A Try for Peace

[author’s note:  Ri’dro’zhiin is the nephew of Ra’zhiin, and appeared briefly in “A Khajiit C0DA”]

Masser, 5E 911; approximately 6 ½ months after the Wedding

To anyone else the Quin’khaj’rawl probably looked like a wasteland – an endless stretch of sugar-deserts and low-lying hills stretching from the southern slopes of Satak’s Spine all the way to the borders of New Argonia; but to Ri’dro’zhiin it was home.

Crossing a ridge he allowed himself a contented sigh at the sight of Corinthe-by-the-Shallows.  The city had gained its name from the vast sugar-lake bounding its southern end, and while the lake was beautiful (especially in moonlight) the city’s was most famous for its abundance of Masserian ivory.  The stone went from pale white to blushing red and it waseverywhere; parks were lined with it, the wealthiest homes were built from it, and the twin statues of Mara that flanked the gates had been carved from great ivory spires.  Ri’dro’zhiin could not help the pride that swelled in his heart as he rode into the city.  Ald Sotha Below had been impressive, no doubt, but even its wonders could not compare to the majesty of Corinthe.  Leaving his guar at the stable he walked briskly to his estate, greeting the people as he went.

Dreej’na was waiting for him, sitting outside the door of his home, licking her paw.  “Greetings, sister,” he told the Alfiq as she sniffed at him.  “Has anything interesting happened while this one was away?”  The Alfiq looked at him with a frown and meowed, grumbling a few sentences in Ta’agra.  He nodded and entered the house.

Removing his breathing scarves and cloak, Ri’dro’zhiin said, “Feris, are you in?”

The old Dunmer butler came bustling into the room.  “I’m very sorry, Councilor, I fear I was busy with my afternoon glass of shein – please forgive me.”

The Khajiit gave him a reproving look.  “This one would never fault you for your shein, Feris, unless you didn’t give Ri’dro’zhiin a glass, too.  You’re looking well.”

“Thank you, sir.  How is your uncle?” the Dunmer asked, taking his cloak.  “It is far too long since he graced the home of Dro’kor.”

“This one thinks he is getting ready for another adventure.  Ra’zhiin was never one for staying anywhere for too long.”  He paused before asking, “How is this one’s mother?  She was not happy with his being away.”

“Quite well, actually.  I believe she’s taken an interest in the Dunmeri troupe at The Veimar; they are re-enacting the 36 Lessons, if memory serves.”

He tried to hide his surprise…and relief.  “Has anything of note happened while this one was gone?  Dreej’na seemed concerned.”

“No, nothing that the Council couldn’t handle, sir,” Feris said, but a loud meow interrupted him.  They both regarded the Alfiq as she twined around Ri’dro’zhiin’s legs.  “Now the Councilor has just returned,” Feris reproved her.  “There’s no need to trouble him until he’s had a decent bath and rest.”

The Alfiq responded with a withering glare and proceeded to clean her genitals.

“I will never, ever, understand the complete lack of decorum in that Khajiit,” Feris admitted heatedly.  Ri’dro’zhiin tried not to laugh.  “There is a matter regarding Thrandor’s farm if you wish to know.”

“Tell this one, but first:  a glass of shein.  This one’s throat is dry from the road.”

*

It was nearly moonfall by the time he and Dreej’na arrived at Thrandor’s farm.  The Bosmer was washing his face from a bucket and stood up as the Khajiit approached him.

“Councilor ‘zhiin,” Thrandor said, extending his hand.  “I’d have cleaned up if I knew you were coming.”

Ri’dro’zhiin took the Bosmer into an embrace.  “You know better than that, old man.  There is no Councilor here, only a friend.”

Thrandor was smiling when the Khajiit released him.  “Well, damn it man, you can’t blame me for following decorum.  You are on the Council.”  He turned to look at the stilted fields of salt-rice that comprised his farm.  “I guess Feris told you.”

Ri’dro’zhiin approached the fields, noticing Dreej’na slinking between the stalks.  “It’s very strange.  The ground has been surprisingly productive over the last two harvests.  For it to fall to this,” one of the stalks disintegrated at his touch.

“It’s always been good ground, even when that fool Jhervs was tending it.  Makes me wonder.”  The Bosmer picked up some of the sugary soil and sifted it through his fingers.  “Could be magic; some curse of the old codger’s.”

