Chapter 31: Under Sun and Sky
A week later, the Crystal Maiden set sail for Imperial City, but docked on the shore of Lake Rumare a bit south of Weye. Talvalo reclaimed little Nerevar-Ku'ne from his sister in the Elven Gardens District and brought him back to the ship, so Chizrae could hold her son in her arms once more. The reunion was emotional, and both parents were surprised at how much the baby boy had grown in their absence.
Shortly after that, as everyone gathered in the captain's den, Kielanai gave Rindaalyn all of their documents and notes gathered for their trip to Akavir. "When you get to Morrowind, be sure to see Surane in Caldera and give her this. I'm sure she'd be more than willing to help with translations and another Recall spell in exchange. She's quite the historian. She may even be able to tell you where to dig up information on the Chimer."
Rindaalyn accepted the documents with doubt. "Are you sure about this? The ship … I mean."
"Mh," the bard smiled with confidence. "Kiumiko is at peace now. My friends in Cyrodiil will continue to keep watch over Kojima and my animals until I can return from Menzoberranzan. It's just another extended absence, though hopefully not as long. But there is one other thing you should take with you when you return to Akavir." The bard passed Itai Kokoro—saya and all—to him.
Rindaalyn's mouth dropped in astonishment. "I can't take that."
"You gave your own enchanted weapon to the slave in the dungeon. You need this more than I do now," she repeated his sentiments from then now. "My father said that you were not to hesitate to call on him as if he were your own ancestor, and Masahiro obviously agrees. Their knowledge of Akavir could be more valuable to your journey than their knowledge of martial arts. My family will always be part of me, even without being able to summon their spirits. I am happy to share my past, if it can help build your future."
Accepting the bard's katana, the scout slipped it into the belt of his hakama.
"You'll need this again." Chizrae shifted the baby in her arms so she could hand Rindaalyn her translation amulet. "Kielanai put it on a new chain and returned it to me. I no longer need it to communicate in Cyrodiil, but I was told you are not fluent in Akaviri languages yet."
Little Nerevar-Ku'ne sucked on his fingers and stared wide-eyed at the Tsaesci-Ashlander, then gurgled with a sloppy, wet grin.
"And don't forget these." Daerazal reached into his pack and dumped an armful of jeweled weapons at the Ashlander's feet. "Try not to use them all at once," he added with a wink. "Or, since you don't have six arms, I'd recommend selling a few of them to pad your pockets along the way."
"When you return from Akavir to Morrowind," Chizrae added, "look for a tomb on the road between Suran and Molag Mar. It will be guarded by ancestral spirits, so take care to slip past them with invisibility potions. There is a cavern hideout behind the shrine at the back of the tomb. It's where Daerazal lived when he first came to Morrowind. That's where I'll hide Nerevar's and Kagrenac's artifacts for you. I'll leave instructions for handling them, as well.
"If we return from Menzoberranzan before you return from Akavir, Daerazal has a ring that can teleport you into the cavern, instead. But once we move everything out of our estate in Seyda Neen, we won't be able to go back. Don't come looking for us there. I don't know where we will end up when all is said and done. We will come looking for you, instead."
Rindaalyn nodded in understanding, but was overwhelmed with his sudden turn of fate. "I don't know what to say. Thank you … all of you. And I will return the katana as soon as I come back," he promised Kielanai.
"Ki wo tsukete, ne ... Rin-kun," Kielanai smiled and kissed his ashen cheek. Then, after giving him a hug, the bard drew back to dry her eyes before they could fill with full-fledged tears.
When the others had offered their final farewell hugs, Talvalo took one last look at the interior of the galleon. "It's a big ship. Think you can handle it alone."
"No way. I'll be hiring a crew at the Waterfront docks before pulling out of here."
"If you can make it to Solstheim, I know a few hardy Nords from the Sea Wolf that might love that kind of adventure. They might even be willing to trail you as a sister ship."
"I'll try to stop and ask." The youth grinned big enough to display his fangs, happy to know that, for the first time in his life he had a family … sad that they would not be able to make the journey with him this time. "Under sun and sky, Outlanders. I wish you safe travels … especially since there is no sun or sky where you're going."
Daerazal gave a nod of agreement to the other dark elf's salutation. "May darkness and shadows hide you from your foes," he gave the ironically opposite Drow blessing in return.
With no further excuses to delay the inevitable, Talvalo, Chizrae, Kielanai, and Daerazal gathered close with their travel gear in the center of the captain's den. Rindaalyn stepped back to the other side of the room out of their way. Drawing a silver key from his pocket, Talvalo activated its teleportation magic. The Altmer-and-Drow party faded in soft sworls of arcane energies, then the Tsaesci-Ashlander remained, alone.
