The Priestess and the Black Star Chapter 5
The Priestess Irdi Sul, moved forward in her chair, as if to draw me closer into her confidence, and spoke to me in her quiet dulcet tone. “At this juncture of my pilgrimage, I felt betrayed, that this journey of redemption of the Dunmer people, was to come at the cost of any who refused to walk the path Azura had laid out before me Adonato.” Irdi Sul paused for a moment, took some more elixir into her flute and continued.
“I had seen the fall of the Tribunal back in earlier visions, but what I saw here was murder most foul. The destruction of an entire stronghold, innocents cut down, and I felt uneasy about how it had occurred. This was not benevolence; this was pure retribution. I knew enough of the House Hlaalu, and their views regarding the Tribunal. I also knew they were closely associated with the Camonna Tong. Why had the Nerevarine slaughtered the entire stronghold? I struggled to reconcile what had occurred.”
There was no clue left behind, she told me as to why the massacre had taken place. Irdi Sul said she excused herself from the scene and allowed Do’Sumi and Anrel to observe the last rights of the slain Dunmer as the traditions of their Ancestors demanded. However, when asked to say a few words, and bless the dead, Irdi Sul said she struggled to find her voice.
“I needn’t have worried about that Adonato, for Azura, appearing before us had plenty to say. It was dusk and the final light of the day was subsiding in golden hues of red green and blue by the time the pyres were lit, and the Dunmer of Rethan Manor were returned to the ash. As the fires blazed, and the bright orange, yellow and red flames licked up into the sky, Azura appeared in her celestial form, her shrouded body translucent and ethereal as she spoke to us thus.”
“Cometh f'rth and bareth witness, to the reclamations at handeth. Spurn thee and w'rship false gods at thy p'ril. I am the queen of the night, and mine own children shall not wend unpunish'd f'r blasphemous h'resy.
Raiseth up depart'd spirits, chooseth anon to beest f'rgiven and ent'r mine own realm 'r beest damn'd to wand'r as f'rgotten Ehlnofey…….”
“Through the haze of the funeral pyre and now billowing smoke, they appeared, one at a time, the ghosts of the fallen, their heads bowed, and their hands upturned in suppletive reverence towards the Mother of the Rose. None defied her, and all took the chance to beg for forgiveness so they could pass over and be granted passage to Moonshadow, the sacred realm of Azura,” said The Priestess, her aura glowing, and intoxicating me with the charm of her Alata Gandral as she spoke.
“Anrel was transfixed by what she saw, and stood with her arms by her side, staring at the grace of Azura, and her majesty. Do’Sumi had fallen to his knees as soon as she appeared and dare not raise his eyes unless called upon to do so.” The Priestess said. “Once the fallen had made their way to her Oblivion realm, Azura focused her attention upon myself, and reminded me of my purpose.”
“Thee has't ov'rcome the three p'rils and hath brought lighteth to wh're th're wast darkness Irdi Sul. Thee has't been 'rdain'd a priestess of Azura."
"Not all mine own people shall liveth to seeth the reclamations, but none shalt beest hath left behind if 't be true those gents chooseth not to beest."
"The bodement is at handeth. The n'revarine is mine own sw'rd, thee shalt beest mine own buckler.”
Irdi Sul said to me that Azura departed and they were left with the smouldering pyres of the fallen members of Rethan Manor, their remains now charcoal and vestiges, ready for entombment in the House Hlaalu Urns, that were found in the cellar of the Manor.
The Priestess said Do’Sumi was the first to speak, after they had completed placing the scoriae of the dead into the Urns and sealing them back down in the cellar.
“Do’Sumi is glad the Mother of the Immanence chose to take her children to the Isle of Moonshadow. Do’Sumi one day hopes Do’Sumi will be welcomed there, when the time arrives.”
“I am sorry for your loss Do’Sumi, your friend died horribly. I am glad that you can find solace in the benevolence of Azura. “ Irdi Sul said to him she told me, while Anrel chose to remain silent, and not speak openly about what had happened.
