by Lenloch Velinoth
During the earliest days of the Aldmeri Dominion, the town of Diss had been transformed into the premiere naval base and port known of the Dominion. The wood-warped tower that was the throne of the local Treethane, Treethane Berennor Coristhor, had been made obsolete, as the new, Aldmeri Palace's construction was nearly complete, and the Treethane's role in Diss - reduced to an advisory position. The newly appointed Aldmeri Dominion Regent-King of Diss, Fainertil, had been preparing to make sweeping changes following the construction of his palace, but first, as the Altmer gleefully demanded, a ball shall be thrown. The ball shall be held 15 days after the completion of the new palace, in celebration for the Dominion's newfound rule over the city of Diss.
It was to be themed after the balls Fainertil experienced north in High Rock. Luxurious gowns, beautiful coats, and of course, mid-tempo dance melodies to be played by only the best lute players in the area. During the preparatory period, he had been ruthless in his demands for excellence in a particularly Altmeri way; as any maid or gardener working for an Altmer noble could surely describe Altmeri perfectionism in gruesome detail. Fainertil had sent his head servant, Gledrial, to a nearby Inn of the Dancing Spriggan to welcome the Treethane of a very wealthy tribe in the area, Celeveyn Colthaer. "How're you doin', love?" the Inn keep, Brissa, asked Gledrial. "There's been quite a stir here recently. I hear there's all sorts of fancy folks headin' in from all over the Dominion." she continued. ""You need a room for the night? Or are you lookin' for someone?"
"I'm here for master Fainertil's sake. One of his guests, the Treethane of the Colthaer tribe, is staying here." Gledrial said stiffly. "Well why didn't ya say so, hun? Her room is just up the stairs." With each step up the stairs he felt more and more nervous, for he was born tribeless and spent most of his life in the servitude of Altmer, and thus had no experience dealing with Treethanes. He opened the door to Celeveyn's room to greet her in tears. "What happened?" Gledrial empathetically asked as he rushed to her side. "On my way here, my carriage was ransacked and I, held for ransom. My father, Treethane before me, had paid it, and made it clear I should stop here for the night." "But the ransom was paid, and you're unharmed, yes?" Gledrial attempted to comfort her. "My clothes and provisions were stolen and my escorts, slain. I will also surely be removed from title on my return, as this is my first outing as Treethane of the Colthaers, and if I can not present myself well at the ball, my father will surely depose me, and reclaim his former throne." Celeveyn vented as she continued to run through the list of reasons for her despair.
Gledrial had never heard of such a thing taking place, and upon further questioning, Celeveyn simply dismissed his confusion as being a result of his tribeless upbringing. "You wouldn't understand, 'kulaerthi'. The tribal politics that abound in my circles are much different than that of the lesser tribes." Gledrial had become used to such slurs in his life, for cruelty knows no race or creed. He thought to himself that his comforting of the crying noblemer had gone on long enough, and with that he bid his adieu. He returned to his master at the dead of night and explained the situation to him, he'd hoped for Fainertil to uninvite her - due to her potential unkempt appearance on the night of the ball; or that if she did appear, that she would be mocked out of the palace. Fainertil instead asked Gledrial to return to her in the morning, and invite her to stay at the palace with them until the party.
"If it is alright, could you send Goracher to fetch her? Perhaps Sinia, sir?" Gledrial pleaded.
"That won't do, Gledrial. Sinia will be busy with the gardens and I've already given more chores to Goracher than any man, elf, or beast should be doing. Besides, Celeveyn knows you, so she's likely to trust you more than a stranger like my other servants." Fainertil explained. Gledrial knew that any more protesting would likely result in punishment of some kind, so he bit his tongue and accepted his given duties. Soon, the ball would begin.
It was the night of the palace ball of the Dominion port of Diss, our host is Regent-King Fainertil, and his servants, Gledrial, Goracher, and Sinia, were serving the guests.
