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【书籍搬运】Palla 帕拉

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英文书名:Palla, Book 1 and Book 2

原文出处:http://til.gamingsource.net/obbooks/palla.shtml#1

翻译:泽霏

卷一

Palla。Pal La。我记得不久之前,我第一次听到这个名字的时候。那是在Mir Corrup西边别墅里举行的Tales and Tallows舞会。我和我法师工会新入会同伴被意外地邀请了。实话说,我们不必感到太惊奇。Mir Corrup的其他贵族家庭很少——这个地区远在第二纪元时的太平日子里是富人们的胜地——况且,在这种超自然的节日里,只有术士和巫师出席才合适。不是因为作为又小又不起眼的法师工会分行学生的我们有多特别,而是像我说的,可有的选择实在是太少了。

将近一年来,我仅有的家就是摇摇欲坠的Mir Corrup法师工会了。我唯一的伙伴就是我的新入会同事。他们中的大部分仅仅是容忍我而已。而老师们,呆在这个死气沉沉的工会里的苦闷,激发了无尽的虐骂。 幻术学派立刻吸引了我。教导我们的先生认为我是个聪敏的学生,不但热爱魔法的咒语,还爱它们的哲学意义。把光电、声音和思想的微妙能量扭曲的理念吸引着我。不是闪耀的毁灭和改变学派,不是神圣的回复和召唤学派,不是实用的炼金术和附魔,也不是混乱的神秘学派。不,我从未这么愉悦过——对一个普通的物品施小小的魔法,使其看上去是另外一个物体。 要将这个理念应用于我单调的生活上,所需的想象力要比我所有的多得多。晨课之后,晚课之前,我们被分派任务。我的是清理工会里一位最近去世的老师的书房,将他乱七八糟的咒语书、符咒和古书等等分门别类。 这是一个孤单而无聊的任务。Tendixus先生是个根深蒂固的破烂收集癖,但是每次我扔掉毫无价值的物品时都会被责备。逐渐地我学会了将他的每件所有物递送到相应的部门:回复药水到回复学派老师处,物理现象书籍到改变学派老师处,药草和矿物到炼金术士处,灵魂石和附魔物品到附魔师处。在一次给附魔师递送后,在我惯常的毫无感激地离开时,Ilther老师把我叫了回来。 “小子”,胖老头递回我一样物品,说,“销毁这个。” 那是一个写满咒文的小黑碟子,外围嵌了一圈骨头样子的红橙色宝石。 “先生,对不起。”我结结巴巴地说,“我以为这是你感兴趣的。” “拿到火里烧掉,”他咆哮着喊,背了过去,“你从没把它带到这里。” 我的兴趣被激起了,因为我知道只有一样东西才能让他如此反应。通灵术。我回到Tendixus先生的房间,一心扑到他的笔记上,寻找关于碟子的任何记载。不幸的是,大部分笔记是用一种我无法解读的奇怪符号书写的。我对这个秘密太着迷了,以致Ilther先生教导的附魔晚课差点迟到。 接下来的几个星期里,我的时间都用作整理、递送,还有研究碟子上了。我认识到我的直觉是正确的:这个碟子是货真价实的通灵术物品。虽然我不能理解老师的大部分笔记,我判定他想藉它将爱人从坟墓中复活。 悲哀的是,房间被整理干净的时候来临了。我也被分派了另外一个任务,在工会的兽栏里做助手。终于我可以和其他新入会同伙们一起干活,有机会见到因各种差事来工会的平民和贵族了。所以我们都被邀请到Tales and Tallows舞会时,我做着这个工作。 如果当晚的珠光宝气还嫌不够的话,我们的女主人是落自落锤城的年轻富有的未婚孤儿。不到一两个月前她才搬到我们这个偏远的、树林繁茂的帝国边城,来回收古老家族庄园和领地。工会的新入会者们像老女人一样对这个神秘年轻女子的过去蜚短流长。她父母发生了什么事,她为什么离开或者被驱逐出她的故土。她的名字叫Betaniqi,而这就是我们知道的全部了。 我们自豪地穿着我们的入会长袍到达舞会。在宏大的大理石前厅里,仆人宣布我们每一个人的名字,如我们是王族成员一般。而我们则带着膨胀的自尊迈进宴饮者之中。当然,我们立即就被忽视了。事实上,我们只是充舞会人数无关角色。