|This is a compilation of books assembled for easier reading.|
[One of the few surviving accounts of Ami-El, Cyrodiil's forgotten third Emperor. The historical merits of this tale are dubious, and many of its claims are contested and contradicted by other sources. The serious student of First Empire history would do well to put this story aside, save perhaps as a curiosity of Nibenese thinking.]
In the days of Cyrodiil new-forged the blood of Morihaus was strong in the veins of Empire. So it was with Belharza, Man-Bull, defender against the winged hordes of Ayleidoon, who wreathed the city anew in brightly colored silks, for the expanses of white stone were loathsome to us. In silk we lived, and in silk our children slept, and the whole of the city was as silk, until we called the Woven City.
Belharza's children slept in silk, and their dreams were as of silk, for these were the days of First Freedom. Belharza had fathered many children on the women of the north, whose blood is as water, whose skin is white as the snow, whose hair like the gold found in the Corbol-a. All save his youngest child, whom Belharza fathered on a woman of Nibennum, Llesa, his favored bride, whose blood runs thick and red as the river, whose skin was patterned with whorls and snakes, whose hair was wiry. And within her the aspect of Morihaus manifested itself anew, so that when the child was still in the womb, it grew the black horns of the bull, and pierced her mothers side, and killed her.
And Belharza grieved the death of Llesa, whom he had cherished, saying: "This child, manifest of the divine blood, has come to us garbed not in silk, but in the blood of the mother. I cannot hold her and not see this. We have payed the price of blood many times over, first in slavery, then in revolt. I am loath to pay it anew. Rather I give this child to the river." And after this, great Belharza became a cold man.
So the horned child was cast into the lake, which did not swallow her, but carried her along its back to the banks of the Niben. There it was found by humble people of Nibennum, a man of the fisher caste, a woman who sang silk fishing-nets. They were pious, and in their heart's ear they heard the river speak to them and bade them care for this child. And they named the child Amet.
Now in those days the brothers and sisters of Belharza were the minotaurs. They were many, and had many children, and they did not yet shun the cities of men for the wild and distant places. They were wise and strong, having been taught by their father, Morihaus. And of all the minotaurs the ruler was Asterion, who behaved not as a servant of Empire, but as a solitary king of his kind, and they loved and feared him. Asterion was once a hero of renown, who fought the winged hordes of Ayleidoon by the side of his brother Belharza, and built many bridges over the Niben. But in old age his flesh had become white, his mind had become clouded, and his desire was for the red power that is the right of kings alone.
Mournful day, Belharza's death! Our banners we burned, and our faces we covered in ash, and ash we poured into the river until the red waters turned black. The brothers and sisters of Belharza, the bullish spawn of Morihaus and Aleshut, came to the city and mourned, and their king, Asterion, came to the city and mourned. But the heart of Asterion was not on his tongue, for he had seen the Ruby-of-Kings, clasped in the cold left hand of Belharza, so mighty still in death.
The children of Belharza then gathered at the catafalque to hold a banquet round his silent remains (as was the custom in those days), and Asterion was present in a place of honor. And when the last dregs of bitter wine were poured on the ground, Belharza's oldest child came forth, her name was Belmar, and she spoke the words of peace, saying: "Sisters and brothers, mourn not for the passing of Belharza, for he was Emperor, and by Divine pact his name is now bound to the Ruby-of-Kings. Forvere he will stand by and give wise council. See how it glows with star-made splendor! While this stone lies in the hand of the line of Mori-Alesh, our Empire will grow, and will come to encompass, in time, all things, the lands of the west, and the lands of the east, nations above, and nations below, an empire of Man, eternal, fixed between the stars. Now of all here present I am firstborn, and claim the right of Empire."
But Asterion roared, dissenting: "The line of Morihaus has grown weak through the blood of the north! Its children have become small and weak, sleeping in silk! Is this the blood of the pennate bull, who slew many Elves, who defied Merid-Nua and cast down the shrines, who taught the bees to make honey in remembrance of the blood he spilled? My line is the true blood of the bull, and I claim Empire."
Said Belmar: "You may have the blood of Morihaus, bull-uncle, but of the blood of Aleshut, the mother, you know nothing. Powerful mother of man, her love is so great that it protects her children from all harm. Many are the spears our enemies have raised against us, yet these weapons did us no harm, they pierced us, but drew no blood. No weapon of man may harm the children of Esha, likewise, none of the children of Esha would ever harm one another."
But Asterion, who was likewise a child of the Mother, had no such injunction. He gored Belmar with his great horns, which was kin-bone to Belmar, and deadly. And the servants of Asterion did likewise to the children of Belharza, until all were dead. And Asterion ordered all of them burned, and their bones ground to dust, so that none could from them fashion a weapon to harm him. Then Asterion Usurper left the City, and journeyed to the valley of Horns, where he held his court.
