The readers have voted, and they, like I, will have to live with the consequences of their actions!
(A) Remain in Myrkwasa and serve the people of Syroccoreg
(B) Travel northeast to the milder climes of High Rock and bigger cities
We'll get back to Kalaron's story soon, but first we have to know, what would have happened had he stayed in the run-down villages of Myrkwasa?
ENDING SEALED: THE HERO OF SYROCCOREG
Initially, Kalaron seemed to have lowered his expectations significantly to dedicate his time to building up Syroccoreg. However, his continuous service gave him a lot of recognition in Myrkwasa.
His Destruction and Illusion skills led to a fairly quick climb up the ranks of the Temple of Kynareth. Once Kalaron passed the rank of Brother (and became a local legend for his generosity), Glillon petitioned the capital city with proof of Syrocorreg's upward progress. The city was granted an upgraded ranking by the Lord of Myrkwasa, allowing the alderman to designate one of the local citizens to serve as a Magistrate for the flourishing town and the surrounding regions.
Glillon knew no one better than Kalaron Spellire to be the first Magistrate of Syroccoreg. However, shortly after receiving his certificate of authority, Kalaron fled into the night and presented his judgeship as proof of identity to the Grand Palace of Sentinel, allowing him to wait in the city until a political envoy bound for Summerset Isle arrived the following week. His certificate of judgeship permitted him to pass the sentinels guarding the island, and he finally returned to the College of Sepiarchs.
Nevertheless, Kalaron continued his studies by summer and returned to serve his judgeship in Syroccoreg by winter; he enjoyed the balance between theory and application. He occasionally went out to pursue justice directly from a guilty party when he tired of sitting and hearing too much. Glillon was not pleased with Kalaron's escape, but he forgave him once he returned to fulfill his duty.
Though the thugs of T'over Tower eventually found Kalaron, the citizens of Syroccoreg held him in high esteem and rallied together to keep him safe around the clock. After losing several men in failed skirmishes against the town, the criminals decided to cut their losses and leave that cursed High Elf alone.
However, these things cannot be, for Kalaron could not be persuaded to stay. What will become of him? Find out now...
Part IX: Over the Hills and Far Away
I had made up my mind. I just knew how hard it would be for him. Perhaps it was cowardly of me, but I put it off to the next day. Then I could at least give an air of having taken Glillon's words seriously.
"I'm going to think about it over the night. I'll be back early tomorrow morning, and I will give you the answer." I pulled my cloak over my head.
He nodded his head vigorously. "Please do. I really hope you make the right choice."
This was going to be painful, I was sure.
I woke up before sunrise. I wanted to get an early start on my journey. I expected it to be long and difficult.
There was just one necessary task to fulfill.
When he saw me enter, Glillon put all his papers aside and stared at me. He didn't say anything. I stood before him, wondering how I would break the news to him.
I took a deep breath.
"I've thought it over..." I started. He nodded, his eyes wide. He wished and prayed for words I simply could not say.
"The fact is... the desert is too dangerous for someone like me. Spring is just starting, and I already am too frail for this climate."
Glillon's heart broke in front of me. He made a heroic effort to keep his tears back, and almost succeeded. He let one escape and fought to regain composure, drying his eyes. "Well, it is your privilege to do so. I... uh, let me get out your membership record. Just a second." Caught unprepared, he leafed through several sheets before he finally found it. Grabbing a blank page, he put one hand on my record and another on the empty parchment. He whispered a spell, and the record copied over. He handed it to me.
"This is proof of your service and devotion to the temple. Take it anywhere you go. The temple can help you find lodging, work, or any other needful thing out there. I don't know where you're headed, but if it's in High Rock or Hammerfell, there's probably a temple to Kynareth somewhere out there."
I folded the parchment and put it away, and Glillon extended his hand. "I just want to say I'm really grateful for the acts of service you did. Selflessness really lifts people up in a way nothing else does. It gives us hope when we don't have any. You gave us some, and we're going to keep working to be a strong city. Stronger than Pothago, you'll see!"
After I shook his hand, I bowed deeply before him. "Thank you, my friend. You brought me out of a melancholy that I could not suffer. I will remember what you've taught me." Then I got an idea. "And as proof of it, why don't I take one final task on my way out? I'm headed east."
He smiled. "I'm sure I can find something out there..."
"Yes, I'm sure I could make a stop out there as I leave," I nodded. He handed me the pack of herbs.
"Farewell brother! May Kynareth's winds blow with you, wherever you go!" He waved as I left his office.
Once he thought I could no longer see, he buried his face in his hands and began to weep. With one hand he pounded the pulpit a few times, and then continued to cry.
I hitched the wagon and mounted Ancano. "I think that's going to be one of the hardest things I'll ever have to do, old boy."
