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【书籍搬运】2920, Hearth Fire (v9) 2920,炉火月(卷九)

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原文:http://www.uesp.net/wiki/Lore:2920,_Hearth_Fire_(v9)
翻译:sevil

第九部:炉火

炉火月,2日,2920年
吉迪安,黑沼泽

塔维亚皇后躺倒在床上,晚夏的热风猛击着她房间的窗户,窗扇一次又一次砸在铁栏杆上。她对此毫无感觉。她的喉咙好似着了火一般灼痛,但她仍然无法控制地抽泣着,手中绞着最后一块挂毯。她的哀号在Giovese城堡空荡的厅堂中回响着,令女仆们停止了洗衣,守卫们也停止了交谈。她的一个侍女爬上狭窄的楼梯来看女主人,但侍卫长祖克站在门口,摇摇头。

“她刚刚得知她的儿子死了。”他轻声说。

炉火月,5日,2920年
帝都,赛瑞迪尔

“陛下,”大领主瓦西狄·赛尔在门外说,“您可以打开门。我向您保证,您是绝对安全的。这里没有人想要害死您。”

“玛拉的血啊!”莱曼三世大帝含混不清的声音传了出来,音调歇斯底里,透着疯狂。“有人暗杀了王子,他当时拿着我的盾牌!那些刺客肯定以为那是我!”

“您当然是对的,陛下,”大领主黑色狭长的眼睛鄙夷地转着,却从声音中剔除了所有嘲笑的成分。“我们必须找到并惩处那个害死您儿子的邪恶之人。但这件事不可以没有您。为了帝国,您必须坚强。”

没有回答。

“至少,请您从房里出来,为瑞嘉夫人的死刑令签名吧。”大领主说,“让我们先处置这个我们已经发现的叛徒和暗杀者。”

一阵短暂的沉默后,传来家具刮擦地板的声音。莱曼仅把门开了一道缝,但大领主能看到他愤怒、恐怖的脸,原本是右眼的地方仅剩一堆模糊的肉团。尽管有帝国最好的治疗师,瑞嘉夫人在Thurzo堡垒的杰作还是留下了可怖的纪念。

“执行令给我,”皇帝咆哮道,“我会很愉快地签下名字的。”

炉火月,6日,2920年
吉迪安,赛瑞迪尔

Will o’ the wisps——据说是一种沼泽气与灵魂能量的结合体,它们散发的奇异蓝光,在塔维亚看向窗外的时候,总是会令她惊惧不已。然而现在,它却奇怪地给她一种安慰。沼泽之外耸立着吉迪安城。这可真可笑,她心想,她从未踏上过这座城市的街道,尽管她日夜望着它已经有十七年。

“我有遗漏任何事情吗?”她问,转过身看着忠诚的Kothingi人祖克。

“我完全明白该怎么做。”他简单地说。他看起来像是在微笑,但皇后意识到那只是她自己的脸在他银色皮肤上的倒影。她在微笑。她甚至没有意识到自己在微笑。

“确保你不被跟踪,”她警告道,“我不想让我丈夫知道这么些年来我的金子都藏在什么地方。还有,请尽管拿走你的那一份。你一直是个好伙伴。”

塔维亚皇后向前迈步,随即从视线中坠落,消失在迷雾中。祖克把塔楼窗户的铁杆放回原处,扔了一块毯子在她床上的几个枕头上。幸运的话,他们要到早上才能发现她草地上的尸体。那时,他应该已经在到晨风的半路上了。

炉火月,9日,2920年
Phrygias,High Rock

道路两旁奇形怪状的树木像是头顶红橙黄三色烈焰的突起,好似燃烧着的小土堆。沃斯加里安山脉在雾气中逐渐隐去。图娅拉惊异于眼前的景色,如此的陌生,与晨风如此不同。她的马迈着沉重的步伐走进一片开放的牧场。在她身后,凯索怀抱着博斯瑞尔,头点着胸膛睡着了。有那么一阵,图娅拉想要策马跳过横贯牧场的那道低矮、涂了漆的栅栏,但她还是改变了主意。还是让凯索再睡几个小时,再把缰绳交给他吧。

马在牧场中前行,图娅拉能看到邻近山坡上一半遮蔽在丛林中的小小的绿色房屋。在这如诗如画的景色中,她陷入了一种愉悦的半梦半醒的状态。突然凌厉的号角声传来,她一阵颤抖,回到现实。凯索睁开了眼睛。

“我们在哪儿?”他轻声问。

“我不知道,”图娅拉结巴起来,双眼睁得老大。“那是什么声音?”

