The Bridge

Shizzal’s hands shook as he descended the steps of Iliath. The young Dunmer wanted to punch something. He also wanted to find a deep well to hide in. What he ended up doing instead was pacing, up and down the stairs, ’round and ’round the Ordinator training field, until his feet were sore and his mind no less calmer than before.

Shizzal wasn’t exactly angry. It was one of several emotions swirling inside, including embarrassment and a kind of reckless excitement he usually got before taking on a major heist. He hadn’t dared challenge Tidras up front of the other priests (he wasn’t sure he dared challenge him ever, if he was being honest with himself), but he wasn’t about to back down so easily, either.

Ashlanders had been harrying the outer villages, and the Temple’s Ordinators had been called to respond. Shizzal had offered to help, on account of his experience with the sword and with Ashlanders, but Tidras had turned him away as useless. The priests had no place in combat, he maintained, and Shizzal would be at best a hindrance, and at worst, a heretic.

Tidras seemed to love using that word.

“But I felt it,” Shizzal muttered to himself — or to a certain god that may have been listening. “The others keep saying to find my path, and I know what that path is now. You gave me your blessing, Vivec, and I can still feel that power inside me.” He pressed a hand to his torso, just below the ribs.

“You want the Ashlanders reformed?” He stopped, flinging the question out to the sky, where the sun was steadily sinking to the western horizon. “Then why are you making it so bloody difficult for me to help?”

Vivec didn’t answer of course, and Shizzal stopped to let a group of Ordinators march past. They didn’t belong to any regiment that he recognized: perhaps a platoon from Mournhold or even from far-off Vvardenfell. They carried weapons and packs, and were dressed in the lighter chitin armor usually given to those who made long patrols in the Ashlands.

Something Cithal said earlier suddenly popped into his head, and Shizzal ran to catch up with the regiment’s captain.

“Going out to hunt bandits?” he called out.

“No,” said the captain, pausing to look at him. “There’s been reports of Ashlander raiders to the east. Something about a new cult. We’re going to investigate.”

“I’ll come with you,” said Shizzal. When the captain eyed him doubtfully, he added, “I can heal. I need the practice.”

The captain just rolled his eyes. “Very well, dress-mer. If you can keep up, you can come.” He turned back to the other Ordinators, who had halted while he was having the conversation with Shizzal. “What are all you louts waiting for? Get moving! You march in the back, priest.”

Beaming to himself, Shizzal fell into line with the others. He felt better now, for he was doing something useful. He ran over in his head all he had gleaned from the healing books in the library, hoping it would be enough. Unlike some of the other “dress-mer”, as the Ordinators liked to refer to the noncombatant priests as, he couldn’t yet use any magic.

Determinedly, Shizzal looked to the head of the line, imagining the Grand Commander striding along up there rather than the captain. He had Vivec’s blessing; he was sure of it. What could go wrong?

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