A Light That Never Goes Out14th Midyear, 4E208
Oasis, Alik'r Desert
Evening, sometime after supper…
Why it it seem that cooking pots never seemed to want to get cleaned after even a single use? Daro’Vasora had filled the large stew pot up with water from the river and had it boiling over the same fires they had prepared the meal on, with leftovers sitting on the bench of the wagon on the same bowls they had dined upon that night. For whatever reason, the sheep and beetle stew with cheese, carrots, and potatoes made for a cursed mixture that seemed to stick to the cast iron like red wine stained a white dress. The Khajiit frowned at the boiling water, mentally cursing herself for volunteering for the thankless cleanup duty following her rescue. Everyone had done so much for her, a small gesture of thanks was hopefully enough to begin to show her gratitude.
“I’m going to fucking throw you down river, let the goblins deal with it…” the Khajiit growled at the pot.
“You tell him,” Mazrah’s voice came from behind her, a smirk on her face. She had approached silently, years of hunting experience making her bare footfalls as quiet as can be. After a moment’s hesitation the Orsimer swept up Daro’Vasora in an enveloping bear hug and grunted with joy as she pressed the Khajiit to her chest. “It’s so good to have you back! How are you, anyway?” she asked as she sheepishly put Sora back on her own feet. ”Hrrgh!”
The Khajiit grunted in surprise and having her lungs suddenly compressed under the mighty embrace of the Orsimer huntress, who either intentionally or unwittingly had lifted the much smaller treasure hunter up off her feet for a few moments. When the embrace let off and her feet touched the ground she sucked in a welcome breath of air and managed a smile. “Much better, I needed that.” Daro’Vasora said. She reflected had it been a couple months ago, she would have given the Orcismer an earful.
Incredible how quickly change could take root.
“I cannot begin to describe how surprised and overjoyed I was when I saw you, and the others. It was like a dream, even if I was scared shitless. For someone who barely knows me, you risked a lot.” Daro’Vasora said, returning the hug, not caring that Mazrah was basically naked as she pressed into the bare flesh. “Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I’ll earn this.”
Mazrah laughed, scrunching up her nose and deepening the dimples in her cheeks, and she ruffled a hand through Sora’s hair. “You already earned it, you silly goose. And it wasn’t that
big of a deal,” she said, full of bravado. “Those Deep Elves got their asses handed to them. You risked a lot by taking me into your super secret group of secret super resistance fighters. Seems only fair that I help you out when you need it.” She motioned for the two of them to sit down and, once they had made themselves comfortable, Mazrah leaned forwards and her eyes went wide with curiosity. “You have to tell me, Sora. What was it like? Did they torture you? I hope not.”
“Well, what was I risking inviting you along in our merry band? Someone like you is hard to be anything but genuine inside and out. Bare skin holds no secrets.” Daro’Vasora winked before shaking her head. “No, nothing of that sort. They were good to me, treated me with respect and kindness. Like I was an emissary; I spent a lot of time with the Governor, and she gave me space when I needed it.”
The Khajiit reached down and held up the pendant at her throat. “This belonged to her mother, she told me. It’s from the bloody First Era, if you could believe it. She thought it would be of some comfort, that it would buy some trust between us. I think, in a way, she’d hoped we’d become friends when it was all over.” she said quietly, shaking her head. “All I had to do was be a spokeswoman for unity between all of our people, to show that they could do good for the world. And maybe they could; just not like this.”
“Bah,” Mazrah spat. “You are right, not like this. Doing good in the world doesn’t start with taking away with the self-rule of some of the most fiercely independent people of Tamriel. I’m not a fan. But I have to admit that I am surprised they were so kind to you. I expected the Governor to be… different.”
She looked at Sora’s pendant and nodded appreciatively. The significance of the words ‘First Era’ were lost on her. “Looks nice. You should keep it and tell everyone that you stole it from her with your heel on her throat.”
The Imperial City flashed across Daro’Vasora’s mind and she shook her head. “She was different. I admire her; she could be so much better if she’d hear it.” she said, grinning at Mazrah’s suggestion. “Maybe they’d believe that coming from you; I’m hardly that formidable. I think…” her voice trailed off. “It’s a good reminder of what I want to do, at the end of this road. Even if we stop this invasion, the Dwemer are still going to be here. They’re going to have to figure out how this world works, and their place in it.”
