Ranging the open seas, ever seeking gold and glory.
Posted by Arkaash on Jan 21st, 2013
It's been a while, hasn't it? Work on Luftahraan has continued, though, despite the lack of updates over the Christmas period, and we have something a little special for you today - a substantial update on the Marauders, including our first teaser trailer, and two books on the Marauders by the scholar Atticus Plinius - a brief overview of their recent history, and a tale recounted by their bards.
Today, the Marauders are a collective group of traders and treasure hunters. They maintain a tight monopoly on shipping and trade in the city of Luftahraan. There is some animosity between the Marauders and the East Empire Company, not only because of the bad history between the two groups, but because the East Empire Company similarly monopolizes shipping and trade in the city of Solitude; the proximity of the two cities worsens the rivalry between the two shipping companies. The Marauders take residence in the nearby town and island of Raider’s Respite. The island is little more than a cluttering of rocks, and the town is a haphazard collection of scuttled and otherwise unsailable ships held aloft with scaffolding. These ships serve as buildings, such as houses and inns. The Plundered Keg, a local inn and tavern, is central to the settlement, as drink and song are popular amongst the erstwhile raiders. Word spreads quickly in the Plundered Keg, and Klaus, the bartender, keeps his ear to the ground; if a Marauder is looking for work, he or she will always check in with Klaus before anywhere else. The legends and songs of the Marauders follow Nordic tradition, in that they’re “good tales” to listen to, but their historical accuracy is questionable, as they seem to change with each telling. I explain these songs and legends in further detail in the book Marauders’ Myths.
The Marauders themselves are primarily Nords, and follow the Nordic sailing tradition that began with the ancient Atmorans’ landfall unto Skyrim. A secondary population of Redguard corsairs counts itself amongst the Marauders’ numbers as well; circa 4E 195, Baru, the Butcher of Wayrest, led a fleet of four ships (The Prince, The Soul of Iszara, The Shahrazada, and The Amethyst) in a climb up High Rock’s coastline, raiding as he went. When the fleet reached Luftahraan, sans The Soul of Iszara—it had been destroyed during the fleet’s raid on the city of Farrun—a great storm swept through the area. The ships were pushed to Raider’s Respite, where The Amethyst managed to dock successfully. The Prince, however, was beached on the island’s shore, and The Shahrazada disappeared during the storm, presumably sunken somewhere in the Sea of Ghosts. The Prince, which Baru had been personally captaining, was ultimately scuttled, and added to Respite as another ship-building. The captain of The Amethyst, Captain Bradwir, cut ties with Baru and began ventures of his own; many amongst his crew took issue with his betrayal and mutinied. Bradwir survived the mutiny and left the mutineers behind on Raider’s Respite. In the end, somewhere between one and two boatloads of Redguard corsairs joined the Marauder population. Other than the prevalence of Nords and Redguards, Raider’s Respite is comprised of the usual scattering of races.
Two hundred years ago, in the chaos the Septim Empire left in its wake, the Marauders arose and became legendary terrors of the seas. They raided coastal settlements from Tear to Stros M’kai, and some of today’s Marauders claim that their predecessors even raided the distant islands that lay between Tamriel and Akavir. The Marauders almost entirely extinguished the sea trade of the time, targeting shipping companies such as the East Empire Company, which, left to fend for itself after the fall of the Empire, was forced to entirely abandon the shipping operations in the face of the Marauders. The Marauders continued their reign over the Northern Seas for the first one hundred years of the 4th Era. From 4E 103 to 4E 145, a marked decline in successful raids was evident. It seems that poor luck and the increasing rarity of vulnerable targets weakened the Marauders until they were forced to resort to honest work. In 4E 145, the Marauders began working the shipping trade in Luftahraan, and due to their raids in the first century and a half of the 4th Era, they found an extremely open market to integrate themselves into. By 4E 159, the Marauders already had an effective monopoly over the shipping trade in Luftahraan, and they had business with many other ports, such as Dawnstar, Windhelm, Blacklight, and Northpoint. In the last several decades, the East Empire Company has re-established itself in Skyrim, more or less claiming ports of Windhelm and Solitude. The Marauders, no longer the raiders they once were, have done little to combat the better funded—and well defended, now, with the rise of the Mede Dynasty—East Empire Company. It is unknown whether the Marauders existed before the 4th Era or not; today’s Marauders are unsure, and if they did, they were not successful enough to make any real mark on history.
Author’s Note: Raid on Pyandonea, a tale of mythic piracy told in an informal style, is well and truly obscure. Despite my chosen occupation as a travelling scholar, I had never heard it in all my studies and travels until I heard it told in the city of Luftahraan by a local bard, one Timan Amedee. I was immediately enthralled by the tale. After the telling, I approached Amedee and inquired as to where he had learned it. He told me of a storyteller by the name of Yngmir, who had been an elderly man when the bard had only begun learning his craft, and who has since passed on. I traced Yngmir’s history as far back as I could, but found nothing substantial, no hints at the source of the tale. The man had been one of the Marauders—the guild of naval raiders and sailors—even before the guild had settled into its current role as a shipping company. The story certainly has Nordic origins, considering the Nordic origins and occupation of Yngmir himself, as well as the Nordo-centric views and the representation of the Maormer as direct inverses of the Nords within the story. Yet in all my searching throughout the coastal cities that the Marauders once influenced, particularly those on Skyrim’s coastline, I have not found a trace of this specific story. And thus disappears the only path to the discovery of its true origin.