The morning was already beginning to grow warm. It was the first day of First Seed, and the heat would soon envelop us. We needed to leave, now.
I set an anchor at every new inn I stayed in. I could not risk being outdoors without an escape plan.
Erosion had treated these hills very poorly, but I still preferred the road running through them. The loose sand was far harder on Ancano's feet.
I reached the point where I needed to enter the desert and find this lonely manor. For a few moments I considered abandoning the act altogether, but my pride won over my intellect.
As I predicted, the loose sand was terrible for us. Every step required my poor horse to dig up and down strenuously. We took a rest every half hour, but even that left us exhausted. At one point I dismounted the wagon and walked alongside Ancano, but it failed to help.
"Perhaps living closer to civilization would get you the medicine you need, lady," I thought as we pressed on into the late hours of the night.
I could not have been more relieved to find this cursed manor and deliver the herbs to the woman.
I nodded dumbly, not willing to tell my whole story of exodus to her. She would just have to find out for herself.
I had regretted taking on the task until this point. Now with it done and myself free of further commitment, I was free to follow the roads. No more deviations for me, from here on!
I really wished I had kept some of those books to read.
At one point I saw water afar off in the desert, even a great amount of it. "How is that...?" I wondered. Then I realized that it was merely nature's illusion against me. There was no water out there at all.
I was grateful for the chance to refill my waterskin every few hours.
The first city I encountered in the great Alik'r Desert seemed to boast the Redguard ethic of worthiness by combat.
No doubt some people enjoyed this lifestyle, but I immediately registered the Alik'r Desert as a place not for me. The fact that it was further inland, and therefore more arid and even warmer than in Myrkwasa, gave me good justification to leave as quickly as possible.
The towns were far and scarce in Alik'r. It felt dangerous, knowing that the nearest settlement could be several hours away. I kept my Recall spell current to my location, but it still felt a bit terrible.
Though I wasn't sure what I was looking for, my first objective was to get out of this unfathomable desert. I wondered if Anu simply didn't care for some parts of the world and neglected to create anything there.
Out of all the theories I entertained in the endless voyage eastward, that was the one I considered most reasonable.
Spring had begun in earnest, and even my cloak of Hammerfell provenance failed to keep me protected. The sand seemed to blind my eyes. I was glad not to have remained in Myrkwasa. Did Glillon actually expect me not to die in this desert?
By this point I started to marvel at the journey I had undertaken. It was my only option to be sure, for both Pothago and Sentinel were forbidden to me. But reading the map and walking the region were so incomprehensibly different, it seemed no map could possibly contain all this land I traversed.
Having renewed my anchor at every new tavern, I couldn't turn back to Myrkwasa without walking the whole way. Perhaps it was short-sighted of me to keep doing that, but I might have teleported back had I retained the option.
I secretly hoped to find some bandit keep that I could rob in haste in my flight eastward, but the road passed by none of them. The extra money would have been tremendously useful, wherever I was going.
"Finally, an end to my tedium," I thought. How I wished for one of Pothago's publicly-funded libraries among these primitive villages!
Upon inserting the coins, I began to fear; how much could the author of this book possibly know? What if I knew more, and I was just wasting money?
Clearly it was the work of an expert far beyond my level. I wondered at the enchantment which made the book teleport from view of its own power.
"Summerset wine?! I'll order a full glass!!" I shouted, startling the other patrons and the barkeep.
I took a sip. These Redguards had gotten the essence of our wine right, but their ingredients weren't nearly fine enough to mimic the taste properly. It just made me wish for home even more.
This desert was incomprehensible. Did it just never end?! The beauty I had previously seen in it started to fray. I needed out of this arid wasteland!
I pretended to hold on to my sanity as I arrived in this tavern, late into the night. Hopefully the bartender could be of some help.
"Excuse me my good man, I'm a traveler, lost in this desert and not knowing how to get out. What's the quickest way to get out of the sand?"
He raised an eyebrow. "Not many good ways, mate. South and west are bad, and east don't have much hope either. North is more desert, too."
"But if ya head northwid, there's a region called Ayasofya. Still desert, but i's a shipping town. They'll get you on a boat away from the desert. If that's all's ya care about, head that away."
If that was my best option, that was it. I never wanted to see another grain of sand in my life.
"HOW DOES THIS DESERT NEVER END?!" I screamed into the sky one day, frightening Ancano. Once he realized I was fine, he continued.
As the days dragged on, my misery fomented my old thoughts that I was actually in some lost shard of Oblivion.
Finally, crossing Antiphyllos, I had some minor excitement to break the awful tedium of the journey.
A well-clad warrior aimed a bow at my wagon. I raised my hands, caught off guard and unable to dismount quickly. "State your intentions, desert-elf!" He yelled.
