Saint_Jiub wrote:A brief history of the early Alessian dynasty focusing on Belharza the Man-Bull, son of Alessia. Keen eyes will observe that this account differs from Infragris's history, as depicted in Ami-El the Horn Knife. I wasn't cool enough to include an apocrypha disclaimer at the front of mine, but yeah, it's supposed to be contradictory and complementary with his work. Anyway, enjoy.THE BELHARZARETA
Book I: Belharza the Child
In those days, of course, it was uncommon among the Nedic tribesmen for a male to achieve any notoriety out of the arena of combat. If he wore silks, they were woven in rings of enchantment to ward off spear and arrow; if rubies glittered at his throat, they were arrayed there by a foeman’s heart as it pounded its last frantic tattoo through iron-scarred veins. In those days, a man's hands were for plows and swords, not scrolls nor sceptres. And so it was that when Belharza was born, the unhappy product of a convenient marriage, blessed Al-Esh permitted his father, who had served her well during her rebellion, to spirit him away back to the North. Perhaps, in her mercy, she thought it a kindness, a chance to win honor upon the battlefields of Skyrim, and avoid the diplomatic pitfalls of an arena that would never welcome him. Mayhap she dreamed he would be a mercenary captain or general in the service of the High King, leading a skvadron of Nord screamers all the way to Sovngarde's gate.
But it was not to be, for his father was a troubled and paranoid man with a great many enemies both real and perceived. He kept his prize locked away in a cold fortress of wood and earth against the time when the warlord might press a claim to the Ruby Throne and sweep aside the frail woman who played at Empire there. Thus for eight years Belharza grew in isolation, thin and sickly, spoiled and sheltered, unaware of the royal blood which coursed like fire through him and sung yearning for conquest. At night, he dreamed of bleached towers reaching for the sky like mammoth-bones, webs of beaded silk criss-crossing the avenues dotted with rice-paper lanterns, and above all, a faceless woman with kind hands and a soft voice, breast aglow in sanguine royalty.
But when he asked his father about these dreams and inquired after his mother, the warlord laughed and told him his mother was a pox-ridden camp follower who had given up her only son for a horn of ale and a sack of iron coins. With his liar’s tongue he poured poisoned words into his son’s cup, and the boy drank obediently until his stomach was full and his heart was empty. And so Belharza put no more stock in these dragon’s dreams, and resigned himself to be married off to one of the daughters of his father’s thanes, as was the custom in those days for the marsh-lendrs of Hjaal. And in this darkness his only companions were his father’s sworn men, hoary weepers whose lowborn breath stank of wasabi and blood.
Book II: Belharza the Man-Bull
On the eve of his ninth name-day, Belharza grew bold, and in his boldness formed a plan that would forever alter his destiny. It was customary in those days of totem-worship for gifts to be exchanged on the first nine of a child’s name days – a carving or song in the Year of the Moth, a new sword or fishing-net in the Year of the Whale, and so on.
But on the ninth year, the Year of the Dragon, tradition held that a child might ask for anything at all and receive it, were it in his guardian’s power to grant. So it was that on that fateful morning, Belharza arrayed himself in his finest furs and armor and presented himself before his father to make his demand – freedom to leave the castle as he will.
The warlord, however, was not amused by his child’s bravery, and not to be so easily rid of his trophy. He took up his axe and dragged young Belharza out to the yard, spittle and thu’um fast falling from his thick tongue, demanding that the boy bow down and beg for quarter. and beg forgiveness for his arrogance. But Belharza’s eyes now flared with half-remembered royalty, and he would not bend nor break before such a man as this But as the Nord readied his weapon over the boy’s neck, as Belharza's honored ancestors smiled down, a shadow fell over the castle and a glorious trumpeting broke through the morning mist. A great golden form crashed down between the boy and his father, and with gore-painted horns ended the warlord’s schemes and ambitions in one august instant.
With fiery eyes, Morihaus (for indeed it was he) looked over the boy, starved for love and honor, and thus spake; “YOU ARE NO CHILD OF MINE OWN, YOU PALE-FACED BETRAYAL OF STAR-CROSSED LOVE. BUT I SMELL SOMETHING ABOUT YOU STILL, LIKE A DAWN-STREAKED DREAM OF BLOODY CRUSADE AND RESPLENDENT PASSION. YOU ARE ONLY MAN, AND I HAVE BUT A BULL’S WIT, BUT PERHAPS I CAN HELP YOU BECOME MORE THAN YOU SEEM.” And Morihaus touched his snout to the boy’s forehead, and Belharza cried out as a bull’s horns sprouted from his temples. Morihaus looked over this work with satisfaction, and snorted, “THOUGH YOU HAVE KNOWN NO LIFE BUT THIS ONE, ‘TIS CLEAR TO ME THAT YOU ARE INDEED YOUR MOTHER’S SON, FIRST OF THE ALESSIANS. SEEK OUT YOUR HALF-BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN THE HIGH LONELY PLACES OF ALD CYROD, SHOULD YOU SEEK TO CLAIM YOUR BIRTHRIGHT.” And with a stroke of his wings Morihaus disappeared into the sky, and the marcher lords looked upon this in wonder and from the timbers of the castle built shrines upon the ground where the Breath-of-Kyne had walked in taurine nobility.
