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【书籍搬运】A Dance in Fire, v7 火中舞——第七章

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原文地址:http://www.uesp.net/wiki/Skyrim:A_Dance_in_Fire,_v7

作者:沃金贾斯

翻译:花溪流萤

场景:瓦伦林地,希尔维纳

日期:3E397年 日暮月13日

所有曾经试图揽下重建工程的官僚及商人均心怀羡妒的参加了这场在希尔维纳宫殿举行的庆功宴,众人不约而同望向德库姆斯·斯科蒂, 里奥德斯·居鲁斯, 以及巴斯,眼中恨意丝毫不加掩饰。这些眼神令斯科蒂感到如鲠在喉,但是居鲁斯很喜欢这种胜者姿态。等到烤肉开始呈上之时,居鲁斯斟满一杯扎呷同职员举杯相贺。

“坦白来讲”居鲁斯说。“拉你入伙之前,我曾颇为踌躇,我所联系的众多建筑委员会职员,精明程度个个在你之上,但是没有一人能够撑到这里与我会面,更不要说进入希尔维纳的谒见厅,如你这般谈下这笔买卖。来吧,我们干上一杯。”

“不不,你的好意我心领了”斯科蒂连忙说。“我在法林纳斯提喝这个喝的酩酊大醉,险些成为巨虫口中美餐。我还是另找一些东西来喝吧。”

斯科蒂开始漫无目的的四处徘徊寻找饮品,直到看到一些外交使节正在喝着一种从银色大壶倒出的棕色热饮。连忙上前问道,“这是茶么”?

“叶子泡的茶水?”一名外交官哂笑道。“瓦伦林地没有这种东西(保护植物)。这是若麦斯酒。”

斯科蒂倒上一杯然后抿了一小口。味道相当浓烈,苦味,甜味,咸味五味陈杂。刚一下口,就能感到口腔受到相当强烈的刺激,但是不知不觉他便发现自己杯中早已空空如也,然后便又斟上一杯。然后他的耳朵开始出现鸣响,大厅中的声音开始变得混杂不清,但却并不令人恐惧。

“这么说来,你就是那个同希尔维纳谈判,最后签下所有合同之人”另外一个外交官说。“这场洽谈肯定颇费一番周章。”

“并非如此,其实毫不费力,只需懂得一些基础贸易原则就可,”斯科蒂笑着回答道,并为自己倒上了第三杯若麦斯酒。“希尔维纳一心希望帝国可以插手瓦伦林地(帝国的建筑委员会因而很占便宜),而我只是玉成其事从中抽些佣金罢了。双方目的都很明确,拜其所赐,协议签订也便水到渠成,祝福你啊(醉话)。”

“你为帝国陛下服务很长时间了么?”第一位外交官问道

“帝都现在局势有些复杂,甚至远超你们预想。不妨告诉你个秘密,我曾是阿特利乌斯建筑委员会的一员,但是被解雇了。因此我的合同都是得自一位瓦奈克建筑委员会的竞争对手,他的名字叫做雷格留斯,人品相当不错,只是不幸死于虎人之手,”说着,斯科蒂将第五杯酒一饮而尽,“等我回到帝都,真正意义上的谈判才算开始。我将会把合同带到我的前雇主及瓦奈克爵士两人面前,然后就说,你们俩谁想要这些合同?他们肯定会为获得这些肥单争得不可开交,我十分肯定那将是场史无前例的竞标大战。”

“这么说来,你并不是帝国派遣来的代表咯?”第一位外交官复又问道

“你没听清我的话么?你是傻子?”斯科蒂借着酒意想发火,但是很快镇定下来,斟满第七杯酒以后,咯咯笑了起来。“建筑委员会虽然是私人拥有,但是同样也是皇帝下属。所以,我能代表皇帝。换句话说,因为我有这些合同,所以我马上将能够代表。这听起来有些复杂,你们不懂情有可原。就像诗中所说,火中起舞,若你能够理解这种幻觉,便能懂得我映射的真意。”

“那你的同事呢?他们可是皇帝代表?”第二位外交官问道

斯科蒂大笑着摇了摇头,外交官们向他致敬之后告辞去跟大臣说话。斯科蒂踉跄的晃出宫殿,蹒跚行走在城市稀奇古怪,生机盎然的大街小巷之间。花了数个小时,方才找到普雷哈拉会所,回到自己房间之后,倒头就睡。

