A Psijic’s Measure: Haven

PM01

When desperation gives way to surrender, a door opens for grace.

I have been saved countless times, and on some golden occasions, I have saved others.

I met a woman who had become a blood fiend. She rued the lives she’d drained, in her blind raptures, and so, in a sober moment, she swallowed cold poison and died, before she could harm another.

I came upon a village where all had been turned to stone, save one: the mage. His spell hardened flesh, calcified pulse between the heartbeats. Fear drives one to strange measures. But it was his spell, too, which had first rendered savage the wolves and bears. Grief raises unsuspected monsters.

Some say rescue follows brave acts. But I know, the bravest act is to turn within, to face the knife of grief, to feel the snap of fear. In the alchemy of mind and flesh, transforming panic to breath to calm to peace: that is where true magic resides.

The mage in the stone village lost a son in battle. If he could harness the energy within this earth, surely he could raise his son! But when we turn from pain, monsters escape the cracks.

We had to kill many beasts before we could close the rifts. When all was done, and the villagers’ hearts began to pound again, they shouted for justice.

“Kill the mage!” they yelled.

“I deserve to die,” he said, and through his eyes, his son’s glance shone back. He wept. The sun shot rays of gold.

“No one will die,” I replied. “He turned you to stone to save you from the beasts. The savage ones are gone now. You’re safe, as you are. No one need pay more.”

The mage looked in my eyes. “A psijic’s measure,” he said. “Kindness. Mercy. Courage.”

The hardest courage is that which opens the path for kindness, for that’s the courage of setting down armor and walking through fire, ice, arrows, and spears, right into the battleground of pain and fear: unarmed, protected with only the openness of the heart. Mercy requires the greatest bravery.

But that’s the path that Meridia lays down.

After our parents were killed by maormer, my sister, Twig, and I stowed away on a Khajiit trading ship, leaving Grahtwood for Auridon. Our parents had moved to Haven, emigrating from Elden Root when I was just a baby, years before Twig was born. They abandoned the Green Pact when they became merchants. It was the sweet taste of pumpkin, my mom always said, that drove them to break the vow.

There were times, an orphaned teen beneath Alik’r’s taut skies, when I believed my wanderings to be Y’ffre’s curse, repayment for our parents’ betrayal. But I don’t believe that any longer.

If one lives long enough, one finds curses turn into blessings.

I sit now, an old mystic, in the wild meadow by my cottage outside of Haven’s walls. I hear the gull call. The evening wind carries memories of battle cries and mourners’ sobs, mothers’ songs and reapers’ chants, a Khajiit’s prayer and an Argonian’s meditation. When I am especially still, I catch the scent of cherry blossoms from Artaeum.

We ended up on Vulkhel Guard, my sister and I, after the ship landed to unload. I found an empty barn near the docks, and we slept in the hay. Only two days later, she was gone. I returned from scavenging food, and the barn was empty, and the old Khajiit on the dock told me Argonians carried her off to their ship.

Thus began my peregrine life: What started as a search became a pilgrimage.

What if you woke one morning to find that every choice you had made and would make, all that had happened, and all that would happen, including getting lost and getting found and finding others and losing them, the deaths of those you love and even your own death, what if it all had significance and meaning? What if, after all, everything really was all right?


Author’s notes: I’ve been immersed in Elder Scrolls Online. What began as WTF, what even IS this game, and how come there’s so much killing! has become an enchantment with rich lore, landscapes, stories, and worlds and a delight in the ethical considerations of the game. Right now, this game is filling a niche for me. The in-game quests can happen so quickly, even when I play solo and read everything, so I often don’t have time to process and internalize the story. That’s what A Psijic’s Measure is for: It’s a chance for me to engage fully with the stories, characters, and worlds of Elder Scrolls Online.

As such, it’s fanfic: The world-building, many of the characters, and many of the plots come directly from the game. There will be loads of spoilers in every chapter–gamers beware! If you play the game, I hope you enjoy an internalized, reflective look at a sojourner’s life in Tamriel. If you don’t play, I hope you enjoy this story of a wood elf who wanders far from home.

Next >>

Vampire Code: Direct Line

The Third Movement of New World Symphony

vc201

“It’s done!” Brennan said.

“It’s complete? Congratulations!” Cathy replied.

vc212

For the past three years, Brennan Stuckey had been in charge of the Loogaroo Express, a new line of Five-World Rails, connecting a remote village in the Windenburg Alps to the greater San Myshuno megalopolis.

During the span of this project, the Stuckey-Tea family had grown. The baby was born from love, for in spite of differences, spats, and separate living arrangements, affection between Brennan and Cathy endured.

Their twins, Florinda and Sparkroot, embraced the idea of being the big siblings when Mom explained why her belly was so huge.

vc216

Cathy sought the usual blessings from Sugar, onezero, and Jacklyn, the three wise women who were sure to bring every child safely into the world.

“It’s a boy!” predicted Sugar.

vc217

“He’s a wild one,” said onezero.

vc215

“What will you name him?” asked Jacklyn.