A slow whistle escaped Mazrah. “Woah there, chief. One step at a time. You’re already thinking about brokering world peace?” She shook her head but her tentative disapproval turned into amusement, and she laughed again. “You’re a strange one. I’ve never really thought ahead more than a week at a time. As for more, err, pressing concerns…” Mazrah ran a hand through her hair and cleared her throat. “Where exactly are we going? I didn’t really understand the first time.”
Daro’Vasora chuckled mirthfully. “No one’s ever accused me of being unambitious. I just like to have a goal in mind, is all. I’ve read more history tomes than I care to count, so it helps to rationalize this with what’s come before. But no, it wouldn’t be me doing the brokering; I just want to set the world straight and go back to my old life, if it still exists.” she said, finally taking the invitation to sit.
When both women were sat down, the Khajiit stared into the flames, the dancing fire making the reflective qualities of her feline eyes glow. “I’ve heard enough reports of a prison set up in a ruin to the North, it’s where the Dwemer have been sending most of their prisoners, I believe it’s where they were sending Shakti before you and the others rescued her. Aside from being good people for a change and trying to break some people out, I suspect they’re using a lexicon and a portal to send prisoners to their plane, Exodus. The Governor explained this plane to me, how it wasn’t quite completed when the Dwemer were banished there, and how in a couple hundred years in the time there it would be gone forever and everything within it.” Daro’Vasora explained.
“So, a labourforce could be, in theory, used to delay that from happening and to assist in the transfer of Dwemeri people from Exodus to Mundus. If we can get the Lexicon, we shut down the portal and transfer of prisoners to Exodus, and we now have the coordinates of how to get there. Then it’s a matter of finding a portal that doesn’t lead directly to a prison cell…” Daro’Vasora murmured.
“If I’m right about all of this, and it’s a big if
, we could alter the coordinates of this portal on their
side of the bridge and ultimately fuck things up for them. If they can’t get back, or the portal opens in on itself like a loop, we’ve essentially cut them off, maybe forever. Enough time for everyone to counter attack and force them out of the cities, anyways.” the Khajiit explained, with a shrug.
Mazrah was silent for a long time as she digested this information. When she was finished, she regarded Sora with a mixture of admiration and confusion. “I swear I’m not dumb,” she said at length and laughed. “But all that stuff about another plane and lexicons is so new to me. I’m impressed you seem to understand it all so well. Either way, if you’ve got a plan to try and kick the Dwemer in the teeth, I’m with you all the way. It’s exciting! Feels like I have a real purpose in life now. You just watch,” Mazrah continued, her cheeks rosy with enthusiasm, “I’m gonna be one of those heroes the people sing songs about.”
Daro’Vasora smiled affectionately, placing a hand on Mazrah’s shoulder. “I never would dare to presume you are not intelligent. You simply learned differently than I have; I’m fairly confident I could never track game across the wilderness and dress it after the kill, or know where to find clean water, or how to erect a shelter out of the wilds like you do. I just read a lot, and I’ve always been driven by curiosity, about history and the world we live in. I just rarely had to factor in how the smaller pieces fit together to make it all work. I’ve a lot to learn from someone like you.” the Khajiit promised.
“I appreciate that, more than you know.” she added, bowing her head in respect to the Orsimer woman. “I think no matter what happened, you were always going to be someone who ends up beloved and famous; you leave quite the impression, rather effortlessly, too.”
“Stop it, you’ll make me blush,” Mazrah whispered coyly and pressed a hand to her bosom in mock embarrassment, the way she’d seen the Breton ladies do in High Rock. “You know, if you ever want to go hunting with me, just say the word. It’s very… well, I won’t say relaxing, but it helps you focus, you know?” She scratched her chin and screwed up her eyebrows while she was thinking. “You become very in tune with yourself and with nature.”
