It was written as an additional Guide book to The Elder Scrolls Online.
Khajiit of the Aldmeri Dominion
I wept as the ferry passed my home of Bravil, but I could not risk returning there and bringing my curse to the ones I love. Now ensconced in the realm of the cat, my thoughts turned not to their wiles and ways but to the minions of Mannimarco who flit along the periphery of my vision each and every day.
Riverhold's market was particularly crowded. Overladen caravans were readying for Rimmen and Dune, filled with spices, weapons, and drapery. Khajiiti nomads had their herds of guar and goats for trade. Shouts and whistles and the smells of sweetmeats would have coaxed me farther into this bustle, but all I saw were the shaded alleys and shadowy recesses where the black-robed thugs could plan my long and drawn-out death.
Was that one of them? There, by the gemsmith? I hastily searched out a suitably robust Khajiiti specimen who ran the caravan to Dune. I explained my predicament and my finer qualities to him.
"I, Ma'rashirr, welcome such a dignitary to our humble traveling cavalcade."
"Thank--" I started to say.
"Your unclawed nature, ruddy cheeks, and profuse sweaty fragrance is an attraction to the caravan I hadn't bargained for. What a treat to greet the walkers when we arrive at Dune."
As my father told me, "a blow to your pride is easier to take than a blow to your head."
For battles where the Khajiit expect punishment, they favor cloth and leather greaves, gauntlets, and a light helmet; this allows for supremely agile movement without sacrificing speed (or fashion). For this race of acrobats, even the heaviest Khajiiti armor is loose-fitting but actually has lacquered metal plates laced together with leather, under which is an embroidered tunic, completed with a helmet of fluted silver and durable linen. It is only under the most harrowing of conditions that the Khajiit will don full battle armor.As for weaponry, curved scimitars, sabers and knives, or punch daggers serve as an elongation of the Khajiit's own slashing, clawed hands. Occasionally these claw shapes extend to ritual tridents and the savage points on their longbow arrows or javelins.
I attempted to prove my merit to Ma'rashirr by showing him this sketch of the savanna-land here in northern Elsweyr. The trees are speckled far apart from one another, their branches fanning out wide to capture every drop of moisture. Watering holes, low rock outcrops, and laconic Cat-Men herders are also infrequent sights. The caravan clattered across the most rudimentary of roads. When Ma'rashirr and his kin do meet another Khajiiti traveler or tent, they are greeted with quick throaty shouts in their own tongue, and yapping laughter is directed in my general direction.
The merchants continued plodding across the western savanna, with Dune at least two days away. My attempts to cultivate the caravan's guards (so I may mingle with veteran warriors who may protect me from my fears) had been a middling success. Ra'tassa, a particularly well-built Khajiit, seemed to be in charge of this crew. Early on the second morning, I asked to walk with him.
"You're the beet-faced Imperial Ma'rashirr the Five-Clawed saddled us with, yes?" His brethren smirked as I prepared to test my wits.
"I prefer to think of my complexion as sanguine, as is my disposition," I replied.
Ra'tassa's striped ears perked up and he smiled. "Ra'tassa wonders why you perspire when the sun has hardly crept out of bed. Your Nord clothing pelts smell like a Dungman's hindquarters."
"Ah, but I can take off my fur when the heat becomes uncomfortable. Can you? Although I'd pay good coin to see you shaved."
Had my wordplay become a tad too mocking? Not according to the whoops of approval and derisive laughter of Ra'tassa's gang.
We heard an odd, wheezing horn, along with grim shouts in a primal language. Khajiiti fur rose as a small force of Goblin raiders harried the caravan, charging out from a cluster of red rocks. I counted at least ten of the green-skinned marauders -- and a warchief the size of a Nord -- from my shrewd position behind the guards.
"Muskarse! Ra'tassa will make kebabs of your liver!" His gang was already engaging the Goblins, effortlessly cutting them down with ferocious double-slicing from frighteningly sharp sabers. Ra'tassa had deftly catapulted past enemy bowmen, leaped onto the leader, and drove his twin punch-daggers deep into the warchief's neck. The fellow gurgled and fell to the ground, spurting blood and yellow bile.
