Interview with an Argonian
Recorded by Bractius Stelo
I was on a business meeting in the Black Marsh once and stopped at Slough Point before heading north. Though I was able to gain some valuable information from several locals along the way, one individual seemed to be able to provide the most information. Surprisingly civilized and well learned, I was able to learn much from Sweet-Dish-Fish during my night at Slough Point...
Sweet-Dish-Fish [a local scholar, born in a slave family but escaped when he was young. He has traveled through most of Black Marsh and is one of the most knowledgeable people here.]
The province is called Black Marsh, but all I see is lush, albiet dangerous, jungles and swamps, everything is greens, yellows, and browns... where does the 'Black' come from?
It does not know... Black Marsh is actually Murkwood... deep in the center of Murkwood an evil darkness hangs over the place, and does not leave with the flow of water. The land there is stagnant and dangerous, even People of the Root try to skirt around it edges. My Marshbrothers tell me that in ancient days the gods battled there and the darkness is their blood, I have no idea if that is true, and I don't want to know...
I see, I have heard that this province has been dubbed the 'Garbage Heap' of Tamriel... any truth to that? Is it all marshes?
Well, in a way yess, marshes are good for cleaning the dirtiness of civilization, but we call this place home. Rivers and underground waterways all flow south or southeast in this part of the world, so often times things will flow down to the Marsh. But it is not ALL marshes, that is a misconception my friend, we have jungles in the north, Blackwood and the Parchlands in the west, sandy beaches and salt marsh in the east, and mangroves to the south, everything in the middle is bog and glade, THAT is the Marsh.
Very good. Do the locals resent Imperial rule?
Well, it depends. You see, the Imperials only really rule Stormhold, Gideon, and Blackrose. That being said there aren't that many Imperials anyhow, and their advisors and Argonian-officers called Archeins have more control. Understand, there is little honesty in the government. The word kleptocracy was made to describe how people ruled the Marsh. Tyrannical governors and equally brutal Archeins, that's the regime here. Lilmoth, that's ruled by the Royal King of Lilmoth... don't know much about him, but the monarchy keeps an eye on everybody in the province, that's why there hasn't been a war... yet. The Argonians living a semi-assimilated life-style want fair Imperial rule with as little direct control as possible, but most tribes dislike Imperial rule, and some in the deep interior don't even know of Imperials at all... they live as they have always, since the dawn of their race.
I have heard that Dunmer and Argonians have a long standing hatred, is that still true?
Indeed, especially in the north. Argonians of the jungles and the Dunmer of southern Morrowind have been fighting periodic border skirmishes since the Dunmer's ancestors came to the area. Plus, they used to take a lot of slaves. I hear they still do, just illegally. There's also been a migration of House Dres folks from Morrowind who exiled themselves from the Great House Dres which has allied with Helseth and abolished slavery. All very suspicious stuff, but politics always have been suspicious, especially in the East.
I have heard that there are other types of Argonians... true?
Yes, and I hope for your sake you don't run into any of them. People of the Root may be dangerous but Nagas, Paatru, and Sarpa will rip you to shreds. The Naga are like giant salamanders and puf-adders combined. They are seven foot tall, snake-like, and vicious. They have all sorts of fins and spines and are very powerful warriors and hunters. They frequently raid caravans and small towns. The Paatru stick to the wilderness, rarely venturing into 'conquered' lands. However they too are dangerous, great ambushers, and because of their smaller size, work as a group to bring down larger opponents. They are rarely found alone, and very vicious - though very much afraid of fire. Sarpa, our winged cousins... you'll see them after you see Hackwings... but don't rejoyce when you see them driving off those big birds... they really want you as a meal without having to share. They are our Marshcousins and we tend not to kill each other.
What are some common beliefs of the natives?
Well, it is all centered around the Hist, but I will not tell you too much about that. However, we have our own myths and legends... we call that mangrove the 'land-maker' since its roots trap silt to make firmer ground. The alligator is the 'chief-of-the-marsh' because, though a vicious predator, in the drier times, it ploughs through reeds and sloughs to dig up water which is essential for all marshland life. We respect the Marsh and try to live by it. Really, it is hard for you to understand, but we are totally different peoples, and our instinctive outlook on life, is very different. We are a predatory people, being carnivorous lizard types...
