The Menagrie, V. VII


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Their escape had been noticed. Guards patrolled the halls. Maricent and Rolath were lucky. They managed to hear the patrols and duck into a doorway or down another hall whenever one passed. Oddly, Maricent’s Altmer body seemed to come with a knowledge of the Altmer language, for Maricent found he could understand snippets of speech as the patrols passed by them. Releasing the wisp seemed to be working as a distraction.

They got even luckier when they saw a couple of Altmer messing about with some crystal on a pedestal. They were totally engrossed in whatever spells they were casting on it. “Let’s sneak up and knock them out,” Rolath said.

“Can you find us a stick or a rock?” Maricent whispered. “I don’t think I can knock them out with my hands.”

They looked around the room and found a pair of fancy scepters. They snuck up, not all that sneakily, and with a 1-2-3-nod to each other, bonked both the Altmer on their heads. Rolath’s went down at once. Maricent’s needed a couple more vigorous bonks. They took the Altmer’s robes and shoes.

“Now we have a good chance,” Maricent said. “We just need to find the way out. If we go back to my cage, I think I remember the general way we came in.”

They left together, walking briskly, as if in a hurry to get somewhere. A few patrols went by them, but didn’t give them more than a passing glance. A few bowed to them quickly, which struck Maricent as odd. When they got near their old cells, Maricent asked if they shouldn’t try and rescue the bears now.

“No, Andre’s too scared of his family and Clarisse. And Esmoran likes being a bear. ‘Lying in the snow, dancing for the dumb nobles, all the fish I can eat, what a life.'”

“He said all that? As a bear?”

“He was easier to understand the first few days.”

Maricent’s memory was mostly correct and they soon found themselves leaving the Crystal Tower. There were guards at the gate, but when they saw Maricent and Rolath coming out, the guards bowed low and made a sort of salute. Maricent wasn’t sure if there was a proper response, so he kept his head high and just walked on out into Summerset.

Now they needed to get back to Firsthold and find a ship home. Their luck held. Before sunset they came across a caravan camped for the night. The elf in charge of the caravan said, “Halt! State your bus—oh, I’m sorry good sirs.” The elf bowed low. “Voryon at your service. What can I do for you?”

Maricent, about to get ready to try and fight or steal some food and run, took the cue. “We must travel with your caravan. Are you heading to Firsthold?”

“Yes, yes, we are. Is this…is this Thalmor business?”

“It is,” Maricent said, daring the elf to question him further.

“Then my caravan is at your service,” Voryon said. “You may ride in the first carriage. No, I insist. Please. I can walk. It will do me good. We can head to Firsthold in the morning. Or we can travel all night if you need to get there right away. Do you need some refreshment? We have—”

“Yes, yes,” said Maricent with a wave. “Bring us some food and wine. We are not in such a hurry that we must ride day and night.”

Voryon bowed three times and soon returned with food and wine. Maricent had to warn Rolath a few times under his breath not to scarf the stuff down. “We’re elves now,” he said. “Some kind of bigwig elves, and we need to act the part. Just follow my lead. I’ll be Volarimon, after the famous actor. Why don’t you be, hm, Nandithil from now on. Tomorrow in the carriage, we can practice.”

Soon they were in Firsthold and acquiring passage on a ship was trivial, as Maricent just had to say, “Thalmor business” and everyone jumped to do what he asked. He was tempted to stay and bluff his way around Summerset, but realized he’d be discovered sooner rather than later.

The ship sailed for Daggerfall, which suited Maricent just fine. When they arrived, Maricent convinced Rolath to stick with him for awhile, and they both went to the local Mages Guild. Maricent introduced himself as Volarimon and made up a story about being raised in High Rock and always being curious if he had the Altmer talent for magic. As it turned out, he and Nandithil were now both gifted enough in their Altmer suits that they were both entered as apprentices that very day.

After a miserable year of apprenticeship, Nandithil was sick of it. He left the Guild, on somewhat mixed terms. He soon discovered that, due to an unfortunate flaw in their character, there were many Breton women that would open their doors to a handsome elf. Not to mention their arms and legs. Nandithil led an outwardly happy and inwardly empty life until a Duke with more septims than sagacity hired the Dark Brotherhood to remove him and win back his mistress. Nandithil was removed, but the mistress was unmoved.

Volarimon studied another two years until he learned everything he needed to continue his career. He left the Mages Guild on good terms and went to the best theater in Daggerfall. He tried out for the leading role in the brand new Ghost of Lysandus.

“Ah, I can see you studied the part well,” the director said after Volarimon read it blind, “but we already have someone to play Lysandus. An experienced and reliable actor. I’d offer you the part of Lord Bridwell, but we can’t afford the Guild fees to make a high elf look the part. Maybe you could try out for our next play.”

“Will this do?” Volarimon asked, casting a simple illusion on himself.

“Why…why yes,” the director said. “You look the very image of Lord Bridwell. Can you do that a few times a night?”

“I can disguise your entire troop if required,” said Volarimon haughtily.

“Why, that would save four hundred drakes a week on costume fees! If you can do Bridwell half as well as you read Lysandus, you’re hired!”

Three years later everyone knew Volarimon the Great, Volarimon Gold-Tongue, Volarimon the Master of Illusion. His minor study of magic helped him subtly remove the most jealous of his rivals, and he managed to stay in the good graces of the Actors Guild and the Bards College.

Publisher’s Note for the Second Edition: The Volarimon presented in this book is fictional and not based on any Volarimon currently performing in High Rock, nor are the totally fictional characters based on Volarimon the Great of the early Third Era or Maricent the Great of more recent times. Any resemblance to any real Volarimon or Maricent is purely coincidental and the author and publisher insist that no intent to defame should be inferred. The animals in the famous menagerie of the Crystal Tower are real animals, not actors in suits, magical or otherwise. As everyone knows, the kind of suits presented in this work of fiction are magically impossible and cannot exist. All animals in the menagerie were captured by the great bravery of Altmer hunters and kept happy and in secure captivity by the wondrous talents of Summerset’s beast keepers. Rascien Wickersly hereby swears this story is entirely fictitious and not a minor embellishment of a tale told by a certain actor (absolutely not Volarimon) when he was drunk in the Unsteady Crab in Northpoint.

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