背景人物。 重要人士带着完美的优雅穿过我们。老Schaudirra女勋爵和Rimfarlin的公爵讨论到Balmora的外交任务。一个兽人军阀用强暴和掠夺的故事取悦一个吃吃笑着的公主。三位工会的老师和三个瘦骨如柴的贵族老处女为匕落城的闹鬼担忧。帝都和几个皇室宫廷的阴谋斗争被分析、轻嘲、搅乱、祝酒、拒绝、评估、缓和、督促、推翻。即使我们就在他们身旁也没人看我们这边。仿佛是我的幻术技巧让我们都隐身了。 我拿着酒杯来到了阳台。双月于空中与于花园里巨大的反射池里同等明亮。伫立在池边的雕像捕捉了炽热的光芒,仿如夜中火炬般燃烧。这景致如此超脱尘俗,以致我被它催眠,奇异的红衣守卫雕像在石中不朽。我们的女主人最近才搬来,有些雕塑甚至尚裹在随微风翻滚摇摆的布里。我不知道我凝视了多久,直到意识到我并非一人。 她是那么小那么黑,不仅仅是她的皮肤,还有她的衣服,让我差点以为她是一个阴影。当她转向我的时候,我看到她是那么的漂亮年轻,不长于十七岁。 “你是我们的女主人吗?”我终于问到。 “是的,”她笑着,脸红了,“但是我很惭愧地承认我是个糟透的主人。我应该在里面和我的新邻居一起,但是我觉得我们的共通之处太少了。” “很显然他们也希望我和他们没有共通之处。”我大笑,“当我在法师工会里级别比新入会高一点时,他们或许会更加平等看待我。” “我还是不明白Cyrodiil的平等概念。”她皱起眉毛,“在我的文化里,你证明你的价值,而不只是期望你的价值。我的父母都是伟大的战士,像我希望成为的那样。” 她的眼睛望向草坪,看着雕像。 “这些雕像象征你的父母吗?” “在那里的是我的父亲Pariom,”她指着一个真人大小的魁伟男子雕像,他毫无羞耻的裸着体,紧扼着另一个战士的喉咙,准备用伸出来的利刃斩下他的头颅。这无疑是一个写实的表现。Pariom的脸不好看,他低低的前额,一团纠结的乱发,双颊的须茬,显得甚至有点丑陋。他牙齿还有个小缺口,除了想真实还原模特儿的特征之外,没有哪个雕塑家会这样创作。 “是你母亲吗?”我问,手指着附近一个骄傲的身材矮胖的女战士雕像,她身穿披风戴围巾的,抱着个孩子。 “哦,不。”她笑了,“那只是我叔叔的老保姆。我母亲的雕像还被布覆着呢。” 我不知道是什么促使我坚持揭开她指着的雕像上的布。在所有可能性中,只能说是命运,和想继续谈话的自私欲望。我害怕如果我不给她一件事做,她会感到回到舞会去的需要,而我则会再次孤单一人。起先她不大情愿。她还没清楚雕像能否承受Cyrodill潮湿又时而寒冷的气候。她推断也许全部雕像都应该盖上。可能她只是在有话找话,像我一样不愿结束与人疏远,要回到舞会上。 几分钟内,我们揭开了Betaniqi母亲雕像的防水布。我的生活从此被改变。 她是一个野性的精灵,尖叫着和一个黑色大理石雕成的畸形怪物搏斗。她漂亮而修长的手指抓着怪物的脸。怪物的魔爪带着些许抚爱地抓着她的右胸,引发了致命的伤口。它和她的腿在如舞蹈般的战斗中缠在一起。我被征服了。这个娇柔却又可畏的女子超越了一切肤浅的美的标准。不管是谁雕刻的,他不但捕捉到了这位女神的容貌和体形,还有她的力量和意志。她是悲剧的,也是胜利的。我即刻不幸地爱上了她。 我甚至没有注意到Gelyn,正在离开舞会的我的同伴之一,来到了我们的身后。显然我低声说出了“美极了”这个词,因为我听到Betaniqi像在数里之外的回应,“是的,它美极了。这是我怕把它暴露在元素之中的原因。” 然后我听到了,如石头击破水面般清晰,Gelyn说:“Mara保佑我。那一定就是Palla。” “那你一定听说过我母亲了?”Betaniqi问,转向他。 “我来自Wayrest,事实上就在落锤城的边缘上。我不认为有谁没听说过你母亲和她伟大的英雄事迹,从那片土地上祛除了这只可怕的怪兽。她在那场战斗中死去了,是吗?” “是的,”女孩悲哀地说,“但是那只怪物也是。” 一时间,我们都沉默了。我不记得那晚上还发生了什么。但是我知道我被邀请第二天晚上来用餐,但是我的头脑和心灵都完全地、永远地被那雕像占领了。我回到工会,但我梦狂热,令我无眠。一切一切都仿佛被白光分散,仅有一位美丽的而又令人敬畏的女子例外。Palla。