I hear that aside from guerillas, the land itself is deadly, in what ways is that so?
Well aside from the ever-present rebel groups and Argonian warbands, the land, well, it's dangerous for anybody, but mostly for warmbloods. You see, it's a survival of the fittest sort of thing, all the plants are strangling each other to get to sunlight, all the animals hunting each other, all the people competing for good lands, it's all a very dangerous place. But, seeing as how you're just traveling along 'civilized' routes, just be careful of fleshflies and hackwings. Those damn birds will chop off you arm and hover over you till you die of blood-loss. A few powerful hunters here, but many scavengers. Well, you're lucky if you don't get lost or sink into quicksand, at least being mauled by an alligator would make for a more interesting death.
What would you say is the economic situation in Black Marsh?
What economic situation? Hahahahiss, well there is some going on... diamonds are mined, along with a few other exotic minerals only found here in any sizeable amount, but the amount of ore is very low. The mercenary trade and smuggling is big here. But as for exports, mostly fruits and vegetables... most live a subsistence lifestyle, most of the common folks at least. If you want to know the trade of the Tribal groups, well the trade all goes to the center and back, with the tribes on the outskirts trading their materials further inland, and the deep interior tribes trading stuff right back. But really, not much trading going on here. A few Sloads make money, as well as merchants and Archeins who use not-so-ethical practices to make a fortune.
I'll be heading for Stormhold soon, anything I should keep in mind?
Ooh... yesss... stay in Stormhold, it is the safest and least corrupt of all cities here. Oh, and hire either an Argonian guide, or a bodyguard, consider it an investment that could save your life. Stay on the road at all times... if you wander off you'll get lost and die. If you WANT to go adventuring, stay in Blakcwood for awhile, it's a spooky place, but one of the least dangerous places in this province, and you can always run back over to Cyrodiil if you have to.
Having left Slough Point, I later met my contact in Stormhold. But I did not totally follow Sweet-Dish-Fish's advice and went on a very limited and cautious adventuring.... to say the least I met some colorful folks along the way, here is what they had to say.
So I have heard that you're people claim this land around Thorn as yours... how do you feel about that?
Kassim Bunat [A Dunmer, a warrior of the southern Velothi, Thorn]
This land is ours, but was taken from us by those dastardly lizard bastards. My ancestors hacked trees and lizards to get this land and we still do today. Our women farm the fields and our men herd the guar and hunt game in the jungles. We make our clothes of hide, chitin, and plant fibers, and we fight like the Argonians do, from behind trees, at night, and hit-and-run. One day St. Roris, the Daedra, and our ancestors will lead us to victory. Until then, the House Dres newcomers are very welcome... they bring warriors, and wasps... say, is that your horse... it can stay at my house tonight if it's tired...
I have heard a lot of illegal business goes on in the Black Marsh, is that true?
M'Jatha [A Khajiit smuggler, Hixinoag]
Well, M'Jatha is just trying to get by. Most trading here is what you say, un-ethical, but that's just the way it is here yes. M'Jatha trades skooma and other powerful stuff in the dry season, and then M'Jatha goes straight and sells thatched rain robes in the rainy season. M'Jatha is just a fat cat trying to make a living, and feed M'Jatha's four wives... now go away, M'Jatha has spoken too much, Khajiit has no words for you, out of my hut!
What exactly are fighting against?
Banassa [An Argonian freedom-fighter in the Parchlands, Paiwan village]
The softskin government. All the Archeins, and Governors, and regimes... we don't want kleptocracts, we don't want Imperial rule... we want to live as we should. If you call tenant farming and abuse civilization, then I will kill you too. We will win eventually... the softskin cannot last here forever. My Marshbrothers are getting ready, and more and more of my People are returning to the Marsh and never going back to the 'civilized' world. Civilization is for the Man and the Mer, we have our own life. It wants to know why I fight? Widewalkers fight, it is what we do, we are hunters.
Are you a cleric? Are there any churches here? What do you do?
