Crossing Cultural, or even Species barriers in order to discover unexpected friendship and bonds is a theme that sits close to me. Even though Khajiit are practically forced to learn Cyrodiilic, they still have their own native tongue, Ta'agra, and I envision the local people who rarely venture out of Elsweyr don't bother much learning any other language besides the one out of necessity, which would lead to a barrier if one such Khajiit would happen upon a curious Cyrod, and in this case, it's a Migrated Nord boy living with his mother in a southern Imperial town on the border with Elsweyr.
I made use of The Ta'agra Project, which is a fan made translation between English and Ta'agra. Please don't flame me if I somehow still botched some of the things that's said.
May the Gods, and more importantly my Mother, have mercy on me.
I was but a child, a young little Nord living in Southern Cyrodiil with my mother, bless her. She had traveled far from the cold and frozen north of Skyrim to be with this Imperial Legionnaire she had come into cahoots with, though this tale isn't bout them.
In a small town near the border with Elsweyr I knew of the Beast Race neighbors. The Khajiiti People.
Furry, Muscular Feline people with many breeds and appearances, they were mostly seen as a lower race. Nothing more than Thieves and Beggars, as many Imperials would say. I do not see the same. Thievery is a common practice, and one does not need to be Furry in order to pick a pocket.
For us, the border was a river just southwest of town. Many days I had gone to that river, to play, to ponder, to escape either from trouble or from life itself. A growing young Nord has much to escape from. The water was always fresh and cold, and being this far south made the days long and hot, something my poor Mother always had trouble coping with. Being born here had made me more accustomed. And the river was a great relief during the Summers.
But one day with my feet in the water, I glanced across to the far bank on a whim, and caught the sight of another figure pulling themselves out of the river. My eyes had locked onto the curiosity, and my heart, for a reason still unknown to me, jumped at the sight.
White, black striped, and hair just like snow perfectly braided in a lengthy tail falling to her waist. She took a few steps onto the sandy bank, turned and sat down, leaning back on her hands to seemingly bathe in the sunlight. It was almost breathtaking, a description not many a Man would apply to a Khajiit. But apart from the occasional travelling Merchant, this was the first Khajiit I had seen. And she had stolen my tongue.
It hadn't been long before my staggering mind caused me to lose my balance and trip on an errant rock, causing my shell-shocked face to plant firmly into the damp sand below. After a rather loud tumble, my head shot up to remember the girl sitting across the water from me, and sure enough her eyes had darted in my direction, noticing me. In an embarrassed frenzy my face turned as red as Oblivion, and all I could do was raise my hand to wave. Being too far away I could not tell her expression or if she was saying anything, but to my surprise she slowly raised her hand after and waved back. That was all it took for me to jump back to my feet and run off back home, clothes caked in sand.
My first experience with a female was truly a tale worthy of remembrance in Arch Mage Shalidor's library.
The following excursions to the river had acquired a new meaning instead of the usual momentary get-away. This time the sole reason was her. The Khajiit. I wanted to know if she'd be there again. The first few returns were fruitless, having not seen another soul. But I started to go at times of day similar to the first, and I made it a mission to go at least once every day of the week. And sure enough. I'd see her.
Our meetings were uneventful to say the least. A smile would form on my face. I would wave. She would wave in return. And then we would share the river together. Just, on our own side of it. And life had become this. Like everything that had once been the main routine had fallen to the wayside now that going to the river was the everyday goal of my life. And she never failed to be there as well.
It had been some weeks before I finally had enough of just enjoying the water with her from afar. Something in my mind had snapped, and disregarding the dangers of crossing a river at my age, I jumped in. I could see she had been shocked at my move, and was standing at the water's edge staring at me as I swam against the current. For a few moments I struggled, almost losing my strength in one spot or another, and my attempt at not fighting the current pushed me some ways down river, to which she had to follow along the beach to keep up. But eventually I pulled myself onto the beach, heaving for air, clothes drenched.
"Vara jer do?" were the first words from that voice I heard. The voice itself sounded like the Aedra themselves had spoken to me, and I quickly raised my head to look upon the speaker. She had one hand held up upon her chest, softly clenched in a fist. The other hanging by her side. I had forgotten about the tiring ordeal I had just endured to get here, her appearance was striking. The most unique Khajiit I had seen. All of the Merchants were the usual Browns and Blacks with maybe a few Orange here and there, but this girl was bright white, just like the snow of Skyrim, with contrasting black stripes adorned all along her head and body. She was a Snow Tigress.