Rindaalyn sighed at the sudden and heavy silence, then looked down at the Moon-and-Star on his finger. He had already decided his first stop in Morrowind before crossing the ocean would be the northern coast near the Ahemmusa Camp. They had turned him away as a child, but perhaps they would listen to him now.
He needed to return to his yurt outside of Vos and pack everything to move into his new home on the water. But more importantly, he would eventually have to persuade the Great Tribes and Great Houses to accept that, Incarnate or not, he had inherited Azura's blessing to speak as the long-lost Chimer king. That meant he would have to explain the Empire's role in hiring Chizrae to play the pretender. It also meant explaining Chizrae's theory regarding the prophecy.
He would be accused of blasphemy by the tribal wise women and chiefs. He might even be hunted by the Tribunal faithful. The Imperial sympathizers and Great Houses might regard him with suspicion now that the Emperor's line had ended. But to ward off the brewing civil war and heal his homeland, he needed alliances. There was no way he could do this Nerevarine thing as a one-man show.
Opening the door, the young captain headed out onto the deck of the ship entrusted to him. Lifting the anchor and pulling the sails, he checked his compass and looked toward the southern river. Secunda, the large pale moon, was visible in the clear, blue sky. Smiling to himself, the Dunmer scout jogged up the steps to the bridge to take the wheel and set sail.
In Seyda Neen, at Chizrae's island estate, Kielanai claimed a daedric sword with a paralysis spell from the former Nerevarine's extensive armory. The Drowess also donated two of her favorite items toward the light elf's protection—an Amulet of Chameleon to cloak her presence when necessary, and a Ring of Great Heights to help her levitate to the high structures and caverns like most Drow in the Underdark could do. In return, the bard volunteered to mix up some alchemy potions, until the Drowess was packed and ready to leave.
Chizrae collected all the rare artifacts she had found or claimed during her quest to become the Nerevarine and wrapped them carefully in a soft, red cloth before putting them in a chest for safe-keeping. She took one last look at all the hard-earned treasure she was leaving behind, and then carried the chest to the main hall where Talvalo and Daerazal waited. She packed some food to last as long as possible, but then had a difficult time finding clothing to pack because of her half-arachnid form. In terms of armor, she really only had one choice—a short-waisted silver and white cuirass, with matching bracers, that shimmered in enchantments designed to shield the areas of the body that the actual armor did not.
Talvalo and Daerazal were both still waiting in the sitting area of the main hall near the fireplace when she returned downstairs. Talvalo sat quietly in a chair, as he watched Daerazal and Nerevar-Ku'ne on the floor. Daerazal lay on one side with his head propped on an elbow while the baby boy attempted fruitlessly to use him as a climbing apparatus. As soon as the baby grabbed his shirt securely enough to pull himself half-way up, his uncle would poke a finger in his ribs, pushing him back down on his padded bottom. Daerazal looked sleepy, but the baby was laughing and loving it.
Chizrae smiled as she softly entered the area and stopped at her brother's feet. "You're discouraging him from learning to stand."
"He seems to like it, or he wouldn't keep doing it." He poked the baby again and watched him fall, laughing at their game, but then he lifted his chin to look at his sister. "What are you supposed to be? An Eilistraeen drider?"
Chizrae returned a wry smile for his sarcasm at her silver and white armor. "No, but I like that. It might be fun to play with their minds a little—create some chaos of my own to chafe their hides."
"That armor is rather bright for the tunnels, don't you think?"
"I don't want to be mistaken for an ordinary drider." She set down her bag to pick up her baby. "If people try to kill me the instant they see me, I won't be able to ask about the wish magic."
"Well, I think you'll succeed. I think you'll stand out as a drider with a fine set of armor worth looting," he muttered. As he sat up and stretched to stand, Kielanai came into the main hall with her armload of potions. Daerazal helped her divide and pack the bottles into their travel bags, but when he turned back to face his sister, Chizrae was fighting back tears as she hugged her son for what she was afraid would be the last time. Much as he hated to interrupt the unlikely moment, he knew that the longer they delayed, the harder it would be to tear her away. "Chiz …" He placed a hand on her shoulder.
The Drowess reluctantly released the baby to his father. Setting him in Talvalo's arms, she ran a hand gently over his soft, copper skin and downy, white hair. Then she kissed his cheek and looked up to Talvalo. "If we fail, make sure he knows … that I loved him."
Talvalo smiled sadly at how easily those words came to her now. "Every day," he promised.
"This isn't right." Kielanai shook her head. "It's just not right. There has to be some way that the three of you can stay together."
"Well ... the wish spell may be the answer we're hoping for," Talvalo quietly answered, trying to be positive in spite of the heartache. "I waited this long to be with her again. I can wait a little longer if it will put things right." He spoke the last sentence directly to his wife.