This lack of a definitive source places the tale in a dubious light. Its fantastic nature, too, calls into question the story’s validity. However, Nordic tales are known for their fantastic and exaggerated natures; although it is certain that the story is not true in its entirety, there may be some truth in the central plot points. Perhaps an Atmoran fleet truly did circumnavigate Tamriel, stopping at Pyandonea along the way. The possibility of some small measure of truth is supported by the story’s descriptions of Pyandonea, which correlate strongly with what little we know of the continent. It is unlikely that a man of Yngmir’s education could invent a story that so accurately reflects such an obscure continent. In short, Raid on Pyandonea is either a near-forgotten fragment of Atmoro-Nordic history, or a clever and unlikely modern forgery built upon the local Dreadmund mythos.
The Dreaded Bomundl Dragon of the Sea, today known as Captain Dreadmund, was a great Atmoran warrior and Ysmir. He came to Tamriel soon after Ysgramor’s Five Hundred, leading a fleet of his own, his Something More Than Five Hundred Companions. But unlike Ysgramor, he chose not to claim land and build cities. Instead, he set out to explore the whole of Tamriel, to find foreign lands and to fight foreign foes. Dreadmund, in his explorations and battles, was as much a Harbinger of man as Ysgramor, a forerunner of the times to come.
To count several of the Atmoran longboats of Dreadmund’s fleet, and their respective captains: Ice-Storm-Veins-Blade-Hammer the Axe captained Iceberg, Aldenuekeloch the Thunder Shield Woman captained Morakein, Thendwyr Twice-Torc’d captained Pillager, and many others captained many others; as a whole, the fleet was too great to account for in swift. By the time of this story, the fleet had even, during its visit to Yokuda, absorbed a pair of strange Yoku ships captained and crewed by strange, dark, unnamed men who could not speak to the Atmorans with words, but who sang with their lust for the slaughter of elves.
Our story begins at nightfall over an oddly violent sea; the southern elven sea, usually calm and kind, rolled and ripped about, angry at the trespass of Dreadmund and his Something More Than Five Hundred Companions. Waves crashed into ships and tried to split hulls, but the raging sea was still more or less kind in terms of the experiences of the Atmorans; the Sea of Ghosts was this violent on a good day. Dreadmund stood waiting impatiently aboard his longboat Snow Whale as it rocked back and forth in the waves. He cloak flew back behind him in the wind as though it were a pair of wings, outstretched and ready to carry him into the air. He awaited the return of his Clever Man, Fhalne, whom he had sent to the High Elf city of Alinor to gather hostages for interrogation. They needed more information before embarking on the journey to come.
Aboard the split-tailed Snow Whale, besides Dreadmund in all his glowering, spread-cloaked, elf crushing glory, was his Boat-Thane Kehlet the Quick-Eared who could hear whispers leagues away, his Mumbler Hgenral who was an expert of mutter-magic, his oarsmen, Friedrung the Hammer, Oar-Wielding Olad, Jahnson Whose-Name-Stays-in-its-Cradle who was brother to Jahnsdotter of Ysgramor’s Five Hundred, Hjaloc, Wulfil, and the one whose only name was Oarsman as he never spoke other than to say six specific sentences which each pertained to his occupation as an oarsman, his three Thu’um-Thanes1 Thiriul, Thurjac, and Thaduga, and his Beast-Keeper, Mnetnen, who watched over Dreadmund’s pets who were Fiiq the House-Cat, Raving Savage the Welwa, and Tang Mo the Monkey-Thing. There were Dreadmund’s elf-slave translators who shall not be named; the sullen Snow Elf who spoke Atmoran and Snow-Elvish and who had been taken from the land Ysgramor claimed, the clever Bird Elf2 who spoke Snow-Elvish, High-Elvish, and Bird-Elvish and who wore feathers and who had been taken from the same land while apparently serving an ambassadorial role to the Snow Elves, and the young Sea Elf who spoke Bird-Elvish and Sea-Elvish and who had been taken from a Sea Elf outpost on the continent’s western coastline and who told the Atmorans about Pyandonea and Sea-Elven ships and the like, but who knew nothing specific about the Mist-Veil or the Sea Elf sea serpents—which appear only when Orgnum is near—or anything really helpful about Pyandonea, for he had been born in the outpost and not Pyandonea itself. Finally, there was his War-Wife Vjali, who stood beside him as he awaited Fhalne.
“Where in the blasted seas is he!” Dreadmund growled, more a statement than a question. He clawed idly at the Snow Whale’s side, rending tar unto the waves. “He’s late.”
War-Wife Vjali answered, “Fhalne will return, husband. You do not need to worry.”
