Khajiit of the Aldmeri Dominion
Note: Flaccus Terentius' notes appear in bracketed italics. Inserts appear in separate boxes. Captions for unreleased images are denoted by †.
I wept as the ferry passed my home of Bravil, but I could not risk returning there and bringing my curse to the ones I love. Now ensconced in the realm of the cat, my thoughts turned not to their wiles and ways but to the minions of Mannimarco who flit along the periphery of my vision each and every day.
[Khajiiti City of Dune and Environs]†
[Drawn from memory - lost my Guide map in the Goblin skirmish]†
Riverhold's market was particularly crowded. Overladen caravans were readying for Rimmen and Dune, filled with spices, weapons, and drapery. Khajiiti nomads had their herds of guar and goats for trade. Shouts and whistles and the smells of sweetmeats would have coaxed me farther into this bustle, but all I saw were the shaded alleys and shadowy recesses where the black-robed thugs could plan my long and drawn-out death.
Was that one of them? There, by the gemsmith? I hastily searched out a suitably robust Khajiiti specimen who ran the caravan to Dune. I explained my predicament and my finer qualities to him.
"I, Ma'rashirr, welcome such a dignitary to our humble traveling cavalcade."
"Thank—" I started to say.
"Your unclawed nature, ruddy cheeks, and profuse sweaty fragrance is an attraction to the caravan I hadn't bargained for. What a treat to greet the walkers when we arrive at Dune."
As my father told me, "a blow to your pride is easier to take than a blow to your head."
Between the Imperial Niben Valley and Valenwood, the southern sands of Elsweyr are the burial sites for many ancient civilizations, or so the whispered myths would have you believe. Just as the deep red soil relentlessly shifts, so, too, do the transient beastfolk who claim this land as their own—the wandering Khajiit. It seems they have more of a right than most, as stories tell of cat people dwelling here even before the time of Man and Mer; however, others think of the Khajiit as being simply another descendant of the original Aldmeri settlers. Still others believe the Khajiit's ancestors once walked on four paws but were raised to stand on two feet and become the leading predator of Tamriel's wastes.
The Khajiit homeland was subdivided into a fractious collection of sixteen realms specializing in farming, trade, or fighting; all were interwoven with the waxing and waning of the moons. Passing Alessian and Bosmeri invaders chose to further increase the animosity between these realms, but the Thrassian Plague in 1E 2260 ravaged the cat-folk more than any intruder. Consternation turned to distrust and violence as the wealthy southern state of Pellitine clashed with northern warrior clans of Anequina. The ruin this brought continued until 2E 309, when the marriage of the two states' rulers—Eshita of Pellitine and of Anequina—finally brought peace to the land, now named Elsweyr after the sardonic Khajiiti proverb "A perfect society is always found elsewhere." [This "joke" has got to go.]
I attempted to prove my merit to Ma'rashirr by showing him this sketch of the savanna-land here in northern Elsweyr. The trees are speckled far apart from one another, their branches fanning out wide to capture every drop of moisture. Watering holes, low rock outcrops, and laconic Cat-Men herders are also infrequent sights. The caravan clattered across the most rudimentary of roads. When Ma'rashirr and his kin do meet another Khajiiti traveler or tent, they are greeted with quick throaty shouts in their own tongue, and yapping laughter is directed in my general direction.
For a race living in the oppressively hot climate of Elsweyr, it is impractical in most cases for them to wear heavy clothing and armor, and the Khajiit's naturally lithe frames and dexterity favor more lightweight protection. The Khajiit abhor restraint and encumbrance, and their craftsfolk are diligent about providing armor to augment their prowling forms. At its lightest, Khajiiti armor is often mistaken for well-appointed (but flamboyant) clothing. Quilted or padded cloth adorns the midriff and vital areas. This is augmented with vivid patterns of color and accented with a loose shawl, ribbons, or trinkets—an outfit that would result in mocking insults if worn by a race less decadent and hedonistic.