“兽人,”他低声说,“一支狩猎队。快躲进灌木丛。”

图娅拉策马一溜小跑进入了那一小片树丛。凯索把孩子递给她,翻身下马。他接着扯下了他们的包裹,把它们扔进灌木丛中。又一阵声音远远传来,是一阵隆隆的脚步声,声音越来越大,越来越近。图娅拉小心翼翼地下马,帮助凯索卸下马背上的行李。整个过程中,博斯瑞尔始终睁大眼睛看着。图娅拉的孩子从来不哭,她有时会担心,但她现在对此心存感激。最后一个包裹卸下后,凯索一拍马的屁股,它便疾奔入牧场。他握住图娅拉的手,蹲伏在灌木丛中。

“幸运的话,”他喃喃地说,“他们会以为她是匹野马,或是农场的马。这样他们就不会来找骑乘者了。”

在他说话的时候,一群兽人蜂拥进牧场,吹着他们的号角。图娅拉曾经见过兽人,但她从未见过这么多的兽人,更未见过有着如此野兽般自信的兽人。他们见到了困惑的马,愉悦地吼叫着,快速跑过了凯索、图娅拉和博斯瑞尔藏身的灌木丛。他们的脚步带起了地上的野花,种子漫天乱飞。图娅拉尽力克制住一个喷嚏。她认为她成功了,但一个兽人似乎听到了什么,叫了另一个与他一起搜查。

凯索安静地拔出了剑,聚集起所有的勇气。他擅长的技能是暗中侦察,而非格斗;但他发过誓要尽全力保护图娅拉和她的婴儿。也许他能干掉这两个兽人,他判断。但他绝不可能在他们叫喊出声,把整个部落都引来之前做到这一点。

突然,有什么无形的东西像一阵风一样扫过灌木丛。两个兽人向后飞去,背部着地,落在地上死了。图娅拉转身,看到一个满脸皱纹,头发亮红的老妪从邻近的灌木中现身。

“我还以为你们要把他们统统直接弄到我这里来呢。”她低声说,微笑着。“最好跟我来。”

三个人跟着老妪走过带刺灌木丛中的一道深深缺口,灌木丛贯穿牧场,指向山坡上的房屋。他们从另一边出来时,老妪转身看了看那群正在盛情享用马的遗骸的兽人。那是一场号角重奏下的血腥狂欢。

“马是你们的?”她问。凯索点点头,她大声笑起来。“那可真是些肥肉啊,没错。明天早上,这些怪物们就会肚子疼、腹胀。真是活该。”

“我们不应该继续往前走吗?”图娅拉轻声问,被那女人的笑声搅得心慌意乱。

“他们到不了这上面的,”她露齿而笑,看着博斯瑞尔,后者回报给她一个微笑。“他们太害怕我们。”

图娅拉转向凯索,他摇摇头说,“女巫。那么我是否可以假设,这里就是老Barbyn的农场,斯凯冯顿女巫团的家?”

“没错,宝贝儿。”老妇向小女孩一般咯咯笑着,为自己的恶名如此远扬而感到愉快。“我是米妮斯塔·斯凯冯顿。”

“你对那两个兽人做了什么?”图娅拉问,“在灌木丛里的时候?”

“精神之拳,”米妮斯塔说,继续向小山上爬去。他们前面是农房的庭院,有井,有鸡栏,还有池塘;年龄各异的女子做着家务杂事,小孩子玩耍嬉闹着。老妇转过身,看出图娅拉没有理解她的话。“你来的地方没有女巫吗,孩子?”

“没有我所知道的。”她说。

“在泰姆瑞尔,有着各式各样的魔法操控者。”她解释道。“Psijic把魔法当成一种痛苦的责任来修习。另一方面,军队中的战斗法师把咒语当成箭矢四处乱扔。而我们女巫则是沟通、召唤与赞美。干掉那些兽人,我仅仅是向空气中的精灵,Amaro,Pina,Tallatha,Kyraneth之指,以及世界的气息耳语,请求它们拍死那些野兽。我与它们很亲密地熟识。你看,召唤与力量、解开深邃的谜题、或是与发霉的古老卷轴相抗争没有任何的关系。这是一种关于培养联系的事情。可以说,就是交朋友的事情。”

