This is a little side story of my main character Saber (see my other stories). Its from another character's point of view, and takes place before Challenges. I hope you enjoy.
Itermerel tapped fingers against the lip of his goblet before finishing the last of the Imperial brandy he'd ordered. Normally, he wouldn't partake of spirits. Drinking often took away reason and focus of the mind, the very essence of a mage's power. But Itermerel couldn't help it. The growing nervousness was driving him to drink, and the brandy did more than help taking off the edge of fear. He'd heard alcohol once referred as 'liquid courage', and couldn't agree more.
Surely, by now the Mage's Guild of the city of Balmora had found him a proper escort to take him through the backcountry. Why was it taking so long? Two days should be long enough to find someone who could guide him to Pelagiad. Did the mistress wizard, a Dunmer woman named Ranis, honestly think he could take the journey alone? The very idea he'd have to face wild beasts and possible bandits struck the young Altmer with apprehension.
Thoughts turned dark as Itermerel considered Ranis' intention. He didn't trust her as far as he could throw her. He didn't trust any Dark Elf, or Dunmer as they called themselves. Racist they all were, and hateful to anyone not of Morrowind. Ranis seemed even more prejudiced than others of her race, and never bothered to hide the fact she disliked 'outlanders'. It mattered not if one was another elf such as the 'tree sap people' known as Bosmer, or "High Elves', known as Altmer such as he.
Sipping the brandy, Itermerel shifted in his chair and eyed the growing crowd of the Eight Plates tavern he currently rested. Not posh, the Eight Plates was neither a filthy guar pen. The beds had clean sheets, and the food and drink was adequate for anyone of adequate taste. The company was a combination of noble as well as commoners that gathered here and made sufficient company. He doubted many could share a discussion in intellectual studies of magecraft, however.
He supposed some of the patrons were the various adventurers that the lands of Morrowind attracted. Rife with danger, this land was perfect for those wishing to test their mettle and their strength. What better place to seek one's fortune than this land? One only had to walk a short distance from any city and find oneself amidst trouble. There were bandits and smugglers, ferocious beasts, not to mention the undead or disease-ridden creatures.
Barbarians, Itermerel scoffed looking among the assembled clientele of the inn. Most of the customers within the pub reminded him of nothing more than uneducated savages. He, on the other hand, looked every bit the part of a mage. Long white hair was kept combed and tied back neatly at the nape of his neck, with a simple robe of green and brown, tied at the waist with a wide belt. Clothes indicated the manner of person you were, he thought to himself. He was a simple mage, but also an intellect. One only had to look at him to see that.
It came to no surprise to the nervous mage when a formidable looking Dunmer entered the Eight Plates just then. He was taller than most Dark Elves, with the gray skin and red eyes of his race. The elven features were prominent, with high cheekbones, narrow chin, and arching dark brows that pinched slightly in a frown.
The Dark Elf would be handsome if only the skin were a golden hue like my people, Itermerel considered to himself. Dunmer, however, always appeared so menacing, with eyes the color of blood and fire. The glowing eyes scanned the room, shifting from deep burgundy to an orange glow due the reflections in the pupils. They seemed to burn like the fires of Oblivion, even glowing back the dim light of the room as this Dunmer appraised the crowd before him.
A warrior, no doubt, Itermerel considered inwardly. He's probably looking for a fight. They were so ready to draw blood for any imagined insult or threat. He could see a wickedly curved sword sheathed in a baldric upon his back, the hilt poking from behind his right shoulder. The leather strap across his chest lined in silver daggers, matched a larger blade to his hip. Another strap bisected the first forming a criss cross of leather. That was from a quiver filled with various arrows. The feathers marked different forms of poisons or even enchanted weapons. Armed to the teeth, he seemed ready to take on an army all by himself.
Like most Dunmer, black hair was shades darker than the stormy gray of his skin. Most of the length of hair was drawn back from his angular face with the rest falling to the middle of his shoulders. The dark gray steel of his skin was unmarked by House or tribe. A single gold earring in his right lobe was the only apparent ornamentation.