卷二

Palla。Pal La。这个名字在我心中燃烧。我察觉我在学习中低声说着这个名字,甚至在我尝试专注老师说的话时。我的嘴唇会默默地噘起发出“Pal”音,舌头轻轻地弹起形成“La”音,仿佛我正在亲吻在我面前她的灵魂。一切一切都很疯狂,除了我知道这是疯狂之外。我知道我恋爱了。我知道她是个高贵的红衣护卫女子,一个比星辰还亮丽的勇猛战士。我知道她年轻的女儿Betaniqi拥有一座靠近工会的庄园,还有她喜欢我,或许甚至热恋着我。我知道Palla和一只可怕的怪兽战斗并杀死了它。我知道Palla死了。

如我所说,我知道这是疯狂,由此可见,我知道我并没有疯。但是我也知道我必须回到Betaniqi的宫殿,去见我心爱的Palla和怪兽最终的可怕致命战斗的雕像。 我的确回去了,一次又一次。如果Betaniqi是另一种贵族女子,更愿意与她的同等阶级相处,我就不会有这么多机会了。由于她的天真无邪,没察觉到我病态的妄想,她欢迎我的陪伴。我们会聊上数小时,笑着,而每一次我们都会去反射池散步,我会在她母亲雕像之前屏息停下。 “你们有着不可思议的传统,将祖先们以最好状态保存下来,”我说,感到她好奇的眼睛注视着我。“工艺真是无以伦比。” “你不会相信我的,”女孩大笑,“但是当我曾祖父开始这项传统时,是有点耻辱的。我们红衣守卫对家族抱有极大尊敬,但是我们是战士,不是艺术家。他雇了一个旅行艺术家来制作第一批雕塑,每个人都赞美着它们——直到他们得知作者是个精灵。一个来自夏终群岛的高精灵。” “耻辱!” “是的,绝对是。”Betaniqi严肃地点头。“这些高贵的红衣守卫战士雕像出自自负的邪恶精灵手里,是不可想象的、亵渎的、不敬的,一切你能想象的坏的。但是我曾祖父一心都在它的美丽上,而他用最好的来荣耀最好的人的哲学遗传到我们上。我不会考虑让一个差劲的艺术家来制造我父母的雕像,尽管那可能更合我族文化。”

“它们都棒极了。”我说。

“但是你最喜欢我母亲的,”她微笑着说,“我看见你看着它,尽管你看上去在看别的雕像。这也是我的最爱。”

“你愿意告诉我更多关于她的事吗?”我问,试着保持轻快的谈话语调。

“哦,她会说她自己没什么特别的,但是她确实是,”女孩说,一边从花园里摘下一朵花。“我父亲在我很年轻的时候去世了,她必须填补很多角色,但是她毫不费力地做到了全部。我们有着很多生意,而她聪颖地一一打理。比我现在强多了。只需她一个微笑,所有人都会服从,甚至是那些薪水微薄的。她是那么的机智迷人,当需要她去战斗时却又是一个可畏的战士。成百上千场战役,我却从未有一刻感到被忽视或是不被爱。我真真切切地认为她坚强到不会死去。愚蠢,我知道,但是当她去和那个可怕的怪物、那个从疯狂巫师的实验室出来的怪胎搏斗时,我从没想过她不会回来。她对朋友友善可亲,对敌人毫无怜悯。还有什么可以形容这样一位女子?”

可怜的Betaniqi眼里充满了怀念的泪水。为了满足我扭曲的渴望,竟然如此驱使她,我是怎样一个坏人啊?Sheogorath折磨我甚于任何凡人。我发现自己落泪的同时充满着欲望。Palla看起来不但像个女神,而且从她女儿的故事看来,她确实是一个。

那天晚上脱衣就寝的时候,我重新发现了几周前从Tendixus老师办公室偷来的黑碟子。几乎遗忘它的存在,那个神秘的、法师相信可以复活逝去的爱人的通灵术物品。凭着本能,我把碟子放在心口,轻语“Palla”。

刹那间寒意充满我的房间。我呼出的气在消散前凝结成雾。惊恐之中我弄掉了碟子。我过了一会才回过神来,并得出了唯一的结论:这个物品可以达成我的愿望。

直到清早时分,我一直尝试将我的女士从湮灭地狱的枷锁中拯救出来,但是没有用。我不是通灵术士。我考虑过怎么让老师来帮我,但是我记起Ilther老师吩咐让我销毁它。如果我去他们那儿,我会被逐出工会,而他们则会毁掉碟子。这样的话,唯一将我的爱人带回身边的关键就会无存。

第二天课上,我处于与往常一样的半迟钝状态。Ilther老师教授着他的专长,附魔学派。他是个带着单调声音的无趣讲师,但突然间仿佛所有阴影都离开了房间,而我到了光的殿堂。

