The Translated Works of Tosmorn

Author: Vateshran Tosmorn, Xandier Edette (translator)
Released In:

The Translated Works of Tosmorn, I

Editor’s Note
Xandier Edette’s book, The Translated Works of Tosmorn, has proven to be controversial since it was published posthumously nearly two decades ago.

Taken at his word, Edette spent his life combing the lands of the Reach in search of rare artifacts. In the course of this search, he claims to have discovered ancient Reachfolk manuscripts. These manuscripts, which Edette insisted were written in a now-dead script from a time when the Reach culture was at its apex, contained a cycle of epic poems, composed by the legendary vateshran, Tosmorn.

Edette spent decades translating these manuscripts into the modern tongue. His results are incomplete, which Edette contributed to the advanced deterioration of the manuscripts and his own imperfect knowledge of the script he sought to translate. He died shortly after completing his work and selling the manuscript for publication.

Almost immediately after their release, scholars decried the poems as fakes and Edette’s story as a fabrication. Most point to the fact that Reachfolk of today are a people with only an oral tradition, and nothing in the historical record suggests they ever used any sort of writing in the past. Other opponents of Edette’s narrative claim the Reachfolk are incapable of the level of artistic expression attributed to Tosmorn. This argument is facile, and often made by academics with no experience of the Reach or its vateshrans (lore keepers).

In opposition to those that cry forgery are those that extol Edette’s work for bringing attention to the under-appreciated genius of Vateshran Tosmorn. In particular, they appreciate the fluidity, evocativeness, and rustic purity of the poetic fragments—a far cry from the rigid poetic forms of the Bretons and Imperials. They also point out that lost arts are not a rarity in Tamriel’s historical record. Thus, Edette’s claim of a lost Reach script is hardly an upheaval, especially when considering how little academic research has been devoted to the culture of Reachfolk in comparison to the other peoples of Tamriel.

Both sides bemoan the lack of the one thing that could definitively prove or disprove Edette’s claims: the manuscripts he claims to have found and translated. Those who knew him in life said Edette was a reclusive and lonely soul, often isolating himself to wilderness camps for long stretches of the year while conducting his research and working on his translations. He was thought to have dozens of campsites throughout the Reach, though only a handful of these have been located by enterprising scholars, hopeful to rediscover Edette’s manuscripts. Opponents of Edette claim the reason the manuscripts are absent is because they never existed in the first place. Proponents of Edette posit the manuscripts, already decomposing when they were discovered, have likely rotted into nothingness.

And so the matter stands, trapped upon a knife’s edge, caught between doubt and adulation. The years I have spent poring over the poetical fragments have offered me no answers. And so I invite you, dear reader, to read for yourself and wonder if what follows are our only window into the works of the acclaimed Reach vateshran, Tosmorn, or nothing but an elaborate forgery.

Vanesse Aurilie
5 Morning Star, 2E 322

The Translated Works of Tosmorn, II

First Fragment

[Editor’s Note: The first of Xandier Edette’s translated poetic fragments features a dialogue from a larger piece which has since been lost. Edette’s own preface, below, suggests that this was from a work early in Tosmorn’s career as a vateshran (lore keeper) and is part of an epic tragedy, “The Love of Isolen.”]

Translator Xandier Edette’s Preface

Below I provide the first of several fragments that I recovered while searching among the remains of an abandoned Reach hunting camp. The hides on which these words were scratched had become well-dampened from the snowmelt, and the sunlight of the thaw had only accelerated the lamentable decay. As such, only part of Vateshran Tosmorn’s text was legible enough to be translated. These have been arranged into verse to appeal to a modern reader’s sensibility, though this is an artificial construction. No such form was given to the script as originally scratched into the hide.

What follows is an exchange taken from what I have determined to be the first of Tosmorn’s attempts at epic tragedy: The Love of Isolen. Glynin, a hoary old warrior, learns of the death of his beloved daughter Isolen. His mourning is curtailed by the arrival of Vartorn, Isolen’s lover—and the only son of Glynin’s hated rival, the Reach witch Devera.