Nothing about him seemed to fit. Weathered trousers of soft guarskin didn't match the shirt of red silk brocade. The leather cuirass was in top condition, as if new, yet the hide greaves and gloves were clearly worn to the point of needing repair. The light armor indicated his skill must be impressive. Leather wouldn't provide much protection against an axe or heavy sword. Light armor was for those with speed and agility. By the number of marksman weapons, this one might have confidence in his aim.
Itermerel tried to access this new arrival further, but found his gaze shifted off quickly when the Dunmer approached his table. Somehow, he must have stared too long; insulted him in some unknown way, or perhaps the man simply was looking to pick a fight. Too often already, he'd been on the wrong end of a Dark Elf's anger, Ranis being one of them.
"Are you Itermerel?" The Dunmer asked, his voice carrying the smooth accent of one from Cyrodil, more specifically, the Imperial City. This was no local inhabitant.
The high elf swallowed hard, wondering who this man was to seek him out by name. "Y-yes?" He answered. Any attempt at appearing nonchalant failed miserably.
"Ranis from the Guild of Mages sent me." The Dunmer replied simply. "I'm to escort you to Pelagiad."
Stunned, Itermerel couldn't help but openly gape. The idea of having this fierce looking man guiding him into the wildlands of the Vvardenfell district palled him. Did Ranis hire a mercenary? "You are my escort?"
Arched brows rose up in question but moreso to the tone. "Is that a problem?"
"Um…well…no." Itermerel stammered, trying to finish his drink. Somehow, the liquid courage wasn't helping to bolster any courage whatsoever. "Its just, you don't look very much like a mage." Hadn't Ranis said she'd find someone of the guild to take him?
A slow smile formed on the full mouth. "I suppose that can be taken as a compliment."
It took Itermerel a few moments to realize his remark might be an insult but felt it best to let the matter drop. Though accomplished, his skill in magic suddenly did not seem enough to test against a skilled fighter. He looked more of a warrior than magic user, and it was possible that Ranis hired someone from the Fighter's guild in lieu of unable to find someone to escort him. Hadn't he read something that Dunmer were the fiercest of battle mages…?
"My apologies." Itermerel said, feeling the words tasted bad in his mouth. All of his instincts were screaming at him that something was wrong about this arrangement. However, if he wished to reach Pelagiad in due time, he'd have to accept this as Ranis' choice. Knowing that witch, she'd delay him even longer than she already had if he refused. "When do you wish to leave?"
"Now would be best." The Dunmer told him, gesturing to the empty goblet. "Unless you wish to order another drink. The trip will take most of this day to reach there, and I want to arrive before nightfall."
Itermerel nodded, getting to his feet. Dunmer were shorter elves than Altmer, and he found himself looking down on the man. A dark hand extended to him, and the Dunmer gave a polite bow. "My name is Saber, by the way." He told him.
Tentatively accepting the introduction, Itermerel nodded. "And as you know, my name is Itermerel. I'm a scholar and Conjurer of the Guild."
"Pleased to meet you." Saber smiled, however the mirth never reached his eyes. There was something very mocking in his demeanor, and yet Itermerel couldn't quite put his finger on anything specific. "Shall we go?"
Motioning he'd follow, the Altmer felt better having the Dunmer in front of him rather than back. Dunmer could hardly be trusted, now could they? Everyone in the city of Balmora knew the Morag Tong, the local syndicate of assassins, were comprised mostly of dark elves. Wouldn't it be ironic if Ranis has set something up concerning his well being? He shoved the thought away, hoping his suspicions to be only fantasy and paranoia.
He followed his escort into the sunlit morning. The day was lovely with a sky awash in brilliant blue dotted with the scattering of puffy clouds. The form of the clouds hinted at rain eventually, but for now, the air was sweet with a clean scent of flowers, and a gentle breeze made for a beautiful day for travel.
His new guide kept a rather brisk pace for his size, and Itermerel wondered if perhaps the Dunmer hoped to lose him on the back roads of Morrowind. The idea of getting lost amid the rolling hills filled with beasts and cutthroats was disheartening. Able to keep up due to longer legs and a strong gait, the Altmer reminded himself that he needed to start taking daily walks. He was out of shape. Such was the lot of an educated man, he thought to himself. No doubt, the morrow will bring him sore and tired muscles. Pride however kept him from complaining.
