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A PAW SWIFT LIKE THUNDER

PostPosted: Tue Jan 17, 2017 8:23 pm
by Phobos_Jugular
A PAW SWIFT LIKE THUNDER: BLACK MARSH PREQUEL

‘The Siege of the Red Fire’ a Fragment Found in the Crystal Tower Archives and Ascribed to the Legendary Poet Laureate of Old Ehinofey, Seadwen the Blind.

Sing, oh Goddess, of the anger of the Mathmeldi Twins, sons of Ancota of Erntide Doon...
...that brought countless ills upon the Ehinofey...
...and from the cursed Isle of Red Fires...
...many a brave soul did it yield a prey to the scavengers...
...for so were the counsels of Mundus fulfilled...
...when the brothers Rimtil and Ruuvitar first fell out with one another.


Ostracon Written on a Limestone Sherd from the Leyawiin Estate Sale of the Patrizia Porcia Catonis’ Collection of Letters of Notable Historical Figures

...the Goddess of Silver Feet of Future’s Reade...
...destiny to my death...
...to stay the warlock foe of Ehinofey...
...to stay and fight though hopeless...
...shall carry in glory to the Red Fire Isle and Towers of the Watch on the River of the Cat Folk...
...to be my glory and eternal tomb...

*

Thus from the fragmentary notes of a forgotten war did I, Midas Truncator plot my next ascent onto the hallowed heights and the rarified airs of academia and the Fellows of the Imperial Society. A world of jealous bitchiness, highbrow insults and subterfuge ever so much like the ancient jungles of Black Marsh where I’m standing now. A rich, complex eco-system with numerous threats lurking just beneath the murky peat laden waters, ready like the three eyed amphibian god Rormasu to ambush the unwary and drag him down into the depths of academic disaster.

A keen and quick eye to see the sherd in the Catonis collection, sense the greedy interest of Gwendal   Pontius, emigre Baron of Camlorn in faraway High Rock and dabbler in majicka and indiscriminate collecting. Fortunately for me and unfortunate for the fat rich Breton, he had the coin but I the skill in reading the old aldmeric scribbles on that sherd and the indelible memory to nod to the fat fool and congratulate him on his purchase, and think, link and deduce from what I’d seen.

An Isle of Red Fire that was possibly Vvardenfell; a river that was possibly the Niben with an eastern bank that was possibly Elsweyr; and above all the keen eye of the naturalist to identify the location of the limestone massif rising from beneath the Topal Bay from which the sherd was taken.

But nothing ventured and for certain nothing gained unless the blind gods of Fate and Destiny chose to smile in this green miasmatic hell upstream of the Gee-ha River estuary on the western shore of the Topal Bay: green, Green and more GREEN! Miles from the nearest watchful eyes and Imperial authority at the settlement of Soul Rest.

A smuggler’s flat bottomed fifty foot skiff to carry cargo and its crew lay beached and hidden on the muddy bank from which the twisted trail my sole companion, an Archein argonian named ‘He Smirks in Smoke’ and I had laboriously cut through the ferny growths between the giant scaled trunks that rose branchless until their crowns of scimitar leaves touched the sky and turned the blue into a hazy green.

Like the smugglers hidden with the beached skiff, I wore a coat of slick, foul smelling salamander swamp oil to ward off any unfortunate encounter with the swarms of flesh eating and blood drinking insects said to roam the swamps and bayous. They were a sort of nature’s garbage collectors to remove any non-native intruders. Over that, I wore a thick cotton clothing secured at the neck, wrists and ankles to preclude or at least hinder any insect invasion, and over that the superior light weight, flexible netch leather armor complete with a helm including sand goggles from far off Hammerfell.

He-Smirks-in-Smoke was long tailed and as thin and lithe as an Alik’r Sidewinder (if there were any of the serpent family in Black Marsh to strike a contrast with). He wore the thin but durable protection of Netch Bull leather beneath which on the forearms, waist and legs showed glimpses of a cotton batik long sleeved tunic and pantaloons decorated in multi-colored and clashing designs.

