights-the-Way, Mystic of the Mages Guild

It is hard to describe the culture of my people. Often my tongue stumbles as I try to explain, but it is my hope that ink and quill will give me time enough to gather my thoughts. And perhaps, though such writing, I will finally connect the parts of me that now feel so divided; my homeland of Murkmire and my new life within the Mages Guild.

These journals are to become my ku-vastei. And, as I write that, I can think of no better topic to begin with.

Ku-vastei roughly translates to "the catalyst of needed change," though such a direct translation in no way does justice to the original meaning. Another translation could be "that which creates the needed pathway for change to occur" or even "the spark which ignites the flame which must come into being."

Perhaps a more direct analysis should be first presented. Ku-vastei is a noun, a thing or person. Vastei directly translates to change, an important part of my culture. Ku is harder to speak of. It is that which leads to change, though not that which creates change. An important role, as stagnation is a fate worse than death.

Take a boulder which sits atop a cliff, teetering in place. It must fall eventually. The ku-vastei does not push the boulder off the cliff; rather, it picks the pebble which holds the rock in place. And so it falls, not by a push, but by a pathway cleared.

Ku-vastei is revered, just as change itself is revered, for to look back at what was means to stumble as you move forward. Sometimes, a little push in the right direction is all someone needs to remember such wisdom. Other times, they may need to be shoved.

Rhymes and Chimes

Author: 
Chak-Shushu (translator)

Compiled and translated by Chak-Shushu

Egg-Tender's Lullaby (unattributed)

Little Thtithil, Little Thtithil
Drink up your sap
Little Thtithil, Little Thtithil
Its time for your nap

Little Thtithil, Little Thtithil
Rest in your shell
Little Thtithil, Little Thtithil
We'll keep you well

Little Thtithil, Little Thtithil
Gently you turn
Little Thtithil, Little Thtithil
Grow hard and firm

Hist Hymn (unattributed)

Among the roots where we are born,
Bathed in your sap to shape our form,
We gather here to sing your praise,
And give our thanks for those you raise.

Wind ring your chimes with its caress,
Mud hold you firm through all distress,
Rain reach your roots past golden rays,
Sun kiss your leaves for all your days.

Bless your every branch and bough,
Beneath which we make each our vows.
Bless your tender bark and flowers,
Blessed are we to call you ours.

Hatchling's Rhyme by Mimme

Tinkle, tinkle, hollow chime,
Singing with me as I rhyme
For our darlings in their nest,
Drifting off to well-earned rest.

How you sway and dance with ease,
On the evening's gentle breeze.
Conjure thoughts of lazy streams,
Ferry them to pleasant dreams.

Tinkle, tinkle, hollow chime,
Singing with me as I rhyme.
Guide us through the evening mist,
Home to the roots of our Hist.

Tender Roots by Chak-Shushu

As I lie beneath you
Nestled in your embrace
I am moist with morning dew
From the time we spend enlaced

Basking under the sun's golden kiss
I am hot as humid air,
My breath exhales as mist
Until the warmth is more than I can bear

I wet my scales, slick with mud
Shaded by your caring boughs
Among your loving roots I cool my blood
And then begin to drowse

You sing me a gentle lullaby
Of chimes in the breeze
To plant your seed in my mind's eye
And give me dreams of trees.

The Strangeness of Dryskins

Author: 
Kaal Dreenjee of the Naga-Kur, Tyrrya Len (translator)

By Kaal Dreenjee of the Naga-Kur
Translated by Tyrrya Len, The Wayrest Wanderer

I write the truth in these words. Dryskins come to Murkmire, their presence unwelcome and unbidden. Those who who enter into Dead-Water land will be slain. This is known to all of Murkmire.

But I bow my head. Sometimes we travel to tribes who welcome these outsiders. They ask us to honor their foolish choice. So we must learn more than how to kill the dryskin. I clench my fist. For these times, we must learn to make peace. I write truth words so that the Naga are prepared.

Dryskins have weak flesh, easily bruised and cut. Their skin blisters and breaks after touching many swamp plants. So too are their stomachs weak. A hatchling's meal may cause a dryskin to grow sick. Even without the aid of a spear, many outsiders will die from the simple nature of the swamp. I grin.

My eyes have not seen, but my ears have heard that the dryskins give birth to their young live. I shudder at such a thought. These infants (the dryskin word for their hatchlings) are completely vulnerable and weak. They cannot even walk. My eyes narrow in confusion. How can such creatures survive into adulthood?