次日清晨,他被居鲁斯和巴斯摇醒。顺眼惺忪爬起来后,身体似乎并不不适。昨晚那些胡言乱语在脑海中再次浮现,恍若隔世。

“若麦斯酒到底是种什么东西?”他连忙问

“一种腐酒,高度腐烂肉质添加大量杀菌香料制成,”巴斯笑道。“忘了警告你了,你真该留下继续些扎呷。”

“现在你应该懂食肉训令了吧(意思就是只能吃肉,腐肉亦不例外)”居鲁斯笑着说。“波兹莫们宁可吃掉同类也不去碰野生植株以及果实。”

“我对那些外交使节说了什么?”斯科蒂慌忙大叫道。

“不要担心,一切如常”居鲁斯边说边抽出一些纸张。“护送你返回帝都的卫队就在楼下等你,这是一些安全通关文牒。希尔维纳急于开展更广泛的生意合作。并且答应,合约践行之后,还会向你馈赠一些珍宝。看吧,我俩早已经得到一些赏赐了。”

居鲁斯说着向他展示自己佩戴的一对耳环,中间镶有一块巨大红色宝石,巴斯也是如此。两人随后告辞,留下斯科蒂穿衣打扮和整理行囊。

旅馆外面停有一大队的希尔维纳护卫,中间是辆纹有瓦伦林地官方标记的大马车。斯科蒂上车坐定后,仍然半睡半醒,随后卫队首领发出讯号,众人开始疾驰起来。斯科蒂突然的惊醒,回头望去,巴斯和居鲁斯正在向他挥手告别。

“等等!”斯科蒂大喊道。“你们两个不陪同我返回帝都?”

“希尔维纳想让我们留下作为帝国全权代表!”里奥德斯·居鲁斯回应道。“以备签下更多合同!他还任命我们为贵宾(Undrape),这对宫廷外国人来说是特殊荣誉!不要担心,我们还会参加很多宴会(仍然保持淡定)!合同具体交给阿特利乌斯或者瓦奈克,由你定夺。这里一些交给我们就行!”

居鲁斯一直喋喋不休嘱托着,但是随着距离拉远,后面的话已经渐不可闻。车队拐出希尔维纳之后,更是一点声音都听不到。出得城后,眼前一片丛林豁然出现,斯科蒂之前只有步行穿越林地或者泛舟沿河而下的经历,如今位于疾驰马车之上方才得以尽情领略绿色美感,守卫们对林中怪诞声音以及阴湿潮气置若罔闻,车队林间穿行速度反而更甚城中平坦大道。斯科蒂只觉得两旁树木极速后退,树影如在背景大幕之上穿梭如织,树木实体反而看不真切。

两周就这样过去了。他所搭乘的马车上食物水源充足,因此在这漫漫无趣征途之中,不是吃喝就是蒙头大睡。他曾多次听闻刀剑撞击之声,但是环顾四周,却又发现那些先前袭击之物很快就被落在后面。终于,他们到达边境,一支帝国卫队正在此地卫戍。

斯科蒂向士兵呈上通关文牒。他们问了不少问题,斯科蒂也一一做了简短回答,之后车队便被放行。先前还在林间疾驰的骏马面对西科洛文的陌生环境开始认生,速度也便慢了下来,与之不同,听着故乡鸟鸣闻着家乡植物芬芳,德库姆斯·斯科蒂则越来越有精神,众人又花数天方才抵达帝都门口。

到达帝都大门之后,斯科蒂打开马车门走了下来,脚步竟然踯躅起来,本想再与卫队说些什么,但是众人早已一溜烟的离去,隐没南部丛林之中。回家之后,首先要做的事就是找家附近馆子,吃些水果面包,喝些茶水。他心里想,素食看起来也不错,以后可不想吃肉了(瓦伦林地全都是肉)。

之后与阿特利乌斯和瓦奈克的谈判进行的一切符合预期。这也是必然的,毕竟两家机构都懂这笔瓦伦林地重建订单大有油水可捞。瓦奈克爵士称,合同签在自家单据之上,理应由他承揽这项工程。阿特利乌斯则回应说道:德库姆斯·斯科蒂是他的职员,代表他的利益,并且他也从未正式除名。双方决定交由皇帝仲裁此事,但是他也无能为力,毕竟他的谋臣帝国战法贾格·萨恩早已不知去向,皇帝无法凭借他的智慧从中调停。

斯科蒂靠着两家的贿赂过的非常滋润。居鲁斯和巴斯每周都会致函询问谈判进展。但渐渐的,信件变成商务大臣乃至希尔维纳的催促信。蓝滨之战(War of the Blue Divide)以夏暮岛大获全胜告终,艾特莫从木精灵手中攫取了大量沿岸海岛。但同艾尔斯维尔的战事还在继续,瓦伦林地东境仍然倍受蹂躏,然而瓦奈克和阿特利乌斯还在为谁来承建吵得不可开交。