And the sherd’s ‘Tower of the Watch’ itself was long tumbled down into ruin atop a blocky pile of what had once been its pyramidal base. The tumbled limestone blocks lay in a disorderly eroded, scarred and root riven confusion amid the green profusions of moss, ferns and scaly ‘hard woods’. The trees stood tall and straight with scales resembling something reptilian except that there was no room for any reptilian or mammalian life form here without the protection and blessing of the Hist Trees. This is what the canon of the Saxhleel states and who am I to question the canons of the native argonian folk.

Together we climbed the remains of the stairway leading to the archway that defined the dark interior of the tower’s base. As I stepped over or around the writhing mass of vines trailing down I noticed that the balustrade was decorated with eroded almost featureless carvings suggestive of something threatening and predatory. A section, properly cleaned up and ‘restored’ could bring a tidy profit as a garden ornament from some of my more jaded connoisseurs of bizarre exotica. Not for now but perhaps on a later expedition.

We reached the top of the staircase, and there the toe of my boot caught on the uplifted corner of a limestone block. I stumbled and recoiled as a giant centipede, at least an arm’s length from finger to elbow emerged and swung its pincers in my direction. Was it my imagination or did I catch a glimpse of venom dripping from those pincers? And then...

bzz-RT ...Snatch! ...bzzzzzz...

... a dragon fly with a wings each as long as my arm appeared out from the gloom between the tree trunks and made a diving pass between He-Smirks-in-Smoke and I, grabbed the centipede, and began to dine as he rose, dropping bits of bug and gore as he flew back into the myriad shades of the jungles jungle’s green flora.

“Well didn’t that cap the climax of that little confrontation?” I said.

“Murky waters, my friend. Murky waters!” The Argonian said and pointed across the uneven forecourt to the darkness that defined the tower’s interior.

I’d had enough for the moment of the aerial enchantments of the Gee-ha’s riverine environment. Water witch dragon flies with wings as long as my arm and mandibles capable of removing a nose or finger. Fist sized may flies, mosquitoes and roaches ...gods no wonder the jungles and waterways of Black Marsh remained largely unexplored and unexploited territory ... WELL... unexploited until now.

I stepped into the darkness of the tower’s interior. The daylight allowed a view of a few feet of the littered stone floor. Perhaps two hundred feet to the left, right and somewhat more directly opposite were similar dim patches of daylight from the three other doorways leading to the interior from the other compass points to complete the quartet of north, south, east and west. Gloom tending to darkness with foot traps, insect monstrosities and who knows what else lurking underfoot. This would never do!

“Lux-lucens-veritatim! ... Ego mantatum!”

And so I spoke that most magick of spells to conform the REALITY of the tower’s base into the WILL of Midas the Delver into the dark and forgotten places of mystery and secrets perhaps better left forgotten.

A globe of burning white daylight appeared a little above and beyond me and hovered to illuminate the darkness. The globe moved with my eyes. When I looked down I saw a hand sized roach skitter away from the globe, dash across the thin, near invisible strand of a spider’s web. That strand was a trip wire warning a nearby spider that a meal was near.

"Waxhuthi!" He-Smirks-In-Smoke thus swore in the native Jel language and deployed his Wanassathix ‘Blood Hero’s Spear’ that was tipped with a blade of glossy red Wa-obsidian. Wa-obsidian as hard as diamond as brittle as glass. For every brittle fracture the Wa-obsidian became a new blade, perhaps slightly narrower or shorter but the more fractured the more significant the warning to would-be foes that the spear has killed many times before. It is one of the most treasured weapons in all Black Marsh and (so says my knowledge of this horrid land of jungle and black water) that the red obsidian can only be obtained by a hero’s quest into the Kajha-Seth, the Throat of Sithis, a huge extinct caldera located somewhere within the confines of this most dangerous of the Septim’s provinces.

