THE KHAJIITI THIEF AND THE FELINE HUNTER
Awake! For the Khajiiti Thief in the Bowl of Night
Has stole the stones that put the Stars to Flight
And Lo! The Feline Hunter has nimbly caught
The Empire’s Jewel in a Noose of Light*
*Poetry paraphrased from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
And K’thri-Dar returned to Seyda Neen down the long and weary coastal road that ran from Hla Oad. The hoarse wind blowing in from the west croaked a tale of a feline ghost hunting and violating the tombs along the moss bound trees and glowing fungi of the Bitter Coast swamp. And inside the warm glow of the Tradehouse lights the varied alchemical flora and fauna of the Bitter Coast were transmuted into hard currency bearing the stamped image of the Imperial Dragon: drakes, septims. The name might change but the medium was always gold.
“And now to proper business.” The voice was rich and indescribably feminine. It belonged to Lady Luck, and her perfume was of the stuff of dreams and desire that briefly permeated and overrode the odors of tradehouse goods, sweat and the ale and wine wafting down from the taproom upstairs.
“The Dragon’s Oracle and the schemes of the Emperor and his Courtiers have cast you a stony path my Pariah friend,” she said. “Your path now splits again. To stay and mine this ugly little cesspit of maritime commerce for rumors and whatever might be of value either in a monetary or other enrichment sense, or to move on to acquire the goods and equipment needed for endeavors of a more demanding nature. I sense in the winds of the exaltations of the Balance and the Scorpion that the chance of the first path is 30 percent (last two page number digits 1 to 30 in the novel she’s currently reading) and of the second 70 percent (digits 31 to 00).”
She takes the current novel she’s reading (Crossways by Jacey Bedford) and flips it open to the back half. The last two digits of the page number are 06, and so when she departs the visible spectrum, K’thri –Dar will assume a role to play in the village of Seyda Neen: ‘the Patron Saint of the Lone Wolf’, ‘the Undying Avenger of a Thousand Arms and Guises’, all these roles and more for when the Emperor and his court meddle in the affairs of the Gods and the Daedra, the Gods and the Daedra meddle back, and the great Pariah Spirit that shares the night sky with the Mother Moons leans back in the firmament and laughs the jovian laughter of the khajiiti people and the near divines.
And in Seyda Neen.
Rumors yes, there are many to be talked about and many characters, schemes, and quests: Dunmer, Colonist, and Imperial. They each have their part to play, and in the playing K’thri –Dar levels up to 9 by using his ‘gentler’ skills: Mercantile, Sneak, and Speechcraft.
One Dunmer, Tolvise Orthralen , speaks of a rumored submerged city up the Bitter Coast near a fishing village named Gnar Mok that might be worthy of an expedition.
An Imperial, a weasely legion guard named Hrisskar Flat-Foot is looking for someone else to do the work of finding a stash of ‘protection’ monies that couldn’t be ‘shaken down’ from a Bosmer named Fargoth. And Fargoth himself looking for a family ring stolen by the guards during one of their ‘shake downs’
A possible deal to investigate between the Stilt Strider driver and a colonist named Vodinus Nuccius.
A murderer, Foryn Gilnith, who slew the tax man but had the heart to return a ring to the one person in Seyda Neen who loved the man the rest of the town hated for inflating the tax bills and skimming the difference.
And the most loudly voiced complaint by the good civilian folks of Seyda Neen. A smugglers cave named Addamasartus, across from the Stilt Strider loading facility. Ah yes, smugglers to hone his Hand-to-Hand and Sneak skills plus a Thief Ring, smuggled goods to plunder and a cage full of slaves to release and practice his Speechcraft skills on. What’s not to like? Everyone’s happy except for the Guards on the ‘take’.
There were also several opportunities for ‘growth’ of other sorts.
First he used a scroll of Ondusi’s Unhinging to open the locked door leading off of the tradehouse tap room. For the cost of the scroll and a small fine he obtained a bed and a lockable storage chest.
