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【书籍搬运】The Real Barenziah, v2 真实的巴兰兹雅,卷2

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原文地址:http://www.uesp.net/wiki/Skyrim:The_Real_Barenziah,_v2

全文翻译:

真实的巴兰兹雅

——无名氏

第2卷

巴兰兹雅与斯特劳在裂谷城的贫民区找了间便宜旅店,几乎住满了整个冬天。知道万一在干零活的时候被抓定然是大麻烦,巴兰兹雅决定加入盗贼公会。一天在酒场里她和一名人尽皆知的公会成员对上了眼,那是一个名叫瑟里斯的虎人,年纪轻轻而且胆大包天。为了让他成为自己的入会担保人,她打算献出自己的身体。他仔细打量了她一番,邪魅一笑欣然同意,但又补充说她必须先进行入会仪式。

“什么仪式?”

“啊,甜心。”瑟里斯说,“道上规矩是先付款再提货。”

[依神殿之命令,此段未通过审查,做消音处理。]

斯特劳一定会宰了她,连同瑟里斯一起宰掉也说不定。她究竟是中了什么邪才会干出这种事情?她忧心忡忡地扫视大厅,其他顾客早已失去兴趣,各办各事去了。这群人她一个也不认识,这里也不是她和斯特劳暂住的旅店。如果走运的话,斯特劳可能要很晚才能,甚至就从来不会,察觉到究竟发生了什么。

=========

迄今为止,瑟里斯是她见过的最刺激也最有魅力的男人。他不止告诉她盗贼公会会员需要什么技巧,还手把手对她进行训练,或者至少,他会把能提供训练的人介绍给她。

这些人中有个女人稍微懂些魔法。卡提莎是个丰满又庄重的诺德人,她嫁了一个铁匠,有两个十来岁的孩子,看上去平平常常,值得尊重——除了她爱猫如狂(并且,出于逻辑关联,其中也包括猫的类人对应品,也就是虎人),在某些特定魔法上极富天分,而且会结交很古怪的朋友。她教会巴兰兹雅使用隐身术,并指导她如何潜行与变装。卡提莎的魔法天赋和非魔法天赋混在一起,彼此互相促进。虽然她并非盗贼工会会员,却对瑟里斯有种近似母爱的情感。巴兰兹雅对她极为热诚,她还不曾对其他任何女人如此友善过。短短几周之后,她就把自己的情况尽数告知了卡提莎。

有时她也会把斯特劳带去。斯特劳挺喜欢卡提莎,但并不喜欢瑟里斯。瑟里斯却觉得斯特劳“挺有意思”,提议巴兰兹雅玩一玩他说的一种“三人群戏”。

“绝对不行。”巴兰兹雅拒绝得异常坚定,心里却多少感激起瑟里斯总算不是公开谈论起这个话题,“他不会干的,我也绝不干。”

瑟里斯露出其迷人的猫式三角微笑,在椅子上大大伸了个懒腰,舒展四肢,卷起尾巴。“这种可远远超过你的想象,超过你们俩的。成对多无聊啊。”

巴兰兹雅对其怒目而视。

“甜心,要是你不愿带上你的亲亲乡巴佬,我可以再找个朋友咱们干一场。”

“抱歉,我就是没兴趣。你要是觉得我这人没趣,那就和你朋友一起去找其他人。”她现在可是进行完入会仪式,成为盗贼公会的正式会员了。虽然瑟里斯还有用,但他已经不再是必需品。也许她终究也对他有些厌倦了。

========

她向卡提莎提到自己和男人相处的问题,或者说,至少那些她觉得是自身问题的部分。卡提莎摇了摇头,告诉她说她正在寻找的是爱而不是性;一旦真命天子出现她立刻就能认出来,可这个人既不是斯特劳也不是瑟里斯。

巴兰兹雅略显滑稽地歪了歪脑袋。“他们说黑精灵的女人很是风——风——是什么来着?风月?”她自己也拿不准。

“你是指风骚。当然了,我估计有些人最终跑去风月场了。”卡提莎补充道,“精灵在年少时都追求风骚,但你总能成熟起来的。说不定你现在已经开始变成熟了。”她充满希望地说。她挺喜欢巴兰兹雅,非常喜欢。“你应该去找一些精灵帅小伙。你要再继续这样和人类与虎人混在一起,再有一两次就会发现自己怀孕了。”

想到怀孕,巴兰兹雅不由自主笑了出来。“怀孕挺好的呀。虽然可能会不方便,是吧?婴儿本身就很麻烦,而且我还没有自己的房子。”

“巴莉,你今年多大了?十七?嗯,除非你不幸天生石女,再过一两年你就可以生育了。不过通常精灵要能怀上孩子还要再等许多年,所以就算你继续这些关系应该也不要紧。”

巴兰兹雅却想起了别的事情。“斯特劳打算买座农场,和我结婚。”

“这是你想要的吗?”

“不是。现在还不是,也有未来有一天吧,没错,未来有一天的话。但如果我没成为女王,那就绝对不行,而且不能是随便哪个杂牌女王都成,必须是哀伤要塞的女王。”她坚定地、甚至可以称得上是固执地开口,仿佛此事早已十拿九稳。

卡提莎把最后几句话彻底无视了。她觉得少女的狂想很有趣,将其看成是自己头脑正常工作的标志。“我估计等这个“未来有一天”终于到来,斯特劳也已经是个老头子了。巴莉,精灵的寿命非常长。”卡提莎脸上挂着的是人类想起精灵千年寿命就羡慕与妒忌相混的复杂表情。当然啦,疾病和暴力是造成折寿的主因,几乎没多少人真正活到了那个岁数。但他们有这个能力,而且有一两个确实做到了。