The spear thrust outward but not as I expected towards the roach and trip strand of webbing but upwards where the light of my globe caught a bird sized wasp descending towards a pair of knife sized fangs attached to the web’s spider the size of a dinner plate.
...THWAP...!!...

The Wanassathix impaled the wasp in midflight. He-Smirks-in-Smoke flicked his wrist and the wasp was hurled into the darkness and...

...SPLURCH...

Once again a brief flicker of the globe’s white light from what was rapidly becoming a peep show into the macabre revealed a long prehensile tongue lash out from the darkness between the light’s reflection off of a pair of saucer sized eyes to snare the wasp’s carcass and withdraw quickly back into the darkness with its prey.

Dinner plates and saucers OH MY! If I didn’t move forward now to explore the interior I never would. A glance at my companion clearly showed that he too was operating at the frayed ends of shredded nerves.

I looked around. Outwards and up I could see that where the stairway to what appeared to be a mezzanine had collapsed taking a large part of the floor above with it. Also revealed was the gauzy expanse of a spider’s wed. Yes! My quick dive into natural history said that the web would be the work of some dinner plate sized web spinning Orb Spider, as opposed to the dinner plate sized web dragging Hunting Spider that had now snatched the over-sized roach and retreated to its lair tucked away somewhere in the ruins.

ONWARD! BRAVELY (NOT) ONWARDS!

Further on we progressed, slowly and carefully when I spied on the floor a block of red granite that had been clumsily pried from its socket in the floor to disclose the mouth of a passage leading downward.

#@!$%^! I swore. The extracted plug block was a bad omen. Had a competitor already been here and disinterred everything worth disinterring?

The floor over the passage had collapsed turning what had once been a tunnel into darkness. It was a rubble filled chasm, doubtless from the violence inflicted on the plug block by some ham fisted destroyer of memories and history.

He-Smirks-in-Smoke scrubbed the surface of the stone with a gloved hand to disclose an incised epitaph filled with what looked to be gold. He pulled a dagger and was about to begin excising the buttery yellow metal.

“Stop! Not yet old friend. That’s ancient script. Let me see if we can find the identity of our hopefully future benefactor.”

And this is what the epitaph said.
Steel True
Blade Straight
Rimtil of Erntide Doon
Brother in Blood to Ruuvitar
Poet, Sage and Soldier


“Leave the gold in place my friend! This block of granite forms a powerful link with Altmer heritage. It can be sold undamaged and perhaps even unprovenanced for a great ransom in the Summerset Isles. The profit could be even greater than the scraps our predecessor ‘repossession experts’ of hidden wealth may have left for us.”

Now there are various ways a block of gold incised granite pushing at least a half ton or more in weight can be taken by one Altmer with an iron will and a smattering of the lore called magicka. But first know that my companion He-Smirks-in-Smoke cannot be left alone with the potential of losing control of his blunt and sometimes forceful acquisitive nature amid the possibility of finding and damaging such expensive objets d’art as might have been overlooked by our competitors.

“Stay here while I remove the block to the skiff. Explore the remains of the passage and remember our agreement that the profits from anything you find that is damaged shall be mine one hundred percent, and the profits of anything that is undamaged shall be divided between you, me and our comrades on the skiff as originally agreed.”

His reptile face returned an amazingly innocent look of hurt surprise. “Of course my Pakseech (my leader).”

Now it was back to the business of artifact extraction. Firstly I needed to lighten the load imposed by the interaction of gravity with the block ...Volantis... Then to transmute the granite’s mass into a mass of some material of a lesser density ...the lumpy porridge my mother used to feed me as a wee lad before she sent me off to school in the pre-dawn light ...mutato-porridato ...And lastly the words of command ...Ego mantatum!