“Maybe I’ll take you up on it one day.” Daro’Vasora said earnestly, looking to the Orsimer with appreciation. “I can’t promise I’ll be any good at it, but I’m willing to try and learn. I’d like to think I’m quiet enough.” she smiled. “I wonder if Latro used to be a hunter? I never thought to ask him.”
“Oh, speaking of,” Mazrah said and suddenly sat up straighter. “I talked to Latro. I think I can help him tame his wolf. It’s like the rage of the Ornim sings in his blood too. We learn to control it, and I don’t see why it wouldn’t be the same for him.” She looked expectantly at Sora, half a smile on her face. “Good news, right?”
That prompted a concerned furrow of Daro’Vasora’s brow. “I… I don’t know, Mazrah. That state he was in, his Pale-Feather personality… it terrifies me and it isn’t him. I don’t want to lose him to it, and I might have ideas of how to reconcile these parts of his soul, but I don’t want to make it worse, or nurture the side I fear to the point Latro withers and dies.” she sighed, sliding a bone from her meal between her teeth to bite into. “What you describe is something that’s taught from youth in your culture, yes? But he’s a grown man, with a full life behind him. The same techniques you wish to apply may just make him worse.”
Taken aback, Mazrah’s face dropped. “Well… yes, usually
taught from youth, but not always. Some tribes don’t believe in taming the rage, that doing so makes it weaker. Sometimes an Orsimer like that regrets their belief and wants to learn control after all. It’s not… I don’t know what you think it is that we do. He’d be thinking of you the whole time,” she explained hopefully. “That’s the whole point. Anchor him to a memory or a feeling that’s so powerful that it helps him focus, even when he is… what did you call him? Pale-Feather? I just don’t think that side of him can be suppressed. The things my mother taught me, which is what I would pass on to Latro, are to make sure that Pale-Feather only exists inside
Latro, not besides
him. A stranger in his skin, I called it.”
She rested her chin on her fist and looked at Sora quizzically. “What are your ideas?”
Daro’Vasora nodded, almost imperceptibly. “I trust you, Mazrah. If he feels he can learn from you, and you can teach him, I want you to try. Please promise me you won’t let him lose himself along the way.” she said, looking to the Orsimer sadly. “I’ve gone on something of a spiritual awakening, myself. I’m a being of two cultures, and for most of my life I rejected the body I inhabit, thought of the Khajiiti traditions as backwards and uncultured, like it was holding me back from being respected or trusted, or taken seriously. I’ve faced a lot of discrimination for being what I am, I wanted my whole life for people to see me for who
I am.” the Khajiit explained.
“I’ve always embraced my Imperial identity, the culture and my family traditions of serving the Count of Leyawiin. I made a life in Imperial social circles, proving my worth by being smarter and more talented than most, hunting treasure and being able to explain to people the value and history behind it all. I gave culture back to the world, and my name began to mean something other than a girl who was caught stealing from her own father.” Daro’Vasora explained with a sad smile.
“But… I’ve always maintained my honourific, the Daro’. It means nimble fingered, clever of tongue. I didn’t understand that until recently, I didn’t know why
I always maintained it as a part of my name, it is a part of me. I take the Moonpath to speak with my ancestors infrequently, they were the ones who suggested I didn’t turn my backs on everyone and leave in Anvil. They implored me to try and do right by them, and to follow my heart. That the two parts of my soul were actually one, and I was too blind to see it.” She reached to her waist belt and unclasped a leather pouch that she held in her hand and untightened the drawstring. The shimmering white moonsugar sparkled from within, not unlike the Khajiit’s eyes. “I want to offer to take Latro on a Moonpath of his own, to perhaps speak to his own soul and find the wholeness I have so recently discovered myself.”
Mazrah listened with great interest to Sora’s story and she leaned back after the Khajiit was done talking, drinking in the details. “The spirituality of your people is fascinating,” she said and her voice was tinged with awe. “The Moonpath… is it like a vision? If I could talk with my ancestors, my grandmother and all the women that came before her, that would be nothing short of amazing. Imagine their wisdom! Their stories!” The Orsimer huntress laughed in wonder at the thought. She glanced down at the moonsugar before looking back up to meet Sora’s shimmering gaze. “I saw a lot of things when I tried your moonsugar but not my ancestors, you know. I feel robbed,” she joked.