Saber seemed to have very high stamina, being able to keep up a pace without even a gasp of air. He also wasn't much of a conversationalist. Every time Itermerel tried to ask questions, the Dunmer would reply in short, clipped sentences. Sometimes his only reply was a low noise in his throat.
What is he hiding? Itermerel thought inwardly.. Some Dunmer, it was said, carried a balance of magecraft as well as skills in weapons. Perhaps this mer hadn't reached the ranks of battlemage, yet. This would explain his being a guild member.
Huffing for breath, Itermerel was relieved to find his guide slow to a complete halt. The Dunmer turned slightly, lifting a hand to indicate silence and his head tilted as if listening. Itermerel also listened, but found only silence.
"I hear nothing." Itermerel said softly, unable to hide his annoyance. They needed to hurry if they were to reach Pelagiad before nightfall.
The Dunmer glanced back at him, matching his irritation. "Exactly."
Ah…yes, the hills around them were oddly still now. Itermerel glanced for any source of the unexpected calm, and soon heard a loud grunt from beyond one of the knolls. The landscape was a series of hills and dales, obscuring vision all around them. It was just too easy for anything to hide not far from the road, where one could easily be attacked.
Saber touched a long finger to his lips, whispering. "Kagouti." He explained, knocking his bow.
"I can blast it with a spell if you like to save your fletching." Itermerel offered. The thought of one of those bipedal beasts with heavy tusks and long claws sent a shiver down his spine. They often attacked by biting, and stomping. They were not predators, but were fiercely territorial.
"Stay here." Saber told him on no uncertain terms, "I'll handle this, and see if there are any more ahead."
Itermerel opened his mouth to protest, but the Dunmer was already moving towards the knoll. "I'm not entirely without defense you know." He muttered. He doubted Saber heard him. If he did, he didn't care. Itermerel folded arms across his chest, fuming silently at the order to remain behind. He wasn't used to taking orders, especially from someone beneath him.
Inwardly, he knew the Dunmer was right. He was no fighter, and had no experience in battle even with magicks. He knew a spell to throw blasts of lightning, but in so far, had never used his skill in challenge. Besides, wasn't it Saber's job to do this very thing? Taking some solace with that thought, Itermerel stood uneasily in the middle of the country road and waiting for the return of his guide.
Minutes passed agonizingly slow, reminding him that if he were killed out here in the middle of nowhere, no one would even find the body or perhaps even care. Survival was an important trait to cultivate in these savage lands. With every beast ready to attack, and the presence of all manner of criminals in the wilds, this was not a safe place for a mage to be, no matter how skilled.
Almost without thought, Itermerel touched the precious notes he kept tucked in his robe. They were his life's work in regards to a theory he had comprised on magical theory. More specifically, his work had to do with teleportation magic. For decades, Itermerel had researched and comprised these notes. It was his hope to extend his work into a book, and gain recognition by not only the Archmage here in Morrowind, but also in the whole Tamriel Empire.
He was to meet a fellow mage to discuss these theories, and the possibilities of hiring a scribe to write the book. Ranis had shown very little concern over his work, until the day he announced the intention of meeting with a fellow mage in Pelagiad. By then, she asked for a copy, and naturally he'd refused. She'd steal his ideas, or sell them to the highest bidder. It didn't take any mind-reading spell to see how furious she'd become, despite her not saying a single word. The woman was practically seething.
Strange how she transformed the next day into the same aloof Ranis, and informed him of her intention of finding a suitable escort. She assured him his guide would be of the guild. But if Saber was of the guild, why did he carry so many weapons?
The Altmer shifted nervously, trying to hear or see where the Dunmer had disappeared. Adventurers carried weapons all the time, he chided to himself. Mages often had enchanted swords or staves. Some might carry a dagger, or even use summoned weapons. Why then did this Dunmer carry so many?
Only now, in light of being so lost and alone in the backcountry, Itermerel had to accept the possibility of the true danger he faced. What if he wasn't of the guild? What's more, why hadn't I asked? Itermerel frowned, curious now why he hadn't asked for credentials. Then again, why should he? Ranis had assured-
"Ready to go?" A voice startled him, as the Dunmer seemed to appear from another direction, and had done so without making a sound. Only then did the Altmer notice the soft-soled boots and easy grace of the dark mer.