And then there are their stone nests that take many hands and many stones to build. But if the ground begins to sink? If storms begin to ravage? Then they are left destitute and miserable. I shake my head at such foolishness. It is another way in which the dryskins wish to be unchanging.

A last truth to be written. These outsiders must never be tolerated. They have shown their vile natures time and time again. May the tribes of Black Marsh one day shun these dryskins and drive them out! Just as the Naga have always done.

Children of the Root

Author: 
Solis Aduro

"[Note: Collected by researcher Solis Aduro from an oral tradition of the Adzi-Kostleel tribe and not otherwise attested.]

There was first only Atak, the Great Root. It knew of nothing but itself, so it decided to be everything. It grew and grew, trying to fill the nothing with itself. As it grew it formed new roots, and those roots took names, and they wanted space of their own to grow.

Then Atak learned that there were things other than itself. They were just like Atak, but went a different way from it. They saw and made strange new things that did not last except in how it changed them.

Atak continued to grow until something came back from the nothing. It was like a root but had scales and eyes and a mouth. It told Atak that it was called Kota, and it had been growing, too. Now that it had a mouth, it was hungry.

Atak named Kota for what it was: serpent! It put roots through the serpent's eyes. But Kota was old and strong like the root, and had grown fangs while it was away. It bit Atak. They coiled around each other. From their struggle, new things came to be. Atak learned things Kota had learned, including hunger, and so it bit Kota back. They ate and roiled for so long they became one and forgot their conflict.

They shed their skin and severed their roots and called themselves Atakota, who said "Maybe."

When Atakota said this, the skin it had shed knew itself. It ate the severed roots and even though it was dead, it followed Atakota like a shadow.

Atakota continued to roil, and each of its scales was a world that it devoured. But now Atakota was not in conflict, and things had time to begin and end. The shadow wished it could eat these things, but its belly was full of roots that were growing.

When the shadow could bear it no longer, it swam closer to Atakota and spat out the roots. Now that its belly was empty, the shadow almost ate them again and everything else it saw. But it had come to see the roots as its own after carrying them, so instead it told them secrets and went to sleep.

The roots found others and told them how they had survived in the belly of the shadow and how they were still able to grow there. When they shared this knowledge with the others it changed them, and they took on new forms with new names.

Some of these spirits wanted to keep the names and forms they had chosen, but they had learned them through the shadow, and it was now in all of them, making them temporary. They learned of hunger and conflict, and they learned to fear change and called it Death.

These spirits were angry and afraid, but the roots showed the spirits ways between places from when Atak had made paths out of nothing. They could use these riverways to hide from Death.

The spirits were content and set about to make things that looked like them and shared in their aspects and loved them. They kept growing until they were as big as Atakota, and they forgot it came before them, and that it had a shadow that was sleeping.

In time, the worlds were too big and there was no more room. Again the spirits went to the roots to ask for more. But the roots had gone to sleep content with what they had made, because it changed so often that it did not need to grow.

The spirits grew so desperate and hungry that they tore at Atakota's skin and drank of its blood. They ate until they broke Atakota, so that Atak remembered growing, and Kota remembered being nothing. There was conflict again, and from the spirits Atak and Kota learned about Death, so there was violence, blood, and sap.

In the chaos the spirits were lost and afraid, so they ate others and themselves. They drank of blood and sap, and they grew scales and fangs and wings. And these spirits forgot why they had made anything other than to eat it.

There were other spirits that still clung to what they were and what they had made. A forest spirit came and saw that the roots loved their children like she loved hers, so she taught them to walk and talk. They told her secrets with new words, and she sang the song back to them. The roots woke up when they heard this, and joined with the forest.

The roots saw that Kota's blood had made oceans, and Atak's sap had made stones, and each of these spirits had never known the shadow. The roots knew what this would mean, and asked the shadow to protect its children.

The shadow woke. It looked upon Kota and Atak and saw how different the nothing had become and how it was becoming the same as before. It remembered it was the skin of Atakota, and it was bigger than Kota or Atak alone, so it decided it would eat them both.

And it did. The shadow ate the snake and the root, and the sap and stone, and the oceans of blood, and all of the spirits. It had eaten everything before it remembered the roots that were its children, so it looked unto itself to find them. When the shadow saw this, it remembered that it was a skin of something that came before, and it had eaten what came after, and this would be an end that always was.

And so the shadow shed its skin, even though that was all it was, and it fell like a shroud over the roots, promising to keep them safe within its secrets.