“当大多数人想到我的学科时,他们想到的是一个创造的过程。将魔法和符咒灌注于物体中。像是魔法刀刃、戒指的制造。但是一个熟练的附魔师同时也是一个催化剂。创作新物品的理念也可以唤起旧物品中的更大力量。在初学者手里的一个产生温暖的戒指,在有才之士手中可以将一片森林烧至焦黑。”胖男人咯咯笑着,“我不是提倡这样做,把这个留给毁灭学派吧。”

那个星期所有新入会者要选择一个专长领域。所有人都诧异于我背离了我的旧情人——幻术学派。我竟然对如此肤浅的咒语产生过感情,真是荒诞可笑。我所有的智慧现在都集中在附魔学派上,藉此我可以释放出碟子的力量。

接下来的几个月里,我几乎没有睡觉。每个星期,我会花数小时陪伴Betaniqi和我的雕像,以给我力量与灵感。我剩余的时间都用在跟Ilther老师或他助手学习我能学习到的关于附魔的一切。他们教会了我如何品尝物品中储藏的最深层魔力。

“一个简单的咒语施放一次,无论多么熟练、多么壮观,都是短暂的、当前的、无法延续的,”Ilther老师叹息,“但是一旦给它一个家,它会发展为一个活着的能量,生长成熟以致于当生手使用时,只有它的表面被触碰。你必须视自己为矿工,深挖直到金子中心。”

每夜实验室关闭后,我练习我学到的。我感觉到我的力量在增强,碟子的力量也是。轻语“Palla”,我钻研着这个物品,触摸着咒文的每一个刻痕,宝石的每一个琢面。有几次我是那么地接近她,我觉得有手碰触我手。但是有些黑暗和残忍的东西,我认为是死亡的实体,总会划破我梦想的黎明。伴随这个是让人无法忍受的腐臭,我隔壁房间的新入会者开始对此抱怨。

“肯定是有什么爬进地板之后死掉了。”我蹩脚地解释。

Ilther老师赞扬我的学术成就,允许我在开放时间之后继续使用实验室学习。但是无论我怎样学习,Palla丝毫没有显得接近些。在一个晚上,一切结束了。我在深深的入神中摇摆,吟唱着她的名字,碟子擦淤了我的胸膛,这时一个霹雳越窗打破了我的专心。狂怒的暴风雨在Mir Corrup上咆哮。我关上百叶窗,回到桌子时,我发现碟子破碎了。

我爆发出歇斯底里的啜泣,转而大笑。对我易碎的心智来说,经过长时间研究后这样的损失实在是太大了。之后两天里,我呆在床上,于高热中燃烧。若是我不在有着众多治疗师的法师工会里,我很可能早就死了。事实上,我给成长中的年轻学者们提供了绝佳的研究案例。

到我恢复到能走路的时候,我去了探访Betaniqi。她一如既往的迷人,也不对我可怕的外表做出评论。最后我给了她担忧的理由——当我礼貌地却坚决地拒绝伴她沿着反射池散步时。

“但是你爱看雕像啊,”她惊叫着。

我感到我欠她一个真相,还有更多。“亲爱的女士,我爱的不只是这个雕像。我爱上了你的母亲。她是我这几个月来朝思暮想的全部,自你我揭开这神佑的雕像起。我不知你现在如何看待我,但是我一直着迷于研究如何将她从死亡中带回。”

Betaniqi瞪着我,眼睛圆睁。最后她发话了:“我认为你现在必须离开了。我不知道这是否是个糟糕的笑话…”

“相信我,我希望它是。你知道吗,我失败了。我不知道为什么。这不可能是我的爱不够强烈,因为没有人会有更浓的爱意。可能是我作为附魔师的技艺不够精湛,但不是因为缺乏学习!”我感觉到我的音调升起,知道我开始咆哮,但是我无法控制。“可能错在你母亲从未与我谋面,但是我认为只有施法者的爱在通灵术咒语中生效。我不知道错在哪里!可能是那个可怖的怪物,那个杀死她的怪物,用它最后一口气对她施放了某种诅咒!我失败了!我不知道为什么!”

用着以这么纤细女子所能使出的令人惊讶的速度和力气,Betaniqi将我推开。她尖叫着,“滚出去!”我穿门逃出。

在她轰然关门之前,我做出可悲的道歉:“对不起,Betaniqi,可是看在我想将你母亲带回你身边的份上。这很疯狂,我知道,但是我生命中只有一件事是确切无疑的,那就是我爱Palla。”

门几乎合上了,但是女孩颤抖地开回一个缝,“你爱谁?”