“年纪大的人我同样喜欢。”巴莉反驳道。

卡提莎报之以大笑。

========

瑟里斯在重阅桌上的文件,一如既往地小心谨慎,一丝不苟,仔细把找到的全部问题一 一修正。可不知何故,巴兰兹雅却一直烦躁不安。

他们将要闯入一座贵族的宅邸,斯特劳负责望风。瑟里斯说其实这工作挺简单,但必须严格保密。他不想让其他公会成员参合进来。他说除了巴莉和斯特劳,其他人他谁都信不过。

“告诉我你要找什么,让我放手去干。”巴莉急切低语。瑟里斯的夜视能力并不如她,可他却连一点光亮都不想要,就连巴兰兹雅用魔法弄出的小光球也不成。

她还从未到过如此奢华的地方。就连她的童年之家,斯文伯爵及其夫人英嘉的暗沼堡,与之相比都显得再寒酸不过。他们穿过挂满装饰回音荡漾的楼下大厅时,巴兰兹雅禁不住好奇地东瞅西望。可瑟里斯对这一切都不感兴趣,他的唯一目标就在楼上堆满书的小书房里,就是他面前的这张书桌。

“嘘!”他生气嘶声道。

“有人过来了!”巴莉警告道。她话音刚落房门就被推开,两道暗影走了进来。瑟里斯把她对准来人用力一推,随即就朝窗户跳去。巴兰兹雅全身都僵直了,既不能动弹也不能说话。她无助地看着两名来者中的小个子一下子跳到瑟里斯身后。两道蓝光无声飞快闪过,瑟里斯就被翻转过身,完全动弹不得了。

书房外的整座住宅仿佛顿时活了起来,杂乱脚步飞快,报警人声此起彼伏,就连急速穿戴盔甲的声音都能听得一清二楚。

二人中的大个子从外表看是个黑精灵,他半提半拽地拎起瑟里斯,直接把他摔进赶来的另一个精灵的臂弯里。这个精灵头动了动,命令他的小个子蓝衣同伴跟那些人一道离开。然后他开始从容不迫地研究起巴兰兹雅——她现在又能活动了,可每动一下,她的脉搏都狂跳到像是疯了一样。

“把你的衬衣解开,巴兰兹雅。”精灵说。巴兰兹雅目瞪口呆,连忙把衬衣扯紧了。“你是女孩吧,巴莉?”他柔声问,“早在几个月前你就不该再做男孩打扮了,这只会吸引更多的注意。居然还给自己起名叫‘巴莉’?你的朋友斯特劳有这么蠢吗,竟然连你的名字都记不住?”

“这只是个常见的精灵名字。”巴兰兹雅辩解道。

男人悲伤地摇了摇头。“亲爱的,在黑精灵中间可不是。不过你对黑精灵也没多少了解吧?就算我为此感到后悔,过去的事情也无法改变。无论怎样,我还是试着补偿一下吧。”

“你究竟是谁?”巴兰兹雅问。

“唉,名声总要付出高昂代价。”男人耸耸肩,一脸苦笑,“我是欣玛楚斯,巴兰兹雅小姐。伟大皇帝陛下泰伯·塞普丁一世的帝国军将军。我必须得承认,追你追过整块泰姆瑞尔让我觉得挺愉快的——说得有些夸张了,不过泰姆瑞尔的这片区域也不算小。我猜你肯定是奔向晨风,看来我猜对了。你运气不错,白漫城的一具尸体挂上了斯特劳的名字,所以我们在那里稍微多花了点时间。是我太不谨慎了,不过我也没想到你们的关系能持续这么久。”

“他在哪里?你们把他怎么样了?”她问,颤抖的声音可不是装出来的。

“啊,他好得很,至少目前如此。当然了,在我们的控制之下。”他转向她,“你……还挺关心他的?”他突然盯住她,眼神里充满了好奇。出自一双血红色眼睛的好奇,除去镜中所见自己的倒影,巴兰兹雅觉得这看上去怪怪的。

“他是我的朋友。”她的回答在自己耳中听来都沉闷又绝望。欣玛楚斯,帝国军将军,这还不算完——据说他是泰伯·塞普丁的朋友,他说的话在皇帝耳朵里很有分量。

“唉。你有几个朋友和你并不相称——如果我冒犯了还请你原谅,小姐。”

“不要再这么称呼我!”她被将军话语里的讽刺气息激怒了。可对此将军却回以微笑。

他们在这边交谈的工夫,房子里的忙乱嘈杂也逐渐平息了。她还能听见人声窃窃私语,大概是出自宅邸的住民。可高个子精灵却毫不客气地靠着桌角,神情闲适,仿佛在这里多呆一阵也算不了什么。

随后她想到,“几个并不相称的朋友”,他好像是这么说的?这个人对她的底细一清二楚!至少他知道得足够多,加在一起也就变成了真相。“你要把他、他们怎么样?又要把我、怎么样?”

“嗯。如你所知,这房子属于本地的帝国军司令。换言之,我就是这里的主人。”巴兰兹雅倒吸一口凉气,引得欣玛楚斯的视线顿时锐利了起来,“怎么,你完全不清楚?啧啧,就算只有十七岁,你也还是太鲁莽了,小姐。无论何时你都要对自己正在做的事情,以及事态可能的如何变化有明确的概念才行。”

“但、但是公会绝……绝不会——”巴兰兹雅全身都在颤抖。盗贼公会绝对不会去招惹帝国条令,没人,至少她没听说过有人,胆敢违抗泰伯·塞普丁。公会里有人把事情搞砸了,搞得一团糟。结果倒霉的变成了她。

“我可不这么觉得。瑟里斯这次行动估计公会并不赞许。实际上,要是我猜得没错——”欣玛楚斯翻找着桌上的文件,最后拉开抽屉抽出一份,取下假底放在桌上。里面是一张是折起来的羊皮纸,好像是不知哪里的地图。巴兰兹雅凑身去看,欣玛楚斯立刻笑着把文件挪出她的视线范围。“真是好鲁莽!”他边说边将文件大致浏览一番,随后就把它重新折好,放回原处。

“你刚才还说我需要踏上追寻智慧之旅。”

“诚然,诚然。”突然间他的幽默感爆发了,“所以小小姐,我们这就要出发了。”

他引领她出门,下楼,走入夜色中的空庭。周围一个人都没有。巴兰兹雅目光死盯着阴影,她在想自己能不能跑得比他更快些,或者至少能不能从他身边逃开。

“你别是想尝试逃跑吧?唉,难道你就不想先听听我打算怎么处置你么?”他的声音听上去有些受伤。

“既然你这么说了——我想听。”

“还是说,你想先知道你的朋友们要被怎么处理?”