“Rocket,” said Cathy.

“Rocket?”

vc214

Cathy nodded towards the spaceship in corner of their lot, and Jacklyn, perceiving her meaning, blushed.

“Well, it beats Closet!” laughed Jacklyn.

“Or Shower!” said Cathy.

“Bush!” They both collapsed in laughter.

“Speaking of Bush!” screamed Cathy. “Oh, my bladder!”

Rocket, indeed a wild child, learned to walk before he could crawl.

vc220

His big sister, Florinda, loved him, for she could tell him all her stories, and sometimes, he even sat still to listen.

vc222

And his big brother, Sparkroot, doted on him. They played together for hours each day.

vc221

The family felt complete, even though Brennan still lived in his own antiseptic house in another town.

The kids rarely saw their father, but it hardly mattered, for their little home on the hill in Windenburg nestled into its own little world.

Brennan called when he felt like it, took his wife on dates at the conjuncts of his free time and her inclination, and boasted of his A-student children and precocious toddler.

vc202

“I want Sparkroot to go with me on the inaugural train,” Brennan said.

“What about Flor?” Cathy asked.

vc213

“Erm, no,” replied Brennan. “It’s not a place for women or girls. I won’t have you going there, ever, and not my daughter, either. And, by the way, did you plant that garlic like I asked?”

She had.

“In a circle around the home?” He inquired.

“In a circle, just like you said.” Some of Brennan’s commands, Cathy followed, if they seemed like fun to her. And planting garlic was definitely fun. Others, like where she could go and when she could go there, she let dangle through the air, until the vibrations of his voice faded, and with them, any remnants of command. She may have married the devil, but she certainly didn’t need to obey his dictates.

“Right. So have the boy ready at noon,” Brennan said.

“The boy? You mean our son?”

“Exactly,” said Brennan. “My firstborn.”

“Well,” she said, “technically Florinda was born first.”

They hung up before an argument could ensue.

vc203


The moment Sparkroot stepped off the train, all the excitement of the speeding scenery, the steaming cup of hot chocolate, the leather smell of fancy seats, and the funny, bouncing, zipping, electric sensation of movement on a fast rail, evaporated.

Sparkroot didn’t feel so good.

vc204

“I don’t like it here, Ada,” he stated.

“What don’t you like? History? Culture? Tradition? The old ways? What’s with you, boy?”

But a giant black slug was squeezing Sparkroot’s stomach and badgers were gnawing his heart.

“It doesn’t feel good,” he said.

vc205

“Nonsense,” replied Brennan.

They walked around the central square, Brennan pointing out the historical features, and Sparkroot holding his stomach and counting backwards from a hundred to keep from crying.

“Everyone here works for me,” Brennan said.

“Really?”

“Well, not technically. But they all work for who I work for, and I’m his right-hand man, so, in practice, yes. When you’re the boss’s Second-in-Command, everyone who works for the boss, works for you.”

Somehow, that news made the badger gnaw harder and the slug squeeze tighter.

When they arrived back where they started, Brennan said, “I’ve got to see a man.”

“What for?”

“Work.”

“Do I come with you?” Sparkroot asked.

“No, boy,” said Brennan. “You wait here.”

“It’s dark,” said Sparkroot.

“There are streetlamps,” said Brennan. “If you get bored, play chess.” He pointed at the chess tables standing in the courtyard.

“When will you be back?” Sparkroot asked.

“When I am.”

His father headed up the cobbled path through the drooping forest.

Sparkroot looked down the empty streets.

vc206

He sang the alphabet backwards. He named every color he could think of. Magenta. Puce. Marine. Indigo. Azure. Cerulean. Aqua-verdigo-chartreuse-rose-violet-sienna-umber-purple: which was probably just another word for black.

He rattled off every word he could think of for light: Brightness; Shiny; Sparkly; Spark; lumen-something; Glowy; Blazing; Bright White; Sunshine.

His stomach started to feel a little bit better.

Since his dad still hadn’t returned, he set out after him. It was getting late.

vc207

I can do this! He thought. The street lights glimmered hopefully. He raised his chin, whistled, and marched. I’m a soldier in the Light Brigade!

vc208

The path stretched forever into darkness. The drooping trees gave way to barren branches. The lights became sparse.

His legs grew heavy, and the slug tightened its hold, and the badger began to gnaw again.

At this time of evening, back home, Mom would be reading Rocket his bed-time story. Florinda would sit outside the room, with the door open, pretending to do her homework, while really listening to “The Tale of Benjamin Bunny.”

Oh, if only he were home right now!

vc209

He passed a lone street lamp. Instead of cheering him, the faint glow filled him with dread. He could barely look where it shone, for mists covered a field of tombstones.

vc210

When at last he did look up, two burning eyes bore down on him. A creature arced his wings and opened a fanged mouth.

vc211

When the monster hissed, Sparkroot turned and ran as fast as he could all the way back to the town square.

He hopped on the first train and texted his father.

tk trn home. Am OK. Bye.

<< Previous Chapter | Next Chapter >>