Itermerel regretted not bringing a bottle of brandy with him, suddenly needing a drink. Swallowing nervously, he motioned Saber to take the lead once more. There was no way this man was going to come up behind him unawares!
After a short time on the road, the Altmer mage finally had to ask. "Are you really of the guild?" The question sounded awkward, the tone odd.
Saber slowed to let Itermerel walk beside him, looking at him sideways. "Yes, I am." The mouth twitched a bit trying not to smile this time. "Ah yes, that's right. I don't look like a mage." The red eyes pointedly gave Itermerel a once over, to his drab robe and pathetic dagger tucked in the belt. Even then, his blade was for meals, not in dealing out death.
"I'm sorry if I insulted you." Itermerel told him, hoping to placate him. "It just seems that whatever school of magic you study doesn't show."
To this the Dunmer shrugged. "I suppose it doesn't. If you must know, I don't focus on any particular school of magic. I'm only interested in certain spells."
This surprised Itermerel. He somehow didn't look as though he knew any magic other than what all Dunmer carried innately. From what he'd read, they could summon an ancestral spirit to fight for them once a day, and had an incredible resistance to fire. "Spells you say?" He asked, wanting him to continue.
Saber nodded. "I do a great deal of traveling all over Morrowind. Spells such as levitating, water walking, even healing come in handy. What is the most helpful is teleportation spells. That has saved my hide more than once."
"Teleportation?" Itermerel was now interested. This began to touch upon the subject of his study.
"I only wish that I could master teleportation to more than one destination at a time." Saber admitted, suddenly not to intimidating now they were talking the same language. "Though teleporting to the shrines and temples can help somewhat, what I really would like to teleport to anywhere I want, whenever I want."
all?" Itermerel chuckled, thinking again to his notes. "I have a
theory on working magic that can do such a thing."
"Really?" The Dunmer now appeared intrigued.
"Well the metaphysics of teleportation spells are still unknown as a whole, but my study in daedrons and the potential of multiple teleportation is there." Once the words escaped his mouth, Itermerel considered he might face the same blank stare most people gave him when he spoke of his favorite subject. Not this one, however. The red eyes were intent, even his walking slowed. Clearly, he had an interest on this subject.
"The Vagaries of Magick spoke something of the possibility." The Dunmer said, "But I wasn't aware anyone had actively explored such spells."
Itermerel was impressed. The mer had read a difficult book on the subject of the various schools of magic. It was not an easy topic to read let alone comprehend. This one seemed to have some level of interest on the matter. "They are dangerous." He agreed, glad to have an audience. "Obviously too many teleportation carries certain threats to losing one's mind, or finding oneself in the wrong place."
The afternoon sped quickly as the two elves discussed at length various theories, and stories of spells that had gone awry. Surprisingly, this Dunmer had a knack for telling tales, adding flourishes, and even changing his voice to mock characters. He'd escaped a few battles by teleporting but found himself in awkward situations such as appearing in the temple with nearly all of his clothes burned off. The Dunmer was more pleasant than Itermerel could've even guessed. Perhaps I have misjudged him…
"You're not like other Dunmer I've met." He freely admitted after a good laugh.
"At least that is a compliment." Saber smiled. "If I hear the word 'outlander' or n'wah one more time-" He shrugged the violent thought away. "I would've thought my race would've been more of a help not a hindrance here in Morrowind."
"One would think
so." The mage nodded. "But here in the providence of Vvardenfell,
a Dunmer raised in the outside world is considered worse than any
"Something about preserving the Dunmer heritage." He made a rude noise. "A heritage that seems to include always being at each other's throats."
"You've noticed that." The mage mused.
"Don't get me started on that subject." Saber muttered back. The face, however, brightened as they topped a knoll, and he motioned with a dramatic sweep of his hands to the region before them. "There is Pelagiad."
Itermerel saw the outline of the buildings from afar, surprised how quickly the time had passed. The sun was setting beyond the fortress that marked the Imperial garrison stationed there, with the surrounding hills of crops and smaller homes dotting the landscape. "We made it."