“不要。”

看起来这答案让他很满意。很明显这就是他想要听到的回答,巴兰兹雅再清楚不过,但这同时也是她的大实话。她确实担心朋友们的安危,尤其是斯特劳的,但此时她更担心自己的命运如何。

“你将要重拾你的天赋权力,成为哀伤要塞的合法女王。”

=========

欣玛楚斯解释说,这一直是他,也是泰伯·塞普丁,为她制定的最终安排。她离去后,哀伤要塞已经在军事管制下度过了十多年,现今自然会欢迎普通政府的回归——当然,是在帝国的管制下,其身份是帝国省份晨风省的一个区域。

“既然如此,那又为何把我送到暗沼堡去?”巴兰兹雅问,几乎不敢相信刚才所听到的一切。

“当然是出于安全需要。反过来,你又为什么要逃跑呢?”

巴兰兹雅耸了耸肩。“没有留在那里的理由啊。应该有人把来龙去脉都告诉我的。”

“至少你现在都知道了。我本来的任务就是把你接到帝都,让你在皇帝本人身边生活一段日子,结果我们都知道,你那时候已经逃走了。你的命运对你来说,应该,而且早就应该是再明显不过的了。泰伯·塞普丁不会留下那些对他没用的人——你觉得你对他的用处还能是什么呢?”

“我对他一点也不了解,而且,对你也一样。”

“那就把下面这点牢牢记住:泰伯·塞普丁论功行赏,处置敌人也依罪责罚。”

巴兰兹雅花了一段时间来好好品味这句话的深意。“斯特劳一直对我很好,也从没伤害过任何人。他不属于盗贼公会,跟过来只是为了保护我。他靠打零工养活我们两个,而且他……他……”

欣玛楚斯不耐烦地挥挥手打断她的话。“嗯,我对斯特劳的一切都了如指掌。”他说,“对瑟里斯也同样。”他颇有深意地盯住她,“所以呢?你要怎么样?”

她深吸一口气。“斯特劳想要一座小农场。如果我有钱了,我想要给他买一座。”

“好吧。”她的回答似乎先让他大吃一惊,随后又为之欣慰,“成交,他会有一座农场。瑟里斯呢?”

“他背叛了我。”巴兰兹雅冷冷地回答。瑟里斯应该提前告诉他这工作会带来多大的风险。而且,他为了自保,直接把她推进了敌人的怀抱。这种人才不配获得奖励。而且,实话实说,完全不能信任。

“没错。所以?”

“嗯,他应该为此付出代价,没错吧?”

“合情合理。他要付出怎样的代价?”

巴兰兹雅把手握成拳头。她本来想亲手把虎人狠狠揍上一顿,但考虑到目前事态的变化,那样做太不女王了。“用鞭子狠狠抽他一顿,呃……二十下是不是有点多了?我不想抽残了他,就想给他一个教训。”

“嗯,当然。”听完她的要求,欣玛楚斯咧嘴而笑。然后他突然挺直腰板,表情也变得严肃起来。“如您所愿,哀伤要塞的巴兰兹雅女王陛下。”随后他朝她深鞠一躬,仪态庄重,完美得一塌糊涂。

巴兰兹雅的心尖颤了一下。

========

她在欣玛楚斯的房子里住了两天,其间一直忙碌不堪。一个名叫德莱丽安的黑精灵女子负责照料她的起居,但从她可以与他们列席共餐来看,她并不是这里的仆人。她似乎也不是欣玛楚斯的妻子或者情人,巴兰兹雅为此询问她的时候德莱丽安似乎被逗乐了。她简单解释说自己只是将军的雇员,依照命令行事而已。

在德莱丽安的安排下,她有了几身新礼服和新鞋子,还有一套骑装与靴子,外加其它的小配件。巴兰兹雅也有了自己的房间。

欣玛楚斯经常外出不在。大部分就餐时间他都能赶回来,但他基本上既不谈论自己,也不谈论自己都在忙些什么。他既和善又礼貌,对大多数其他话题都有问必答,而且无论她说些什么,他都似乎很感兴趣。德莱丽安也是如此。巴兰兹雅觉得他们都是不错的人,但基本上,如果用卡提莎的话来讲,“难于了解”。对此她总觉得稍稍失望。他们是她第一次亲密接触的黑精灵,她原本以为和他们在一起会感到舒心,会找到家的感觉,会觉得自己就是他们的一分子。但现在她发现自己更想念的是诺德朋友,卡提莎与斯特劳。

当欣玛楚斯告诉她明日便将开赴帝都,她询问自己能否同他们告别。

“卡提莎吗?”他问,“嗯,不过……我想我欠她的。是她告诉我说有一个孤单的黑精灵姑娘名叫巴莉,她需要精灵朋友,有时候打扮得像个男孩——这才让我找到了你。看上去她并不是盗贼公会的成员,而公会成员里面除了瑟里斯倒也没人知道你的真实身份。这样倒是很不错,我不希望公众都知道你曾经加入过盗贼公会。这件事情请不要同任何人讲,陛下。如此经历对帝国的女王来讲……并不适合。”

