16 Last Seed
Whatever my reason for being here, the circumstances of my arrival has certainly lent me no small amount of curiosity and excitement. I was woken before the sun rose by one of the Knight Protectors, who cautioned me against excessive (meaning more than none) questions and bade me make no noise, as I was to follow this man to the docks. "This man" turned out to be a hooded and cloaked figure sulking near one of the Argonian's cots, apparently not minding Keel-Lee's tail smacking him as she slept. The Auxiliaries certainly do pick from a large garden, as I once overheard and Keel-Lee's tail was a menace while she was sleeping. We even tried tying it to a nearby post, but she didn't take kindly to that when she had woken up.
The Knight Protector, whose name I never got, just about shoved me out the door after the mysterious figure and escorted us both to the docks. I confess to a slight feeling of disappointment at leaving, I never had true friends, but the Auxiliaries I shared the barracks with were well-known to me as mostly decent folk and I hope fortune finds them, where ever end up.
I was brought to a vessel typical of the small-time Imperial traders and given a sack of clothes only marginally more comfortable than the sack. The cloaked man declared that for the duration of the journey I was a convicted thief, a prisoner aboard the ship destined to be dumped at Morrowind. The clothes itched, but not nearly as much as the excitement I felt for my first "real" assignment. I held the thousands of questions I had and boarded the ship. The crew were oddly absent and I wound up never seeing them until well into the voyage.
The crew were apparently not privy to my now-secret identity and I spent most of the voyage in a cramped storage closet nestled in the back of the ship alongside a Dunmer who called himself Jiub. Like the few Dunmer I've known, he was a quiet, humorless sort, though polite and of no trouble to me. In fact, other than some very vivid dreams, likely due to seasickness or the poor food, the voyage was uneventful and very boring.
I was in the midst of one of the most vivid dreams, images of flames and horrible, mutated creatures swam before me as a voice seemed to dictate my fate. I thought the beef last night had tasted a bit off, but I trusted my Khajiit constitution to deal with it. Fortunately, a restless sleep was the only side effect of my last meal aboard the ship.
Jiub shook me awake, pointing out that the ship was stopped and for the first time, asked my name. I truthfully gave it, as I doubt he would have had any connection to the Auxiliary Legion back in Cyrodiil. I would have spoken with him at further length, but the thudding of the sailors' heavy boots marched purposely above us and I was brusquely escorted out of the ship and before a bored-looking Legionnaire. He welcomed me to Seyda Neen and asked me where I was from before escorting me down the dock to a building bearing the insignia of the Imperial Census & Excise office. I never did find out why Jiub was on that ship or where he was going.
Inside the office an older man greeted me, managing to sound bored and nervous simultaneously, as if he were tired of the process, but had never seen a Khajiit in his office before. For whatever purpose, he asked me my profession and I semi-honestly gave it as a freelance scout, which could mean anything, I suppose. True to Imperial form with their constant cataloging and organization, my answers granted me an official census record, which I was given only to pass it along to a Knight Errant of the Imperial Legion, Sellus Gravius, in an adjacent building.
I did not see the purpose of this until I gave the Knight Errant my "census record", which he observed minutely for several minutes, despite there only being my name, race, and stated profession written on it. He must have found what he was looking for, since his statue changed from bored to quite respectful towards me, which certainly struck me as odd. He handed me 87 Imperial septims and a wrapped package, with instructions to seek out a Caius Cosades in the nearby town of Balmora for my assignment. Feeling a bit giddy at my real assignment having begun, I thanked the Knight and stepped outside, my first steps on to the soil of Morrowind.
The stench of rotting vegetation hit me like an Orc to the face. I'm not sure how I managed to not smell it when I left the ship, but the thick, foul smell was nearly overwhelming, at least for a Khajiit. While I was experimenting with tiny sips of air, a Bosmer approached me, wringing his hands and stammering if I had found a ring of his in the Census office. I had, on a barrel I passed on the way to the Knight Errant, and I handed it to the distraught elf without a second thought. He sputtered his thanks and mentioned something about a guard, but I was too busy battling against the smell and my own excitement at finally being on my own.
My nose got used to the smell mercifully quickly and I spent a few moments trying to make small talk with one of the guards patrolling the village. He was a lot more brusque than I had expected, but this was Morrowind, after all, the tail end of the Empire. He suggested I go to the village of Gnisis if I was interested in joining the Imperial Legion. I guess it is worth thinking about, but I'm not sure if an Auxiliary makes for a good fit in the actual Legion. The guard also mentioned that he had a son stationed on the island of Solstheim, which I don't know much about. He said it's a frozen wasteland, certainly not a place for the Khajiit.
I thanked him for his time, which seemed to surprise him, and entered the Tradehouse to see what equipment my meager allowance would allow me. Surprisingly, the tradehouse had a wide selection at reasonable prices. Unfortunately, "reasonable" doesn't mean "cheap", so I bought myself a small steel stabbing sword and saved the rest of my money.
