Bravil: Daughter of the Niben

Daughter of the Niben

Sathyr Longleat

Bravil is one of the most charming towns in Cyrodiil, sparkling in her simple beauty, illustrious by her past. No visit to the southern part of the Imperial Province is complete without a walk along Bravil’s exciting river port, a talk with her friendly native children, and, of course, in the tradition of the village, a whispered word to the famous statue of the Lucky Old Lady.

Many thousands of years before the arrival of the Atmorans, the native Ayleid people had long lived in the vicinity of modern day Bravil. The Niben then, as now, provided food and transportation, and the village was even more populous than it is today. We are not certain what they called their region: as insular as they were, the word they used would be translated to simply mean “home.” These savage Ayleids were so firmly entrenched that the Bravil region was one of the very last areas to be liberated by the Alessian army in the second century of the 1st era. Though little remains of that era culturally or archeologically, thank Mara, the tales of Debauchery and depravity have entered into the realm of legends.

How the Ayleids were able to survive such a long siege is debated by scholars to this day. All, however, grant the honor of the victory to one of the Empress Alessia’s centurions, a man called Teo Bravillius Tasus, the man for whom the modern town is named.

It was said he invaded the village no less than four times, after heavy resistance, but each time upon the morning dawning, all his soldiery within would be dead, murdered. By the time more centuria had arrived, the fortified town was repopulated with Ayleids. After the second successful invasion, secret underground tunnels were found and filled in, but once again, come morning, the soldiers were again dead, and the citizens had returned. After the third successful siege, legions were posted outside of the town, watching the roads and riverway for signs of attacks, but no one came. The next morning, the bodies of the invading soldiers were thrown from the parapets of town’s walls.

Teo Bravillius Tasus knew that the Ayleids must be hiding themselves somewhere in the town, waiting until nightfall, and then murdering the soldiers while they slept. The question was where. After the fourth invasion, he himself led the soldiers in a thorough inspection of every corner, every shadow. Just as they were ready to give up, the great centurion noticed two curious things. High in the sheer walls of the town, beyond anyone’s ability to climb, there were indentations, narrow platforms. And by the river just inside the town, he discovered a single footprint from someone clearly not wearing the Imperial boot.

The Ayleids, it seemed, had taken two routes to hide themselves. Some had levitated up to the walls and hidden themselves high above, and others had slipped into the river, where they were able to breathe underwater. It was a relatively easy task once the strange elves’ even stranger hiding holes had been discovered to rout them out, and see to it that there were no more midnight assassinations of the Empress’s troops.

It may seem beyond belief that an entire community could be so skilled in these spells hundreds and hundreds of years before the Mages Guild was formed to teach the ways of magicka to the common folk. There does, however, appear to be evidence that, just as the Psijics on the Isle of Artaeum developed Mysticism long before there was a name for it, the even more obscure Ayleids of southern Cyrodiil had developed what was to be known as the school of Alteration. It is not, after all, much of a stretch when one considers that other Ayleids at the time of Bravil’s conquering and even later were shapeshifters. The community of pre-Bravil could not turn into beasts and monsters, but they could alter their bodies to hide themselves away. A related and useful skill, to be sure. But not so effective to save themselves in the end.

Very little is left of the Ayleid presence in Bravil of today, though architectural marvels of other kinds are very evident. As beautiful and arresting as the Benevolence of Mara cathedral and the lord’s palace are, no manmade structure in Bravil is as famous as the statue called The Lucky Old Lady.

The tales about the Lady and who she was are too numerous to list.

It was said she was born the illegitimate daughter of a prostitute in Bravil, certainly an inauspicious beginning to a lucky life. She was teased by the other children, who forever asked her who her father was. Every day, she would run back to her little shack in tears from their cruelty.

One day, a priest of Stendarr came to Bravil to do charitable work. He saw the weeping little girl, and when asked, she told him the cause of her misery: she didn’t know who her father was.

“You have kind eyes and a mouth that tells no lies,” replied the priest after a moment, smiling. “You are clearly a child of Stendarr, the God of Mercy, Charity, and Well-Earned Luck.”

The priest’s thoughtful words changed the girl forever. Whenever she was asked who her father was, she would cheerfully reply, “I am a child of Luck.”

She grew up to be a barmaid, it was said, kind and generous to her customers, frequently allowing them to pay when they were able to. On a particularly rainy night, she gave shelter to a young man dressed in rags, who not only had no money to pay, but was belligerent and rude to her as she fed him and gave him a room. The next morning, he left without so much as a thank you. Her friends and family admonished her, saying that she had to be careful, he might have even been dangerous.

A week later, a royal carriage arrived in Bravil, with an Imperial prince within. Though he was scarcely recognizable, it was the same young man the Lady had helped. He apologized profusely for his appearance and behavior, explaining that he had been kidnapped and cursed by a band of witches, and it wasn’t until later he had returned to his senses. The Lady was showered with riches, which she, of course, generously shared with all the people of Bravil, where she lived to a content old age.

No one knows when the statue to her was erected in the town square, or who the artist was, but it has stood there for thousands of years, since the first era. To this day, visitors and Bravillians alike go to the Lucky Old Lady to ask for her to bless them with luck in their travails.

Just one more charming aspect of the charming, and very lucky village of Bravil.

Breathing Water

He walked through the dry, crowded streets of Bal Fell, glad to be among so many strangers. In the wharfs, he had no such anonymity. There, they knew him to be a smuggler, but here, he could be anyone. A lower-class peddler perhaps. A student even. Some people even pushed against him as he walked past as if to say, “We would not dream of being so rude as to acknowledge that you don’t belong here.”

