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【书籍搬运】Argonian Account, Book 4 亚龙轶事 第四部

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原文地址:http://www.uesp.net/wiki/Skyrim:Argonian_Account,_Book_4

作者:Waughin Jarth

翻译:花溪流萤

Decumus Scotti溺在水中,完全束手无策。手脚因受亚龙农民麻痹法术影响动弹不得,然而并未直沉河底。Onkobra河水流速湍急,足够轻易卷起巨石,Scotti置身其中,沿河一路翻腾而下,转的头晕脑胀,七荤八素。

他自觉命不久矣,不过相对黑沼泽近日所遇种种,死亡更像一种解脱。所以当其大口呛水,冰凉河水没顶,眼前一片漆黑之际,心中反而安定,并未恐慌。

那一瞬间,Decumus Scotti觉得自己心境有着生平仅见的安和,感谢黑暗。不知过了多久,身体开始阵痛,伴以剧烈咳嗽,胃肺积水亦被逐渐呕出。

身边响起声音,“哦,伙计,他还活着,(我们)接下来怎么办?”

Scotti分辨不清声音是否幻觉,即使睁开眼来,眼前浮现出来脸庞之后,仍然不敢确信是否是在做梦。那是一张亚龙人脸,但与之前所见大相径庭。这张脸颊又瘦又长,宛若长枪一般;鳞片颜色更如红色宝石一般,阳光照射之下熠熠生辉。他向自己眨着眼睛,眼睑闭时,眼睛眯成线状。

“我想我们现在不该把你吃了,对吧?”眼前生物笑道,从其口吻可以看出,对方确实没有敌意,乃是在开玩笑。

“谢谢”Scotti虚弱应道。说完努力伸长脖子,想要知道那人口中所说“我们”指的何人,随即发现自己身处河岸一处泥滩,四周围满长脸亚龙男女,众人鳞片亦是七彩斑斓,翠绿,玛瑙紫,靓蓝,橘黄,不一而足。

“能告诉我,这里靠近-呃,任何城镇都好?”

红鳞亚龙人笑道。“不,当下处于大陆腹地,四周什么都没有。”

“哦” Scotti这才想起,黑沼泽中方位并没什么意义(经常迁徙)。“那你们是?”

“我们是Agaceph一族”红磷亚龙人应道。“我叫 Nomu。”

Scotti自我介绍道。“我是帝都 Vanech领主建筑委员会属下一名高级文员,来此意欲解决贸易问题,但我丢了文件,也没能和Gideon的Archeins接头…”

“傲慢,种族主义,蓄奴污吏,”一位小个橘鳞亚龙人小声骂道

“…但现在我只想回家。”

Nomu笑的合不拢嘴,仿佛终将不速之客赶离宴会的主人一般喜悦。“Shehs会送你一程。”

Shehs应该就是方才颇有微辞的小个黄色生物,显然很抵触这次分派。接着,这位亚龙人用蛮力抬起Scotti,那一瞬间,令他想起Gemullus将自己丢到泥滩搭乘地底快车这一举措。还好,Shehs只是把他放到漂在河面的一张薄如刀翼的小筏上面。

“这就是你们的交通工具?”

“我们可不用外面那些同胞用的,那些破烂马车以及垂死劣马”Shehs白了他一眼,应道。“我们彼此了解不深。”

亚龙人说完便在船筏尾部坐定,用那船桨一般的尾巴划水掌舵,向前推进。他们急速穿过数个世纪沉淀下来的腐败有机物形成的泥浆涡流,穿越山丘之间冲刷而成的狭长河道,驶过众多如今早已锈迹斑斑的弃置金属大桥。

“泰姆瑞尔的东西全都被冲到黑沼泽了,”Shehs说道

一路之上,Shehs向 Scotti解释道,Agaceph乃是生活在大陆腹地,靠近西斯特智慧树的诸多亚龙部族一支,对于外部世界所知甚少。能被自己种族救起,算他命大。如果不幸遇到娜迦,蟾蜍部族Paatru,或者有翼Sarpa族,现在早就小命不保。