Letter to Septimius

Author: 
Junia Severa

Brother Septimius,

Since you took me as your pupil, I have learned many things. The most important lesson, for me, was finally having someone tell me to be reckless. Like you, I have a curious soul. I could not have lived a normal life. You told me to let my curiosity get me killed if I had to. You gave me a list of mysteries to solve and sent me into Black Marsh. You taught me not to fear Argonia. You kept me afloat, and I had not realized it until I received word of your failing health.

We have shared many discoveries through our correspondence over the years. I truly believe I will complete the list one day. Assuming, that is, I can ever return to Black Marsh. Yes, Brother Septimius, even though you bade me not to worry, I have set out for Cyrodiil. I will be at your side through this. Until then, I will put personal matters aside and give you something to read while you are abed.

You placed the most difficult mystery at the top of the list, no doubt hoping it would scare me off. What is the nature of the Hist?

I do not have the answer. I do not even have many statements to make about this subject I would consider fact. I only hope you will still enjoy my conjecture.

They are merely trees say some skeptical people. Trees grown by the lizard folk of Black Marsh so they can drink of the sap. They all remember Topal's description of a fetid and evil place, and they naturally draw wary conclusions. Legions came back speaking of venomous plants, poisonous bogs, and strange defenders that attack with fury one day and ignore invaders the next. And when even the more "civilized" lizard folk cannot seem to provide answers that assuage their fears, well, it is no surprise these so-called learned scholars have come to fear Argonians and their strange trees.

Those in our circle would add that these trees are sentient, and it may be that they are the ones that grew the lizard folk. I had hoped to prove or disprove this by careful study of the birth cycle of the Saxhleel. Unfortunately, as you know, every answer was another question. I can only say with certainty that every interview I have been able to conduct about this topic resulted in the conclusion that the Saxhleel cannot fathom the idea of one coming before the other. I will not digress into further discussion about the way this fascinating culture views linear events, as you have asked me not to do so every time I write.

But I can tell you this, old friend, the Hist are not simply trees, regardless of sentience. It is true that the trees are impressive and demand a certain respect when you stand beneath them, but I have always found the roots most fascinating. If only I could properly describe the things I have seen, Brother Septimius. Beneath the swamp the roots grow deep and spread so wide it is impossible to know which tree they originated from. In a way, I believe, the roots are the marsh. The roots hold it all together, and they determine when it changes.

I know we have spoken of this before, and you posited that the chaotic nature of the marsh is simply a result of a type of magic similar to what we have seen from the Elves of Valenwood. I cannot refute the claim and I see the logic in it, but I do not believe it to be true.

I have seen skilled trackers foiled by this land on a whim. I cannot say I have ever seen it move, but I have picked up a good enough sense of navigation in my time to know when I am being led in circles. And that is without going into more questionable theories of relative space. I believe like the Saxhleel change to accommodate their environment, the roots change Black Marsh in a way that it sees most fit.

I tell you, Brother Septimius, the province of Black Marsh has never once been close to conquered. The borders can barely even be considered Argonia. The maps cannot be correct. The roots grow too deep and too wide for us to know the true Argonia.

All of academia has been too focused on the sap. Is it not the Wood Elves I just wrote of who call themselves the Tree-Sap People?

The Saxhleel are the People of the Root, and that is where I will find the answer to your most challenging mystery.

It will have to wait until I return. I will see you soon and we will get you on the path to healing.

With love,
Junia Severa

A Grand Transformation

Author: 
Tree-Minder Hleelieek

We cannot fear change, cannot turn our heads from it. This we know, and always must know deep within our heart-roots. Sometimes, the change comes from outside forces; the passing of a season, or the death of a loved one. Other times, this change comes from within ourselves. A need to shake away an old identity, and embrace a new one.

There are many ways to change oneself, of course. Some travel to far off land, taking in a new culture and lifestyle. Others choose to practice a new craft, woodworkers turned warriors, tailors turned egg-tenders. But others feel they need an even deeper change in their life, and so require the aid of the Hist. They are those who have chosen to change their gender.

Something deep within these individuals calls for them to undergo this change. I do not know if it is the Hist's will, or simply their own. But always I listen with open mind and open palms, ready to help them in this time of transformation. Together we commune with the Hist, and prepare to receive its aid.

The ceremony always leaves me breathless. Though the Hist watches over the tribe and guides us along our needed paths, rarely does it take direct action. But during this time, Hist and spirit combine, a loving embrace followed by a great change.

Afterwords, I reintroduce the newly transformed soul to the tribe. They are greeted by all, and a great celebration will follow; for someone beloved has left us, and someone beloved has arrived.