The Elder Scrolls

The Tail of J’Skarr (pt 8)

The days passed on into a great blur, the two cages filled with us in chains, driven by the band of Dark Elves, and behind, staggering, those who had tried to escape. J’Skarr could not look at them for very long, for looking at these ones was like looking down from a great and terrible height, down into a black pit. D’Jarro was at the back of the chain, staggering like a drunkard, several times falling and letting the carriage pull him, until a Dark Elf would see, halt the wagons and force D’Jarro to walk again. Where once his tail had been, now there was a stump, tied with blood stained rags.

The fields and plains gave way to mountains and rugged cliffs of reddish stone. The small towns we passed became more busied, more full of life. In some of these towns the grey skinned children would follow the carriage, gawking and laughing before being shouted at by one of the drivers, then these little ones would scatter like flies when a rotten fruit is kicked.

On the last night in the cage carriage, though J’Skarr did not know that this journey was very nearly ended at the time, Sleeps-in-Sun the Argonian spoke to him in the dark of the night.

“J’Skarr,” he said to this one, “have you heard of the Twin Lamps?”

The name seemed to be out of a dream, but J’Skarr suddenly remembered Baamed and his last words to J’Skarr “Look for the Twin Lamps, for they light the way to freedom.” the slaver cat had said. J’Skarr told the red throated lizard that yes he had heard of these lamps.

Sleeps nodded his head,

“Do you know what they are?”

J’Skarr did not, he could not understand how lamps could free him

“They are not lamps, they are people. All kinds of people. They smuggle slaves out of Morrowind.”

J’Skarr could not imagine how such a thing could be done without some great magician or wizard using powerful spells. Sleeps-in-Sun said he did not know either but he gave J’Skarr this warning.

“I don’t know how many are in the Lamps, but there certainly more bounty hunters in Morrowind. I knew an Argonian that ran away from where we worked. He was brought back ten days later. A bounty hunter had tricked him into thinking he was going to help him back to Black Marsh.”

Sleeps sighed, recalling memories that J’Skarr did not wish to hear.

“To be sure, ask anyone who says they will help you to freedom ‘Have you seen the Twin Lamps?’ they must then answer ‘They light the way to freedom’. If they don’t say that do not trust them, do you understand?”

J’Skarr nodded his head, yes he understood. But J’Skarr was curious, for the talk had driven sleep from him and curiosity gnawed at his brain

“How does Sleeps-in-Sun know these things?” this one asked the Argonian. Sleeps closed his eyes, and seemed very tired at that moment

“A group of slaves and myself were planning to escape with the help of a Redguard when we were sold and shipped to Tear.” his voice was dejected, tired “The Redguard was part of the Twin Lamps.”

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J’Skarr felt his chest fill with pity for Sleeps-in-Sun. To have the hope of freedom in your claws, to have it suddenly taken, it was a wonder the lizard had not gone mad. But J’Skarr had one last question.

“Why does this oen trust J’Skarr with this knowledge? What if J’Skarr is working with the Dark Elves?”

The Argonian made a strange sound, deep in his throat, like he was coughing, every breath of it made the red on his throat bulge out slightly. J’Skarr then understood the Argonian was laughing at him.

“If you are working with the Dark Elves then I am a dwarf, cat.” He said, “You faint at everything and you reek of fear. If you worked for these elf pigs then you’d be better off working in a theater troupe.”

J’Skarr did not know what to say to this, for while it is true that he fainted at horrific things he felt that this reflected more on Dark Elf cruelty than it did on his bravery, and he said this to Sleeps-in-Sun, who had stopped laughing.

“It’s not a matter of bravery cat,” the Argonian rolled away from J’Skarr to sleep, “It’s a matter of becoming used to it.”

____

The sun rose on the last day in the rolling cages. The hills were dry and red and strange flowers bloomed in the dust. J’Skarr was reminded of the sands of Elsweyr, but this sand seemed to have been stained with blood. The wagons rolled on.

The roads became busier, with wagons going hither and thither, Dark Elves and even those who were not Dark Elves came this way and that. And there were slaves, carrying burdens, chasing after masters, doing tasks. These did not seem as bent and cracked as the slaves in the flat plains from where J’Skarr had come, but they still seemed ragged, tired.

Suddenly the sun went out, but then as soon as it had gone it returned. It had been blocked out by a massive tower, taller than any this one has ever seen save for the White Gold Tower of the Imperial City, and that J’Skarr has only seen at a great distance. These were the great guard towers of the Hlaalu city of Narsis.

