[Author’s Note: General, I write to you now of the peculiar case of the murder of Sedura Yakum-fel of the Bashipal plantation. Most of our inquiries have been into the possibility of whether a slave uprising was the cause of the Dunmer’s death, which is an understandably unpopular notion among the locals. Despite our official presence as representatives of the Imperial law, the Dres have demonstrated extreme hostility towards myself and my men, and I fear further conflict may be brewing the longer we stay here.
As you will remember from my earlier reports, Sedura Yakum-fel’s body was found drained of blood and hanging upside down from vines in the marsh this past spring. Argonian ritual implements were found surrounding the body. Since that report, three Argonian slave escapees have been apprehended and executed by the local Dres authorities, but no further suspects or leads have been found.
At the risk of sounding like I am only trying to cover my own hind as I write this, I bring to your attention a peculiar legend told to me by Sergeant Maltulius as possibly being pertinent to the case. As you may recall, the Sergeant was tasked with gaining an audience with the Dres Councillor of the Bashipal. However, in doing so Segeant Maltulius ingested a lethal dose of the Argonian drug daril, that he was forced to partake of as part of the greeting ceremony with the Councillor. It was reported that none but the Argonian slaves and the Sergeant himself were given these drugs. May his blind acceptance of these Dres dogs and their “hospitality” serve as a warning to any future legions garrisoned here!
Still, before his death, the Sergeant managed to cough out this tale, as he insisted the Councillor had told him. As he was deep into delirium I am not sure how much of it can be trusted, but I do urge you to take the Sergeant’s death for the warning it was, and let us be away from these foul Dres and their plots!]
It is said that long ago, House Dres were not House Dunmer. They were not even what could be called one House. They were Velothi, like the Ashlanders of the northlands today, descended from the many clans of Chimer who inhabited the southern marshes of that which we called Resdayn. Over the centuries they have come to ally and become the great confederation that is now known as Dres. It was a union that began coallescing in the First Era.
When the Tribunal and their Hortator Nerevar entered Red Mountain, the land had cried out in agony. Red Mountain rose towards the wounded stars, high, higher than the Velothi Mountains. The trees on its sides were burned and buried beneath rivers of fire and mountains of ash belched forth by the mountain. Water rushed inland to quench it, and that became the Inner Sea. Some say Red Mountain gathered its arms tight about itself in defense of what was underneath, some machination of the Dwemer to fuel their blasphemies. Others say the Tribunal carved the Inner Sea out so as to protect their followers from the last convulsions of the Three-and-Three House and the sleeping malice that will forever haunt our memory.
But it was not the only upheaval that struck the land at that moment. To the north and east of us was once a land of marshes much like the Shadowfen on our southern borders. But when Red Mountain erupted, the waters fled from it--some say the very waters that flowed into the Inner Sea. They left behind them a land of salt and the oozings of the tortured earth--the Deshaan Plains and the Mudflats of the Dres.
This became the home of the clans that were my ancestors. Always we have been farmers and herders, but the salty wastes were new to us, and we could not find the means to survive in them. Some of my people went north and were adopted into the Indoril. Some went west and joined the Hlaalu. Those who went east, setting sail into the rising sun, were never seen again.
The only way left to us was then the south, the Black Marsh.
The swamp is a living thing. The Hist Trees are its guardians and its masters. The Argonians are foolish, but they know this much: the Trees are awake. They think. They plot. They care little for the doings of the lesser mortals, except when we are useful to them, like a Chap’Thil may use his plainstrider to haul his yurt.
When we fled into the outer regions of the Black Marsh, we found them. Or perhaps it is better said that they found us. Their kind also suffered from the devastation in the Deshaan, and when you go there, you may still see the skeletons of their people lying out on the sun-bleached salt, like gray branching fingers trapped in the crush of time.
But the roots of the Hist go deep. They have remembered and forgotten more things about life and the creation of it that we will never know. And they promised to teach us, the clans of Dres. They would show us the ways to turn the stricken Deshaan Plains into a home. That such strife ever existed in those lands is now a distant memory.
But the Hist did not do so out of charity. It is said the Trees have collective mind, but perhaps it is better understood as a society of alien spirits. And among all societies are deviants. For the lessons of survival, we Dres were tasked the management of these deviants--the pruning of the trees, if you prefer. Into our keeping was given the Argonians of the rogue Hist. They would work for us, and we would keep them close, like prison wardens.
And to keep our silence, and our promise, out of every generation the best and brightest of the clans was taken. These blessed Dunmer would make a pilgrimage to the Trees, one from which they never returned.
But the memories of mortals are short and the centuries long. Perhaps the original bargain was forgotten by foolish wise women; perhaps one of those deviants convinced the Dres we were better off bargaining with them and not the Hist; perhaps the slave traders, in their greed, captured any Argonian walking a-free instead of solely the ones we are allowed by ancestral right. It is sad now, what we have become, the scourge of the abolitionist Empire, scrabbling in mud and forgetting our proud heritage for the sake of more coin like the greedy Hlaalu. It is shameful. We are worth more!
But you asked me what it is you saw in the fields today, and I tell you. Not all mortals have forgotten our vows. I have not. These Argonians around me that you would call slaves are my duty, as passed down to me from my ancestors. Sedura Yakum-fel was not murdered. He gave himself to the Tree, as my family always has, as are the terms of the original bargain. The best and brightest. It has kept us alive, and afforded us the most precious secrets of the Swamp, and our home, the inhospitable Morrowind.
But now you are here, and you threaten everything with your prying and Western ideals. Is this what you want? The swamp grows impatient with your meddling. You must make a choice, son of western stars. Will you honor our heritage and leave us be to fulfill our bargains? Or will you destroy a tradition, and thus an entire people, in your blind self-righteousness for these lizards you would call equal?