“除了斯特劳和瑟里斯,不会有其他人知道的。他们不会讲出去的。”

“没错。”他笑得稍显古怪,“没错,他们不会。”

看来他并不知道卡提莎知道她的身份,但他似乎还是话里有话……

在他们临行的清晨斯特劳来到了他们的住所。大厅里就剩下了他们两个,但巴兰兹雅知道隔墙有耳。他表情扭曲,面色苍白。他们安静地拥抱了几分钟,斯特劳肩膀颤抖,泪流满面,可他一个字也不说。

巴兰兹雅想笑一笑。“结果我们都得到我们想要的了,嗯?我将成为哀伤要塞的女王,而你将成为自己农场的主人。”她握住他的手,向他露出温暖而真挚的微笑,“我会给你写信的,斯特劳,我向你保证。你一定要雇一个文书,这样你就能回信给我。”

斯特劳悲伤地摇了摇头。巴兰兹雅还在坚持,他只好张开嘴,指了指里面,发出含糊的噪音。她这才明白到底出了什么问题。他的舌头不见了,被彻底割掉了。

巴兰兹雅一头倒在椅子里,号啕大哭。

=======

“可是为什么啊?”斯特劳被送走后她质问欣玛楚斯,“为什么?”

欣玛楚斯只是轻轻耸肩。“他知道得太多了,这让他是个危险。不过至少他还活着,而且养猪或者干其他什么的时候,他也用不到自己的舌头。”

“我恨你!”巴兰兹雅冲他尖叫,却突然弯下身子,直接吐到了地板上。在恶心感不那么剧烈的时候,她继续对他大声辱骂。他面无表情地听着,与此同时德莱丽安帮她收拾干净。最终他告诉她停下,否则在去面见皇帝的一路上他都会塞紧她的嘴巴。

他们出城时在卡提莎家停了一会儿。欣玛楚斯和德莱丽安没有下马。一切看上去都很正常,但巴兰兹雅在敲门时觉得很害怕。卡提莎开了门,巴兰兹雅默默感谢众神至少她还没出事。但卡提莎一直在抽泣。无论如何,她还是热情地拥抱了巴兰兹雅。

“你在哭什么?”巴兰兹雅问道。

“当然是在哭瑟里斯。你没听说吗?天呐,可怜的瑟里斯。他死了。”巴兰兹雅感到冰冷手指爬上了自己的心脏,“他跑去司令家偷东西,被抓了现行。可怜的家伙,做出这种蠢事来。唉,巴莉,就在今天一早司令下了命令,他被溺死了,然后切成了四块!”她又在抽泣了,“我过去了。他说要见我最后一面。太可怕了,他到死前一直在受折磨。我忘不了这场面。我去找你和斯特劳,但没人知道你们跑哪里去了。”她朝巴兰兹雅身后瞅了瞅,“那就是司令吧?欣玛楚斯?”然后卡提莎做出了奇怪的举动。她止住哭,突然露齿而笑。“你知道,一看见他,我就在想,这就是巴兰兹雅的真命天子!”卡提莎拉起围裙擦了擦眼睛,“你知道的,我把你的事告诉他了。”

“没错,”巴兰兹雅答道,“我知道。”她牵起卡提莎的双手,真挚地看着她。“卡提莎,我爱你,我会想你的。但拜托你,绝对不要把关于我的任何事情告诉别人,绝对不要。发誓说你不会这么做,特别是不要告诉欣玛楚斯。还有,帮我照顾斯特劳。答应我。”

卡提莎答应了,虽然迷惑不解却很愿意。“巴莉,不是因为我瑟里斯才被抓的吧?我从来没有对他提到关于瑟里斯的一、一个字。”她又瞅了瞅将军。

巴兰兹雅向她保证,这不是她的错,而是有密探向帝国卫兵透露了瑟里斯的计划。这大概是谎言,不过她知道,卡提莎现在需要的只是一些安慰罢了。

“噢,这真是让我如释重负,如果我现在还能轻松一点的话。我真不愿去想,但谁又有法子呢?”她凑过身,对着巴兰兹雅的耳朵轻声说,“欣玛楚斯很帅气,你觉不觉得?而且很迷人。”

“我还真没看出来。”巴兰兹雅干巴巴地说,“我完全就没从这方面考虑过。其他要考虑的事情太多了。”她匆匆向她解释起自己要成为哀伤要塞的女王,还有要去帝都生活一阵。“他在找我,就这样,依照皇帝的命令。我就是个任务对象,不比……目标高出多少。虽然他说过我看上去不像个男孩,但我估计他从来就没把我当成女人看待。”卡提莎面露怀疑之情,她只好如此补充道。卡提莎知道巴兰兹雅见到每个男人都要从自己想不想要还有要不要得到的角度品评一番,“我估计是我发现自己真的要成为女王这件事闹的。太让人震惊了。”她说,而卡提莎对此表示赞同,没错,虽然她不是亲历者,但这件事确实让人震惊。她微笑了,而巴兰兹雅同她一起微笑。然后她们再次而且是最后一次拥抱,泪水涟涟。从此之后她再也没见到过卡提莎,也没再见过斯特劳。

=======

皇家队伍从南门行出了裂谷城。过城门的时候欣玛楚斯拍了拍她的肩膀,朝门后方向指了指。“我以为您要也要同瑟里斯告别,陛下。”

巴兰兹雅朝城门上方长枪上的脑袋扫了一眼。虽然乌鸦已经开始啄食尸首,那张脸却还能辨识出来。“尽管我很清楚如果他知道我没事会很高兴,但我估计他也听不到我说什么了。”她尽可能放轻松地说,“将军,我们上路吧?”

欣玛楚斯明显对她的缺乏反应感到失望。“好吧。我猜你是从你的朋友卡提莎那里知道的?”

