Waiting for the Ferry
Upon waking, it took Adrian a moment to realize he was still on the train. His coworkers and their families were stirring, while a voice over the P.A. system announced their imminent arrival at the Windhamn ferry terminal. He must have slept nearly the whole trip. If only he felt rested. That poor Lukas who lived in his dreams – why was it so important to drag himself off to the Citadel, whatever that was, and leave that poor girl alone like that? How odd it was, to see the drama unfold through someone else’s eyes, yet only as a spectator! Still, Adrian felt the story hadn’t ended yet. People made choices, broke each other’s hearts; it happened all the time. Why was this dream-story any different? There must be more to come.
Adrian rubbed his eyes and tried to stretch as the train slowed and stopped. Grabbing his shoulder bag, he was among the last off the coach. Hulde the office manager stood by the coach door, announcing that they would board the ferry in exactly one hour. That left plenty of time to walk around and stretch his legs, so Adrian set out in search of a café. He took the stairs from the train platform, and out into a broad plaza, mostly concrete and brick, with trees here and there surrounded by concrete benches. About five minutes away at a slow walk was the ferry, wallowing at its pier. To the left and right of the pier were buildings housing merchants and restaurants. Crowds were accumulating in both directions. Adrian headed left, more or less at random.
About halfway to the shops, Adrian was interrupted by a voice addressing him. “Hey!” Adrian turned to his right, and spotted his favorite tram driver. He almost didn’t recognize her in her black casual slacks and loose-fitting peach colored blouse.
“Well, hello! This is a surprise,” Adrian said. “Are you headed to Seyda Neen too?”
“Absolutely!” she replied. “Vvardenfell’s the land of my ancestors, after all, though I’ve never actually been there.”
“You picked a good time to go,” said Adrian, “with the Nerevarine Festival and all. Did you come down here alone?”
“I did. I wanted to take my niece, but she couldn’t go. I have an aunt and uncle in Vivec City. I’m supposed to go see them at some point.”
“Good having family out there,” said Adrian, who couldn’t think of a better reply. “Say, I’m trying to find a cup of coffee. Do you want one as well?”
“Sure.” She pointed. “I think the café is over there.”
“Oh, by the way,” said Adrian. “I’ve only been on your tram for months and months now, so I really ought to introduce myself. I’m Adrian.”
“And I’m Teri,” she said. Adrian was pleased by her firm handshake.
They found the café, and even managed to get a small table near a window to themselves. They each ordered coffee, Teri asking for a sweet roll as well. They watched the people, singly, as families, as tour groups, making their way to the ferry terminal. “So you rode down here on the train?” Adrian asked. “I didn’t see you this morning.”
“I was in one of the cars at the very end,” she replied.
“I’ll bet it feels good just to ride, huh?” Adrian instantly regretted saying this, as she’d doubtless heard it many times.
“Oh, I like driving the tram. But I really needed a vacation. I was starting to feel awfully run-down, and nobody needs an exhausted tram driver.”
“I’ve been feeling it myself,” said Adrian. “Trouble sleeping.”
“Me too. And what’s worse,” Teri paused, as if she were decided whether to continue, “I keep getting these awful, depressing dreams.”
At that moment, they heard the deep drone of the ferry’s horn. It was time to leave. Adrian quickly paid, and the two of them headed for the boarding area. Adrian’s seat was with his colleagues on the top deck, first class with comfortable reclining seats. “It looks like my seat’s somewhere towards the stern,” said Teri.
“Would you like to meet up again on board?” asked Adrian.
Teri smiled. “Sure. I’d like that.”
A Long Ride
The ferry trip ran through the afternoon and into the night, taking them from Windhamn, through the Inner Sea, and finally to Seyda Neen. Once again, Adrian thought, the General Manager was trying to do the company trip right, at least in his own way. Certainly it would have been quicker (and arguably cheaper) to have flown into Balmora and taken a bus down to Seyda Neen. But for a visit to the Festival to be most meaningful, one was supposed to duplicate the Neravarine’s sea voyage, and step onto the same dock as the Neravarine did so many centuries ago. After that, you could view the exhibits, visit the historic buildings, or play at the carnival.
Adrian and Teri wound up meeting for supper at the ferry’s café, one deck below the space Hulde had arranged for SK Intercontinental. Adrian ordered roast rabbit with potatoes, while Teri had a very pungent lamb stew over rice. Neither had eaten much that day, so neither said much as they tucked into their meals.
Adrian noticed his colleagues gradually filing into the café. Myra Hendrikson saw him at the table with Teri, and gave him a discreet wink and a smile. Teri didn’t see him smile back. “So,” he said. “Awful, depressing dreams?”