For battles where the Khajiit expect punishment, they favor cloth and leather greaves, gauntlets, and a light helmet; this allows for supremely agile movement without sacrificing speed (or fashion). For this race of acrobats, even the heaviest Khajiiti armor is loose-fitting but actually has lacquered metal plates laced together with leather, under which is an embroidered tunic, completed with a helmet of fluted silver and durable linen. It is only under the most harrowing of conditions that the Khajiit will don full battle armor.
As for weaponry, curved scimitars, sabers and knives, or punch daggers serve as an elongation of the Khajiit's own slashing, clawed hands. Occasionally these claw shapes extend to ritual tridents and the savage points on their longbow arrows or javelins.
The merchants continued plodding across the western savanna, with Dune at least two days away. My attempts to cultivate the caravan's guards (so I may mingle with veteran warriors who may protect me from my fears) had been a middling success. Ra'tassa, a particularly well-built Khajiit, seemed to be in charge of this crew. Early on the second morning, I asked to walk with him.
"You're the beet-faced Imperial Ma'rashirr the Five-Clawed saddled us with, yes?" His brethren smirked as I prepared to test my wits.
"I prefer to think of my complexion as sanguine, as is my disposition," I replied.
Ra'tassa's striped ears perked up and he smiled. "Ra'tassa wonders why you perspire when the sun has hardly crept out of bed. Your Nord clothing pelts smell like a Dungman's hindquarters."
"Ah, but I can take off my fur when the heat becomes uncomfortable. Can you? Although I'd pay good coin to see you shaved."
Had my wordplay become a tad too mocking? Not according to the whoops of approval and derisive laughter of Ra'tassa's gang.
[All their armor is adapted to the heat of their native realm.]†
[Moon-Bows: the Cat-Folk are formidable archers, though not in the same class as the Wood Elves]
We heard an odd, wheezing horn, along with grim shouts in a primal language. Khajiiti fur rose as a small force of Goblin raiders harried the caravan, charging out from a cluster of red rocks. I counted at least ten of the green-skinned marauders—and a warchief the size of a Nord—from my shrewd position behind the guards.
"Muskarse! Ra'tassa will make kebabs of your liver!" His gang was already engaging the Goblins, effortlessly cutting them down with ferocious double-slicing from frighteningly sharp sabers. Ra'tassa had deftly catapulted past enemy bowmen, leaped onto the leader, and drove his twin punch-daggers deep into the warchief's neck. The fellow gurgled and fell to the ground, spurting blood and yellow bile.
Ma'rashirr sat back on his haunches, grinning. His cat-folk had received only minor nicks to their fur while their foes lay lacerated, many in multiple pieces. Ra'tassa took the last Goblin by the nape of the neck and picked it up, shaking it violently. He threw it to a fellow Khajiit, who scraped his claws across the Goblin's sagging form before throwing it back to Ra'tassa. "Spotless!" he shouted, beating it about the face before snapping the Goblin's neck.
I didn't care for this toying spectacle of cruelty.
Imagine the loathsome aspects of the Orc (and there are many). Now believe a scrawny and devious subspecies shares these traits, but with even more base desires and dense stupidity. Little wonder, then, that the Goblin has no aspiration other than barbaric tribal territory squabbles with others of its lot. As they're incapable of mastering the Tamrielic tongue, there is little to say to a Goblin, save to yell in violent joy as you cleave one with your blade. The finest of their pathetic accomplishments is mastery of shamanistic magic and the domestication of their hunting pet, the durzog.
[Much Goblin gear appears to have been stolen from other races]†
[Goblin Brute in Medium Armor - note the strapped-on debris]†
[Tribal weaponry - effective, but not well maintained]†
[A Gobin Shaman. They have a grasp of crude spell-casting.]†
While Ra'tassa and the gang picked through the spoils and clutter, I chose three of the most intact Goblin corpses to paint and inspect (I did not show their numerous savage wounds). Of greater interest is the equipment they carry: It is primarily constructed of wood, bronze, and wrought iron. More fascinating still are the swords, shields, and cleaving weapons stolen from other cultures and remade roughly but effectively.
Ma'rashirr was tucking into a serving of dried sugarmeat with his cohorts. I declined and instead studied the heavy armor a few of the Goblin troops were wearing. I noted scraps of chain mail and iron plates bolted in, with accents of bone, horns, and skulls. The leather was efficiently tanned, but crude. Impressive craftsmanship for such a low and worthless creature.