Irdi Sul said that once the formalities of the Dunmer funeral rites had been observed Do’Sumi revealed his alternative to the three of them of travelling by foot to Balmora. He suggested taking a Rethan Manor boat, that was tied up at a dock on the Odai river, a short walk down from the plateau Stronghold. “Do’Sumi can pilot the boat up to Balmoral, deliver the message, and then we can all sail down to Ebonheart, and seek passage to Azura’s Coast from there.” The Khajiit suggested to Irdi Sul, and Anrel, the Priestess informed me, who both agreed it was better than walking to Balmora.
“With torches guiding our path, Do’Sumi led us down to the dock, and under his expert tutelage we made our way upriver to Balmora. The sailing vessel was not much bigger than Dilys Veth’s fishing boat. It was long and narrow, with a mast amidships and a single sail.” Said Irdi Sul. “It was crafted in dark wood and worn smooth by years of exposure to the elements, yet it was in good working order. The sail was emblazoned with the crest of the House Hlaalu. The helm had a large tiller, that in turn worked the rudder, at the stern that Do’Sumi instructed Anrel to attend to as he unfurled the mainsail and set the point of sail, using the wind that was blowing gently from the east. Setting a tack up and across the Odai river while barking commands to Anrel and myself to prepare to lean too, once he had taken over the helm, we made good time and were on the outskirts of the Balmora docks before sunrise. To see a Khajiit so adept at manoeuvring a boat surprised me.” Said the Priestess.
“Do’Sumi is learned at sailing Irdi Sul. Dilys Veth taught Do’Sumi over many journeys on his vessel to and from Ebonheart.” The Khajiit informed her when she asked where he had developed the skills he displayed so adeptly. Now in full control of the vessel, managing the helm and the tiller, Do’Sumi allowed the two old friends to talk, said the Priestess.
Anrel sought to have words with her, the Priestess told me, and for the first time since they had left Tel Fyr, spoke to her about her pilgrimage, and what she feared would occur if she continued.
“I was sent by your mother to find you, however another who I encountered in the service of my Mistress, also spoke of you. I am unsure of the connection, but after today, and the appearance of the thelba Daedric Prince Azura, I fear for the people of Vvardenfell, and Morrowind. I do not trust the thelba Daedroth, they are not our Ancestors, and I caution you in what you have involved yourself Irdi Sul.” Was how Anrel began, the seriousness of her manner, the gleam in her deep emerald eyes lending more weight to what she was saying, said the Priestess.
“I have once before, sat back and said nothing when you chose to pursue that diabolical Breton in Mournhold. I will not sit idly by this time. How am I to protect you when you continue to dive headlong into danger, risking your life, for what? The undying servitude to a Daedroth that cursed your people for the perceived sins of some, and now wants to reclaim them, as an act of benevolence?” Anrel was measured as always in her words, and held her right hand up as Irdi Sul, said she tried to explain.
“Let me continue my Reil Parweni.” Anrel said to her. “Your Faunva Ril Tham is a beautiful gift, and I understand to have the power of sunrise in your fingertips must be intoxicating.” Irdi Sul said she couldn’t help but interrupt her, “You were awake in the cavern, and saw my…”
“Yes, how could I not, the room burst into the morning glow of the sun, and the excited cackle of those ignorant Dunmer males was roth, it made me nauseous.” She said to me, Irdi Sul, now almost whispering and laughing in embarrassment retold what she said to her friend “You were jealous of the attention of men, and fear losing your beautiful friend to another, don’t you Anrel?” Irdi Sul said to her. “Yes, I am, but it is more than that….” And Irdi Sul said she cut her off, and hugged her, for all her devotion and unrequited affection, releasing the grace of her Alata Gandral or what Anrel called in her own native Bosmer, Faunva Ril Tham.
“I let the charm and grace flow out of me and envelop us as we sat together in the bow of the boat, as the Khajiit chastised us, and for me to calm down and stop drawing attention to ourselves,” said Irdi Sul.
The Priestess told me Anrel spoke again after the embrace and said to Irdi Sul. “Think about what I have said this night, as once we make our way back to Ebonheart, I must return to Mournhold. I hope dearly you will come with me.”
“As much as I wanted to Adonato, I knew that I would not.” Said Irdi Sul, as she looked away from me for a moment.