3E 398年一个晴朗清晨,一位信使叩开德库姆斯·斯科蒂的家门。

“瓦奈克爵士最终赢得了瓦伦林地重建的工程权,并要求你尽快带上文件前往他的办公大厅。”

“阿特利乌斯伯爵弃权了?”斯科蒂问

“没有,他是有心无力,他刚死于一场突发事故,”信使答道

瓦奈克建筑委员会坐落在帝都一片狭小但气派的广场之上,是座内敛沉闷的建筑物,斯科蒂路上一直都在想,或许是瓦奈克精心策划了这一切,若是黑暗兄弟会不出手,不知争执还要持续多久,若他参与竞争或许也会出此手段。问题在于,竞争对手已死,不知他是否会刻意压低自己佣金数目。谢天谢地,瓦奈克爵士仍然认同竞争最激烈的冬天所承诺的佣金数目。因为他的幕僚建议他要速战速决,否则一些小规模的建筑部门可能也会参与竞争,夜长梦多。

“非常高兴,一切法理争端都已解决,”瓦奈克愉快的说着。“现在我们可以开始援助可怜的波兹莫,并开始赚钱了。真是遗憾,本德瑞玛战役和阿纳先之战发生之时没有派你过去,幸好今后还有很多战争,这点大可放心。”

斯科蒂以及瓦奈克致函希尔维纳通知对方自己准备履行合约。数周之后。众人为了庆祝揽下这项肥单而举行了一场盛大宴会。德库姆斯·斯科蒂现在可是帝都的娇子,所以为了留下一个难忘夜晚,这场宴会不惜血本。

当斯科蒂同在项目中受益的富商以及贵族攀谈之际,一阵古怪奇异香气飘入餐厅。循着气味找去,发味源头赫然便是一片占据多张餐盘的肥肉块。赛瑞迪尔宾客正在大快朵颐,并对这种难以用语言形容的无上美味发出由衷赞叹。

“这种东西我可从来没有尝过!”

“吃起来像鹿肉又像猪肉!”

“看到肥肉瘦肉交界处的花纹了吧?真是巧夺天工!”

斯科蒂撕下一片来,这块烤肉深处好像藏有什么东西。他浑身一激灵转过身去,几乎要与新雇主瓦奈克撞个满怀。

“这些从哪来的?”斯科蒂结结巴巴的问道

“客户希尔维纳大人送的”老板微笑回答。“这是一种当地美味,人称乌斯拉帕。”

斯科蒂禁不住开始呕吐,一发不可收拾。宴会众人看到之后不禁大为扫兴,但当德库姆斯·斯科蒂被人送回庄园后,众人便又开始欢宴。乌斯拉帕乃是餐桌之上最受欢迎的一道菜。等到瓦奈克在一片肉中吃出两枚红宝石时,众人更是对这道菜好感倍增,纷纷赞扬发明此菜的波兹莫实在非常聪明。

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Scene: SilvenarValenwood

Date: 13 Sun's Dusk, 3E 397

The banquet at the palace of the Silvenar was well attended by every jealous bureaucrat and trader who had attempted to contract the rebuilding of Valenwood. They looked on Decumus Scotti, Liodes Jurus, and Basth with undisguised hatred. It made Scotti very uncomfortable, but Jurus delighted in it. As the servants brought in platter after platter of roasted meats, Jurus poured himself a cup of Jagga and toasted the clerk.

"I can confess it now," said Jurus. "I had grave doubts about inviting you to join me on this adventure. All the other clerks and agents of building commissions I contacted were more outwardly aggressive, but none of them made it through, let alone to the audience chamber of the Silvenar, let alone brokered the deals on their own like you did. Come, have a cup of Jagga with me."

"No thank you," said Scotti. "I had too much of that drug in Falinesti, and nearly got sucked dry by a giant tick because of it. I'll find something else to drink."

Scotti wandered about the hall until he saw some diplomats drinking mugs of a steaming brown liquid, poured from a large silver urn. He asked them if it was tea.

"Tea made from leaves?" scoffed the first diplomat. "Not in Valenwood. This is Rotmeth."

Scotti poured himself a mug and took a tentative sip. It was gamy, bitter and sugared, and very salty. At first it seemed very disagreeable to his palate, but a moment later he found he had drained the mug and was pouring another. His body tingled. All the sounds in the chamber seemed oddly disjointed, but not frighteningly so.

