Chap 4: Stories
Edward faced his mother defiantly. "I'm
not sick and I'm not a baby. I can stay here by myself. I
don't need Mith." There was a dangerous glint in Moraelyn's
eyes. Aliera's lips thinned. "You will mind him, Edward."
"Yes, madam," Edward said sulkily.
"Come on, wife. Mith knows how to deal
with princes who don't want his company." The three adults
laughed a bit in their irritating way at a joke he didn't
The weather was drizzly and Edward had the
sniffles. His mother had decided that he shouldn't go out,
even though they were only going visiting. Moraelyn had taken
his side, but threw out his hands and raised his brows at
Edward in a helpless gesture when Aliera insisted that he
stay behind. Mith, whom Edward liked the least of the Companions,
had volunteered to stay with him. Even Ssa'ass would have
been better. Mith was scruffy looking. Like a stableboy. And
cheeky, even for a Companion. Edward sulked silently for awhile
longer. Mith had fetched a broom and was sweeping the house
out, brushing dirt from the room above into the room Edward
was in. What on earth was the use of staying in when there
wasn't really any 'in' to stay in? Edward got tired of sulking,
fetched a broom and went up to help sweep.
"Mith", Edward said. "have
you ever been to the Crystal Tower?"
"I have. It's an unchancy place at first,
but you'll grow used to it." Mith was applying his broom
with energy and whistling. "Sweeping was kind of fun
here. There weren't any sides to the platforms so all you
had to do was brush the dirt and leaves over the side. You
started at the top and worked your way down."
"You're quick with the broom, Mith. I
haven't half finished my side yet. Will there be others there
"Oh, some children, I'd think. Most'll
be somewhat older. I should be quick with a broom. My father
had me sweeping out the king's stables when I was your age.
I used to dream and talk too much like you; he beat me for
it. So I learned to be quick."
Edward swept faster, stirring up dust. "Not
like that, boy. Watch me. Anyway, there's no hurry; it's just
habit with me. Moraelyn'd serve me my head on a platter if
I touched you. My father, heh, he was always...well, he was
a hard man to please. He was a Nord."
"Your father?" Edward stared at
Mith, but Mith looked much like the other Dark Elves he'd
seen. Not many. Dark elves didn't come to Daggerfall; Gerald
had banned them. But he'd seen some on his rare trips to other
courts. And there were some in Firsthold besides Moraelyn
and Mith. "Did he have red hair?" Mith's hair was
a dark red. Gerald had red hair. "He tended the stables
for Moraelyn?" No wonder Mith looked like a stableboy.
But Edward kept his tone polite. Mith had a sharp tongue...and
Edward knew that neither of his parents would be sympathetic
if he complained that Mith had been impertinent.
"He did have red hair. Maybe I got mine
from him...but mostly mixed elf and human children come out
dark elf. No, Moraelyn wasn't a king then or expecting to
be...'sides this was in Blacklight, where I was born. Moraelyn's
brother was king in Ebonheart in those days. He came up to
visit our King and brought Moraelyn along. To keep him out
of trouble, he said." Mith grinned. "I grinned when
I heard him say that, and I saw the boy looking at me out
of the tail of his eye, but he wouldn't take notice. Like
I was the dirt or something worse. His brother tossed him
a pouch and told him to go into town and get his knife mended.
Jerked his thumb at me and told me to show him the way."
"Moraelyn said he didn't need an escort
to find a store and stalked off like princes do." Mith
grinned knowingly at Edward. But the grin wasn't unfriendly.
Edward smiled back a bit, and Mith went on. "Our king
eyeballed me, so I took off after him. Moraelyn didn't spare
me so much as a glance. Went four blocks out of his way, down
by the wharfs, and when I tried to tell him where the store
was he shoved me right off the pier. I could Levitate, of
course, but he caught me by surprise and I went in with a
big splash, and everyone laughing like jackasses. I got myself
out and went straight to the store and waited for him - but
not so he could see me - and when he finally showed up, I
lifted the pouch right off him. He didn't even know it was
gone. So in he goes and tosses the knife on the counter and
tells the smith to fix it right off. Which he does. Only then
Moraelyn can't pay him, tells the smith he's the King of Ebonheart's
brother, the smith just laughs and says, 'And I'm the Archmagister.'
Then the smith calls the guard and three of them show up.