I could thus easily levitate with the block above the trail back to the skiff. But thoughts of the dragon flies and who knows what giant sized prehensile tongue flicked out by the God of Toads made that prospect seem to be much to dangerous. No! I would cast a Sinstral Mark for my return, followed by a Return to my Dexter Mark. Drop off the plug block with my doughty crew and then return with Recall to my Sinstral Mark. What could be easier? Science and Magic can always find a way.”

But my thoughts and progress were shattered by an intrusion on the humid, malodorous airwaves of the sounds of vines and ferny undergrowth being cleared and the occasional curse from human throats. My blood ran cold as the thought that the Baron of Camlorn must have bragged about his acquisition of the Catonis sherd as part of his status seeking suck ups with the Decani of the Fellows of the Imperial Society. Occasional customers some of them might be, but they were each and every one jealous and utterly ruthless competitors. It was a clear signal for us to SNATCH and RUN. If any of those Fellows, Quintus Falco, d’Sabicus, Strabo, Umbacano, got wind of my presence here...

BEDLAM...BEEEDDD...LAAAMMM...!!!

I was hit by a veritable tidal wave of sound. It was harsh, disorienting and befuddling  ... There was a Mage out there and ...'My sound shaken magicks let my light orb expire and the darkness closed in. But without the line of sight the @##$%&^’s   spell was broken. I scrambled to the side. What to do?  Grab the inscribed headstone/plug block and teleport back to the skiff or hunt down and retaliate against some second rate reject from the Arcane University and his employers.

My decision was made when I heard the soft sibilant whisper from He-Smirks-in-Smoke. “Not now Midas! There’s too many of them. Get your block and we’ll meet with Orcus and his lads back at the skiff.”

Then came the Baron of Camlorn’s giggling voice, “Oaf! Altmer interloper ...Hee, Hee...Oaf! Hee, Hee...thou hast snot for brains!” A fireball flew across the black space between the furthest doorway and me...

WOOOOSHHH...SQUELCH!

But the fireball never reached me. It hit something that was VERY BIG and VERY ANGRY.

SHROASS—ssshhh – WRAWGH!
“I have encountered, SIGNEUR CAMLORN, (I recognized the acid dripping voice of Quintus Falco) many a vacuum within the crania of the human race but none as utterly devoid as yours. For this I most sincerely thank you!”

grrraaawr! ...TABDak!...TABDAK!...TABDAKA!

The something VERY BIG and VERY ANGRY was moving swiftly in the direction from whence came the fireball and the anger of Quintus Falco. I moved towards my last memory of the location of granite plug stone, grasped it by its sides and ...

Eeeyyaaauuugghhh!
PAIN! EXCRUCIATING PAIN emanating from my left foot and radiating along every nerve fiber to my brain. I lost all rational thought but somehow in a pure reflex of survival I must have triggered my RECALL spell. My next conscious thought was screaming in agony as I cowered against the side if the skiff, my boot cut away and a massive centipede thrashing its life away at the end of He-Smirks-in-Smoke’s spear.

“The foot,” Orcus croaked. “It’s going to haff to come off. Does ye see the red line passing towards yer ankle from where that ‘pede bit ye?  Soon the poison will be past yer ankle and up yer calf n’ yer leg below yer knee will have to come off. If that red line reaches yer heart yer a dead Elf n’ make no mistake about it.”

“YES! DO IT! ...NOW!”

I screamed my answer. My last conscious thought was the sight of Rimtil’s gold inscribed headstone resting precariously against the gunnels of the skiff.

------------------------------------------------------------------------
*Wording on the fragment from the Crystal Tower Archives and the Catonis Ostraca paraphrased from Homer’s Iliad. Rimtil’s epitaph taken from the epitaph of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

AUTHOR’S NOTE
If you enjoyed this chapter and are at a loss to do with an extra smile or dollar please consider a person having a bad day and gift them that smile, or  maybe an anonymous gift of that extra dollar to a charity might help to save just one lost person in need. Think about it, and if you are able to - do it.

Sorry I have no tax deductible receipts to give but sometimes just a touch of honest compassion is worth more than money.