On the Wrong Side of the Ghostfence
Chapter 18 – Journey's end
Of the next day I cannot remember much, except that I did not stop running. I rested in a rocky crevasse that night, though I doubt I caught even a minute's sleep. In the morning I found I had lost my bearings, and at one point I nearly cost myself a day's travel when I set off back in the direction I had come. Only my wavering self-doubt caused me to change my mind.
I spent the remainder of that last day hiding amongst rocks from starving cliff racers and feeling my way along the side of the foyada when the sun's glare became too strong to see through. The sun beat down mercilessly on my bare head and neck. It wasn't long before my mind was touched by the heat, and by the time the dull shape of Ghostgate finally came into view, I was turning back every five or six steps, imagining I could hear Raziel's stumbling footsteps crunching in the ashy soil behind me.
I was met by a pair of guards in bonemold armour who had seen me staggering along the foyada from their watch tower. I never reached the gate on my own feet – I collapsed mere feet away in the dirt.
They kept me in the temple at Ghostgate for several weeks for observation, even after I had recovered from the heatstroke and dehydration. When they were satisfied that I was not carrying the blight disease – or worse – they gave me a salve to prevent infection in my burned hand and sent me on my way. They didn't ask about what had become of my guide. They didn't speak much to me at all.
There was no search party for Raziel, nor was there a funeral. There was no way to tell if she was alive or dead – or whether her existence could even be called 'life' any more. Either way, everything that had ever been Raziel – that stubborn, impulsive, unpredictable Dunmer whose single greatest fear was that I might portray her as a hero – was gone.
I didn't pay much attention to my journey back to Cyrodiil – I simply sat by myself most of the time, trying to order my thoughts enough to write them down. I don't think I wrote even a single word until I arrived back at the Arcane University. Only when I had locked myself safely in my room did I allow myself to mourn Raziel's fate. I allowed myself to shed tears for her, knowing no-one else would, tears of anger, grief and regret.
I finish this book now on my deathbed by aide of a scribe, in the long hours I have to myself between the visits from the healers, who feel it is their duty to come even though there is nothing more they can do for me. I've lost the use of all of my limbs, and even talking becomes difficult after a while. I have no family or friends to spend my final days with. Even my old colleagues stay away, for fear I might be carrying the blight disease, even after all this time. If they had seen what I had, perhaps the blight would be the least of their worries.
Only my scribe stays by my side, night and day. The endless scratching of his quill stays with me when I drop off into sleep, though when I dream it becomes the throb of the Ghostfence, or the creak of Dwemer ruins, or the cries of distant cliff racers.
I will die soon, but I will not die alone.
Postscript by Antoni Mussillius, scribe
I heard about Edgar Louis' adventure by word-of-mouth, though my original source had been told the man died before he could finish his book. I was visiting the Arcane University with another client when I learned this was not so; he was very much alive, though bed-ridden and growing weaker by the day. My curiosity getting the better of me, I went to see him, despite the other scholars' advice to stay away, and asked if I could read his story. Despite being only half-finished, on account of his hands slowly becoming stiff and swollen, what I read had me hooked. I decided I had to help this Edgar finish his book.
Unfortunately my current client was in the middle of an extremely important thesis, so for the next month and a half my time was spent travelling across Cyrodiil, though I promised Edgar that I would return as soon as I could.
When I next saw him, I barely recognised him. He seemed to have aged ten years, and though the healers were doing everything they could to make him comfortable, I could tell he was in pain. His work had not progressed much further.
"My hands," he said sadly, when I asked him about it. "I just can't write any more." He held them up for me to see; one was smooth and the other puckered with scar tissue from his accident in Bthanchend, but they had all but withered in on themselves. He couldn't so much as stretch his fingers. We both knew he did not have much time left. I set to work right away.
It took weeks for Edgar to recount his story, for as he grew weaker our sessions together grew shorter and less frequent. During that time, not a single visitor came to see him, apart from the healers. I wanted to ask him if there were any relatives – no matter how distant – that he wanted to see before he died, but I didn't. I already knew the answer.
By the time we had completed the last chapter I knew he barely had a week left, so instead of heading off to edit and publish our manuscript, I stayed by Edgar Louis' side. We spoke not a word of the book, even when the time came to say goodbye.
I had thought that getting the manuscript written down in time would be the hardest part about getting Edgar's story published, but I couldn't have been more wrong. In fact, it was at least a year after I had completed my editing that I finally held a copy of the finished book in my hands, and even then, it was one of a shamefully small number.
There were few people who believed the story was true, and even fewer who were willing to publish something that carried even the smallest criticism of the Empire's presence in Morrowind. I received letters telling me as much, but I refused to censor Edgar's sole mark upon the world when I was so close to achieving his dream.
To my regret, I may well have reconsidered my stance if I had not met the eldest of the Gabrinna brothers, entirely by chance, while on a job for another client. A struggling company with nothing to lose, Eight Brothers Publishing of the Imperial City agreed to help me, although with their limited resources only a very small number of copies were ever made. However, words cannot describe my pride at having finally brought Edgar's – and Raziel's – story a part of Cyrodiilic history.
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