As Symmachus had predicted, the theft of the
Staff of Chaos had few short term consequences. The current
emperor, Uriel Septim, sent some rather stiff messages expressing
shock and displeasure at the staff's disappearance and urging
that Symmachus make every effort to locate its whereabouts
and communicate this to the newly appointed Imperial BattleMage,
Jagar Tharn, in whose hands the matter had been placed.
"Tharn!" Symmachus snarled in disgust
and frustration, as he paced about the small chamber where
Barenziah, now some months pregnant, was sitting serenely,
knitting a baby blanket. "Jagar Tharn, indeed. I wouldn't
give him directions for crossing the street."
"What have you against this person, husband?"
"I just don't trust that mongrel elf.
Part wood elf, part dark elf and part only the gods know what.
All the worst qualities of all his combined races. No one
knows much about him. Claims he was born in Valenwood, of
a wood elf mother. Seems to have been everywhere since--"
Barenziah, sunk in the contentment of pregnancy
had only been humoring Symmachus thus far, but this piqued
her interest. "Nightingale? Could he have been this Jagar
"Nay. Human blood seems to be the one
missing component in Tharn's ancestry." To Symmachus,
Barenziah knew, that was a flaw. Symmachus despised wood elves
as lazy thieves and high elves as effete intellectuals, but
he admired humans, especially Bretons, for their combination
of pragmatism, intelligence and energy.
"Nightingale's of Ebonheart, of the House
of Mora, I'll be bound -- that house has had human blood since
her time. Ebonheart was jealous that the Staff was laid here
when Tiber Septim took the Horn from us."
Barenziah sighed a little. The rivalry between
Ebonheart and Mournhold reached back almost to the dawn of
history. Once the two had been one, all the mines within held
by Clan R'Aathim, whose royal house held the High Kingship
of Morrowind. Ebonheart had split into two separate city states,
Ebonheart and Mournhold, when Queen Lian's twin sons, Moraelyn's
grandsons, had been left as the heirs. At the same time the
office of High King had been vacated in favor of a temporary
War Leader to be named by a council in times of provincial
emergency. Still, Ebonheart remained jealous of her prerogatives
as the eldest city state of Morrowind, still first among equals,
and claimed that guardianship of the Horn should rightfully
be entrusted to the elder. Mournhold responded that Moraelyn
himself had placed the Horn in the keeping of the god Ephen,
and Mournhold was unarguably the god's birthplace.
"Why not tell Jagar Tharn of your suspicions
then? Let him recover the thing. As long as it's safe, what
does it matter where it lies?"
Symmachus stared at her without comprehension.
"It matters," he said softly, "but not that
much," he added. "Certainly not enough for you to
concern yourself further over it. You just tend to your --
In a few more months Barenziah produced a
fine son, whom they named Helseth. Nothing more was heard
of the Staff or "Nightingale." If Ebonheart held
it, certainly they did not boast of it. The years passed swiftly
and happily. Helseth grew tall and strong. He was much like
his father, whom he worshipped. When Helseth was eight years
old Barenziah bore a second child, a daughter, to Symmachus'
great delight. Helseth was his pride, yet little Morgiah held
Shortly after Morgiah's birth word came that
a plot against the Emperor had been unmasked and that the
chief co-conspirators Jagar Tharn and Ria Silmane were dead.
Symmachus rejoiced at this news. "I told you so,"
he crowed. Yet thereafter relations with the Empire slowly
deteriorated, for no apparent reason. Taxes were raised and
quotas increased with each passing year. Symmachus felt that
the Emperor suspected him of having had a hand in the plot
and sought to prove his loyalty by making every effort to
comply with the increasing demands. He lengthened working
hours and raised taxes and even made up some of the difference
from both crown funds and their own private holdings. Yet
still the demands increased and commoners and nobles alike
"I want you to take the children and
journey yourself to Imperial City," Symmachus at last
said in desperation. "You must make the Emperor listen,
else all Mournhold will be in revolt come spring. You have
a way with men, you always did." He forced a smile.
Barenziah forced a smile of her own. "Even
"Yes, even me," he said dully.
"Both children?" Barenziah looked
over toward the corner windows where Helseth was strumming
a lute and singing a duet with his little sister. Helseth
was fifteen, Morgiah just eight.
"Perhaps they'll soften his heart. Besides,
it's time that Helseth was presented at the Imperial Court."
"Perhaps, but that's not your true reason.
You do not think you can keep them safe here. If that's the
case, then you're not safe here either. Come with us,"
He took her hands in his. "Barenziah.
Love. Heart of my heart, if I leave now, there'll be nothing
for us to return to. I'll be all right. I can take care of
myself, and I can do it better if I need not fear for you
and our children."
Barenziah laid her head against his chest.
"Just remember that we need you. We can do without the
rest if we have each other. Empty hands and empty bellies
are easier to bear than an empty heart. My foolishness has
brought us to this pass."
"If so, 'tis not that so a place to be."
His eyes rested fondly on their carefree children. "And
none of us shall go without. I cost you everything once, Barenziah,
I and Tiber Septim. Without my aid the Septim dynasty would
never have begun. I helped its rise. I can bring about its
fall. You may tell Uriel Septim that, and that my patience
Barenziah gasped. Symmachus was not given
to empty threats. She'd no more imagined that he would ever
turn against the Empire than that the old house wolf lying
by the hearth would turn on her.
"How?" she demanded, but he shook
his head. "Better that you know not," he said. "Just
tell him that, if he prove recalcitrant, and do not fear.
He's Septim enough that he will not kill the messengers."
The late winter journey to Imperial City was
an easy one. One of the things the Septim Empire had accomplished
was the building and maintenance of good highways throughout
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