The Menagrie, V. VI

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He was lifting his arms again and again, pulling the tree up and up, encouraging its growth, when he came back to himself. He let his arms lay at his side and looked around. He had an audience. Behind the adamantium bars, now covered with vines, were several Altmer and some very richly dressed guests. If he concentrated, he could almost remember what they were saying.

“A wisp! And now a spriggan! However do you keep so many unusual creatures?” a Redguard asked.

“I am pleased we have entertained you, Lord Lhano. Do you expect me to answer that? Are we here to discuss trade or our beast handlers secrets?” an Altmer responded.

“No, it’s not true at all,” one wood elf was saying. “That is merely a nasty rumor. If you come visit me in Anticlere, I personally assure you that you and your guests belongings will be safe.”

“Ah, well that is quite assuring Lady Flyte,” said a muscular and bearded Breton next to her. “I may take you up on that offer. It’s a shame your husband died while you were so young.”

“Yes, quite,” she responded, meeting the Breton’s eyes over a tall glass as she sipped from it. “It is the great tragedy of my life.”

“And next, over here, we have one of the less common trolls,” said one of the Altmer, pointing the way. Maricent tried to speak, to shout at them to let him go, but he just made some moaning, whispering sorts of noises, and the Altmer led the delegation out of sight.

Maricent’s cell was now full of life. How long had it been since he was himself? He had to get out of here, had to do something. He looked around and saw that the rear wall of his cell had vines and grass growing out of it. Deep cracks had formed in the wall, and Maricent thought it wouldn’t take much to break through it. He spent several hours trying to raise the ancient magics before figuring out the trick to it. The vines swelled as they grew and the cracks in the wall deepened. Dust and pebbles tumbled off the wall and with a thunderous crack, the vines opened a way big enough to see light on the other side. Maricent commanded the vines to withdraw and found he could, just barely in this new form, squeeze through the crack.

The cell he entered was larger and much, much colder. The floor was covered in snow and the pool of water here had a thin coat of ice on the top. There was an orb hanging from the ceiling with frost and icicles covering it. The orb was making the cell cold somehow. Spriggans didn’t shiver, but he trembled a bit. Three snow bears looked at him and stood up. One of them padded up to him. Spriggan’s don’t feel fear, either, or he’d have squeezed back through the wall to his own cell.

“Nnn ooo err ooo,” said the snow bear.

Maricent again tried to talk and managed to make a tiny noise.

“Hoo arr joo,” said the snow bear again, pointing a huge paw at him.

“Mmmrrr,” he managed. “Mmmrrreeesssnnnnd”

“Mmmrrrishent?” asked the bear.

Maricent nodded.

“Rrrallloff,” said the bear, pointing to himself. “Annnrrrrey, Esssmmurrrnnn,” said the bear, pointing to the other two bears. “Annn ooo gggeet ooos aaawt uuv eerrr?” asked the bear.

Maricent waved his arms, trying to show the passing of the sun, and to say it would take time. He wasn’t sure if he was understood or not, but he squeezed back into his own cell. He made the vines move to hide the hole in the wall, and it wasn’t a moment too soon. A pair of elves came to investigate the noise. Maricent stood in the center of his cell and lifted his arms again and again, as if encouraging the plants to grow tall and strong. The Altmer left.

Now that he had a purpose, he found he was conscious more often. He slowly worked the vines among the rocks until he was sure he could open a hole between his cell and the snow bears large enough for a bear. And he worked the plants around the bars of his cage as well. He could do nothing to the adamantium, but he could weaken the stone all around each bar. He also opened a small hole to the wisp in the room to his left, and his vines worked around the spell of containment.

It seemed as if months passed before he was ready. And then one night he squeezed through to the snow bears, tried to indicate to Rolath that it was time to escape, and he broke the wall open. One snow bear ran through the hole. The other two stayed. Maricent walked over to speak with them, but Rolath shook his head and said, “Noooo ooooze. Eeey onna sheeey.”

Maricent wasn’t quite sure what was said, but got the idea the other bears were staying there. Maricent then started pushing on the bars, but while they were loose, they wouldn’t quite come out. Rolath charged and rammed into one of them, and it popped out with a loud clang. The bear was stunned a moment, but ran back and charged again, knocking a second bar loose. Maricent ordered his vines to break the wisp’s containment runes, and then Maricent and Rolath squeezed through the gap and ran down the hall.

Maricent had no idea which way to go, but Rolath seemed to have a destination in mind. He charged into a wooden door and it shattered. Here there were rows and rows of furs. Maricent lifted one in his bee-coated glowing hands. It was another snow bear. He examined another and it was a dreugh skin. He began sorting through them, looking for some costume that might help them escape. And then he found one.

His hands slid under a smooth, pale, hairless skin. It was an Altmer. A young Altmer man, tall, and, to the extent it could be seen in its floppy state, a handsome and mischievous one. He began trying to get into the costume, as disturbing as it was. His hands couldn’t reach the back to tie it on, but as soon as he slipped his bark-encrusted hands into the costume’s hands, they were nimble once again. He reached back and pulled the suit tight. It fit him like a glove, only now he was sure he was a foot taller than he was as a spriggan.

“Well, that’s better,” he said in a clear, regal voice. He looked for Rolath and saw he was having trouble finding a suit. “We can’t tarry here,” he said, and began looking for another suitable costume. Rolath came up to him with the skin of a Breton woman in his mouth. Maricent took it and lifted it up. It was the skin of the witch, Yvane.

“Are you sure?” Maricent asked the bear. “I’ve known many women, and the grass isn’t greener.” The bear didn’t seem to understand. “We might not have the chance to pick another suit or reverse the spell,” he said. “Are you sure you want to be a woman the rest of the your life? One with a dire reputation?”

The bear shook his head and kept looking. They soon found another Altmer man, and Maricent helped Rolath put the skin on. Somehow it stretched to fit, and then Rolath was no longer a bear, but an Altmer. He stood there naturally as if he always had been an Altmer.

“How did you know this room was here?” Maricent asked.

“I saw the guards take the costumes away when they moved me to the other cage,” Rolath said. “I saw the whole row of suits and thought maybe we could become Dremora or something. Something that could fight our way out.”

“I doubt the two of us can fight out way out, but if we find some clothes, we can bluff.”

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