这里还生活着其他危险生物。由于黑沼泽内陆天敌甚少,众多食腐动物均敢肆无忌惮的攻击活物。先前所见,盘旋头顶之上的齿翼鸟便是其中一例。

Shehs蓦地收声,并将竹筏停下,似是在等什么东西。

Scotti望向 Shehs瞩目方向,眼前浑水看来并无异状。随后,他意识到,前方那摊翠绿粘液(史莱姆?)竟然开始移动,只见它以迅雷不及掩耳之势横穿河流,窜入芦苇荡中,接着销声匿迹,身后只留一片白骨。

“那是Voriplasm,”Shehs一面解释,一面继续摇橹前行。“我不是吓唬你,眨眼工夫他就能把你啃个精光。”

Scotti已然厌倦周遭所见以及腐臭气味,决心把话题转向恭维亚龙导游渊博知识面上。真是难以置信,脱离文明社会如此之久,这谢亚龙人竟然还是如此善谈。

“二十年前,他们想在此处附近的 Umpholo建造一座玛拉神庙,”Shehs继续解说道,Scotti点了点头,他曾在已经散佚的随身卷宗中看过有关记载。“他们在腐臭沼泽中坚持不到一月便相继死去,但却遗留下来一些很棒的书籍(以上就是我的知识之源哇)。”

Scotti正要打算刨根问底,这时前方忽然出现一个令人毛骨悚然的庞然大物,他被吓得呆若木鸡,刚欲说出的话也被咽到肚里。

半隐水中的怪物有着小山般的脊梁,利爪足有九英尺长。苍白眼珠无神盯着远方,随后整个生物开始剧烈颤动,身体业已开始倾斜,血盆大口一张,獠牙以及之间血块清晰可辨。

“沼泽利维坦,”Shehs叫道,然后强调道。“非常,非常危险。”

Scotti倒抽一口冷气,对Agaceph如此冷静感到讶异,这还不算,他还径直将竹筏划了过去。

“大千世界,芸芸众生,老鼠可能是最为可怕那种,” Shehs说道,这时Scotti方才察觉,眼前这头巨大生物只剩躯壳。推动力乃是来自内部数以百计进进出出大嚼其肉的老鼠,表皮之上已然满布鼠洞。

“的确如此,”Scotti附和道,这时他又想起那些沉埋淤泥之中的黑沼泽卷宗,帝国四十余年研究成果,毁于一旦。

两人一路向西,继续穿行于黑沼泽腹地之间。

途中,Shehs不断向Scotti推介沿岸景色,Kothringi都城遗留吓的宏大繁杂遗迹,铺满蕨类,长满野花杂草的林地,苔藓掩映下的静寂小溪,更令Scotti毕生难忘的是——高耸入云的西斯特智慧树密林。沿途没有碰到一个人影,直到抵达沼泽东部,帝国商道之时,方才看见 Mailic,这位Redguard守卫仍在等待,十分淡定。

“你迟到了好几分钟,”Redguard蹙眉抱怨道,说着便将最后一袋食物扔到Scotti脚边。“就这些了,先生。”

当Decumus Scotti乘马抵达帝都之时,煦日初升,晨露未散,所有建筑沐浴光泽之中,宛如欢迎自己回归。这座城市竟是如此干净,乞丐也是如此的少(果然对比产生美)。

Vanech领主的建筑委员会大楼仍如往常那般突兀,诡异风格与周围建筑格格不入。但是起码不脏,看来内部人员都在努力工作。

至于Vanech领主本人,虽说又矮又胖,眼有些斜,但是打扮整洁,浑身上下一尘不染,人品也好(旅行果然可以改变世界观呀)。一见到这位上司,他便热切的盯着他打量。Vanech也看到了他。

“很高兴再见到你,”侏儒老板皱眉道。“你连人带马都掉到黑沼泽里了么(呼应浑身脏兮兮)?我本应让你回家收拾打扮一下,但来不及了,现在有一打贵人排队想要见你。我希望你妥善应对。”

老板的话毫不夸张。接近20位赛瑞迪尔权贵都在等他。Scotti被安排在一间比上司更大的办公室中,一一会见众人。

第一批客户乃是五位腰缠万贯的个体富商,一上来便劈头盖脸的询问Scotti,到底应该如何改善经贸路线。Scotti详尽总结主要干道现状,商队所遇问题,桥梁损坏状况,以及产地运达市场之间其余问题。众位商人求他打点一切,修缮一切道路桥梁,金钱不是问题。