Dreadmund grimaced. “It’s my duty as Captain to worry. If Fhalne and his men linger much longer, the elves will surely notice them, and that’d bring trouble.”
For a moment, the pair fell silent. The sea roiled and hissed at the fleet, even still, but the ships’ crews kept the fleet afloat. The sun peeked over the spiked waters at edge of the horizon, and set the sea sparkling.
“See? Dawn is coming. If they’re still there, they don’t have the cover of darkness to protect them, anymore. I’m off to fetch them.”
Vjali opened her mouth and made to speak.
“They’re back!” Kehlet shouted from somewhere on the ship, having sighted the warriors aboard the faering before anybody else, being nearly as sharp-eyed as he was Quick-Eared. “They’re in a hurry, too!”
Dreadmund chuckled, a deep, slow, throaty sound. “Guess they did find trouble.” He cleared his throat and Thu’umed so that every crew could hear him, “Weigh anchors and ready sails, we’re leaving!” The waves were frenzied further with his words, and a stray, stormless thundercrack or two boomed through the sky, as happens when the Greybeards call a new Dragonborn to High Hrothgar.
Clever Man Fhalne and those who accompanied him (who were Mjardel, Hoary Child, Ghrojar, Flame-Grin Sorga who enjoyed throwing flasks full of fire at his foes, Jarnhal, Lungaehm, Ben the Bedeviled, Swajfwen, the four High Elf captives that the men had claimed, and Jhunmor who was an expert of elven magic even though leaping magic and mutter-magic and Voice magic were more popular at the time) paddled desperately to the Snow Whale and leapt aboard, dragging their faering quickly after.
Fhalne began speaking before his salt-crusted boots had even cleared the gunwale. “We should leave, Dreadmund. Now. We captured those four elves and cut their hands off so that they couldn’t use any of their magic, but I think some other elves caught wind of us as we were leaving. And I’m betting that they’re pissed.”
“You heard him, Kehlet, get moving. Set sail for the south, while we welcome our new guests.”
Fhalne sat, panting. “It really is amazing over there,” he said. “In Alinor, I mean. The city looks like it’s made of diamond. For all I know, it probably is. We should raid it. Attack in the night, burn out their ships, find where they hide their valuables. There’s probably a lot worth taking in that huge Tower, which—”
“Not interested. Let’s interrogate the prisoners; I want to know more about this ‘Pyandonea’ place we’ve been hearing about.”
Dreadmund sighed, his breath heavy with early morning mist. “No. We’ve spent enough time in this neck of the sea, raiding these High-Elven Isles and raiding the coasts of their elven cousins on the big continent. We’re off to kill something new.” He scraped a bone from between his teeth. “Now let’s have a chat with our guests.”
Most of their guests didn’t have much to say. One was a drunk who had been wandering around the docks looking for whatever High Elves drink, one was in charge of numbers, or something, and had been speaking to the third captive, a sailor from one of the crystalline ships docked in the harbor. The fourth refused to speak at all, so he died first, thrown overboard to flail in the water, handless and hapless. The one in charge of numbers died second because he knew nothing about Pyandonea, and the drunk died third, thrown overboard after telling the Atmorans some incoherent story about the Sea Elf King Orgnum marrying a princess from a city called Sunhold. The sailor was actually helpful, though, so he got to live the longest.
He spoke of the Sea Elf raids that came to the his Isles so often. He spoke of their ships with bug-sails and bug-hulls and serpent skin for rope. He spoke of their tactics, and of the many ways they were known to board ships, destroy ships from afar, and trick unwary Admirals. He spoke of the sea serpents themselves, who only came with the strongest of the Sea Elf fleets, the fleets led by Orgnum. In battle, the serpents would dive underwater and rise beneath High Elf ships, wrapping around them and crushing them. He told the Atmorans, too, of the mists that the Sea Elves commanded.
They conjured mists wherever they liked, cloaking ships and distracting enemies. They even had a Mist-Veil3, which cut their land from the rest of the world; it separated Pyandonea from the Isles, from the big continent, and even from the vague land called Aldmeris.
The Mist-Veil loomed ahead. It blocked any view of the true horizon, and stretched to the right and left farther than even Kehlet’s eyes could see. It was impenetrable, impossible, colossal. With all their magic, the High Elves had never pierced it, and as of today, they never have.
The Atmoran fleet pushed onward, unshaken.
“Mist-Veil’s ahead! Thu’um-Thanes, clear the skies and clear our path! Mumblers, mutter us some full sails, to compensate for the wind we’re ripping out of them!”
And all the men on all the ships of Dreadmund’s fleet heard his booming Thu’um, for the Thu’um was always the quickest way to relay orders to a an entire fleet, and they scrambled to obey. The muttering of his Mumblers became a babbling stream and the Thu’um-Thanes ran to the bow of each longboat and the ports and starboards of the fleet’s sidemost and Thu’umed a chorus-like-thunder. As one, the great fleet cut into the Mist, and was soon engulfed by it. The Clear Sky Thu’ums warded off the Mist, lending the fleet a bubble of clear air and allowing the Atmorans some breathing room. The Atmorans pushed onward, with nothing but endless Mist in sight.
