Ulfsild’s Logs

Ulfsild’s Log: The Dragon

I’ve never had a mind for riddles. But there’s something about them, isn’t there? Something that pricks the ears, even to those like me. An irresistible allure to find that hidden meaning.

That’s what I grappled with after hearing the fable of Mizbi. It was told to me by a moon-singer among a band of nomads we met when traveling through the jungles of Malabal Tor. Just listening, I knew there was a layer deeper than the riddles in the story. I could almost see it! If only I had it committed to page somehow. I’d pore over the words until the solution took shape before me.

When we stopped that night, it was hot and humid, even for those unaccustomed to the climate. A Nord like me would have lost sleep even had I not been thinking of Mizbi and her Dragon. Their riddles. I left Shal’s snores to our tent and wandered, hoping to find the nomad who told the story. Perhaps I could catch her early, and she’d tell it to me again.

But the only one I found awake in those small hours was gazing up at the stars—a springy little Cathay Khajiit, so young his stripes had only just started to come in. I settled across from him at the fire-pit, which must have died hours ago. “Shouldn’t you be asleep, young one?”

He kept his eyes lofty and told me he liked to watch the stars move across the sky. I asked him if he had a favorite star or sign, and he grew shy, hiding his face. “I wonder if she sees me!”

“Who?” I looked up, as if I might catch whoever he was talking about staring down at us.

“She’s not there now,” he said. “Under the thunder of galloping hooves, she raises her gaze twice nightly to wink at me.”

A riddle? How fitting. And a child’s riddle, so I actually stood a chance of solving it. Galloping hooves—the Steed. Twice nightly? “The Twilight Star? Azura?”

“Azurah,” he repeated. He put a hand on his chest and sighed a dreamy sigh. Only then did he really seem to notice me. He sat up. “You’re that witch!” he said with reverence. The other nomads must have spoken of our passing through. “Can we trade?” He skittered over and pressed something heavy into my palm. It was a lustrous piece of well-polished moonstone the size of a winter plum.

“Trade for what?”

“That feather!” he said, pointing at my hat.

Oh. That feather. I was quite reluctant to part with it, and said as much, to his dismay.

He closed my hand over the moonstone again. “But the trade,” he said, like we’d already agreed to it.

“The feather is very dear to me. I’ve had it since I was as small as you!”

And perhaps it was the curious look in those big, blue eyes, but I found myself telling him the fable of the Indrik. Which bled into my story of finding the Indrik, both when I was a child, and then when I was grown. And when I tried to press the moonstone back into his hand, he refused to take it.

“A fair trade for your stories,” he said, like I’d won some sort of game we’d been playing.

I looked down at the moonstone. “I can trade this for a story?”

“A story. A song. A feather. Anything within reason,” he said. Maybe it was a child’s understanding of trading and commerce, but if he found it fair, then so did I.

“Do you know the tale of Mizbi and her Dragon?”

“That old story? Who doesn’t?”

I didn’t. Not by heart, like he and the other nomads must. Not yet, anyway. I caught his wrist and pressed the moonstone into his fuzzy little palm. “Then tell it to me,” I said, reaching for a quill, ink, and parchment. “And tell it slow. It’s my turn to find that Dragon.”

Ulfsild’s Log: The Gryphon and the Fox

Strange how a memory can be linked so intrinsically to a smell. How a stray scent of jazbay can take me back to when I was little.

When the winter months approached, and the air began to chill, my clan-mother would bake tarts from stunted wheat and berries deemed too bruised or over-ripe. A sweet treat, if chewy and dry, but the young ones, myself included, savored every bite. The tarts were a good sign. That we had plenty stored for winter and needn’t be precious with scraps.

One winter, I was tasked with taking a basket of these treats to an elder. It was a hike uphill, and the air was sharp against my cheeks. The basket sat heavy in my arms as my breath billowed out in front of me. I must’ve stopped for a rest, with smoke from the elder’s hut one last stretch away, when I heard a soft, weak little bark.

Across the road, peaking from beneath a shrub, was a little fox. It seemed so small to me. I thought it was a baby, lost out in the cold, hungry. I reached into the basket and offered it a tart, breaking it into pieces and tossing them its way.