"Since the Llothians know where we live," he continued, "I'll be packing up everything else and moving it into the cavern with the items you set aside for Rindaalyn. I'll sell all the horses, except for the Azura, and tell the ranch to use the profits to pay for its extended boarding. I'll have Arrille advertise the manor for me, so I can sell it, too. Then I'll take Nerevar-Ku'ne and Loki with me to Imperial City, so Ilansa and Mother can help with the baby. If I feel we need to move elsewhere, I'll leave word with them."
"I have a cabin in Bruma you're welcome to use, if you don't mind a little snow," Kielanai offered. She set down her bag to look for the key.
"Loki would like that." Talvalo was grateful. "It will remind him of Solstheim."
Chizrae nodded in agreement with the plan, then turned to take one last look at her home. It was the first place she ever felt safe and secure. But now, Lloth had violated her sanctuary once more.
"My cabin is on the right at the front gate," the bard told the battlemage. "Just let the innkeeper at the Tap and Tack know you're my friend seeking refuge first, so he doesn't call the guards on you for breaking in." As she found the key, she heard her own words and paused as an idea came to her. "Baka!" she smacked her own forehead. "Baka, baka, baka! Why didn't I think of that before? That's it!"
The other three elves registered doubtful expressions for the outburst.
"Daerazal, didn't you say you knew of an Eilistraeen community near Skullport? The one where you made your vow?"
"Promenade? The red dragon burned it down."
"Did they rebuild? Are the Eilistraeens still there? As an Eilistraeen knight; maybe you could ask them for refuge. Surely they'd sympathize with what Lloth has put Chizrae through and be willing to shelter her and her family," she suggested in growing excitement. "Eilistraee's priestesses would intervene for the baby's safety if necessary, wouldn't they? Then you and I could go after the wish ring, while Chizrae and her family stay together in a safe place. You could even make this a quest to regain the favor of that goddess for your broken first-blood vow … if you want your knighthood back."
The other elves exchanged glances. "Promenade and Menzoberrazan aren't anywhere near each other," Chizrae spoke. "It would be a long journey from one to the other."
"It would be better than being entire worlds apart," Talvalo countered.
Daerazal began to catch Kielanai's enthusiasm for this possibility. "There are several other Eilistraeen communities we could try if one objects. You might even be able to ask for help from the Calisham priestess that asked you to spy on Guallidurth and steal that damned rod from House Nardool in the first place. She would be willing to let you stay with her, wouldn't she? She owes you one."
Chizrae shook her head immediately rejecting that option. "Calisham is too close to Guallidurth. I won't take chances on returning to House Nardool's dungeon."
"Then, we'll pick some other place. Asking for refuge among Eilistraeens is a viable option," he insisted.
"I say we do it." Talvalo agreed, passing the baby back into Chizrae's arms.
Chizrae was less certain. As she looked at her baby and his half-gold-elf heritage, she couldn't imagine any scenario that involved taking him into the Underdark turning out well. But she had such little time left, and she didn't want to spend it all away from him.
Looking to Talvalo, she smiled and touched his cheek. "You would be willing to do this? You will both be in danger living in the Realms Below, where your kind are hunted like animals."
Talvalo gave a short laugh and grinned. "I'm a pirate, woman. I live for adventure! And anyone attacking me might get more of an animal than they bargained for."
Daerazal took the baby from his sister. "Go pack the kid's things," he ordered.
"What's not staying as part of the estate can be packed and taken to the caverns now, so we can reclaim it when we come back," Talvalo decided.
Kielanai grinned at the new plan.
The Drowess nodded in slow acceptance of everyone's support and enthusiasm. While there was still hope, she scurried back upstairs on her spider legs to pack the baby's necessities.
Talvalo released his grin with an exhale of doubt. "I do not live for adventure. I enjoyed having a cushy life of luxury here. What have I gotten myself into?" The battlemage picked up his already dusty travel bag. "Guess there's no need to unpack this, after all."
Daerazal passed the baby to Kielanai, but spoke to his brother-in-law as he picked up the Nerevarine chest. "Well, we have no oceans in the Underdark, but we have lots of deep, black lakes; long, dark tunnels; hard rock to sleep on; wild animals that jump at you from the shadows … and if you get homesick for the sun, we can have Kielanai flash a light spell into your face. You'll love it."
Kielanai turned the baby to see his happy little face. He was blissfully ignorant of all the tragedy and danger going on around him. How she envied him. "You're going to be living in a very dark and scary place, Little Man. But don't worry. It's only temporary, and you have the best bodyguards in the world. We won't let anything happen to you."
Daerazal nudged her shoulder with his own. "Put him on the floor, then push him down when he tries to stand up. He loves it," he hinted.
