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Chapter 23: Laid to Rest

Mohamara went to the docks with some of the caravan’s fishers to catch breakfast. It had been a bit awkward to change into his swimsuit with the layabouts still in his bed but they never moved their heads up to peek so ultimately not an issue.

Haafingar’s waters were significantly warmer than Eastmarch’s, likely due to the magma chamber of the inactive volcano that was Mount Kilkreath heating up the environment. So the tojay was able to put on a robe to make the journey to the East Empire Company docks. When he got outside he saw what, apparently, he’d done to the lamp posts and braziers that lit up Solitude’s streets at night.

Stone statues of winged figures replaced what had been wooden posts holding up tallow candle lamps, and in their hands, they held faceted orbs that shone from within with golden light--like the beacon or Mohamara’s amulet. As the sun rose from the north, the light from the lamps waned until they were inert. The new street light statues came in pairs, except at intersections where there would be eight--and in the destroyed part of the Avenues District, the rubble had been cleared for the new additions.

The tojay decided that if no one knew he’d done it, he wouldn’t claim credit for it. That way no one could ask how he’d done it.

Each of the fishers for the caravan specialized in getting different sorts of fish. There was a mudcrabber, a small-line fisher, two slaughterfish hunters, an egg collector, and a salmon fisher whom Mohamara would be helping. After the initial giggling at Mohamara’s swimsuit, they became envious of the water breathing enchantment on it.

With his amulet back, Mohamara was happy enough to enchant some of their gear with the enchantment as well. To them, it must have seemed strange how the tojay would pinch one facet of the amulet and draw out hair-fine threads of golden light then wove them into earrings, bracelets, and other pieces of jewelry for the Khajiit. But the effects were most welcome.

The tojay found salmon hunting surprisingly enjoyable. There was always a sense of satisfaction from snatching salmon out of the air when they jumped up waterfalls, but also a thrill that came from chasing them down in the water. With a second, larger, Khajiit to herd the salmon towards him, Mohamara found it easy to kill multiple salmon at once. He used his fangs, of course, but also sympathetic bonds to transmit the sensation of death to other nearby salmon. This stunned the fish and made them easy to eliminate one by one.

Mohamara had to explain how he was doing so well to the salmon hunter, who demanded answers when they brought in their first haul. The suthay woman tugged on her ears when she found out it was magic. “Mama said to become a mage, but no, this one knew better than wise old mama. Foolish.”

With Mohamara helping, the salmon quota was met before an hour had passed. From there, he helped the egg collector hunt down and collect fish roe while the suthay salmon hunter guarded the catch.

A distant, but familiar, chirping in the water from the north towards Haafingar bay froze Mohamara in the water for a minute. It was so obvious, that the cathay egg collector thought he’d been paralyzed by a stone turtle until the tojay moved again. Needless to say, Mohamara did not venture northward with the egg collector for possible salmon roe and opted to collect histcarp and slaughterfish eggs closer to the docks instead.

It was a bountiful catch all around, and when the fishers were ready they started back up the road to Solitude. The salmon hunter even showed Mohamara how to balance his basket of salmon as she did, which made for an amusing sight. At least, a brigade of Imperials escorting Stormcloak captives up to Castle Dour thought so.

“Excuse me,” an unfamiliar Breton spoke and came up to the Khajiit train. Mohamara recognized her uniform right away, Restoration robes with armored limbs and an amulet of Stendarr on prominent display. “Were you here for the dragon attack?”

“No,” the cathay-raht slaughterfish hunter in charge of the fishers responded easily. “We came long after.”

“I see. Have you perchance seen a tojay Khajiit around town, then?”

The salmon hunter and mudcrabber wordlessly stepped in front of Mohamara and used their basket and crabbing buckets to block him from the Vigilant’s view.

“Tojay is rare Khajiit, would not be allowed out of homeland. You will not find one in Skyrim.” With the conversation at an end, the train of fishers resumed their march, with Mohamara being careful to hide away.

It proved in vain, however, as Mohamara was yanked away from the fishers by his tail when passing by the Bretons. As one the caravaneers set down their catches to bear fang and claws on the Vigilant.

The Vigilant shoved Mohamara to the ground and held him there with a boot while she held onto his tail. The tojay kept the salmon basket over his head to protect against mace blows to his skull.

“You let ja’khajiit go, we only cut you up a little,” snarled the mudcrabber as the fishers circled around the Vigilant. Someone nearby was calling for the guards.

Mohamara heard two more sets of armored feet step up beside the Breton. Of course, Vigilants rarely went anywhere alone.

“This thing isn’t worth you defending it,” implored the Breton Vigilant. “It gives itself freely to a Daedra, conjures them to do its bidding and draws the wrath of the Divines with its every waking action.”