“We’re coming out of this Mist!”
Dreadmund, aloft over the Snow Whale, looked overhead and saw the sky and sun for the first time since they had entered the Mist-Veil. Since then, the sun had climbed halfway to its zenith. He cast his eyes downward and saw it his objective just ahead. Pyandonea; hostile cliff faces jutting from the sea, each crowned by abundant green, jagged, unwelcoming rocks that warned sailors away and strange, obscuring mists that hid much of the land from sight. And speaking of sight, not a single safe harbour or kind beach was in sight. It looked like they’d have to do a little searching.4
Kehlet approached and echoed Dreadmund’s thoughts. “Captain, shall we search for a place to drop anchor, and maybe establish an outpost?”
Kehlet rushed off, barking orders at the Snow Whale’s crew. Dreadmund grinned. This land seemed hostile, but Dreadmund was certain that he could tame it, or at least some of it for a time, as he had so many other lands.
And then a fleet of strange ships shot from behind the closest islands. Their hulls, which were of myriad colors from blacks to greens to garish rainbows to yellows to whites, seemed to be the unbroken shells of massive beetles, and the sails seemed to be the wings of the same, a single pair of rising from the deck, straight up with a slight tilt. The decks were built of green-tinted wood, probably with rooms built of the same below deck. The rigging and other ropes were the white, tightly coiled skin of whatever sloughed off of the Pyandonean serpents, as the Sea Elf had told them. The fleet announced its presence with the bugling of Pyandonean trumpets, like a snake’s hiss but sharper, shriller, piercing.
And then Dreadmund’s grin became a smile, and his smile grew wider and wider until it became like that of a hungry shark, teeth long and sharp and ready to devour, and he laughed aloud. “Get ready for battle!”
The strange fleet—the Sea Elf fleet—was preceded by a vanguard of serpents of all colors, some mounted by elves, some not. The multihued glimmer of not only the scales of the serpents, but of the iridescent beetle-shell hulls and insect-wing sails of the ships, made the Sea Elf fleet seem as much a rainbow as a threat. The elves even wore bright, colorful dress, distracting the eye from the dismal pallor of their skin, as white as pure snow.
Suddenly, the line of serpents charged forward, ripping through the water.
One serpent, a blue one which matched the color of the sea and wore short, curved horns, sped ahead of the rest, spanning the distance between the fleets in the space of a hiccup. It dived under the waves, and a moment of eerie stillness passed before the creature shot up from the water, writhing and coiling itself around the Snow Whale two times over. It reared its head and bit at Dreadmund, who caught hold of its fangs, both twice the length of a horker tusk. Dreadmund tore out the right fang and used the other as a lever to push the serpent’s head to the deck. He stomped his foot onto the creature’s lower jaw to keep it steady and drove the serpent’s loose fang into its right eye. It shrieked, shaking planks and weapons and teeth. Kehlet, with his Quick-Ears, passed out.
“Jahson, Hjaloc, Lunghaem, Savage! Chop this thing up while I’ve a hold on it, and clear the deck!”
They jumped at his command and began hacking. It spasmed against the deck, and tightened its grip on the Snow Whale in its pain. The ship groaned as the serpent shrieked again and again. They cut through where its coils came to the gunwale and the serpent’s shrieks grew louder again, earsplitting and dizzying. As coil after coil was severed and pushed over the gunwale, the serpent’s cries subsided. The last thing it saw was Dreadmund’s horned shadow playing across the deck. Dreadmund shoved its now bodiless head off the deck.
The rest of the Atmoran fleet hadn’t fared so well; though the blue serpent had been the swiftest, it certainly hadn’t been the strongest. While Dreadmund and his crew had been fighting, the strongest serpents had been tearing apart ships, and even forcefully dragging them down.
But Dreadmund did not have time to help them. The Sea Elf fleet was fast approaching, and the groaning, injured Snow Whale turned to meet it.
The Atmorans won the battle.
At the onset, Dreadmund Thu’um-Called a Storm and the Thu’um-Thanes of the other ships followed his lead. In retaliation, the Sea Elves summoned a mist storm, which the Thu’um-Thanes could not clear away without clearing their own Storm as well, and all became a chaos of lightning flashes and indistinct shapes. The Atmoran ships rammed into Sea Elf ships, Thu’um-Thanes grappled with serpents, Sea Elves charged with their skin alight with violent, rapidly changing hues, a strange distinction from their usual pallor. In the end, the Sea Elf fleet was driven to retreat, half of the fleet dodging behind and between islands in flight after the other half sank to the bottom of the sea. The losses of the Atmoran fleet were not nearly as grievous; only a quarter of Dreadmund’s fleet was felled. The Sea Elf fleet was stronger than any naval force the Atmorans had yet faced, or would face, but it still fell before them.