Old-Looks-Twice [An Argonian traveling shaman, Tenmar Wall]
I am a traveling Shaman. I see the Hist to see that they are respected and not wanting in earth and water. I can speak to Hist and they speak through me. See out-born soft-skin, we love our land, and we live with the land, not against it. I go and show my Marshbrothers and Sisters who live under softskin rule how to return to their old ways. We no need you people, though we don't hate you. But we want to return to traditional, and I help People of the Root remember their old ways. Slavery and acculturation makes them forget.
How well is the missionary work going in Black Marsh?
Optio Giovini [An Alessian missionary, Gideon]
Well, working with the Mages Guild, we try to wean the lizard-folk away from their shaman-magicks and superstitions. It's obviously better to worship gods than sappy old trees. But it's been a little disappointing. Most of the Argonians living in the 'civilized' outskirts of the province are paupers, poor farmers and laborers. So they come to beg for food, and we do not withhold it from them. Last time we tried to initiate them by force, they ran into the countryside before the Archein's soldiers could stop them, and brought back a few warriors to harass us. I can't say Imperial rule and Archein regimes are nice to local civilized Argonians and tribal ones, but at least its better than their wayward barbaric traditions.
How is life here in Black Marsh as a mercenary?
Dugub gra-Hukom [a hireling for an Archein, Soulrest]
Well, depends who you work for, and where you are. If you work for the Imperials you sit around all day watching the roads and driving away Nagas... which is rarely successful. If you work for the Archeins, you capture the wives and children of a tribe, and force the man-lizards to work... it's all very dirty business. If you work for a nobleman, you'll stand around all the time guarding him. It's either a very boring job, or a very dangerous job. But if there's any place than can be called the mercenary capitol, its Soulrest - not a rest for your soul unelss you're getting killed. I've seen it all, virtually enslaving Argonians, guarding caravans, driving off big beasties, and guarding rich folks who are paranoid about their lives... yeah, perfect place for a mercenary...
On my way back to Cyrodiil, I was captured by a Naga thug. However amazingly I convinced it to spare my life and talk a little after giving it all my gold, my clothing, and my servant. After drinking up my flin, curiously tearing my clothes, and devouring my servant, it was in a mood for conversation...
Why do you kill 'Imperial posh'?
Groo Hass you posh comeher and try to live. This is our place. Brother get killed or taken away. We Naga fight. Root-lizards smart but too kind. They don't fight enough. We hunt you down. We bandit, but marshbrothers know, if you scare and outlanders, and if you kill their caravans, they will no wish be able to stay.
So it is terrorism. Where did you learn to speak?
Weesa speaks in our ways. But Naga here learned from Root-brother who learn from missionary. Tha Missionary wasa mean posh. It had hard stick to beat people if they don't bow to the Akotasah dragune gud...
Where did you come from?
All Naga weed sah coming from Taansha bog. We come from there where we came from the snakes. Long ago salamander and snake mated and their eggs were cared for by Hist. Then Naga people born. We are big and thick like salamander, but long and fast like snake. We come out to fight and hunt tha outlander. Plusss, they have sharper knife, like my hunting knife here, took from dead dark-skin wit pointy ear. We stronger and bigger, but sneakyn so you will not lastsss.
While he ranted on in his drunkeness in pigdin Cyrodiilic I quietly slipped away. He rose up in anger and threw the hunting knife at me, which landed in a tree bare inches from my face. The only part sticking out of the tree was the handle. I threw a paralysis spell before running as fast as I could. He broke out of it faster than I imagined (as it was a strong spell), but I escaped. I thought I saw him watching from the eaves of Blackwood as I ran out into the Cyrodiilic countryside, after finally crossing the border of Black Marsh. Perhaps an invisible spiritual boundary surrounds this ancient land of beasts and bogs... and most natives to this place will not leave its primeval, haunting danger and beauty.
Those Naga are strong and I am glad that there was only one, and from what I have heard, an unusually mild-tempered one at that. That is the conclusion of my interviews in Black Marsh. Archeins do not tend to talk about their affairs, whilst Imperial governors are too arrogant to talk to anyone below them. Based on what I have seen, I fear greatly that Black Marsh will not remain an Imprial province for long.