"So you're the fellow who got the Silvenar to sign all those contracts," said the second diplomat. "That must have required some deep negotiation."

"Not at all, not at all, just a little basic understand of mercantile trading," grinned Scotti, pouring himself a third mug of Rotmeth. "The Silvenar was very eager to involve the Imperial state with the affairs of Valenwood. I was very eager to take a percentage of the commission. With all that blessed eagerness, it was merely a matter of putting quill to contract, bless you."

"You have been in the employ of his Imperial Majesty very long?" asked the first diplomat.

"It's a bite, or rather, a bit more complicated than that in the Imperial City. Between you and me, I don't really have a job. I used to work for Lord Atrius and his Building Commission, but I got sacked. And then, the contracts are from Lord Vanech and his Building Commission, 'cause I got em from this fellow Reglius who is a competitor but still a very fine fellow until he was made dead by those Khajiiti," Scotti drained his fifth mug. "When I go back to the Imperial City, then the real negotiations can begin, bless you. I can go to my old employer and to Lord Vanech, and say, look here you, which one of you wants these commissions? And they'll fall over each other to take them from me. It will be bidding war for my percentage the likes of which no one nowhere has never seen."

"So you're not a representative of his Imperial Majesty, the Emperor?" asked the first diplomat.

"Didn't you hear what I'm said? You stupid?" Scotti felt a surge of rage, which quickly subsided. He chuckled, and poured himself a seventh mug. "The Building Commissions are privately owned, but they're still representatives of the Emperor. So I'm a representative of the Emperor. Or I will be. When I get these contracts in. It's very complicated. I can understand why you're not following me. Bless you, it's all like the poet said, a dance in fire, if you follow the illusion, that is to say, allusion."

"And your colleagues? Are they representatives of the Emperor?" asked the second diplomat.

Scotti burst into laughter, shaking his head. The diplomats bade him their respects and went to talk to the Minister. Scotti stumbled out of the palace, and reeled through the strange, organic avenues and boulevards of the city. It took him several hours to find his way to Prithala Hall and his room. Once there, he slept, very nearly on his bed.

The next morning, he woke to Jurus and Basth in his room, shaking him. He felt half-asleep and unable to open his eyes fully, but otherwise fine. The conversation with the diplomats floated in his mind in a haze, like an obscure childhood memory.

"What in Mara's name is Rotmeth?" he asked quickly.

"Rancid, strongly fermented meat juices with lots of spices to kill the poisons," smiled Basth. "I should have warned you to stay with Jagga."

"You must understand the Meat Mandate by now," laughed Jurus. "These Bosmeri would rather eat each other than touch the fruit of the vine or the field."

"What did I say to those diplomats?" cried Scotti, panicking.

"Nothing bad apparently," said Jurus, pulling out some papers. "Your escorts are downstairs to bring you to the Imperial Province. Here are your papers of safe passage. The Silvenar seems very impatient about business proceeding forward rapidly. He promises to send you some sort of rare treasure when the contracts are fulfilled. See, he's already given me something."

Jurus showed off his new, bejeweled earring, a beautiful large faceted ruby. Basth showed that he had a similar one. The two fat fellows left the room so Scotti could dress and pack.

A full regiment of the Silvenar's guards was on the street in front of the tavern. They surrounded a carriage crested with the official arms of Valenwood. Still dazed, Scotti climbed in, and the captain of the guard gave the signal. They began a quick gallop. Scotti shook himself, and then peered behind. Basth and Jurus were waving him goodbye.

"Wait!" Scotti cried. "Aren't you coming back to the Imperial Province too?"

"The Silvenar asked that we stay behind as Imperial representatives!" yelled Liodes Jurus. "In case there's a need for more contracts and negotiations! He's appointed us Undrape, some sort of special honor for foreigners at court! Don't worry! Lots of banquets to attend! You can handle the negotiations with Vanech and Atrius yourself and we'll keep things settled here!"

Jurus continued to yell advice about business, but his voice became indistinct with distance. Soon it disappeared altogether as the convoy rounded the streets of Silvenar. The jungle loomed suddenly and then they were in it. Scotti had only gone through it by foot or along the rivers by slow-moving boats. Now it flashed all around him in profusions of greens. The horses seemed even faster moving through underbrush than on the smooth paths of the city. None of the weird sounds or dank smells of the jungle penetrated the escort. It felt to Scotti as if he were watching a play about the jungle with a background of a quickly moving scrim, which offered only the merest suggestion of the place.

So it went for two weeks. There was lots of food and water in the carriage with the clerk, so he merely ate and slept as the caravan pressed endlessly on. From time to time, he'd hear the sound of blades clashing, but when he looked around whatever had attacked the caravan had long since been left behind. At last, they reached the border, where an Imperial garrison was stationed.

