The Broken Blade
Chapter 1: The Wild Wood
I won't ever get used to this.
The ground lurches underfoot, causing Cylian to stumble slightly. Stros M'Kai doesn't have entire walking cities built in treetops, so the Redguard is having more than his fair share of trouble keeping his balance. Thankfully, being a bumbling outsider isn't congruent with being a spy in the mind of the local Bosmer, so in its own way it is a blessing.
Alchemists living in Falinesti understand the negatives to living in a city that changes locations. Alembics and retorts are fastened into their bone counters; and the shelves with their ingredients are made with arms that hold the vials still, while being low to the floor. The alchemist Cylian is watching, as he pretends to look through his ingredients, grunts quietly as he spills a few grains of a grayish powder.
"Four months to trade for a decent sample of frost salt, and it ends up on the damn floor," he mumbles, "maybe it's time to pack it up and head to a non-migratory city."
"Indeed, good Bosmer!" Cylian adds, turning toward him, "how much for this vampire dust?"
A sour look contorts the bosmer's face and he spits on the ground. "Not much to take it. I'd rather get the remains of those moons-drunk reprobates out of my shop. So I'll give you a good deal, traveller." Cylian produces a couple of coins and puts them on the counter. "I haven't seen an Imperial Drake in several years. Normally, I would barter other goods with you. But, to get rid of that trash, I'll gladly take it. Maybe I can melt them down."
"Ata Gandra." Cylian says and leaves the shop. He had done more than his fair share of research on the shop owner. He knew that one of his sons was converted into a vampire, so he detests even carrying their powdered remains, making for the best price in northern Valenwood. He also knew that the exiled and retreating former House Dres mage, Sinnolan, had made his way to the city-tree a couple of days before him. And, that Sinnolan has made a couple of trips already to see the owner over the last few days. After going outside, he takes the dust and a still humming portion of nirnroot and quickly crushes them together with his mortar and pestle before anyone can hear its warble and inquire as to what he's doing with poached plants. Finally, he adds some water to the solution to make it drinkable, and drinks it right out of the mortar; taking a look around to make sure no one is noticing him. He slowly fades out of sight. Cylian scouts out a site between the alchemist shop and a neighboring house to sit between and observe the alchemist's door. He knows Sinnolan will be back, and it will likely be before his potion wears off.
And, again, Cylian is correct. Sinnolan, noticably the only Altmer in town, walks up the thick, curving limb into his line of sight and heads into the shop, briskly closing the door behind him. Using the gift of the quarter-dunmer part of his blood, Cylian presses his ear up to the wall and can hear their conversation.
"Hello, Sinnolan. What brings you back today?" the shop owner greets him.
"Trouble on the wind." Sinnolan replies. "Do you have any flax seed in?"
"I've told you, we don't deal in plants, seeds, or fruits here." the owner replies, his voice rising a bit. "I run a respectable business. I stay strictly within the bounds of the Green Pact. I know you Altmer have no use for our god and our way, but by Mora, when you are in my shop the pact is law!"
"Of course you don't deal in plants!" Sinnolan yells out mockingly. "How can I forget that you tree-riding, knuckle-dragging, shaved Imgas don't sell plant materials of your own? I had forgotten that I had accidentally strolled into the first era!"
"Get out of my shop! Blasphemer! Leave or die on my doorstep! I'll show you flax seeds! By Y'ffre, you'll be my dinner!" the shop owner yells and begins to walk out from behind the counter.
"Fetcher!" Sinnolan calls out as he throws open the front door. It slams into the wall and begins to close again on its own, barely missing the offending Altmer as he indignantly walked through the threshold. Cylian resisted chuckling; this guy knows how to make a friend. He watches as a visibly agitated, occasionally shouting, Sinnolan makes his way down the series of vines to the dense root system at the bottom of the tree. As he begins to assess how to climb down from the slowly plodding root-feet, Cylian gets to his feet and begins to make his own way down, preparing to follow this magician wherever he is about to head to.
As he makes his way down the giant tree, he remembers his briefing on the mage-on-the-run:
"Okay, Cylian," the voice of Cylian's Spymaster rings through his ears, "Here is a dossier about a House Dres mage. His name is Sinnolan. He was a very vocal opponent of the empire's presence in Vvardenfell, as well as the whole of Morrowind. House Dres humored him, up until he moved to organize an armed party to overtake Fort Buckmoth; which he believed would be the key to taking control of Caldera and leveraging some kind of agreement with House Redoran in Ald-Ruhn. House Dres has no desire to go against the Empire, and Sinnolan's brand of action would have certainly destroyed their house. He was a semi-important member of his house, so his exile shocked even us."
"Yes, sir," Cylian replied, "but, a Great House of Morrowind throwing out a member is tantamount to trade between gladiatorial teams. They shuffle between the houses all the time. Is there a reason this one is important?"
"Glad to hear you are still keen on Morrowind's noble intrigues." the Spymaster replied. "No, his expulsion did not raise any alarms. His disappearance from Morrowind has. Shortly after he was expelled he made an attempt to rouse some of the belligerents he called on before to carry out his plan. But, they were not in the mood for his war-drums now that he was no longer Dres. He was last seen gaining transportation from Caldera's Mages Guild, gaining teleportation service. Where he was sent is still a question; the associate mage who was questioned said he gave him service to Balmora, but no such person arrived there. I need you to find him and follow him. We were lucky in Vvardenfell. There are places in our Empire that are far more receptive to his rebellious calls."
Cylian regains his thoughts. He focuses on Sinnolan who has taken a few steps into taller grass. Cylian keeps his eyes on him as he continues his descent down the vines to the roots of the tree. Sinnolan begins to gesture. A faint purple glow envelopes his body, and a bright flash causes Cylian to momentarily lose sight of him. Cylian reopens his eyes to see a litter.
"What is that?" Cylian whispers under his breath. "It looks... daedric." Sinnolan begins to gesture again. Four dremora appear and walk to the four corners of the litter. Sinnolan climbs up into the chair and draws the curtain. Then, the daedra lift the litter, and begin walking north. "He must know powerful conjuration. Caius, what have you gotten me into?" Cylian speaks softly. He leaps down from root to root until lightly landing in a patch of tall grass. He notices that his hands are beginning to fade in and out of visibility. Cylian ducks down quickly into the grass and waits for the invisibility to cease, while beginning to sneak after Sinnolan's litter.
He's headed toward Cyrodiil, right into the heart of the Empire. I don't know what this rogue is planning, but it is very troubling to know that he is exactly in the place he isn't wanted. Arenthia is just a few hours away. I'll report to Hanoptus Antinon.