“To be fair,” Mohamara attempted and held up a finger, “I literally only know one conjuration spell.” For his trouble, one of the Vigilants flanking the Breton stomped on his hand.

“Silence! Whether we fail doing our Lady’s work or live to see the glory, you will die today, monster!”

“...Wait, isn’t S’rendarr a male?” The small-line fisherman asked.

“Fool,” hissed the Breton’s Dunmer compatriot to her. “Kill the cat, and let us be done.”

“For Boethiah!” The Breton lifted her mace high, and probably wouldn’t have been able to get through the salmon basket before the Khajiit finished her off, but there was a commotion. Soon after, the Breton’s grip on Mohamara’s tail relaxed and he was able to scoot away to the safety of the fishers.

When he looked up, he saw that a Stormcloak captive had broken away from the escort and was choking the Breton using her own bindings to do so. Shortly afterward two archers cut down the other false Vigilants, and Imperial soldiers caught up to the escapee.

“I couldn’t stand by and let them kill something so cute,” the Stormcloak soldier said as she released the dead Breton and went back to the escort without resistance. “Orkey himself couldn’t do that cute face harm.”

--

While Mohamara chewed on his breakfast salmon, the fishers told the rest of the caravan the story about the fake Vigilants. So long as his mouth was full of grilled fish, the tojay wasn’t asked to comment on the event. He didn’t think Boethiah would be particularly pleased with her servant’s attempt on his life. It was too direct, they didn’t have enough contingencies, and worse still: They’d failed.

However, Ma’dran picked up on something else that the fishers had told the caravan--how Mohamara could enchant things without the ‘big table’, or an arcane enchanter. Mohamara couldn’t help but snort at the idea of using one of those hideously outmoded pieces of arcana. More than half the enchantment’s power would be lost on the poor transfer rate alone, with only grand souls having enough to survive the process with a strong enchantment.

Ma’dran approached Mohamara after breakfast with a request: Enchant some of the caravan’s weapons so that they could be sold at a higher price. However what he didn’t tell Mohamara right away was that as the tojay was doing this he made an offer to the city guard to have their swords and shields enchanted by Mohamara as well.

The tojay only picked up on the trick when he noticed a lot of Solitude wolf-emblem shields being added to the pile. “I’ll handle this order,” the tojay said to Ma’dran when he figured it all out, “if I get a cut of the gold.”

“Ten percent,” Ma’dran fired back.

“Fifteen percent.”

“Twelve percent, highest this one will go.”

“Deal.” With that out of the way, Mohamara went back to drawing soul-thread out of his amulet for enchanting.

Meridian amulets were morpholiths. They were objects capable of holding different grades of transfinite power sources, same with soul gems. But Oblivion-made morpholiths could hold exponentially more than Nirn-mined ones. They also required rather heavy investment into conjuration to obtain, a pact with a Daedric Lord, and most were one-use same with soul gems.

If all that set up hadn’t been done, Nirn-grown soul gems beat out Oblivion-grown morpholiths in terms of sheer money and time saved. But once the infrastructure was in place, Oblivion-grown morpholiths kicked the living annihilation shit out of any Nirn-grown soul gem.

The unique configuration for Meridian morpholiths made them ‘rechargeable’. Mohamara’s amulet drew from the Skyrim regional beacon, which drew directly from the sun. He could get as much common grade soul-thread as he needed from the amulet, or he could risk Meridia’s displeasure and draw grand soul-thread from the beacon.

Perhaps, if he lived long enough, he could learn to draw soul thread from sunlight.

In two hour’s time, the Solitude city guard became the most well-equipped guard force in Skyrim. Their swords enchanted with a torpor effect that induced exhaustion in those they fought, while their shields were reinforced with a kinetic dampening effect.

The cathay who would be selling the weapons watched in wonderment as Mohamara did his enchanting thing. “This one isn’t able to understand,” he said. “Khajiit thought only Azura’s Star could be soul gem with many uses? And none spin thread like ja’khajiit can.”

“Well,” Mohamara bit the common soul-thread to end the line and finish the enchantment. “Most soul-trap enchantments from this time period aren’t sophisticated enough to properly pair with Azura’s Star.” As he worked the steel greatsword began to gather frost on its surface from the ice enchantment. “Azura’s Star can hold up to nine grand souls, one in each arm and another in the hub. So if you have the honor of using it, you can get some unbelievably strong enchantments.”

Mohamara remembered the first time he’d seen Azura’s Star in the news scry. A failed attempt by a Bosmer enchanter to create a Lk’Fonald’s ice-cream maker that would never break. She had been so close but it just wasn’t meant to be. Valenwood had been trapped under two feet of soft-serve for a week, an ecological nightmare.