Scotti presented the soldiers who met the carriage with the papers. They asked him a barrage of questions that he answered monosyllabically, and then let him pass. It took several more days to arrive at the gates of the Imperial City. The horses that had flown so fast through the jungle now slowed down in the unfamiliar territory of the wooded Colovian Estates. By contrast, the cries of his province's birds and smells of his province's plant life brought Decumus Scotti alive. It was if he had been dreaming all the past months.

At the gates of the City, Scotti's carriage door was opened for him and he stepped out on uncertain legs. Before he had a moment to say something to the escort, they had vanished, galloping back south through the forest. The first thing he did now that he was home was go to the closest tavern and have tea and fruit and bread. If he never ate meat again, he told himself, that would suit him very nicely.

Negotiations with Lord Atrius and Lord Vanech proceeded immediately thereafter. It was most agreeable. Both commissions recognized how lucrative the rebuilding of Valenwood would be for their agency. Lord Vanech claimed, quite justifiably, that as the contracts had been written on forms notarized by his commission, he had the legal right to them. Lord Atrius claimed that Decumus Scotti was his agent and representative, and that he had never been released from employment. TheEmperor was called to arbitrate, but he claimed to be unavailable. His advisor, the Imperial Battlemage Jagar Tharn, had disappeared long ago and could not be called on for his wisdom and impartial mediation.

Scotti lived very comfortably off the bribes from Lord Atrius and Lord Vanech. Every week, a letter would arrive from Jurus or Basth asking about the status of negotiations. Gradually, these letters ceased coming, and more urgent ones came from the Minister of Trade and the Silvenar himself. The War of the Blue Divide with Summurset Isle ended with the Altmeri winning several new coastal islands from the Wood Elves. The war with Elsweyr continued, ravaging the eastern borders of Valenwood. Still, Vanech and Atrius fought over who would help.

One fine morning in the early spring of the year 3E 398, a courier arrived at Decumus Scotti's door.

"Lord Vanech has won the Valenwood commission, and requests that you and the contracts come to his hall at your earliest convenience."

"Has Lord Atrius decided not to challenge further?" asked Scotti.

"He's been unable to, having died very suddenly, just now, from a terribly unfortunate accident," said the courier.

Scotti had wondered how long it would be before the Dark Brotherhood was brought in for final negotiations. As he walked toward Lord Vanech's Building Commission, a long, severe piece of architecture on a minor but respectable plaza, he wondered if he had played the game, as he ought to have. Could Vanech be so rapacious as to offer him a lower percentage of the commission now that his chief competitor was dead? Thankfully, he discovered, Lord Vanech had already decided to pay Scotti what he had proposed during the heat of the winter negotiations. His advisors had explained to him that other, lesser building commissions might come forward unless the matter were handled quickly and fairly.

"Glad we have all the legal issues done with," said Lord Vanech, fondly. "Now we can get to the business of helping the poor Bosmeri, and collecting the profits. It's a pity you weren't our representative for all the troubles with Bend'r-mahk and the Arnesian business. But there will be plenty more wars, I'm sure of that."

Scotti and Lord Vanech sent word to the Silvenar that at last they were prepared to honor the contracts. A few weeks later, they held a banquet in honor of the profitable enterprise. Decumus Scotti was the darling of the Imperial City, and no expense was spared to make it an unforgettable evening.

As Scotti met the nobles and wealthy merchants who would be benefiting from his business dealings, an exotic but somehow faintly familiar smell rose in the ballroom. He traced it to its source: a thick roasted slab of meat, so long and thick it covered several platters. The Cyrodilic revelers were eating it ravenously, unable to find the words to express their delight at its taste and texture.

"It's like nothing I've ever had before!"

"It's like pig-fed venison!"

"Do you see the marbling of fat and meat? It's a masterpiece!"

Scotti went to take a slice, but then he saw something imbedded deep in the dried and rendered roast. He nearly collided with his new employer Lord Vanech as he stumbled back.

"Where did this come from?" Scotti stammered.

"From our client, the Silvenar," beamed his lordship. "It's some kind of local delicacy they call Unthrappa."

Scotti vomited, and didn't stop for some time. It cast rather a temporary pall on the evening, but when Decumus Scotti was carried off to his manor house, the guests continued to dine. The Unthrappa was the delight of all. Even more so when Lord Vanech himself took a slice and found the first of two rubies buried within. How very clever of the Bosmer to invent such a dish, the Cyrodiils agreed.

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