the mountains we called home

The Refugee’s Saint

by Bevaris Rolsador, Acolyte of the Temple

Saints arise when they are least expected but, ultimately, the most needed. The woman known as S’en was no exception to this divine pattern. She was already a quietly known figure by the time that I found myself amid one of the many exoduses led by the red light of her lantern.

My traveling companions were weary from loss, travel, and strife. Refugees, the lot of us, fleeing from the fire and anger of the mountain we once called our home. The ash that turned our soil rich and fruitful now fell like the thickest of snow, suffocating the life from the land and turning everything to the same dull grey. In those days, the light of the heart-borne lantern was a boon, the only color among the death of Vvardenfell.

I travelled for three days, following the distant sway of the heart-borne lantern before I met S’en herself. In those three days, all I tried to learn of our benevolent shepherd was faced with confusion and muttered uncertainties, always preluded by the words ‘they say’, as though there were some absent person from whom everyone learned what they knew of S’en. What I gathered was this; she is a healer, but she uses no magic nor technique known to healers. Disease eats away at her flesh, but she is not contagious, nor weak. In contradiction, tales of her fierce martial skill accompany tales, equally farfetched, of her guiding the wounded back from the brink of death and regrowing entire severed limbs. These stories presented a woman both humble and extraordinary, with no in-between to these extremes.

Upon the fourth day, I found that upon seeking her out S’en was not hard to approach. I was surprised to find that she was not of Dunmer flesh, her skin bronze and dark like that of our Bosmer cousins. Red eyes, firelit and alive, belied Dunmer blood in her veins. She gestured for me to sit across from her, and I watched in a long silence as she labored before a mortar and pestle, grinding fire petals and black lichen among another, paler powder I did not recognize. Medicine, she explained, to help keep illness at bay and keep strength in the limbs of those who found theirs failing.

S’en told me very little of herself, though that very well might have been because I failed to ask. I understand my companion’s trepidation now. Sitting before her, walking her toil relentlessly to aid those who surely did not greet her kindly on basis of her flesh, stuck in me a reverence and a shame for ever wanting to pry into the private matters of a woman who had already extended a hand more generous than we perhaps deserved.

In the end, I spent no more than a quiet evening with her, aiding her where I could and sitting aside when I could not. In return, she parsed the stories that have been told of her, solemn at the truths and mirthful in their exaggerations. I left her presence feeling as though a weight had been lifted from my chest, replaced with an unusual certainty that under S’en’s guide I would not only live to see the next day but the distant shores of the Inner Sea, and eventually, safety.

Those of us who followed S’en know of her only through a peripheral view. She may have once been a criminal, or a whore, as the blacker rumors sought to claim. She may have carried unspeakable burdens of both disease and of guilt. But this does not sunder the aid that she relentlessly offered to us, or the protection in a time where our gods failed us and we needed it most.

It is with this that I, with what little office I can claim, grant the woman S’en the title of Saint S’en the Preserver, patron of Refugees and the Lost, in honor of her efforts and the hundreds of lives she saved in the devastation of the Red Year and the Accession War. May her wisdom and her diligence guide us in the harsh years that lay before us, and may her words of hope and perseverance lift the heaviest of hearts.

There is a mountain in Alaska;
it is the tallest peak in North America.

The Alaskan natives who settled closest to the mountain,
have called it ‘Denali’ for centuries.
In their language, it means “the tall one.”

In 1896, a gold prospector named it Mount McKinley.
In English, this means 'Republican presidential candidate William H. McKinley, of Ohio,’
for his nomination was, the first news we received
upon leaving that 'wonderful wilderness.’

How powerful he must’ve felt,
re-baptizing God’s creation for the new, American god.
He called himself Adam, and
gave names to all the lesser creatures
without asking what they already called themselves.

In August 2015, the Obama Administration
officially restored the name 'Denali,’ and
and Ohioan Lawmakers valiantly took to Twitter:

Congressman Mike Turner says, 'I’m certain Obama didn’t notify…McKinley’s descendants, who find this outrageous.’

Governor John Kasich said, 'You just don’t go and do something like that…In Ohio, we felt it was appropriate. A guy saw that mountain when he was one of the first up there … named it after the President. No reason to change it.’

Donald Trump said: '…Obama wants to change the name of Mt. McKinley…after more than 100 years. Great insult to Ohio. I will change back.’

Dear Ohio, on behalf of the rest of your country:
It’s not your goddamn mountain!
You may not know this but
no part of your state includes Alaska!

President McKinley never even made it to Alaska,
let alone climbed that mountain
(not that climbing something conquers it;
not that conquering something strips it of its name.)

'Denali’ means 'the tall one;' 
it doesn’t mean 'yours.’

We understand that this country
that stole its body from the motherland-that-came-before
is still so excited at its birth,
that we’ve forgotten the eons
this land laid on its tectonic plates,
soothed its own tempers,
made scabs over the earth’s wounds,
and called them mountains,
let its people–not your people–
call them 'home.’

We understand that a mountain
cannot care what it is called.

We are not standing at the base of this mountain
to give it back its name.
We are standing here because
you don’t get to declare another people’s heroes;
you don’t get to exoticize a land by calling it a
'wonderful wilderness’
and then white-wash it to match your picket-fence;
you don’t get to decide when the history of a place begins;
because your 100-year majority does not trump
thousands of years legacy, Mr. Trump;
because your colonization is no longer a cause for celebration, Governor Kasich;
because a mountain is not an inheritance, Congressman Turner!

Look, we get it.
You just want everything to stay the same;
to go back the way it was before.

We understand.  We agree.
And since we’re all standing here, anyway,
let’s just go back.

Let’s all go back to where we came from,
and we’ll see who’s left to plant their flag
in this mountain after that.

—  A Mountain I’m Willing to Die On | emryse