Ma’dran grinned like a madcat when the last of the Solitude guards took their new weapons and handed over a satchel of the Jarl’s gold for the job. In a few short minutes, a considerably smaller coin purse found its way to Mohamara, who took it as a sign for a break.

“Weird,” he said to himself as he walked up to the Blue Palace. “That my place of work is now the break from the house. All in one day. Ugh.”

Elisif lit up when the tojay appeared in the throne room before her energy was sapped by Falk talking about a letter from Igmund about a contribution to Solitude’s rebuilding effort. Bryling, the only Thane of Solitude currently in town, filled Mohamara in on what had been discussed while he was gone. Elisif had instituted a tax on inheritances left by the wealthiest members of her nobility. And General Tullius had sent a runner to announce that due to generous contributions from the Imperial province’s citizens, Solitude would no longer have to foot the bill for the Legion’s activities in Skyrim.

“So, is the General going to perhaps pay our Jarl back for all the months where she was footing the bill?” Mohamara’s question had been in the tone of the Fool, to try and get a laugh out

The Jarl flicked her hand at her Fool. “There is no need. With the new tax in place, and the freed up funds, along with Igmund’s generous contribution, we should be able to refill our coffers and see the city fully repaired.” A sudden thought caused Elisif’s good mood to waver. “Though… Morthal was attacked, and we didn’t offer any help to them. Falk, draw up a letter to Jarl Idgrod Ravencrone, I want to see if there’s anything we can do.”

“Ah, I’m sure she would appreciate it, my Jarl.” Falk started with his ‘that’s a stupid idea’ tone of voice. “But Morthal the city didn’t take any damage from the Stormcloak attack. Ulfric’s boys never got close enough.”

“Oh. Well them she could use funds to help secure her Hold further against future attacks.”

“Perhaps… we could make that offer after Solitude is fully repaired?”

“Or your Fool can go down to the swamp and do for Morthal what he just got done doing for his Jarl?” Mohamara cut in and stepped away from the gallery pillars with a bow. “I just got done enchanting all the Solitude city guard’s weapons and shields. If you please, my Jarl, I could ply my craft for this… Idgrod?”

The Jarl looked at Mohamara and then at Falk. Firebeard looked pensive for a time, perhaps trying to find a reason not to help Morthal. But he did not do so quickly enough, and Elisif clapped her hands to announce her decision.

“Very well. Fool, I charge you to go to Morthal and offer your enchantment services to the Jarl. While you are there, see if there is anything we can do to ease their burden, and bring back that information. You may leave whenever you’re ready.”

“My Jarl, you cannot be serious.” The new court wizard, a High Elf man with a Han Syke beard-mustache combo, Melaran, stepped out of the gallery pillars to wag his finger at Mohamara. “This Khajiit couldn’t have possibly enchanted all the city guards swords, let alone shields. That would be over three hundred enchantments, weeks of effort, and a volume of soul gems that would have been detected by the customs office. It is simply improbable that--”

“Hey, you. Guard guy.” Mohamara cut off the elf looking to increase his influence by tearing the Khajiit down by addressing one of the guards standing watch at the hall to Elisif’s quarters. “Could you come over here?” When the guard was standing in front of them, Mohamara touched the wolf-emblemed shield, and the Nordic knots he had woven into it lit up as if they’d always been there. “See that knot right there? The one that looks like a cat with three eyes? My signature, thank you.”

Melaran was absolutely gobsmacked as he inspected the shield, as well as the guard’s sword once it was drawn. “How did--this is unlike any enchantment work I’ve seen. You could not have possibly--”

“Yeah, I don’t really care enough about you to embarrass you in front of the court as much as you deserve for this. So, to make a long story short: You can learn a lot of things at college when you don’t spend all your free time felatiating the professors.” Mohamara trotted off to the stairs, before turning to pull at his eyelid and stick his tongue out at the High Elf. “Toodles!”

While he left the now shouting High Elf behind, Mohamara considered what would be the optimal enchantments for people living in a swamp. To be blunt, enchanting their armor would probably serve them better than their weapons. Water-walking boots would be incredibly useful to avoid being dragged down into the muck since it also worked on the really muddy ground. Considering the population difference, he didn’t expect the work to take even a day once he actually got down to Hjaalmarch.

Imagine his surprise when he got back to Proudspire Manor and found two High Elf women and Ma’dran chatting to each other while examining some of the tojay’s clothes. The Khajiit carefully cleared his throat to let the trio know he was around. “Ma’dran? Those mine?”

The cathay-raht laughed a bit while the High Elves ignored Mohamara. “Ja’khajiit, this one just let these two examine the craftsmanship of your fancy clothes--perhaps learn how to make it as well?”

“Well if he’s here, I suppose he can fill us in on some things,” one of the High Elves said. Mohamara immediately recognized the voice as one of the tailors Yagraz had taken him to. “Why do these labels on the inside mention ‘automaton washable’, or ‘fabric softener?’ What are those things?”

