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A Close Scrape in Molag Amur


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Hey, everyone. This is just a short little tale I wrote to give one of my current Morrowind characters, a young Redguard woman, some more personality and to stay in tune with the Elder Scrolls universe.



For the first time that week, there was a clear sky above the gray, ashen hills of Molag Amur. Nevertheless, the winds still whipped through the foyadas, kicking up clouds of dust and ash as they went. The scant wildlife wandered the wastes in search of what meager rations they could scrounge up for the day, and the infamous cliff racers continued patrolling the skies to the detriment of everyone unlucky enough to have his travels cross through their territory. The calls of animals and hisses of volcanic steam vents echoed throughout those lava-carved corridors, daring those within to press on.


Although, for the time being in one small pocket of this scarred region, the skies remained unblemished by darting forms of cliff racers, for Elista the Redguard, armed with a hardy steel crossbow and the keen eye to match, had sent them to the earth from afar. Now a few bolts poorer but compensated by her prey's prized plumes, this woman found herself in a most curious situation. The path before her lay halved by a trench dug by a thin river of lava that bottlenecked a little before the path itself. It was a good fifteen-foot drop into a molten grave below, and the lava's gurgling gave it the character of a hungry being pleased to see what could be its latest lunch knelt atop its blackened bank. She was young and ambitious, convinced her youth could conquer any obstacle that had the nerve to block her way. Her strong shoulders hardly minded her bolt quiver and pack, heavy with healing potions, repair equipment, and other sundries, and her left leg barely noticed the heavy crossbow strapped to it. Her silver-plated spear, whose purplish-white glow warned of its electric thrust, made a fantastic walking stick. A netch leather helmet guarded her pretty head, and matching pauldrons led into a pair of strong, brown bearskin gauntlets. A heavier dragonscale cuirass shielded her torso, its gray, stylized spikes wrapping around her buxom chest above a set of molded abdominals. Chitin leg guards and boots guarded her lower body, although she'd have preferred some more resilient footwear had she only the coin. Yet, despite this optimistic mood toward her gear, even this epitome of youthful exuberance balked at the sight of her one shot at crossing such a deadly gap. As such a youngster still unused to the values of magic like levitation and enhanced jumping, Elista found herself asking the same question all like her must ask themselves at such a time. The disconcerted scowl on her face said it all.


Do I really trust this bridge to not drop me to my death? The simple yet heavy question resounded in Elista's mind as she sat on her haunches just before the bridge in question, inspecting the wood and rope with her energetic, walnut-brown eyes. Indeed, it was mere rope bridge complete with supports only at its ends to ensure maximum wobbling during the walk across. The rope looked about as sturdy as any she'd seen on any fixer-upper, and the planks looked worn and rickety enough to be leftovers from some other project years ago. She tested the first plank a few times with her hand, but its creaking hardly helped her pessimism. Muttered curses slipped from her lips every now and then.


She spent an hour debating whether to attempt a crossing or backtrack to Molag Mar. As much as she enjoyed the miniature Vivec's comfort in the midst of such an inhospitable land, she thirsted for adventure somewhere greener and wetter. She'd already tackled the swamps of the Bitter Coast and the wetlands of the Ascadian Isles, so now her sights set on northern Azura's Coast and the Grazelands, both of which awaited beyond the bridge. Her lack of knowledge of the area doomed any thoughts of intricate detours. As far as she knew, this was the only route that didn't run through a gauntlet of lakes and bays infested with smuggler gangs and other nefarious rabble that'd leave her supplies overtaxed long before she reached her destination. All of these thoughts wrestled with each other and Elista's apprehension. Eventually, the lass stood and, with a deep, prayerful sigh, elected to brave the bridge.


Elista lined herself up with the dead center of the bridge to avoid brushing the ropes, and she tested the first few planks several times over before finally committing. As she eased into the tense crossing, petitions for protection flew from her silently working lips to whatever god held her racing mind's attention at that moment. She hoped that if there was only ever one point in her life that warranted patronage from on high, this was it.