“What?” It took Teri a moment to remember. “Oh, that! Yes, as I was saying, it’s been tough, lately. Most nights I’ll have this awful dream. It feels like it takes place a long time ago. I’m just sitting there, absolutely crushed, because I’d lost something I thought I’d had. It’s hard to define exactly, but I’m almost afraid to sleep now.”
Adrian knew exactly what she meant, and explained why. “It is a remarkable coincidence, isn’t it? We’re both here, having come from the same place, on our way to the same place, for essentially the same reason.”
“I don’t believe in destiny,” Teri said. “I haven’t believed in it since I was a girl. But something like this? It’s enough to make me, well, wonder.”
They talked far into the evening. At some point, Adrian spotted the general manager and his wife strolling past the café. Apparently, the general manager’s wife spotted them, as she elbowed her husband and pointed. Finally, both had to admit they were very tired, and after promising to meet again when they debarked, they returned to their seats.
Adrian dozed in his recliner on the top deck, but his sleep was far from peaceful. Fleeting visions, like memories from centuries past, whirled about him.
Here he was, working in the Citadel under the Head Scribe’s watchful tutelage.
Here he was, trying to compose a letter for Marisi, and missing her terribly.
Here he was, overhearing words not meant for him, confiding in his mentor about an unfolding conspiracy.
Here he was, trying to shake the Head Scribe awake, finding blood on his hands, finding himself accused of murdering the Head Scribe, the Duke, and his family.
And here he was, saved from execution by the Emperor himself, but condemned to exile.
The ferry reached Seyda Neen about two hours after sunrise. Adrian waited for Teri at the gangplank, and they walked toward the historic Seyda Neen dock together, Adrian toting his shoulder bag and politely pulling Teri’s small suitcase behind them. A large banner reading “Nerevarine Festival: Where the Magic Begins” spanned the dock like a gateway. As the crossed the wooden planks, he noticed Hendrikson’s children jostling one another. Their father grabbed both by the arm, and gave them a good scolding. Adrian had just heard the words “… and let’s keep this as civil as possible,” when he suddenly became very dizzy. He was beginning to stumble when he felt Teri’s hand grab his arm. “You okay?”
Adrian recovered. “Sure. I just felt weird. I’ve never been here, but somehow it felt really, really familiar.”
Teri smiled. “I don’t know why, but for some reason, it doesn’t really surprise me.”
They paused by the reconstructed Imperial Census and Excise Office (now used by the Tourist Board) to stock up on brochures and pamphlets before heading on to the hotel district. Once again, Hulde had outdone herself – she’d reserved an entire floor of the Morrowind Empire Hotel for SK Intercontinental. Adrian almost didn’t want to ask Teri where she was staying, afraid they’d be across town from each other. “I’m here, too!” she said. “I reserved one of their smaller rooms, but I don’t need all that much.”
After resting up in their rooms, Teri and Adrian met for lunch, then strolled around town. Adrian wore dark trousers and a collarless long-sleeve shirt, open at the neck. Teri had put on a pretty white summer dress and a straw hat. They strolled through the historic area, viewed costumes and artefacts from the Neravarine era, visited the wildlife exhibit, and did some shopping. Teri bought an authentic netch leather wallet for her niece, while Adrian found a set of picture frames that would work nicely in his office. Adrian spotted a number of his coworkers that afternoon. Myra Hendrikson flashed him another knowing smile, but other than that, he paid his colleagues little mind.
Later, they returned to the Morrowind Empire for a brief rest prior to the company dinner that evening at a restaurant near the carnival. At the front desk, Adrian found a message waiting for him: The general manager wanted to see him half an hour before the dinner was scheduled. This has to be about the promotion, he thought. What an opportunity: a significant pay raise, more responsibility, and more recognition, in one of the most desirable cities in the province. Was it really going to be his?
“Is something the matter?” Teri asked as he folded up the message and put it in his pocket.
“Boss wants to see me before dinner. Can we leave a little early?”
It was late afternoon when they arrived at the restaurant, which was located right at the edge of the carnival grounds. They would be dining al fresco; long tables were set up outside to accommodate SK Intercontinental employees, families, and guests. The general manager was waiting outside the entrance, wearing a sport coat and a blue and white striped shirt open at the collar. “Adrian, son! I’m glad you got my message. And who is this?” Adrian introduced Teri.
“Oh, wait,” the general manager said. “I think I remember you. Didn’t your father sit on the city transportation board?”
“He did, some years ago,” answered Teri. “Did you know him?”
“Know him? We were practically joined at the hip for a while! You were pretty small, but I remember being at your house once or twice when he was running the tram service!”
“Well, he’s retired from the city trams, but I’ve been driving for a few years now.”
