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Fine Dining

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Lady N's picture
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Joined: 06/26/2010

Author - Scribble

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The city had been blanketed by thick clouds for the better part of a week, and every brick and every stone were slippery underfoot as Scinia and I hurried along overflowing gutters in search of a hot meal. By the time we pushed into the old Ayleid structure housing the All-Saints inn we were thoroughly soaked. Scinia always insisted on going there for lunch – despite it being far from our offices – on account of their roast mutton, which he swears to. While usually full around those hours, on that particular wet day it was near empty, with only the publican and a single patron inside. Having shed our outer garments we greeted the two and ordered the usual, seating ourselves by the stranger.

He was a rather broad-shouldered, middle aged man, plainly dressed and dining, not on hearty Colovian cuisine like us, but Scuttle paired with a cornberry wine. Scinia offered our names and we got his in return.

‘Levus, at your service. Quite the downpour.’

‘Quite.” Replied Scinia with a smirk. “I hear the Rumare is as much at capacity as we are.’

‘It makes for healthy soil, but too much of it does no good. Still, this deluge is a preferable climate to what I’ve seen touring.’

‘Then you’re with the Legion?’ I inquired, now interested.

‘I was. Started young, got out early. Felt I’d seen my share of Tamriel. Served in the provinces ever after training, you see.’

‘What marvels you must have seen on the fringes of our Empire!’ I chimed, neglecting my food. ‘Where have you been?’

He met my eyes with some scepticism at first, before biting his lip and thinking on my statement for a lengthy moment. Then he begun.

‘Elsweyr was the first. Mostly I saw its badlands and plains, with unending blue skies overhead, and miles of dry rock and dirt at our feet. But early on, we trekked through jungle. I’d been assigned guard duty for a caravan, whose route passed through my intended post – a sort of outpost between Orcrest and Rimmen. I was excited to go out and see Tamriel and its peoples, and to help the Empire’s cause: spreading its law and commerce like a wildfire. However, At the time I was most excited just to leave the heartland for my first time. Even as I entered Leyawiin, where the caravan was set to leave from, I was farther from home than ever before, and already I met with… surprises. I had expected to see many Khajiit there, before even entering Elsweyr proper, but at the time – immediately following the annexation – it looked to me like there were hardly any left. Many had headed west, where things would be better for them, while the remainder were struck by poverty, some homeless and ill – all of it brought on by insurgents I was told.

‘The caravan was only a handful of traders and four carts, one of which were our own supplies. The journey had apparently been commissioned by some company, which and for what reason I cannot recall, or perhaps I never knew. In any case we left the swamplands behind and entered into the mighty forests of Elsweyr, following a narrow yet well-travelled path north-west. We must have been a week into the dense canopy when we came across our first Khajiit, dressed for long travel, no valuables left, and cart tracks disappeared northward into the overgrowth from where they lay. Claws and sabres had done it for them. The second-in-command suggested following the tracks, but the company men as well as our commander reminded her that we had a schedule to keep. So we pressed on, out of the thick woodland, past another group of travellers though they were not Khajiit, and onward to our post – A Legion camp nestled between two rock outcroppings where a well had been dug, near the crossroads linking Orcrest, Rimmen, and Leyawiin.

‘They’d staked the perimeter, but it was lined with refuse, their tents were set up seemingly at random, and the latrine looked like an afterthought. To this day I haven’t seen such poor leadership. And that leadership met us when we arrived, a rather sweaty, ill-kept fellow who hardly fit his uniform. He looked more annoyed than appeased that we had come to relive him, but invited us to eat with him all the same. We cramped into his admittedly large tent and were served some simple food, typical Colovian fare I’d say. It turned out they had suffered losses and was operating on a skeleton crew. The request for reinforcements had gone out half a year ago, but never garnered a reply. The change of guard as it were, meaning us, had arrived according to plan. The camp commander blamed most of the troubles on his predecessor: the layout of the camp, the lack of reliable information on the region, unfriendly relations with the closest village, it was all just a poor hand he’d been dealt. Which of course culminated in initial loss of life that had effectively destroyed any chance of dealing with the insurgents to the east. “Insurgents?” inquired my commander – he had assumed they were just bandits. “Filthy cats, all the same.” Replied the sweaty one, wolfing down salt pork and beans or some such thing. “If they aren’t snoozing or fighting, then they’re cheating you somehow.” Clearly he was not one for mending bridges.