[Most of these are done from memory - the Caravan Guards didn't want us to linger near an outbreak of the K. Flu]†
[The War Chief in his Heavy Armor. He was almost as tall as an Orc.]†
I accompanied Ra'tassa and a couple of his ilk as they tracked the Goblins back to a small camp in a rocky dell several hundred paces away. The Khajiiti stalkers were expecting trouble but were greeted by pathetic moans and slumped bodies gasping and shriveled in pain. Many green-skins had turned an unhealthy shade of yellow, with buboes blistering around the mouth. I made some quick sketches of this wretched camp and totem as the Khajiit retreated with haste, leaving the Goblins to succumb to the sun and what was undoubtedly the Knahaten Flu.
[The Shaman's spell-staff, topped with the mummified head of a Juvenile Goblin]†
[Items from the Tribe's Primitive Camp]
I suggested to Ra'tassa that perhaps the Goblin raiding party that was so conclusively defeated was also beginning to succumb to the Knahaten Flu.
"This explains why the raiders were such pushovers," I said, watching Ra'tassa's brow furrow.
"The unclawed one speaks!" he proclaimed, hissing back at me. "But of matters he hasn't the competency to lecture about, yes?"
Undeterred, I continued: "I studied the discharge from the warchief's wounds and mouth. It looked like the flu to me."
Ra'tassa stopped me, placing a muscular claw on my shoulder. "Ra'tassa believes in our own prowess. Flaccus should hold his tongue, lest a Cat get it."
As the Redguard scribes have noted (in sometimes mind-withering detail), when the first of their kind came to claim Hammerfell, they were confronted by an immense Goblin horde, baying and praying to Malooc the Horde King. It is currently felt that this lesser deity may be entwined somehow with the similarly boorish Mauloch (also known as Malacath) of the Orcs. Malooc certainly shares the more graceless aspects, but further research is requested to confirm such speculation.
I seemed to have rubbed Ra'tassa's fur the wrong way and spent the remaining hours in silence until our arrival in Dune, entrenched in the northwestern grasslands where the Baandari Pedlars roam. While the merchants paid their tariffs and excises, I bade a swift farewell and sketched two samples of the faintly exotic Khajiiti architecture. Being in northern Elsweyr, I wasn't expecting the imposing structures of marble or stone found in the south, where Khajiiti culture builds with more permanence. Here in Dune, buildings are less substantial, made from wood, and many have fallen into disrepair. Perhaps this is due to the northern Khajiit favoring a nomadic life, where only tents are necessary.
[The Barn behind the Inn]†
Expect chaos to greet the Imperial soldier who ventures into the disorderly scrubland of northern Elsweyr. No domain has been ravaged so ruthlessly by the Knahaten Flu, and the downtrodden Cat-Man must seek favor with the superior races to escape the terror that has befallen them.
Even though the Elsweyr Confederacy has been ratified, the gambits of the Nibenese of Rimmen and the Colovians of Skingrad and Arenthia are still unchanged, as the Khajiiti territories continue to squabble. However, it has done some good; the factions have fallen into line under the leadership of the Mane, who holds spiritual sway over the common beasts.
The Khajiit are no strangers to vexation, and from the taint of disease and strife there has emerged a valiant leader, Gharesh-ri, Lord of Torval. He professes to speak for the Mane, with quick wits and quicker claws. He seeks council with the Higher Elves of Summerset, determined to tame the insurrection within his homeland. This is troubling, as a downtrodden Cat on our doorstep is preferable to a dominion with Elvenkind in your back garden.
[What an appalling mixture of metaphors. I shall have to rewrite this section.]
My nerves calmed, I inspected a gift Ma'rashirr handed me as we parted company—a Zwinthodurrarr, or yellow writing stick. I used it to sketch the bright, elegant entrance, and the decorative doors of Dune, finding my new implement—and Khajiiti architecture—most pleasing. While Cat-Men are certainly partial to bright colors, it borders on tasteful rather than garish, with flourishes of creative artisanship.
