“These ashlands,” Kusarikku muttered to himself after yet another coughing fit, “no wonder the Dark Elves sound almost as barbaric as my brethren.”
Kusarikku gro-Gugalanna took another swig of sujamma to cool his throat as he trekked north through a foyoda once more, this time towards the Urshilaku camp some days after Caius finally told him why the Emperor had shipped him to this blasted wasteland. But he couldn’t be too harsh after staying here for long. He had come to see a form of rough beauty in the sparse vegetation, only those tough enough to survive. But then he recalled his own rough upbringing in an orc stronghold (its name long ago intentionally forgotten) in Skyrim, his land of birth, and shook his head over the thought of how many beautiful flowers had been trampled in the name of survival of the fittest.
But this is why Kusarikku now dedicates his life to growing stronger and stronger so that he may personally, and alone if need be, protect these flowers with much to provide the world. He had spoken at length with members of House Redoran as he had with many others and has come to admire their philosophy of strength, for what good is Good if Evil is stronger? This is not so different from certain sects of the Imperial Cult, but those most alike always seem to bicker the hardest.
Another coughing fit, another swig, but thankfully the blowing ash starts to dissipate. At least long enough to hear the distinctive yell of a Dark Elf the distance. The Elf did not sound hostile, so Kusarikku felt no need to reach for one of his many weapons. He had fought many beasts, smugglers, and supernatural monsters, and felt confident in himself and his might for the first time since his savage upbringing, more savage than for most stronghold orcs due to his face, size and voice looking and sounding small and weak compared to those sharing his blood — though still frightfully powerful to all but the Nords and perhaps the most vicious Argonians.
As gro-Gugalanna truly was comparatively small and light-voiced, he had to learn to hone his tongue in lieu of his axe-arm. First he was sycophantic, but then became genuinely interested in people beyond a need to escape. He had a late start for learning how to wield weapons and wear armor from shame in his inability. But this was long, long ago, and he would cheerfully challenge the biggest pack of snarling orcs with his giant hammer of war and artifact claymore.
Kusarikku was jolted from reminiscing on his past by a third yell, more easily heard as the ash storm continued to die down, this time with an edge of impatience. A little difficult to pay attention to surroundings right now; too much sujamma? Ha ha, impossible! Another swig… oh, empty.
“I need to reach Koal Cave,” said the Dark Elf, who goes by the name Fonus Rathryon, “I will pay 150 septims to the guide who can lead me there in two days.”
“Koal Cave? Why yes I know where that is, for I have completed the Seven Graces Pilgrimage myself! Come, good Elf! Let us make haste!”
“Yes… uh, you’re well-spoken for an Orc…”
“Ha! I get that often. Though one may easily blame it on the sujamma, too!”
“You’re… you were drinking in an ash storm??”
“It was bothering my throat.”
Fonus looked askance, but continued to follow the oddly smooth-faced orc with the mismatched armor. He worried that he was making a mistake, but he was obviously blessed by the Three so maybe his fears were unfounded.
The Orc and the Elf traveled through the ash-covered valley, or what the natives called a foyoda. To think that this really was a river of fire long ago. One wonders how many lives and treasures have been lost to lava in this desolate isle. Unmindful of these concerns the two continued, the Orc uncharacteristically chatty whereas the Dark Elf was as taciturn as we’d all expect.
All these cliff racers overhead, but none swooped down to attack for this was a modded game. Save for one, which the well-armed-and-armored Kusarikku gro-Gugalanna met with fierce abandon! Several swings of a jet-black blade and it was down before Kusarikku was finished with his growl!
After a long pause and a few steps back, Fonus Rathryon spoke up, “You realize the racer was dead after the first few strikes…”
Kusarikku looked up from plucking the few alchemy-usable feathers from its minced corpse, and smiled and laughed.
“Normally I am not one to slay wildlife, but this beast was blighted, far too dangerous to let live! And by Alma’s mercy, I shall not let danger… endanger my charge!” The sujamma sounded like it was finally taking hold. Fonus felt again his earlier trepidation about traveling with this Orsimer, but how else would he survive? At least his drunken rage was directed elsewhere.
Kusarikku thought that if only Fonus could levitate or survive a jump spell, that they would have reached Koal Cave by now. Fonus’s reminder that it’s been half a day wasn’t helping, but no matter! Kusarikku was too inebriated to feel too insulted. The reward is in the deed, and it is the responsibility of the strong to assist the weak. Wait, were those the teachings of the Three, or the Nine? And why did the Dark Elf sound so quiet with his reminder? Normally they’re loud and proud, especially their women. Their women are so easy, eh he he he he. But hold up, isn’t this in third person? First person bad! Or is it? I need booze to figure this out. But I’m out! Bah, too hard to think right now!
So hard to think and pay attention that Kusarikku almost missed that angry nix-hound running at Fonus.
Gro-Gugalanna was struck by a thunderclap of anger at himself and the hound for almost reaching his new friend. He charged the hound with a snarl and a threat, impaling the beast through its chest with a pale spear! He swung the spear overhead until it finally dislodged, yelping and its gaping wound spraying blood as its body flopped messily onto the ground, kicking up a cloud of dust.
The animal twitched and tried to stand, but Kusarikku was already leaping with a large bone-white hammer in hand! How could anyone draw and wield such a weapon with the ease that one swings a chitin dagger? Fonus couldn’t tell whether it was the Orsimer’s feet or his hammer which struck down first, for it was a single motion which ended with the hound’s brain matter spraying every which way. He could do naught but stare as the Orsimer coughed and coughed, nearly stumbling over as he pulled a bottle of flin and emptied it in three swigs and shattered it on the ground. Oh no…
“I had forgotten! I thought I was out! A ha ha! Ohhh.”