Ma'rashirr sat back on his haunches, grinning. His cat-folk had received only minor nicks to their fur while their foes lay lacerated, many in multiple pieces. Ra'tassa took the last Goblin by the nape of the neck and picked it up, shaking it violently. He threw it to a fellow Khajiit, who scraped his claws across the Goblin's sagging form before throwing it back to Ra'tassa. "Spotless!" he shouted, beating it about the face before snapping the Goblin's neck.
I didn't care for this toying spectacle of cruelty.
While Ra'tassa and the gang picked through the spoils and clutter, I chose three of the most intact Goblin corpses to paint and inspect (I did not show their numerous savage wounds). Of greater interest is the equipment they carry: It is primarily constructed of wood, bronze, and wrought iron. More fascinating still are the swords, shields, and cleaving weapons stolen from other cultures and remade roughly but effectively.
Ma'rashirr was tucking into a serving of dried sugarmeat with his cohorts. I declined and instead studied the heavy armor a few of the Goblin troops were wearing. I noted scraps of chain mail and iron plates bolted in, with accents of bone, horns, and skulls. The leather was efficiently tanned, but crude. Impressive craftsmanship for such a low and worthless creature.
I accompanied Ra'tassa and a couple of his ilk as they tracked the Goblins back to a small camp in a rocky dell several hundred paces away. The Khajiiti stalkers were expecting trouble but were greeted by pathetic moans and slumped bodies gasping and shriveled in pain. Many green-skins had turned an unhealthy shade of yellow, with buboes blistering around the mouth. I made some quick sketches of this wretched camp and totem, as the Khajiit retreated with haste, leaving the Goblins to succumb to the sun and what was undoubtedly the Knahaten Flu.
I suggested to Ra'tassa that perhaps the Goblin raiding party that was so conclusively defeated was also beginning to succumb to the Knahaten Flu.
"This explains why the raiders were such pushovers," I said, watching Ra'tassa's brow furrow.
"The unclawed one speaks!" he proclaimed, hissing back at me. "But of matters he hasn't the competency to lecture about, yes?"
Undeterred, I continued: "I studied the discharge from the warchief's wounds and mouth. It looked like the flu to me."
Ra'tassa stopped me, placing a muscular claw on my shoulder. "Ra'tassa believes in our own prowess. Flaccus should hold his tongue, lest a Cat get it."
I seemed to have rubbed Ra'tassa's fur the wrong way and spent the remaining hours in silence until our arrival in Dune, entrenched in the northwestern grasslands where the Baandari Pedlars roam. While the merchants paid their tariffs and excises, I bade a swift farewell and sketched two samples of the faintly exotic Khajiiti architecture. Being in northern Elsweyr, I wasn't expecting the imposing structures of marble or stone found in the south, where Khajiiti culture builds with more permanence. Here in Dune, buildings are less substantial, made from wood, and many have fallen into disrepair. Perhaps this is due to the northern Khajiit favoring a nomadic life, where only tents are necessary.
Even though the Elsweyr Confederacy has been ratified, the gambits of the Nibenese of Rimmen and the Colovians of Skingrad and Arenthia are still unchanged, as the Khajiiti territories continue to squabble. However, it has done some good; the factions have fallen into line under the leadership of the Mane, who holds spiritual sway over the common beasts.
The Khajiit are no strangers to vexation, and from the taint of disease and strife there has emerged a valiant leader, Gharesh-ri, Lord of Torval. He professes to speak for the Mane, with quick wits and quicker claws. He seeks council with the Higher Elves of Summerset, determined to tame the insurrection within his homeland. This is troubling, as a downtrodden Cat on our doorstep is preferable to a dominion with Elvenkind in your back garden.[What an appalling mixture of metaphors. I shall have to rewrite this section.]
My nerves calmed, I inspected a gift Ma'rashirr handed me as we parted company -- a Zwinthodurrarr, or yellow writing stick. I used it to sketch the bright, elegant entrance, and the decorative doors of Dune, finding my new implement -- and Khajiiti architecture -- most pleasing. While Cat-Men are certainly partial to bright colors, it borders on tasteful rather than garish, with flourishes of creative artisanship.
I walked the streets of Dune in the early afternoon. The painted pavilions and sculptures were intertwined with carvings of glinting golds, reds, and blacks, all beckoning you to take in their beauty and touch. The sandy thoroughfare I strolled upon was mostly dung-free, despite drovers passing, expertly wrangling their herds of cattle and horses.