Book III: Belharza the Conquerer
It would be another fourteen years before Morihaus’s seeds, once planted, would come to bear fruit. In this time, young Belharza made his journey south to the highlands of Colovia, as the winged bull had suggested. He wintered first with the Shatterstones of ‘kreath, who taught him the art of cliff-striding in search of salt and tender greens. He then spent a year with the Ebonjaws of the lower Jeralls, who showed him how to lock horns and wrestle with other males to win territory and mates, and gave him a gold nose-ring as a clan gift when he left them. On and on this went, until he had visited all sixteen of the mountain clans. And when he had visited all of them and they had sworn fealty to him, he assembled them upon the high plateau which would later become famous under the name Sancre Tor (though none yet living knew that name). The Man-Bull taught his brothers at arms in the Nordic tradition and assembled them into ten cohorts of fighting bulls. And when his legion was ready, he marched them south along the red road, toward Nibennium and his destiny. He was twenty-three years old.
When at last Belharza set foot on the vine-crossed avenues of the Imperial City, he did so in grand fashion – flanked by his taurifer standard-bearers and highland war-bards bellowing his epitaphs to the heavens – and his enemies could not help but take notice. Of these, there were three, false friends and advisors to the throne who in Alessia’s wake had divided the capitol among themselves and waged secret war against one another in the dark places of the city. The first and greatest among them was Clydaea, the witch-woman of kothri who with a fistful of poisoned pomegranate seeds had brought the Niben tribes to heel. After her was Ozyranduil, formerly squire to the Unfeathered and now self-declared Lord of the Wheel-within-Wheels, raised high by Auroran realpolitik. The third of these pretenders was Skjor Iron-Tongue, whose enemies laughed and called him the Bearded Imga in their tavern conclaves for his airs of Colovian refinement.
Belharza was of the male species, and his wit was not much improved by the gift of Morihaus in any case, and he longed to storm the city and take it in blood and fire. But even he could see the folly of such an action when his enemies were so well entrenched. Thus, instead of scouts or assassins, he sent envoys, one to the gardens and one to the temples and one to the bloodworks with gifts and letters. He enticed his foes with words of reverence and whispers of surrender, and led each to believe he was theirs alone. But when all three gathered under the shadow of White-Gold, they realized their doom. They called for their guards, but Belharza’s soldiers guarded all entrances and would brook no interference on this night. The Man-Bull stepped forward then with a gift for each – a horned helm of steel, in the Nordic fashion of those days. Then he explained the game, and thus spoke: “Before you, at the gates and on the walls, stand the true heirs of the Paravant, though the laws of man and mer prevent any from taking their rightful place within these halls. Still, if we cannot crown a bull, we will at least settle this matter like bulls. Don your armor, friends, and lock horns with me if you can.”
When dawn broke over the city, the people saw the three pretenders with their broken skulls and all their fruitless schemes pooling between the tiles of the courtyard. And when Belharza emerged on his balcony, the Chim-el Adabal radiating dragonsfire from his breast, they knew their King had come at last.
Book IV: Belharza the Virgin King
During the first months of the Man-Bull’s reign, there was peace and happiness throughout his empire. But as time went by, the people grew uneasy, and began to stir and mutter amongst themselves. They said to each other, “King Belharza is a fine warrior, but this arrangement of his is unnatural. The gods in their wisdom did not see fit to shape man for rule; see how he grows restless at peace, and even now stands atop his palace each morning rattling his spear in the direction of Alinor. We cannot allow this man to undo the good works of blessed Al-Esh: Belharza must be wed!” And they went to the King with their worries, but Belharza just laughed and said to them, “Put your minds at rest, my friends. I have already joined myself in marriage to a wife, and she is the Empire of Cyrodiil.” And he would hear no more from them, for he knew that to marry would be to forfeit his hold on the Amulet of Kings and the Ruby Throne.
His vassals were not so easily dissuaded, though. Throughout his reign, Belharza endured pressure from all quarters to find a wife and restore the natural order of things. The wise women of the jungle tribes would visit on occasion with grim portents, warning of doom for himself and his kingdom. The warlords of the west told him that honor could only be found on the battlefield – there was no glory to be won sitting on a throne. His minotaurs remained silent, for their loyalty was to the Man-Bull alone and they cared little for the bleating of the no-horns of his court.
