There is a cave hidden deep in the inner marshes of Purescale county. People with any sense avoid this area. There is an ancient shrine to Sheograth nestled within.
Long ago there was a cult who tended the shrine. The cult watched for the arrival of the blessed souls meant to travel to the Shivering Isles.
When a local person lost their mind, and the temple healers could do no more for them. The person would be guided to the shrine if their behavior became too disruptive or dangerous for society to bear.
During the early third era a debate raged around this cult. The practice of sending the insane to the Shivering Isles was considered cruel by some. Others considered it Mercy. If ‘Ol Sheo wanted these people, who were we to deny him? What might befall us if we interfered with a daedric princes wishes?
The debate was never settled. For unknown reasons the cult dwindled and disappeared on its own. What happens to those who go mad now? We do the best we can for them. We have old forts that have been repurposed to house those with madness. The priesthood of Mara and Stendarr share joint responsibility for caring for these souls. Mages and alchemist come from all over Tamriel to research potions and restoration magics that may give those afflicted comfort. There are sects of the priesthood from all temples who dedicate their lives to seeking a cure for aliments of the mind.
Occasionally one of these mad people will instinctively make their way through the marshes, as if they were being called by something beyond themselves. Foolish outsiders who try to ingest hist sap usually disappear there if the experience does not kill them.
When I was in my final years of training. The hunters guild held the competition for people in my age group. The students had week to bring back the rarest game or herbs we could find. The reward for the top three Hunters, was advancement. We were all on the cusp of full adulthood. We couldn’t wait to be allowed the hunt on our own without a mentor shadowing us.
I was too bold for my own good in those days. I had heard tales of the old shrine. Cautionary tales, meant to keep us far away from that cursed place.
I packed my gear and headed out. I knew there had been sightings of strange creatures and plant life near the shrine. If I could bring back a critter from sheogorath’s realm I would surely win. I did not think my mentors would be pleased that I ventured into such a dangerous area. No one declared it off limits so I was well within the rules of the contest. I was not entirely alone in this venture. I had my dog 🐕 Ranger at my heel. If there was any touble brewing he would surely let me know.
It took me an entire day to get there. I set up camp, got the fire going and began to cook supper. Ranger was content. He drifted off to sleep by the fire. I kept watch till midnight. I saw no sign of anything unusual. I decided to turn in myself. I slept well and wondered what all the fuss was about. Maybe the danger that was once here had faded away with the cultist.
I awoke early the next morning to the sound of singing. I got up with a start to see where the sound was coming from. The lovely voice was coming from in short, blond, chubby, Breton woman. Her clothing was strange. It seemed to be of fine make despite the fact she looked a bit disheveled from her journey.
Mara preserve us! She had come from the cave. I stilled my fear. I had no idea what brand of crazy I would be dealing with. She was cute for a human. She seemed a bit disoriented. I took it as a good sign that my dog was not a bit disturbed. She was singing a song about a sweater. It made absolutely no sense but it was catchy. I thought how dangerous could she be? She seemed a jolly enough. Maybe she was a harmless, fun type of crazy.
Ranger and I snuck a little bit closer to get a better look at her. She had a walking stick and backpack. since she had good sense enough to have a walking stick with her, maybe she was just lost. She could be a merchant or a mage separated from her caravan.
She sat down on a rock and took some food from her pack. This food was nothing like I’ve ever seen before. Long, red braided strips that smelled sweet. Ranger began to sniff the air bounded toward the lady. “Hello there pup. Where did you come from? “She said with a cheery tone. Ranger was less interested in her then the sweet smelling food she was consuming. “Would you like a twizzler?” Ranger Barked, panted it’s that pretty in anticipation of his treat. Twizzlers I thought, what a whimsical name for a treat. Ranger took his treat gingerly, and I stepped out from my hiding spot in the bushes.
She rubbed her eyes and took a deep breath, she looked again and she shrieked. “Sleestak!”she cried and began scurrying towards the cave. I cut her off her retreat by jumping in front of her and said “Hold on there, I mean you no harm. ” She looked at an empty bottle clutched in her left hand. “Jose cuervo is not my friend. “
We went back to my camp fire. I introduced myself, and asked what brought her so far from High Rock. She had no idea where that was. She apologized for screaming when she saw me. She thought she fell over a waterfall and ended up some where called the land of the lost. The lizard type people there were unfriendly to humans. Those Sleestak scared her silly as a child. She muttered something panicked about Sigmund the sea monster under her breath. She began to hyperventilate and looked like she were about to pass out. I assured her we were quite a ways from the sea, and I would guard her from any danger the marsh held. “Are you my spirit guide?” She asked with a curious look. Perhaps she was a pilgrim going to the shrine of Dibella on the main road who got turned around, or tricked into venturing this way by a malicious person. There are a few vile cowards who dislike non Argonians so much they would send them the wrong way for a laugh. I had rescued more than one wayward traveler from this cruel prank. The students responsible for it won’t be graduating any time soon. Those boneheads were sent to the temple of Mara to scrub chamber pots for the priesthood for six months. As well they should have been! This random thought swelled up a surge of protectiveness in my chest. I felt it was my obligation to help whatever the case. Her walking stick was unique and I swear I had seen it’s like in an illustration somewhere. I had a nagging feeling that patience and no sudden movements were the right call in dealing with this fair maiden in distress.
