The Menagrie, V. IV


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Maricent did not know the Altmer language, but he hardly needed it to tell that the crew of this skimmer were up to no good. Whatever papers and explanations they gave the Captain, they were pirates or worse, political. It was odd that they paid for the cargo, and it wasn’t clear why they wanted anyone on board who was travelling under false pretenses, but the ways of elves were always mysterious.

As a Breton, he was raised with a healthy respect, admiration, fear, and disgust of Altmer, and all of those things were being exhibited around him at this very moment. Yvane did not make it far. Unlike the rest of them, she did not wake up. As soon as the Abacean Ambassador was out of sight, one of the Altmer took out a black soulgem and grasped her limp form by the neck. His hands glowed purple and then it was done. They cast some spells over her corpse and put it in a barrel.

Esmoran and Andre seemed resigned to their fates, and Maricent didn’t feel like talking, either. Rolath was the talkative one. “I had a good thing going with Lush and now it’s all ruined. Do you know what I did for all that extra rum? It would have been any day now, as soon as the cargo hold was empty for a few moments, and now it’s never going happen. What a waste of time. If I wasn’t tied up, I’d throw myself overboard. Who knows where they’re taking us. Prison? Slaves? Maybe they’ll just drain us all like that witch and be done with it. Ugly guy like me, there’s no way a chance like that will come again. I wonder what Lush is up to now? They’re all below deck now. Probably guarded by a dozen wizards. Lucky bastards. Get born in the right month and you don’t have a lift a finger, just read books all day and get all the gold you want. Wizards never need to be lonely, either. They can just summon a daedra or charm someone. I bet I’d have Lush weeks earlier with a little magical help.” And he just went on and on and on.

Eventually Maricent couldn’t take it anymore. “Who is this Lush you keep talking about?”

“The nymph, you idiot,” Rolath said. “I called her Lush because she’s so luscious. And because she’s a drunkard. Can’t get enough of the stuff. That’s why her people kicked her out and sold her to Captain Stone-Fist. For some little carvings and worthless rocks, even. Any day now she was going to, you know, let me, you know. I’d give her a bottle of rum and she’d toss her hair and make cute sort of cooing sounds at me and let me see—”

“She did that to me, too,” Maricent said, “everytime I was down there. It’s just what nymphs do. Very distracting.”

“She wasn’t gonna sleep with you, kid,” said Esmoran. “After Uthbert took my girl, I swore off women. Never been happier. The salty air, the roll of the ship, a job well done. A few coins to enjoy the best food, the best music, the best plays in every port. What a life. I thought I recognized you, Maricent. Figured I shouldn’t say anything.”

“It’s not our life anymore,” Maricent said. “I don’t know what’s next.”

“I don’t believe you,” Rolath continued, undaunted. “Lush and I had something. I was the only one who brought her rum, after all. She was just waiting for the right moment. If only…”

The next thing in Maricent’s life, as it happens, was an unexpected performance. The prisoners felt the ship slow and come to a halt. Alas, Rolath did not come to a halt, and continued to blather about the nymph. Several of the Altmer were looking over the port side of the deck and talking to something in the water. The talking grew more animated and then grew into a shouting match. Then, suddenly, a decision was reached and the elves on the deck spoke amongst themselves.

One of them came over to the prisoners. “You,” he said, pointing to Maricent, but keeping his distance as if the mere presence of the prisoners would tarnish him. “You’re the actor. The seafolk want a story.”

“I…er…what’s going on?” Maricent asked.

“The seafolk. The maormer. We’ve offended them. The details are of no concern of yours. They demand a story or a snack. You can jump overboard and offer your body to their teeth, or you can come to the edge of the deck and offer your…your wits, I suppose, to their ears.”

Maricent did not need much time to decide. “And, ah, how much time do I have to prepare?”

“However long it takes you to walk over there.” The Altmer pointed to the port side of the deck. “Swiftly.”

Maricent held up his hands. The Altmer stuck his nose up, but he got out a knife and cut Maricent’s bonds. Maricent rubbed his wrists, then started walking, as slowly as he dared, over to the deck. There were a few elven heads sticking up out of the water. It looked like there were more below the waves. The ones he could see turned their attention to him. Maricent was used to an audience, but he stumbled a little, and his heart skipped a beat. They were staring at him intently, as if expecting more than he could deliver.

He ran over the scenes he could do as just one man and decided to do Camaron’s soliloquy from The Waning of Secundas. When he finished, the maormer cheered in an eerie way and demanded another. Maricent sang a few of Arnand’s songs, and the maormer wanted still more. He then did the Baron’s speech before the big battle in The Dwynnen Lai, and the maormer all cheered again. The captain, at least what might be the captain, of the skimmer came over and told them that was all they were getting. The maormer seemed disappointed, but they let the ship continue on.

Maricent was tied up again and brought back to the other prisoners. His pay consisted of a few swallows of water. Firsthold gradually formed out of the blue-grey horizon and grew closer and closer. The port seemed open for business and there were ships, mostly of Redguard design, docked there. The skimmer slid smoothly alongside one of the docks and they were hustled off the ship.

A regal looking Altmer and her retinue were waiting for the ship. There was some discussions, and Maricent overheard the words “Abacean Ambassador” a few times. Money changed hands, and the prisoners were again hustled over to a carriage. It was quite a fancy carriage, the sort you might see in a production of Breton fairy tales, with huge spoked wheels, and dark wood exquisitely carved and painstakingly curved into shape. The various creatures on board were loaded into more ordinary carts, with special attention paid to the wisp, of course.

And without any explanation of who this new Altmer was or where they were going, the carts set off for the interior of Summerset Isle.

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