Dreadmund led a shore party of forty and set up camp on the one tiny strip of beach they could find. Four faerings’ worth of fighters; Captain Dreadmund, Boat-Thane Kehlet Quick-Eared who had woken up soon after the battle, Clever Man Fhalne, War-Wife Vjali, Oar-Wielding Olad, the three elf-slave translators, Raving Savage the Welwa, and Beast-Keeper Mnetnen of the Snow Whale, Captain Thendwyr Twice-Torc’d, Boat-Thane Ysnulson, Ghemek, Bright-Eyed Khem-li who enjoyed throwing Dwemer cylinders full of light at his foes, Hermal, Jjarkel of Tongs, Kaewyn who used the curved swords of the Yokudans, Aariul, Witch-Wife Aldvira who was married to herself, and Vrenduga the very small karstaag-man of the Pillager, Captain Orvar the Wheezing, Boat-Thane Ra’Kaash, Dralsar the Salmon, Tusk’ut’en, Jorn-mora, Wizard who just liked being called Wizard, Sulemeldart, Argan One-Ear, Stehnz the Master Architect, and Lug of the Arch-on-Water, and ten men from the remaining Yoku ship, the other having sunken during the battle.
The shore party’s camp was rushed at best, and served little purpose other than to establish a small base of operations to raid the Sea Elves from. A place to hide their loot, too.
A Sea Elf rose from sea, alone and boatless, and approached the camp on the shore. The Atmoran and Yoku warriors swiftly dropped what they were doing, drew their weapons, and trained them upon the elf, but he calmly made noises and then the Sea Elf translator made noises and then the Bird Elf translator made noises and then the Snow Elf translated, “Lower your weapons, I would have words!”
The warriors ignored the elf’s words until Dreadmund waved their weapons down; they did not trust the elf-slaves, and so always awaited Dreadmund’s decision in regards to the elf-slaves’ translations.
The Sea Elf saw Dreadmund’s motion and met his eyes, identifying him as leader. He made noises again, and the elf-slaves made noises in turn. “I am the King Orgnum of the Maormer. Who are you, leader of the foreign fleet?”
“I’m the Dreaded Bomundl, Captain of the longboat Snow Whale which flies through the seas and brings the snowy joy throughout the world, and leader of the great Atmoran fleet that you met in battle. Pyandonea is mine, now.”
The elf-slaves made noises in turn again and when the Sea Elf translator finished speaking, King Orgnum smiled and made noises again. He continued making the noises, and the Sea Elf translator did not begin translating. Dreadmund frowned and glanced at the Snow Elf.
“What’s he saying? Why aren’t you three translating?”
The Snow Elf stared at him, confused. “He’s laughing.”
Dreadmund growled and drew his sword. “See this blade? It’s called the Ice Blade of the Monarch. It was made to kill a king. The specific king is dead now, and not by this blade. But you’ll make a good alternative, so the Ice Blade can still fulfill its purpose.”
When the words, thrice translated, reached Orgnum’s ears, the King’s smile turned into a grimace. His thrice translated response was, “You would like to fight? I was hoping to persuade you to leave, but I accept, only on the terms that we fight as tradition dictates: we shall fight on the shore, knee-deep in the sea. Do you accept my terms?”
Dreadmund and Orgnum stood ten paces away from one another, knee-deep in the sparkling, sun-punished sea. The sun stood at its zenith, glaring down at the Ysmir and the Orgnum. Dreadmund stood in full battle attire of tough mail, horned helm, clawed gauntlets, and swirling cloak, as always, and held the Ice Blade of the Monarch aloft with a single hand. Orgnum stood in casual clothing, entirely unarmed and solemn. His tongue flicked between his lips. Dreadmund wondered why Orgnum chose not to bring a weapon to their duel, but he had left his elf-slave translators on the shore along with the others—and, in the end, he really didn’t care.
Dreadmund gripped his blade in both hands and charged, howling. Orgnum wriggled his fingers and three forms rose from the water, bulging and thinning into humanlike shapes. The things flooded forward, hoping to slosh down Dreadmund’s throat and drown him standing up. Dreadmund cut through the nearest one, and where the Ice Blade touched it, its water froze. He hacked at it amid a mad torrent of flying water, frozen chunks sloughing off with each slash, and the thing collapsed. Dreadmund spat out a mouthful of water; though it hadn’t managed reach his lungs, the creature had managed to fill his cheeks. The second one leapt into the air, graceful, hoping to spill down Dreadmund’s throat as he stood unawares. Dreadmund cut through it lengthwise as it leapt, and it broke apart. The third crashed into Dreadmund as a wave, and he fell into the water, dropping the Ice Blade. As the thing gathered itself again such that it could slip down Dreadmund’s gullet, and Dreadmund Thu’umed the moment before it touched his lips. His Thu’um froze it unto ice, and it fell.
Dreadmund rose and looked back to Orgnum, and his eyes widened. Snake-magic! Orgnum was a great Serpent, larger than any in the battle, with white scales and blank eyes, staring at Dreadmund. His fangs dripped with venom whiter than his pure snow scales, his leering eyes were full of malice, and his coils rolled through one another like slow ocean waves. Dreadmund glared into his eyes and saw power behind them, power like his Thu’um. Orgnum was a powerful opponent, and Dreadmund was not exactly sure that he could match him. The damned wizard had hidden it earlier, but Dreadmund saw it now.