Then it hit me. Those words, it was Ta'agra! The Khajiiti language, and I didn't know a word of it. All I knew was Cyrodiilic, and the Merchants always spoke Cyrodiilic to us when they came to town. But it would be obvious to anyone to think Khajiit living in their homeland would speak their language, and not ours. But then again, I was but a child in a fantastical stupor over the presence of this Feline Female.
For the first minute or two all I could do was panic under the pressure of not knowing how to talk to her. I hadn't even thought of that one setback before I set off to greet her. But after seeing my supposed struggle, she got down on one knee, and cleared her throat.
"Ah, sorry. This one can speak Cyrodiil as well." she said in a rough accent, this time in words I could actually make heads and Horkers of. I blinked and felt my heart pound just a bit harder now that I could understand her.
"You mean, Cyrodiilic, right?" I asked, not knowing what else to say. She stared into space for a moment and then perked up, her ears stiffening at her realization.
"Ah! Yes. Cyrodiilic." she said happily in a smile, copying how I said the word. It was amazing, I could see how sharp her teeth were. Just as white as her hair. And just as intimidatingly alluring.
I stared up at her smile and felt my breath catch in my throat. I had to cough to get my lungs going again, which in turn pushed my body to pull itself up from the crawl I had been in. Sitting down on the sand with the water of the river just barely touching me, the Khajiit took my cue and sat down fully next to me, smiling into my eyes. It was too infecting not to smile back, amazing how kind and open this other species was being with me.
"Sorry for just suddenly coming over here like that. I, guess I just wanted to meet you. Hope I didn't scare you." I said in half a daze, a little beet red from the prior embarrassment. This was all so nerve-wracking. She took a full few seconds to take in my words, apparently working them over in her mind in order to form a reply.
"No, no. This one is okay. This one is happy to meet you!" she said cheerfully, still holding that smile. Her eyes were vibrant tidal oceans of blue, just one more feature that struck me through.
"What did you say, though? Earlier. The Ta'agra." I asked, remembering the few words I didn't understand when I hauled my exhausted body out of the water. She pondered and then expressed her remembrance, excited to tell me.
"Vara jer do. It is 'Are you okay', in Ta'agra, yes? This one worried of you in river." she explained, a slightly softer expression on her face. "But you are here, safe. Wet, but safe." she added, brightening up her smile. Her admittance to worrying about my well being sparked my heart, and I felt my importance in this world grow just that much more.
"Vara, jer..do. I'll remember that one." I said, grinning ear to ear. The girl let out a giggle and tilted her head to the side.
"You say it funny, but yes, you say it right."
At that moment I supposed we had become good friends. All those days of sharing the river together just out of reach formed our path to finally coming together so we could take the next step from strangers. We didn't even move from our spot in the sand. The Khajiit had become so excited to try and teach some of her language to me, and I was eager to learn, this girl, her words, being something so new, strange, and exciting to me. Every so often my eyes would fall from her own to trace a black stripe here or there. To take in the different forms and features of her face compared to my own. To take in the presence of her tail that gently swayed back and forth along the sand as she spoke. And not once did she try to steal anything off me, those nay-sayers generalizing the Khajiit, Oblivion take them.
The sun had just begun to set as the wind picked up, a slight chill bringing us out of our moment as we shivered from it. She glanced at the sunset and wrapped her arms around her chest, holding in her body heat. With the both of us now realizing we had probably start heading back to our homes, we slowly stood up from the sand, but were just a little too hesitant to leave.
"I'm Myval, by the way." I finally told her, not wanting to risk leaving without saying lest we somehow never meet again. She looked me in the eye and slowly grew a long, gentle smile as her eyes fell into a gaze.
"This one is Tes'ella." she said in a softer tone, though, her accent still as noticeable as ever. I got lost in her eyes as the sound of her name. It was so incredibly feminine, womanly, yet exotic. It fit her perfectly. A one-of-a-kind. "Tomorrow?" she asked. I nodded, enthused.
"Tomorrow." And with that seemingly ending the day, she quietly moved away from the river, heading into Elswyer to supposedly where she lived. And before she got too far out of sight, she slowed to get in one last glance over her shoulder at me, making sure I hadn't vanished. I threw my hand up in the air when she looked back, and waved goodbye.
Now that she was gone, I turned to head back to my own home, only to come to a screeching halt when my foot splashed down into ice cold water. My heart dropped as I stared at the freezing expanse that now blocked my way home. That I had to get across again.