The Priestess told me the twin moons of Nirn shone down upon the waters of the Odai river, as they quietly made their way up to Balmora, throwing their luminant glow on the docks and allowing the three companions to easily make port. The shining gleam of Secunda and Masser lighting up the city and reflecting flecks of silver and bronze in the ripples off the water as Do’Sumi first stayed the mainsail and then used the solitary paddle found tucked up in the bow, to manoeuvre into the nearest vacant berth on the east side of the city.
The Odai river runs directly down the middle of Balmora, and is channelled into canals, dividing it into the East side residences of Labour Town and Westside which is known as the Commercial District, where the Guild buildings, Merchants, Traders and the House Hlaalu Manor stand in grid like rows. The High town is up above them, standing tall in the northeast corner and has the resplendent buildings of the cities Nobles as well at the Tribunal Temple that dominates the city skyline. The residence of the Imperial they were tasked with delivering a message to, was in Labour Town the Priestess said to me.
Before heading off to meet with the mysterious Caius, Irdi Sul tells me how the Khajiit speaks with her, warning of the dangers of moving about the city at night. “Do’Sumi asks that you wait here for him Priestess”, the Khajiit implored to her she told me. “I intend to meet with this Imperial Do’Sumi. I will not bargain about it” Irdi Sul informed him, and so the three of them, made their way into Balmora, the second largest city in Vvardenfell.
“I was less concerned with who might attempt to betray us to the Sixth House, than I was about getting answers from Caius about why he would need deliverance of a message from Camonna Tong Skooma smugglers. The Imperial Legions of the Tiber Septim Empire had taken control of much of Morrowind, under a treaty negotiated by Lord Vivec. I felt somehow that this Caius, could provide some answers on what had occurred at Rethan Manor.” The Priestess said to me, as she began serving up some of the meat and vegetables onto the polished porcelain plates for us to dine on.
“We weaved our way through the north eastern lanes of Balmora, keeping out of sight, following the deathly quiet Khajiit to Caius’ residence.” The Priestess continued, while filling our flutes with the last of the Juniper elixir. “We arrived to find a solitary lamp burning inside, from the top story. The buildings had a variety of two and single-story dwellings on this side of the city, with separate steps up to a second doorway above the first. It was there that Do’Sumi indicated we should go.”
“Do’Sumi must inform the Priestess, the Imperial is a Sugar tooth, although Do’Sumi believed it was a trick, and he used it as a ruse to deceive his enemies and surprise them with his skills in combat if challenged.” The Khajiit informed Irdi Sul. "Are all your aquaintences Skooma addicts Do'Sumi? I will come with you" the Priestess told me she replied to him and she described the look of anguish on his face, as they crouched in the shadows of a home across from their intended destination.
“Do’Sumi again warns Irdi Sul to wait, until Do’Sumi returns to let you know it is safe to proceed.” The Khajiit said to her again, indicating for them to not follow him. “I was determined to not be afraid of what lay in wait for us, I had my faith, and followed closely behind Do’Sumi much to his annoyance. Anrel said she would wait and cover the street and whistle a warning if Camonna Tong or anyone suspicious attempted to sneak up on us.” Said the Priestess.
"It was deathly quiet as I followed the Khajiit, barely the sound of a night bird or a stray creature. There was the smell of the open sewer that ran down behind the dwellings, into the river, and as we crossed it, my nose shrunk up involuntarily, and I stifled a sneeze, causing Do’Sumi to pause, and look back at me with a look of castigation.” said Irdi Sul, talking quietly, in between bites of bread.
“Climbing the steps in silent agony, my heart beating rapidly, I forced myself to remain calm, lest my Alata Gandral announce our arrival before we entered the dimly lit room.” The Priestess said this looking directly at me, her gaze intensifying as she went on, “We pushed open the door, and could make out a bed, a set of drawers and a single chair, pushed into the corner of the room. Sitting in the chair was a solitary figure.” Said Irdi Sul.
“Do’Sumi greets you friend, I am here at the behest of Dilys Veth to deliver a message to you.” The Khajiit said this to the armour-clad warrior who did not respond said Irdi Sul.
The Priestess shifted her gaze and after taking the last swallow of her elixir, before setting the flute down said to me, “Once I got close enough to see who it was, I discovered that this was not an Imperial, but the ebony clad Champion of Boethiah, the butcher of Rethan Manor. It was the Nerevarine.”