“你猜对了。处刑的时候她就在那里。”巴兰兹雅漫不经心地回答道。就算他还不知道,他也能很快查出端倪,她对此很是肯定。

“那她知道瑟里斯是盗贼公会成员吗?”

她耸耸肩。“每个人都知道。只有像我这样的底层会员身份才是秘密。高层成员都有谁大家都清楚。”她转向他,朝他露出一道大大的微笑,“不过将军你应该什么都知道,不是吗?”她甜甜地问。

他却不为所动。“就是说,你告诉了她你是谁,你从哪里来,却没有提到盗贼公会半个字?”

“我是不是公会成员不是我自己能不能泄密的问题,其他人的身份才是。这里面区别很大。而且卡提莎是个高尚的女人。要是我告诉她我属于公会,她肯定会看轻我。她总是劝说瑟里斯去干些更实诚的工作,她的意见我很重视。”她还给他一道冰冷瞪视,“而且这也不关你的事。你知道她是怎么想的吗?她总觉得我要是和单独一个男人定下来会更幸福。还要是我自己种族的,还要是我自己种族而且各项品性都对头的,还要是我自己种族而且各项品性都对头的而且从不会说错话的。她指的就是你。”她拉住缰绳,准备让马轻松一些——但在此之前还是要话里带刺一下,“有时候挺奇怪的不是吗,明明梦想成真了,但不是通过你希望的方式?或者我要说,偏偏不是以你曾经希望过的方式?”

他的回答让她大吃一惊,就连放慢速度都忘记了。“没错。确实挺奇怪的。”他回答道,而他的腔调与这回答搭配得天衣无缝。然后他就找了个理由,骑到队伍后面去了。

她扬起头,催促马匹向前,希望能表现得不为所动。他的回答让她困扰了?不对,才不是他的回答本身。让她困扰的是他回答的方式。这里面有种说不清道不明的东西,让她觉得她,巴兰兹雅,就是他成真梦想中的一个。虽然这实在过于天方夜谭,但她还是慎重考虑了下。至少他花了好几个月找她,而且最终找到了。这肯定是迫于皇帝的压力。如此一来他确实梦想成真了,没错,一定是这样。

只是很显然,并非完全是通过他喜欢的方式。

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The Real Barenziah, Part 2
by Anonymous
Unauthorized biography of the famous Queen Mother of Morrowind, Volume 2

 Note: This is part of the revised series of books that appeared in MorrowindOblivion, and Skyrim. InDaggerfall, this content appears in The Real Barenziah, Part III and The Real Barenziah, Part IV with some minor modifications. The censored text is included in Part III of the Daggerfall version.
 Barenziah and Straw settled into Rifton for the winter, taking a cheap room in the slummier section of town. Barenziah wanted to join the Thieves Guild, knowing there would be trouble if she were caught freelancing. One day in a barroom she caught the eye of a known member of the Guild, a bold young Khajiit named Therris. She offered to bed him if he would sponsor her membership. He looked her over, grinning, and agreed, but said she'd still have to pass an initiation.
"What sort of initiation?"
"Ah," Therris said. "Pay up first, sweetness."
[This passage has been censored by order of the Temple.]
Straw was going to kill her, and maybe Therris too. What in Tamriel had possessed her to do such a thing? She cast an apprehensive look around the room, but the other patrons had lost interest and gone back to their own business. She did not recognize any of them; this wasn't the inn where she and Straw were staying. With luck it'd be a while, or never, before Straw found out.

***
Therris was by far the most exciting and attractive man she had yet met. He not only told her about the skills she needed to become a member of the Thieves Guild, but also trained her in them himself or else introduced her to people who could.
Among these was a woman who knew something about magic. Katisha was a plump and matronly Nord. She was married to a smith, had two teenage children, and was perfectly ordinary and respectable--except that she was very fond of cats (and by logical inference, their humanoid counterparts the Khajiit), had a talent for certain kinds of magic, and cultivated rather odd friends. She taught Barenziah an invisibility spell and schooled her in other forms of stealth and disguise. Katisha mingled magical and non-magical talents freely, using one set to enhance the other. She was not a member of the Thieves Guild but was fond of Therris in a motherly sort of way. Barenziah warmed to her as she never had toward any woman, and over the next few weeks she told Katisha all about herself.
She brought Straw there too sometimes. Straw approved of Katisha. But not of Therris. Therris found Straw "interesting" and suggested to Barenziah that they arrange what he called a "threesome."
"Absolutely not," Barenziah said firmly, grateful that Therris had broached the subject in private for once. "He wouldn't like it. I wouldn't like it!"
Therris smiled his charming, triangular feline smile and sprawled lazily on his chair, stretching his limbs and curling his tail. "You might be surprised. Both of you. Pairing is so boring."
Barenziah answered him with a glare.
"Or maybe you wouldn't like it with that country bumpkin of yours, sweetness. Would you mind if I brought along another friend?"
"Yes, I would. If you're bored with me, you and your friend can find someone else." She was a member of the Thieves Guild now. She had passed their initiation. She found Therris useful but not essential. Maybe she was a bit bored with him too.