不出三月,建于泥河之上的桥梁就被统统冲毁;冗杂商队业已难以为继;通往Gideon的主要道路已被泥沼吞没。亚龙人重拾古法,开始使用小筏以及地底通道,灵活运送小批物资。所需时间仅为之前三分之一,不出两周便可运达赛瑞迪尔,再也没有发生腐烂现象。

次位代理乃是一位玛拉主教。这位仁慈绅士,听闻亚龙母亲会把自己孩子卖给人口贩子之后,郑重前来向Scotti求证是否确有其事。

“非常遗憾,的确如此,”Scotti答道,主教留下大量金币,令他定要援助大批食物用来缓解这种卖儿鬻女状况,之后兴建一些学校,以令她们懂得自爱。

不出五月,Umphollo弃置玛拉神庙最后一本书籍亦被偷走。 Archeins宣告破产之后,奴隶纷纷回家耕种薄田。农奴发现,尽管土地贫瘠,但是认真耕作,仍够养家糊口,因此蓄奴政策很快没了市场。

(随后前来的)Tsleeixth大使,则对黑沼泽北不断攀升的犯罪率忧心忡忡,于是便和客居帝国的亚龙人一道,募集了大量善款。希望帝国能够增派泥沼要塞守卫,在主要道路两旁合理间距装上更多魔法路灯,增设检查站,建造更多学校教化亚龙人民,洁身自好,莫要犯罪。

不出六个月,路上再也没有娜迦劫道,毕竟商人再也不会路过那里。这些暴徒最终重返恶臭沼泽深处,而且发现生活在自身喜欢的泥浆以及疫病之中,更令他们欣喜,更加有利团结。Tsleeixth及其同伴对于犯罪率的降低深感欣慰,投下更多金币,鼓励Decumus Scotti再接再厉。

虽说黑沼泽地区特质,决定了其永远无法开展大规模农场种植经济模式。然而,但是生活期间的亚龙人以及来自泰姆瑞尔四面八方之人,亦能通过劳作,达到自给自足。这并不坏,Scotti想着,这样起码充满希望。

Scotti所揽每项订单, 都只向Vanech领主建筑委员会上交百分之十。剩下的全都流入自己腰包,毕竟自己不需做事便能坐收横财(注意,以上境况改善,全都得益自然因素,Scotti只是顺其自然,从来没有进行人工干预)。

不到一年,Decumus Scotti就已捞够油水,风光退休。这年,黑沼泽景气远胜过往四十来年。

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The Argonian Account, Book Four
by Waughin Jarth
Decumus Scotti's continued adventures in Black Marsh, Volume 4


Note: The character Decumus Scotti was first introduced in the book A Dance in Fire.