While this all had come to pass, Belharza's castaway child had lived many years on the banks of the Niben, becoming strong, fearless, sharp-eyed, and crowned with horns. And on the day of Belharza's death, Amet walked the jungled paths to the riverside.
On this path was a brook, and from the water came a voice: "Hail Amet, child of the Bull, come into inheritance today, and ignorant of it all."
"Silent, crooked stream," replied Amet, "I do not listen to the waters, for I am neither poet nor ferryman. I am Amet, the horned, tall and strong, child of the bone-carver."
Replied the river: "Listen, for you are child of me, when you were young the waters cared for you, and carried you, and gave birth to you anew on the reedy banks of the Niben. You will go to the river, true, but there you will not wash clothes nor carry back sweet water. On the river you will see a bull, wounded by an iron spear. Black deed! You must ease its suffering, but beware, for inside it burns a hateful fire. It will tell you of your inheritance, but it hates you, and will try to wound you."
"Fine words the river speaks today", Amet answered, "You will tell my fortune? Sing a song, perhaps? It has been long since I heard good river-song." But the water did not reply.
So Amet walked on to the great river Niben. Many the poets who sleep on its banks, and many the lovers who drown themselves, seeking union with its holy spirit. But that day the river was silent, blackened by mourning-ashes. "A black day!" mused Amet, "Black deed! Something vile must have happened in the Woven City."
And there a black bull rose from the river, made of flame and mourning-ash. The beast bellowed, wounded by a spear in its side, and collapsed on the banks. Then, seeing Amet on the side of the river, the bull spoke: "Hail, Amet, scorned child. Know now your true ancestry: not a child of Niben folk, but of Belharza, Man-Bull, dead today and in death defiled. You are the last of his line."
Said Amet: "Who are you, smoke-bull? What do you speak of?"
The bull replied: "I am the bull, Morihaus, and I am Belharza, son of Morihaus, and I am even blind Asterion. From me your blood flows. To you I entrust the Empire of Aleshut, though there is part of me that rages against you, even in death, for your mother's life." And from the beast sprung forth fiery tongues that burned in Amet's hand the shape of a diamond. "This is the sign of your office, now in the hand of a kin-murderer. Your uncle, white Asterion, has murdered your brothers and sisters, and now holds court in the valley of Horns, where monsters roam. You must defeat him."
"How do I do this?" asked Amet, to which the bull replied: "Asterion has many warriors, also, he is invulnerable to the weapons of man. Only you, child of Esha, can wound him, by a weapon of the self. You were the death of Llesa, Nibennum, my beloved. Fail, daughter. Let this empire rot with my bride, burn with my bones."
And when Amet woke, it was cold, and dark, and there no stars burned that night. And in her hand there was a festering burn-wound. So Amet returned home, feverish, and slept for many days, and her foster-mother and father wrapped her head and her wounds with healing silks, and many fine roots and herbs that bring sweet dreams and dull the senses, but her sickness did not abate - for none of the Niben's sweet-dream-spices could quell such a fire.
A fortnight after great revelation, still Amet slept. Unconscious, no-one noticed when into the dark of the chamber crept a Dmath, a creature from the outside, in the shape of a loathsome ape. it was a bony creature, with loose teeth and bleeding fingers from its long labor of writing no words.
In darkness the ape whispered in Amet's ear: "I know of your task, your burden. You are to fight dread Asterion, the White. He has never been defeated. You will die, and your bones will be ground to dust, and no moth will be there to take your name."
Amet stirred and woke. "Another dreaming-beast, here to speak prophecy? Leave me be. I have had enough of the spirits and their words."
Replied the beast: "I speak prophecy, yes, but you will not hear it. It is a word from your father's mother to your children's children. You are a hand carrying a burden the eye is not meant to see.The word of Aleshut is my word, but my word is nothing to the ears of man. They call me ape-man, and worship the makeshift. But you, you are Emperor. Lend me your voice, child, and I will aid you in your endeavor."
"What do you want, ape-man?", asked Amet.
"The hearts of your children, and your children's children, for me to teach them the words I have learned in long nights of penance and supplication. Grant me your voice, and your empire will not fall, it will grow and thrive, it will come to encompass the all of the world, in time, even to stretch between the nonce-stars of the places far and unknowable to man!"
"Give me proof, ape-man," said Amet, "Let me hear the words of Aleshut."