Among the attendants, they included, from Summerset Isles, Duke Gladroon Amathigal of Holifal, and his companion Lady Erranil Arramel of the Arramel Estate, both of whom knew Fainertil from their youths, complaining about the Lords of Colovia, "unseemly" bosmeri peasants, and the state of Nirn in general; as well as the prince of Shimmerene, Aldaril Lumiari was near the large glass windows, yelling at another of Fainertil's servants. From the Imgan States, you have the Mystic, Tergahri of Mohan'Tar near the staircase, attempting to impress some Dominion officers with her magicks. The brothers Nok'Tarruth and Dun'Haghoor, both natives of the now-fallen state of Gahket'Tohl and representatives of the Imga to the Aldmeri Dominion, were attempting to speak a crude form of Aldmeris to Fainertil. From the Orcs, you have Chieftess Burog gra-Garem, of the Shargorem Clan, who was shunned to a corner with Treethane Berennor, and among the other Treethanes, Lady Celeveyn had been dancing alone in the center of the ballroom, trying her best to absorb any leftover attention from the room. Fainertil had hoped that Queen Palinis of Woodhearth would appear, but her carriage had not arrived, and the expectation for her to join the celebrations was getting slimmer by the hour.
Gledrial was called over to Duke Gladroon and Lady Erranil. "What do you propose we do, serf?" Gladroon asked as if Gledrial had been listening in on their various complaints. "I'm sorry?" Gledrial responded. "Well surely you know of the ruffians in your own city? My spouse-to-be Erranil was nearly mugged just today!"
"I'm sorry to hear about that, sir. Treethane Celeveyn Colthaer had been robbed herself. If I may ask, what happened?" Gledrial asked.
"We were readying our carriage from the dockside of town to bring us to the palace, and a withered old hag approached us swiftly, asking us for coin. I tried to make haste into our already overtly modest carriage, but as I went to close the door and wish her a good day. She held the door open, insisting I give her something. I've never even heard of such highway robbery!" Gladroon ranted, leaving no room for Gledrial to interject. "It was all so very frightening." Lady Erranil included as the Duke had was taking his breath.
Having taken a frustrated breath, Duke Gladroon continued, "I have known Fainertil for over a century, we both have. He has a knack for getting precarious situations such as these under control, but if he is to get these tribalists in line before the Maormer come knocking on these jungles of yours then he'll be Auriel incarnate as far as I'm concerned."
Gledrial had felt trapped with the Duke and Lady for what felt like an eternity. Fortunately for him, Nok'Tarruth and Dun'Hagoor had approached Gladroon with the intention of seeking some conventional Altmeri wisdom, giving Gledrial enough time to escape. He walked up to his fellow servant, Goracher, who had struck a rather flirtatious conversation with the Orcish Burog gra-Garem, and asked him if he could cover for Gledrial for a few minutes, as Gledrial was in desperate need some air.
"I don't know, Gled, Razahjira's sick and Sinia is busy dealing with Celeveyn. We're the only ones on the floor right now." Goracher explained. "I know, I know. But it'll only be a few minutes, I promise." Gledrial assured him. "Go, and hurry back. I hear Queen Palinis of Woodhearth just arrived, so the ball is likely reaching its second wind." And with that, Gledrial rushed out towards the palace gardens without a second thought.
"To those who have gathered, I present to you the illustrious, Queen Elphirna Palinis!" announced Fainertil as Queen Elphirna entered the room, accompanied by both her husbanD, King Thadan Palinis, and their lover, Vaethir Palinis. Her silk-gown and mud-pearled corsage had attracted the eyes of all the nobles therein. As the attention of the party-goers laid on the Queen, Gledrial spotted a shadowy figure sneaking in the gardens. Back at the ball, everyone wanted to meet with Queen Elphirna. She had been a supporter in secret of the Dominion and of King Camoran Anaxemus during its formation which made her particularly popular amongst the Altmeri nobility as well as the Imgan Statesmen. Burog had attempted to get alone with her, as the local Orsimer clans feared their free trade with the local Bosmer would be restricted by the new regime, and as a queen of one of the most influential trading ports of Valenwood, she wished to receive some level of reassurance. She couldn't, however, say much of anything without Prince Aldaril talking over her every word. Goracher, meanwhile, was left alone to contend with royalty.