Decumus Scotti was drowning, and he didn't think much of it. He couldn't move his arms or his legs to swim because of the paralysis spell the Argonian peasant had lobbed at him, but he wasn't quite sinking. The Onkobra River was a crashing force of white water and currents that could carry along large rocks with ease, so Scotti tumbled head over heels, spinning, bumping, bouncing along.
He figured that soon enough he would be dead, and that would be better than being in Black Marsh. He wasn't too panicked about it all when he felt his lungs fill with water and cold blackness fell upon him.
For a while, for the first time in some time, Decumus Scotti felt peace. Blessed darkness. And then pain came to him, and he felt himself coughing, spewing water up from his belly and his lungs.
A voice said, "Oh bother, he's alive, ain't he, now?"
Scotti wasn't quite sure if that were true, even when he opened his eyes and looked at the face above him. It was an Argonian, but unlike any he had seen anywhere. The face was thin and long like a thick lance; the scales were ruby-red, brilliant in the sunlight. It blinked at him, its eyelids opening and closing in vertical slits.
"I don't suppose we should eat you, should we now?" the creature smiled, and Scotti could tell from its teeth that it was no idle suggestion.
"Thank you," said Scotti weakly. He craned his head slightly to find out who the "we" were, and discovered he was on the muddy bank of the still, sludgy river, surrounded by a group of Argonians with similarly needle-like faces and a whole rainbow of scales. Bright greens and gem-like purples, blues, and oranges.
"Can you tell me, am I near - well, anywhere?"
The ruby-colored Argonian laughed. "No. You're in the middle of everywhere, and near nowhere."
"Oh," said Scotti, who grasped the idea that space did not mean much in Black Marsh. "And what are you?"
"We are Agacephs," the ruby-colored Argonian replied. "My name is Nomu."
Scotti introduced himself. "I'm a senior clerk in Lord Vanech's Building Commission in the Imperial City. My job was to come here to try to fix the problems with commerce, but I've lost my agenda, haven't met with any of my contacts, the Archeins of Gideon..."
"Pompous, assimiliated [sic], slaver kleptocrats," a small lemon-colored Agaceph murmured with some feeling.
"...And now I just want to go home."
Nomu smiled, his long mouth arching up like a host happy to see an unwanted guest leave a party. "Shehs will guide you."
Shehs, it seemed, was the bitter little yellow creature, and he was not at all pleased at the assignment. With surprising strength, he hoisted Scotti up, and for a moment, the clerk was reminded of Gemullus dropping him into the bubbling muck that led to the Underground Express. Instead, Shehs shoved Scotti toward a tiny little raft, razor-thin, that bobbed on the surface of the water.
"This is how you travel?"
"We don't have the broken wagons and dying horses of our brothers on the outside," Shehs replied, rolling his tiny eyes. "We don't know better."
The Argonian sat at the back of the craft and used his whip-like tail to propel and navigate the craft. They traveled quickly around swirling pools of slime that stank of centuries of putrefaction, past pinnacled mountains that seemed sturdy but suddenly fell apart at the slightest ripple in the still water, under bridges that might have once been metal but were now purely rust.
"Everything in Tamriel flows down to Black Marsh," Shehs said.
As they slid through the water, Shehs explained to Scotti that the Agacephs were one of the many Argonian tribes that lived in the interior of the province, near the Hist, finding little in the outside world worth seeing. He was fortunate to have been found by them. The Nagas, the toad-like Paatru, and the winged Sarpa would have killed him on the spot.
There were other creatures too to be avoided. Though there were few natural predators in inner Black Marsh, the scavengers that rooted in the garbage seldom shied away from a living meal. Hackwings circled overhead, like the ones Scotti had seen in the west.
Shehs fell silent and stopped the raft completely, waiting for something.
Scotti looked in the direction Shehs was watching, and saw nothing unusual in the filthy water. Then, he realized that the pool of green slime in front of them was actually moving, and fairly quickly, from one bank to the other. It deposited small bones behind it as it oozed up into the reeds, and disappeared.
"Voriplasm," Shehs explained, moving the boat forward again. "Big word. It'll strip you to the bone by the second syllable."
Scotti, desirous to distract himself from the sights and smells that surrounded him, thought it a good time to compliment his pilot on his excellent vocabulary. It was particularly impressive, given how far from civilization they were. The Argonians in the east did, in fact, speak so well.
"They tried to erect a Temple of Mara near here, in Umpholo, twenty years ago," Shehs explained, and Scotti nodded, remembering reading about it in the files before they were lost. "They all perished quite dreadfully of swamp rot in the first month, but they left behind some excellent books."
Scotti was going to inquire further when he saw something so huge, so horrifying, it made him stop, frozen.
Half submerged in the water ahead was a mountain of spines, lying on nine-foot-long claws. White eyes stared blindly forward, and then suddenly the whole creature spasmed and lurched, the jaw of its mouth jutting out, exposing tusks clotted with gore.
"Swamp Leviathan," Shehs whistled, impressed. "Very, very dangerous."