“啊,我们十分感激你愿与我们交朋友呢。”凯索说。

“理应如此。”米妮斯塔咳了几声,“你的族人两千年前毁了兽人的故乡。在那之前,他们可没一路跑到这来找我们麻烦。来吧,你们该洗洗干净,然后饱餐一顿。”

说罢,米妮斯塔把他们带进农场,图娅拉也与斯凯冯顿女巫团的大家庭相会面。

炉火月,11日,2920年
帝都,赛瑞迪尔

瑞嘉前一晚没有睡,甚至根本没有尝试去睡。现在她感到死刑场上放出的沉闷的音乐有一种催眠的效果。似乎她在希望自己在斧子砍下前就能神志不清。她的眼睛被蒙了起来,她看不到她从前的爱人——皇帝坐在她面前,用仅存的一只完好的眼睛注视着她。她也看不到尾巴整齐地盘在身下、金黄色的脸上露出胜利的表情的大领主瓦西狄·赛尔。她能麻木地感觉到刽子手的手轻触着她的背部,稳住她的身体。她退缩着,像一个试图醒来的梦者一般。

第一击砍到了她的后颈,她尖叫起来。第二击砍断了她的脖子,于是她死了。

皇帝疲倦地转向大领主,“这件事了结了。你说她在落锤之地有个漂亮的妹妹,名叫可达?”

炉火月,18日,2920年
Dwynnen,High Rock

女巫们卖给他的马没有他原先的那匹好,凯索思索着。精神的信仰与献祭,以及成员皆为女性的姐妹团也许都对她们的召唤有好处,但那往往会浪费驮东西的牲口。然而,其实没什么可抱怨的。那个丹莫女人和她的孩子不在了,给了他充足的时间来专心赶路。面前就是他家乡的城墙了。几乎是立刻,他的老朋友和家人就都围了上来。

“战争怎么样了?”他的表弟喊道,匆匆向大路跑来,“听说维威克和王子签了和约,但皇帝拒绝履行,是不是真的?”

“不是吧?”一个朋友也加入了他们,“我听说那丹莫谋杀了王子,然后编造了一堆什么和约的鬼话。可是没有证据。”

“难道这里就没什么有趣的事了吗?”凯索笑道,“我真的一丁点也不想谈战争,或是维威克。”

“你错过了可达夫人的行列,”他的朋友说,“她和众多随员一起穿过海湾到了这里,然后向东前往帝都了。”

“那不重要。维威克是什么样子?”他表弟急切地问,“听说他是个现世神呢。”

“如果希奥格拉斯不幸下台,他们需要再找一个疯狂之神的话,那他正好。”凯索轻蔑地说。

“那女人们呢?”男孩问道。他只在非常稀有的场合才见过丹莫女人。

凯索只是微笑。一霎时,图娅拉·斯凯冯顿浮现在他的脑海中。她在女巫团会生活得很幸福,她的孩子也会被照顾得很周到。但她们都是过去的事情了,是他想要彻底忘却的过去——那个地方,那场战争——的一部分。他下马走向城市,聊起了关于伊利亚克湾上生活的闲话。

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Book Nine of 2920, The Last Year of the First Era
Hearth Fire
by Carlovac Townway
Volume 9 of a historical series about Vivec and the Empire


2 Hearth Fire, 2920

Gideon, Black Marsh

The Empress Tavia lay across her bed, a hot late summer wind she could not feel banging the shutters of her cell to and fro against the iron bars. Her throat felt like it was on fire but still she sobbed, uncontrollably, wringing her last tapestry in her hands. Her wailing echoed throughout the hollow halls of Castle Giovese, stopping maids in their washing and guards in their conversation. One of her women came up the narrow stairs to see her mistress, but her chief guard Zuuk stood at the doorway and shook his head.
“She's just heard that her son is dead,” he said quietly.
 