As Gledrial saw the intruder, he instinctively searched for the nearest guard, who had been knocked unconscious minutes before. He must have been the only one aware of the intruder, and if he was to keep his job, he must be the one to take them out. He found one of the guards stuffed into a closet, whoever did this - they clearly had some time and planning to carry it out. He unsheathed the guard's sword and carried on his way.
Gledrial stalked the shadowy figure for some time as they seemed to be searching for something. He kept to the shadows, behind the bushes, creeping low and as slow as a snail, trying desperately to not be seen. Eventually, he heard a clanking sound towards the garden's center. There was an entrance to some kind of vault hidden in the gardens, one he'd never heard about. As Gledrial followed far behind the figure, he wondered what could be hidden down there. "Some kind of artifact, maybe?" he muttered to himself in his head. As he crept closer to the vault's main hall, he accidentally kicked some rocks with the tips of his boot. The intruder turned as they locked eyes; It was Sinia.
As the celebratory ball roared on inside the palace, home of the Aldmeri Dominion's Regent-King of Diss, Fainteril. Gledrial's eyes were locked with the eyes of a thief, his fellow servant of Fainertil, Sinia.
"You followed me, yes? You should've learned when to leave things well enough alone." Sinia exclaimed, as she reached for a tucked blade in her belt. Gledrial readied his sword for a potential fight.
"What did you do with Celeveyn?" He asked. "I thought you had accompanied her to her guest quarters?" His grip of the blade growing tighter.
"She's alive. And for the first time in her life, not talking." Sinia flippantly assures.
"But why?" Gledrial asked, "Why are you doing all of this?" Before his words had time to leave his lips, his mind had raced to a dozen conclusions.
"Simple, really. I'm tired. I'm tired of tending to Fainertil's gardens, sheets, and errands. I'm tired of the arrogance and the posturing to men who see us as dirt; and I'm tired of taking care of men who care for nothing but themselves." Sinia paused, as if the black in her eyes crawled into Gledrial's. "It doesn't matter if I leave with some gold and trinkets here. Diss' reputation won't change, Fainertil will still be in charge of this port, and if I leave to never set foot in Dominion territory again - then I'll be replaced by week's end."
"So, are you going to be a hero to the nobility attending this ridiculous ball in there?" Sinia asked, "Or are you going to rest your blade and walk away."
"I don't want to hurt you" Gledrial responded, "But I can't go back to the party knowing what I know, can I?" he asked.
"No, I don't think you can..." she answered.
Gledrial thought to himself for just one moment about his master, Fainertil and all the nobles he had the displeasure of meeting this week. As he finished processing his experiences, he dropped the blade. "Take me with you." He demanded, knowing full well she has every opportunity to stab him in the back. She quickly handed him a sack and they began to fill them with as much gold as they can carry. Not more than 5 minutes pass as they take their leave through the garden entrance. They run towards the palace walls where she had erected a makeshift ladder to climb over it with. Before they could make it onto the ladder, a shrill, furious shout could be heard from the distance.
"Thieves! Thieves!" A bruised Celereyn screeched from the distance. "I knew you looked familiar, you were the same thief that robbed me and my carriage on my way here!" She continued, pointing her accusatory finger at Sinia.
"Is that true?" Gledrial asked.
"So what if it is? She had no need for a few extra dresses." Sinia laughed as they climbed up the ladder and onto a nearby tree branch. "Besides, if I didn't steal from her, someone far worse than me would have."
Sinia leaped off the branch of the Bentharen Tree they had climbed onto, tucking her body and rolling into the bushels below. "Come on" she gestured. "Give me some time, I've not done this since I was a child!" Gledriel nervously shouted as his knees locked in place. "I don't have any time to give. If you don't hurry then I'll be forced to leave you here with the guards."
Gledriel looked back at the gardens where a crowd of angry and confused party goers now gathered and guards began to climb the wall after him. After a deep breath, he squatted down on the branch and tucked forward and to the side, pushing off with his feet and curling his body to mirror a ball. With a few scrapes and aches, he landed unharmed. They had made it over the wall, and began running as fast as they could into the dense, forested night. Sinia and Gledrial were never seen again, but their presence was felt in the former City of Diss for years to come.