“Palla!”我对众神喊叫着。

“我母亲,”她生气地低声说,“名乃Xarlys。Palla是那只怪物。”

连Mara 都不晓得我盯着紧闭的门盯了多久,最终我开始了走回法师工会的长路。我的记忆在长久以前Tales and Tallows之夜的琐事中搜索,当我首次凝视雕像,还有首次听到我爱人名字的一刻。那个Breton新入会者,Gelyn说的。他在我的后面。他认出的难道是怪兽而不是女士?

我转向与Mir Corrup外围相交的孤寂弯路,然而一个巨大的阴影从它本来坐着的地面上升起,等待着我。

“Palla,”我呻吟着,“Pal La。”

“亲吻我”,它嚎叫着。

这就将我的故事带到了当前一瞬。爱乃鲜红,若血一般。

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Palla, volume 1
by Vojne Mierstyyd
A conjurer's tragic infatuation with a dead woman (volume 1 of 2)

 Palla. Pal La. I remember when I first heard that name, not long ago at all. It was at a Tales and Tallows ball at a very fine estate west of Mir Corrup, to which I and my fellow Mages Guild initiates had found ourselves unexpectedly invited. Truth be told, we needn't have been too surprised. There were very few other noble families in Mir Corrup -- the region had its halcyon days as a resort for the wealthy far back in the 2nd era -- and on reflection, it was only appropriate to have sorcerers and wizards present at a supernatural holiday. Not that we were anything more exotic than students at a small, nonexclusive charterhouse of the Guild, but like I said, there was a paucity of other choices available.
For close to a year, the only home I had known was the rather ramshackle if sprawling grounds of the Mir Corrup Mages Guild. My only companions were my fellow initiates, most of which only tolerated me, and the masters, whose bitterness at being at a backwater Guild prompted never-ending abuse.
Immediately the School of Illusion had attracted me. The Magister who taught us recognized me as an apt pupil who loved not only the spells of the science but their philosophical underpinnings. There was something about the idea of warping the imperceptible energies of light, sound, and mind that appealed to my nature. Not for me the flashy schools of destruction and alteration, the holy schools of restoration and conjuration, the practical schools of alchemy and enchantment, or the chaotic school of mysticism. No, I was never so pleased as to take an ordinary object and by a little magic make it seem something other than what it was.
It would have taken more imagination than I had to apply that philosophy to my monotonous life. After the morning's lessons, we were assigned tasks before our evening classes. Mine had been to clean out the study of a recently deceased resident of the Guild, and categorize his clutter of spellbooks, charms, and incunabula.
It was a lonely and tedious appointment. Magister Tendixus was an inveterate collector of worthless junk, but I was reprimanded any time I threw something away of the least possible value. Gradually I learned enough to deliver each of his belongings to the appropriate department: potions of healing to the Magisters of Restoration, books on physical phenomena to the Magisters of Alteration, herbs and minerals to the Alchemists, and soulgems and bound items to the Enchanters. After one delivery to the Enchanters, I was leaving with my customary lack of appreciation, when Magister Ilther called me back.
"Boy," said the portly old man, handing me back one item. "Destroy this."
It was a small black disc covered with runes with a ring of red-orange gems like bones circling its periphery.
"I'm sorry, Magister," I stammered. "I thought it was something you'd be interested in."
"Take it to the great flame and destroy it," he barked, turning his back on me. "You never brought it here."
My interest was piqued, because I knew the only thing that would make him react in such a way.Necromancy. I went back to Magister Tendixus's chamber and poured [sic] through his notes, looking for any reference to the disc. Unfortunately, most of the notes had been written in a strange code that I was powerless to decipher. I was so fascinated by the mystery that I nearly arrived late for my evening class in Enchantment, taught by Magister Ilther himself.
For the next several weeks, I divided my time categorizing the general debris and making my deliveries, and researching the disc. I came to understand that my instinct was correct: the disc was a genuine necromantic artifact. Though I couldn't understand most of the Magister's notes, I determined that he thought it to be a means of resurrecting a loved one from the grave.
Sadly, the time came when the chamber had been categorized and cleared, and I was given another assignment, assisting in the stables of the Guild's menagerie. At least finally I was working with some of my fellow initiates and had the opportunity of meeting the common folk and nobles who came to the Guild on various errands. Thus was I employed when we were all invited to the Tales and Tallows ball.
If the expected glamour of the evening were not enough, our hostess was reputed to be young, rich, unmarried orphan from Hammerfell. Only a month or two before had she moved to our desolate, wooded corner of the Imperial Province to reclaim an old family manorhouse and grounds. The initiates at the Guild gossiped like old women about the mysterious young lady's past, what had happened to her parents, why she had left or been driven from her homeland. Her name was Betaniqi, and that was all we knew.
We wore our robes of initiation with pride as we arrived for the ball. At the enormous marble foyer, a servant announced each of our names as if we were royalty, and we strutted into the midst of the revelers with great puffery. Of course, we were then promptly ignored by one and all. In essence, we were unimportant figures to lend some thickness to the ball. Background characters.