Fonus stood rooted as the Orsimer walked on, sheathing both his spear and hammer. They looked like magnificent weapons, but why would anyone choose not to concentrate their training in but one? His thoughts raced around such irrelevant topics to try and wash away the sheer brutality that just occurred before his red, wide eyes.
“He’s helping me… he’s helping me… he is killing those who would kill me… oh holy Vehk please save me from this demon.”
Only after that whispered intonation could Fonus unroot himself and keep following his… guardian. His happy, cheerful protector who suddenly couldn’t seem to stop occasionally snickering to himself and rambling about how he saved that one Khajiit from the Camonna Tong. So he’s one of THOSE. But Fonus was not about to protest.
The two passed a cave, which Kusarikku took out a map and marked for future investigation, and continued until the hill to the left was just flat enough for the both of them to climb to the top. And oh a beautiful sight, the West Gash and its many shades of green: trees, grass, and incoming poison from an angry bull netch.
“YOU WANT TO COME DOWN HERE AND SAY THAT TO MY FACE YOU FLOATING GAS BAG?!”
It answered by spitting more poison all over Kusarikku.
“I thought netch were peaceful!” yelled Fonus.
“MODDED GAME, THEY COME BLIGHTED TOO!!” Kusarikku shouted, much to Fonus’s confusion and terror. The netch was far too high to strike in melee, so Kusarikku with one deft move removed an enchanted ring from his satchel, slid it on an upraised finger, activated it, then jumped to the netch while drawing a battle-axe shaped not unlike those Imperial dragons. Insert your two favorite words here.
Perhaps here one should say the netch was sliced clean in half by the flying Orc, but this Orc was not one for finesse at this moment, so the netch was roughly chopped up not unlike a leather bag being hacked over and over with a hatchet guided by blind fury. That bag probably made from netch leather. Whoa.
Kusarikku hit the ground with an aching thud long before the few pieces of netch that weren’t now lazily floating on the wind like clouds of glistening gore.
Fonus was getting more numb to the Orsimer’s antics, barely taking note of him almost tumbling down the hill before him and apparently greatly amused about it. Outlanders. Annoying, frightening outlanders.
They traveled southeast a ways over the rolling green hills until suddenly Kusarikku put out an arm to stop Fonus’s march. He almost sighed, until he spotted an encampment of Ashlanders.
Gro-Gugalanna looked Rathryon dead in the eyes and growled, “Wait. Here.”
Kusarikku approached openly, making no overt threatening gestures to gauge the Ashlander’s reactions. They reacted by shouting battle cries and drawing their weapons.
“How many innocents have met their end by your crude weapons?” Kusarikku loudly and somehow soberly proclaimed to the now quiet barbarians. “How many flowers have you trampled? You wish for freedom yet deny others the like. You are too much like my brethren. You are faithless and cruel. May Stendarr show you the light of mercy, for I shall not!”
At the name of one of the Western gods, the Ashlanders broke their trance and charged!
As they approached he drew a bottle of skooma, and drank it deeply.
Fonus in the distance exclaimed, “Aren’t you supposed to smoke that?”
“Not I,” Kusarikku calmly answered as drew his spear and slowly marched forward, his eyes seemingly changing hue.
“From ash you came and to ash you return as red mud. To the waking world you shall never see,” Kusarikku grew louder and clearer with every word, “the hammers of dawn ring in myth and mist. Who is the ruling king of this world? He enacts, rather than talks, as language without exertion is dead witness.”
Kusarikku continued his senseless scripture like a blue flame: calm but hotter than any inferno. At his words some of the Ashlanders fled in horror, while the rest leapt upon the armored preacher of any and all sentence fragments that crossed his sugar-addled mind.
With a wild grace he swept his spear about, knocking many of the Ashlanders to their knees. He had already drawn his dragon-axe and hacked down three of the Ashlanders by the time the others rose and attacked.
Fonus, now completely numb to this Orsimer, “How can there be so many? And how did you perform those maneuvers?”
At those words Kusarikku drank a healing potion and another flin, and slammed his hammer on the ground before the two Ashlander archers, knocking them flat. The fleeing Ashlanders had returned, only to be thrown back with a few swings of his sword. The swiftness that Kusarikku switched weapons has become dizzying to Fonus’s eyes.
His spear through the gut of an Ashlander, another beheaded with his axe, and one more loses his arm from a sword chop! Little but limbs and bleeding natives remain to hear gro-Gugalanna’s chanting, shouting and boasting the likes of which to make proud any Nord.
Fonus in the distance couldn’t even tell when the battle was won, or which was the last death blow. He just knew one moment the Orsimer was jumping and swinging and screaming– no, that was the Ashlanders. And the next, he was digging through their pockets for gold and ingredients. And when had Fonus fallen to his knees?
Kusarikku finally finished looting and approached Fonus, put his hand on his shoulder with a smile, then turned to finish the journey. Fonus grudgingly got up with shaking legs and followed. Nothing of significance occurred by the time they reached the holy cave except for Fonus confused by Kusarikku calling to one of the Nine.
“I am a believer that all great spirits are worthy of respect and reverence at one point or another. I… do not like to tell most Dark Elves this as they wouldn’t approve… ohh.. uh.”
Fonus wisely chose not to protest, and was about to politely thank the Orsimer (and in his heart, gleefully thank Alma for allowing him to finally be rid of this monster). But then Kusarikku gro-Gugalanna had fallen onto the beach, smiling and half-heartedly laughing with his face barely above water level, then passed out. Fonus simply dropped the bag of gold near him, thought of removing and dumping the rest of his booze and skooma into the ocean for his own good, thought of that Ashlander’s half-severed lung flying through the air and decided against it, then unceremoniously hurried through the cave door to pray to the shrine.