[Graceful ornamentation on the architecture in Dune]†
[Curved Claws and Crescent Moons wherever you look.]†
I walked the streets of Dune in the early afternoon. The painted pavilions and sculptures were intertwined with carvings of glinting golds, reds, and blacks, all beckoning you to take in their beauty and touch. The sandy thoroughfare I strolled upon was mostly dung-free, despite drovers passing, expertly wrangling their herds of cattle and horses.
I slowed as I passed hawkers sweetmeats and stopped to barter for a bag of caramelized goat nibbles. Delicious! There were no menacing shadows lurking at doorways. Instead, the heady aromas of freshly-made nectar bread loafs and honey pudding made my nostrils twitch. I gladly partook of a sample of Tenmar apricot liqueur. Delectable!
Amid the rabble of scurrying couriers, shouting peddlers, and well-to-do robed beast-men reclining in shaded tents and gazing out at the rumpus (the first time I'd witnessed a Khajiit without a task or purpose), I heard the skirling music pipes from the taverns. Intriguing... The Khajiit are sensualists and live to enjoy themselves.
The ambrosial aroma of the Sweet Plethora teahouse drew me in. Amid the finery, intricately woven tapestries of the moons' paths, and the cross-legged Khajiit, I sat down to paint and sample the various syrupy infusions being brewed. The pot of treacle tea was a little too sickly sweet for my palate, so I nibbled on a candied beet and waited for my jar of sorghum sweetmilk. That left a metallic taste in my mouth. I ordered a cup of myrrh-tansy and was enjoying it immensely when I noticed I was being watched.
Across the room, an Imperial woman was staring intently at me. Perhaps and agent wanting the preliminary sketches for my guide? No, she bore no insignia. She dipped her hand below the table and made a gesture I found most unnerving. The clasp of the fingers and spreading of the palm. This was a signal I am certain the Worm Cult used. But she hadn't the robed attire. What, now I couldn't trust anyone? I gulped down my tea and left by the rear door.
She followed. I panicked and ran.
[Elegant Wayshrine of the Cat-Folk]†
[Zara, the Dune Pit-Fighter]†
[Tools of the Pit-Fighter's Trade - I bore the Curved Scimitar]†
I felt a foot blister burst as I sprinted down exactly the type of alley I'd sworn never to run down again. Wincing, I turned several corners, weaving away from my pursuer, until I heard the faint sounds of a crowd chattering in the distance. Rushing through a double gate toward the throng, I stumbled and fell headlong into the arms of a tall and angular Khajiit with scars across his arms and face. I looked up, gasping for the breath to let him now my quandary.
"I, Jobasha-do, welcome you to your death."
Handled inappropriately by large paws, I was thrust into a large, sand-covered area where I stumbled about in a tizzy. Circled on all sides by high walls and a baying crowd and stripped of all possessions save a strewn scimitar I'd been thrown, I realized my predicament. A young female Khajiit was running at me. Instinctively, I dropped my weapon to surrender and backed up.
"Zara thinks you may be outmatched in the Thizzrini Arena, Imperial!" she shouted, tossing me back my blade.
[The Ogre of the Arena. One of the larger ones, I imagine, though it was still no match for us. Its keepers called it "The Professor" - a sad jest, no doubt, but I was still inclined to resent it.]†
The backwoods of Cyrodiil, and indeed any stretch of rarely-traversed common land across Tamriel, may be home to one of Tamriel's basest aberrations, the Ogre. Peek into a den of sticks or the shallow cave of a rocky hillock, and you may not meet a troll or a wolf but a small community of these primitive creatures. Often it is best to leave their hunting land fallow, as they tend to shy away from our thresholds and keep other marauders in check. If an Ogre is presenting you with some difficulty, you are obliged to contact the nearest town guard. For a nominal fee, a raiding party can easily dispatch such a foe.
Ogres have not the intelligence to argue a point and take a primal enjoyment when mashing den intruders into malformed corpses. The hunt for food and gather necessities, and enjoy life on Nirn no more than that, with the exception of when employing their considerable strength to wrench apart foes or lob large rocks at them. Fortunately, the Ogres' ponderous nature enables nimble opponents to avoid such attacks. AS for their coloration, Phrastus of Elinhir's speculation that their blue-gray skin camouflages their tall silhouetted forms against the sky has been conclusively controverted by Lady Cinnabar of Taneth, so we are no closer to solving that riddle: one cannot simply walk up to an Ogre and ask.
