Master Zoaraym's Tale
Master Zoaraym's Tale
The Temple of Two-Moons Dance in Torval has for many hundreds of years been the finest training ground in all Tamriel for warriors of foot and fist. The masters teach students of all ages from all parts of the Empire the most ancient techniques and the most modern variations, and many a former pupil has graduated to great fame. I myself trained there, and as a young child I remember asking my first master, Zoaraym, which former student he felt had best learned the lessons of the Temple.
"I was not a teacher when I met this man, but a student myself," he said, smiling in reminiscence, his great wrinkled face becoming even more like the withered fruit of the bathrum tree. "This was long ago, before your parents were born. For many years I had trained at the Temple, rising to study in more difficult and demanding classes taught by the wisest and most learned Masters of the Two-Moons Dance.
"Gi'Nanth, you will come to understand that the tempering of your body must attend the tempering of your mind, and there is a prescribed order of training we at the Temple have designed over the years in concordance with the way of Riddle'Thar. I had reached the highest level, where my power and skill were such that even by supernatural, magical means, few could ever could ever best me in weaponless combat.
"There was a servant at the Temple at the time, a Dunmer a few years older than myself and those in my class. We had never noticed him but in passing over the years, for he would enter the training chambers quietly, clean for a few minutes' time, and leave without saying a word. Not that we would have listened if he spoke, so enraptured were we in our exercises and lessons.
"When our last Master told some of us, myself included, that the time had come for us to leave the Temple or become teachers, there was a great festival of celebration. The Mane itself deigned to visit and observe our ceremony. As we were and are a Temple of philosophy and combat, there were contests of debate and competitions in the Temple's war arena, not only among the elite few, but open to all students.
"On the first day of the festival, I was examining the gladiatorial roster to see who I would fight with first, when I heard a conversation behind me: the servants speaking to the archpriest of the Temple. It was the first time I heard the Dunmer's voice, and the first time I heard his name.
"'I understand you wish to rejoin your people's struggle in Morrowind, Taren,' the archpriest was saying. 'I am sorry to hear it. You have been an institution here for many, many years, and you will be missed. If there's anything I can do for you, please name it.'
"'Thank you for your kindness,' the Dunmer replied. 'I do have a request, but I fear you would be loath to grant it. Ever since I first came to the Temple, I have been watching the students learn, and practiced myself when my duties allowed for it. I know I am but a servant here, but I would be honored if you would allow me to compete in the war arena.'
"I stifled back my gasp at the mer's impertinence, to even suggest that he would be worthy to fight with those of us who had trained so hard. To my surprise, the archpriest agreed, adding the name Taren Omathan to the roster at the beginners' level. I was eager to whisper the news to my fellow elite students, but my first bout was scheduled to begin in a few minutes' time.
"I fought eighteen competitions in a row, besting all. The crowd gathered in the arena knew of my prowess, and gave polite, unsurprised applause at the end of each fight. As much as I focused on my own battles, I could not help noticing that other competitions were receiving more and more attention in the arena. The spectators whispered among themselves, and more began drifting away to see something that was evidently more spectacular and unusual than my unbroken string of victories.
"One of the most important lessons we teach from the Two-Moons Dance is the lesson of rejecting one's vanity. I understood then the importance of achieving a personal synchronicity with one's body and mind, of rebuffing outside influences of no importance, but I admit I had not accepted the lesson in my heart. I knew I was good, but my pride was hurt.
"It came down to a contest of champions, and I was one of the two. When I saw who the other fighter would be, my mood turned from one of wounded dignity to complete disbelief. My adversary was the servant, Taren.
"It must be a joke, or some final philosophical test, I reasoned. Then I looked into the crowd, and saw anticipation of a great battle to come in every eye. We gave one another the sign of respect, I stiffly and he with great elegance and modesty. The fight began.
"Initially, I sought to end it quickly, still thinking that he was unworthy to be cleaning the arena, let alone fighting in it. In retrospect, I was being illogical, as I must have known he had bested as many students as I to had reach that final level. He offered simple counterblows to my attacks, and responded in kind. His style was expansive, encompassing sophisticated arcane foot play one moment and simple jabs and kicks the next. I tried assailments intended to dazzle, but his face never showed either fear or contempt of my abilities.
"The fight lasted for a long time. I don't recall when I realized I was destined to lose, but when it ended, I was not surprised with the outcome. With a sense of unusual and true modesty, I bowed to him. But I could not resist asking him as we left the arena to the sound of thunderous applause how he had so secretly grown to become a Master.
"'I never had a choice to rise in the Temple,' Taren replied. 'Every day, I cleaned the training chambers of the elite classes and then the beginners'. So you see, I never had the misfortune to forget those early mistakes, lessons, and techniques while observing and learning the ways of the Masters.'
"He left Torval early the next morning to return to his homeland, and I never saw him again, though I've heard people saw that he's become a priest and a teacher. I became a teacher as well, for children just beginning their training in the Two-Moons, as well as the elite. And I make certain to bring my best pupils to see the how the unlearned fight, so that they might never forget."