And Orgnum would see Dreadmund now, for Dreadmund was Bomundl, BO-MUN-DU’UL, MOVE-MAN-CROWN, the Dragon of the Sea who was Crowned as an Ysmir, the Crowned Man who Flew through the world on the back of a snow whale, on the back of the Snow Whale. He crouched to the ground on all fours, wings-as-arms and legs gripping into the ground with hooked claws. He whipped his long, spiked tail back and forth. He spread his fanged maw wide and Thu’umed, but Orgnum dodged aside. Orgnum writhed up to Dreadmund and coiled around him, bending his wings-as-arms to his body and stealing his flight. Dreadmund clawed and bit at Orgnum, to no avail. The two rolled into the sea, twisting and clawing and biting and Thu’uming and shrieking.
War-Wife Vjali gritted her teeth in anger. She had just watched her husband die. She was shocked, and angry, and mournful. She hefted her axe into the air and looked about, as if looking for something to kill, preferably an elf. Unfortunately, none were present—besides the elf-slave translators, but they were still needed—for the Atmorans had taken no prisoners during the initial battle. That was for later.
Without an elf to behead for some small solace, she went on to do what needed to be done.
“Everybody aboard the faering! We’re going to search for my husband!”
As Vjali and those who accompanied her in the faering rowed out, the sea suddenly grew violent, as if angry at the Atmorans as it had been before the crossed the Mist-Veil. Dreadmund, bearing Orgnum’s corpse in his arms, burst out of the water and into the air. The violent waves of his emergence shoved the faering aside and nearly submerged it, but those aboard it, as well as those aboard the longboats in the distance, ignored the waves and watched in awe as Dreadmund, in flight, sank his fangs into Orgnum’s carcass, ripped out his heart, and flung it north-east into the horizon with a mighty flick of his long neck. Then he dropped Orgnum into the sea. And then Dreadmund fell and landed in the Snow Whale’s faering. Those aboard the faering sat agape, staring in awe, awe that he had survived.
He looked up, grinning. “I think we’re here to stay.”
A month later, Dreadmund and his followers had adapted to the land of Pyandonea and claimed a bloody, chunk of it as their own. At first, their outpost had been a mere camp on a beach, but it had grown and it was alternately called Smallwall and Narrowwall (for the wall was too small to be called broad, and the beach was too narrow to ever hold a broad wall). At first, they knew nothing of the land, but they stole the oracle bones of Hermium who was a friend of the Sea Elves and who the Atmorans hated as though he was an old enemy. From the oracle bones, they learned to navigate the reaching kelp without being caught (which, luckily, they had not encountered during the initial battle) and they learned to effectively fight the Sea Elves and their sea serpents, to successfully raid and pillage their towns and villages. They learned that the huge beetles the Sea Elves used to build ships lived in the jungled interiors of the islands, though the Atmorans rarely saw them and never fought them, for they hated the jungle. They even learned some Sea-Elvish: words for insults, words for battle cries, and words for ordering the Sea Elves they captured about.
They had learned, too, that there were as many kinds of serpent as there were kinds of dragon. Though the sea serpents—who were lesser—could not do thus, many of the serpents could, more or less, Thu’um with their eyes. The most common examples were those serpents that shot jets of fire, streams of frozen wind, or both from their eyes (but never both at once, of course). There were serpents that could drain men’s vitality with a glance, serpents that could Stare men unto stone, serpents that could Stare men’s weapons out of their hands, serpents that could look somewhere and move there in an instant, and on and on.
As the Atmorans explored further and further into Pyandonea, the islands packed tighter and tighter together, until some branches of the sea looked more like canyon rivers than ocean waters. They found waxy octopus elves, a giant who howled “Ilyadi” and who was like the karstaag-men except that he had more eyes, beaked reptiles with domed shells, and a wide variety of bizarre fish. They also found a great many rewards for their exploration: a shield that struck those who beheld it with fear, a flask that made the imbiber briefly immune to magicka, a sword which spread the injuries of a single enemy to all nearby enemies with each cut, and a chest filled with gold which, if emptied, refilled by the same time the next day. Those rewards have different names today: the first was called Fearstruck before it was destroyed, the second was called the Flask of Something-or-Other, the third disappeared even before it could be named, and the fourth was dubbed Orgnum’s Coffer.
And we can’t forget their raids on the cities of the Sea Elves, where they claimed those treasures and captured Sea Elves as Stuhn had taught them. The cities ranged from a city built of beetle shells to a city of mixed High Elf crystals and Wood Elf plants, from a city of of ships, bridges, and scaffoldings afloat at sea to an underground city swarming with serpents. The Atmorans raided them all, one by one, and stole from them amid chaos and violence.
There were rumors among the Sea Elves, extracted from those that the Atmorans captured, that the King Orgnum was gathering a fleet to push the Atmorans out. The Atmorans told them that Orgnum was dead, and they agreed, but insisted that he was also gathering the fleet and that they should flee. In response, the Atmorans simply shrugged, assuming that the Sea Elves were just nuts or that maybe Orgnum had turned himself into some sort of Draugr-Mage, or that he had escaped through trickery.