* * *

My daughter Isolen was the fair wind
With hounds baying at her heels
She coursed through hill and dale
Both hart and hind would fall
When her bow-string sang

The air hangs heavy in the glen now
The brook in the copse runs silent
The birds refuse to sing
For Isolen hunts no more

Isolen was my love, old Glynin
Once, the trees of these hills
Were young and green
Isolen and I walked among them
Alone in the wild and the mist
Of the deep ravines

We shared words of promise
And made rings of birch-twigs
My heart lies below in the cairn-stones
I will embrace no other no more

Vartorn, blood of my foe
The lowly worm, Witch Devera
I will not mourn with one such as you

Go now from the holdings of my clan
Go back to the pits and the dark
Of your mother’s forsaken halls
My hand is heavy from grief
But my flint’s edge will draw your blood

It is the hour of Isolen’s death
The words you speak to me
Are as black as my love’s shroud
I long for the comfort of the fire
The mist has chilled my bones

My hands are raw from picking stones
For my dead love’s cairn
I seek no embrace of you, Glynin
I know your hatred of my kin
I wish you knew my love of yours

The blade is all I will give you, Devera-spawn
You must know Isolen was my kindness
With her gone, all I have
Is rage and fear and sorrow

I gave you a warning, made in good faith
Look now, the flint I draw
Seeks the warmth of your flesh and blood
Will you give it shelter?

Glynin, the clans will learn of this deed
I am felled!
From the wound pours blood that stains the ground
As this act stains your soul
My spirit is ready to walk beside my dear Isolen
In a glade where you cannot follow
Free from cold mists, free from your cruel self
As I pass on, tell Devera
A mother must weep for her slain son

The Translated Works of Tosmorn, III

Second Fragment

[Editor’s Note: The second of Xandier Edette’s translated poetic fragments will likely appear familiar to scholars and enthusiasts of vateshran performances. Gwyna, Chief Rowolan, the demigoddess Dearola, and the Horn-Stride Clan frequently appear in oral tales, though their depictions vary wildly from work to work, as Edette notes. As a point of fact, Edette leans on Vateshran Tosmorn’s clout and reputation to suggest what follows is the definitive portrayal of these classic characters.]

Translator Xandier Edette’s Preface

The Song of Gwyna can still be heard today, if a vateshran finds themselves besides a fire on a cold spring evening. In translating and recording Tosmorn’s version of the song, I was surprised to find this arrangement of the popular subjects within. In his telling of the song, Gwyna is kindred to Chief Rowolan and his clan, and not a hunter of the Horn-Stride clan. As in modern depictions, Rowolan’s near-mythical prowess in battle is attributed to his descent from the demigoddess Dearola, herself a child of Hircine.

Frustratingly, the manuscripts I collected fail to explain the action that precipitated Rowolan’s fall to the Horn-Stride. A vateshran of Tosmorn’s status would undoubtedly be able to settle if it was treachery on the part of Rowolan’s seventh daughter (a particularly popular variant I’ve heard), or his failure to observe the omen of the white hart (another popular variant), or from some hitherto unproposed cause.

* * *
Once this was a quiet wood
Now it echoes with dirges
I can hear the sound of mattocks
Raking earth away to make
A home for our solemn dead

The battle is over and won
The Horn-Stride clan is gone
Banished to the dark below the crag

We have sung our victory
We have shouted our strength
We have whispered our sorrow

Now the bodies of my clan
Are planted in the soil here
What will grow from them?
Nothing but tales of glory
The earth will remain barren
We will keep it so

And when we clear flower and grass
We will recount the names of those
That died for the sake of our clan

Chief Rowolan lies dead
Arrow-blinded, breath stilled within
His sons and daughters all around him
As leaves around a mighty oak