Mohamara explained as much as he could about the clothes while growing progressively pinker in the face as their questions became inappropriate. Ma’dran seemed to have no issues with them, and Mohamara didn’t want to make a fuss for the caravaneer who had been nice to him. The one thing he was adamant about was refusing to actually sell the clothes to them, or let the tailors take some of the items apart to put back together.

Once they were gone, the tojay and cathay-raht had a brief staring contest. “If I didn’t show up, were you going to sell my stuff to them?”

Ma’dran waved him off. “No, no. Would be stealing. Is one thing to leave things in the open for others to use, is another to take personal things. Besides which,” the jaguar-man held up one of Mohamara’s socks to illustrate his point. “Buyers for clothes in this size are rare. Not worth loss of trust from ja’khajiit and Ri’saad.”

“Okay, good. So hand ‘em over, I need to get ready to go to Hjaalmarch for a bit.”

--

On the carriage ride over to Morthal, Mohamara did some brainstorming. Perhaps he could develop an army of construction automatons to build the temple instead of needing manpower. It could potentially save him a lot of gold but then would come the quality of life issue. Dwarven automatons filled the perfect niche of intelligence of being intelligent enough to self-plan and execute on ideas without becoming self-aware. But he’d more than likely miss, either making something too stupid to improvise, or too smart to be considered an automaton any longer. And if the war dragged on, his workers would likely be appropriated for the war effort either way to repair Skyrim’s crumbling forts.

Making long-term plans seemed an invitation for Sheogorath to mess things up, which was never good. The Mad God’s vacation time was running close to half a year by that time--how much relaxation could a demented Daedra really need?

Unbeknownst to Mohamara, a fanged feline fiend hid underneath the carriage, waiting to ambush the tojay once the sun was down. However, his patience was tested by the rocky road down to Hjaalmarch, which saw him being slammed into the road multiple times from minor potholes or debris in the road.

It was dusk by the time the carriage reached the frosty southern road into Morthal, and both the Khajiit and the vampire hunting him had laid down to nap on either side of the carriage floor for the trip. Both were jarred awake by the carriage’s stop, and for a moment the vampire forgot his purpose.

The two found each other on either side of the wagon, stretching from their long trip, and froze when they saw each other. The living Khajiit and the cathay vampire stared at each other before Mohamara gathered sunlight in his hands and the vampire drew steel to leap at him, snarling.

The vampire instead found a steel bolt pierce into his mouth, which ruined his composure for the pounce attack. It wasn’t enough to kill him but the repeated blasts of concentrated sunlight from Mohamara saw the undead Khajiit turned to ash in moments.

An aging Orc in leather clothes with plates of armor riveted onto them stepped forward and stowed away his weapon while Mohamara and the carriage driver stared. “Durak, with the Dawnguard,” the Orc introduced himself and offered his hand to the Khajiit to shake.

“Mohamara, a friend of Maria, Fool of Solitude,” responded the Khajiit as he shook hands with the ‘Dawnguard’.

“Don’t know who Maria is, but if she teaches kids like you how to spot vampires, she’s alright in my book.” Durak knelt down to inspect the bizarre spider-web armor the Khajiit vampire had been wearing. “As I suspected, a Volkihar.”

“I’m not a kid--I’m just short.” Mohamara wondered how the Orc could tell a vampire’s bloodline from the ashes, but that wasn’t what interested him the most about what had been said. “Wait, what? Volkihar are ambush predators, why would this one be actively hunting?”

“Most likely it had its lair taken over by a stronger vampire and was looking for thralls to set up a new one. There’s no notes or journal in its pockets, so we won’t know.” Durak stood and dusted the vampire’s remains off his hands. “Look, I don’t know why you’re here, but the wise thing to do is to get back in that carriage and go far away. Morthal’s dealing with a bit of a vampire problem at present.”

“You know, that is an outstanding idea,” the carriage driver said and quickly got back into his spot. “Come on in, we can make it back to Snowhawk before it gets too dark.”

“Oh by Malacath’s hairy back, no.” Mohamara’s invocation of the Orc Daedra startled Durak. “If there’s one thing Maria would be absolutely livid with me about is letting undead push people around. You fill me in on the situation, and I’ll help you put these corpses back where they belong. In the ground, in case you didn’t--”

A female Nord vampire in similar armor to the Khajiit that had just been slain burst from the bushes and charged at them with ravenous hunger in her eyes. Mohamara fired a bolt of sunlight at her face, which stunned her and opened her up to be shot through the heart by Durak.

“I think I got what you’re saying,” the Orc commented while the vampire woman crumbled to dust. “Come on, let’s get to Highmoon Hall so the Jarl can fill you in on what’s happening.”

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