I slowed as I passed hawkers sweetmeats and stopped to barter for a bag of caramelized goat nibbles. Delicious! There were no menacing shadows lurking at doorways. Instead, the heady aromas of freshly-made nectar bread loafs and honey pudding made my nostrils twitch. I gladly partook of a sample of Tenmar apricot liqueur. Delectable!
Amid the rabble of scurrying couriers, shouting peddlers, and well-to-do robed beast-men reclining in shaded tents and gazing out at the rumpus (the first time I'd witnessed a Khajiit without a task or purpose), I heard the skirling music pipes from the taverns. Intriguing... The Khajiit are sensualists and live to enjoy themselves.
The ambrosial aroma of the Sweet Plethora teahouse drew me in. Amid the finery, intricately woven tapestries of the moons' paths, and the cross-legged Khajiit, I sat down to paint and sample the various syrupy infusions being brewed. The pot of treacle tea was a little too sickly sweet for my palate, so I nibbled on a candied beet and waited for my jar of sorghum sweetmilk. That left a metallic taste in my mouth. I ordered a cup of myrrh-tansy and was enjoying it immensely when I noticed I was being watched.
Across the room, an Imperial woman was staring intently at me. Perhaps and agent wanting the preliminary sketches for my guide? No, she bore no insignia. She dipped her hand below the table and made a gesture I found most unnerving. The clasp of the fingers and spreading of the palm. This was a signal I am certain the Worm Cult used. But she hadn't the robed attire. What, now I couldn't trust anyone? I gulped down my tea and left by the rear door.
She followed. I panicked and ran.
I felt a foot blister burst as I sprinted down exactly the type of alley I'd sworn never to run down again. I turned several corners, weaving away from my pursuer, until I heard the faint sounds of a crowd chattering in the distance. Rushing through a double gate toward the throng, I stumbled and fell headlong into the arms of a tall and angular Khajiit with scars across his arms and face. I looked up, gasping for the breath to let him now my quandary.
"I, Jobasha-do, welcome you to your death."
Handled inappropriately by large paws, I was thrust into a large, sand-covered area where I stumbled about in a tizzy. Circled on all sides by high walls and a baying crowd and stripped of all possessions save a strewn scimitar I'd been thrown, I realized my predicament. A young female Khajiit was running at me. Instinctively, I dropped my weapon to surrender and backed up.
"I'm not a pit fighter!" I yelled back, catching the weapon by the correct end.
"Try to pretend, yes?" she replied, motioning to an open gate, out of which bounded a young senche-tiger. I scrabbled in the dirt for a crescent-shaped shield and stood my ground.
The tiger leapt for me. Clutching the handle, I braced as the animal clanged off the shield and onto Zara's impaling spear.
"Flaccus may have some combative boldness, like his brother!" I yelled at Zara with a manic grin. Then I wondered why I'd started to mimic Khajiiti verbal mannerisms.
"Ogre!" Zara shouted, pointing to a second gate. Something huge and blue-gray lumbered out of the cages, tore a section of masonry from the gate arch, and lobbed it across the arena. It thudded inches away from me. I babbled a prayer to Arkay as my bravery left me.
I recall being slightly annoyed at the crowd pelting me with spoiled fruit as I abstained completely from combat. My chest-brand and heart were both burning as I slowed. My vigor spent, I could run no more. With the cobalt beast bearing down on me, I cowered as it raised a massive first for a deathly pummel.
The Ogre bellowed as both its hamstrings were severed by Zara's swift cuts. Blood flew from its knees as it swayed and lurched. Then a Cat was on the Ogre's hunched back, cutting its throat with an expert dissection. The Ogre was dead before it crashed to the ground.
What a team we made.
Khajiiti dogma reveres the moons as divine, furnishing life into the bodies of the Cat-Men by ingestion of moon-sugar, a sacred ingredient that can also be refined into a hallucinatory contraband. [[Why be coy? Everyone knows it's called Skooma.]] Although used both for culinary and ritualistic purposes, it can be easily blended to form a wretched and illegal narcotic. Such wanton delirium seems to be kept in check by a hierarchy of Moon-Bishops who regulate these ingestions, which play a small part in Khajiiti ceremonies. The clergy mainly concerns itself with conducting services, rounding up fallen followers, and ruling on theological matters. If an impasse is reached, the issue isresolved by the Mane himself.