"Did you think I'd get us lost?" Saber asked with an odd lopsided smirk. "I admit scouting isn't my forte'…."
"No, no no," The Altmer responded quickly, hoping to not offend. "I…well…I had to admit that I was concerned that Ranis assigned you the task."
"Oh?" Somehow his guide didn't seem that surprised as he started walking towards Pelagiad.
"I thought… well, never mind." Itermerel waved a hand, laughing nervously. "You guided me here safely; the least I can do is buy you a drink."
The Dark Elf paused, considering. "There is something else you could do for me."
"What is that?"
"Your notes…" The Dunmer's gaze dropped to the wide belt where the scrolls were safely tucked away. "Could I have a copy of them?"
"A copy? Why?" Suspicion reared its ugly head once more. "You admitted you're not interested in becoming a wizard-"
"Well a drink then." Shoulders shrugged off the suggestion and he turned to head towards the city once again. By the casual dismissal of the request only goaded the Altmer's sense of gratitude. Guilt rose up in the mage as Itermerel followed behind, weighing his appreciation against common sense. What harm could there be in giving him a copy after all? He did show an interest on the subject after all.
"I suppose there is no harm in providing you a copy." He said, yet not feeling quite right about the whole thing. Still, the sight of the city guards improved his mood. He was safe!
"Excellent." Saber smiled, "I need a few supplies and will meet you at the Halfway Tavern in a bit." With a courtly bow, he spun on heels and departed towards the trading store. The mage stood a few moments, wondering why he just promised him a copy of his life's work.
He seems interested in the subject, Itermerel chided himself. He did, after all, did a wonderful job in protecting me. Then why do I feel as though I shouldn't do so? The mage thought on the matter over another drink of brandy as he sat amongst the dinner crowd of the Halfway Tavern. Supper was simple, being a bowl of Nix Hound stew with bread. The meal was near finished by the time the Dunmer showed up.
Itermerel stiffened, feeling his supper protest the sudden nervousness of his decision. Ultimately he couldn't share his life's work; even with the mer who guided him safely.
"I- I'm sorry." He said, motioning the bartending to bring his companion a beer. "After some thought…well…I just… can't…" He eyed Saber wondering if his refusal might be enough to push the elf to the edge and kill him. But he was safe here in the tavern. Surely, the mer would not risk prison to kill him…?
Saber lifted a hand to quiet him. "A beer then?"
Itermerel blinked in surprise. "You're alright with that? You're not angry that I won't give you a copy?"
Saber shrugged, giving a pleasant nod to the bartender for his drink. "A beer is a bit more quenching at the moment."
This was too easy.
"Oh, well, if you're fine with that-" He paused speaking as he realized the Dunmer decided to gulp the entire contents of the tankard. He finished with a sigh, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
"A word of advice, mage." Saber said, getting to his feet. "Don't return to Balmora. Find the means to go the Imperial City, out of the reach of Ranis."
"Ranis?" The Altmer gaped. "What about her?"
"She wants those notes." He replied, adjusting his quiver on his back. "And she's willing to kill for them if need be."
"Kill? But that would mean…?" Oh no…he was hired to kill me!
"I, on the other hand, think it's hardly worth the death of a man." Saber shrugged.
"Ranis must have promised you advancement through the guild?" It was a technique many of the guilds used to keep their hands clean. Generally new members were enthusiastic enough to gain prestige by doing whatever the guildmasters would ask of them. "If you don't return with my notes-"
The elf waved his hand at him. "I already told you; I don't care for guild ranks. I get what I need with learning a spell now and then. That's all. Trust me; I have enough on my plate to concern myself that the inner workings of the mage's guild."
Itermerel swallowed hard, stunned that he had such a close brush with death and never realized it. In essence, this elf had saved his life twice; once by guiding him safely, and twice by sparing him. "I feel as though I owe you more than a beer."
The Dark Elf flashed a genuine smile. "Oh I think the look on Ranis' face when I tell her I don't have the notes might be worth it." He moved towards the door. "Too bad you won't be there to it."
Watching his escort take his leave, the mage considered he would take Saber's suggestion and go to the Imperial City. He'd go to the Arcane University there to publish his work. Itermerel felt he should never again be too quick to judge of others.