Well, Moraelyn wasn't what he is now - three guards wouldn't
even warm him up nowadays - but he was even faster then. He
was out of there so fast he nearly knocked me over at the
door. He lost the guards pretty quick; all that armor slows
'em down. I found him crouching in one of those hedge mazes
in the park. He was doubled over out of breath but still I
stood a good ways off while I asked him real nasty if he needed
an escort back to the Palace. Not that I was planning to go
back! I was gonna take the money and run and never look back,
I tell you! But I had to have the last word. I wasn't born
high but I was born proud."
"He glared at me for a minute or so,
catching his breath, then he just rolled over and started
to laugh that laugh of his. Prince or no, I started to like
him then. When we'd finished laughing, more or less, we started
talking. I told him I didn't want to go back. Nor dared to.
'Princes don't get blamed, Prince,' I said, 'Stableboys do.'
He said that wasn't entirely the case, but he saw my point.
Then he said that as I was his escort then he must obey his
brother and come with me. And that his name was Moraelyn,
not Prince. We've been together ever since....more or less."
Edward smiled politely. He could see why Mith
had run away, but not why Moraelyn had gone with him. Unless
he was afraid to face his brother about the stolen money.
Edward tried to imagine Moraelyn being afraid to face anyone
and failed. "I wish I was brave. Like you and Moraelyn."
"Why, you are brave. And your courage
will grow with the rest of you."
"Are there only High Elf boys at the
"There'll be other sorts, too, most likely.
A few Dark Elves, for sure. D'ye miss your own kind?"
Edward shook his head. "Human boys don't
like me much anyway. Nor High Elf boys..." His eyes filled
suddenly and he turned his head away. But Mith's voice was
unexpectedly gentle. "I thought you wanted to go to the
"I do. But..."
"You'll be lonely."
"That's a hard thing to face."
"Did you go there alone, Mith?"
"No. Moraelyn did, but he was older than
you, by a good bit. A grown man, in fact. They didn't take
any but High Elf students in those days, you know. But Moraelyn
heard of them and said he wanted to go there. We were together
already, the seven of us, save for Aliera, and a handy bunch
in a fight. Moraelyn had already gotten that Dragon's Blade
he wears, and the Dragon's Tooth to go with it - remind me
to tell you about that sometime - and he was a famous fighter
already. And the rest of us aren't slackers. But he thought
we could be better at the spellcasting and the Tower was the
place to learn that. Well, no one goes near the Tower without
an invitation. No one! No one would even tell you where it
was. But they'd tell you where NOT to go. So he went there.
Alone. One morning he was gone and there a note saying for
us to wait for him. So we did, here in Firsthold. He was gone
two weeks, then he came back one night, rowing across with
the tide. He just said they'd accepted him, but he couldn't
say anything more about it. But he asked me to come back with
"'They want me?' 'Well, they've accepted
one Dark Elf,' he said. 'One more shouldn't bother them too
much.' So we go there, and bless me if the Archmagister himself
didn't meet us at the door and demand to know the meaning
of this. I wanted to turn myself into a rock! I was wishing
hard that I was stable dung! And figured I was like to get
my wish soon. But Moraelyn speaks up real polite that this
is the friend he'd mentioned and the Archmagister had expressed
an interest in his abilities, and naturally he'd want to see
"But the Archmagister was real interested.
See, they don't wear armor or carry anything but a staff and
a dagger. They think it interferes with their spellcasting,
all that metal. But Moraelyn could cast pretty well even with
chain and with any one-hand weapon at all. And I could cast
wearing leather and as much as a saber, though it's an unwieldy
weapon; I like my short sword better. Truth, they didn't think
that much of me, but Moraelyn...he'd camped outside their
door. And when they tried to move him he just sat there! They
threw all the spells they had at him, the troll guards, everything.
Nothing. He laid the trolls out flat and left 'em to regenerate.
If they tried to beat him with their staffs he'd ward them
off with his blade and the spells didn't turn him a hair."
Edward's mouth gaped open. "How'd he
do that!?!" He said.
"Well, it was a trick, in a way. He'd
picked up something that came natural to Willow. See, Willow
"I didn't know Willow could cast!"
"Well, she doesn't have any mana, ordinarily....but
she can absorb it if you cast a spell at her, see. O'course
it wasn't much use to her, since she'd never been able to
learn what t'do with it once she got it. Couldn't get it back
once it was gone, so she couldn't practice. Until Morelyn
got hold of her and trained her. Well, Moraelyn had figured
out pretty much how Willow did what she did....though it cost
Moraelyn mana to do what came natural to Willow. So Moraelyn
sat there absorbing everything they threw at him and burning
it off into a big shield. Drove 'em wild."
"He said the Archmagister could best
him, though." Edward suspected that Mith was making up
the whole story.
"Well, so he did, when he finally came.