***
She talked to Katisha about her problems with men. Or what she thought of as her problems with men. Katisha shook her head and told her she was looking for love, not sex, that she'd know the right man when she found him, that neither Straw nor Therris was the right one for her.
Barenziah cocked her head to one side quizzically. "They say Dark Elven women are pro-- pro-- something. Prostitutes?" she said, although she was dubious.
"You mean promiscuous. Although some do become prostitutes, I suppose," Katisha said as an afterthought. "Elves are promiscuous when they're young. But you'll outgrow it. Perhaps you're beginning to already," she added hopefully. She liked Barenziah, had grown to be quite fond of her. "You ought to meet some nice Elven boys, though. If you go on keeping company with Khajiits and humans and what have you, you'll find yourself pregnant in next to no time."
Barenziah smiled involuntarily at the thought. "I'd like that. I think. But it would be inconvenient, wouldn't it? Babies are a lot of trouble, and I don't even have my own house yet."
"How old are you, Berry? Seventeen? Well, you've a year or two yet before you're fertile, unless you're very unlucky. Elves don't have children readily with other Elves after that, even, so you'll be all right if you stick with them."
Barenziah remembered something else. "Straw wants to buy a farm and marry me."
"Is that what you want?"
"No. Not yet. Maybe someday. Yes, someday. But not if I can't be queen. And not just any queen. The Queen of Mournhold." She said this determinedly, almost stubbornly, as if to drown out any doubt.
Katisha chose to ignore this last comment. She was amused at the girl's hyperactive imagination, took it as a sign of a well-functioning mind. "I think Straw will be a very old man before 'someday' comes, Berry. Elves live for a very long time." Katisha's face briefly wore the envious, wistful look humans got when contemplating the thousand-year lifespan Elves had been granted by the gods. True, few ever actually lived that long as disease and violence took their respective tolls. But they could. And one or two of them actually did.
"I like old men too," Berry said.
Katisha laughed.

***
Barenziah fidgeted impatiently while Therris sorted through the papers on the desk. He was being meticulous and methodical, carefully replacing everything just as he'd found it.
They'd broken into a nobleman's household, leaving Straw to hover outside as lookout. Therris had said it was a simple job but very hush-hush. He hadn't even wanted to bring any other Guild members along. He said he knew he could trust Berry and Straw, but no one else.
"Tell me what you're looking for and I'll find it," Berry whispered urgently. Therris' night sight wasn't as good as hers and he didn't want her to magick up even a small orb of light.
She had never been in such a luxurious place. Not even the Darkmoor castle of Count Sven and Lady Inga where she had spent her childhood compared to it. She'd gazed around in wonder as they made their way through the ornately decorated and hugely echoing downstairs rooms. But Therris didn't seem interested in anything but the desk in the small book-lined study on the upper floor.
"Sssst," he hissed angrily.
"Someone's coming!" Berry said, a moment before the door opened and two dark figures stepped into the room. Therris gave her a violent shove toward them and sprang to the window. Barenziah's muscles went rigid; she couldn't move or even speak. She watched helplessly as one of the figures, the smaller one, leaped after Therris. There were two quick, silent stabs of blue light, then Therris folded over into a still heap.
Outside the study the house had come alive with hastening footsteps and voices calling out in alarm and the clank of armor hurriedly put on.
The bigger man, a Dark Elf by the looks of him, half-lifted, half-dragged Therris to the door and thrust him into the waiting arms of another Elf. A jerk of the first Elf's head sent his smaller blue-robed companion after them. Then he sauntered over to inspect Barenziah, who was once again able to move although her head throbbed maddeningly when she tried to.
"Open your shirt, Barenziah," the Elf said. Barenziah gawked at him and clutched it closed. "You're a girl, aren't you, Berry?" he said softly. "You should have stopped dressing as a boy months ago, you know. You were only drawing attention to yourself. And calling yourself Berry! Is your friend Straw too stupid to remember anything else?"
"It's a common Elven name," Barenziah defended.
The man shook his head sadly. "Not among Dark Elves it isn't, my dear. But you wouldn't know much about Dark Elves, would you? I regret that, but it couldn't be helped. No matter. I shall try to remedy it."
"Who are you?" Barenziah demanded.
"Ai. So much for fame," the man shrugged, smiling wryly. "I am Symmachus, Milady Barenziah. General Symmachus of His Awesome and Terrible Majesty Tiber Septim I's Imperial Army. And I must say it's a merry chase you've led me throughout Tamriel. Or this part of it, anyway. Although I guessed, and guessed correctly, that you'd head for Morrowind eventually. You had a bit of luck. A body was found in Whiterun that was thought to be Straw's. So we stopped looking for the pair of you. That was careless of me. Yet I'd not have thought you'd have stayed together this long."
"Where is he? Is he all right?" she asked in genuine trepidation.
"Oh, he's fine. For now. In custody, of course." He turned away. "You ... care for him, then?" he said, and then suddenly stared at her with fierce curiosity. Out of red eyes that seemed strange to her, except in her own seldom-seen reflection.
"He's my friend," Barenziah said. The words came out in a tone that sounded dull and hopeless to her own ears. Symmachus! A general in the Imperial Army, no less--said to have the friendship and ears of Tiber Septim himself.
"Ai. You seem to have several unsuitable friends--if you'll forgive my saying so, Milady."
"Stop calling me that." She was irritated at the general's seeming sarcasm. But he only smiled.
As they talked the bustle and flurry in the house died away. Although she could still hear people, presumably the residents, whispering together not far off. The tall Elf perched himself on a corner of the desk. He seemed quite relaxed and prepared to stay awhile.
Then it occurred to her. Several unsuitable friends, had he said? This man knew all about her! Or seemed to know enough, anyway. Which amounted to the same thing. "W-what's going to happen to them? To m-me?"
"Ah. As you know, this house belongs to the commander of the Imperial troops in this area. Which means to say that it belongs to me." Barenziah gasped and Symmachus looked up sharply. "What, you didn't know? Tsk, tsk. Why, you are rash, Milady, even for seventeen. You must always know what it is you do, or get yourself into."
"B-but the G-guild w-wouldn't ... wouldn't h-have--" Barenziah was trembling. The Thieves Guild would never have attempted a mission that crossed Imperial policy. No one dared oppose Tiber Septim, at least no one she knew of. Someone at the Guild had bungled. Badly. And now she was going to pay for it.
"I daresay. It's unlikely that Therris had Guild approval for this. In fact, I wonder--" Symmachus examined the desk carefully, pulling out drawers. He selected one, placed it on top of the desk, and removed a false bottom. There was a folded sheet of parchment inside. It seemed to be a map of some sort. Barenziah edged closer. Symmachus held it away from her, laughing. "Rash indeed!" He glanced it over, then folded and replaced it.
"You advised me a moment ago to seek after knowledge."
"So I did, so I did." Suddenly he seemed to be in high good humor. "We must be going, my dear Lady."
He shepherded her to the door, down the stairs, and out into the night air. No one was about. Barenziah's eyes darted toward the shadows. She wondered if she could outrun him, or elude him somehow.
"You're not thinking of attempting to escape, are you? Ai. Don't you want to hear first what my plans for you are?" She thought that he sounded a bit hurt.
"Now that you mention it--yes."
"Perhaps you'd rather hear about your friends first."
"No."
He looked gratified at this. It was evidently the answer he wanted, thought Barenziah, but it was also the truth. While she was concerned for her friends, especially Straw, she was far more concerned for herself.
"You will take your place as the rightful Queen of Mournhold."