Narsis was not like Tear, but do not mistake J’Skarr, it was not a city worth visiting, in or out of chains. The city was a city of faces worn like masks. J’Skarr saw Imperials sitting with Dark Elves while slaves fanned the biting flies away. The Imperials, who so prided themselves on their ancestors' own rebellion against this evil, sitting and chatting with Dark Elves, ignoring the suffering all around them.

Narsis did not have places of public punishment, but when J’Skarr saw a slave fall and drop a basket of fruit this one knew that these Hlaalu were no gentler than their brothers in Tear. The Khajiit that had stumbled was dragged into a house, the door slammed shut, but the yelps and thuds told of what went on inside. While those outside continued on their business, their masks never let tell if they heard the pain going on beyond the door.

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The wagon came to a stop outside a wall. Beyond, near a building a woman, perhaps a Breton, stood on an upturned box and berated the crowd.

“Hypocrites! Liars! Greedy swine at a trough!” she screamed with rage at the small crowd that had gathered around her. “You come to this place when you seek a blessing, you pray to the nine to watch over you. Where is Mara’s mercy in this land? I cannot find it! Where is Stendaar’s justice? You have sold it for Dark Elf coins and stones! You spit on your own gods, on Tiber Septim himself!”

Then the one on this box saw us in the cages, and horror spread across her face. She jumped down from her box and ran through the crowd, pushing them aside like blades of grass until she stood before us. J’Skarr feared she would begin shouting again, for his ears had heard so much shouting. She did not shout.

She ran to D’Jarro who had taken the the chance to rest on the ground. She gave him water and said words that could not be heard by any save D’Jarro, and held his head gently as if she cradled a child. The Dark Elves soon saw this and they tried to get her to leave shouting rough words and insults. This brought the she elf, and the woman began to shout at her.

“What have you savages done to his tail? Tell me! Tell everyone here what you slaver filth have done to this poor soul!”

Every word dripped with venom, this Breton priestess wanted to make her point to the crowd that had gathered. A foolish hope stirred in J’Skarr that somehow this would lead to freedom, to release from this place. This one knows that such hopes seem foolish to you who have never felt irons around your wrists and ankles and necks, but for those who have the faintest whiff of hope is more intoxicating than the sweetest sugar. But the she-elf was cunning, so cunning that perhaps she had Khajiit blood in her, if she were so lucky.

“Me? Are you accusing me of this?” She gestured to D’Jarro’s stump.

“Who else?” Spat back the woman holding D’Jarro.

“My dear woman,” The Dark Elf had a cunning tone in her voice “tell me, have you ever been in the lands of House Dres by chance?”

“You lay the blame on House Dres for this barbarism?” The woman snarled back, she would not be taken in by the Dark Elf

“I most certainly do. I know the ways of our land might seem hard to you, but Morrowind is a hard land. House Dres did this to poor D’Jarro here, not I.”

D’Jarro shifted uncomfortably at hearing his name uttered by this gray skinned ghoul but he said nothing. This priestess could not save him, and he knew it. The Dark Elf went on before the woman could cut her off

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“While you may disapprove of our institutions here in our homeland I suggest you visit the city of Tear one day, there you will see that we of House Hlaalu treat our slaves no worse than any Imperial noble treats his peasants. We would never do such a thing to a slave.” She turned to the crowd then “As any true Hlaalu would know!”

The crowd shouted their approval, even some non-Dark Elves took up the proud shouts, denouncing House Dres and praising House Hlaalu for it’s “modern ways”. J’Skarr still remembers hearing these things, and feeling the chains around him. None in the crowd looked at us, who most suffered in this little game of words.

“We have rescued these slaves from the clutches of House Dres and are taking them to lives of productivity and security, far better than what their unfortunate sires must have had to endure.” the she-elf sneered down at the woman, red in the face with rage “After all, the Treaty with the Empire forbids the slave trade outside of Morrowind doesn’t it?” The crowd cheered that indeed it was, and like that J’Skarr was born in Morrowind, not in Dune of Elsweyr.

The woman kissed the head of D’Jarro and stood up. But she did not depart immediately, she walked straight up to the Dark Elf woman and said something that J’Skarr only just heard with the keen ears of the Khajiit.

“You’re a filthy liar, and the gods will punish you all for this.”

The Dark Elf woman chuckled and said back.

“Which of the Three little half-blood? None of them seem to care.” and she turned on her heel and left, giving a sharp whistle. The carts moved again through the great gates. As they closed J’Skarr still remembers the face of the priestess, standing in the road, folding her hands into the sleeves of her robe.

J’Skarr hopes that she lives still, and that she will see the day when there are no slaves in Morrowind, that she will see the curse of her gods fall on the Dark Elves. But J’Skarr never saw the Breton woman again.

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