Kielanai was doubtful. "Is that some kind of demented Drow game from your childhood? No wonder you turned out so warped."
"At least I didn't poke fish eyes out of their heads for fun when I was a kid."
Talvalo chuckled at their exchange and began stacking belongings going with them to the Underdark in the entrance hall.
The bard was stumped at the unexpected mention of that memory, gave her childhood friend an annoyed glance for laughing, but then realized there was only one person who could have tattled on her about that. Sighing with disgust, she shifted the baby against her hip. "My father tried to scare you off of me, didn't he?"
"It almost worked. You have to admit having a thing for fish innards is worse than fangs and leather," Daerazal assured her with a subdued, yet playful expression as he took the chest into the entrance hall to keep it separate from everything else being packed.
"Way too much information … " Talvalo audibly muttered in passing on his way to start packing the basement level rooms.
When Daerazal's secret cavern in the rocky wastelands between Suran and Molag Mar was stuffed to the ceiling with Talvalo and Chizrae's personal belongings, the Drowess left a note for Rindaalyn to find near the Nerevarine chest. Then she set a worn, dirty book over it—her journal from her travels during that quest, in case he found it useful.
"We should trap it somehow, in case anyone else finds this place," Talvalo suggested as he patted Loki. The big, black wolf was sniffing each crate, barrel, and chest, as if thinking one of them might have hidden treats.
"If anyone else finds this place, they'll die of shock from their good fortune." Daerazal muttered.
"Azura will do a better job at protecting this place than we ever could." The Drowess removed one last item from her bag—a statuette she had tucked away with the journal during the packing process. She set the Azura statuette in the middle of the treasury, said a short prayer to the Daedric Prince, then walked away and closed the door. Locking it, she took the key.
As the bard strolled toward the kitchen area with the others, she admired the soft blue and purple faerie fire that lit the cavern hideout. "This is what I kept hoping to find in House Nardool—a darkness that soothes and comforts like your moon garden. This place could actually make a cozy little home."
"It was a cozy little home," Daerazal reminded her. "Oh, before I forget …" The Drow reached into his pack and removed the stolen sigil stone, which he then handed to his sister.
Chizrae blinked at it in curiosity for a moment. "Where did you get this?"
"It's the ioun stone House Nardool used for the gate to Akavir. I thought it would be safer with you."
"Because it's my stone?" she countered in a pert tone.
"It's my stone," she repeated and frowned at him. "It's the one that I used to come to Morrowind, but I gave it to Kimmuriel in exchange for the Dwemer scroll, so I could return it to Arcane University."
Talvalo took it to double-check. It was, indeed, the same stone. "Jiub said Kimmuriel is the one that encouraged him to go to Guallidurth. Think he's got something against Chiz?"
"Kimmuriel hates Llothians," Daerazal answered. "He has no reason to trap Chizrae in a Llothian noble house. Jiub probably stole it from him and used it to bribe Matron Drael."
"I wouldn't rule out anything concerning that thief ... or that psion," Chizrae inserted her opinion.
"Actually … I was thinking we should speak with Kimmuriel first. He was there when the wish ring was found, and he has eyes and ears hidden everywhere in Menzoberranzan. He may be our biggest asset."
Talvalo snorted. "Now there's a scary thought."
Daerazal reached into one of the barrels to pull out a cloth-covered book. The cloth was laced with runes and glowed with a magic designed to repel other magic—the only safe way to handle the portal within without activating it.
Chizrae took her stone back and tucked it into her bag. Lifting her baby from Kielanai's arms, she gave his chubby cheek a kiss. "Hang on tight. We're going for another magical ride."
Daerazal smiled a little as he removed the protective cloth from the shimmering blue book. "Gather round, friends. Menzoberranzan awaits."
"Friends?" Kielanai slipped her arm around his. "I thought you didn't have any friends."
"Actually, you're right. I have a bossy sister, an annoying brother-in-law, a 'cute' nephew—who takes after me—and then there's you. But I can't figure out what you are yet."
Kielanai smiled at his assessment and glanced over the group to make sure their little family was interlinked and ready, then curiosity compelled her to reach across him and set her hand on the book. She didn't even have to open it before the magic rushed and swirled around them, whisking them away to the Realms Below.
Within the locked treasury, the statue of Azura glowed with a pale blue light to summon the ghost of a long-lost Chimer king to guard the room.
The General smiled to himself, pleased that other spirits had been willing to answer Rindaalyn's ancestor summons while in Akavir. He could wait however long it took for the Nerevarine and his ring to return to Morrowind and call on him again.
Thanks to everyone who stuck with it this far, especially to everyone who took the time and effort to leave reviews. I had a lot of fun writing this story, and I hope you found it entertaining. :)