Games and Pastimes of Tamriel, V. 7: Black Marsh


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I wish I was able to spend more time in Archon, but the heat and heaviness of the air was tough on my old bones. I barely managed to make it from the ship to the tavern and back and seemed to spend every waking hour drinking and sweating it back out just as fast.

Most of the games I saw were from the balcony of my room where I could sit in the shade, drink, and watch the children play. The tavern was close to the docks, but near the northern edge of the town, and much of the view consisted of swamp.

Jump Stick

A few Argonian children played a game similar to jump rope, but with sticks. Two children held long wooden poles and the remaining children jumped from one side to the other. The poles were lifted, dropped, crossed back and forth, in rhythmic patterns. Each pattern had a name that pole-bearers would shout before starting it.

The child who was ‘next’ would start by placing a hand on one of the pole-bearers, then as soon as the next pattern was called, would jump to the other pole-bearer and put a hand on his head, and leap out. If one leapt out of the path entirely or got their foot caught in a stick, they were out.

Marsh Tag

Everyone remembers tag as a child, but in Black Marsh, it is apparently played in the water. Children each held what the innkeeper told me was a ‘chirp-fish.’ The fish make a rather constant and annoying chirping sound, and every player had to have one at all times.

The children all dove under the water and, as far as I could tell in the murk, they found and tagged each other by hearing. A child who was out, simply walked back to dry land and waited.

Sink Tag

This is another sort of tag game, but the children divided into two teams. One dove into the murky water. The other team each took two large nuts (inedible, according to my host), and climbed into the trees. The team in the trees threw the nuts into the water where they sank. Anyone hit by the nut was out. The game was over when all of the children in the water were out or when the team in the trees ran out of nuts. The teams would then swap roles and play again.

Jaw Beetle Fight

In this odd game, the children tied themselves together back-to-back. One child would swim underwater while the other carried two big sticks tied at one end, sort of like giant tongs. The goal was for the top child to grab the other pairs’ tongs with their own tongs and ‘disarm’ them. It was all very strange and seemed quite awkward for the children lying on their backs, trying to grab things with two long sticks.

Ironseed

The only adult game I witnessed was on my last day. Some locals heard of my project and half-carried me to a playing field where a game of Ironseed was taking place.

The game was played with a single, very heavy ball. It resembled a cannonball, about a handswidth and about two stone. There were two teams of five players. The ball was difficult to carry, but there were no rules on how the ball should be moved. Players picked it up, threw it, kicked it, and so on. So the game alternated between one player carrying or rolling the ball a good distance while the rest tried to catch up…and a group wrestling match where you assumed the ball was somewhere in there, but you couldn’t see the action.

The goal was to get the ball across a goal, in this case a wooden pole tied between two trees. The game was played in an uneven marsh, which made it even more difficult to move the ball. A few times a player got the ball across the pole and tried to throw it into a hole in one of the trees the pole was attached to. The hole was about two hands wide and stands about the height of a man on the tree.

As was explained to me, getting the ball across the pole is 1 point. Throwing the ball into the hole counts for 4 more points, but if you miss, you lose the point you just earned. Most players didn’t take that risk and only one actually scored the extra points in the one match I watched.

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