It flinched, nearly ran, but I saw its little nose twitch, no doubt catching the tart’s scent. It nervously ate the first and seemed, to my child eyes, that it savored it. It devoured the rest of the pieces in a flash. It was then that I noticed the scars. Thin lines around its ankles, small cuts along its coat. How many traps had it wriggled itself out of? How many of those traps had I laid myself?

It was then, while my mind wandered, that the fox leapt for my basket, deftly grabbing its handle tight with its teeth and bolting into the woods.

I was stunned, convinced that I’d been tricked. This was no weak, sad creature, but a mischievous thief. I chased after it as quick as I could. Dodging branches and bushes and thick drifts of snow until I tumbled down a riverbank and landed facing a hollowed-out tree trunk.

Inside was my thief among a litter of pups and its thin mother who bared her teeth at me.

I raised my palms to her and slowly lifted myself from the ground, careful to inch myself away from the trunk, from her babies. She relaxed, and so did I. I watched as she tended to her little ones, breaking the tarts down with her paws so they could eat small bites.

I don’t know how long I watched, but I remember how her ears perked when my clan-mother came barreling through the underbrush, red and scared. She thought I’d been taken by some beast, having never reached the elder’s hut. She was angry when I shushed her. “You’re going to scare the babies,” I said, to which she bared her teeth and barked scolding remarks.

How strange it was to realize I had a fox mother of my own.

It’s this memory that comes to me as I find myself on my hands and knees, following the scent of jazbay through the stacks of the Scholarium, praying that Shal doesn’t walk in and see me. It was as I rounded a particularly dusty stack of books on Quadriva Arithmetia, that I saw the strangest thing. A fox, front paws perched up onto my desk, its nose nudging a small piece of faerite I used as a paperweight.

All at once I was a child again, slowly lifting myself up from the ground, hands in the air as to not startle it. It looked at me, cocked its head to the side, and smiled. Suddenly it took the faerite into its mouth and darted through the stacks.

I wonder if it still would’ve ran had it known I was practiced at fox chasing. Had it known I could glide across the stone floors as if it were ice. That I knew every twisting corner and uneven cobblestone. Perhaps it was the smell of jazbay that gave the whole ordeal a sense of childlike bliss.

I nearly had the fox, my fingers just barely grazing the tip of its tale, when it leapt at and through a wall. It was so sudden, so jarring, that I didn’t have time to course correct. I braced myself, expecting fully that I would crash into the wall, when, miraculously, I went through it instead.

I tumbled into a snow drift and sank deep enough that I had lost all sense of up and down. I squirmed, trying to right myself, when I felt something grip my leg and tug me loose. Free from the snow, I became aware of powerful wing beats and a flurry of ice and feathers. A gryphon.

It dropped me, rather unceremoniously, and stretched out its wings until they obscured the entirety of the sky. It was pounding its claws into the ground, readying to charge, when the fox appeared between its legs, nuzzling the gryphon for attention.

The little thief offered the gryphon my faerite, to which the gryphon relaxed and looked at me apologetically.

I understood then what they were. A mischievous fox and their protective parent. I sat and watched as the fox kicked my faerite around and, I don’t know when it happened, but I awoke wrapped in the gryphon’s wings. Warm and safe.

Ulfsild’s Log: The Indrik

The first time I saw an indrik was not the first time I’d seen an indrik, but I didn’t know it at the time. The chance encounter from my childhood had faded like ink in water until a single moment with Shalidor, pointing out a mother and fawn atop a cliff at sunrise in Auridon. I had, in fact, seen this sort of creature before, and the memory came back with such clarity as if it was scrawled anew from a fresh well of ink.

When I was small, my clan-parents would send me to toddle off and collect scraps of mammoth wool where it had fallen or caught on brambles. They used it to spin a rough sort of yarn, the smell of which I’ll never miss and never forget. I didn’t mind the work, but I liked the excuse to wander on my own, far from wherever we took up residence and called home.