The important people pushed through us with perfect politeness. There was old Lady Schaudirra discussing diplomatic appointments to Balmora with the Duke of Rimfarlin. An orc warlord entertained a giggling princess with tales of rape and pillage. Three of the Guild Magisters worried with three painfully thin noble spinsters about the haunting of Daggerfall. Intrigues at the Imperial and various royal courts were analyzed, gently mocked, fretted over, toasted, dismissed, evaluated, mitigated, admonished, subverted. No one looked our way even when we were right next to them. It was as if my skill at illusion had somehow rendered us all invisible.
I took my flagon out to the terrace. The moons were doubled, equally luminous in the sky and in the enormous reflecting pool that stretched out into the garden. The white marble statuary lining the sides of the pool caught the fiery glow and seemed to burn like torches in the night. The sight was so otherworldly that I was mesmerized by it, and the strange Redguard figures immortalized in stone. Our hostess had made her home there so recently that some of the sculptures were still wrapped in sheets that billowed and swayed in the gentle breeze. I don't know how long I stared before I realized I wasn't alone.
She was so small and so dark, not only in her skin but in her clothing, that I nearly took her for a shadow. When she turned to me, I saw that she was very beautiful and young, not more than seventeen.
"Are you our hostess?" I finally asked.
"Yes," she smiled, blushing. "But I'm ashamed to admit that I'm very bad at it. I should be inside with my new neighbors, but I think we have very little in common."
"It's been made abundantly clear that they hope I have nothing in common with them either," I laughed. "When I'm a little higher than an initiate in the Mages Guild, they might see me as more of an equal."
"I don't understand the concept of equality in Cyrodiil yet," she frowned. "In my culture, you proved your worth, not just expected it. My parents both were great warriors, as I hope to be."
Her eyes went out to the lawn, to the statues.
"Do the sculptures represent your parents?"
"That's my father Pariom there," she said gesturing to a life-sized representation of a massively built man, unashamedly naked, gripping another warrior by the throat and preparing to decapitate him with an outstretched blade. It was clearly a realistic depiction. Pariom's face was plain, even slightly ugly with a low forehead, a mass of tangled hair, stubble on his cheeks. Even a slight gap in his teeth, which no sculptor would surely have invented except to do justice to his model's true idiosyncrasies.
"And your mother?" I asked, pointing to a nearby statue of a proud, rather squat warrior woman in a mantilla and scarf, holding a child.
"Oh no," she laughed. "That was my uncle's old nurse. Mother's statue still has a sheet over it."
I don't know what prompted me to insist that we unveil the statue that she pointed to. In all likelihood, it was nothing but fate, and a selfish desire to continue the conversation. I was afraid that if I did not give her a project, she would feel the need to return to the party, and I would be alone again. At first she was reluctant. She had not yet made up her mind whether the statues would suffer in the wet, sometimes cold Cyrodilic climate. Perhaps all should be covered, she reasoned. It may be that she was merely making conversation, and was reluctant as I was to end the stand-off and be that much closer to having to return to the party.
In a few minutes time, we tore the tarp from the statue of Betaniqi's mother. That is when my life changed forevermore.
She was an untamed spirit of nature, screaming in a struggle with a misshapen monstrous figure in black marble. Her gorgeous, long fingers were raking across the creature's face. The monster's talons gripped her right breast in a sort of caress that prefaces a mortal wound. Its legs and hers wound around one another in a battle that was a dance. I felt annihilated. This lithe but formidable woman was beautiful beyond all superficial standards. Whoever had sculpted it had somehow captured not only a face and figure of a goddess, but her power and will. She was both tragic and triumphant. I fell instantly and fatally in love with her.
I had not even noticed when Gelyn, one of my fellow initiates who was leaving the party, came up behind us. Apparently I had whispered the word "magnificent," because I heard Betaniqi reply as if miles away, "Yes, it is magnificent. That's why I was afraid of exposing it to the elements."
Then I heard, clearly, like a stone breaking water, Gelyn: "Mara preserve me. That must be Palla."
"Then you heard of my mother?" asked Betaniqi, turning his way.
"I hail from Wayrest, practically on the border to Hammerfell. I don't think there's anyone who hasn't heard of your mother and her great heroism, ridding the land of that abominable beast. She died in that struggle, didn't she?"
"Yes," said the girl sadly. "But so too did the creature."
For a moment, we were all silent. I don't remember anything more of that night. Somehow I knew I was invited to dine the next evening, but my mind and heart had been entirely and forever more arrested by the statue. I returned back to the Guild, but my dreams were fevered and brought me no rest. Everything seemed diffused by white light, except for one beautiful, fearsome woman. Palla.          

