9 - The Dream of Salvianus -

9 - The Dream of Salvianus -

Nov 14, 2023

Ondolemar, the former secretary of the now dissolved Bureau of Advanced Communications (Solitude outpost), has tracked an elderly man across the province after finding him meddling in the affairs of the Thalmor and spreading chaos amongst their sources, and has now trapped him in the sewers of Riften. On the old man's trail, he discovered a name 'Salvianus' on a piece of paper used as a bookmark. A powerful mistress of Riften's criminal underworld, with whom the Thalmor have an arrangement, has revealed that an Imperial by this name is also in the sewer, and has asked Ondolemar to apprehend or dispose of him.

In the deepest chambers of the damp tunnels that ran beneath the town of Riften, a man lay down on a blanket and began to dream, but he was still awake. He had been awake for many days. He often was.

He went into a room.

"Who are you?" said the grey-haired, bearded figure in the chair, wearing a distinctive cape held in place with a brooch not bearing the Empire's dragon, but an enormous eye.

"Are you the one who's been trying to get in all afternoon? Explain yourself!"

"Captain Salvianus, sir." said the intruder, taking off his helmet. "Administrator Placius?"

"I am, and I hope you have a good reason for being in here. Be quick. What do you want?"

Salvianus fumbled with his hair, then his cloak, and then his hair again. "I had some conscripts from prison serving in my company, Administrator, and after witnessing them as soldiers I no longer wished to command them."

"Then, that's up to you." said Placius, whose name only appears to make him identifiable to you in the man's dream. "If there's nothing else, I'm very busy, and you're not supposed to be on this floor."

"I understand," Captain Salvianus' voice wavered, but he approached the table anyway. "that one of your inspectors has recommended two of them as recruits to the Penitus Oculatus."

"And, this is your business how, Captain?"

"I'm questioning your inspector's judgement, sir." said Salvianus.

"They were murderers, given the choice between service or incarceration. It's fair to let them go, but it's lunacy to give them authority."

A third figure in the far corner said, "If you have to go over my head, Salvianus, do you have to do it while I'm in the fucking room?"

It pulled down its standard-issue Imperial battle-mage hood to reveal a standard-issue Penitus Oculatus tunic. "Your sword arm's started to wither, but mine hasn't. I don't recruit heroes and princes. I thought you understood when I explained it to you."

"I understood what you told me." Salvianus said, noting quietly that the inspector sounded tired. And very slightly slurred.

"Then why are you here?"

The inspector was interrupted by his superior's question, and Salvianus had to stand still and be discussed in his presence.

"Do you know this person... I mean, this officer, Andalius?"

"Oh, I know him, sir. I'll deal with him."

"Well, he should sit down, then, don't you think?"

"Sit down, Salvianus."

Captain Salvianus sat down.

"You're not questioning my judgement." said the inspector called Andalius Cosori, for it was he. "The Empire is showing its teeth, and you're afraid. You're still afraid of the Aldmeri Dominion. This city isn't being occupied now, Salvianus. Stop being afraid."

"I'm not afraid." said Captain Salvianus. "Those men aren't fit to defend the Emperor."

"And you're an honest soldier, Salvianus. Sorry, officer. You're not fit to judge what talents are best suited to defending the Emperor."

Andalius told the dreaming Salvianus, "I'm recruiting murderers because they can kill, and I'm recruiting convicted murderers because they're expendable. They can be moulded into the keenest instruments of the Empire, and you don't have to cry too much when they don't come home."

Captain Salvianus was distantly aware of the voice of Administrator Placius. "As your Inspector friend Andalius here knows, Captain, from personal experience. Though these days, he's rather less expendable."

"Thank you, sir." Andalius said.

Salvianus said nothing. His dream had lasted since the cries of the last battle had faded, and lying fitfully on his blanket in Riften, he was twenty-five years older.

"Salvianus?" The Inspector tried to interrupt the faraway dream of the staring Captain. "It's far easier to beat discipline and loyalty into a murderous bastard than it is to turn a good Legionnaire into one."

"Perhaps you couldn't control those men, Captain, but we can." said Placius.

"There were limbs and heads mounted on doors, Salvianus. Whole families of High Elf and Wood Elf citizens were locked in their houses and burned to death for treason to the Dominion, for consorting with humans by living here. For seven hundred days we were enslaved by savage, hateful believers in crazed fairy tales, who think they should be gods." said Andalius. "And they'll come back. Don't begrudge the Penitus Oculatus enough bastards to find Thalmor collaborators before they strike, because afterwards is always too late."

He went on, despite the continued silence of Captain Salvianus. "Yes, I know what happened. If we don't occupy these convicts of yours in service to the Empire, they're going to disappear anyway, because that kind of behaviour is a danger to Imperial citizens when undirected."

"You've been drinking!" observed Salvianus, examining the half empty bottles.

"No, I've been working." said Andalius. "I often drink when I'm coming up with ways to kill the enemy. It's more enjoyable that way."