In the Census and Excise Office he advanced his Sneak skill several points and was able to steal the key to the Excise Warehouse leading to merchandise to sell to Arrille and illegal moon sugar and skooma to sell elsewhere.
The second floor of the Warehouse was also the home of more tax and bribe monies ‘skimmed’ by another ‘bent’ Tax Agent, Adraria Vandacia.
“Yes ma’am, Missy Beautiful and respected agent of his most excellent and exalted emperorship! So please to tell this humble servant of the Riddle’Thar how it can be possible that there’s some mighty fine gold coins a sitting on that beautiful table top when the monies carried by the poor tax collector Processus Vitellius were stolen by some foul and heartless fiend from his poor dead body? And why do the monies on the tax rolls he carried in his poor dead hands not appear in the empty revenue chest by the window?”
“THIS ONE thinks perchance that that fine gentleman Socucius Ergalla who represents the HONESTY and INTEGRITY of the fine Census and Excise Office might be curious and wanting an answer to this most interesting and fascinating of questions.”
From here it just gets better. For a fist full of drakes from the nearby table and the threat of disclosure a badly shaken Adraria Vandacia disclosed other caves, Aharunartus, and Zainsipilu, and a network of bribes and ‘kickbacks’ linking the caves with a maritime smuggler, Vilfred the Outlaw.
Oh yes! It’s time to quit playing the ‘inquisitive hero’ around here in Seyda Neen and get to the Big City to collect the apparel, potions, spells, and weaponry for some serious ‘crime fighting’ along the Bitter Coast.
And so K’thri-Dar asks a question into the apparently empty air from which none-the-less wafts the delicious aroma of Lady Luck's perfume. “So where is the blessed oasis of sugar and needful things which this poor furry little khajiit might need on his valiant quest into the unknown and uncharted terrors of Morrowind? Is it Balmora city of Hlaalu overlords, or Vivec where the Tribunals sacrifice kitty cats to the bad Daedra and other unholy deeds?”
Lady Luck is taken by surprise, yanked from her book without time to consult her tarots or other means of assessing the future. She takes a stab at 50:50: Balmora (less than 51) or Vivec (more than 50). Forgetting to place her bookmark, she flips the book open to a random page in the back half. And the number is 45. K’thri –Dar will be going to Balmora to arm and ready up for his next adventure.
And so with a hidden stash of moon sugar and skooma in his inventory, K’thri-Dar closes up his room in the Trade House Tap Room and…
… “Please pardon THIS ONE your most kind and eminent ladyship of fame and good fortune?”
“What now? Can’t you see I’ve lost my place?”
“Nope, even with you magnificent aura of good couth and good breeding THIS ONE can’t see you goddess types unless you want to be seen. So which way to Balmora should THIS POOR LITTLE LOST ONE take? Stilt Strider, Elone’s map, the coast to the Odai River and north to Balmora, or the Hla Oad Road to the Odai and north?”
Heavy feminine sigh! K’thri-Dar hears the invisible pages rustle and a voice emanates from nowhere … “The number is 75 which, if the four routes are weighed equally, means the coast to the Odai River and then north. Are you satisfied now!”
And so the intrepid K’thri-Dar ventures up the Bitter Coast to the Odai River, past a the shattered, sodden remains of a lost shipwreck and then north and past the Shulk Egg Mine. He stopped to investigate the Tharys Ancestral Tomb where once again the ‘Nude’ strategy worked effectively against the Greater Bonewalker defending the tomb.
And then when the vast form of the Stilt Strider dominated the horizon he knew he had arrived at Balmora the headquarters of the Great House Hlaalu.
Well, well, well! It appears that the Emperor and his circle of scheming friends back in the Imperial City may have gotten something other than what they may have wished for when they bribed the Vestal Maidens at the Akatosh Oracle. Or perhaps it was exactly what they wished for only subverted by Azura to produce the opposite effect. Only time will tell. Until next time!