“Like father, like daughter!” the general manager laughed. Turning to Adrian: “There’s something I needed to talk to you about.” Adrian turned to Teri to excuse himself, but the general manager interrupted. “There’s no need to speak privately. This is good news! As you know, SK Intercontinental has been looking for a general shipping manager over in the Vitbäck office. The search has come down to only two people, both of them in our branch, and both of them equally qualified. Company headquarters asked me to decide, which amounted, more or less, to me flipping a coin. I’d like to offer the position to you.”
Despite knowing his chances for promotion were pretty fair, Adrian was a little stunned. He’d worked hard, and he knew his efforts were appreciated. But to get this offer, well, that was really flattering! He turned to Teri, ready to tell her how excited he was, but was stopped short by Teri’s sad smile.
He needed more time. Teri needed more time. Together, they needed more time. Suddenly, he realized what his dreams meant. Whether they came from inside his mind or somewhere else wasn’t even important. Adrian was surprised how easy it was to reply.
“Sir, rest assured I’m very grateful, but I really don’t want to leave Solitude.”
“Are you serious, Adrian?” the general manager asked. “Do you understand what kind of opportunity this is?”
Adrian took Teri’s hand and squeezed. She squeezed back. “I do understand. But there are other opportunities I don’t want to pass up.”
“Well, if you mean it…”
“I do. And thank you for offering. I mean that, too.”
“Then it’s settled! I will let Hendrikson know the promotion is his, and make the announcement at dinner!” The general manager bent closer to Adrian, saying softly, “Honestly, I don’t blame you. I’d have done the same thing.” After shaking hands with Teri and delivering Adrian another teeth-jarring backslap, the general manager strode off.
Adrian turned back to Teri; she took his hand again. They stood there a moment, looking at each other, grinning a little foolishly. Finally, Teri hugged him close. Looking up, she said, “I think I figured out was those dreams of mine meant.”
“Me too,” said Adrian. “It looks like the magic really does begin here.” Teri kissed him, and he felt months of worry and fatigue floating away, a load he’d become so used to, he’d forgotten he was carrying it. He made a mental note to mention it to Doctor Gustafson. Well, not all of it, naturally.
At dinner that evening, Hendrikson humbly accepted the promotion, and thanked everyone for their support, singling Adrian out for his help during the recent crisis. After dinner, everyone adjourned to the carnival, which the younger children had been fidgeting for, almost to the point of forgoing dessert (well, almost). Adrian accompanied Hendrikson’s young son on the Giant Wheel, while Teri chatted with Myra and the general manager’s wife. When they returned from the ride, Adrian and Teri walked off by themselves to watch the lights and dream. They were interrupted by a young voice yelling “Smile!” The general manager’s daughters got a nice shot of the two of them, and they kept a copy for a long time.
Adrian and Teri married a year later at the Lady Chapel in Solitude’s historic district. Adrian could barely keep from crying when he saw his bride striding slowly up the aisle, her niece supporting the train of her gown. He saw Hendrikson in the front pew giving him a discreet thumbs-up, while Myra beamed like daybreak. He felt like Nirn’s luckiest man. Nobody disagreed, least of all the general manager, who cried through the whole ceremony (but danced like a kangaroo at the reception)! Over the years, Adrian would reflect on how much impact one’s choices had on so many lives, and how important it was to listen to those little voices that could see you through to places you never even knew about. He and Teri made sure their children and grandchildren thought about it, too.
A note about the illustrations: The pictures of Teri and Adrian were created using screenshots taken while playing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, plus stock photos. The following user mods were used to create the characters:
- Teri’s hair style is from ApachiiSkyHair by Apachii
- Teri was created and stylized using RaceMenu by Expired
- Adrian was built using RaceMenu, based on the Lovergirl race, which doesn’t appear to be available as of this writing, but was hosted at Skyrim Nexus
- Adrian and Teri’s outfits (including Teri’s wedding dress) come from Apachii’s Divine Elegance Store.
- Adrian’s wedding suit is actually the Butler Uniform by Novamonk.
- Poses were accomplished using Pretty Motion Collection by Dualsun
The copyrighted photos are from my personal collection, but I also used a selection of stock photos from a terrific site called Pexels, where you can find stock photos of just about everything. Be sure to give them a look! The following shots came from Pexels:
- The ferry deck was taken by Burak Kebapci
- The ferry at sea was created by Arefin Shamsul
- The Giant Wheel photo comes from Karol D
- The merry-go-round (which I used as a background for Adrian and Teri) was created by dr jelibon
Manipulating the pictures: The screenshots and photos were edited or manipulated using Paint.Net, and the Gnu Image Manipulation Program (GIMP). To superimpose Teri and Adrian over the merry-go-round photo, I first made screenshots of each in the Green Screen Chroma Key Room by mgbeach. Using GIMP, I made the backgrounds transparent and pasted the pictures into the stock photo. I claim no expertise in this process and won’t explain it in detail here; I just searched for instructions on the ‘Net and did whatever they said. Doubtless someone with real skill could do a much better job!