Scotti gasped, wondering why the Agaceph was so calm, and more, why he was continuing to steer the raft forward towards the beast..
"Of all the creatures in the world, the rats are sometimes the worst," said Shehs, and Scotti noticed that the huge creature was only a husk. Its movement was from the hundreds of rats that had burrowed into it, rapidly eating their way from the inside out, bursting from the skin in spots.
"They are indeed," Scotti said, and his mind went to the Black Marsh files, buried deep in the mud, and four decades of Imperial work in Black Marsh.
The two continued westward through the heart of Black Marsh.
Shehs showed Scotti the vast complicated ruins of the Kothringi capitals, fields of ferns and flowered grasses, quiet streams under canopies of blue moss, and the most astonishing sight of Scotti's life -- the great forest of full-grown Hist trees. They never saw a living soul until they arrived at the edge of the Imperial Commerce Road just east of Slough Point, where Mailic, Scotti'sRedguard guide, was waiting patiently.
"I was going to give you two more minutes," the Redguard scowled, dropping the last of his food onto the pile at his feet. "No more, sir."
The sun was shining bright when Decumus Scotti rode into the Imperial City, and as it caught the morning dew, it lent a glisten to every building as if they had been newly polished for his arrival. It astonished him how clean the city was. And how few beggars there were.
The protracted edifice of Lord Vanech's Building Commission was the same as it had always been, but still the very sight of it seemed exotic and strange. It was not covered in mud. The people within actually, generally, worked.
Lord Vanech himself, though singularly squat and squinty, seemed immaculate, not only relatively clean of dirt and scabs, but also relatively uncorrupt. Scotti couldn't help but stare at him when he first caught sight of his boss. Vanech stared right back.
"You are a sight," the little fellow frowned. "Did your horse drag you to Black Marsh and back? I would say go home and fix yourself, but there are a dozen people here to see you. I hope you have solutions for them."
It was no exaggeration. Nearly twenty of Cyrodiil's most powerful and wealthiest people were waiting for him. Scotti was given an office even larger than Lord Vanech's, and he met with each.
First among the Commission's clients were five independent traders, blustering and loaded with gold, demanding to know what Scotti intended to do about improving the trade routes. Scotti summarized for them the conditions of the main roads, the state of the merchants' caravans, the sunken bridges, and all the other impediments between the frontier and the marketplace. They told him to have everything replaced and repaired, and gave him the gold necessary to do it.
Within three months, the bridge at Slough Point had disappeared into the muck; the great caravan had collapsed into decrepitude; and the main road from Gideon had been utterly swallowed up by swamp water. The Argonians began once again to use the old ways, their personal rafts and sometimes the Underground Express to transport the grain in small quantities. It took a third of the time, two weeks, to arrive in Cyrodiil, none of it rotten.
The Archbishop of Mara was the next client Scotti met with. A kindhearted man, horrified by the tales of Argonian mothers selling their children into slavery, he pointedly asked Scotti if it were true.
"Sadly, yes," Scotti replied, and the Archbishop showered him with septims, telling the clerk that food must be brought to the province to ease their suffering, and the schools must be improved so they could learn to help themselves.
Within five months, the last book had been stolen from the deserted Maran monastery in Umphollo. As the Archeins went bankrupt, their slaves returned to his parents' tiny farms. The backwater Argonians found that they could grow enough to feed their families provided they had enough hard workers in their enclave, and the buyers market for slaves sharply declined.
Ambassador Tsleeixth, concerned about the rising crime in northern Black Marsh, brought with him the contributions of many other expatriate Argonians like himself. They wanted more Imperial guards on the border at Slough Point, more magically lit lanterns posted along the main roads at regular intervals, more patrol stations, and more schools built to allow young Argonians to better themselves and not turn to crime.
Within six months, there were no more Nagas roaming the roads, as there were no merchants traveling them to rob. The thugs returned to the fetid inner swamp, where they felt much happier, their constitutions enriched by the rot and pestilence that they loved. Tsleeixth and his constituency were so pleased by the crime rate dropping, they brought even more gold to Decumus Scotti, telling him to keep up the good work.
Black Marsh simply was, is, and always shall be unable to sustain a large-scale, cash-crop plantation economy. The Argonians, and anyone else, the whole of Tamriel, could live in Black Marsh on subsistence farming, just raising what they needed. That was not sad, Scotti thought; that was hopeful.
Scotti's solution to each of their dilemmas had been the same. Ten percent of the gold they gave him went to Lord Vanech's Building Commission. The rest Scotti kept for himself, and did exactly nothing about the requests.
Within a year, Decumus Scotti had embezzled enough to retire very comfortably, and Black Marsh was better off than it had been in forty years.

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