"I'm not a pit fighter!" I yelled back, catching the weapon by the correct end.
"Try to pretend, yes?" she replied, motioning to an open gate, out of which bounded a young senche-tiger. I scrabbled in the dirt for a crescent-shaped shield and stood my ground.
The tiger leapt for me. Clutching the handle, I braced as the animal clanged off the shield and onto Zara's impaling spear.
"Flaccus may have some combative boldness, like his brother!" I yelled at Zara with a manic grin. Then I wondered why I'd started to mimic Khajiiti verbal mannerisms.
"Ogre!" Zara shouted, pointing to a second gate. Something huge and blue-gray lumbered out of the cages, tore a section of masonry from the gate arch, and lobbed it across the arena. It thudded inches away from me. I babbled a prayer to Arkay as my bravery left me.
I recall being slightly annoyed at the crowd pelting me with spoiled fruit as I abstained completely from combat. My chest-brand and heart were both burning as I slowed. My vigor spent, I could run no more. With the cobalt beast bearing down on me, I cowered as it raised a massive fist for a deadly pummel.
The Ogre bellowed as both its hamstrings were severed by Zara's swift cuts. Blood flew from its knees as it swayed and lurched. Then a Cat was on the Ogre's hunched back, cutting its throat with an expert dissection. The Ogre was dead before it crashed to the ground.
What a team we made.
Stride through any Khajiiti settlement, whether a ramshackle northern encampment or an austere southern town, and you will notice the Two-Moons Temple—always the most expansive structure. Built to last and utilizing the finest local materials, this place of worship is central to Khajiiti society. Although the Cat-Men deem the Divines as preeminent (and their sanctuary offers prayers to bastardizations of our own Eight), they believe in the Lunar Lattice—or the movement of Masser and Secunda—influences all matters of luck, destiny, and happenstance, a belief Venustinius Perquitienus has termed a "hybrid heresy."
Khajiiti dogma reveres the moons as divine, furnishing life into the bodies of the Cat-Men by ingestion of moon-sugar, a sacred ingredient that can also be refined into a hallucinatory contraband. [Why be coy? Everyone knows it's called Skooma.] Although used both for culinary and ritualistic purposes, it can be easily blended to form a wretched and illegal narcotic. Such wanton delirium seems to be kept in check by a hierarchy of Moon-Bishops who regulate these ingestions, which play a small part in Khajiiti ceremonies. The clergy mainly concerns itself with conducting services, rounding up fallen followers, and ruling on theological matters. If an impasse is reached, the issue is resolved by the Mane himself.
The absolute rulers of the Lunar Lattice, Manes are the most powerful of the Khajiit outside the clan-chiefs and kings of Elsweyr. They may be a key official to bribe, corrupt, or remove should forthcoming hostilities occur on our southern border. Of further interest is the succession ritual for the Mane; when one expires, a sacred ritual determines his successor. A Moon Herald is appointed to shepherd the potential aspirants on what Khajiiti texts describes as an epic and dangerous quest to the Two Moons themselves, with the sole returning candidate declared the new Mane.
The assumption that the lay Cat travels astrally to our moons is preposterous; Venustinius Perquitienus has termed it "nauseous balderdash," and rightly so.
After profuse apologies by the arena attendant for my panic and inadvertent exposure to the deadlier side of Khajiiti culture, I limped out of the Thizzrini Arena and waited for Zara to collect her winnings. She offered me some coin, which I thought inappropriately gracious of her. I refused, but confessed to my jeopardy and the relentlessness of my enemies, the Daedric cultists. Mercifully, Zara suggested she accompany me.