The massive bough is now fallen
The leaves are fallen with him
So ends the line of Rowolan
His was the blood of Dearola
Daughter of Hircine

The Horn-Stride was beaten back
But our heart was cut from us
We smile to one another in victory
The season will pass on to winter
And by next spring we will be gone
As fog in the light of day

We must strike with speed
Before the strength leaves our clan
Others will learn of Rowolan’s death
And the crows will gather

Before our bones are clean
We must strike at the City of Stone
And the king below the rock

I go now to the witchmen
In the copse of rotted yew
Their draughts are bitter
They rot us from inside
But we must take this poison, kin
To stand against Markarth’s arrows

There will be no graves dug for us
For if we take the stone walls
We will not live to hold them

We seek no spoils from Markarth
Rowolan sought to kill a king
And free a people
His cause is ours

We will burn our blood with witchman’s fire
And overrun the city

We will storm the keep below the stone
And dash the crown upon the floor

We will rake the throat of the king
With sharpened flint and hunter’s claws

We will die, but will not care
Rowolan’s dream will be done
The clan I love is doomed
This season or the next
It ought not die alone

The Translated Works of Tosmorn, IV

Third Fragment

[Editor’s Note: The third of Xandier Edette’s translated poetic fragments covers what has grown to be the most enduring of the Reach’s legends — that of Red Eagle. As indicated in his preface, Edette finds this fragment bereft of pride — a staple of Red Eagle stories — and adopts an almost elegiac tone. — V.A.]

Translator Xandier Edette’s Preface

Red Eagle. His deeds of rebellion and resistance during Empress Hestra’s conquest of the Reach inspired generations of vateshrans, in addition to bards and raconteurs from beyond the Reach’s harsh lands. It should be no surprise to find that Tosmorn also chronicled the life and death of the Reachfolk’s greatest hero.

I was fortunate to find a fragment of this particular epic. After I secured safe passage into the holdings of the Thornroot, a coven of otherwise extremely reclusive witches, I happened upon a collection of curios and ephemera that included a most ancient headdress. Within the band I found a tightly rolled piece of yearling hide, and scratched upon its surface the familiar name “Faolan” — as Red Eagle is known in his native tongue.

The text of the fragment focuses exclusively on the aftermath of Faolan’s final battle with Empress Hestra’s legion. Contrary to the tone of more widely told works, Tosmorn instead regales us with a mournful, lingering verse (such as it can be called). The absence of the uplifting call for Red Eagle’s eventual return leads the reader to speculate: could the revival of Red Eagle and the call for freedom in the Reach be the invention of later vateshrans? It will be a mystery for the ages, one of thousands in this craggy land.

* * *
The Death of Faolan

The weeping ones bear him up the crag
Red Eagle, so called at birth
In death, red from a hundred wounds

The light of the rising sun shows the world
The carpet of the dead
And the souls of a thousand are weighed against
A son of the Reach

The witch-men come with pots of ash and resin
To meet the weeping bearers
And Faolan is laid down

The chieftains weep to see him
Riven to nothing
The ashes are scattered to lay upon his frame
But it will not settle
It pools upon the stone below Faolan

On him it finds no purchase.
Hushed whispers bound across the hall
All heads lowered

The Hag comes now to claim her due
Her crow, in vanguard, laughs to see the witch-men
Their ash and resin useless
She takes the staff of yew and brings it down
Upon Faolan’s breast

The ichor within bursts forth, a black blood
And she takes the fruit of her desire
Seeded in Faolan’s chest

A hundred hands draw flint, nock arrows
All lose heart, the Hag’s laugh festers at the soul
As death surrounds her
A thousand crows take flight beneath her cowl
And she is gone

She is beyond the spear, the sword, the bow
No witch-man would cross her
For Faolan bade her aid him in his fight
She claimed her due

The weepers carry Faolan down
Into the mountain’s heart
He is laid bare for the last time
In sleepless rest, the stone is sealed
Wax is poured and flints are shattered

Here Faolan lies dead

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