But all the rest of 'em together couldn't do it. And all Moraelyn
wanted was to study with them. We were a sight, the two of
us dark elves in our battle gear among all that white and
gold. I felt like a fish out of water, but Moraelyn was interested
in what they had to say....and you can bet they hung on every
word he said. Not too many words at first. After a fortnight
or so, he told me one night to tell the Archmagister that
he'd be back in a couple of days. And he shows up with Silk!
'Course he'd been telling 'em about the Khajiits...and they'd
been asking questions."
"The Archmagister's no fool. He just
stared at Silk, and she purred real loud and rubbed up against
him and asked 'How ya doin', Archmagister, baby?' The Archmagister
kinda pushes Silk away and says in a whisper, 'How many more?'"
"'Just two, sir.'"
"'What are they?'"
"'Wood elves, sir.'"
"'Just wood elves. Plain ordinary wood
elves. No horns, hooves or tails.'"
"'Yes sir. Ah, one of them has an extraordinary
Absorb ability with some very unusual features. The other's
just a Bard.'"
"'Very well. You may bring the one with
the Absorb. We don't want a Bard! They are not true mages.'"
"'Well, that's most generous of you,
sir, but the Bard's her brother, sir and I swore to their
parents that I wouldn't separate them. So it'll just be the
three of us.'"
"'Aye, a pair of twins.'"
"'You may bring them both.'"
"So three days later he's back with the
twins AND Ssa'ass AND Slave. The Archmagister looks at them
and sort of bobs up and down, but he speaks real quiet. 'Dark
Elf, by pair of twins, did you mean TWO SETS of twins? Are
you going to tell me that these...these are twins???' Well,
I could see that Moraelyn was kinda sorry he hadn't thought
of trying that, but he said, 'No sir, the twins are Beech
and Willow. The Argonian and the Nord are not prospective
initiates. They are specimens. For your collection. You don't
have any like them so I thought...'"
"'You thought. I do not have a dragon
either! Are you going to think to bring me that next?'"
"'Oh, aye, I could. Would you like one?'"
"'Tell me you are not serious.'"
"'Well, I couldn't promise. And it would
take quite a long time, a year maybe, but...'"
"The Archmagister's eyes rolled up toward
heaven. 'Thank you, All-Mother, I have at least a year to
prepare.' he whispered."
"I don't think Mats and Ssa'ass should
have been made specimens. They're people. Even if they aren't
"Oh, they made Ssa'ass an initiate when
they found out that he had some interesting Heal spells."
"Mats never minds anything. He hasn't
a bit of magic; he couldn't be an initiate. Anyway he'd have
hated it. He spent his time gaming with the guards. When he
wasn't being studied. Seems he has some interesting magic
resistances. Anyway, since then, the initiates aren't just
High Elves. And they don't all follow the Mage way."
"I shall. I shall be just like the Archmagister."
"Oh, aye, exactly," Moraelyn's voice
sounded lightly behind him. "I'll cut the ears off a
donkey for thee and dye thy skin with saffron. Bleach thy
hair white and stretch thee a foot" Moraelyn swung him
high. "Art well, son? I told thee so, Aliera. He's not
ill at all. Good, because the Archmagister's returned. We
go to the Tower tomorrow."
'We' was just Moraelyn and Edward. Aliera
had caught Edward's cold and they took some pleasure in insisting
she remain in bed. Moraelyn rowed them across the river in
a small boat and they walked for most of the day, resting
a little at midday. It was evening when they reached the tower
and the setting sun was glinting off it. Even the sea far
below looked red. There was a hush over the countryside.
"It's tall, isn't it?" Edward paused
"Towers generally are."
"Did you really..." Edward broke
off. Questions starting in that fashion did not draw satisfactory
answers from the elf.
"Has Mith been telling thee tales? He's
had ten years to polish that one. I doubt not it glistens
like the Tower."
"He told me how you met, too."
"I thought he would."
"I didn't understand why you went off
with him? He was a thief and a stableboy and you were a prince."
"You have just named three excellent
"You never give me serious answers."
"A serious charge. Very well, then. I
saw myself through Mith's eyes and misliked what I saw: a
callous bully and a coward, fit to be neither boy nor man
nor prince. Why did you run off, Prince?"
Edward hung his head mutely. "Nay, I
do not require answers. Come, it grows late." Moraelyn
reached his hand for Edward's, but Edward shook him off. If
Moraelyn was a coward what did that make Edward? He looked
at the Tower door where Moraelyn had demanded and won entrance,
though all would shut him out. Edward could never do anything
like that, but at least he could walk in on his own as an
to book index