And the ape replied, singing thus: "Hail Ami-El! Beloved child, to you the cities of the valley and the kingdoms of the west, to you the holds the north, and to you the City of the Flat Hill, and to you the Pale Gates, and to you the Highlands of Dust, and to you the Strongholds of the River, and to you the Sancre Tor were freedom lay hidden, and to you the Islands of the City, numbering eight, with their towers numberless!. From your neck will hang a blood-stone, and you will be garbed in silk and iron, above your head there will be a radiant sphere of moths, behind your back will be a legion of warriors, at your feet will be the loving embrace of the sea, on your hands will be the blood of your kin, and you will rule Cyrod, with me, and you will be Cyrod, with me. There are but two strikes of a knife between you and your destiny."
After the passing of the spirit of the bull and the ape, Amet filled with holy purpose, apyed visit to the foster-father, who carved knives from bone, and said: "Father, I've need of a knife of the self. Cut off my horn, the right one, and fashion it into the shape of a knife, as I will be a knife in days to come." And the bone-carver did as Amet desired: from the right horn he fashioned a good bone-knife, the likes of which one could trade or hunt with, worth much in beads and shells, and Elven-coin. Then, Amet said goodbyes, and left for the east.
In the mountains of the east, the air is dry and filled with fine dust. No tree grows taller than a man, before it dies, no water there can be found, even the loatshome jungle is a distant predator There lies a great fissure where Morihaus once struck the earth in anger, where the wind howls and bites, and men betray and kill each other for little gain. Here, the minotaurs hold their court.
At the entrance of the valley there was a gate, where flutes of hollow elf-bone hung the walls, so the valley would ring with the cries of dead Ayleidoon. This gate, was guarded by a minotaur, his name was Tull-Am. And when Amet came to this gate, Tull-Am called out to her: "Hail, stranger! You stand before the gates of Cyrod, the court of Asterion, Emperor. Have you come to bring tribute?" Answered Amet: "I have no tribute save an arms-length of bone for the king of cows. Rather I am cut and bled than I would acknowledge blind Asterion, Usurper!"
And Amet drove her dagger into the minotaur's throat, to the hilt, marveling at the ease with which this knife cut through fur and flesh and bone. In a moment, Tull-Am was dead, for he was a young bull, untested in combat. The, Amet stripped the young minotaur of his fur and skin, fashioning from them a disguise. So attired, Amet passed the gate and descended into the terrible valley of Horns, where monsters roam.
Now in the center of the valley, great stones made the form of a circle, and in that circle stood a single spire of stone, a needle wrought by the winds. And at the foot of this stone sat Asterion, garbed in stolen silk, lighting his house with stolen lamps. And he saw Amet, and said: "Hail, Tull-Am, cousin thrice-removed. You smell of blood, today, and you have lost a horn, It seems to me that you have been in combat. Is there something amiss at the gate of flute-bones?"
And Amet, still garbed in, came nearer: "Hail, Asterion, uncle. I come garbed in blood, the blood of the mother, and I have been victorious, though I have a struggle before me yet. I have given my horn to serve as a weapon of war."
Replied Asterion: "You speak in riddles, Tull-Am, which is not our custom. All alike are born in the blood of the mother, though we wash it away, and for all of us, our horns serve as weapons of war. Against whom will you point your horn, cousin? Gladly will I aid you in this struggle."
"I've no need of any warrior you can command, Asterion the White," said Amet, "You speak truth, when you say that the blood of birth is easily washed away. I washed mine in the river Niben. Now I am clean and pure of purpose. Can you say the same?"
And Asterion, whose nose was better than his eyes, sensed that something was amiss. "Ho, I smell through your stolen skin, little one! You seek to kill me, and reclaim the throne. Fool! Little fool! No," he gestured to his warriors, who thronged the city of stone, "Let her draw near! I am under the protection the blood of Esha! Invulnerable to the blades of men!"
Amet spoke again: "Asterion, for your ambition the lands of men bled, but you shall bleed and suffer thrice again! Belharza, the Man-Bull, was unwilling to pay more blood for Empire, but I will not thus falter!" And so she fell upon the usurper with her horn knife, which was kin-bone to Asterion, and deadly. And so died Asterion, the Blind, the Seething, Asterion the White.
And the spirit of his kin died with him, for when they saw before them fair Amet, they recognized Empire, and all of Asterion fled from their mind. And the minotaurs departed forforests and the far places, and forgot the tongues of men.
And Amet went to the City of Cyrod, with its numberless towers, and took possession of it all. There was crowned Emperor Ami-El, the One-Horned, and ruled for one hundred years and more. And during this rule there were many great deeds and remarkable events, but of the many laws and decisions, the war with the men of Balalt, the courtship of the sea, and the many bridges built over the Niben, we will say nothing here.