The proprietor of the tradehouse, Arrille, remarked that most of his customers bought the herbs and crab meat. When I replied that I had adventures in mind, he laughed and recommended I try taking care of some nearby smugglers. The directions to their cave were simple and I felt that a few smugglers would be no match for an experienced Auxiliary. Granted, thinking of myself as experienced might have been to quench my fear, but I did have a few run-ins with bandits lurking in Cyrodiil and while most fled when confronted by a group of Auxiliaries, we also dealt with larger groups of bandits who thought us easy marks. I'm no neophyte at combat, but this was the first time I was doing it alone.
I need not have worried. I startled a young Dunmer woman as soon as I entered the cave and she charged at me while brandishing a dagger that looked like it was made from bone. Having someone furiously trying to kill you tends to dispel one's hesitations and doubts. She fell quickly and I swapped my clothes for hers, they were of a far more comfortable material than mine. I figured the blood would either wash out or it wouldn't.
The woman must have been the early warning, the key on her body unlocked the gate she was guarding. Two Dunmer were arguing in a cavern further down, one of them in a robe, perhaps a mage, the other in a crude-looking suit of leather. I was surprised that they hadn't heard their comrade's last moments, but the argument was loud and furiously animated, which must have drowned out the melee. It also sealed their fate. With no inclination that anything was wrong, I was able to creep down the rickety stairs and drive my sword through the back of the mage's neck. He died quickly, but not quietly, and a disc of some sharp material whizzed past my head as the mage rattled his last breath. The second Dunmer threw another one of the discs at me and I ran back up the stairs, several discs shattering against the cavern walls. Her inability to hit me was probably due to nerves, but when she ran out of discs, she foolishly drew the same type of dagger the first woman had and met a similar end. I found a few discs that hadn't broken and tried throwing them myself. I managed to throw one out of five accurately, but their light weight and fragility ensured they were just about useless.
I spent several minutes hiding behind some crates, waiting to see if anyone else was lurking about, but no one else was around. In about fifteen minutes I had wiped out a cave of smugglers that had been holed up a mere thirty yards from a garrisoned Imperial village. I searched the bodies for valuables, but they together only came up with a few Septims. What they were smuggling turned out to be far more lucrative.
The first crate I pried open with one of their daggers yielded clothing, none of it particularly valuable looking, but I did exchange my somewhat bloodied shirt for a clean shirt. The second crate seemed to be of an agricultural nature, but a sack in the corner caught my eye and wound up containing the bane of the Khajiit: moon sugar.
Now I have never had any moon sugar or skooma and no desire to, but the stuff was very valuable and illegal in Cyrodiil and I have no reason to suspect otherwise in Morrowind. I transferred the moon sugar to the bottom of the clothing crate, as well as the bottles of skooma I found later on. A part of me wants to forget about the stuff, not deal in substances so harmful to my people, but the cold, practical side is aware of how much money some would pay. For now, the sugar and the skooma remain in the cavern of Seyda Neen.
I pried open the remaining crates further into the cavern, breaking the bone dagger on the last crate. The results were disappointing, mostly food items and trinkets of little value, but one crate did contain an Imperial halberd, which I have some cursory training in. The Auxiliaries are trained in spear, sword, and bow, but the spear training was cursory and the truly effective training with the bow was given only to a selected few, of which I was not one. Still, I felt confident after a few practice swings and thrusts and rigged a very uncomfortable strap for it using a belt from one of the other crates.
I continued down a corridor branching away from the disappointing "treasure", but it ended at water and that was the end of that. I'm not getting into any water unless I absolutely have to.
On my way back out, a voice called to me from further up the stairs by the gate and I warily crept up the ladder. I was shocked at what I found, but shouldn't have been. The small upper level housed a cage, in which two Khajiit and an Argonian were kept. I immediately unlocked the cage, though thinking about it now, I realize I shouldn't have, but I was greeted with nothing but gratitude and urgent requests to unlock the shackles each of them had attached. I was told the shackles were enchanted to sap the wearer of energy, a tool slavers used to keep the enslaved in line. Baardago, the Khajiit who had risked calling me, explained that the slavery problem was severe on Morrowind and tried to convince me to leave Morrowind for my own safety. I refused, of course, and when I asked him of their intentions, he replied that he was merely grateful for the chance to even have intentions. A fair point, I suppose. He said they were going to stay in the cave for a few days to recover their strength before trying to get to one of the larger cities of Morrowind, at which point they'd try to head back to their homes. I haven't returned to the cave yet, but I hope they aren't taking up the previous occupants' professions instead.
I sold some of the trinkets at the Tradehouse and Arrille offered me a good deal for the halberd, which I took, exchanging the steel halberd for an iron Imperial spear and some septims. The training we received as Auxiliaries was with simpler spears and while I could have used the halberd, the axe head kept throwing off my balance and the weapon was simply too unwieldy for me. The spear was much lighter and more familiar to me, so I judged it a more effective weapon. Arrille thought it unlikely that I would run into bandits on my way into Balmora, so I passed on the second-hand armor he was peddling.
As I was leaving, Arrille recommended I stop at the garrison town of Pelagiad, which lays halfway between Seyda Neen and Balmora. I obviously took his advice, as I am now writing this while in the Halfway Tavern, but the my journey to Pelagiad was just as uneventful as Arrille assured me it would be. I find it hard to believe that just this morning I was being escorted off an Imperial prison ship. Tomorrow I will resume my journey to Balmora and hopefully find out more about my assignment.