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Palla, volume 2
by Vojne Mierstyyd
A conjurer's tragic infatuation with a dead woman (volume 2 of 2)

 Palla. Pal La. The name burned in my heart. I found myself whispering it in my studies even when I tried to concentrate on something the Magister was saying. My lips would silently purse to voice the "Pal," and tongue lightly flick to form the "La" as if I were kissing her spirit before me. It was madness in every way except that I knew that it was madness. I knew I was in love. I knew she was a noble Redguard woman, a fierce warrior more beautiful than the stars. I knew her young daughter Betaniqi had taken possession of a manorhouse near the Guild, and that she liked me, perhaps was even infatuated. I knew Palla had fought a terrible beast and killed it. I knew Palla was dead.
As I say, I knew it was madness, and by that, I knew I could not be mad. But I also knew that I must return to Betaniqi's palace to see her statue of my beloved Palla engaged in that final, horrible, fatal battle with the monster.
Return I did, over and over again. Had Betaniqi been a different sort of noblewoman, more comfortable with her peers, I would not have had so many opportunities. In her innocence, unaware of my sick obsession, she welcomed my company. We would talk for hours, laughing, and every time we would take a walk to the reflecting pond where I would always stop breathless before the sculpture of her mother.
"It's a marvelous tradition you have, preserving these figures of your ancestors at their finest moments," I said, feeling her curious eyes on me. "And the craftsmanship is without parallel."
"You wouldn't believe me," laughed the girl. "But it was a bit of scandal when my great grandfather began the custom. We Redguards hold a great reverence for our families, but we are warriors, not artists. He hired an traveling artist to create the first statues, and everyone admired them until it was revealed that the artist was an elf. An Altmer from the Summerset Isle."
"Scandal!"
"It was, absolutely," Betaniqi nodded seriously. "The idea that a pompous, wicked elf's hands had formed these figures of noble Redguard warriors was unthinkable, profane, irreverent, everything bad you can imagine. But my great grandfather's heart was in the beauty of it, and his philosophy of using the best to honor the best passed down to us all. I would not have even considered having a lesser artist create the statues of my parents, even if it would have been more allegiant to my culture."
"They're all exquisite," I said.
"But you like the one of my mother most of all," she smiled. "I see you look at it even when you seem to be looking at the others. It's my favorite also."
"Would you tell me more about her?" I asked, trying to keep my voice light and conversational.
"Oh, she would have said she was nothing extraordinary, but she was," the girl said, picking a flower from the garden. "My father died when I was quite young, and she had so many roles to fill, but she did them all effortlessly. We have a great many business interests and she was brilliant at managing everything. Certainly better than I am now. All it took was her smile and everyone obeyed, and those that didn't paid dearly. She was very witty and charming, but a formidable force when the need arose for her to fight. Hundreds of battles, but I can never remember a moment of feeling neglected or unloved. I literally thought she was too strong for death. Stupid, I know, but when she went to battle that -- that horrible creature, that freak from a mad wizard's laboratory, I never even thought she would not return. She was kind to her friends and ruthless to her enemies. What more can one say about a woman than that?"
Poor Betaniqi's eyes teared up with remembrance. What sort of villain was I to goad her so, in order to satisfy my perverted longings? Sheogorath could never have conflicted a mortal man more than me. I found myself both weeping and filled with desire. Palla not only looked like a goddess, but from her daughter's story, she was one.
That night while undressing for bed, I rediscovered the black disc I had stolen from Magister Tendixus's office weeks before. I had half-forgotten about its existence, that mysteriousnecromantic artifact which the mage believed could resurrect a dead love. Almost by pure instinct, I found myself placing the disc on my heart and whispering, "Palla."
A momentary chill filled my chamber. My breath hung in the air in a mist before dissipating. Frightened I dropped the disc. It took a moment before my reason returned, and with it the inescapable conclusion: the artifact could fulfill my desire.
Until the early morning hours, I tried to raise my mistress from the chains of Oblivion, but it was no use. I was no necromancer. I entertained thoughts of how to ask one of the Magisters to help me, but I remembered how Magister Ilther had bid me to destroy it. They would expel me from the Guild if I went to them and destroy the disc themselves. And with it, my only key to bringing my love to me.
I was in my usual semi-torpid condition the next day in classes. Magister Ilther himself was lecturing on his specialty, the School of Enchantment. He was a dull speaker with a monotone voice, but suddenly I felt as if every shadow had left the room and I was in a palace of light.
"When most persons think of my particular science, they think of the process of invention. The infusing of charms and spells into objects. The creation of a magickal blade, perhaps, or a ring. But the skilled enchanter is also a catalyst. The same mind that can create something new can also provoke greater power from something old. A ring that can generate warmth for a novice, on the hand of such a talent can bake a forest black." The fat man chuckled: "Not that I'm advocating that. Leave that for the School of Destruction."