‘The old boys were to escort the company men to Rimmen on their shared way home, as soon as they were finished loading the carts. At the same time our group immediately got to work rebuilding the camp site, while two of us were sent along with the second-in-command to treat with the locals. The Khajiit commune was no more than a brisk walk from the crossroads. We were concerned as to whether or not we would be welcome there. However, as soon as we were within sight we were swarmed by Khajiiti of all sorts, and we were greeted by a particularly large fellow with spotted fur. For some reason he would always wear a leather coat which was quite a bit too small for him and cut in the Gold Coast style, so that tufts of fur would stick out at all sorts of angles. We always dealt with him, as we were not allowed to speak with the clan mother directly. “Considering the circumstances” he told us. On this he would not elaborate, but nonetheless he seemed happy to hear that the legionnaires were being completely replaced, and that we wanted to re-open trade with them. We were given the go-ahead by the commander to deal, as long as his second kept a careful eye on all transaction of course. Some of the Khajiit tried to offer us Moon Sugar from down south, the smart ones offered us native foods like soft breads and sweetmeats, others still carried beads and gemstones, or tools. As most of us were new to life on the march we were eager to get away from dry black bread and quick to spend what few septims we had on fresh food. I still get a craving for those sweet cheese-buns now and again.

‘So we set up new supply lines, re-arrange the camp, and start patrolling the region. We also hired locals to help us scout, particularly to the east, hoping to make the roads safer for trade and travel. For many months we kept at it, ceaselessly crossing back and forth across wide plateaus in search of the murderous marauders as more reports of attacks and missing travellers came in. Yet not once did we catch a glimpse or find as much as a paw-print. Then the drought set in. We were all accustomed to the temperate Heartland, and had been struggling in the heat. But the drought seemed to most of us that it’d be our death. Moving around the dry plains felt as if we were cooking in our armour, and by some miracle the second eventually managed to persuade our commander that we should cease all patrols for the time being. We couldn’t be sure at the time, but today I feel confident in saying that it saved our lives.

‘The outlaws attacked us. They had probably been camped at a stream which dried out, and over the days and weeks without water they had grown increasingly desperate. And so they came stalking across the plains baring steel. It must have seemed like a good plan. After all, the last time they had seen it, the nearest water source was a scarcely guarded well. They were of course spotted in good time lookouts, giving us ample time to prepare. But their scouts must have been as keen as ours, as they veered off and disappeared in amongst the boulders north of our camp. We couldn’t exactly rush in after them, or we’d end up being the ones in an ambush, so we sent no more than two scouts to gently tail them. By the time we realised where they’d gone, it was too late, as they had made a last minute decision to go for the, now, lighter target. The village. When we finally arrived the robbers found themselves caught between two enemies. Advantages aside it was a fierce battle, many of the villagers were dead already and I lost more than a few friends that day. But victory was ours, and from that day on the roads were safe again. We weathered the drought, and were stationed long enough to see several new trade routes plot their course by our outpost. Eventually our own relief arrived, and we went back to the Heartland. The outpost remained successful for a while longer, and I received recommendations from my commander which led to my eventual promotion, and being sent on to Morrowind.’

Levus settled back into his chair, having finished his meal some time ago, while mine was quite cold, gravy gone greasy, greens no longer quite so green. But I was eager to press him for more.

‘And, what then? What did you do in the east?’

‘Ah well, that is actually an exciting story, even if I mostly dealt with officials and headed guard details – and developed a taste for scuttle of course, as well as shein.’ He told me with a less than honest grin, before finishing his wine. ‘But for that story I’d need another drink. Speaking of which, here’s your marvel for you.’ He continued, tapping the now empty tankard. ‘That we can sit here in this weather, nice and dry, and enjoy fine foods from every corner of the continent. And all it costs is a pound of flesh off of everyone else.’

Lady N's picture
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Joined: 06/26/2010

This piece was written for our 20th anniversary fan art contest! It is strictly property of its original creator - you may not modify, publish, or redistribute it without explicit permission from the artist.