5 Hearth Fire, 2920

The Imperial City, Cyrodiil

“Your Imperial Majesty,” said the Potentate Versidue-Shaie through the door. “You can open the door. I assure you, you're perfectly safe. No one wants to kill you.”
Mara's blood!” came the Emperor Reman III's voice, muffled, hysterical, tinged with madness. “Someone assassinated the Prince, and he was holding my shield! They could have thought he was me!”
“You're certainly correct, your Imperial Majesty,” replied the Potentate, expunging any mocking qualities from his voice while his black-slitted eyes rolled contemptuously. “And we must find and punish the evildoer responsible for your son's death. But we cannot do it without you. You must be brave for your Empire.”
There was no reply.
“At the very least, come out and sign the order for Lady Rijja's execution,” called the Potentate. “Let us dispose of the one traitor and assassin we know of.”
A brief pause, and then the sound of furniture scraping across the floor. Reman opened the door just a crack, but the Potentate could see his angry, fearful face, and the terrible mound of ripped tissue that used to be his right eye. Despite the best healers in the Empire, it was still a ghastly souvenir of the Lady Rijja's work in Thurzo Fortress.
“Hand me the order,” the Emperor snarled. “I'll sign it with pleasure.”
 


6 Hearth Fire, 2920

The strange blue glow of the will o' the wisps, a combination, so she'd be told, of swamp gas and spiritual energy, had always frightened Tavia as she looked out her window. Now it seemed strangely comforting. Beyond the bog lay the city of Gideon. It was funny, she thought, that she had never stepped foot in its streets, though she had watched it every day for seventeen years.
“Can you think of anything I've forgotten?” she asked, turning to look back on the loyal Kothringi Zuuk.
“I know exactly what to do,” he said simply. He seemed to smile, but the Empress realized that it was only her own face reflected in his silvery skin. She was smiling, and she didn't even realize it.
“Make certain you aren't followed,” she warned. “I don't want my husband to know where my gold's been hiding all these years. And do take your share of it. You've been a good friend.”
The Empress Tavia stepped forward and dropped from sight into the mists. Zuuk replaced the bars on the tower window, and threw a blanket over some pillows on her bed. With any luck, they would not discover her body on the lawn until morning, at which time he hoped to be halfway to Morrowind.
 


9 Hearth Fire, 2920

Phrygias, High Rock

The strange trees on all sides resembled knobby piles crowned with great bursts of reds, yellows, and oranges, like insect mounds caught fire. The Wrothgarian mountains were fading into the misty afternoon. Turala marveled at the sight, so alien, so different from Morrowind, as she plodded the horse forward into an open pasture. Behind her, head nodding against his chest, Cassyr slept, cradling Bosriel. For a moment, Turala considered jumping the low painted fence that crossed the field, but she thought better of it. Let Cassyr sleep for a few more hours before giving him the reins.
As the horse passed into the field, Turala saw the small green house on the next hill, half-hidden in forest. So picturesque was the image, she felt herself lull into a pleasant half-sleeping state. A blast of a horn brought her back to reality with a shudder. Cassyr opened his eyes.
“Where are we?” he hissed.
“I don't know,” Turala stammered, wide-eyed. “What is that sound?”
“Orcs,” he whispered. “A hunting party. Head for the thicket quickly.”
Turala trotted the horse into the small collection of trees. Cassyr handed her the child and dismounted. He began pulling their bags off next, throwing them into the bushes. A sound started then, a distant rumbling of footfall, growing louder and closer. Turala climbed off carefully and helped Cassyr unburden the horse. All the while, Bosriel watched open-eyed. Turala sometimes worried that her baby never cried. Now she was grateful for it. With the last of the luggage off, Cassyr slapped the horse's rear, sending it galloping into the field. Taking Turala's hand, he hunkered down in the bushes.
“With luck,” he murmured. “They'll think she's wild or belongs to the farm and won't go looking for the rider.”
As he spoke, a horde of orcs surged into the field, blasting their horns. Turala had seen orcs before, but never in such abundance, never with such bestial confidence. Roaring with delight at the horse and its confused state, they hastened past the timber where Cassyr, Turala, and Bosriel hid. The wildflowers flew into the air at their stampede, powdering the air with seeds. Turala tried to hold back a sneeze, and thought she succeeded. One of the orcs heard something though, and brought another with him to investigate.
Cassyr quietly unsheathed his sword, mustering all the confidence he could. His skills, such as they were, were in spying, not combat, but he vowed to protect Turala and her babe for as long as he could. Perhaps he would slay these two, he reasoned, but not before they cried out and brought the rest of the horde.
Suddenly, something invisible swept through the bushes like a wind. The orcs flew backwards, falling dead on their backs. Turala turned and saw a wrinkled crone with bright red hair emerge from a nearby bush.
“I thought you were going to bring 'em right to me,” she whispered, smiling. “Best come with me.”
The three followed the old woman through a deep crevasse of bramble bushes that ran through the field toward the house on the hill. As they emerged on the other side, the woman turned to look at the orcs feasting on the remains of the horse, a blood-soaked orgy to the beat of multiple horns.
“That horse yours?” she asked. When Cassyr nodded, she laughed loudly. “That's rich meat, that is. Those monsters'll have bellyaches and flatulence in the morning. Serves 'em right.”
“Shouldn't we keep moving?” whispered Turala, unnerved by the woman's laughter.
“They won't come up here,” she grinned, looking at Bosriel who smiled back. “They're too afraid of us.”
Turala turned to Cassyr, who shook his head. “Witches. Am I correct in assuming that this is Old Barbyn's Farm, the home of the Skeffington Coven?”
“You are, pet,” the old woman giggled girlishly, pleased to be so infamous. “I am Mynista Skeffington.”
“What did you do to those orcs?” asked Turala. “Back there in the thicket?”
“Spirit fist right side the head,” Mynista said, continuing the climb up the hill. Ahead of them was the farmhouse grounds, a well, a chicken coop, a pond, women of all ages doing chores, the laughter of children at play. The old woman turned and saw that Turala did not understand. “Don't you have witches where you come from, child?”
“None that I know of,” she said.
“There are all sorts of wielders of magic in Tamriel,” she explained. “The Psijics study magic like it's their painful duty. The battlemages in the army on the other end of the scale hurl spells like arrows. We witches commune and conjure and celebrate. To fell those orcs, I merely whispered to the spirits of the air, Amaro, Pina, Tallatha, the fingers of Kynareth, and the breath of the world, with whom I have an intimate acquaintance, to smack those bastards dead. You see, conjuration is not about might, or solving riddles, or agonizing over musty old scrolls. It's about fostering relations. Being friendly, you might say.”
“Well, we certainly appreciate you being friendly with us,” said Cassyr.
“As well you might,” coughed Mynista. “Your kind destroyed the orc homeland two thousand years ago. Before that, they never came all the way up here and bothered us. Now let's get you cleaned up and fed.”
With that, Mynista led them into the farm, and Turala met the family of the Skeffington Coven.
 