One day in late spring, I found a herd of mammoths gathered by the river, which ran cold from snowmelt in the valley. They drank deep of its waters, shedding tufts of their undercoat in the warm sunshine. This was my chance to bring home a bounty of wool for spinning, I thought. I crept through the tall grass until I was in arm’s reach of a mammoth’s hindquarters, then pulled fistfuls of wool from their tree-like legs, squirreling it away in my satchel like a nesting bird. It was all going perfectly, until a calf spotted me and gave a trumpeting squeak of surprise. I tried to run as the herd began to thunder, working to trample the little interloper among their herd. But I was powerless to escape.

The ground shook beneath my feet and I fell forward. Instead of hitting the dirt, my face went deep into pelt or plumage, I couldn’t tell which. Thinking at first it was a trunk, I squeezed my eyes shut and held fast, hoping to be lifted or flung to safety. But as we bumped along, I realized I was on the back of something that galloped. We were on one side of the river, and in a blink and a flash of magic, we were on the other. As the creature—my savior—slowed to a canter, I shakily made to slip off its back.

I only caught a glimpse of its four-legged figure as it gave a strange bark and disappeared. An antlered thing like an elk, but feathered like a bird. I ran back to my clan and told them the tale, but they just laughed at me. Silly little Ulfsild fell asleep in the woods again and had such a fanciful dream, they said. As I’d lost most of the wool from my satchel, they didn’t even look twice at the fledgling feather I held curled in my hand.

But I kept it thereafter. It was made of the same currents I saw in the world, wefts of magic ever-flowing as a river, ever-changing as the clouds. I would come to wear the feather in my cap, but I would forget all about the strange antlered thing until that moment with Shalidor.

I insisted we return to Sunhold, to the old scroll shop where I’d found a faded children’s fable about an indrik and a hunter. Like the twists of magic I could see in the world, somehow I knew there was more to it than others could discern. Directions left in plain sight. I wandered on my own again as I did when I was a girl. I puzzled out the locations and found the wards. It couldn’t be a coincidence, these fingerprints left in the world for me to follow.

I knew I was an impressive mage in my own right. Word of my deeds had spread and caught the attention of Shalidor, of all people. It was one thing to walk proud in my own domain, but at the side of someone almost a millennium my senior, I felt eager to prove my worth. Not to Shalidor—he never made me feel like anything less than his equal. I would never give him such power over me. But I wanted to prove it to myself.

When I broke the wards and trespassed into the indrik’s domain, I was no longer the scared little girl about to be flattened by a herd of mammoths. But the indrik recognized me all the same.

Now, Shalidor and I had made a pact never to bargain with otherworldly beings. I confess to these pages that I broke that pact when I met the Indrik. I took my cues from the fable, you see. When he asked to see a display of my power, I showed him the feather I had kept from our meeting all those years before. I offered that if he could retrieve it from me, I would give it back to him and leave his domain in peace. But if I could manage to keep it from him, he had to share his power and knowledge with me.

But you know how this tale ends. If you’re reading this, you stand in the Scholarium. As I write this, the indrik’s feather still stands proud in my hat. I proved my worth to myself and to the indrik without even needing to remove my cap.

Ulfsild’s Log: Your Discovery, My Farewell

I found the Luminaries, though I was not the first to do so. If you’re reading this, then I take comfort in the fact that I will not be the last.

May you find them as I found them, taking each step on that journey in your own measure. The shift in perspective needed to find them and earn their favor is as much a gift to you as the favor itself.

Create magic the likes of which the world has never seen before. Style your expressions of magic in exaltation or defiance of them.

I am fond of each of them in their own way. But then, I suppose my heart has always bent for immortal things, despite never wanting to be immortal myself. I learn from them as they learn from me, and I learn from myself.

I still don’t know what the Luminaries are. I know what I think they might be, and if you haven’t found my notes on that yet, I’m sure you will in due time.

I wish I could hear your theories, whoever you are. I wish Shalidor had shared in my fascination the Luminaries. I wish a lot of things.

This is not a wish. I put these words to page with faith that someday, someone will read them. Someone will find what I’ve lost. And they have. You’re reading this now, so it’s happened! Isn’t it lovely that despite the impermanence of people and parchment, these stories found some way to persist? All I did to leave behind a piece of myself—it wasn’t for nothing.

This is what I have to tell myself, anyway, as I make my final preparations. Say my final farewells. Everything is in place, and it still feels like not enough. I’ve

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