True to her fears, the bridge began to sway and creak under her weight as she advanced. By the time she reached the middle, it had taken on a slight waving motion, and Elista kept having to increasingly delicately balance soft and sure steps with abrupt shifts to steady herself. The planks continued their discontented creaks, and the ropes even joined in with stressed grunts. She didn't dare look down, staying focused on the bridge's end. Sweat ran down her face and stung her eyes. Foot by foot, she inched closer to freedom until at last, after what felt like an eternity of walking through those few yards of purgatory, she alighted on the far side. Only the bitter, persistent taste of ash kept her from kissing the solid ground.


Suddenly, Elista felt infinitely lighter as the crushing, life-or-death weight the crossing lifted from her. Her excited breathing began to calm, and she eagerly began distancing herself from the wooden deathtrap. Then, there came a blood-chilling roar that announced her purgatory was not yet over.


She'd been so focused on the end of the bridge during the crossing, that she'd neglected all other surroundings. Now, she found herself the target of an onrushing kagouti come to punish her tunnel vision. Little more than an armored, tusked red head atop a pair of big legs, the creature was all business, and Elista, still quite near the lava river, felt her heart sink at the sight of it.


With no time for her crossbow, she readied her spear and tried to run aside so her back wouldn't be to the lava. To her dismay, the kagouti was too quick and corralled her against the drop-off. It wildly lunged at her with its tusks, trying to gore her or send her sprawling over the edge to her death. She tried to counterattack, but the predator was older and more cautious that most, taking care to dodge the thrusts at its legs and block with its faceplate. Then, she started losing ground.


With the kagouti slowly but surely forcing the desperate woman back toward the edge, it appeared that the gods had just teased her with a safe crossing only to drag her into the lava anyway. However, as a Redguard, she still had one more chance at surviving the ordeal, and it kicked in then. Time slowed down. The kagouti's fast strikes became lethargic haymakers that she easily avoided. Her spear danced through the air as nimbly as a quick little bird, suddenly finding purchase in the kagouti's softer lower body, drawing trickles of blood and shocking the beast's anger to new heights with each hit. Her adrenaline had returned, rushing through her body with the sheer volume and potency that only the Redguards could boast.


In her frantic race to escape the lava, Elista had circled around the kagouti and managed to reverse their positions. It was now her foe's turn to retreat before her onslaught, and for all its rage and toughness, it couldn't withstand her attacks. The kagouti maintained its futile resistance up until got backed up against one of the bridge's supports, where it's head snapped back against the post, causing it to momentarily open its mouth in surprise. Seeing her opportunity, Elista thrust her spear upward into the roof of the beast's mouth, driving its pulsing head through the bone and into the kagouti's brain. The mass of tusks and muscle went limp, now simply a corpse held up by the victorious girl's supercharged arms.


Elista was about to draw back her spear when gravity acted first. The bridge support, unsteadied by the kagouti's impact, had gotten leaned over the trench and had been preparing to fall. At that moment, it abandoned its fastenings and plummeted into the lava below, bringing down a good portion of the bridge with it. The kagouti's body and all the debris landed in the lava with large splashes, lost to Vvardenfell's harsh nature.


The young woman watched the bridge collapse in front of her, and her mind, now tapering off of the adrenaline rush, could muster up just one half-thought that kept repeating itself. If that kagouti had come for me just a minute earlier... She couldn't finish the sentence. She scrambled away from the now bridgeless trench and plopped against a boulder, sucking in huge gulps of air. She cupped her face in her hands and began laughing that joyous, grateful, borderline maniacal laugh of someone who'd narrowly escaped a gruesome, untimely demise. Right then, there was no more wonderful experience in the world than the feeling of her lungs swelling and relaxing as she drew breath, of her heart beating madly as it labored to rush nutrients to her drained limbs, of her mind swimming in an ocean of praises to whatever divine intervention had spared her this day, of still being alive.


An hour or two ticked by as the sun journeyed overhead with Elista still seated there against her boulder. She'd celebrated her survival with an extra ration of nix-hound jerky and water, and she could feel some energy returning to her muscles. She tarried a bit longer, but she ultimately rose and started along the path to northeastern Vvardenfell. Just before she left its sight, she stole one last farewell look at the trench, the remnants of its former bridge no doubt fated to taunt future uninformed travelers with its damaged state. She smirked and shook her head, resolving to be more careful and forethoughtful from there on out. With her jaunty gait, she resumed hauling her fortunate hide along the road, a little less invincible, and a little wiser for it.

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