"I'm a priest of Kynareth, traveling eastward for the season! Please don't harm me!"
He lowered his bow. "A fair journey to you then, no harm intended."
I asked what he was doing, and he explained he was on an assignment from the Fighters Guild to hunt down some merciless caravaneers in the region who had been attacking merchants. I was grateful for his restraint, for his mission was to kill any guilty party.
The city was less than two minutes beyond him.
Intelligent as the Fighters Guild was, the thieves were still smarter. This town had a ways to go in solving their criminal problem.
I was almost to Ayasofya. I took some leisure in resting and walking around this village.
"What are those mountains to the east?" I asked a villager. She answered, "Them's the Dragontail Mountains. Hardy people up there. A hard climb, but they say the peoples there's tough as Nords." As much as I hated this journey through the desert, I considered that ascent worse.
Before I left, I realized the village had a watering hole for its animals. I did not hesitate to jump in with a thrill.
I soaked in the cool morning's water and delighted in every particle of it. This trek through Alik'r had been so miserable, and this seemed to offset the entire thing! I stood soaking in the pool for a good while, allowing the cold liquid to release the desert's arid grip on me.
I didn't even need or want to dry off upon climbing out. That day was mercilessly warm, and fifteen minutes hadn't passed before I was completely dry again.
I stopped in a bedroom community beside Ayasofya for food. The town was right there. I could see it!!
Finally, to a relief unmatched in my life up to that point, I strolled into the grand city of Ayasofya.
I hurried to the palace to see what all this was about transit to the sea.
I wasn't sure who the Lord was, but I decided to speak to the best-dressed one of the lot.
"Hail, milord. I come from the desert to the south, and seek a ship to transport me elsewhere. Is it true that they sail from here?"
The man chuckled slightly, but still treated my question with dignity. "Not precisely from here, but good enough. The ruling merchant council pays the Mages Guild to convey people to and from the beach, where vessels await for goods and passengers. Every day, you can catch a ship headed to some other end of the Iliac Bay."
"What about to Summerset or Morrowind?" I asked. He merely shook his head and repeated what I had heard in Pothago: until the politics of the Iliac Bay settled down, foreign ships were not welcome in these waters.
"Where can I go, then?" I asked. He pulled out a chart and showed me several routes around the bay.
"Daggerfall and Sentinel are the closest major cities a person can get to from here." They were both bad choices, I knew. "Another one from Wayrest goes to Pothago tonight... let's see... Isle of Balfiera every Mondas, if you're interested." I shook my head.
I pored over the map with him. "What do you know about the royalty of Wayrest? I'd like to deal a bit with persons of influence, if you get my meaning." I didn't know what I was insinuating, but it got my point across.
"Wayrest is... an unusual case. The king is Eadwyre, and he's fiercely loyal to his own self. He's married to a Dark Elf named Barenziah. They have three children of mixed marriages... It's a bit complex, but to be short in speaking, they rarely deal with outsiders and hire no mercenaries. People who fail to cover their tracks among the royal family tend to meet the guillotine in short order."
I wasn't ready for that level of politics. Nor was I sure I ever wanted to be. "Okay, different question. If you had your choice of destinations, where would you choose to live?"
He pointed near Wayrest, a little to the west. "Menevia. Beautiful place. Right by the seaside, temperate climate, and they benefit from Wayrest's bountiful economy without suffering any of their politics. Ships head from Sentinel over there every other day. And if you're a mage as I suppose most elves to be, they have a thriving set of guilds over there you can take advantage of."
"Well, you seem to know what you're talking about," I said as I stepped back. He laughed again, "As I should! The head of the merchants' council has to have seen most of the bay, wouldn't you think?"
Before purchasing my fare, I sold the goods I had picked up on my journey. I had made a nice profit, but it still wasn't worth the trip. I then picked up a few books to read and returned to the palace.
"If you're ready, boarding starts at sundown. We can have you teleported there as soon as you're ready, cart and all. The council pays the guild the cost of teleportation, but you'll need 175 gold as your fare to Menevia." I considered it a pittance, and left immediately.
Though I was lucky enough to land a ship the same day, I was less lucky with the choice of ship. The fare was cheap since there was nowhere to sleep; the brig was filled to the brim with merchants' cargo, including my own with Ancano. I set up a cot on the deck and took up my old routine of reading, sleeping, and keeping out of the laborers' way. The layout was almost identical to my arrival in Hammerfell. Had it not been for the passenger ship I took to Pothago, I might have doubted their existence in this strange land.
We arrived in the city of Menevia at sunrise. I took a deep breath and patted Ancano's head.
"All right boy, I hope we know what we're doing..."