Dreadmund’s fleet set out at dawn. The Snow Whale’s crew was as it had been at the beginning of this story, with the exception of Flame-Grin Sorga, Jhunmor, and Thaduga, who had all stayed behind at Smallwall, Raving Savage the Welwa, Tang Mo the Monkey-Thing, and Jahnson Whose-Name-Stays-in-its-Cradle, who had all died in agony of the poisons of local foods and creatures, and the Snow Elf and Sea Elf elf-slave translators, for the Bird Elf, the cunning linguist that it was, had by now learned enough Atmoran and Sea-Elvish to become the only translator Dreadmund needed.
Their target was a small fishing village off of one of the northwestern islands, whose villagers brought in all kinds of sea life: fish with translucent skin, sharks, fish with orange and white stripes, eels, underwater birds with spearlike tails, really long fish that looked like eels or sea serpents but really weren’t, and fish that, when looked upon head-on, look like the faces of screaming men. The fisher-elves even caught the occasional Haus, which were creatures with the front half of a cow and the back half of a serpent and which were said to be the cattle of either the octopus elves or the people of a Republic called Hahd. The dwellings of the village were made of coral, like those of the Slugs of Thras, and the town was completely defenseless. The town had next to nothing worth the taking. Nothing besides the fish. The Atmorans certainly weren’t going to go fishing for themselves, especially when they didn’t know which fish would kill them and which wouldn’t.
“Captain, shall we sail through the gap between the islands, or sail around?”
“Cut through the islands. We don’t have all day.”
The Snow Whale pushed ahead, and the cliffs of each island loomed in until only one ship could pass at a time. The space was dark; the only light was that which trickled between gaps in the overhanging foliage that crowned each island. The rest of the fleet followed, entering the crevice one at a time. The cramped, dark, musty space made the Atmorans somber, and all was silent but for the lapping of trapped water on the bare cliffs and on the ships. The silence whispered into their ears and pulled at the edges of the splashes and the creaks of the waves and the ships, threatening to devour even those sounds.
A ship appeared ahead of the Snow Whale, cutting out of the vague murk and into the filtered sunlight. It was of a clear amalgamation of elven styles: its elegantly curving wooden hull and deck, patterned with shards of crystal, depictions of Sun-Birds and ancestors engraved throughout, screamed of High-Elven design. The traces green-tinted wood which broke the perfect swirls and even coloring marked local repairs to the ship. A perfectly shaped leaf, alive and green, served as the sail as its stem served as the mast, like the living sails of the Wood Elves in those ships that they grow. Faded text played across the ship’s side. Dreadmund turned to his Bird Elf, which, nervous, preened its feathers and rearranged its magic beads.
“What’s that text on the ship’s side say?”
The Bird Elf squawked. “It reads, ‘the Pasquiniel.’”
The Pasquiniel sliced through the stagnant waters, spurting green-flecked froth, and the crew of the Snow Whale stood transfixed by it. A lone Pyandonean trumpet called, tones rising and falling, just as sharp and shrill and keening as every such trumpet the Atmorans had heard during their time in Pyandonea.
The Bird Elf, who had also learned to read the messages hidden in the alternating tones of Pyandonean trumpets, declared, “They would like to speak to you, and negotiate something.”
Dreadmund grunted. “It’s probably a trap, but we can’t avoid it. Move forward.”
As the two ships neared one another, a Sea Elf on the Pasquiniel’s bow, glass-tipped spear in hand, shouted ahead. To Dreadmund, most everything of Sea-Elvish was still nothing but incoherent noises, but he did pick up one word.
“Did he say ‘Orgnum’?”
“Yes-Yes-Yes. He said that he is the King Orgnum. And that he would like to duel with you, with the condition that you leave Pyandonea and take your fleet with you if he wins.”
Dreadmund frowned. “Tell him that I killed Orgnum.”
The Bird Elf babbled at the Sea Elf, and the Sea Elf babbled in return. The Bird Elf turned back to Dreadmund. “He says that he agrees that you killed the King Orgnum, but he insists that he is the King Orgnum.”
“Ask him what in Hell that means.”
“He says that he is the new the King Orgnum, that because the old one died he was chosen. He says that the one you killed had lived much longer than he was supposed to, so there were a few in reserve. He says—”
“Translate directly, foolish thing!”
“‘I am the King Orgnum, as chosen by the Hooded Elders who live below the World-Bowels-Tree and the Hooded Serpent who lives in the roots of the same. I climbed down through the jungles to reach the Tree after being Stare-Called by the Elders themselves. I am Serpent-blooded as you are Dragon-blooded. I will defeat you.’”
“Heh. What do I get out of dueling with him that I don’t get from just killing him?”
The two elves made sounds for a moment. “You shall be granted the Pasquiniel without resistance, and you shall have a time of respite before the next King Orgnum challenges you.”
A lazy smile played across Dreadmund’s face. “Odd how eager he is to be crushed. I’ll humor him. But the last Orgnum chose where he would fight me, so this time I get to choose. We’re fighting aboard the Snow Whale.”