***
Symmachus explained that this had been his, and Tiber Septim's, plan for her all along. That Mournhold, which had been under military rule for the dozen or so years since she had been away, was gradually to be returned to civilian government--under the Empire's guidance, of course, and as part of the Imperial Province of Morrowind.
"But why was I sent to Darkmoor?" Barenziah asked, hardly believing anything she had just been told.
"For safekeeping, naturally. Why did you run away?"
Barenziah shrugged. "I saw no reason to stay. I should have been told."
"You would have been by now. I had in fact sent for you to be removed to the Imperial City to spend some time as part of the Emperor's household. But of course you had, shall we say, absconded by then. As for your destiny, it should be, and should have been, quite obvious to you. Tiber Septim does not keep those he has no use for -- and what else could you be that would be of use to him?"
"I know nothing of him. Nor, for that matter, of you."
"Then know this: Tiber Septim rewards friends and foes alike according to their deserts."
Barenziah chewed on that for a few moments. "Straw has deserved well of me and has never done anyone any harm. He is not a member of the Thieves Guild. He came along to protect me. He earns our keep by running errands, and he ... he ..."
Symmachus waved her impatiently to silence. "Ai. I know all about Straw," he said, "and about Therris." He stared at her intently. "So? What would you?"
She took a deep breath. "Straw wants a little farm. If I'm to be rich, then I would like for one to be given to him."
"Very well." He seemed astonished at this, and then pleased. "Done. He shall have it. And Therris?"
"He betrayed me," Barenziah said coldly. Therris should have told her what risks the job entailed. Besides, he'd pushed her right into their enemies' arms in an attempt to save himself. Not a man to be rewarded. Not, in fact, a man to be trusted.
"Yes. And?"
"Well, he should be made to suffer for it ... shouldn't he?"
"That seems reasonable. What form should said suffering take?"
Barenziah balled her hands into fists. She would've liked to beat and claw at the Khajiit herself. But considering the turn events had taken, that didn't seem very queenly. "A whipping. Er ... would twenty stripes be too many, do you think? I don't want to do him any permanent injury, you understand. Just teach him a lesson."
"Ai. Of course." Symmachus grinned at this. Then his features suddenly set, and became serious. "It shall be done, Your Highness, Milady Queen Barenziah of Mournhold." Then he bowed to her, a sweeping, courtly, ridiculously wonderful bow.
Barenziah's heart leapt.

***
She spent two days at Symmachus' apartment, during which she was kept very busy. There was a Dark Elven woman named Drelliane who saw to her needs, although she did not exactly seem a servant since she took her meals with them. Nor did she seem to be Symmachus' wife, or lover. Drelliane looked amused when Barenziah asked her about it. She simply said she was in the general's employ and did whatever was asked of her.
With Drelliane's assistance, several fine gowns and pairs of shoes were ordered for her, plus a riding habit and boots, along with other small necessities. Barenziah was given a room to herself.
Symmachus was out a great deal. She saw him at most mealtimes, but he said little about himself or what he had been doing. He was cordial and polite, quite willing to converse on most subjects, and seemed interested in anything she had to say. Drelliane was much the same. Barenziah found them pleasant enough, but “hard to get to know,” as Katisha would have put it. She felt an odd twinge of disappointment. These were the first Dark Elves with whom she'd associated closely. She had expected to feel comfortable with them, to feel at last that she belonged somewhere, with somebody, as part of something. Instead she found herself yearning for her Nordic friends, Katisha and Straw.
When Symmachus told her they were to set out for the Imperial City on the morrow, she asked if she could say good-bye to them.
"Katisha?" he asked. "Ai. But then ... I suppose I owe her something. She it was who led me to you by telling me of a lonely Dark Elven girl named Berry who needed Elven friends -- and who sometimes dressed as a boy. She has no association with the Thieves Guild, apparently. And no one associated with the Thieves Guild seems to know your true identity, save Therris. That is well. I prefer that your former Guild membership not be made public knowledge. Please speak of it to no one, Your Highness. Such a past does not ... become an Imperial Queen."
"No one knows but Straw and Therris. And they won't tell anyone."
"No." He smiled a curious little smile. "No, they won't."
He didn't know that Katisha knew, then. But still, there was something about the way he said it ...
Straw came to their apartment on the morning of their departure. They were left alone in the salon, although Barenziah knew that other Elves were within earshot. He looked drawn and pale. They hugged one another silently for a few minutes. Straw's shoulders were shaking and tears were rolling down his cheeks, but he said nothing.
Barenziah tried a smile. "So we both get what we want, eh? I'm to be Queen of Mournhold and you'll be lord of your own farmstead." She took his hand, smiled at him warmly, genuinely. "I'll write you, Straw. I promise. You must find a scribe so you can write me too."
Straw shook his head sadly. When Barenziah persisted, he opened his mouth and pointed at it, making inarticulate noises. Then she realized what it was. His tongue was gone, had been cut off.
Barenziah collapsed onto a chair and wept noisily.