The absolute rulers of the Lunar Lattice, Manes are the most powerful of the Khajiit outside the clan-chiefs and kings of Elsweyr. They may be a key official to bribe, corrupt, or remove should forthcoming hostilities occur on our southern border. Of further interest is the succession ritual for the Mane; when one expires, a sacred ritual determines his successor. A Moon Herald is appointed to shepherd the potential aspirants on what Khajiiti texts describes as an epic and dangerous quest to the Two Moons themselves, with the sole returning candidate declared the new Mane.The assumption that the lay Cat travels astrally to our moons is preposterous; Venustinius Perquitienus has termed it "nauseous balderdash," and rightly so.
After profuse apologies by the arena attendant for my panic and inadvertent exposure to the deadlier side of Khajiiti culture, I limped out of the Thizzrini Arena and waited for Zara to collect her winnings. She offered me some coin, which I thought inappropriately gracious of her. I refused, but confessed to my jeopardy and the relentlessness of my enemies, the Daedric cultists. Mercifully, Zara suggested she accompany me.
Being quite devout, Zara was determined to visit the Two-Moons Temple to make an offering. Anxious to see evidence of Khajiiti culture that didn't involve slaughter, I agreed and we made our way to an impressive sanctuary which I was delighted to sketch. Zara donned a ceremonial budi -- or shirt -- fastened with braids down the right side, which does not permit the torso fur to be uncovered, for such is believed to be highly indecorous. She told me she always heads here after a fight to give thanks to Jone, Jode, and Alkosh.
Soon, the hallways echoed with her oaths to partly heretical deities: "Roar of Alkosh!"
I wish I had the fur and whiskers to fully appreciate such a cathedral of the Cat. Although the outer chambers had sustained damage over the centuries (most recently from skirmishes with marauding Khajiiti refugees from the corrupt Senchal region), the inner basilica held a wealth of meticulously carved masonry, including stone idols to minor deities I had no previous knowledge of.
Zara was deep in purring prayer to Alkosh, and I was seated in the cloisters outlining a drawing of an inner pulpit, when I was approached by an older Cat-Man in a ceremonial budi. I got up to leave but was quietly motioned to stay by Moon-Bishop Hunal.
"You run with some speed and dexterity, Shaveskin. You would be formidable if your play with blade matched your genius at evasion. Still, your display in the arena was spotless, I think."
By now, the sly disparagement was starting to grate slightly. But this was no caravan roustabout I was speaking with: I offered a fawning reply and unrolled my Imperial credentials. He waved them back into my satchel.
"We recognize your bona fides, Flaccus Terentius. Judging by your paunch, you enjoy eating? To make amends over your recent discomfort in our arena, you are to dine with myself and Telenger the Artificer, a High Elf envoy from Summerset. You would be honored to accept, I'm sure. We would be accepting of you and your warrior friend's agreement, yes?"
Zara had arrived by my side. It was odd to see her so circumspect -- I'd never seen a Khajiit blush before -- but I took her to one side, mentioned my worries about the Worm Anchorites, and prevailed on her to join me.
Dried sugarmeat for the visitors and jumping rodent morsels for the Khajiit at the table. I requested a dram of two-moon cordial. Than the introductions were made. I was particularly delighted to make the acquaintance of the High Elf Telenger, who, despite his stretched and pinched frame and a predisposition to talk down to everyone at the feast, was my connection to visiting the insular Summerset. After chitchat about the ongoing concord with the Cats, I plucked up the effrontery to ask for an escort to the Isles.
He pulled back his draped hood to reveal a pair of piercing blue eyes and looked me up and down.
"My Swan Ship sails to the Isles on the morrow, Imperial. Leave your protector with her own people. I can guarantee you safe passage."
I accepted most gracefully, although Zara seemed to stare sorrowfully into her plum brandy for a while.
Perceptive scholars of the Daedra may recognize that these lower spirits have easily identifiable aspects or counterparts in the realms of man, though even the most pious Khajiiti spiritualist would have only a vague notion of the difference between Aedra and Daedra. To a Khajiit, it is only after they seek the power of the Moons that they placate or implore other entities, almost on a whim.[This agrees with what I saw of the worshipers at Two-Moons Temple.]