"They didn't kill her, though, Andalius." the Captain spat, and launched himself out of his chair. "They didn't kill her."

Andalius seemed startled for the first time since approaching the table. "I know they didn't, Salvianus! But nobody in the province, including you or I, is going to punish them for tormenting that kind of enemy. But do you think I want armed, trained men like that roaming around Cyrodiil?"

Salvianus advanced a step. Then he stopped. Andalius looked slightly too drunk to be afraid and not drunk enough to be harmless. "They withheld a valuable prisoner of war for three weeks after the battle. I had to order her death myself. She was only a librarian. A clerical officer."

"There are no clerical Thalmor." said Andalius. "And you didn't order it very well. I saw her in the corridor two hours ago, and between us, I'm pleased, because I need to speak to her about something valuable that she broke in the Arcane University."

Placius ordered: "Andalius, sit! Captain Salvianus, get out, before I throw you out."

"If you were so sure you wanted her dead, why didn't you do it?" Andalius said, before obeying his instruction.

"I can't hold a sword." said Salvianus. "My arm shakes and burns, and dead eyes keep staring into mine. Good-bye."

The last battle had been fought some months ago and Salvianus did not remember much of his life before the war had begun.

Perhaps he had been happy once, or perhaps he had always walked around the Imperial City in circles, as he did in the months after the Great War.

In the waking world of Riften, outside the door to the dark den, there was an Elf. He had just remembered who Salvianus was.

"Ondolemar!" said Second Archivist Eldaline, approaching from the direction of the Elder Council chamber with an officer and two soldiers.

"Follow me. I have found something that I wish for you to see."

Ondolemar followed. "How are you, Second Archivist Eldaline?"

"Very well, thank you. But I only saw you half an hour ago, and you do not need to ask me every time."

"Where are we?" said Ondolemar.

"Well, we have gone up a flight of stairs." said Eldaline. "So we are above the room below."

"I understand. What are we looking at? Please do not stand there, Second Archivist."

"Stand where?" Eldaline demanded. "I am not afraid of heights. Look down into the Elder Council chamber, Ondolemar, and describe the human you see there."

"But the chamber is full of humans, Second Archivist." said Ondolemar.

"The one with no helmet. One moment." said Eldaline. "Let go of my arm, Captain, if you want to keep it. Go and stand over there, and count your marbles, or something."

The military escort stood a small distance away and observed them. Ondolemar couldn't tell what was unnerving about the dark-haired officer, but I will tell you that he had looked permanently startled for some months.

Eldaline, though, allowed herself to be gently led away from the hole in the floor.

"All right, I will stand further back from the hole in the floor if it pleases you, and if you will let go of my arm as well. I am perfectly well and not in the slightest drunk. What do you see?"

"The one walking in endless circles? He has brown hair, Second Archivist, and a pointy nose."

"Remember him, Ondolemar."

"It will be very difficult. You must admit that they all look very alike." he said.

"Even so. You must try your best and suffer the annoyance." said Eldaline. "I command it."

Stopping only to observe the erratic patrol of the soldiers, Eldaline coughed hoarsely and went on.

"The nature of humanity is flawed in its very creation, Justiciar, as you know."

"I do." said Ondolemar, and that was all sorted out before our very eyes, so that you remember who these people are, for I understand that they have not appeared for some time.

"They should never have been, and would have been spared their tragic existence, but for a blasphemous trick. But that does not signify that all are deserving of having this existence ended in agony and humiliation."

"Are you sure, Second Archivist?" said Ondolemar. "It would be no trouble."

"I realise this. The brown-haired captain down there, walking in endless circles, is named Salvianus. I heard his soldiers call him this when he came into the prison called Fort Homestead, and ordered them to grant me the death I needed."

"He will know the fire of righteous and agonising Aldmeri correction before tomorrow, Second Archivist."

"No." said Eldaline. "He will not be harmed. I want him looked after."


"I wished for death and he was prepared to obey. This peculiar weakness of his resolve was to my advantage, and for a moment in that cold and terrible prison, I was warm. Indulge this little eccentricity of mine."

The sun was suddenly very hot as it shone through three of the small windows of the chamber. "When we are rested and revived, and dismantle the Empire of Men and correct the error of their making, it is likely that I will not be among you."

"But I believe that you will be, Second Archivist. Why would you want to miss our ascent to divinity?"

"I cannot face this dragon banner again. Do not be downcast, Ondolemar. The triumph of the Aldmeri Dominion must comprise some personal failures."

"As for my failure, I have been crushed to my absolute ruin. My one comfort was once the promise of death. Look upon Salvianus, and remember him, if you revere my office."

Occasionally, as he walked in circles around the Elder Council chamber, Captain Salvianus stopped and looked around. This time, he looked up and saw the Thalmor peering down, and they were all looking at him.

- continues -

Enjoy this post?

Buy CKord a coffee

More from CKord