***
"But why?" she demanded of Symmachus when Straw had been ushered away. "Why?"
Symmachus shrugged. "He knows too much. He could be dangerous. At least he's alive, and he won't need his tongue to ... raise pigs or whatever."
"I hate you!" Barenziah screamed at him, then abruptly doubled over and vomited on the floor. She continued to revile him between intermittent bouts of nausea. He listened stolidly for some time while Drelliane cleaned up after her. Finally, he told her to cease or he would gag her for her journey to the Emperor.
They stopped at Katisha's house on their way out of the city. Symmachus and Drelliane didn't dismount. All seemed normal but Barenziah was frightened as she knocked on the door. Katisha answered the knock. Barenziah thanked the gods silently that at least she was all right. But she'd also obviously been weeping. In any case, she embraced Barenziah warmly.
"Why are you crying?" Barenziah asked.
"For Therris, of course. You haven't heard? Oh dear. Poor Therris. He's dead." Barenziah felt icy fingers creeping round her heart. "He was caught stealing from the Commandant's house. Poor fellow, but that was so foolish of him. Oh, Berry, he was drawn and quartered this very dawn by the Commandant's order!" She started to sob. "I went. He asked for me. It was terrible. He suffered so before he died. I'll never forget it. I looked for you and Straw, but no one knew where you'd both gone to." She glanced behind Barenziah. "That's the Commandant, isn't it? Symmachus." Then Katisha did a strange thing. She stopped crying and grinned. "You know, the moment I saw him, I thought, This is the one for Barenziah!" Katisha took a fold of her apron and wiped it across her eyes. "I told him about you, you know."
"Yes," Barenziah said, "I know." She took Katisha's hands in each of hers and looked at her earnestly. "Katisha, I love you. I'm going to miss you. But please don't ever tell anyone else anything about me. Ever. Swear you won't. Especially not to Symmachus. And look after Straw for me. Promise me that."
Katisha promised, puzzled though willing. "Berry, it wasn't somehow because of me that Therris was caught, was it? I never said anything about Therris to ... to ... him." She glanced over at the general.
Barenziah assured her that it wasn't, that an informant had told the Imperial Guard of Therris' plans. Which was probably a lie, but she could see that Katisha plainly needed some kind of comfort.
"Oh, I'm glad of that, if I can be glad of anything just now. I'd hate to think-- But how could I have known?" She leaned over and whispered in Barenziah's ear, "Symmachus is very handsome, don't you think? And so charming."
"I wouldn't know about that," Barenziah said dryly. "I haven't really thought about it. There've been other things to think about." She explained hurriedly about being Queen of Mournhold and going to live in the Imperial City for a while. "He was looking for me, that's all. On orders from the Emperor. I was the object of a quest, nothing more than some sort of... of a... goal. I don't think he thinks of me as a woman at all. He said I didn't look like a boy, though," she added in the face of Katisha's incredulity. Katisha knew that Barenziah evaluated every male she met in terms of sexual desirability, and availability. "I suppose it's the shock of finding out that I really am a queen," she added, and Katisha agreed that yes, that's true, that must've been something of a shock, although one there was no likelihood of her experiencing firsthand. She smiled. Barenziah smiled with her. Then they hugged again, tearfully, for the last time. She never saw Katisha again. Or Straw.

***
The royal party left Rifton by the great southern gate. Once through, Symmachus tapped her shoulder and pointed back at the portals. "I thought you might want to say good-bye to Therris too, Your Highness," he said.
Barenziah stared briefly but steadily at the head impaled on a spike above the gate. The birds had been at it, but the face was still recognizable. "I don't think he'll hear me, although I'm quite sure he'll be pleased to know I'm fine," she said, seeming to sound light. "Let's be on our way, General, shall we?"
Symmachus was clearly disappointed by her lack of reaction. "Ai. You heard of this from your friend Katisha, I suppose?"
"You suppose correctly. She attended the execution," Barenziah said casually. If he didn't know already, he'd find out soon enough, she was sure of that.
"Did she know Therris belonged to the Guild?"
She shrugged. "Everyone knew that. It's only lower-ranking members like me who are supposed to keep their membership secret. The ones higher up are well known." She turned to smile archly at him. "But you must know all that, shouldn't you, General?" she said sweetly.
He seemed unaffected by this. "So you told her who you were and whence you came, but not about the Guild."
"The Guild membership was not my secret to tell. The other was. There's a difference. Besides, Katisha is a very honest woman. Had I told her, it would have lessened me in her eyes. She was always after Therris to take up a more honest line of work. I value her good opinion." She afforded him a glacial stare. "Not that it's any concern of yours, but do you know what else she thought? She also thought I'd be happier if I settled down with just one man. One of my own race. One of my own race with all the right qualities. One of my own race with all the right qualities, who knows to say all the right things. You, in fact." She grabbed the reins preparatory to assuming a brisker pace--but not without sinking one final irresistible barb. "Isn't it odd how wishes come true sometimes--but not in the way you want them to? Or maybe I should say, not in the way you would ever want them to?"
His answer so took her by surprise that she quite forgot about cantering off. "Yes. Very odd," he replied, and his tone matched his words exactly. Then he excused himself and fell behind.
She held her head high and urged her mount onward, trying to look unimpressed. Now what was it about his response that bothered her? Not what he said. No, that wasn't it. But something about the way he said it. Something about it made her think that she, Barenziah, was one of his wishes that had come true. Unlikely as this seemed, she gave it due deliberation. He had found her at last, after months of searching, it seemed, under pressure from the Emperor, no doubt. So his wish had come true. Yes, that must be it.
But in a way, apparently, not altogether to his liking.          

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