Seryne Relas was not in any of the taverns, but he knew she was somewhere, perhaps behind a tenement window or poking around in a dunghill for an exotic ingredient for some spell or another. Of the ways of sorceresses, he knew only that they were always doing something eccentric. Because of this prejudice, he nearly passed by the old Dunmer woman having a drink from a well. It was too prosaic, but he knew from the look of her that she was Seryne Relas, the great sorceress.

“I have gold for you,” he said to her back. “If you will teach me the secret of breathing water.”

She turned around, a wide wet grin stretched across her weathered features. “I ain’t breathing it, boy. I’m just having a drink.”

“Don’t mock me,” he said, stiffly. “Either you’re Seryne Relas and you will teach me the spell of breathing water, or you aren’t. Those are the only possibilities.”

“If you’re going to learn to breathe water, you’re going to have to learn there are more possibilities than that, boy. The School of Alteration is all about possibilities, changing patterns, making things be what they could be. Maybe I ain’t Seryne Relas, but I can teach you how to breathe water,” she wiped her mouth dry. “Or maybe I am Seryne Relas and I won’t. Or maybe I can teach you to breathe water, but you can’t learn.”

“I’ll learn,” he said, simply.

“Why don’t you just buy yourself a spell of water breathing or a potion over at the Mages Guild?” she asked. “That’s how it’s generally done.”

“They’re not powerful enough,” he said. “I need to be underwater for a long time. I’m willing to pay whatever you ask, but I don’t want any questions. I was told you could teach me.”

“What’s your name, boy?”

“That’s a question,” he replied. His name was Tharien Winloth, but in the wharfs, they called him the Tollman. His job, such as it was, was collecting a percentage of the loot from the smugglers when they came into harbor to bring to his boss in the Camonna Tong. From that percentage, he earned a smaller percentage. In the end it was very small indeed. He had scarcely any gold of his own, and what he had, he gave to Seryne Relas.

The lessons began that very day. The sorceress brought her pupil out to a low sandbank along the sea.

“I will teach you a powerful spell for breathing water, boy,” she said. “But you must become a master of it. As with all spells and all skills, the more you practice, the better you get. Even that ain’t enough. To achieve true mastery, you must understand what it is you’re doing. It ain’t simply enough to perform a perfect thrust of a blade — you must also know what you are doing and why.”

“That’s common sense,” said Tharien.

“Yes, it is,” said Seryne, closing her eyes. “But the spells of Alteration are all about uncommon sense. The infinite possibilities, breaking the sky, swallowing space, dancing with time, setting ice on fire, believing the unreal may become real. You must learn the rules of the cosmos and break them.”

“That sounds … very difficult,” replied Tharien, trying to keep a straight face.

Seryne pointed to the small silver fish darting along the water’s edge: “They don’t find it so. They breathe water just fine.”

“But that’s not magic.”

“What I’m saying to you, boy, is that it is.”

For several weeks, Seryne drilled her student, and the more he understood about what he was doing and the more he practiced, the longer he could breathe underwater. When he found that he could cast the spell for as long as he needed, he thanked the sorceress and bade her farewell.

“There is one last lesson I have to teach you,” she said. “You must learn that desire is not enough. The world will end your spell no matter how good you are, and no matter how much you want it.”

“That’s a lesson I’m happy not to learn,” he said, and left at once for the short journey back to the wharfs of Tear.

The wharfs (sic) were much the same, with all the same smells, the same sounds, and the same characters. He learned from his mates that the Boss found a new Tollman. They were still looking out for the smuggler ship Morodrung, but they had given up hope of ever seeing it. Tharien knew they would not. He saw it sink in the bay weeks ago. On a moonless night, he cast his spell and dove into the thrashing purple waves. He kept his mind on the world of possibilities, that books could sing, that green was blue, that that water was air, that every stroke and kick brought him closer to a sunken ship filled with treasure. He felt magicka surge all around him as he pushed his way deeper down. Ahead he saw a ghostly shadow of the Morodrung, its mast billowing in a wind of deep-water currents. He also felt his spell begin to fade. He could break reality long enough to breathe water all the way back up to the surface, but not enough to reach the ship.

The next night, he dove again, and this time, the spell was stronger. He could see the vessel in detail, clouded over and dusted in sediment. He saw the wound in its hull where it struck the rocks. A glint of gold beckoned from within. But he felt reality closing in, and he had to surface.

The third night, he made it into the steerage, past the bloated corpses of the sailors, nibbled and picked apart by fish. Their glassy eyes bulging, their mouths stretched open. Had they only known the spell, he thought briefly, but his mind was more occupied by the gold scattered along the floor that spilled from broken chests and sacks. He considered scooping as much he could carry into his pockets, but a sturdy iron box seemed to bespeak more treasures.

On the wall was a row of keys. He took each down and tried it on the locked box, but none opened it. One key, however, was missing. Tharien looked around the room. Where could it be? His eyes went to the corpse of one of the sailors, floating in a dance of death not far from the box, his hands tightly clutching something. It was a key. When the ship had begun to sink, this sailor had evidently gone for the iron box. Whatever was in it had to be very valuable.

Tharien took the sailor’s key and opened the box. It was filled with broken glass. He rummaged around until he felt something solid, and pulled out two flasks of some kind of wine. He smiled as he considered the foolishness of the poor alcoholic. This was what was important to the sailor, out of all the treasure in the Morodrung.

Then, suddenly, Tharien Winloth felt reality.

He had not been paying attention to the grim, tireless advance of the world on his spell. It was fading away, his ability to breathe water. There was no time to surface. There was no time to do anything. As he sucked in, his lungs filled with cold, briney water.

A few days later, the smugglers working on the wharf came upon the drowned body of the former Tollman. Finding a body in the water in Tear was not in itself noteworthy, but the subject that they discussed over many bottles of flin was how it could happen that he drowned with two potions of water breathing in his hands?