[Two-Moons Temple, built in the heavier stonework style of the South - however, one can still perceive motifs common in the northern wood structures.]†
[An imaginative painting I acquired of Khajiiti ruins in the Far South]†
Being quite devout, Zara was determined to visit the Two-Moons Temple to make an offering. Anxious to see evidence of Khajiiti culture that didn't involve slaughter, I agreed and we made our way to an impressive sanctuary which I was delighted to sketch. Zara donned a ceremonial budi—or shirt—fastened with braids down the right side, which does not permit the torso fur to be uncovered, for such is believed to be highly indecorous. She told me she always heads here after a fight to give thanks to Jone, Jode, and Alkosh.
Soon, the hallways echoed with her oaths to partly heretical deities: "Roar of Alkosh!"
[Fascinating moon-shrine pedestal I sketched in the Temple - I never did learn its significance]†
[The Altar to Alkosh, with offerings - all honey-sweet, I assure you!]†
I wish I had the fur and whiskers to fully appreciate such a cathedral of the Cat. Although the outer chambers had sustained damage over the centuries (most recently from skirmishes with marauding Khajiiti refugees from the corrupt Senchal region), the inner basilica held a wealth of meticulously carved masonry, including stone idols to minor deities I had no previous knowledge of.
Zara was deep in purring prayer to Alkosh, and I was seated in the cloisters outlining a drawing of an inner pulpit, when I was approached by an older Cat-Man in a ceremonial budi. I got up to leave but was quietly motioned to stay by Moon-Bishop Hunal.
[Bas-Reliefs of Feline Saints enacting the Two-Moons Dance]†
[Moon-Bishop Hunal, a most decorous and dignified Cat. I accepted his hospitality with pleasure. He even deigned to invite Zara, with the blood still on her claws.]†
"You run with some speed and dexterity, Shaveskin. You would be formidable if your play with a blade matched your genius at evasion. Still, your display in the arena was spotless, I think."
By now, the sly disparagement was starting to grate slightly. But this was no caravan roustabout I was speaking with: I offered a fawning reply and unrolled my Imperial credentials. He waved them back into my satchel.
"We recognize your bona fides, Flaccus Terentius. Judging by your paunch, you enjoy eating? To make amends over your recent discomfort in our arena, you are to dine with myself and Telenger the Artificer, a High Elf envoy from Summerset. You would be honored to accept, I'm sure. We would be accepting of you and your warrior friend's agreement, yes?"
Zara had arrived by my side. It was odd to see her so circumspect—I'd never seen a Khajiit blush before—but I took her to one side, mentioned my worries about the Worm Anchorites, and prevailed on her to join us.
Dried sugarmeat for the visitors and jumping rodent morsels for the Khajiit at the table. I requested a dram of two-moon cordial. Than the introductions were made. I was particularly delighted to make the acquaintance of the High Elf Telenger, who, despite his stretched and pinched frame and a predisposition to talk down to everyone at the feast, was my connection to visiting the insular Summerset. After chitchat about the ongoing concord with the Cats, I plucked up the effrontery to ask for an escort to the Isles.
He pulled back his draped hood to reveal a pair of piercing blue eyes and looked me up and down.
"My Swan Ship sails to the Isles on the morrow, Imperial. Leave your protector with her own people. I can guarantee you safe passage."
I accepted most gracefully, although Zara seemed to stare sorrowfully into her plum brandy for a while.
Deities venerated by the Khajiit are almost as numerous as the Eight Divines. Rajhin the Purring Liar is a favorite among storytellers. Magrus the Sun God and Azurah the Goddess of Dusk and Dawn appeal to magicians. Sheggorath the Mad Skooma Cat appears to those soft in the head. Hircine the Skinchanger is worshiped by hunters. Sangiin the God of Death and Secret Murder is prayed to in hushed tones and in forbidden shrines. Namiira the Great Darkness is appeased by the jealous, angered, and maligned. Lorkhaj the Missing God is reviled, as he trapped them in mortal form; his image is spat upon, not revered.
Perceptive scholars of the Daedra may recognize that these lower spirits have easily identifiable aspects or counterparts in the realms of man, though even the most pious Khajiiti spiritualist would have only a vague notion of the difference between Aedra and Daedra. To a Khajiit, it is only after they seek the power of the Moons that they placate or implore other entities, almost on a whim.
[This agrees with what I saw of the worshipers at Two-Moons Temple.]