“This one never studied the Arts and could not say.”  Ri’dro’zhiin noticed Dreej’na pawing at the ground.  The Alfiq looked at him and meowed.

“I don’t imagine he liked being evicted from his land.”

“Then he should have paid his taxes,” the Khajiit knelt down and scooped up the earth Dreej’na had been pawing.  He sniffed it, and the scent told him all.  “Salt,” he almost whispered.

Thrandor nodded.  “I’ll get my bow.”

Ri’dro’zhiin stood up, dusting off his pants.  “This one thinks not.  Why don’t you take Dwalla to my Estate?  There’s a troupe of Dunmeri artists in town doing the Sermons.  She’ll find it quite comical, no doubt.”

“There’s no way I’m letting you fight my battles for me.”

“Maybe you should, this time.  Let this one at least try for peace.  You know he hates taking life.”

“With this kind there’s no other way.”

Ri’dro’zhiin considered the plaintive look on Dreej’na’s face.  “We’ll see.”

*

It took the Khajiit a few days to track them to their camp, hidden as it was in a canyon to the east of the city.  Ri’dro’zhiin thought it a bold move; close enough that patrols might have found them, but also near enough a series of caves known for invectids.  Jhervs was either very confident or very foolish; likely both.

Tying his guar to a shrub-tree Ri’dro’zhiin gave the Alfiq a stern look.  “At least let this one try to talk to the leader; perhaps he will be amenable to a peaceful solution.”

Dreej’na said something in Ta’agra that was extraordinarily un-lady-like.

“That’s what this one loves about you, Dreej’na,” he shook his head.  “Your flawless manners.”  He pulled a bundle from his guar’s saddle and hoisted it onto his back before setting out.

The first guard was so busy smoking his bitter-leaf he almost didn’t notice when Ri’dro’zhiin choked him from behind.  The Khajiit checked the Dunmer’s pulse as he dropped him to the ground, pausing to take his purse – a little punishment was always necessary, even in addition to the headache he’d have on waking.  The next few were not much of a challenge either, and Ri’dro’zhiin began to have serious doubts about the efficacy of Jhervs’ confidence…until he saw the camp.

The Dunmer had gathered his own bandit clan.  Nearly two dozen Dark Elves stalked about the camp, sat at fires, or stood on watch-towers.  At his feet Dreej’na said something in Ta’agra.

“This one knows,” he replied, touching the weight of his bundle.  “If you will give this one a distraction, he will do what he must.  If he must.”

She assented and vanished into the scrub.  When a fire started in the tent furthest from the entrance, a few minutes later, Ri’dro’zhiin moved as quickly and quietly as possible for the largest tent, towards the center of the camp.  A guard noticed him when he was almost there, but the Khajiit struck him in the throat – silencing him – before sending him to unconsciousness.  He hid the body in a patch of desert bush.

Jhervs’ tent was opulent by any standard.  Masserian silks hung at every corner, gold-speckled invectid mandibles dangled in chime-arrangements, and a number of ivory carvings dotted the table that took up the majority of the space; the over-stuffed bed was conspicuously displayed for all to see.  The Dunmer was seated in a chair facing the small coal-fire and gestured to a seat beside him.  “Of all the assassins I expected you were the last of them.  But at least you were entertaining.  The fire was a nice touch.”

“This one tries to exceed expectations,” Ri’dro’zhiin said, rising from where he had snuck into the tent.  “Perhaps it was too much to think he could surprise you.”

“I was there at the Taming of the Worms, cat.  You’re not the first to try to kill me.  But maybe a bit of decorum, first?”

Ri’dro’zhiin sat down, placing the bundle at his feet.  “Actually, this one was hoping to speak with you, rather than to seek violence.”

Jhervs was ancient, his body criss-crossed with scars and tattoos.  “A Councilor seeking my pay-roll?  You wouldn’t be the first.”

“You misunderstand.  Ri’dro’zhiin seeks your departure.”

Jhervs laughed long and hard.  “Just because your uncle is a hero and you were well-connected enough to get on the Council doesn’t mean you can boss me around, kitten.”

Ri’dro’zhiin ignored the slur.  “This one was hoping to inspire you to be more civic-minded in your activities, and thence, your departure.  It will be some time before Thrandor can get a decent harvest after you salted his ground.  We will need to summon a Restoration specialist from the Temple.”