11 Hearth Fire, 2920

The Imperial City, Cyrodiil

Rijja had not even tried to sleep the night before, and she found the somber music played during her execution to have a soporific effect. It was as if she was willing herself to be unconscious before the ax stroke. Her eyes were bound so she could not see her former lover, the Emperor, seated before her, glaring with his one good eye. She could not see the Potentate Versidue-Shaie, his coil neatly wrapped beneath him, a look of triumph in his golden face. She could feel, numbly, the executioner's hand touch her back to steady her. She flinched like a dreamer trying to awake.
The first blow caught the back of her head and she screamed. The next hacked through her neck, and she was dead.
The Emperor turned to the Potentate wearily, “Now that's done. You said she had a pretty sister in Hammerfell named Corda?”
 


18 Hearth Fire, 2920

Dwynnen, High Rock

The horse the witches had sold him was not as good as his old one, Cassyr considered. Spirit worship and sacrifice and sisterhood might be all well and good for conjuring spirits, but it tends to spoil beasts of burden. Still, there was little to complain about. With the Dunmer woman and her child gone, he had made excellent time. Ahead were the walls surrounding the city of his homeland. Almost at once, he was set upon by his old friends and family.
“How went the war?” cried his cousin, running to the road. “Is it true that Vivec signed a peace with the Prince, but the Emperor refuses to honor it?”
“That's not how it was, was it?” asked a friend, joining them. “I heard that the Dunmer had the Prince murdered and then made up a story about a treaty, but there's no evidence for it.”
“Isn't there anything interesting happening here?” Cassyr laughed. “I really don't have the least interest in discussing the war or Vivec.”
“You missed the procession of the Lady Corda,” said his friend. “She came across the bay with full entourage and then east to the Imperial City.”
“But that's nothing. What was Vivec like?” asked his cousin eagerly. “He supposed to be a living god.”
“If Sheogorath steps down and they need another God of Madness, he'll do,” said Cassyr haughtily.
“And the women?” asked the lad, who had only seen Dunmer ladies on very rare occasions.
Cassyr merely smiled. Turala Skeffington flashed into his mind for an instant before fading away. She would be happy with the coven, and her child would be well cared for. But they were part of the past now, a place and a war he wanted to forget forever. Dismounting his horse, he walked it into the city, chatting of trivial gossip of life on the Iliac Bay.

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