Though he would occasionally attempt to placate his counselors by feasting the daughters of jarls and silklords, sending them home with gold and land and titles, Belharza’s energies were largely spent on the administration of his kingdom. Bringing the new Colovian city-states into his empire, both through diplomacy, which the Westerners spat at, and warfare, which they could respect and honor. Treating with his Ayleid vassals, and relieving the tensions of their new lives side by side with former slaves. Most importantly, fending off the carrion birds already flocking at his borders. He knew, though his subjects may not, that the position of Cyrodiil in the Starry-Heart was a precarious one, with the elves of the west crying for blood at the diaspora of their heartland cousins, and the men of the north positioning themselves for conquest, should he prove an easy quarry. Many a night was spent locked in his bedchambers with the young battlemage Hathna, the king’s closest friend and advisor, poring over maps and treaties. Oft would they both emerge from his quarters in the light of dawn, glistening with sweat and clothing disheveled from the passion of their arguments. The two men became inseparable – and rumors soon abounded about the handsome, raven-haired tribesman of the Niben whom the king depended upon so. His people smiled at these rumors though, and said wonderingly to one another, “Surely two kings must be equal to a queen. See how Cyrod has prospered these past years?”
Book V: Belharza the Godmaker
By virtue of their close bond, it was expected by many that, without a natural child, Belharza would name Hathna his heir apparent. If indeed that was the Man-Bull’s thinking, it sadly was never to be. In the thirty-third year of Belharza’s reign, while on a diplomatic mission to the fledgling kingdom of Anvil, Hathna was caught in an ambush by elven devils and laid low by their sorcery. When news of the murder reached the palace, Belharza grew wroth, and in his fury gored a trio of ministers and had a score of visiting diplomats put to the sword before a score of his minotaurs could restrain him. By day’s end, three offers of submission and a dozen declarations of war had been laid at his feet. It would be years before his kingdom would recover from this blow, but the Man-Bull himself never would.
In the years that followed, the king’s brooding seemed to infect the very air of the Imperial Palace, filling his councilors with unease and misery as storm clouds gathered around the spire of White-Gold. Belharza’s passion and easy confidence had been replaced by a gloomy countenance and wrathful disposition, and the palace servants murmured that the Emperor was never more than arm’s reach from a flagon of Colovian red or a tray of Anequina moon-sweets. Any talk of fellowship with the Ayleids was silenced, and their ambassadors and diplomats who were not executed outright on suspicion of treason were quietly exiled to their homes outside the city. The Emperor’s loathing for the devils that had brought down his most trusted advisor seemed to be the only thing that still seemed to animated his corpse – pale and wan, he resembled more a draugr of the northlands, drained of all blood and vitality, than the gleaming warrior who had first strode under the Dragon Gate all those years ago. Taxes went uncollected, treaties were left unsigned, and the jungle took back the roads that had so carefully been carved through the jungle, veins to the beating heart of the Imperial City. The Empire so carefully won by Alessia was dying, and none could see a way to save it.
Things progressed in this way for some time, until one day, word reached the king’s ears of a young seer who was gaining popularity amongst the lower classes, a beastman who claimed insight from divine Alessia herself, and spoke with fire in his tone at the treachery and low cunning of the mer. This was enough to rouse Belharza from his stupor, and on the 9th of Second Seed, he granted an audience to the strange, solemn prophet to hear his message. On that day, even the minotaurs could not help but snort and shake their horns at the stunted, hairy creature kneeling before the Ruby Throne with his strange, halting speech, but as he spoke, a spark long-forgotten was seen to flare in the Emperor’s eyes. The prophet, who called himself Marukh, preached throughout the night, ranting of the ineffable, alien god whom mortals unknowingly worshipped through the veneration of their god-animals and patron spirits, and whom the elves, twisted and monstrous beneath their golden beauty, despised above all. On and on he spoke in this fashion, until the moons rose and fell and the sun broke over the horizon. When the ape’s sermon had concluded, a resounding silence filled the hall. For a long time, Belharza said nothing, but stared at the Imga with a strange, unfamiliar look on his face. Finally, the Man-Bull raised his right hand and beckoned to his side, to the spot where fair Hathna had stood those years before and which had been barren ever since.
That same morning, as the sun crowned the tower of White-Gold, the Emperor appeared on his balcony flanked by the Prophet and eight of his acolytes, and thus spoke;
“I have heard your stirrings these past years. You think me a fool, unfit for this throne and this Empire. You rend your clothes and gnash your teeth, cursing yourselves that you entrusted your Cyrodiil to a man such as me. Well, perhaps you are right.
“For an Emperor must be righteous above all, yes? I am the rightful ruler of this realm, by birth and conquest. None can dispute my claim. But I have served you ill, because I was not a righteous man. But perhaps my heirs will do better.
“You have troubled yourselves overmuch over the issue of the succession. Allow me to put your minds at ease. As I have told you many a time, Cyrodiil herself is my lady wife; thusly, all who live and love within her borders must be my natural children. But how to determine the succession? How else than by Virtue? Let the most righteous, most just, most pure among you step forward into the light of the One, that you may be weighed by His most faithful servants. May the most deserving among you be the one to guide Cyrodiil out of this darkness borne of my misery, and into a glorious new dawn!
“Blessings upon the Marukhati! Glory and honor unto the One!
As his words reverberated across the square, the people erupted in cheers. At the back of the crowd, an orphan waif named Ami-El smiled, and clutched a tattered scrap of red silk to her breast.
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