I asked her where she had come from, and how she ended up crawling out of a cave in Black Marsh know to be sacred to the God of Madness.
“How rude I am.”She said taken aback by her own lack of manners. “Coffeebean Jen is what people call me. Well, it is what I am told people will call me in the future. So, that’s my name.” She began to describe an encounter with well dressed elderly gentleman with a Scottish accent. “I was out drinking and singing Karaoke. My sister got it in her head that mixing Jose cuervo and Goldschläger was a good idea.” She continued. “How drunk are you when that seems like a good idea? Are you crazy? I asked her.” “About that time the elderly Scottish gent says We all need to go a little crazy from time to time. And he bought us the round.” I listened carefully, her description sounded like The Mad God had come to visit, and he wasn’t alone. He introduced his brother Sam Guevenne. She asked the pair what brought them to town. He replied “We’re here looking at real estate. Seems like just the place for a vacation home.” I began to get the idea that she wasn’t from nirn. The deadra have been known to move through many planes of aetherius to get to other world’s. She seemed like she truly believed she was visiting the spirit world, or she was dreaming off the night of singing and drinking. There would be no judgement from me on this topic. I have been in the same boat many a night.
She said the next bit was a little fuzzy. The next thing she knew her sister was gone,she somehow made it home on her own in that state and she was packing her bag and taking up a walking stick the elderly fellow had given her to remember him by. She headed down a large storm drain in a wooded ravine, passed out and woke up in that cave.
I began to tell her about Black Marsh, and Tamriel. She began to think she was on the astral plane. She seemed satisfied with that answer to her silent questions about where she was. I told her about my hunters guild trial and she seemed more than happy to help. It was not against the rules to hunt with a partner and they didn’t have to be guild members. I took her arrival as a sign from the divines.
As we hunted,foraged and set up snares I casually asked what she did for a living. “The old man said to tell everyone I met on my adventure that I was a Bard. My full job description would just confuse folks.”
Just then, near the mouth of the cave I saw an orange glow. My first thought was more people were coming out of the cave with torches. I looked again and it was a bliss bug. What a lucky break! I could catch it and head straight home. Then my heart sank, I had nothing to put it in to keep it alive to prove I didn’t buy it from an alchemist. I expressed this to my companion and she crept over to her backpack and pulled out a glass jar with a metal lid. She poked holes in the lid while I caught one. I was very pleased with myself. “The old man told me to pack a bunch of strange things. I was so drunk I just went along. Everything he said seemed to make perfect sense. And he liked the sweater song so why wouldn’t I believe him? “
I was satisfied with this trophy and was nearly convinced we should head home. My Breton compatriot thought we could do better than a bug. We should at least bag some game, I reasoned I wouldn’t want it to look like I wasn’t trying. Heading back too soon would appear like I didn’t have confidence in my abilities.
We waited until the sun sank a bit to move camp further past the cave. The unsettling energy may keep game away, I figured. We found a clearing near a clean steam. I don’t think anyone knew there was such a pleasant place in the region. No one dared scout around the cave. Coffeebean Jen seemed to be delighted with all the butterflies. She commented about the smell of fresh moss and how the air was so clean. Then she got up to inspect a hist tree. I warned her to stay away from the sap and not go stomping in any pools near the tree because someone’s eggs might be resting there waiting to hatch. She backed away and said she could swear the tree was speaking to her. I was startled by this, a human connected to the hist? I tucked that observation away as I saw her start to wander. “What are those?” She pointed to a patch of wild marsh mellons. “These are delicious.” I tittered like an excited child. I pondered how much of what I found in this area I was going to tell anyone about. This seemed like hidden grove of goodies the divines and my friend from another plane should know about. “Oh, you have cucumbers, and pie pumpkins.” She piped fom a little way down the stream. Cucumbers? What the Oblivion are cucumbers? I went over too look while Ranger was practically snoring soaking up a bit of sunlight steaming down through the canopy of towering trees. This had all been a pleasurable, uneventful outing aside from her odd arrival. I sauntered over,only half paying attention to look at the cucumbers.
Then it happened...
*sigh* I’ll be back in a minute Eola is giving Lydia that look again. Bad!Eola Bad! Go Eat Braith if you can catch the mean little snot. That should keep her busy for an hour that kid is as fast and sneaky as a Kahjiit cutpurse. Uhh.. wait a minute. Do not invite that little menace to join the coven! Okay, where was I?