“You think I give a ‘vectid’s ass about that tree-hugger or his land?  You’re far too naïve khaj, and I guess it falls to me to educate you.”

Ri’dro’zhiin considered him briefly.  “This one always seeks wisdom.”

Jhervs scoffed but said, “There’s business in the city and that farm serves as a nice…way-point…for the operation.”  He leaned forward.  “You’re costing me a lot of money, cat.  I suppose I’ll have to take it out of your hide.”

The Khajiit conceded the point.  “It strikes this one that you are a very violent creature, Jhervs, and one who does not wish to give up his violent ways.”  He caught the shadow of a small figure entering the tent.  “This one must confess he has never understood the need to resolve differences through violence; why cannot others simply learn to work together?”

“Your uncle doesn’t seem much of a compromiser, especially with the way he dealt with the Clanless a few years back.”

The Khajiit’s face became terse.  “He did what he must.”

Jhervs sat back in his chair.  “And so will I.  You should know the tent is surrounded by my men.  We’ve known you were here the whole time.  I’d offer you a quick death, but we both know that won’t happen.”

Ri’dro’zhiin patted his legs and stood up, slinging the bundle over his shoulder.  “If you’re sure this one cannot convince you?  He is willing to let all of you live.”

Jhervs shook his head.  “The sheer gall…”

“Now, Dreej’na.”

The Alfiq reached into Oblivion and what answered was something even the Worms would have feared.  As the bundle fell away Ri’dro’zhiin withdrew the Dwemer crossbow and fired directly at Jhervs shocked face.  The bolt struck the Dunmer just above the nose and penetrated to the fletching, throwing him from his seat.

Re-loading the crossbow, the Khajiit turned to his work.

*

There was laughter in the Estate when he returned.  Dreej’na rushed in to examine the commotion.

“Really, sir, it’s quite irregular,” Feris told him as he removed the Khajiit’s cloak and breathing scarf.  “The sheer blasphemy!  Lady Dwalla persists in mocking the goddess!”

Ri’dro’zhiin said, “We are all letters written in uncertainty, Feris.  And uncertainty leads some to mockery:  it is a great sadness.”

Feris seemed relieved.  “Thank the gods for you, Councilor.  Thank the gods!”

He found Thrandor on the balcony nursing a glass of shein.  Ri’dro’zhiin moved next to him, sipping at his own.  “Jhervs will not be a problem anymore,” he told the Bosmer.

“It didn’t go peacefully, I’m guessing.”

“Does it ever?”

Thrandor frowned and considered the view of the city.

They stood for a time until Dreej’na joined them, curling around their legs and purring loudly.  “She seems happy,” the Bosmer noted.

“She’s always been an adventurer; she gets bored easily.”

“Did you really think Jhervs would go quietly?” Thrandor asked him.  “He’s not the sort to just give up.  Never had been.”

Ri’dro’zhiin sighed and looked at the city.  There were children in the street:  laughing, playing, teasing one another.  He watched as a little girl punched her tormentor right in the nose, sending him to the ground.  The boy actually cried.

“This one had hoped, but knew in his heart.  Those like Jhervs find themselves in patterns, endless cycles…prisons, really.  Worse than any prison we might put them in.”

“Awfully philosophical for a Khajiit.”

“This one blames his uncle.”

Thrandor smiled broadly.  “I’m sure that’s it.”

“Sir!” Feris came running to them, breathlessly.  Ri’dro’zhiin steadied him.  “Sir, its…its too much!  She’s reciting the Twelfth Sermon – IN THE NUDE!!!”

The Khajiit looked at Thrandor quizzically.  “What can I say?” the Bosmer shrugged.  “Dwalla has a flair for the theatrical.”

Ri’dro’zhiin was intrigued.  “Perhaps this one will go watch.”  Their joint objections followed him into the house.

As the others commenced their shouting, laughter and generally raucous behavior Dreej’na climbed onto the railing to look out over Corinthe-by-the-Shallows – this was her favorite spot.  If Dwalla was a little embarrassed by the spell she’d cast on her the Alfiq doubted anyone would be the wiser.  Feris would be so upset he’d be ranting for days and she’d be left to conduct her late night trysts in peace.  A Khajiit had to do what she had too, after all:  and there was one of her lovers now, looking up at her from the street.  She purred as she made her way down to him, thinking bemusedly that it certainly was a lively time in the House of Dro’kor.