Dreadmund and the second Orgnum, the second Serpentborn, stood across from one another on the ship’s deck. Dreadmund readied the Ice Blade of the Monarch, which he had recovered after his battle with the other Orgnum, and this new Orgnum readied his spear. The Ice Blade still hadn’t tasted a King’s blood, but maybe it would finally get its chance. Dreadmund stared into Orgnum’s eyes, and Orgnum Stared back.
Orgnum charged. Dreadmund tried to move, to react, but he realized that he was frozen in place, slowed by the Stare, for Orgnum knew it as the serpents did. A Thu’um rose from Dreadmund’s frozen throat and pushed Orgnum back, breaking eye contact and freeing Dreadmund’s movement again.
Orgnum Stared a gout of flame, which erupted from his eyes, and Dreadmund Thu’umed the same. The flames crashed together and hissed.
Dreadmund spoke another Thu’um from the side of his mouth. It landed beside Orgnum, and there he was, bringing the Ice Blade down upon the elf.
Or not. Orgnum shoved his spear haft in the way, and Dreadmund’s blade cleaved straight through, cutting the spearhead from the rest of the shaft. Orgnum twisted out of the way of the blade like the Serpent he was at heart and he grappled with Dreadmund, dropping the shaft of his spear as Dreadmund dropped the Ice Blade. There wasn’t space to use spears and greatswords, anymore.
The two rolled across the deck, Thu’um deadlocked with Stare, and Orgnum hand desperately sought a weapon, a coincidental savior. He seeking fingers found the severed spearhead. He held it aloft and brought it down with all his strength, shoving it into Dreadmund’s chest.
Dreadmund gasped. It hurt him to breath. Orgnum stood and backed away, face triumphant. Insolent elf! Dreadmund began a Thu’um, but before it could leave his lips as a honed weapon, it burped from his side. He screamed in agony. The elf had stabbed into his lung. He Thu’umed again, and again, and as the Thu’ums burped from his side, his wound grow wider and wider. He gave up his Voice as a lost cause; his greatest power made powerless. He rose. He would not fall to this cur. He charged, howling, and made to smash Orgnum in the face, to gouge out his eyes with his claws, to kill him anyway. Orgnum glared daggers at Dreadmund—literally—and Dreadmund was pushed back. He tore one of the daggers from his body and charged again armed now with more than his claws and teeth, and Orgnum Stared lightning at him. Again, and Orgnum Stared him unto ice. Again, and Orgnum Stared at Dreadmund with such force that he flew into the Snow Whale’s mast and split it. Dreadmund did not rise this time.
He spoke in hissing Sea Elf tones, and the Bird Elf translated from the side.
“He says, ‘Do you surrender? Do you accept my demands? Will you leave, and take your pink men with you?’”
Dreadmund roared and rose again, and Orgnum Stared agony into his wounds. Dreadmund fell. He was breathing in only quick, painful gasps now.
Between gasps, he answered, “I...accept. We will...leave.”
The Bird Elf spoke, and Orgnum nodded.
1 Pronounced ‘Thoom-Thanes’ by Amedee, which indicates either archaic spellings and pronunciations within the story, or ignorance on the part of Amedee or on the part of an earlier teller of the story, such as Yngmir. I spelled it as ‘Thu’um’ with each mention, for the sake of adherence to accurate, or at least modern, spellings. The Thu’um is the more specific, accurate word referring to the Shouts and Voice of the Tongues of Skyrim in Skyrim’s early years.
2 The term ‘Bird Elf’ presumably indicates an Ayleid, considering the attachment the Ayleids had to avian imagery. ‘Heartland High Elf’ was likely too clunky a term for Atmoro-Nords to smoothly use in storytelling, and it was nonsensical too, considering that these Atmorans did not encounter the elf in Nibenay. ‘Wild Elf’ is a nonsensical title for the Atmorans to use as well, considering that this story’s setting, whether the story is historical or fictional, predates the fall of the Ayleids and their descent into ‘Wild’ness. And finally, the term ‘Ayleid’ is simply too technically correct for the Atmorans to use; to them, the elves were Snow Elves and Bird Elves and such, not Falmer and Ayleids and the like.
3 The ‘Mist-Veil’ is fairly mysterious. Different sources hold different views; it is clear that, for the last five hundred and twenty four years (as of 4E 201), the ‘Mist-Veil’ has cut Pyandonea off from the rest of the world. Older sources dictate that the Mist-Veil (‘The Veil of Mist’) once cut Pyandonea off from Aldmeris, with no indication of separation from the rest of the world. As a whole, it is clearly evident that the Maormer have some control over the mist storms that are some common in and around their land—with one source going so far as to claim that certain herbs and magicks of the Maormer made one feel like a ‘cooling mist’ during certain, ah, recreational activities—and it seems that they have traditionally used their ‘Mist-Veil’ as a barrier and an alarm system. Such a view is clearly supported by the text of Raid on Pyandonea.
4 This description matches certain details mentioned in the only other known account of the terrain of Pyandonea, and further description later in the story matches every detail mentioned in the aforementioned account.