That week all the initiates were asked to choose a field of specialization. All were surprised when I turned my back on my old darling, the School of Illusion. It seemed ridiculous to me that I had ever entertained an affection for such superficial charms. All my intellect was now focused on the School of Enchantment, the means by which I could free the power of the disc.
For months thereafter, I barely slept. A few hours a week, I'd spend with Betaniqi and my statue to give myself strength and inspiration. All the rest of my time was spent with Magister Ilther or his assistants, learning everything I could about enchantment. They taught me how to taste the deepest levels of magicka within a stored object.
"A simple spell cast once, no matter how skillfully and no matter how spectacularly, is ephemeral, of the present, what it is and no more," sighed Magister Ilther. "But placed in a home, it develops into an almost living energy, maturing and ripening so only its surface is touched when an unskilled hand wields it. You must consider yourself a miner, digging deeper to pull forth the very heart of gold."
Every night when the laboratory closed, I practiced what I had learned. I could feel my power grow and with it, the power of the disc. Whispering "Palla," I delved into the artifact, feeling every slight nick that marked the runes and every facet of the gemstones. At times I was so close to her, I felt hands touching mine. But something dark and bestial, the reality of death I suppose, would always break across the dawning of my dream. With it came an overwhelming rotting odor, which the initiates in the chambers next to mine began to complain about.
"Something must have crawled into the floorboards and died," I offered lamely.
Magister Ilther praised my scholarship, and allowed me the use of his laboratory after hours to further my studies. Yet no matter what I learned, Palla seemed scarcely closer. One night, it all ended. I was swaying in a deep ecstasy, moaning her name, the disc bruising my chest, when a sudden lightning flash through the window broke my concentration. A tempest of furious rain roared over Mir Corrup. I went to close the shutters, and when I returned to my table, I found that the disc had shattered.
I broke into hysterical sobs and then laughter. It was too much for my fragile mind to bear such a loss after so much time and study. The next day and the day after, I spent in my bed, burning with a fever. Had I not been a [sic] Mages Guild with so many healers, I likely would have died. As it was, I provided an excellent study for the budding young scholars.
When at last I was well enough to walk, I went to visit Betaniqi. She was charming as always, never once commenting on my appearance, which must have been ghastly. Finally I gave her reason to worry when I politely but firmly declined to walk with her along the reflecting pool.
"But you love looking at the statuary," she exclaimed.
I felt that I owed her the truth and much more. "Dear lady, I love more than the statuary. I love your mother. She is all I've been able to think about for months now, ever since you and I first removed the tarp from that blessed sculpture. I don't know what you think of me now, but I have been obsessed with learning how to bring her back from the dead."
Betaniqi stared at me, eyes wide. Finally she spoke: "I think you need to leave now. I don't know if this is a terrible jest --"
"Believe me, I wish it were. You see, I failed. I don't know why. It could not have been that my love wasn't strong enough, because no man had a stronger love. Perhaps my skills as an enchanter are not masterful, but it wasn't from lack of study!" I could feel my voice rise and knew I was beginning to rant, but I could not hold back. "Perhaps the fault lay in that your mother never met me, but I think that only the caster's love is taken into account in the necromantic spell. I don't know what it was! Maybe that horrible creature, the monster that killed her, cast some sort of curse on her with its dying breath! I failed! And I don't know why!"
With a surprising burst of speed and strength for so small a lady, Betaniqi shoved herself against me. She screamed, “Get out!” and I fled out the door.
Before she slammed the door shut, I offered my pathetic apologies: "I'm so sorry, Betaniqi, but consider that I wanted to bring your mother back to you. It's madness, I know, but there is only one thing that's certain in my life and that's that I love Palla."
The door was nearly shut, but the girl opened it crack to ask tremulously: "You love whom?"
"Palla!" I cried to the Gods.
"My mother," she whispered angrily. "Was named Xarlys. Palla was the monster."
I stared at the closed door for Mara knows how much time, and then began the long walk back to the Mages Guild. My memory searched through the minutiae to the Tales and Tallows night so long ago when I first beheld the statue, and first heard the name of my love. That Breton initiate, Gelyn had spoken. He was behind me. Was he recognizing the beast and not the lady?
I turned the lonely bend that intersected with the outskirts of Mir Corrup, and a large shadow rose from the ground where it had been sitting, waiting for me.
"Palla," I groaned. "Pal La."
"Kiss me," it howled.
And that brings my story up to the present moment. Love is red, like blood.

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