Daro’Vasora smiled enthusiastically. “It’s more than that; the moons, Jone and Jode, they are aspects of one of our gods, and Moonsugar is crystalised moonlight. It is almost like consuming a part of Lorkajj. I have met ancestors of mine, going back to the very beginning of my lineage, to those who have served Queen Ayrenn in the Second Era, to an ancestor of mine who fell defending Leyawiin from the Empire’s expansion. These are all people I would have never have known about because we do not not write stories of our history, for it is written in our souls, our blood, in the light of the Moons.” she held the sugar up.
“This is far much more than a narcotic that causes euphoria in other races; it can be turned into an elixir that allows my soul to travel across the moonlight to the Sands Behind the Stars, to speak with my ancestors, to petition them for their wisdom. So far, they have never put me down the wrong path, but it all depended if I was too proud or stubborn to listen.” she said with a smile and a slight chuckle.
“I’m afraid for someone who is not of a Khajiit, it doesn’t quite work like that, especially just taken raw like you have. You can understand why distilling Moonsugar into Skooma is incredibly addictive and dangerous, even for Khajiit. Your ancestors do not reside where mine do, and you do not have a relationship to the Moons like we do. But, with guidance and a careful dose, it can be used to help non-Khajiit confront parts of themselves that trouble them, and to find a more spiritual grounding, as it were.”
“Awh,” Mazrah said, visibly disappointed and a little jealous. “That does sound exactly like what Latro needs. We both have different ways of trying to connect and make peace with a part of ourselves that sings its own song,” she said sagely and her jealousy evaporated like virgin snow in the sun.
“I found myself a nice girl, by the way,” Mazrah said with a wink, abruptly changing topic. “You haven’t met her yet but I’m sure you saw her in the palace. Her name is Maj
, can you believe that? We met in a bar in Gilane and I may have been drinking and I thought she introduced herself with Maz.
Confusing as all hell. She was a sailor and the Dwemer sank her ship off the coast, so she’s got every reason to hate them. Hope you don’t mind I brought her along.”
“Oh?” Daro’Vasora asked with a tilt of her head at the sudden shift in conversation. She couldn’t help but smile at Maz’s enthusiasm. “Maz and Maj, two peas in a pod, as they say.” the Khajiit smiled. “I would say overall, Gilane was good to you. New friends, a new lady
friend. I wondered who that was, I think I like her already. But please, look how I brought you along. It would be rather hypocritical of me to question your judgement in character for inviting someone to join us; we need all the help we can get.”
Pleased, Mazrah smiled and ran a hand over her scalp as she cast her glance across the cave. “Yeah, that was a productive visit for me.” She bit her lip and cocked her head as a small frown creased her brow. “But it seems unfair to say that Gilane was good to me when it was so rough to most of the others, including you.”
Daro'Vasora shook her head, holding up an arresting hand. “Please, don't trouble yourself by feeling guilty that the troubles myself and others endured should erode what the city gave you.” the Khajiit smiled, reaching up to place a hand on Maz's shoulder. “There's not enough good things these days, I consider each and every time one of my companions and friends smile about something a victory. We need to celebrate life, no let the troubles hold us down so we cannot appreciate the good that we find. Why would I ever feel slighted that you are happy, Mazrah? It reminds me of what we're all fighting for, life. Never apologize for living.”
That was caused for the Orsimer to grin and look Sora in the eye with nothing but admiration. “Look at you, just rescued from captivity in which you thought you were going to die, and already so wise again. If you had been an Ornim of Orsinium, you would have had nothing on your mind but vengeance. You continue to impress,” she said and placed her own hand over the paw that Sora had placed on her shoulder. “That settles that; I shall never apologize for living.”
That prompted a humbled smile and a half-hearted shrug. “I've just surrounded myself with the right people and listened to the lessons they've taught me, intentionally or no.” Daro'Vasora replied, squeezing the shoulder tighter. “And never do, Maz. You're a flame that can never be extinguished, it inspires people. I'm grateful you found me when you did.”